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The Martial Art of Rationality

Basic introduction of the metaphor and some of its consequences.

Why truth? And...

You have an instrumental motive to care about the truth of your beliefs about anything you care about.

(alternate summary:)

You have an instrumental motive to care about the truth of your beliefs about anything you care about.

The Third Alternative

on not skipping the step of looking for additional alternatives

Correspondence Bias

also known as the fundamental attribution error, refers to the tendency to attribute the behavior of others to intrinsic dispositions, while excusing one's own behavior as the result of circumstance.

Hindsight bias

describes the tendency to seem much more likely in hindsight than could have been predicted beforehand.

Positive Bias: Look Into the Dark

is the tendency to look for evidence that confirms a hypothesis, rather than disconfirming evidence.

We Change Our Minds Less Often Than We Think

we all change our minds occasionally, but we don't constantly, honestly reevaluate every decision and course of action. Once you think you believe something, the chances are good that you already do, for better or worse.

Do We Believe Everything We're Told?

Some experiments on priming suggest that mere exposure to a view is enough to get one to passively accept it, at least until it is specifically rejected.

Illusion of Transparency: Why No One Understands You

Everyone knows what their own words mean, but experiments have confirmed that we systematically overestimate how much sense we are making to others.

Evolutions Are Stupid (But Work Anyway)

evolution, while not simple, is sufficiently simpler than organic brains that we can describe mathematically how slow and stupid it is.

The Tragedy of Group Selectionism

a tale of how some pre-1960s biologists were led astray by expecting evolution to do smart, nice things like they would do themselves.

Thou Art Godshatter

describes the evolutionary psychology behind the complexity of human values - how they got to be complex, and why, given that origin, there is no reason in hindsight to expect them to be simple. We certainly are not built to maximize genetic fitness.

Evolving to Extinction

it is a common misconception that evolution works for the good of a species, but actually evolution only cares about the inclusive fitness of genes relative to each other, and so it is quite possible for a species to evolve to extinction.

Not for the Sake of Happiness (Alone)

tackles the Hollywood Rationality trope that "rational" preferences must reduce to selfish hedonism - caring strictly about personally experienced pleasure. An ideal Bayesian agent - implementing strict Bayesian decision theory - can have a utility function that ranges over anything, not just internal subjective experiences.

Lost Purposes

on noticing when you're still doing something that has become disconnected from its original purpose

The Affect Heuristic

Positive and negative emotional impressions exert a greater effect on many decisions than does rational analysis.

Evaluability (And Cheap Holiday Shopping)

It's difficult for humans to evaluate an option except in comparison to other options. Poor decisions result when a poor category for comparison is used. Includes an application for cheap gift-shopping.

Unbounded Scales, Huge Jury Awards, & Futurism

Without a metric for comparison, estimates of, e.g., what sorts of punative damages should be awarded, or when some future advance will happen, vary widely simply due to the lack of a scale.

Fake Utility Functions

describes the seeming fascination that many have with trying to compress morality down to a single principle. The sequence leading up to this post tries to explain the cognitive twists whereby people smuggle all of their complicated other preferences into their choice of exactly which acts they try to justify using their single principle; but if they were really following only that single principle, they would choose other acts to justify.

Dissolving the Question

this is where the "free will" puzzle is explicitly posed, along with criteria for what does and does not constitute a satisfying answer.

Explaining vs. Explaining Away

elementary reductionism.

Initiation Ceremony

Brennan is inducted into the Conspiracy

The Failures of Eld Science

Jeffreyssai explains that rationalists should be fast.

(alternate summary:)

(prerequisite: Quantum Physics)

(alternate summary:)

Fictional portrayal of a potential rationality dojo.

Class Project

The students are given one month to develop a theory of quantum gravity.

Timeless Control

(from The Quantum Physics Sequence)

Anthropomorphic Optimism

you shouldn't bother coming up with clever, persuasive arguments for why evolution will do things the way you prefer. It really isn't listening.

The Ritual

Jeffreyssai carefully undergoes a crisis of faith.

Logical or Connectionist AI?

(The correct answer being "Wrong!")

The Fun Theory Sequence

describes some of the many complex considerations that determine what sort of happiness we most prefer to have - given that many of us would decline to just have an electrode planted in our pleasure centers.