Best of Don’t Worry About the Vase

Epistemic Status: Welcome everyone!

This was last updated 10/8/2017. Plan is to continue to update it periodically.

This blog is part of the rationalist community. The general interest links below are fully general interest, and require no knowledge of or interest in rationality.

What is rationality? This post is one good answer. It is believing, and updating on evidence, so as to systematically improve the correspondence between your map and the territory, and using that map to achieve your values.

To me, a rationalist is someone who highly values, and invests in, this process and the art thereof, both in themselves and others.

This blog strives to embody that way of thinking. If you are interested in the way of thinking you saw in the guide, and want to see or explore more of it, this blog might be for you.

If you’re wondering why anyone would think this way, my best responses to that are Responses to Tyler Cowen on Rationality and Why Rationality?

If you’re really interested, you should try reading the sequences. You can get the Kindle version here.

The rest of this post organizes what this blog has produced over the years, starting with highlighting the best posts of general or economic interest.

If you’re interested in getting involved in the community, especially in New York City, leave a comment with information on how to reach you, preferably email.


Top 5 General Interest / For Marginal Revolution Readers:

Something Was Wrong

Against Facebook


Out to Get You

Play in Hard Mode


Next 5 General Interest:

On Cutting Wages

Play in Hard Mode [Play in Easy Mode]

In a world… of venture capital

On the Seattle Minimum Wage Study (part 1) [Part 2] [Part 3]

The Thing and the Symbolic Representation of The Thing


Against Facebook Sequence:

Against Facebook

Against Facebook: Comparison to Alternatives and Call to Action

Help Us Find Your Blog (and others)


Choices Sequence:

Change Is Bad

Choices Are Really Bad

Complexity Is Bad

Choices Are Really Bad

Play in Easy Mode

Play in Hard Mode

Exploring Premium Mediocrity

Expanding Premium Mediocrity

Out to Get You


Bring Back the Sabbath

Sabbath Commentary


Restaurant Guide (I owe part 3 at some point, maybe more):

Restaurant Guide 1: Restaurants should not look like (most) restaurants

Restaurant Guide 2: Pizza


About Rationality (General Interest):

Responses to Tyler Cohen on Rationality

Why Rationality?


Rationalist Culture and Ideas (For General Interest)

The Twelve Virtues of Rationality

Trio Walks, Duo Talks

Write Down Your Process

Avoiding Emotional Dominance Spirals

More Dakka


Decision Theory:

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

How to Destroy Civilization

The Darwin Game

The Darwin Pregame

The Darwin Results
Gambling and Prediction Markets:

Prediction Markets: When Do They Work?

Subsidizing Prediction Markets

On Robin Hanson’s Board Game

Prediction Markets Are About Being Right

The Kelly Criterion

The Art of the Overbet


On Rationalist Culture and Ideas (For Community Members):

On Dragon Army

On Automoderation

What Is Rationalist Berkley’s Community Culture?

Paths Forward on Berkeley Culture Discussion

Altruism is Incomplete

You’re Good Enough, You’re Smart Enough, and People Would Like You


AI (This section needs to get bigger):

The AI Paper with The Best Title Ever

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9 Responses to Best of Don’t Worry About the Vase

  1. Avi says:

    Might want to fix that Cohen/Cowen typo

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  3. Peter Gerdes says:

    While I’m a big fan of the rationality movement in general I think there are some problematic ambiguities in the way we talk about rationality that cause trouble both in terms of our public perception and even lead to irrational behavior.

    In particular, there is a strong tendency to confuse behaviors that happen to be truth conducive as a contingent manner, e.g., given actual human psychology it tends to be truth conducive to try and minimize the role of emotions in reaching our decisions but we could imagine alien beings where this actually went the other way, and truly general epistemically preferable practices which we want to adopt prior to actually checking to see if it turns out that, as an empirical matter, they are truth conducive.

    The way this often becomes a problem is that someone tells a compelling story about a way that a certain kind of belief forming heuristic can lead one into false beliefs (Yudkowsky (sp?) is very good at this) and people take this as a compelling reason to reject that belief forming heuristic. Yet when we are talking about belief forming heuristics in this sense we aren’t evaluating them as a means for forming beliefs given arbitrary sense-data input in some totally unknown possible world but rather asking if they are practically truth conducive in the actual world. Yet just because a particular belief forming method can lead one into trouble at times doesn’t mean that, in the actual world, its not overall truth conducive. So, while it turns out Yudkowsky’s intuitions about what is and isn’t truth conducive in the actual world are pretty good the same can’t be said about everyone else who adopts this approach to arguing a belief forming method is irrational and the confusion about what kind of rationality we are talking about can lead to problems.

    This might not be very clear but I wrote a much longer piece about it that explains it at length: blog piece.

    Indeed, I was motivated by this confusion and a certain tongue in cheek sensibility to name my blog rejecting rationality (obviously I don’t mean to reject the idea of getting at the truth or dismiss the rationality community…rather the name is meant to convey the fact that we should make sure to regard rationality as a bunch of practical tips which happen to work in the real world to get at truth rather than a religious quest for some kind of reasoning purity).

    • Peter Gerdes says:

      Hmm, perhaps I didn’t really explain what I see as the link between confusing the notion of rationality as how an ideal agent should respond to an arbitrary stream of sense data versus rationality as practical tips for humans and seeing rationality as a sort of religion.

      The problem is that there is a natural temptation for those inclined toward the rationality movement to see it as a kind of religion in which sin is the use of problematic or error-prone belief forming methods and one strives to be a more pure epistemically virtuous being. The problem with this is that it invites too many people to think they are striving for the sense of epistemic virtue that would make them an ideal rational agent in the first sense, i.e., be best prepared to interact with an arbitrary stream of sense-data and deduce true conclusions. Yet the actual belief-forming methods they are evaluating are merely heuristics for humans which need to be evaluated not on the basis of whether they can ever lead one astray but as an empirical matter on whether or not they more often then not help one find the truth in situations people like them tend to encounter. Thus, I worry that seeing rationality as sort of a religion rather than a list of tips and tricks for what tends to bring us to the truth can encourage people to apply the wrong standard when evaluating a belief forming mechanism.

  4. Robert Solovay says:

    Can you explain your quote “Trying to dig out from minus a million points”?

    –Bob Solovay (A distant fellow-traveler of the rationalist community.)

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