For the first time, you can now read the best new ideas on LessWrong in a physical book set:
A Map that Reflects the Territory: Essays by the LessWrong Community
It is available for pre-order here.
(And for those of you who are into that, the ProductHunt launch page.)
What exactly is in the book set?
LessWrong has an annual Review process (the second of which is beginning today!) 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.
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. If you are in the US, it will arrive before Christmas. We currently sell to North America, Europe, Israel, and Australia. 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 stand-alone, and does not require reading other content on the site, although it will be enhanced by having engaged with those ideas.
Can I see an extract from the book?
Sure. Here is the preface and first chapter of Curiosity, specifically the essay Is Science Slowing Down? by Scott Alexander.
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
& 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 form and 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.
I have a question not answered here?
There's a comment box right below.
Remind me again, how can I pre-order it?
Here it is. If you pre-order to a US shipping address, it will arrive before Christmas.