Ask LW: Have you read Yudkowsky's AI to Zombie book?

post by CaiwitzAzaria · 2019-03-17T13:31:07.155Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · LW · GW · 20 comments

This is a question post.


    17 Liron
    13 Viliam
    12 waveman
    6 Kaj_Sotala
    6 pranomostro
    3 Pattern

How many times have you read it? Did you start with the book and move to the website? (Anecdotally: I enjoyed until the half of it reading it while commuting but lately I've found that you can read them online (for free?!) And also have comments to every essay in part.(which I found insightful) should one start again but read it through LessWrong and the comments?


answer by Liron · 2019-03-17T15:07:16.898Z · score: 17 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I've read it 3 times and think it's the best book ever. What a coincidence that I'm someone who is currently spending time on and becoming part of your sample of answers eh?

answer by Viliam · 2019-03-18T22:00:27.421Z · score: 13 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I read the website before the book existed. Actually, I argued that it should be turned into a book, because books in general have higher status than websites. Then I read the book, and translated it to Slovak language.

My opinion on reading the comments is... they are interesting, but the added value per minute spent is significantly lower than reading the book. (Some of the comments are awesome, but most are not, and there is a lot of them.) Thus, if you have anything useful to do, reading the comments after you have read the book is probably a waste of time. (Perhaps, if you have specific questions or objections to specific chapters, you should only read the comments in those chapters.)

Your time would probably be better spent reading high-karma articles which are not part of the book (is there a way to see the highest-karma articles? if not, look here), and... you know, going outside and actually doing things.

comment by Raemon · 2019-03-23T10:16:20.203Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You can go to the all posts page and then change the setting to ‘top’ to see most upvoted posts

comment by CaiwitzAzaria · 2019-03-23T09:10:00.996Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Inspiring what you have achieved. I was thinking if I should embark too and translate it in my native language (Romanian) but maybe it may be a waste of time since the language is basically a hybrid and it has many logical fallacies ( double negatives are allowed for some reason). Maybe I could ask this: did you translated them one by one? (Or is google translate good enough for some essays since it is a long book) How much time did you spend? Are you going to publish (if legally possible) it so you make it more popular in your country?

comment by Viliam · 2019-03-23T21:38:14.647Z · score: 17 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately, my translation didn't have any visible impact. My friends warned me that "it will be useless, because the kind of people who would be serious about rationality, they already speak English and read English texts online". I didn't listen to them, because I thought that even if this is true for most people, there are exceptions (such as people who suck at languages, or very young people) that make this work meaningful. But now... I have to admit they were probably right. As far as I know, there about five people in entire Slovakia interested in rationality, and they have already read the Sequences in English.

The translation is freely downloadable from my website, and I don't believe there is a market for selling it. I didn't do it for money (I already have a nice income as a software developer), but in a hope of increasing the local sanity waterline.

Google Translate cannot translate sentences into Slovak well. But I used it for translating individual words -- much faster than looking them up in paper dictionary. I think I am pretty good at (passive) English, and translating is my hobby. In the past, I have localized a few open-source games, and translated a few interesting articles. With LW, I also started with translating a few articles... and then at some moment I realized I already had about 20% of the book translated, so suddenly translating the entire thing felt doable. It took me more than a year. I am usually very low on conscientiousness, so this was one of two most serious projects in my life (the other one being localization of Battle for Wesnoth). Too bad this turned out to be so useless.

So, I'd say... unless you enjoy translating as an activity, don't do it. If you decide to do it anyway, translate a few articles first, put them online, share them on Facebook, and see the reaction. Unfortunately, even among people who will give you positive feedback, most of them enjoy "insight porn", not rationality per se.

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2019-03-23T23:35:19.245Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, this does make me think that at the very least we should have a section on the R:A-Z page that lists translations into available languages. Though, I guess you are unlikely to find it if you don't already speak english? Though maybe that's fine because we expect it to spread via word-of-mouth anyways, and you only need one person in a social network to be good enough at english to discover it.

Russian translations of both the sequences and HPMOR seem to have had a pretty reasonable impact, given the size of the russian community, so I don't think all translations have been useless, though it seems quite plausible that you need to meet a certain threshold of potentially interested people before it turns out to be useful.

comment by Viliam · 2019-03-24T20:26:21.589Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would like to know, among active Russian rationalists, how many of them speak fluently English; and among those who read the Sequences, how many read the original vs how many read the translation. (My guess would be "above 75%" for both.)

answer by waveman · 2019-03-18T11:13:02.401Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Read a few of the sequences. Then read the book. Then read all the sequences.

I found the book very good.

comment by Richard_Kennaway · 2019-03-18T14:22:07.040Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW
Read a few of the sequences. Then read the book. Then read all the sequences.

I notice that this reads just as well in the imperative mood as in the past indicative.

answer by Kaj_Sotala · 2019-03-17T16:38:29.352Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I read most of the Sequences when they came out, but haven't tried re-reading them in the book.

answer by pranomostro · 2019-03-17T14:00:01.758Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am currently reading it, currently in the Quantum Physics sequence. I read it all here on LessWrong, I did not buy or read the book version. I sometimes skim through the comments a bit, but sadly, the threads have been unraveled a bit and it is hard to follow a conversation. I don't remember any specific occasion where the comments enlightened me in a new way, though they are sometimes interesting. I doubt it is necessary to read them, though.

answer by Pattern · 2019-03-18T21:54:33.547Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've read the Sequences and I'm almost finished with listening to the audiobook version of the book as well. (On account of how big they are, I didn't know I had read them all, until I listened to it and I said, wait, I've heard all of this. (And my responses to surveys reflected this.))

comment by Pattern · 2019-03-19T18:33:46.485Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The library setup today helps a little with reflecting that there's more than one sequence, by more than one person.


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comment by shminux · 2019-03-18T15:14:58.646Z · score: 4 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I read the Sequences as they came out and went back and read those that were out before I stumbled upon LW. They were in many ways, eye-opening, except for the Quantum Physics sequence, which I find superfluous, unnecessary, and, as someone with a Physics PhD, not very accurate. I have raised the ire of Eliezer here when I expressed this opinion quite vocally. I still think that it can be summarized in one sentence like "consider all possibilities and assign your best guess of probabilities to them". There is no need for quantum at all, especially given that QM can be simulated on a classical computer, at worst with exponential slowdown.

My favorite sequence is, by far, Human guide to words. I am not so fond of the Map/Territory ontology though, being a "it's maps all the way down" anti-realist (or post-rationalist, as some tend to define themselves). But everything that is related to cognitive biases and how to notice them in oneself is a must-read.

comment by CaiwitzAzaria · 2019-03-18T16:27:54.462Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It may have been a lot of more Bayesian quantum physics interpretation but I still found it enlighting for a layman to understand non locality and entanglement. If you would be kind to recommend some literature or even videos you found great about QM? (Which doesn't take the axiomatical belief that is ComPlex or ComPlicated which is the bad label they got that Eliezer mentioned)

comment by shminux · 2019-03-19T04:00:17.027Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There are definitely cool parts in that sequence, as you said. Nonlocality, entanglement, the Liouville's theorem and some other concepts are presented lucidly and understandably, and with the Bayesian view. They are other parts, that are basically advocacy of Many Worlds, that are much weaker, but still mostly fun to read. It's just none of it is really needed for learning rationality.

I am not a good authority on popular literature about QM, as I had learned it academically from undergrad and grad-level texts, and it's hard to go back to my previous self to do a fair evaluation of a popular book or a video series.

comment by Pattern · 2019-03-19T18:35:05.633Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW
I had learned it academically from undergrad and grad-level texts,

Any you'd recommend?

comment by shminux · 2019-03-20T01:39:24.728Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Definitely Griffiths Quantum Mechanics for undergrad. Lucid, clear, concise exposition. Also easily found online.

comment by Viliam · 2019-03-23T21:49:19.746Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you! Found the book in a minute, looked at the first few pages, and indeed they were a pleasure to read.

comment by sil ver (sil-ver) · 2019-03-23T10:37:46.041Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No, but I've read almost all of the sequences on website, I think. I didn't do it systematically, so it's almost a guarantee that I missed a few, but not many. Read some stuff twice, but again, not systematically.

I think they're amazing, and they've had a profound impact on me.