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Over the last decades, new experiments have changed science's picture of the way we think - the ways we succeed or fail to obtain the truth, or fulfill our goals. The heuristics and biases program, in cognitive psychology, has exposed dozens of major flaws in human reasoning. Social psychology shows how we succeed or fail in groups. Probability theory and decision theory have given us new mathematical foundations for understanding minds.
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Thinking and deciding are central to our daily lives. The Less Wrong community aims to gain expertise in ''how'' human brains think and decide, so that we can think and decide more successfully. We use the latest insights from [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_science cognitive science], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_psychology social psychology], [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Bayesian_probability probability theory], and [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Decision_theory decision theory] to improve our understanding of ''how the world works'' and ''what we can do to achieve our goals''.
  
Less Wrong is devoted to refining the art of human [http://lesswrong.com/lw/31/what_do_we_mean_by_rationality/ rationality] - the art of thinking. The new math and science deserves to be applied to our daily lives, and heard in our public voices.
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Want to know if your doctor's diagnosis is correct? It helps to understand [http://yudkowsky.net/rational/bayes Bayes' Theorem]. Want to make a plan for achieving your goals? It helps to know the ways in which [http://lesswrong.com/lw/5sk/inferring_our_desires/ we don't know our own desires]. Want to make the world a better place? It helps to know about the cognitive bias called '[http://lesswrong.com/lw/hw/scope_insensitivity/ scope insensitivity]', and that [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3gj/efficient_charity_do_unto_others/ some charities are more efficient than others].
  
Less Wrong consists of three areas: The [http://lesswrong.com/ main community blog], the [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/ Less Wrong wiki] and the [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/ Less Wrong discussion area].
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We [http://lesswrong.com/lw/5x8/teachable_rationality_skills/ discuss] and [http://lesswrong.com/lw/4wm/rationality_boot_camp/ practice] these skills on the [http://lesswrong.com/ main blog], in the [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/ discussion area], and in regular [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Less_Wrong_meetup_groups regular meetups] around the world.
  
Less Wrong is a partially moderated community blog that allows general authors to contribute posts as well as comments. Users vote posts and comments up and down (with code based on [http://code.reddit.com/ Reddit's open source]). "Promoted" posts (appearing on the front page) are chosen by the editors on the basis of substantive new content, clear argument, good writing, popularity, and importance.
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==== Where to start ====
  
We suggest submitting links with a ''short'' description. Recommended books should have longer descriptions. Links will not be promoted unless they are truly excellent - the "promoted" posts are intended as a filtered stream for the casual/busy reader.
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If you want a sampling of the content on the main blog, you could read some posts on [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i3/making_beliefs_pay_rent_in_anticipated_experiences/ beliefs], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/od/37_ways_that_words_can_be_wrong/ words], [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Bias cognitive] [http://lesswrong.com/lw/he/knowing_about_biases_can_hurt_people/ biases], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jl/what_is_evidence/ evidence], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/oj/probability_is_in_the_mind/ probability], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/l4/terminal_values_and_instrumental_values/ decision theory], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/24o/eight_short_studies_on_excuses/ excuses], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/5a9/learned_blankness/ task avoidance], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/on/reductionism/ reductionism], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/l0/adaptationexecuters_not_fitnessmaximizers/ evolution], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/r5/the_quantum_physics_sequence/ quantum physics], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/5u2/pluralistic_moral_reductionism/ ethics], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/ politics], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2as/diseased_thinking_dissolving_questions_about/ disease], and [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3w3/how_to_beat_procrastination/ procrastination].
  
The Less Wrong discussion area is for topics not yet ready or not suitable for normal top level posts. To post a new discussion, select "Post to: Less Wrong Discussion" from the Create new article page. Comment on discussion posts as you would elsewhere on the site.
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To read Less Wrong systematically, read the [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Sequences Sequences], especially the [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Sequences#Core_Sequences Core Sequences]. They are somewhat long, but worth it. Some people [http://lesswrong.com/lw/33j/yes_a_blog/ consider] the Sequences the most important work they have ever read.
  
Votes on posts are worth ±10 points on the main site and ±1 point in the discussion area. Votes on comments are worth ±1 point. Users with sufficient karma can publish posts. You need 20 points to post to the main area and 2 points to post to the discussion area. You can only down vote up to four times your current karma (thus if you never comment, you cannot downvote). Comments voted to -3 or lower will be collapsed by default for most readers (if you log in, you can change this setting in your Preferences). Please keep this in mind before writing long, thoughtful, intelligent responses to trolls: most readers will never see your work, and your effort may be better spent elsewhere, in more visible threads. Similarly, if many of your comments are heavily downvoted, please take the hint and change your approach, or choose a different venue for your comments. (Failure to take the hint may lead to moderators deleting future comments.) Spam comments will be deleted immediately. Off-topic top-level posts may be removed.
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Less Wrong makes heavy use of previously introduced topics for leverage, so you may need to consult the [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Category:Concepts Concepts] and [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Jargon Jargon] pages on the [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/LessWrong_Wiki Less Wrong Wiki]. Also see the [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/FAQ Less Wrong FAQ].
  
We reserve the right for moderators to change contributed posts or comments to fix HTML problems or other misfeatures. Moderators may add or remove tags.
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==== How to participate ====
  
Less Wrong is brought to you by the [http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/ Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University]. Neither FHI nor Oxford University necessarily endorses any specific views appearing anywhere on Less Wrong. Copyright is retained by each author, but we reserve the non-exclusive right to move, archive, or otherwise reprint posts and comments.
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Introduce yourself to the community [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2ku/welcome_to_less_wrong_2010/ here].
  
Sample posts:
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Start by posting comments and [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/ discussion posts]. To publish a discussion post, click 'Create New Article' and select 'Less Wrong Discussion' next to 'Post to' at the bottom of the page. As with Redditt or Digg, users can vote comments and posts up or down, and this adds or subtracts 1 point to a user's karma score. Generally, if your comment or post is on-topic, thoughtful, and shows that you're familiar with the Sequences, your comment or post will be upvoted. You need 2 karma points to publish discussion posts. Comments downvoted below -3 will be hidden for most users; you can change this setting under 'Preferences'.
  
{| cellspacing="10"
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Once you have 20 or more karma points, you're allowed to make posts to the [http://lesswrong.com/new/ main community blog]. (Click 'Create New Article' and change 'Post to' to 'Less Wrong'.) This section is intended for posts about rationality theory or practice that display well-edited writing, careful argument, and new material. Read the posts linked under 'Where to Start' (above) to get an idea for what types of posts are appropriate for the main community blog. Upvotes and downvotes in this section are worth 10 points. If your post is of especially high quality and popularity, it may be promoted by an editor to the [http://lesswrong.com/ front page]. (Note that we have a gentleman's agreement to [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/ avoid political discussions].)
|- valign="top"
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/ Politics is the Mind-Killer]
 
| [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2007/05/policy_tugowar.html Policy Tug-O-War]
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i0/are_your_enemies_innately_evil/ Are Your Enemies Innately Evil?]
 
|- valign="top"
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lg/the_affect_heuristic/ The Affect Heuristic]
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jx/we_change_our_minds_less_often_than_we_think/ We Change Our Minds Less Often Than We Think]
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jj/conjunction_controversy_or_how_they_nail_it_down/ Conjunction Controversy]
 
|- valign="top"
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/hp/feeling_rational/ Feeling Rational]
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/he/knowing_about_biases_can_hurt_people/ Knowing About Biases Can Hurt You]
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/nc/newcombs_problem_and_regret_of_rationality/ Newcomb's Problem]
 
|- valign="top"
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/oj/probability_is_in_the_mind/ Probability is in the Mind]
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ih/absence_of_evidence_is_evidence_of_absence/ Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence]
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jo/einsteins_arrogance/ Einstein's Arrogance]
 
|- valign="top"
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/js/the_bottom_line/ The Bottom Line]
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i3/making_beliefs_pay_rent_in_anticipated_experiences/ Making Beliefs Pay Rent]
 
| [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h8/tsuyoku_naritai_i_want_to_become_stronger/ Tsuyoku Naritai]
 
|}
 
  
'''To read through Less Wrong systematically, use the [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Sequences Sequences].'''
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To meet other rationality enthusiasts in meat-space, look for a Less Wrong [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Less_Wrong_meetup_groups meetup group] in your area, or [http://lesswrong.com/lw/43s/starting_a_lw_meetup_is_easy start your own]<nowiki>!</nowiki>
  
Less Wrong was established as a sister site to the blog [http://www.overcomingbias.com/ Overcoming Bias], where Eliezer Yudkowsky originally began blogging under the chief editorship of Robin Hanson, and contains many old posts imported from OB.
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As you become familiar with the site, you may also want to contribute by expanding and editing the [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/LessWrong_Wiki Less Wrong Wiki].
  
To some extent, the software of LW is still under development. The code that runs this site is forked from the open source [http://code.reddit.com/ Reddit base], and is [http://github.com/tricycle/lesswrong/ hosted on Github]. Our public issue tracker is hosted at [http://code.google.com/p/lesswrong/ Google Code]. Contributions of [http://github.com/tricycle/lesswrong/ code] or [http://code.google.com/p/lesswrong/ issues] are welcome and volunteer Python developers are cordially solicited (see [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1t/wanted_python_open_source_volunteers/ this post]). More information on how to contribute is available at the [https://github.com/tricycle/lesswrong/wiki LW Github wiki].
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==== Community norms ====
  
Less Wrong is hosted and maintained by [http://trikeapps.com/it-development Trike Apps].
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[http://yudkowsky.net/rational/virtues Twelve Virtues of Rationality] summarizes the core norms of Less Wrong:
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* '''Curiosity'''<nowiki>: a burning itch to know. See </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/jz/the_meditation_on_curiosity/ The Meditation on Curiosity]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/go/why_truth_and/ Why truth?]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/4ku/use_curiosity/ Use Curiosity].
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* '''Relinquishment'''<nowiki>: that which can be destroyed by the truth should be. See </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/i9/the_importance_of_saying_oops/ The Importance of Saying 'Oops']<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/k5/cached_thoughts/ Cached Thoughts]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/gx/just_lose_hope_already/ Just Lose Hope Already]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/ur/crisis_of_faith/ Crisis of Faith].
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* '''Lightness'''<nowiki>: let the winds of evidence blow you about, with no direction of your own. See </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/ij/update_yourself_incrementally/ Update Yourself Incrementally]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/in/scientific_evidence_legal_evidence_rational/ Scientific Evidence, Legal Evidence, Rational Evidence].
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* '''Evenness'''<nowiki>: do not seek to argue for one side or another, for if you knew your destination, you would already be there. See </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/ik/one_argument_against_an_army/ One Argument Against an Army]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/jn/how_much_evidence_does_it_take/ How Much Evidence Does It Take?]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/jw/a_rational_argument/ A Rational Argument]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/jy/avoiding_your_beliefs_real_weak_points/ Avoiding Your Belief's Real Weak Points].
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* '''Argument'''<nowiki>: seek a test that lets reality judge between you. See </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/lx/argument_screens_off_authority/ Argument Screens Off Authority]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://yudkowsky.net/rational/bayes An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes' Theorem].
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* '''Empiricism'''<nowiki>: the roots of knowledge are in observation, and its fruit is prediction. See </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/i3/making_beliefs_pay_rent_in_anticipated_experiences/ Making Beliefs Pay Rent]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/iu/mysterious_answers_to_mysterious_questions/ Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/jl/what_is_evidence/ What is Evidence?]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/jm/the_lens_that_sees_its_flaws/ The Lens That Sees Its Flaws]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/k2/a_priori/ A Priori]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/s0/where_recursive_justification_hits_bottom/ Where Recursive Justification Hits Bottom].
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* '''Simplicity'''<nowiki>: the more steps in your argument, the more likely it is to contain a flaw. See </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/jp/occams_razor/ Occam's Razor].
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* '''Humility'''<nowiki>: anticipate your own errors, for you are human. See </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/gq/the_proper_use_of_humility/ The Proper Use of Humility]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/he/knowing_about_biases_can_hurt_people/ Knowing About Biases Can Hurt People]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/o4/leave_a_line_of_retreat/ Leave a Line of Retreat].
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* '''Perfectionism'''<nowiki>: hold yourself to the highest standard you can imagine. See </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/h8/tsuyoku_naritai_i_want_to_become_stronger/ Tsuyoku Naritai]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/ua/the_level_above_mine/ The Level Above Mine]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/up/shut_up_and_do_the_impossible/ Shut Up and Do the Impossible].
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* '''Precision'''<nowiki>: quantify and use probability theory. See </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/ic/the_virtue_of_narrowness/ The Virtue of Narrowness], [http://lesswrong.com/lw/mm/the_fallacy_of_gray/ The Fallacy of Gray]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/l7/the_simple_math_of_everything/ The Simple Math of Everything]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://yudkowsky.net/rational/technical A Technical Explanation of Technical Explanation]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/oj/probability_is_in_the_mind/ Probability is in the Mind]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://yudkowsky.net/rational/bayes An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes' Theorem].
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* '''Scholarship'''<nowiki>: study many sciences and absorb their power as your own. See </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/3m3/the_neglected_virtue_of_scholarship/ The Neglected Virtue of Scholarship]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/5me/scholarship_how_to_do_it_efficiently/ Scholarship: How to Do It Efficiently].
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* '''the nameless virtue'''<nowiki>: seek a map in your head that reflects the territory. Every step of your reasoning must cut through to the correct answer in the same movement. See </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/le/lost_purposes/ Lost Purposes]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/nb/something_to_protect/ Something to Protect]<nowiki>; </nowiki>[http://lesswrong.com/lw/m7/zen_and_the_art_of_rationality/ Zen and the Art of Rationality].
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There are also community norms about how to use words. For example: don't [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ny/sneaking_in_connotations/ sneak in connotations] or [http://lesswrong.com/lw/np/disputing_definitions/ endlessly debate definitions]. See [http://lesswrong.com/lw/od/37_ways_that_words_can_be_wrong/ 37 Ways Words Can Be Wrong].
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==== About Less Wrong ====
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In November 2006, Eliezer Yudkowsky [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gn/the_martial_art_of_rationality/ began] posting about rationality on Robin Hanson's blog [http://www.overcomingbias.com/ Overcoming Bias]. In [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1/about_less_wrong/ February 2009], Yudkowsky's posts were used as the seed material for a new community website, Less Wrong. Overcoming Bias remains Less Wrong's "sister site."
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Less Wrong is associated with the [http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/ Future of Humanity Institute] at Oxford University and the [http://intelligence.org/ Singularity Institute], where Yudkowsky is a senior researcher. The site is hosted and maintained by [http://trikeapps.com/ Trike Apps].

Revision as of 19:13, 13 June 2011

Thinking and deciding are central to our daily lives. The Less Wrong community aims to gain expertise in how human brains think and decide, so that we can think and decide more successfully. We use the latest insights from cognitive science, social psychology, probability theory, and decision theory to improve our understanding of how the world works and what we can do to achieve our goals.

Want to know if your doctor's diagnosis is correct? It helps to understand Bayes' Theorem. Want to make a plan for achieving your goals? It helps to know the ways in which we don't know our own desires. Want to make the world a better place? It helps to know about the cognitive bias called 'scope insensitivity', and that some charities are more efficient than others.

We discuss and practice these skills on the main blog, in the discussion area, and in regular regular meetups around the world.

Where to start

If you want a sampling of the content on the main blog, you could read some posts on beliefswordscognitive biasesevidence, probabilitydecision theory, excuses, task avoidancereductionismevolutionquantum physics, ethicspoliticsdisease, and procrastination.

To read Less Wrong systematically, read the Sequences, especially the Core Sequences. They are somewhat long, but worth it. Some people consider the Sequences the most important work they have ever read.

Less Wrong makes heavy use of previously introduced topics for leverage, so you may need to consult the Concepts and Jargon pages on the Less Wrong Wiki. Also see the Less Wrong FAQ.

How to participate

Introduce yourself to the community here.

Start by posting comments and discussion posts. To publish a discussion post, click 'Create New Article' and select 'Less Wrong Discussion' next to 'Post to' at the bottom of the page. As with Redditt or Digg, users can vote comments and posts up or down, and this adds or subtracts 1 point to a user's karma score. Generally, if your comment or post is on-topic, thoughtful, and shows that you're familiar with the Sequences, your comment or post will be upvoted. You need 2 karma points to publish discussion posts. Comments downvoted below -3 will be hidden for most users; you can change this setting under 'Preferences'.

Once you have 20 or more karma points, you're allowed to make posts to the main community blog. (Click 'Create New Article' and change 'Post to' to 'Less Wrong'.) This section is intended for posts about rationality theory or practice that display well-edited writing, careful argument, and new material. Read the posts linked under 'Where to Start' (above) to get an idea for what types of posts are appropriate for the main community blog. Upvotes and downvotes in this section are worth 10 points. If your post is of especially high quality and popularity, it may be promoted by an editor to the front page. (Note that we have a gentleman's agreement to avoid political discussions.)

To meet other rationality enthusiasts in meat-space, look for a Less Wrong meetup group in your area, or start your own!

As you become familiar with the site, you may also want to contribute by expanding and editing the Less Wrong Wiki.

Community norms

Twelve Virtues of Rationality summarizes the core norms of Less Wrong:

There are also community norms about how to use words. For example: don't sneak in connotations or endlessly debate definitions. See 37 Ways Words Can Be Wrong.

About Less Wrong

In November 2006, Eliezer Yudkowsky began posting about rationality on Robin Hanson's blog Overcoming Bias. In February 2009, Yudkowsky's posts were used as the seed material for a new community website, Less Wrong. Overcoming Bias remains Less Wrong's "sister site."

Less Wrong is associated with the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University and the Singularity Institute, where Yudkowsky is a senior researcher. The site is hosted and maintained by Trike Apps.