The standard advice for creating things is "show, don't tell", so first some images of the books, followed by a short FAQ by me (Ben).
What exactly is in the book set?
LessWrong has an annual Review process (the second of which is beginning today! [LW · GW]) to determine the best content on the site. We reviewed all the posts on LessWrong from 2018, and users voted to rank the best of them, the outcome of which can be seen here [LW · GW].
Of the over 2000 LessWrong posts reviewed, this book contains 41 of the top voted essays, along with some comment sections, some reviews, a few extra essays to give context, and some preface/meta writing.
What are the books in the set?
The essays have been clustered around five topics relating to rationality: Epistemology, Agency, Coordination, Curiosity, and Alignment.
Are all the essays in this book from 2018?
Yes, all the essays in this book were originally published in 2018, and were reviewed and voted on during the 2018 LessWrong Review (which happened at the end of 2019).
How small are the books?
Each book is 4x6 inches, small enough to fit in your pocket. This was the book size that, empirically, most beta-testers found that they actually read.
Can I order a copy of the book?
Pre-order the book here for $29. [? · GW] We currently sell to North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Israel. (If you bought it by end-of-day Wednesday December 9th and ordered within North America, you'll get it before Christmas.) You'll be able to buy the book on Amazon in a couple of weeks.
How much is shipping?
The price above includes shipping to any location that we accept shipping addresses for. We are still figuring out some details about shipping internationally, so if you are somewhere that is not North America, there is a small chance (~10%) that we will reach out to you to ask you for more shipping details, and an even smaller chance (~6%) that we offer you the option to either pay for some additional shipping fees or get a refund.
Can I order more than one copy at a time?
Yes. Just open the form multiple times. We will make sure to combine your shipments.
Does this book assume I have read other LessWrong content, like The Sequences?
No. It's largely standalone, and does not require reading other content on the site, although it will be enhanced by having engaged with those ideas.
I'm new — what is this all about? What is 'rationality'?
A scientist is not simply someone who tries to understand how biological life works, or how chemicals combine, or how physical objects move, but is someone who uses the general scientific method in all areas, that allows them to empirically test their beliefs and discover what's true in general.
Similarly, a rationalist is not simply someone who tries to think clearly about their personal life, or who tries to understand how civilization works, or who tries to figure out what's true in a single domain like nutrition or machine learning; a rationalist is someone who is curious about the general thinking patterns that allows them to think clearly in all such areas, and understand the laws and tools that help them make good decisions in general.
Just as someone seeking to understand science and the scientific method might look into a great number of different fields (electromagnetism, astronomy, medicine, and so on), someone seeking to understand generally accurate and useful cognitive algorithms would explore a lot of fields and areas. The essays in this set explore questions about arguments, aesthetics, artificial intelligence, introspection, markets, game theory, and more, which all shed light on the core subject of rationality.
Who is this book for?
This book is for people who want to read the best of what LessWrong has to offer. It's for the people who read best away from screens, away from distractions. It's for people who do not check the site regularly, but would still like to get the top content. For many people this is the best way to read LessWrong.
I think there's a lot of people who find the discussion on LessWrong interesting, or are interested in the ideas, or found LessWrong's early discussion of the coronavirus personally valuable, or who know Scott Alexander got started on LessWrong, and would like to see we're about. This book is one of the best ways to do that.
Show me the table of contents?
Sure thing. Here's each book in order.
A Sketch of Good Communication
Local Validity as a Key to Sanity and Civilization
The Loudest Alarm is Probably False
Varieties of Argumentative Experience
Naming the Nameless
Toolbox-thinking and Law-thinking
Toward a New Technical Explanation of Technical Explanation
Noticing the Taste of Lotus
Michael 'Valentine' Smith
The Tails Coming Apart As Metaphor For Life
Meta-Honesty: Firming up Honesty Around its Edge-Cases
Explaining Insight Meditation and Enlightenment in Non-Mysterious Terms
Being a Robust Agent
The Costly Coordination Mechanism of Common Knowledge
Unrolling Social Metacognition: Three Levels of Meta are not Enough
The Intelligent Social Web
Michael 'Valentine' Smith
Prediction Markets: When Do They Work?
On the Loss and Preservation of Knowledge
A Voting Theory Primer
The Pavlov Strategy
Inadequate Equilibria vs Governance of the Commons
Is Science Slowing Down?
What Motivated Rescuers during the Holocaust?
Is There an Untrollable Mathematician?
Why Did Everything Take So Long?
Is Clickbait Destroying Our General Intelligence?
What Makes People Intellectually Active?
Are Minimal Circuits Daemon-Free?
Is There Something Beyond Astronomical Waste?
Do Birth Order Effects Exist?
Eli Tyre, Bucky, Raymond Arnold
Specification Gaming Examples in AI
The Rocket Alignment Problem
Abram Demski & Scott Garrabrant
FAQ about Iterated Amplification
Challenges to Christiano's Iterated Amplification Proposal
Response to FAQ on Iterated Amplification
Robustness to Scale
Coherence Arguments Do Not Imply Goal-Directed Behavior
Who made this book set?
I (Ben Pace) and Jacob Lagerros (of the Future of Humanity Institute) made these books, alongside my colleagues on the LessWrong Team: Oliver Habryka, Raymond Arnold, Ruby Bloom, and Jim Babcock.
Can I give this book as a gift?
Yes. This is a well-designed, beautiful set of books, designed to be relatively self-contained and not require having read LessWrong before, and that look attractive on coffee-tables and bookshelves, suitable for friends, partners, and family members who read non-fiction.
What about the book called 'Alignment'? Isn't that going to be very technical and have lots of assumptions about AI?
For those who have no knowledge of the subject of AI alignment, the book is structured to help motivate the topic, starting with questions about AI progress and risks, before moving into the meat of open questions about the subject.
The Alignment book will be tough reading for those not acquainted with the ongoing discourse around the topic, but I think it will still be rewarding for those who read it.
I have a blog, and might want to review the book. Can I get a review copy?
Yes! I'm offering free copies of the book for review. I'd love to get reviews from critics of the rationality community, members of the rationality community, people who don't really know what the community is about but know that SlateStarCodex is awesome, and more.
If you'd like to review the book and would like a free copy, fill out this formand I'll get back to you. (Or you can just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if that works better for you.) If you're not sure if your blog is cool enough, your blog is probably cool enough.
Also, you should know that if you write a public review of the essay collection I'll put a link to your review on the official landing page for the book, no matter if it's positive, negative, or not-even-on-that-spectrum.
(No, tweets don't count, though I guess tweet threads can, but I prefer blog posts. I reserve the right to not include things I read as primarily trolling.)
I have a podcast and might be interested in talking with you about LessWrong. Are you interested in coming on?
Yes. I'm interested in appearing on a few podcasts to let people know about the book. Concretely, I'd propose a joint-appearance with myself and Oliver Habryka, where we can talk about LessWrong, our vision for its future as an institution, how we think it fits into the broader landscape of intellectual progress, the challenges of managing internet forums, and more. No podcast too small (or too big, I guess). If you like LessWrong and you'd like us to come on, we're happy to do it. Email me at email@example.com.
I'd like something from you that's not a podcast or a book. Can I reach out?
Yeah, reach out. If you run a newsletter, a mailing list, a google group, or something, and think some of your users would like to know about the book, I'd appreciate you sharing it there with a sentence or two about why you think LessWrong is interest or worth reading. And if you'd like my input on something, happy to give it via email.
Yes! An ebook version should go live on amazon at the same time as the physical book (our sense was that fewer people would be interested in preordering an ebook compared to the physical book, and also fewer care about it as a Christmas gift, hence the lower emphasis).
Hmm, sure seems like we should set up some kind of place where you can leave your email. Here is a signup form for an email list that we will only use to send updates on where you can buy this book, and future books we sell:
For Europeans, 4×6 inches is approximately 10×15 cm, which is approximately the A6 format.
Big thanks to everyone who participated in creation of these books, this was an awesome team effort! (And I think team results deserve extra praise, because... you know why [LW · GW].)
I wonder if it would make sense to also have a "before 2018 review" for things written before 2018 (and not included in the Sequences). The years before 2018 were not as productive individually, but maybe all of them taken together would be a decent amount of good content.
Is this content from 2018 specifically, or is it taken from all of historic LessWrong? My impression was that this was from the 2018 review, but I don't see anything about that in the description above.
If it is from the 2018 review, do you have ideas on how you will differentiate the 2019/2020/etc versions?
Yep, this is from the 2018 Review. We make that more clear in a bunch of the other copy, but apparently forgot it here. Will add something to make that clearer.
Differentiation wise: I expect they will probably look pretty differently, and also will have a separate title. Of course, they will also have different essays. We are also considering changing the price point quite a bit for future books. I can imagine aiming for much cheaper ($5-10 range) or really premium hard covers.
If the main thing that separates this book from the 2019 and 2020 books is that it's the collection of posts from 2018, it's counterintutive to me that that's not the prominent feature of the title here. Other "journals of the year" often make the year really prominent.
I feel like 5 years from now I'm going to have trouble remembering that "A Map That Reflects the Territory" refers to the 2018 edition, and some other equally elegant but abstract name refers to the 2019 edition.
If you do go with really premium books especially, I'd recommend considering making the date the prominent bit. Honestly I expect to memorize the "lesswrong"ness from the branding (which is distinct), so the year seems like the most important part to me.
That said, I feel like I'm not exactly in the target audience (generally don't prefer physical books), so it would come down to the preferences of others.
I realize you've probably thought about this a lot and have reasons, just giving my 2 cents.
But, who cares in 5 years whether the essays came out in 2018 or in 2017? For people who want to just read the best that LessWrong has to offer, the year isn't that crucial. Indeed, if someone is considering buying one of our review books in 5 years, I really don't want them to think that they first have to buy the 2018 book before the 2019 book, or that the year is somehow super significant, or that the content was driven by some current events happening in that year. I want them to look at the title, the content, and the structure, and see which one they like best, judging the content and not the date.
Our original title was "The LessWrong Review 2018" but then everyone we ran the name by thought that the book was released in 2018, and that was really confusing (If you call it the 2019 review, everything gets even worse, so that's also not an option). They also thought that the fact that the year is so pronounced means that the content is probably very time-sensitive, and so given that it is now two years later, the content is probably out of date. They also thought that they had to understand what the "LessWrong Review" is before they feel comfortable buying the book, because it sounds kinda technical and weird.
And then when we asked them about buying the 2019 Review book, they felt like they had to buy the 2018 book first, because there was a really strong implied order, and they weren't sure whether the books were building on each other.
But when we just asked people what they felt if we said that we had put a lot of efforts curating the best essays on LessWrong. And this is one of those collections. Then they got the point of the book. And then we could mention in the secondary text that the way we curated this collection is via a whole cool fancy review process that they can learn more about if they want, but they don't have to, and all that they need to know is that these are some curated essays on LessWrong, organized by a number of themes, that can stand alone without needing to have read anything else. And I think that overall just gave people a much better model of the book than if we had emphasized the year super much.
Thanks for the reasoning here. I also don't want to detract people from purchasing these books, I imagine if people really wanted they could write the dates on them manually.
That said -
To better explain my intuitions here:
In 5 years from now, I care about whether the essays came out in 2018 or in 2017 if I am trying to find a particular one in a book, or recommend one to another person. Ordering is really simple to remember compared to other kinds of naming one could use. When going between different books the date is particularly relevant because names and concepts will change over time. I'd hope that 10 years from now much of the 2018 content will look antiquated and old.
If you're just aiming for "timeless and good quality posts" (this sounds like the value proposition for the readers you are referring to), then I don't understand the need to only choose ones from 2018. Many good ones came out before 2018 that I imagine would be interesting to readers. That said, if you plan on releasing them on yearly intervals later I'd imagine some restriction might be necessary. Or, it could be that whenever a few topics seem to have come full circle or be in a good place for a book, you publish a book focused on those topics.
I agree that "LessWrong Review 2018" sounds strange, but there are other phrases that could have with 2018 in them. Many Academic periodicals (including things like Philosophy, which are at least as timeless as LessWrong content) have yearly collections. With those I don't assume I need to read all of the old ones before reading the current year, that would take quite a while (it becomes more obvious after a few are out). I imagine the name could be something like, "LessWrong Highlighted Content: 2018" or "The Best of LessWrong: 2018".
It's very possible that there's kind of a "free pass" for the first 1-3 years, if this is a repeating thing, and then you could start adding the year. It's not that big a deal if there are just 2-3 of these, but I imagine it will get to be annoying if there are 5+ (and by that time it will be more obvious if it's an issue or not)
That said, if you plan on releasing them on yearly intervals later I'd imagine some restriction might be necessary. Or, it could be that whenever a few topics seem to have come full circle or be in a good place for a book, you publish a book focused on those topics.
Yeah, it's mostly that I don't know of a great alternative mechanism for the Review. The Schelling nature of doing a review thing at the end of the year seems pretty strong, and having a year as the natural unit of review also seems really intuitive and nice.
I do think there is a good chance we are going to release some other books that are not part of the review cycle that are more centered around specific topics. But I really don't know yet how to fit them into all of this, and whether they are part of the same series, or their branding, or whether they are going to happen at all.
It's very possible that there's kind of a "free pass" for the first 1-3 years, if this is a repeating thing, and then you could start adding the year. It's not that big a deal if there are just 2-3 of these, but I imagine it will get to be annoying if there are 5+ (and by that time it will be more obvious if it's an issue or not)
Yeah, I actually agree with this. Amazon has a field for "Series Title" that I want to fill in, of which this would be Vol. 1. Some obvious candidates for the series title are "Best of LessWrong" and "The LessWrong Review". I don't think there is much benefit to emphasizing a series title in the first entry of a series very much, but I think it makes sense to emphasize them more in future years, where they start actually doing anything. I still wouldn't want to put the year into the title, because if we are usually going to release these 1.5-2 years afterward, people are inevitably going to get really confused about when the books were released.
First of all, I think the books are beautiful. This seems like a great project to me and I'm really glad you all put it together.
I didn't think of this on my own but now that Ozzie raised it, I do think it's misleading not to mention (or at least suggest) that this is selecting the best posts from a particular year in a salient way on the cover. This isn't really because anybody cares whether it's from 2018 or 2019. It's because I think most reasonable readers looking at a curated collection of LessWrong posts titled "Epistemology," "Agency," or "Alignment" would assume that this was a collection of the best ever LW posts on that topic as of ~date of publication. That's a higher bar than 'one of the best posts on epistemology on LW in 2018' and many (most?) readers might prefer it.
Counterargument: maybe all of your customers already know about the project and are sufficiently informed about what this is that putting it on the cover isn't necessary.
Apologies if the ship's already sailed on this and feedback is counterproductive at this point. Overall, I don't think this is a huge deal.
 Though not intentionally so.
 Maybe people think of LW 2.0 as a sufficient break that they wouldn't be surprised if it was restricted to that.
most reasonable readers looking at a curated collection of LessWrong posts titled "Epistemology," "Agency," or "Alignment" would assume that this was a collection of the best ever LW posts on that topic as of ~date of publication
One of the most frustrating things about writing physical books is the long time delays. It has been 17 months since I mentioned my upcoming book here, and now, 8.5 months after we submitted the full book for review, & over 4 months after 7 out of 7 referees said “great book, as it is”, I can finally announce that The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, coauthored with Kevin Simler, will officially be published January 1, 2018. Sigh.
The post was in Feb 2017, which meant he had to wait another 10 months for it to come out. Overall that means the book came out at least 2 years and 3 months after he began writing it, and 1 year and 6 months after it was finalized and finished. I don't know if Oxford University Press is always this slow. But I don't think that if someone read the book then heard about it, they'd feel especially upset to find out it didn't represent Robin's ideas on date-of-publishing but in fact was 1.5 years out-of-date.
The essays in the book were the best new essays on LW at the time we decided to make it into a book, which is 2 years ago, so we're a little slower than OUP (in large part because we have a self-imposed 1-year break in the middle_), and I think next time I'll just do the whole thing quicker (now that we've learned how to use all the software, how to interface with the printers, how to interface with Amazon, how to interface with editors, etc).
I understand Howie to be saying that he would expect posts from e.g. 2014 to be included, I.e. the emphasis is on older essays, not newer essays. It does seem really hard to have the best essays since the date of publication included, though I agree that we will reduce the gap of publication to essay collection in the future.
I tried actually pretty hard to fit it on the front cover somewhere, but it was actually quite hard design wise (the way I phrased the design challenge is that if you have 5 books, each book can only kind of be 1/5th as complex as a normal book cover). It does say it in the first sentence on the back, and I think we tried to mention 2018 almost everywhere in the first sentence we promote the book, and also “new essays from LessWrong” a lot, so that people don’t get confused about it having really old content.
My current guess is that the right place to emphasize the 2018 year is in all the marketing materials and communication, as well as the book cover, and not super prominently on the front cover itself.
Small correction: We didn’t mention it as prominently as I would have liked on Twitter. We mentioned it like two levels deep, which isn‘t super great. Will be more careful with that in the future. Though Twitter just links to the /books page, which mentions it as the first sentence.
What about on the spine? I agree it doesn't fit the cover, but right now the spine, from top to bottom, is [art], [title], [art], "LessWrong", [logo]. I wonder if it might make sense to either add a bit of whitespace at the top for the year, or at the bottom after the publisher info, such that it would look like "LessWrong ✵ 2019". This way it's subtle/understated, you don't have to change the title, but if, in 5-10 years' time, some of us have 2018-2027 on our bookshelves, and we want to find something we remember from 2023, we don't have to pull out each one to look at the back cover (or, gasp, be organized).
Also, what were the considerations regarding size? I know the size you picked was because you found it's what people are most likely to read, but I'm thinking that "book you might take to read in a coffeeshop or on a train" and "book you keep on your bookshelf at home" (which ozziegooen seemed to be making reference to above) are different aesthetics -- that is, I might assume the latter to be much heftier than the former, more like an academic journal than a pocketbook. Actually, I wonder then if it might make sense if it might make sense to abandon ship with the current book set -- to do the yearly wrap-ups as journal-style publications (that is, single-volume instead of five, larger, simpler cover -- you may not have seen it, but I'm thinking American Affairs-style), and then publish a set of best-all-time books (like Howie Lempel mentioned) in this nice size.
Yeah, we did originally plan to put something like that in the spine, but the spine was actually the hardest part of the whole design to get right. We went through at least 10 iterations of it, with literally all but the latest one looking completely hideous (according to me). It's possible we could have fit an additional thing on there, but when we finally got something that looked good, I just locked it in and moved on, since we were like a week away from our final print deadline.
Other timeless but year-of-publication restricted anthologies like "Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror" and "Year's Best Science Writing" have either "Nth annual" or [year the entries were published] prominently on the title. This is an established convention. The problems of "what the hell book did I read that in?", "Finding the books on Amazon" and "Have I read this already? Who's to say." seem much bigger to me than a fraction of the audience that hasn't picked up that convention AND will be blocked from reading by it.
I think a "Nth annual" is a good thing. It will be on the Amazon page (still not fully sure what the series title will be, by default something like "Best of LessWrong"), and of course we will have a section on the site that will organize the books in order, after we released more than one. But having each individual book be prominently stand-alone seems pretty important to me, and also having a prominent series title for the first book, or book set, in a series seems also kind of unnecessary to me. If we've done three of those, then maybe there is a benefit that people get from knowing what series it is part of, but for the first one, the info seems really unnecessary for the vast majority of readers.
I also don't want to commit us too hard to doing a book every year. Like, I know we want to do a book for this year's (2019) review, but I really don't know yet whether we will do one for next year, and also the book for this year's review might look so totally different that putting them in a series doesn't really make sense. Starting a whole series title and then abandoning it seems pretty bad to me, if you don't even know whether it will have more than two entries.
I really really love this initiative. Reading LW in book form is just better for me. Online I get distracted and I read stuff as procrastination instead of deliberate effort. I've read the first two books of the sequences and HPMOR on Kindle and the experience is not even comparable with reading with a browser.
If the book isn't available for pre-order in your location, or you want to be notified when the book goes live on Amazon and other marketplaces, use this form [LW · GW] to sign up for an email list that we will only use to send you notifications about when and where this book and other books we sell will become available.
Oops, turns out I didn't have the Stripe checkbox for "send confirmation emails for payments" activated. I activated it now and am going through and sending you all the receipts you should have received in the first place. In case any of you accidentally ordered twice because you didn't know whether your first payment went through, please ping me on Intercom and I will give you a refund immediately! :)
Apologies if this is the wrong place to mention this. I don't know if the cover image exactly reflects the printed copy, but it seems that the cover of Epistemology has a typo: "A Map that Reflects thet Territory."
I was once stupefied when I saw that the (official, Microsoft Press) Russian translation of “Introducing Microsoft .NET” called itself “Itroducing [...]” in huge type literally on the page facing the title page (it’s kind of traditional for Russian translations of nonfiction books to place a copy of the original title page there). A very informal and unauthoritative discussion at the time revealed that this is not actually uncommon: as the text (not the overall design) of the cover, title page, and to a lesser extent internal sectioning demand much less effort to prepare, they tend to get proportionally less attention from everybody in the pipeline who is concerned with text, including proofreaders, whereas the embarrassment of printing these parts wrong is of course much higher than for the bulk of the book.
So it might be a good idea in general to subject these (editing-wise, almost comically simple) parts to (what feels like) more checking than the rest of the copy.
I'd recommend seeing if you can get on some podcasts in the Sensemaking space. Jim Rutt show would be worth a try, however Both/And and Emerge aren't running any more, but there's probably more I'm not aware of.
I do the SSC Podcast; one of my patreon supporters said he'd be really keen to have this as an audiobook. I'd certainly be keen to get an idea of the demand for that and could potentially make it happen if it seemed like it would be useful. If you wanted to chat about it you can get me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
There are quite a lot of interesting things, but it's hard to read less wrong as there are just so many links, and finding what to read next is computationally very costly. A book solve the problem! I may imagine buying the ebook version just for having this order simplifying the reading decision.
One question: do you have any plan to make an audiobook of it?
I listen more than I read, and would really love to listen to it, assuming that some texts can be understood without the drawings. I assume that some textes from Scott Alexander may already exists in audio thanks to SSC podcast. A LW Best-Of podcast, similar to SSC podcast and to the RAIFTZ audiobook would be extremly wonderful.
These look amazing! I'm really blown away by the designs. I know it's early days, but do you think there will likely be stock left after preorders are filled? I generally don't like preordering things, but I will likely buy a copy once it's on sale unless there's an unforeseen quality issue, so if there won't be stock left then I'd like to just preorder.
Also, I took a look at the sample chapter and noticed a possible typographical error: on the 8th line of text on the back cover, it looks like there's two spaces between "blog" and "devoted". Same on line 12 between "essays" and "of". I might just be seeing things though.
I would be quite surprised if we ran out before the book is up on Amazon. The primary reason to preorder is either if you want to support us by helping us plan and adjust various plans based on demand, or if you want to make sure you get the books before Christmas.
We have been selling faster than I expected though (we made a print run of 1000 books and have sold 270 today), so there is some chance my estimate here is wrong, but overall I still only assign around 10% to us running out at all.
Given really surprising demand (more than 700 sales so far!), we have now increased our print run from 1000 books to 2000 books. I would be quite surprised if we ran out of all of those in the preorder phase.
Hello it me. Status update is that we really had the best of intentions re: getting the last four volumes out in time for Christmas, but we hardcore failed, but progress is really happening! I swear! Christmas 2021!
The other three were all excellent posts, each cut primarily for space. They were Larks' 2018 AI Alignment Literature Review and Charity Comparison, (which was almost the length of a single additional book!) plus was fairly recency-based and not very evergreen, Katja Grace's Will AI See Sudden Progress?, which had >50% overlap in ideas with Paul Christiano's Arguments About Fast Takeoff (which itself was higher in the review so took precedence), and Scott Alexander's A LessWrong Crypto Autopsy. As I say, all excellent content, I wish we'd had more space for it.
Just added Israel (should be live within the hour). We are mostly doing fulfillment via Amazon, and apparently Amazon U.S. ships to Israel? There is some chance we will run into problems and we will have to charge something extra for shipping to Israel, or it will be delayed a bit, but I am currently 80% confident that it should work out without much of a problem.
Is there something similar for The Codex? On Amazon I see a physical collection of slatestarcodex essays, but it has poor reviews, saying it's just a scrape of the website without images. Is it even official?
It is not "official" and there's nothing similar for The Codex yet (though still kudos to the guy who made the ones you're referring to, they're a lot better than nothing and some people really liked them).
1. What software did you use to make the book? (I'm guessing some variant of LaTeX.)
The books were all designed in InDesign. Maybe one day we will have mastered LaTeX sufficiently to typeset a whole book like this, but today is not that day.
2. What inspired this project?
Here [LW(p) · GW(p)] is a random shortform I wrote like two years ago. There I said:
Printing more rationality books: I've been quite impressed with the success of the printed copies of R:A-Z and think we should invest resources into printing more of the other best writing that has been posted on LessWrong and the broad diaspora.
I think a Codex book would be amazing, but I think there also exists potential for printing smaller books on things like Slack/Sabbath/etc., and many other topics that have received a lot of other coverage over the years. I would also be really excited about printing HPMOR, though that has some copyright complications to it.
My current model is that there exist many people interested in rationality who don't like reading longform things on the internet and are much more likely to read things when they are in printed form. I also think there is a lot of value in organizing writing into book formats. There is also the benefit that the book now becomes a potential gift for someone else to read, which I think is a pretty common way ideas spread.
I have some plans to try to compile some book-length sequences of LessWrong content and see whether we can get things printed (obviously in coordination with the authors of the relevant pieces).
The goals of the book are of course also closely entangled with the goals of the review. I think having a physical book has a real finality to it that gives the annual reviews some real stake, and makes generally contributing to LessWrong feel more rewarding.
3. Are there any plans to produce further volumes like these in future? And has anything like this been published previously (apart from Yudkowsky's Rationality book)?
We will publish another book like this for the 2019 Review. We also have some interest in curating some books more centered around specific topics on LessWrong. Ben has been playing around with the idea of a book on Slack [? · GW]. I am very excited about creating a really high-end version of the sequences, as well as a printed version of the Codex we have on the site, but none of these are definite.
I do not know of any super comparable projects to this. Someone recently compiled a bunch of SSC essays into a book, but that was much much lower effort, and misses crucial elements of the post, like all the images.
4. Do you plan to publish a "Best of the Best" collection - all-time bests, rather than best of that year? (I expect such a collection would exclude the Yudkowsky essays already published in his book.)
I am not sure. I have been playing with the idea of doing a "let's review the decade before 2018" review, where we activate our review infrastructure for everything written before 2018, excluding the original sequences, and maybe compile a book out of that, but that's all just in the early brainstorm stages. Maybe after we've done this for 10 years can we do a "let's review all the essays that were in the books and create a super-book".
Just want to flag that I like the idea of topic-specific books, perhaps with an additional author to help rewrite things and make them consistent and clean. It's especially enticing if you can find labor to do it that doesn't have a high opportunity cost for other LessWrong style things.
I am pretty sure that as soon as the book is up on Amazon, we can activate international shipping, and I think that should allow you to buy it. But I don't know the exact shipping charges we are going to run into for that, so we can't really be accepting pre-orders for that.
The link under Can I order a copy of the book? doesn't work for me.
I assume the books will arrive sooner if pre-ordered than if later ordered via amazon?
Our current plan is to deliver the preorders via Amazon for European countries, so my guess is it won't make much of a difference. There is a chance we figure out an alternative distribution channel, but I don't have any plans for that. It is plausible that we can put these orders into the system a bit before the final product goes live, so it might make a difference of a day or so, but not a big one.
There is also some chance we will run out of books (we made a print run of a thousand books, and are currently selling something like one every 2-3 minutes, but I expect sales to drop off a lot over the next few days). I think that's pretty unlikely, but I wouldn't put it at below 10%. In that case people who preordered would of course be served first.
Also – trying to figure out where I'll be when receiving them – would you guess that the books will arrive before or after 6th january to European addresses?
I would put that at something like 80%. Our current timeline definitely has that as a target, but international shipping is kinda hard and we've never done it before, so I want to be conservative. If you move, you can also just let us know your new address and we can just ship it there instead. I already helped a bunch of people with figuring out details like that over the Intercom chat (available in the bottom right corner).
A couple of nits regarding the illustrations in the sample:
(They are very small nits that I wouldn’t normally bother people with, but you obviously put a lot of effort and taste into making this beautiful and mostly succeeded—I especially love how the line on the GDP graph goes into the space of the ordinate ticks. And while small annoyances might not be that important from an economic viewpoint—though see 2010s Apple—they just provoke an intense feeling of sadness from a craftsman’s viewpoint.)
The dismal state of plotting software (and the laziness / greed of scientific publishers) make us accept this in scientific papers, but still, the Xe±Y notation just looks unpolished in print. It is a good solution for ASCII- and keyboard-bound source code (though I’m still a bit sad that the Algol ⏨, U+23E8 DECIMAL EXPONENT SYMBOL, didn’t make it into ASCII and onto the PC keyboard), but not much else. It is especially disappointing to see, as in the sample, axis labels with 1e±Y (no other mantissas!) instead of just 10ʸ: I’ll admit X × 10ʸ can look awkward sometimes, but when X = 1 everywhere, even that excuse doesn’t work.
Even if you end up ignoring the previous point, I implore you, please at least change the character for negative exponents from the hyphen (centered roughly in the middle of a lowercase letter, short, thick, U+002D or U+2010) to the minus (like the plus, centered exactly in the middle of a lining figure, as long as a tabular figure, thin, U+2212). It shouldn’t change the layout in any significant way, but you can’t unsee this problem when you know it’s there (much easier than the XKCD-promoted bad kerning).
I wouldn’t notice this if I hadn’t fought with it on my own plots, but zoom in on the origin of the last plot (IQ to destroy the world), and you’ll see that the vertex of the right angle between the axes isn’t one: there’s what looks like a small white cutout (which might disappear in low-resolution printing). This is because the axes were specified to the drawing software as two separate lines, and it isn’t smart enough to (or trusts the artist enough not to) infer that it should join them, even though they (almost?) share an endpoint.
Finally, more of a wat than even a nit, but if you look very closely at the ordinate tick labels on the GDP graph, you’ll see that their right zeros don’t line up a really tiny teensy bit. Not really a problem, but I’m frankly stumped as to how that could ever happen (and would be disturbed if my plotting code did it).
I was the lead designer on making these graphs, and I found this feedback pretty useful. Thanks!
Most of my response is "I'm a beginner, I'm still learning, and trying to ship things fast means making a bunch of sacrifices. Boy could I point out even worse things that would drive you crazy not being able to unsee them!" :)
One reason for these (e.g. 4) is that the graphs were first plotted using Vega-lite in ObservableHQ, and then exported and retouched in Adobe Illustrator.
Both the FAQ in this post and the email you sent out recently seem inconsistent in referring to the product as “the books / book set / book collection” vs “the [singular] book”, and the result is somewhat jarring.
(Sadly, I’m rather unlikely to buy this, both because you don’t ship to Russia—and I don’t blame you, our postal service sucks—and because it costs a US equivalent of $85 for me—the factors are 3.0 from the 2020 Big Mac index and 2.9 from the 2019 OECD PPP and today’s official exchange rate. I hope this comment can still be helpful.)
Thank you :) We don't currently offer orders to Russia, even though I'd like to. My current understanding (Habryka can correct me if I'm wrong) is that Stripe doesn't let us take payment from Russia. However, when the product is up on Amazon.com, I think you'll be able to purchase it there.
Very much looking forward to receiving the books! I saw that the books are now available on Amazon.com (and I assume that they are shipping in the US). When will shipping in Europe start? Thanks for the great work :)
My mom preordered a copy, but unfortunately it didn’t arrive before Christmas. I’m trying to help her check the status on the order but she can’t seem to find any confirmation/ payment received/ order shipped emails. How can I check the status of it? Or see when it should arrive? Thanks