London UK, Saturday 2010-07-03: "How to think rationally about the future"

post by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-05-31T15:23:20.972Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 21 comments

Myself and Roko will be giving a presentation about LessWrong-style thinking to the UK Transhumanist Association on the afternoon of Saturday 3 July.  Here's the official announcement:

Title: "How to think rationally about the future"

2pm-4pm, Saturday 3rd July. [but see above]

Room 416
Fourth floor
Birkbeck College
Torrington Square
LONDON
WC1E 7HX

Speakers: Paul Crowley and Roko Mijic

About the talk:

Over the past forty years, science has built up a substantial body of experimental evidence that highlights dozens of alarming systematic failings in our capacity for reason. These errors are especially dangerous in an area as difficult to think about as the future of humanity, where deluding oneself is tempting and the "reality check" won't arrive until too late.

How can we form accurate beliefs about the future in the face of these considerable obstacles? We'll outline ways of identifying and correcting cognitive biases, in particular the use of probability theory to quantify and manipulate uncertainty, and then apply these improved methods to try to paint a more accurate picture of what we all have to look forward to in the 21st century.

About the speakers:

Paul Crowley is a cryptographer and computer programmer whose work includes breaks in ciphers designed by Cisco and by Bruce Schneier. His website is http://www.ciphergoth.org

Roko Mijic graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in Mathematics, and the Certificate of Advanced Study in Mathematics. He spent a year doing research into the foundations of knowledge representation at the University of Edinburgh and holds an MSc in informatics. He is currently an advisor for the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Both speakers are contributors to the community website for refining the art of human rationality, http://LessWrong.com

Further details:

There's no charge to attend this meeting, and everyone is welcome.

There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and to make comments.

Discussion will continue after the event, in a nearby pub, for those who are able to stay.

Why not join some of the UKH+ regulars for a drink and/or light lunch beforehand, any time after 12.30pm, in The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ. To find us, look out for a table where there's a copy of the book "The Singularity Is Near" displayed.

About the venue:

Room 416 is on the fourth floor (via the lift near reception) in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.

The broad plan is for me to open by talking about cognitive biases, including possibly a live demonstration of anchoring bias (which may go wrong but seems worth a go), followed by Roko talking about the implications for thinking about the future, after which we'll take questions. Hopefully we can encourage more careful rational thinking about futurism and get a few more folk participating here; would be great to see as many of you as possible, especially wearing LessWrong.com T-shirts :-)

Also, this Sunday sees another LessWrong meetup near Holborn - see some of you there!

(Updated with venue information and more from meetup announcement)

21 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Roko · 2010-05-31T16:52:35.875Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ciphergoth, you may want to make it clear that I have two different designs up at zazzle - my store is http://www.zazzle.co.uk/rmijic, and the one you linked is IMO the worse of the two.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2010-05-31T23:07:37.605Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cool! This is really silly, but should Less Wrong be thinking about having its own internet store? The main advantage I'm thinking of is having a place to go to buy tons of good pre-screened books on rationality. (Although Less Wrong coffee mugs are good too.)

comment by Roko · 2010-05-31T23:22:19.572Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

LW store! Rock on! Actually a book list on amazon would suffice, but still it's a cool concept.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2010-06-01T03:30:36.398Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm going to do some research to estimate profitability and then draft a business plan. (I love having Visiting Fellows around to help me with this kind of thing!)

comment by orthonormal · 2010-06-01T00:51:12.494Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As long as we're talking T-shirt designs, I've long wanted to wear a LaTeX-based "Rationalist" shirt: i.e. the logo

I'd also wear the corresponding "Realist" shirt.

If anyone uses this idea, all I want is a free shirt.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-06-01T04:08:24.868Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also N, for naturalist?

comment by orthonormal · 2010-06-01T06:59:02.075Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Considered that too, but I don't really like hiking.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-06-01T05:25:32.403Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Realist too. Not sure what a complexist believes though!

comment by Sniffnoy · 2010-06-01T05:35:48.593Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You really don't want to get into debates with H-ists...

comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2010-06-01T08:34:35.649Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Back when I was doing this, one of my "placeholder hypotheses" was that the physical correlate of conscious cognition is a series of octonionic gravitational instantons, perhaps implementing future SIAI director of research Ben Goertzel's fuzzy ideas about octonionic cognition. So I've tarried with the octonion cult.

(A placeholder hypothesis is something you don't exactly believe, but it's a complicated specific idea which is somehow suggestive of how you think the truth might be. The complexity is there as a starting point for the hypothetical future day when you have the time and knowledge to think about the issue properly.)

comment by Roko · 2010-06-01T01:07:37.091Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

we might put that on the back or something. It is extremely nerdy.

comment by JGWeissman · 2010-06-01T01:01:05.520Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

$\mathbb{Q}$-ist

(the LW editor doesn't seem to do blackboard fonts).

Markdown: ![](http://latex.codecogs.com/png.latex?\mathbb{Q}$-ist)

comment by orthonormal · 2010-06-01T01:05:36.370Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks! It didn't look right to me when I tried the web app.

comment by Kutta · 2010-06-01T09:24:48.605Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Those shirts just gave me a LessWrongasm. I will definitely get ahold of one.

Is there maybe a way to combine Bayes' Theorem with LessWrong on a single shirt? Or would that exceed the Bekenstein bound of maximal awesome in a given volume?

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-06-01T15:11:07.796Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK, have changed the link to point at the store! I prefer the one without the box, but it's a matter of taste.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2010-06-01T15:52:39.717Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd prefer the one with the box if it didn't have the box.

comment by Morendil · 2010-07-02T09:12:35.186Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll be there (the one on saturday, that is).

comment by Maelin · 2010-06-01T22:26:14.582Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sadly I will be back on the far side of the world by then. Would it be practicaly for the talk to be video recorded and uploaded to Youtube or some other suitable location? I would love to watch it.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-06-02T07:12:32.991Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

UKH+ talks are routinely videoed and uploaded to YouTube and I'm sure this one will be no different. Which is even scarier! Hey ho...

comment by whpearson · 2010-07-14T19:57:53.228Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hey, it is up now here.

comment by leastfixedpoint · 2010-06-02T04:02:09.167Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd like to watch any eventual recording of the talk, too. Do let us know if one is uploaded anywhere, please, ciphergoth!