Meetup : NYC Rationality Megameetup and Unconference: April 5-6 2014-02-21T21:04:58.409Z
RESCHEDULED: NYC Rationality Megameetup and Unconference. NOW: 4/5 - 4/6 2014-02-21T20:55:43.256Z
[RESCHEDULED] NYC Rationality Megameetup and Unconference: 4/5 - 4/6 2014-02-18T01:28:51.571Z
Polyphasic Sleep Support Group 2013-07-23T01:00:49.227Z
Resources from the Boston Megameetup 2013-07-22T12:18:29.577Z
Upcoming meditation workshop in the Bay Area 2013-04-01T22:44:49.827Z
[LINK] SMBC on cryonics 2011-10-21T14:46:57.599Z
Don't call yourself a rationalist. 2011-10-14T20:26:53.344Z
Avoiding Factual Muggings 2011-04-27T16:41:02.296Z
[LINK] Ethical Pick-Up Artistry (Clarisse Thorn) 2011-04-07T18:34:08.805Z


Comment by KenChen on Bayes Academy: Development report 1 · 2014-11-20T16:18:16.314Z · LW · GW

Strongly agree that you would have a much, much higher impact by making this game available on the web. Straight-up Java is pretty much dead now. Consider even making a Facebook app, which would allow players to share the game with their friends for stronger distribution.

Comment by KenChen on Recommendation request: Budgeting/accounting software for a non-profit · 2014-01-29T23:20:41.928Z · LW · GW

Our for-profit company, Lambda, uses Xero, a web-based accounting tool. They claim to serve non-profits as well:

I can't speak to how good they are for non-profits, but many startups are using Xero these days.

Comment by KenChen on [Link] Low-Hanging Poop · 2013-10-16T21:13:48.946Z · LW · GW

A friend and I are starting a marketplace to connect fecal transplant donors with people who need them. Let's make this happen. Check out

Comment by KenChen on What are you working on? October 2013 · 2013-10-02T19:26:29.534Z · LW · GW

I founded a company, Lambda, a talent agency for exceptional developers, designers, technology professionals.

Here's the pitch:

It's currently very difficult for many nontechnical people to find high-quality software developers and designers to do contract work. Because it's often difficult to judge technical ability if you're not a technical person yourself, people often select the lowest bid for the project they want to get done, resulting in poor work or missed deadlines. People want to pay for high-quality talent, they just can't tell the difference.

By screening all candidates ourselves, prospective clients can come to us and get an assurance that their project will get done well. We're tapping into a dark pool of high-quality talent, by signing up entrepreneurs and other skilled folks who aren't on the market otherwise, who wouldn't even consider participating in a marketplace filled with low-quality talent, because they value their time.

More importantly, we provide a service to developers by doing the legwork of finding clients and screening them for quality. There's a world of difference between clients who understand what's involved in a complex software project, and those who don't.

Comment by KenChen on Columbus Mega-meetup Planning- RSVPs wanted · 2013-08-05T17:04:15.185Z · LW · GW

me 30%, would need crash space

Comment by KenChen on Polyphasic Sleep Support Group · 2013-07-24T01:21:12.776Z · LW · GW

Anyone should be able to join -- I just tested this with another email address, and there are indeed a few people on the list now. If you are still having issues, send me your email and I'll add you.

Comment by KenChen on All-pay auction for charity? · 2013-06-12T14:00:40.880Z · LW · GW

Something like this exists:

Comment by KenChen on Megameetup Announcement: Boston, July 13-14 · 2013-06-10T15:35:43.400Z · LW · GW

Me 80%

Comment by KenChen on Random LW-parodying Statement Generator · 2012-09-13T20:58:13.272Z · LW · GW

Omega updates the truth to fit its priors.

Comment by KenChen on Meetup : Interest in Reason Rally meetup? · 2012-01-28T07:03:15.985Z · LW · GW

Sure, I'll go. Interested in a meetup there. (I'm from NYC)

Comment by KenChen on Sunk Costs Fallacy Fallacy · 2012-01-25T17:22:25.599Z · LW · GW

You might just be seeking status. You might feel like you gain status whenever you declare that you will be working on a new project, and you might feel that you won't gain as much status by finishing an existing project that people are aware of already. At least, this may be true until you gain a reputation for not finishing projects.

Comment by KenChen on Stupid Questions Open Thread · 2012-01-05T18:14:36.260Z · LW · GW

It makes sense to say that a computer language is Turing-complete.

It doesn't make sense to say that a computer program is Turing-complete.

Comment by KenChen on Rationality Quotes December 2011 · 2011-12-06T16:03:07.259Z · LW · GW

Interesting article, thanks. Reposting the abstract here:

The relationship between money and happiness is surprisingly weak, which may stem in part from the way people spend it. Drawing on empirical research, we propose eight principles designed to help consumers get more happiness for their money. Specifically, we suggest that consumers should (1) buy more experiences and fewer material goods; (2) use their money to benefit others rather than themselves; (3) buy many small pleasures rather than fewer large ones; (4) eschew extended warranties and other forms of overpriced insurance; (5) delay consumption; (6) consider how peripheral features of their purchases may affect their day-to-day lives; (7) beware of comparison shopping; and (8) pay close attention to the happiness of others.

Comment by KenChen on Overcoming the Curse of Knowledge · 2011-10-18T20:07:38.587Z · LW · GW

Another related post by Eliezer.

Comment by KenChen on Don't call yourself a rationalist. · 2011-10-17T15:47:53.478Z · LW · GW

Yes. I paid for the perfect stock photo to make this joke, so I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Comment by KenChen on Don't call yourself a rationalist. · 2011-10-14T20:56:20.464Z · LW · GW

Personally, I don't like this because it's awkward. What do you call the community?

"The aspiring rationalist community"?

Plus, people are liable to drop the "aspiring" part anyway, because it's a pain to say.

Comment by KenChen on A Crash Course in the Neuroscience of Human Motivation · 2011-08-22T17:58:19.832Z · LW · GW

FYI, Bug report: The push-pull experiment is illustrated by a diagram of the future discounting experiment.

EDIT: It is fixed now.

Comment by KenChen on Open Problems · 2011-07-08T17:58:56.047Z · LW · GW

I think the Millennium Prize Problems isn't the best example in this context, because for the one problem that was solved in that set, the prize was rejected.

Comment by KenChen on Advice request: Homeownership · 2011-05-27T19:08:30.765Z · LW · GW

Note that if the Fed raises interest rates, credit will become more expensive, demand will decrease, and prices will decrease (all else equal).

Comment by KenChen on Advice request: Homeownership · 2011-05-27T16:24:05.868Z · LW · GW

In the United States, mortgages with fixed rates are better right now (if you stay in your house) because interest rates are extremely low right now. If you take an ARM, you will lose if you stay in your house, because interest rates are bound to rise.

If you select a 30-year mortgage, you will pay more overall. But it turns out that you only need to beat a 2-3% annualized return (assuming you took out a fixed-rate loan at interest rates right now) with the extra money you save every month in order for a 30-year mortgage to beat a 15-year mortgage. Of course, that's assuming you have the willpower to set aside that money every month and the time and effort required to invest it.

If you select a 30-year mortgage, you always have the option of paying extra each month. In fact, if you paid 45% extra each month, you would finish it off in 15 years, and it would in fact be equivalent to a 15-year mortgage, except costing only 8% more overall (or a mere 0.5% per year). The reason a 30-year mortgage costs more is not mainly due to the higher interest rate -- it is because most of your initial payments go towards the interest, as opposed to the principal -- the interest isn't reduced at first, and it also has 15 more years to compound.

Consider getting a 30-year mortgage if you expect any sort of volatility in your financial situation, as the price for such convenience is quite cheap. Note that this only applies if you have either the willpower to pay the extra amount every month, or the energy to find a superior investment with the extra money you are saving. A 15-year mortgage would be better for someone with e.g., severe akrasia issues.

Look into purchasing as many points as you can on your mortgage if you plan on staying in your house for at least 11-14 years. Do some analysis to figure out the break-even point for your situation. Note that banks profit because most people overestimate how long they will stay in their house. The average in the US is 5-7 years.

Look at the amortization formula (or use the PMT function in Excel) and run the analysis yourself -- it's too important to not bother. Put in different amounts of down pay, different interest rates, different amounts of extra monthly payments, etc., so that you gain a feel of the relative effects of the different factors.

Finally, please call it a "house", not a "home".

Comment by KenChen on Rationality Quotes: May 2011 · 2011-05-02T22:41:28.644Z · LW · GW

If a statement is false, that's the worst thing you can say about it.

-- Paul Graham

Comment by KenChen on Avoiding Factual Muggings · 2011-04-27T18:58:52.898Z · LW · GW

The thing is, when you pick your target, you're going to pick someone who is unaware of their surroundings. By the time you're stalking them, it's too late for them. They're not going to notice you because you've selected for that.

Comment by KenChen on Avoiding Factual Muggings · 2011-04-27T18:23:23.762Z · LW · GW

I meant to say don't use your phone. Edited.

An exercise I learned from a martial arts class was to walk around at night, pretending that you're an attacker. Stalk a few people, and try to get into the mindset of preparing for an attack by catching them unaware. Note down what types of people you are more likely to attack, and what types of people you are likely to skip.

Comment by KenChen on Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions · 2011-04-21T16:48:46.530Z · LW · GW

Event calendar.

Comment by KenChen on Cambridge Less Wrong Meetups April 21, May 1, May 15, ... · 2011-04-19T20:16:59.847Z · LW · GW

Since this is a regular meetup, I added it to the meetup page on the wiki.

Comment by KenChen on Sequence Exercise: "Extensions and Intensions" from "A Human's Guide to Words" · 2011-04-18T17:20:18.095Z · LW · GW


Intensional: Article of clothing primarily designed to be worn on the foot.

Extensional: Hiking boots, flip-flops, snowshoes, Vibrams.


Intensional: Human sensation of the anticipation that a severe negative outcome will be avoided, when the circumstances are outside of one's control.

Extensional: A student waiting to receive the result of their final exams, for which a passing grade is required to pass the course. A rationalist wishing that cryonics will be successful. A religious person praying to God to cure a family member's cancer.

N.B. Perhaps it is useful to distinguish between hope and optimism. We may want to call a person who constantly looks at the positive effects of a situation optimistic; it seems more appropriate to use "hope" when the stakes are higher and there is an element of desperation.


Intensional: Piece of material designed to efficiently carry electrons (low-cost and relatively high sensitivity to changes in electric potential across distances) across its length.

Extensional: CAT-5 cables, power lines, circuit board wiring.

N.B. The efficient criteria implies the thinness and longness of the wire, relative to the wire capacity.



  1. A certain wavelength of light, the intensity of which directly corresponds to the signal strength of the human M-type cone when such light is shone upon it.

  2. The attribute of an object that directly corresponds with the reflectivity of the aforementioned wavelength of light shone upon it.


  1. Output of a green laser, the green spectral line of Mercury, the output of a light filter that only lets green light through.

  2. The reflectivity of green paint, the reflectivity of grass.


Intensional: Person who is popularly known for having had a significant direct impact on politics (the policy and/or decision-making part of a government or otherwise a large, self-sufficient group of people with shared interests) and has done so for a significant amount of time.

Extensional: Chuck Schumer, Schwarzenegger, Gandhi, Deng Xiaoping


Intensional: (taken from Wikipedia, since I can't come up with anything better and I don't know much about taxonomy) The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family (Rosaceae).

Extensional: McIntosh apple, Granny Smith apple, Red Delicious apple.

N.B. For almost everything, including apples and genera, it is often more useful to think about whether something is more blegg-like than rube-like, than to think about whether an item is a blegg or a rube.

Difficulty of generating intensional definition (easiest to hardest): Shoe, Wire, Hope, Green, Politician, Apple

I found it very easy to generate extensional definitions once the intensional definitions were generated. However, this may have been a side effect -- once I came up with examples that fit my intuition, but did not fit the intensional definition, I would revise the intensional definition to include it.

I found it easier to generate definitions when there's a clearly defined purpose for the entity in question. It's harder to define things when there are seemingly arbitrary boundaries (in the case of apple and politician).

Comment by KenChen on Meta: Meetup Section of the Site · 2011-04-12T22:16:20.919Z · LW · GW

My idea was to have some sort of calendar, where users can add events for one-shot meetups, or recurring events for the regular meetups. The events could then link to the appropriate post and/or mailing list.

Integration with Google Calendar / Apple iCal would also be awesome.

Comment by KenChen on Do meetups really have to go on the front page? · 2011-04-12T14:31:32.915Z · LW · GW

I commit to working on modifying the code to organize meetups in a way that makes more sense, if someone else is able to provide direction and authority. I haven't worked on the code before, and I can't promise anything except that I will attempt to work on it.

I have just read the github wiki. I will try to get an instance of the site running. What's the next step after that? Who else should I be coordinating with?

Comment by KenChen on Do meetups really have to go on the front page? · 2011-04-12T14:14:22.624Z · LW · GW

You've been telling everyone at this cocktail party about this fantastic new rationality club, and how it's changed your life. You manage to get a few people interested enough to actually listen to what you're saying, a smaller subset to remember the name of the site, and a smaller subset to take the time to actually check out the site for an entire 90 seconds.

That's all you got.

So, after telling a room full of people about the awesomeness of rationality, maybe you get one person who decides to visit the site. They are looking for a justification for why they should spend more time on your site. What do they see? What do you want them to see?

Hopefully something good. Something that will make them hunger for more. Something that will actually make them think (which is kind of the point of all this).

The about page is currently structured like this: Science is good. This site has science. Meta. Meta and code. Meta. Meta. Meta. Meta. Brought to you by viewers like you. Grid of juicy content. Link to Sequences. History. Code. Code.

The about page is great if you have been on LW already and want to know more about it. However, it is not a suitable front page. Unfortunately, it is not great even if you are already motivated to find out the core tenets of rationality.

Comment by KenChen on Do meetups really have to go on the front page? · 2011-04-12T13:57:40.059Z · LW · GW

IMO, there's a distinction between regular meetups, and one-shot meetups. It wouldn't make sense for a newcomer to see only one-shot meetups on the list, when a community in their city already exists.

Perhaps some sort of calendar would make sense, where anyone can post one-shot meetups, and regular meetups are represented by a recurring event.

Comment by KenChen on Do meetups really have to go on the front page? · 2011-04-11T16:30:08.787Z · LW · GW

As a quick alternative, would it make sense to create a promoted top-level post containing the Sequences, and "sticky" that post so that it's the first thing newcomers see?

You could create a preference to not display it for logged in users, if that's an issue.

Comment by KenChen on [LINK] Ethical Pick-Up Artistry (Clarisse Thorn) · 2011-04-08T22:02:07.682Z · LW · GW


Comment by KenChen on [LINK] Ethical Pick-Up Artistry (Clarisse Thorn) · 2011-04-08T13:44:50.610Z · LW · GW

Sorry. I was sure there was previous discussion on this, so I just linked to the first thing that I could find. I didn't really read what you wrote, to be honest.

Comment by KenChen on [LINK] Ethical Pick-Up Artistry (Clarisse Thorn) · 2011-04-07T20:20:17.315Z · LW · GW

Hugh Ristik, who was linked in the article, addresses the question of how to generate good pickup advice:

Feminists tend to criticize male sexual behavior and only explain what not to do. PUAs are exploring what to do. If feminists want to guide the expression of male sexuality in ways other than shouting “don’ts” from the peanut gallery, then they would do well to study the teachings of the seduction community, take from it what they like, and throw away the rest.

Comment by KenChen on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-05T13:58:17.059Z · LW · GW

Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.

– Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Comment by KenChen on Berkeley LW Meet-Up Saturday April 9 · 2011-04-04T17:40:46.984Z · LW · GW

I took the liberty of updating the meetup groups wiki page to include these weekly meetups. I couldn't find any mention of the regular Sat/Sun monthly meetups, so I didn't include those.

Also, it would be nice if these meetup posts linked to the wiki, which would allow newcomers to more easily find meetup information in one place (especially since I sometimes refer people from other cities to LW).

Comment by KenChen on An Anchoring Experiment · 2011-04-01T17:33:30.979Z · LW · GW

I seem to recall that Sweden is "somewhat mountainous", so I suppose that the correct value is around 2000m.

Comment by KenChen on An Anchoring Experiment · 2011-04-01T17:31:52.562Z · LW · GW

I remember looking up the population of Libya recently, which is around 6m, and I feel like the population of Central African Republic is a bit lower. I suppose the correct value is around 3m.

Comment by KenChen on Reading the Sequences before Starting to Post: Costs and Benefits · 2011-03-31T19:37:32.423Z · LW · GW

"Ease of reading" is at least somewhat subjective, as different people learn and process information differently.

To the extent that the same idea may be presented in different ways, it may be beneficial to have different people write different writeups of the sequences (not necessarily shorter or less dense).

Comment by KenChen on IBM Watson Research Team Answers Your Questions [link] · 2011-02-25T01:13:33.818Z · LW · GW

There is a site, True Knowledge, that attempts to answer such questions using methods similar to Watson's.

It relies on NLP and "facts"; for example, the query "What is the capital of the United States" relies on this fact:

This fact asserts that the relationship '"is the capital of"' exists between "Washington, D.C." and "the United States" at some point in time. Other facts in the knowledge base assert that this fact applies for the following time periods:

Each "fact" is assessed by a variety of sources, both human and automated. For example, the fact above has, as some of its assessments:

Extracted by [true knowledge] from the infobox on Wikipedia page, downloaded 19 May 2009.


Fact extracted from Factacular using natural language processing of the following snippit "The United States of America has the capital Washington, D.C.."

Comment by KenChen on Meetup posts as discussion threads, please · 2011-02-16T18:05:39.788Z · LW · GW

Is there a page that lists all recurring LW meetups, everywhere?