The Library of Scott Alexandria

post by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2015-09-14T01:38:27.167Z · score: 75 (57 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 31 comments


  I. Rationality and Rationalization
  II. Probabilism
  III. Science and Doubt
  IV. Medicine, Therapy, and Human Enhancement
  V. Introduction to Game Theory
  VI. Promises and Principles
  VII. Cognition and Association
  VIII. Doing Good
  IX. Liberty
  X. Progress
  XI. Social Justice
  XII. Politicization
  XIII. Competition and Cooperation

I've put together a list of what I think are the best Yvain (Scott Alexander) posts for new readers, drawing from SlateStarCodex, LessWrong, and Scott's LiveJournal.

The list should make the most sense to people who start from the top and read through it in order, though skipping around is encouraged too. Rather than making a chronological list, I’ve tried to order things by a mix of "where do I think most people should start reading?" plus "sorting related posts together."

This is a work in progress; you’re invited to suggest things you’d add, remove, or shuffle around. Since many of the titles are a bit cryptic, I'm adding short descriptions. See my blog for a version without the descriptions.


I. Rationality and Rationalization

II. Probabilism

III. Science and Doubt

IV. Medicine, Therapy, and Human Enhancement

V. Introduction to Game Theory

VI. Promises and Principles

VII. Cognition and Association

VIII. Doing Good

IX. Liberty

X. Progress

XI. Social Justice

XII. Politicization

XIII. Competition and Cooperation


If you liked these posts and want more, I suggest browsing the SlateStarCodex archives.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Document · 2015-09-14T06:27:58.076Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Any chance of a combined ebook version?

comment by nino · 2015-10-05T11:07:51.729Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I made epub and mobi versions. Download here. They contain links to all original posts, so anyone who wants to look at comments can click on the title of each post to do that.

Do let me know if anything's massively broken.

comment by jaime2000 · 2015-10-06T04:10:02.700Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you! The book is fantastic. Combined with The Sequences ebooks that are already floating around (Eliezer Yudkowsky Blog Posts, 2006-2010: An Unofficial Compendium, Rationality: From AI to Zombies, and The Hanson-Yudkowsky AI-Foom Debate) it is now possible for someone to get most of the insights of the rationalist community distilled into extremely efficient book formats.

Do let me know if anything's massively broken.

A large number of posts have extraneous > characters. The affected posts appear to be either SSC posts in which the > character appears at the start of a blockquote and LiveJournal posts in which the > character appears after and in between paragraphs. Examples of the former include "Meditations on Moloch," "Misperceptions on Moloch," and "Book Review: Red Plenty," while examples of the latter include "The Meditation on Creepiness", "The Meditation on Superweapons," and "The Meditation on the War on Applause Lights."

Also, the title of "We Wrestle Not With Flesh And Blood, But Against Powers And Principalitiebs" should be "We Wrestle Not With Flesh And Blood, But Against Powers And Principalities". I normally wouldn't report a typo, but this one appears to have been introduced by the ebook process; the mistake is not in the original article, nor is it on the list of titles RobbBB provided.

comment by nino · 2015-10-06T08:47:16.485Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well that's embarrassing. Thanks for the info! Should be fixed now.

comment by jaime2000 · 2015-10-06T21:19:36.137Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Everything looks fine now. Thanks once again!

comment by jaime2000 · 2016-05-30T06:07:14.334Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have noticed one more issue. In "Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others…" the symbol "£" is twice corrupted into "ÂŁ". This is not an ebook-wide problem, since "Searching for One-Sided Tradeoffs" and "A Modest Proposal" both use the correct symbol. Apparently this is simply a problem with the source; the copy of the post at the Effective Altruism Forum has this error, but the copy of the post at LessWrong, has the correct symbol.

comment by Document · 2015-11-12T04:10:51.510Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks! Downloaded; I don't know whether I'll actually read it (it being apparently over 476,000 words), but it's great to have.

Did you use the method RicardoFonseca described?

comment by nino · 2015-11-16T17:58:01.363Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I actually went through every post and manually copied out the relevant part of the html code. Then I pasted everything into my text editor (fun fact: vim got quite slow handling the >3mb html file, but emacs handled the task really well) and cleaned it up, replacing all

's with

and such. Then I put all the pictures into a folder and changed the references to point to my local files. Then I put it into calibre to create the epub and mobi versions.

In retrospect, I should have just written a script to do all that because it took way too long. The script would have had to handle the different sites differently (especially the livejournal stuff is pretty messy), but it would have been so much faster. Like seriously.

comment by RicardoFonseca · 2015-09-15T22:47:05.686Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

All right. Someone tell me if this is decent enough, please. I only did the first section: "Rationality and Rationalization".

Dropbox folder

How I did it:

  • Created an account at Instapaper and used their bookmarklet individually on each article.

  • Used calibre to download the articles from Instapaper and convert them to an ebook (instructions here).

  • Edited the title and other metadata in calibre to make the ebook more relevant and presentable and converted it to epub/mobi formats.

Note that I had to use the Instapaper bookmarklet starting from the last article and going backwards because calibre downloads the articles in reverse chronological order.

I don't think this is ideal, though, because the comment sections of some of these articles are good enough to be included in the reading but Instapaper only retrieves the article post, leaving out everything else. If anyone has a better suggestion, do share :)

comment by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2015-09-15T23:37:16.941Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, Ricardo! In MIRI's ebooks, we've tried linking to the comments section at the bottom of each article. Then people can click through to a website featuring the comments if they're interested; but the ebook itself isn't bloated by the size of the comments sections.

comment by Vulture · 2015-09-19T21:49:15.826Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Woah, awesome! I would love to see something like this for the whole collection.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-09-14T17:05:51.681Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How does this compare to the other recent compilation of Yvains articles?

comment by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2015-09-15T09:38:13.731Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mine is longer: 171 links vs. 111. Mine has more LW and less LJ content.

The lists are mostly independent: I started mine in December 2014. I decided to clean it up and post it now because casebash's version showed there was a lot of demand for something like this, and I wanted a version that was a bit more optimized for new readers to dive in and read straight through.

The two lists overlap quite a bit because so many of Scott's posts are objectively great. I also went through casebash's list and expanded my own list with five items that weren't originally on it: Revenge as Charitable Act, What's in a Name?, Epistemic Learned Helplessness, Approving Reinforces Low-Effort Behaviors, and Schizophrenia and Geomagnetic Storms.

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2015-09-14T19:51:35.568Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This one is better organised and I either like the ones I see, or discover gems; not true of the last one.

comment by Calorion · 2019-01-02T17:48:08.381Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

1. The link for "Epistemic Learned Helplessness" goes to another article entirely.

2. "Epistemic Learned Helplessness" (and all other entries) have disappeared off of Scott Alexander's LiveJournal.

3. I found a copy on the Wayback Machine.

4. This is a travesty. Why have all these posts disappeared? Do they exist elsewhere?

5. *incoherent mumbling about the ephemeral nature of the Internet, and what a gigantic problem this is*

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2019-01-02T19:22:26.732Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In this case, I think deleting the posts from his livejournal and making them only accessible via archive was an intentional choice by Scott, since he doesn't endorse a large number of them anymore, and his old writing was often associated with his new writing in a way that caused him problems. Not confident of this though.

comment by Calorion · 2020-04-02T18:24:20.181Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't care. Lots of people have published things that they wish they hadn't. That doesn't give them the right to demand that every book or newspaper or magazine issue that carried those undesirable words be destroyed.

I'm not railing against Scott here; he does have the right to remove things off of his LiveJournal. I'm railing against the nature of the Internet, that makes "de-publishing" not only possible, but easy.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-14T11:20:14.893Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

THANK YOU! Any chance for a brief summary of what each are (kinda like the LW Wiki does)

comment by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2015-09-15T09:48:14.213Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Scott does tend to make his titles pretty cryptic. I could edit the LW version to include brief descriptions, leaving the version on my blog description-free for people who want a cleaner link list.

How much detail would be ideal? E.g., would 7 words per post be better than 20 words (since it'd be easier to skim such a list and spot quick keywords)?

comment by RaelwayScot · 2015-09-15T20:18:30.888Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would say be flexible as some topics are much more complex than others. I've found that most summaries on this list have a good length.

comment by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2016-04-17T05:34:26.053Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I removed the second post (What's in a Name?) from the list because it's been... well, debunked. From a recent SSC link post:

A long time ago I blogged about the name preference effect – ie that people are more positively disposed towards things that sound like their name – so I might like science more because Scott and science start with the same two letters. A bunch of very careful studies confirmed this effect even after apparently controlling for everything. Now Uri Simonsohn says – too bad, it’s all spurious. This really bothers me because I remember specifically combing over these studies and finding them believable at the time. Yet another reminder that things are worse than I thought.

comment by gurugeorge · 2015-09-16T15:46:19.791Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Great stuff! As someone who's come to all this Bayes/LessWrong stuff quite late, I was surprised to discover that Scott Alexander's blog is one of the more popular in the blogosphere, flying the flag for this sort of approach to rationality. I've noticed that he's liked by people on both the Left and the Right, which is a very good thing. He's a great moderating influence and I think he offers a palatable introduction to a more serious, less biased way of looking at the world, for many people.

comment by Raziel123 · 2015-09-14T03:38:33.745Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

that's amazing!, Great compilation. So many posts I didn´t know even existed.

comment by johnjohn · 2015-09-16T07:35:28.302Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there a list of Scott Alexander's short stories somewhere?

comment by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2015-09-16T19:18:44.906Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can find some here:

comment by CAE_Jones · 2015-09-16T09:38:03.814Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not that I'm aware, but you might check the "fiction" tag on Slatestarcodex. (I remember finding a similarly useful tag on his Livejournal, but I don't remember what it was called OTTOMH).

comment by roryokane · 2015-09-19T11:03:45.936Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The LiveJournal tag is also named “fiction”. There are 10 posts under it.

comment by wallowinmaya · 2017-04-08T17:18:11.930Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Great list!

IMO, one should add Prescriptions, Paradoxes, and Perversities to the list. Maybe to the section "Medicine, Therapy, and Human Enhancement".