2023 Unofficial LessWrong Census/Survey

post by Screwtape · 2023-12-02T04:41:51.418Z · LW · GW · 81 comments


  The Less Wrong General Census is unofficially here! You can take it at 
  this link.
  Remember, you can take the survey at 
  this link

The Less Wrong General Census is unofficially here! You can take it at this link.

Update: The census is closed! Thank you everyone who took it.

It's that time again.

If you are reading this post and identify as a LessWronger, then you are the target audience. I'd appreciate it if you took the survey. If you post, if you comment, if you lurk, if you don't actually read the site that much but you do read a bunch of the other rationalist blogs or you're really into HPMOR, if you hung out on rationalist tumblr back in the day, or if none of those exactly fit you but I'm maybe getting close, I think you count and I'd appreciate it if you took the survey.

Don't feel like you have to answer all of the questions just because you started taking it. Last year I asked if people thought the survey was too long, collectively they thought it was maybe a little bit too long, and then I added more questions than I removed. The survey is structured so the fastest and most generally applicable questions are (generally speaking) towards the start. At any point you can scroll to the bottom and hit Submit, though you won't be able to change your answers once you do.

The questions are a mix of historical questions that were previously asked on the LW Census, new questions sourced from LW commenters and some rationalist adjacent organizations I reached out to, and the things I'm curious about. This includes questions from a list a member of the LessWrong team sent me when I asked about running the census.

The survey shall remain open from now until at least January 1st, 2024. I plan to close it sometime on Jan 2nd. 

I don't work for LessWrong, and as far as I know the LessWrong Census organizer has never been someone who worked for LessWrong. Once the survey is closed, I plan to play around with the data and write up an analysis post like this one [LW · GW]. 

Remember, you can take the survey at this link. Update: The census is closed, thank you everybody who took it! You can see the analysis post here [LW · GW].

Once upon a time, there was a tradition that if you took the survey you could comment here saying you had done so, and people would upvote you and you would get karma. 


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by lsusr · 2023-12-02T06:52:48.952Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This was a fun survey!

comment by Søren Elverlin (soren-elverlin-1) · 2023-12-02T19:12:51.829Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I took the survey, and enjoyed it. There was a suggestion to also fill out the Rationalist Organizer Census, 2023. I can't remember if I have already filled it out, or I'm mixing it together with the 2022 Census. Is it new?

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-02T19:25:49.622Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's new. I don't know if I think yearly organizer censuses are worth it the way I think the community census is worth it, but I had some new questions so I put one together this year.

Replies from: soren-elverlin-1
comment by Søren Elverlin (soren-elverlin-1) · 2023-12-03T08:44:50.902Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have now also taken the 2023 organizer census.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2023-12-02T21:32:43.182Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I completed the full survey.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2023-12-02T13:59:20.117Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I didn't fill it out yet, but I just want to say that I appreciate all of the survey being on one page rather than requiring you to fill out all the answers on the first page and then click "next page" to see more questions. That would have been particularly annoying given the "do you want your answers to be made private" question - I want to see what I'm asked before I can tell whether I want to keep my answers private! Kudos.

comment by Yoav Ravid · 2023-12-03T05:27:20.286Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I, too, have completed the survey :)

Thanks, it was fun to fill out!

comment by β-redex (GregK) · 2023-12-02T19:33:41.904Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This was my first time taking this, looking forward to the results!

Replies from: g-w1
comment by g-w1 · 2023-12-03T21:33:01.651Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by jimv · 2023-12-02T09:54:29.020Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I enjoyed filling this out!

The question here is the opposite of its title:

Unknown features Which of the following features of the LessWrong website did you know how to use before you read this question?

That could result in some respondents answering in reverse if they skim.

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-02T12:08:25.101Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fair point. I reversed the title.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2023-12-02T21:35:06.914Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do we still have the ancient tradition [LW(p) · GW(p)] of upvoting survey completion?

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-04T17:45:37.645Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think we do!

I phrased it ambiguously in the last sentence of OP because it felt weird to claim a tradition was extant when the last few years were shaky, but watching the comments I think it's clear the tradition has survived the fallow period.

comment by Drake Morrison (Leviad) · 2023-12-02T22:30:44.961Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Completed the survey. I liked the additional questions you added, and the overall work put into this. Thanks!

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-03T05:18:26.293Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are welcome! Thank you for taking it :)

comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2023-12-03T22:39:35.279Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good survey! Thank you for making and running it!

comment by JanGoergens (jantrooper2) · 2023-12-03T12:21:55.795Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Finished the survey! I really liked it, some unexpected questions in there. I am excited for the results.

comment by Charlie Steiner · 2023-12-03T02:44:42.723Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have taken the survey. Or at least the parts I can remember with my aging brain.

comment by metachirality · 2023-12-04T22:51:21.550Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is the first LW census I've taken!

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2023-12-03T19:25:26.250Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by P. · 2023-12-03T18:48:25.428Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Done! There aren't enough mysterious old wizards.

Replies from: myron-hedderson
comment by Myron Hedderson (myron-hedderson) · 2023-12-04T17:20:38.413Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My brain froze up on that question. In order for there to be mysterious old wizards, there have to be wizards, and in order for the words "mysterious" and "old" to be doing useful work in that question the wizards would have to vary in their age and mysteriousness, and I'm very unsure how the set of potential worlds that implies compares to this one.

I'm probably taking the question too literally... :D

And, um, done.

comment by Nicolas Lacombe (nicolas-lacombe) · 2023-12-14T05:59:25.725Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

i filled out 80% of the survey

comment by Sherrinford · 2023-12-04T21:11:43.960Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I completed the survey! 

I'd still like to ask those [LW(p) · GW(p)] questions (or a similar set of questions) somewhere. If someone has an idea where and how that could make sense, feel free to answer that as a comment to mine.

comment by mishka · 2023-12-04T06:09:25.134Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Success :-)

comment by Gyrodiot · 2023-12-03T21:53:30.597Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Survey complete! I enjoyed the new questions, this should bring about some pretty graphs. Thank you for coordinating this.

comment by Viliam · 2023-12-03T21:31:23.476Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


(_) I've made my own post, but never gotten a front page tag

(_) At least one post I made got a front page tag

Is there a quick way to figure this out? When I click on my name, it shows a list of the posts I made, but I need to click on them individually to figure out whether they were at the front page (there is a tag "Frontpage" below the title) or not. Could be difficult for people who made many non-frontpage posts, and don't remember if there was any that made it to the front page.

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-04T01:36:50.498Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"https://www.lesswrong.com/users/ [? · GW][YOUR USERNAME]?filter=frontpage" should show all your frontpaged posts. I just added a note with that to the survey.

Replies from: Viliam
comment by Viliam · 2023-12-04T10:13:19.170Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seems to me that it shows everything [LW · GW], just like without the filter. It shows my drafts, shortform...

EDIT: Oh, I was wrong. Yes, it shows the drafts and shortform... but in the "Posts" section it only shows the frontpaged posts.

comment by Lucie Philippon (lucie-philippon) · 2023-12-09T11:19:26.886Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I filled in the survey! It was a fun way to relax this morning

comment by Sune · 2023-12-02T08:48:02.649Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The heading of this question is misleading, but I assume I should answer the question and ignore the heading

P(Global catastrophic risk) What is the probability that the human race will make it to 2100 without any catastrophe that wipes out more than 90% of humanity?

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-02T12:48:06.582Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, answer the question not the heading.

comment by Shankar Sivarajan (shankar-sivarajan) · 2023-12-02T05:09:21.409Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The "… I accidentally clicked a radio button and can't un-answer this question" option is funny: it's a good solution to a common problem, but one that doesn't actually exist in this case. 

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-02T12:23:39.117Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Doesn't the problem still exist? As far as I know you still can't unclick a radio button.

Replies from: papetoast
comment by papetoast · 2023-12-03T02:02:09.225Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For google forms, if the question is not required, you can click on the same radio button twice to cancel the selection

comment by Valdes (Cossontvaldes) · 2023-12-08T13:48:59.864Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I took the survey and mostly enjoyed it. There are some questions that I skipped because my answer would be too specific and I wanted to keep the ability to speak about them without breaking anonymity.

I also skipped some questions because I wasn't sure how to interpret certain words.

comment by cibyr · 2023-12-06T00:22:04.794Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Completed the survey, skipping only a few questions.

comment by DanielFilan · 2023-12-02T18:47:56.882Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Typo thread

Replies from: DanielFilan, DanielFilan, DanielFilan
comment by DanielFilan · 2023-12-02T18:59:35.182Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Put another way, how true for you to say "I am a [insert here]"

Should be "how true is it for you to say"

Replies from: Screwtape, DanielFilan
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-02T19:11:58.293Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you, fixed

comment by DanielFilan · 2023-12-02T19:00:30.625Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also I found this question weird - it's very true for me to say "I am a person with brown hair", but I would not at all say it's core to who I am, so I'm not sure how I should be answering that question.

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-02T19:21:03.383Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some people dye their hair a new colour every couple of months. It might be true as a fact of the world to call them a redhead when their hair is red, but it's likely not an identity they feel is strongly a part of who they are.

I dyed my hair black once, and didn't like it. It bothered me a bit, I felt a little weird looking at myself in the mirror, and I was glad when it grew out and I went back to my normal colour. To be clear, that wasn't a strong feeling, just the identity equivalent of a stubbed toe. So, I can actually see this question working for physical descriptions of people's obviously visible bodies? Still, uh, that's not what's happening here. There is no objective measurement I can make to determine if you're a rationalist.

There exist people who feel strongly that They Are A Democrat/Republican, Dangit, And Don't You Forget It. If you do not experience that, I suspect you should just put 4s across the board, maybe with nudges to 3 or 5 as you feel inclined.

(But also I didn't write that question myself, so if Ben wants to chime in about its meaning listen to him over me on that.)

Replies from: DanielFilan
comment by DanielFilan · 2023-12-03T21:33:46.197Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh TBC I skipped the question because it didn't make sense, I'm more writing this in the frame of letting y'all know the question is ambiguous (even for things like "LessWronger", it's much more true of me than it is core to who I am) so that you can maybe disambiguate it in future if you want people to know how to answer.

comment by DanielFilan · 2023-12-02T18:50:10.970Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On "race" question, "MIddle Eastern" should be "Middle Eastern".

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-02T19:10:46.581Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you, fixed.

comment by DanielFilan · 2023-12-02T18:48:17.424Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By what year do you think AI will be able to do tasks intellectual tasks that expert humans currently do?

first "tasks" should be struck

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-02T19:11:15.631Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you, fixed

comment by Milli | Martin (Milli) · 2023-12-23T10:20:32.635Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Long survey is long.

comment by lc · 2023-12-28T08:06:30.720Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Done, though I skipped some questions

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-28T13:54:12.824Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Skipping questions is fine, either because the question didn't apply or you'd rather not answer that one or you decided you'd spent as much time as you wanted to spend!

Thank you for taking it!

comment by Ligeia · 2023-12-31T04:28:40.388Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Given that some users in some countries or regions(for me it is Chinese Mainland) have no access to any website related to Google because of firewalls or stuffs, I don't think this survey can completely succeed in reflecting the whole user image of Lesswrong. Sorry for not completing the survey:(

comment by Sqrt-1 · 2023-12-28T06:10:14.792Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Completed my first LessWrong survey! I liked the several questions that tried to sort out all the lizardmen.

comment by Neil (neil-warren) · 2023-12-30T23:30:33.205Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have completed the survey! Whohoo!

comment by Haiku · 2023-12-31T09:54:39.749Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I enjoyed filling it out!

After hitting Submit I remembered that I did have one thought to share about the survey: There were questions about whether I have attended meetups. It would have been nice to also have questions about whether I was looking for / wanted more meetup opportunities.

comment by Morpheus · 2023-12-30T00:49:17.290Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I took the survey! Fun!

comment by Lenmar · 2023-12-28T08:17:19.930Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did this appear pinned to the LW frontpage when it was first posted and I missed it? I completed it today because it showed up today, but apparently it's been available for a month?

Replies from: Bohaska
comment by Bohaska · 2023-12-28T09:37:16.365Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think so, I also only noticed it on the frontpage today.

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-28T14:06:19.708Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The banner with the image is new as of last night, a boon for the final days of the census. "Frontpage" is a status a post can have, differentiated from a "Personal Blog" and this post has had that since a day or two after it went up.

Replies from: Lenmar
comment by Lenmar · 2023-12-28T18:10:37.331Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Makes sense, the banner was what I was trying to get at with "pinned" (visible when opening LW independent of level of engagement / later posts gaining traction and occupying the top of the front page). Thanks for putting this together!

comment by tailcalled · 2023-12-02T18:29:26.845Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If anyone had any issues with the political questions at the end, then please poke me about them here so I can take it into account for further development of this ideology test.

Replies from: soren-elverlin-1, DanielFilan
comment by Søren Elverlin (soren-elverlin-1) · 2023-12-02T19:22:42.944Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The government knows well how to balance costs and benefits.

Consider this story (in Danish): The Danish Ministry of Finance are aware that the decisions they are making are short-sighted, but are making them anyway for political reasons.

If one believed this decision was representative of the government in general, would one agree with your statement or disagree with it?

Replies from: tailcalled
comment by tailcalled · 2023-12-02T19:37:45.880Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maybe for future versions I should split up this question into separate parts. That said I'm not sure that makes it easier for most people to answer the question, since they might have a clearer opinion on how well the government is doing than about whether the government is failing for political or knowledge reasons.

comment by DanielFilan · 2023-12-02T19:14:08.888Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

TC1 doesn't end with a full stop but the other items do.

Claims that it's soon the end of the world are always hyperbolic and exaggerated.

Should be "Claims that the end of the world is soon are always hyperbolic and exaggerated"

To save the environment, people should eat seasonal locally grown food instead of importing food from across the world.

I can't quite tell if this is asking me if that's what people should do if they were trying to save the environment, or if people should do that, and the reason is because it saves the environment.

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-02T19:23:55.017Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Noting that I've seen this, but I'm going to wait for tailcalled to tell me if it should be changed since I'm not the originator for the question.

I did fix the period at TC1, since that's much more likely to be a copy paste error on my part.

Replies from: tailcalled
comment by tailcalled · 2023-12-02T19:35:04.377Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Other than fixing the periods, I wouldn't change the questions right now as I've already got norms for their original form and you've already collected partial data on them. I may look into improving the phrasing for future versions of the questions.

comment by MondSemmel · 2023-12-31T21:54:05.741Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I completed the survey.

comment by Michael Roe (michael-roe) · 2023-12-03T22:14:29.713Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am not a Bayesian, so I have philosophical objections to giving probabilities to things that are not a distribution you can sample from.

The survey just assumes that everyone is a Bayesian.

Replies from: vanessa-kosoy, Screwtape, Pazzaz
comment by Vanessa Kosoy (vanessa-kosoy) · 2023-12-05T14:40:46.140Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Imagine that, for every question, you will have to pay  dollars if the event you assigned a probability  occurs. Here,  is some sufficiently small constant (this assumes your strategy doesn't fluctuate as  approaches 0). Answer in the optimal way for that game, according to whatever decision theory you follow. (But choosing which questions to answer is not part of the game.)

Replies from: MakoYass
comment by mako yass (MakoYass) · 2023-12-28T08:44:08.854Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Eh? You'd perform best in that game by just submitting p = 1 for every question

Was it meant to be, or something like that?

Replies from: vanessa-kosoy
comment by Vanessa Kosoy (vanessa-kosoy) · 2023-12-28T10:16:01.857Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

 is the probability of the event that actually occured. You can't submit  without knowing what is true in advance. For example, suppose you need to predict who wins the next US presidential election. You assign probability 0.6 to Biden, 0.3 to Trump and 0.1 to Eliezer Yudkowsky. Then, if Biden wins, . But, if Yudkowsky wins then .

Replies from: MakoYass
comment by mako yass (MakoYass) · 2023-12-28T16:08:31.214Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A "yes" wrt my guess would have been kind here.

You can't submit  without knowing what is true in advance

This is a very confusing thing to say because I absolutely can.

comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-04T03:02:38.045Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Feel free to skip any question you object to answering. (Except the first one about the public data, that one you can't skip.)

comment by Pazzaz · 2023-12-04T00:08:40.458Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, all of the questions are binary so they either happen or don't happen. They may not be sampled from some "objective" distribution, but you can still assign subjective probabilities to them. Just write how likely you think they are to happen.

Replies from: red75prime
comment by red75prime · 2023-12-05T10:53:41.249Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What if all I can assign is a probability distribution of probabilities? Like in extraterrestrial life question. All that can be said is that extraterrestrial life is sufficiently rare to not find evidence of it yet. Our observation of our existence is conditioned on our existence, so it doesn't provide much evidence one way or another.

Should I sample the distribution to give an answer, or maybe take mode, or mean, or median? I've chosen a value that is far from both extremes, but I might have done something else with no clear justification for any of the choices.

comment by Malentropic Gizmo (malentropicgizmo) · 2023-12-03T16:51:05.004Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had the same problem with last year's survey, but I don't remember whether I asked and if I asked then what was the answer: Does 'supernatural entity' includes a being outside the simulation? and similarly Does 'magic' includes events that cant be explained by the physical laws of the simulation (but can be explained by the laws of the simulator's world). I can see arguments for either.

Also, some questions ask about lesswrong accounts, but assumes one only has one.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2023-12-02T14:04:15.827Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mark whether to make your responses private; ie exclude them when this data is made public. Keep in mind that although it should in theory be difficult to identify you from your survey results, it may be possible if you have an unusual answer to certain questions, for example your Less Wrong karma. Please also be aware that even if this box is checked, the person collecting the surveys (Screwtape) will be able to see your results (but will keep them confidential)

This sounds like there should be a checkbox here, but I see two "spherical" response options instead.

Replies from: Screwtape
comment by Screwtape · 2023-12-02T17:21:58.464Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The intention is to have two options which are mutually exclusive, hence the radio button setup. A checkbox for "yes, you can include my data in the public dataset" would answer the question, but I don't think I can make it required since an unanswered question and a negative answer look the same.

comment by cai terry (cai-terry) · 2024-01-01T20:44:01.224Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Completed the survey. 
The question here is the opposite of its title:

P(Global catastrophic risk)

What is the probability that the human race will make it to 2100 without any catastrophe that wipes out more than 90% of humanity?

It's asking for P(no global catastrophic risk) so easy to answer the inverse if skimming.

comment by Review Bot · 2024-02-14T06:48:16.546Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The LessWrong Review [? · GW] runs every year to select the posts that have most stood the test of time. This post is not yet eligible for review, but will be at the end of 2024. The top fifty or so posts are featured prominently on the site throughout the year. Will this post make the top fifty?

comment by Polkovnik_TrueForm (yurii-burak) · 2023-12-30T15:03:58.539Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most of the probabilities are epsilon, and/or 100%-epsilon, and/or larger/smaller epsilons (for "unsure in known psychology" and "unsure in known logic" probability difference).

Maybe will do next year, because I have a lot to change.