What is being done?

post by marcus_gabler · 2018-09-30T13:20:49.518Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW · 9 comments


my name is Marcus, I live in Germany.

I figured out a lot of the knowledge shared here by myself over the years and now reached a point where I just had to start working on my own website before I bust from all those ideas wanting to go out.

I tried to find out if such content already existed but first failed. I finally discovered this and a few similar websites yesterday, after Spencer Greenberg of www.clearerthinking.org answered my desperate email and pointed me to "the rationalist movement".

Bang! Finally I wasn't alone anymore, and there is even an LW meetup in my home city Frankfurt!

Now I am hoping to find more answers here.

Apparently, there are no websites / organisations similar to LW, EA or CFAR (Jeeez! I can't believe I'm already using these shorts that were 100% mysterious to me yesterday) in Germany. Does that really mean I am the spearhead of world saving here once I go live???

Anyway, I wonder what is being done to give impact to "the cause"?

The rational (sic!) things to be done seem to be:

I am just thinking out loud here.

Or has this already been done and failed?

What is actually MOVING in the rationalist movement?

Who has an overview of whats going on?

Happy to be here and anxious about feedback! :-)

Take care, Marcus.


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comment by Viliam · 2018-10-02T00:44:48.016Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Seems like you are looking for an excuse to create your own website. Hey, if that's what you want to do, just go ahead and do it! You don't really need anyone's permission.

It is not obvious why having more websites or organizations is better than having more people at the existing websites or organizations. There are arguments for both sides: when people try many different things, there is a greater chance that one of them wildly succeeds; but also when people are too fragmented, each of the projects suffers from lack of attention and resources. (Like, having Less Wrong and Slate Star Codex is probably better than just having Less Wrong alone, but also better than everyone having their own blog. Separating MIRI from CFAR seemed like the right move, but having these organizations instead of every individual doing their own project also seems right.)

Perhaps the right question to ask is what would be the added value of your project, and whether doing your project (at least initially) alone is still better than somehow contributing to success of an existing project.

For example, creating another clone of LW would be probably useless. The fact that it would be installed on a server in Germany means nothing; the internet is international. You would have less authors and less readers, but a lot of work creating and maintaining the server. It would be better to post your rationalist ideas on LW.

It would be more interesting to make a clone of LW in German language. The added value would be an extra audience. Although, I have some doubts even here, because I suspect that 90% German speakers who are really interested in these topics also speak English, so the added value might be much lower. But maybe it would make sense to just translate (with authors' permission) some existing LW articles to German, and make a website for that. -- In both cases, it would be important to make the work as easy as possible (because planning fallacy, and why waste resources when you really don't have to). For example, for a "German clone of LW" it would be better to reuse the current LW software and just translate the strings; and for "German translations of selected LW articles" just use any free blogging website.

Or you can find added value that is completely unrelated to the fact of you living in Germany. For example, maybe you have a pretty face and nice voice, and people might like to watch your videos about rationality.

What is actually MOVING in the rationalist movement?
Who has an overview of whats going on?

It would be really nice to have some "news channel" about what is currently happening in the rationalist community. I don't know any. I mean, if something big happens, it will probably be mentioned on LW; and there are specialized summaries like "what happened recently in AI research". But I would actually like to read some general summary about "what happened this week/month in the rationalist community", which would highlight the big stuff, but also mention ongoing work or put some random small stuff under spotlight. Something like when evening news provide you the summary of the world. Maybe just having a photo from each meetup that happened during this month would be great (ignoring the privacy issues), and you could get them by asking the organizers by e-mail. It would be a bit of chicken-and-egg problem; people would be more willing to cooperate if they saw that everyone else is doing it too; so you would have to expend more energy at the beginning.

Maybe this is the opportunity for you! If you become serious about it and find your information sources, perhaps you could compile the summaries. But it would still make more sense to post them as LW articles instead of making another website.

Well... those were some general thoughts. A better plan would have to be based on your specific strengths, weaknesses, and interests.

By the way, nontrivial work often takes a lot of time. Sometimes asking people "what are you working on?" will mostly give you "the same thing I was working on this whole year". Just saying that if this is the case, it may seem like people are doing nothing, when it is actually the opposite. (Without even looking at their website, I could guess that MIRI is trying to prove some theorems that seem necessary for a rationally thinking artificial intelligence, and CFAR is giving people lectures on rationality and trying to improve those lectures or invent new ones. For an outsider it may be frustrating to ask the same question next year and receive the same answer.)

In October 2018 there are rationalist meetups [LW · GW]in Berlin and Munich. Going there and talking to people may give you some answers and ideas. Don't underestimate the offline world!

comment by marcus_gabler · 2018-10-02T05:46:22.692Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

>>> Seems like you are looking for an excuse to create your own website.

Wow! I didn't see that one comin'...

I rather expected someone "accusing" me of looking for an excuse NOT to create my own website. :-)

I know I dont need to ask for permission.

But knowing whats going on might help not to write redundant stuff or simply help me focus on the right stuff etc.

comment by Viliam · 2018-10-03T22:43:49.552Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One possible approach is to go meta and write about what you wanted to read but couldn't find... that is, the summary of "what is currently being done in the rationalist community". There is at least one person who would like to read such article: you! And the chance is, you are not alone.

(This is analogical to a classical advice for wannabe entrepreneurs: make stuff that you wanted to buy but you couldn't find it on the market. It means you have identified a real issue, and chance is there are other people in a situation similar to yours, i.e. your potential future customers.)

Making the complete summary at once could be difficult, so you could write it as a series of articles. Make research about who is doing what, and when you have enough material for an article, write it. Maybe one article about organizations such as MIRI and CFAR, another article about local meetups, next article about podcasts... dunno, is there anything else? Probably yes.

Problem is, being a newcomer is a disadvantage at doing such research: you start from the position of having less knowledge than your future readers, so you much work twice as hard to get ahead of them. (You wouldn't want to write an equivalent of: "Hey guys, have you heard that there is an organization called MIRI trying to prevent an artificial intelligence from killing us all? Weird, huh?") But if you approach the topic diligently, study the available material, perhaps ask a few questions, and find volunteers to review the draft of your article... it can be done.

comment by marcus_gabler · 2018-10-04T05:24:41.126Z · score: -1 (2 votes) · LW · GW

OK, so I will focus to theory here on LW.

>>> You wouldn't want to write an equivalent of: "Hey guys, ...

Well, what would be the problem in that?

The only problem in writing something redundant (here or anywhere) would be that I might lose credit from some readers (worst case also from readers of their responses) and they might respond in a way that might frustrate and / or disencourage me.

But since we are all debugged here (are you?), this wouldnt happen, so whats the big deal? :-)

comment by Elo · 2018-10-04T05:43:35.839Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Obvious things are handy. It's hard to know when someone has a small hole in their knowledge.

comment by marcus_gabler · 2018-10-04T07:10:13.436Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Please be more concrete.

I anticipate ordinary folks to have nothing but holes in hardly any knowledge.

It might be an interesting experiment making such a post (ie. the above motivated but naive, newbie "Hey guys, ..." kinda post) and see the reactions.

As provokative as that may be, it might reveal how debugged fellow rationalist really are...

comment by Viliam · 2018-10-06T23:15:01.202Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly related to Elo's comment: On saying the obvious [LW · GW]

This is a website anyone can join. Some people participate here for years; some came yesterday; plus anything in between. So even the "most obvious" information may be valuable for those who joined yesterday (assuming it is correct). But of course, the larger audience finds it valuable, the better.

an interesting experiment ... see the reactions ... provokative

Uhm, please don't. (Or get ready to be downvoted; that is a rational response to having one's time wasted by provocations, isn't it?)

comment by Elo · 2018-10-02T01:07:06.477Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would encourage you to expand on on the plan a little more. A good plan will be just as well executed in a week or a month as it will today. (don't delay forever of course, but a little delay might take some bugs out and allow the excitement to cool down)

Meet your locals and see what they have to say.

Feel free to chat on the slack or discords or irc. (different communities, different cultures)

comment by marcus_gabler · 2018-10-04T07:15:22.417Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW


I am currently in the process of deciding what to do first.

My so far conclusion is NOT to go directly for the masses, but to have my content evaluated by the community.