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We will be discussing Five Essay below on Curiosity, Explain/Worship/Ignore, Strength, Humility & Make Beliefs Pay Rent. Please click on the links to read the short essays to prepare for the discussion. Making beliefs pay rent (in anticipated experiences) http://lesswrong.com/lw/i3/making_beliefs_pay_rent_in_anticipated_experiences/ Not all beliefs are directly about sensory experiences, but beliefs should “pay rent” in anticipations of experience. Always ask which experiences to anticipate and which not to anticipate (instead of “what statements should I believe?”). For example, if you believe phlogiston is the cause of fire, then what do you expect to see happen because of that? What does this belief not allow to happen? Beliefs should infer causes behind sensory experience, or else they end up floating (detached from reality). Arguments about floating networks of belief can go on forever. It may sound like two people are disagreeing over whether a piece in an art museum is “great art”, but they probably do not differ in terms of anticipated experiences: both would predict lots of artists talking about it and being influenced by it, and also predict that most casual museum visitors would not call it beautiful. Your strength as a rationalist http://lesswrong.com/lw/if/your_strength_as_a_rationalist/ Belief is easier than disbelief because we believe instinctively and require conscious effort to disbelieve. But a rationalist should be more confused by fiction than by reality, for a model that fails to constrain anticipation (by permitting everything and forbidding nothing) is useless. If you are equally good at explaining any outcome, you have zero knowledge. When trying to explain a story, pay attention to the feeling of “this feels a little forced.” Your feeling of confusion is a clue – don’t throw it away. Either your model is false or the story is wrong. Explain/Worship/Ignore? http://lesswrong.com/lw/j2/explainworshipignore/ When you encounter something you don’t understand, for example if you don’t know why it rains, you have at least three options: you can Ignore the issue and avoid thinking about it; you can try to Explain it (which sometimes takes a while, and the explanation itself may require an explanation); or you can embrace and Worship the sensation of mysteriousness – which is akin to worshipping your confusion and ignorance. There are more ways to worship something than lighting candles around an altar. The proper use of humility http://lesswrong.com/lw/gq/the_proper_use_of_humility/ Scientific humility means double-checking your calculations and taking extra precaution in anticipation of your own errors. This is proper humility, and it entails not being selectively underconfident about uncomfortable truths (like the creationist is regarding evolution). It does not mean social modesty, nor is it a fully general excuse not to change your mind about something. People often use social modesty as an excuse for not even trying to be right. Use humility to justify further action (e.g. to plan for the case that you are wrong), not to excuse laziness and ignorance. Humility is a complicated virtue, and we should judge it by whether applying it makes us stronger or weaker, and by whether it is an excuse to shrug. The meditation on curiosity http://lesswrong.com/lw/jz/the_meditation_on_curiosity/ Curiosity is the first virtue of rationality. Curiosity is wanting to investigate, not wanting to have investigated (out of a sense of duty). Investigate to shift your beliefs, not just to get it over with; otherwise you could fall prey to motivated stopping. If you are genuinely curious, you’ll gravitate to inquiries that seem most promising of producing shifts in belief, or inquiries that are least like the ones you’ve tried before. We will be joined by 20+ members of other conversation groups.