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NYC meetup group

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The New York City LW community has graduated from a meetup to a tribe, grown large enough to split into subgroups, has improved the lives of many of its members, is starting to normalize its gender ratio, and in general seems to have formed the first major successful community founded on life optimization done with LW-style rationality.

As of this writing (March 2018), we meet every Tuesday in lower Manhattan for a discussion presentation or exercise on topics such as Safely Interruptible Agents, Functional Decision Theory, productivity techniques, productive disagreement, the replication crisis in psychology, and occasionally less serious activities, such as celebrating Pi Day together, playing board games, and constructing a wire sculpture of a dragon.

Introductory post at Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter. Also see Less Wrong meetup group resources.

Regular meetups

If you're interested in attending a meetup, introduce yourself on the relevant Google Group mailing list for the address and directions.

Main group

For general discussion, social activities, and games nights.

  • Weekly, Tuesday, 7-11pm, Private Residence
  • Occasionally supplemented by Saturday afternoons
  • Mailing list: Main Google Group
  • Discord: [1]

History

The origin of the NYC chapter was the April 24th, 2009 meetup that Robin Hanson organized when he came to the city for a prediction markets conference. Approximately 15 people attended over the course of the night, and it was agreed that this was way too much fun not to do on a regular basis. Will Ryan handed out business cards to everyone there and created a mailing list. Thus Overcoming Bias NYC was born.

It was clear from the very beginning that Jasen Murray was the person most interested in seeing this happen, so he became the organizer of the group for the first year of its existence. At first the times and locations were impromptu, but in August Jasen made the brilliant move of precommitting to be at a specific time and place for a minimum of two hours twice per month. Because enough of us liked Jasen and wanted to hang out with him anyway, several people began showing up every time and a regular meetup was established. Going forward, we tried a combination of social meetups, focused discussions and game nights. Jasen also attempted to shift coordination from the mailing list to the Meetup.com group, but Meetup is not a great mailing list and people were loath to use multiple services. That Meetup group now serves as our public face.

In April 2010, Jasen departed to run the Visiting Fellows program at SIAI, and Will Ryan became the group's current organizer. A number of changes went into effect: meetups became weekly (with game nights every other week), focused discussions addressed solving a specific problem instead of general theory, and extended discussion of AGI/FAI was tabooed. The group also moved the majority of the meetups from a public diner to a private residence, which avoided a lot of hassles with loud crowds, ordering of food, etc. These changes marked the transition to a social group focusing on practical life benefits. June brought two more key changes: we began to hold strategy sessions, on request, to help members optimize their lives, and Will Ryan started hugging people, which began a cascade of increasing physical contact. That summer brought an increased interest in skill sharing, reduced game night frequency, and specific topics at meetups. That fall the group began being used more for discussions, and sharing social events of mutual interest, using the group to coordinate activities together outside of just the weekly meetups.

Then, in October, things began to accelerate. Will Ryan told everyone on the list to respond or be removed, to get an idea of numbers and to galvanize the core membership. Several members broke off old relationships and some of them entered new ones within the group. More women started attending the group, when it had traditionally been very heavily male-dominated. There was more contact with the west coast rationalists, including visits by Jasen and Michael Vassar and an extended stay by Divia, which brought valuable new memes to the community. Self-reported levels of fun and happiness began to radically increase. Mailing list discussions turned towards asking for practical advice. The meetups took on a self-improvement focus, with weekly goal-setting and accountability. Andrew Rettek began a public lecture series presenting the Sequences. Demand for more-than-weekly meetups grew...

Seven years later, in November 2017, the meetup group was still going strong. We held weekly meetups, with around 7-15 attendees each, plus occasional special events and parties. Community members continued to be generous with their space and time. We participated in local conferences and liaised with spatially and culturally adjacent communities, such as Effective Altruism groups. Sadly, we had to part ways with Raymond and Grace when they left for California. However, they remained important presences in the online sphere, and New York was still one of the world's foremost rational ritual communities. The annual Secular Solstice event drew hundreds each year from other cities.

Some members

    • Feel free to send any other questions about this meetup to alexmpear@gmail.com. (Time of writing 2017 November.)

Former members:

Selected posts by members

See also