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.
Where to start
If you want a sampling of the content on the main blog, you could read some posts on beliefs, words, cognitive biases, evidence, probability, decision theory, excuses, task avoidance, reductionism, evolution, quantum physics, ethics, politics, disease, 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.
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.)
As you become familiar with the site, you may also want to contribute by expanding and editing the Less Wrong Wiki.
Twelve Virtues of Rationality summarizes the core norms of Less Wrong:
- Curiosity: a burning itch to know. See The Meditation on Curiosity; Why truth?; Use Curiosity.
- Relinquishment: that which can be destroyed by the truth should be. See The Importance of Saying 'Oops'; Cached Thoughts; Just Lose Hope Already; Crisis of Faith.
- Lightness: let the winds of evidence blow you about, with no direction of your own. See Update Yourself Incrementally; Scientific Evidence, Legal Evidence, Rational Evidence.
- Evenness: do not seek to argue for one side or another, for if you knew your destination, you would already be there. See One Argument Against an Army; How Much Evidence Does It Take?; A Rational Argument; Avoiding Your Belief's Real Weak Points.
- Argument: seek a test that lets reality judge between you. See Argument Screens Off Authority; An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes' Theorem.
- Empiricism: the roots of knowledge are in observation, and its fruit is prediction. See Making Beliefs Pay Rent; Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions; What is Evidence?; The Lens That Sees Its Flaws; A Priori; Where Recursive Justification Hits Bottom.
- Simplicity: the more steps in your argument, the more likely it is to contain a flaw. See Occam's Razor.
- Humility: anticipate your own errors, for you are human. See The Proper Use of Humility; Knowing About Biases Can Hurt People; Leave a Line of Retreat.
- Perfectionism: hold yourself to the highest standard you can imagine. See Tsuyoku Naritai; The Level Above Mine; Shut Up and Do the Impossible.
- Precision: quantify and use probability theory. See The Virtue of Narrowness, The Fallacy of Gray; The Simple Math of Everything; A Technical Explanation of Technical Explanation; Probability is in the Mind; An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes' Theorem.
- Scholarship: study many sciences and absorb their power as your own. See The Neglected Virtue of Scholarship; Scholarship: How to Do It Efficiently.
- the nameless virtue: 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 Lost Purposes; Something to Protect; Zen and the Art of Rationality.
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.