What we’re about
We’re a long-running group that runs "social experiments", with an intellectual focus on rationality, psychology, philosophy, science, technology, skepticism and ethics.
Our meetings are usually social experiments. For instance, in one event we were randomly paired up with people who disagreed with us on a controversial topic, and we had to try to pinpoint the root source of disagreement. At another event we all anonymously answered questions (that were anonymously submitted by other group members) so that we could learn about the group's perspectives and behaviors on topics that normally are too taboo to talk about. At yet another event we explored game theory via interactive prisoner's dilemmas. And at still another, we learned about what first impressions we make on others via anonymous feedback from people we had just met. We have a rule that we are never allowed to repeat the same social experiment format twice, which pushes us to constantly explore new ideas for events.
We also sometimes put on lectures by group members or informal group discussions at someone’s apartment, with food and hangouts for several hours afterwards. Sometimes we also invite guest speakers – past guests include Columbia University bioethicist and author Jacob Appel; the co-founder of Givewell (one of the world's most rigorous charity evaluators), Holden Karnofsky; and the A.I. researcher and rationality blogger Eliezer Yudkowsky.
We choose members who are friendly, intellectually curious, intelligent, and rationally-minded – meaning that we’re more interested in figuring out the truth together than in proving ourselves right, or in arguing for the sake of arguing. Our members are young, almost all in the range of 20 to 45 years old. Most, but not all of our group members identify as atheists.
To give you an idea of what some of our more past meetings have been about, here are a few examples:
Five Minute Lectures | Everyone was invited to give an informal five-minute talk on a topic of their choice. Topics included evolutionary explanations for humor, measuring the entropy level of postmodern texts, and kung fu strategy.
Has rationality improved our lives? | Three group members volunteered to talk about whether, and how, learning the techniques of rational thinking had or had not actually improved their lives.
Books that changed us | Everyone was invited to talk about a book that changed his or her way of thinking.
Movie screening: Jesus Camp | We made popcorn and watched the documentary “Jesus Camp.” Afterwards, several group members talked about growing up in extremely religious families, what it was like, and how they shed their faith.
If you think you might be a good fit for our group, please go here:
to fill out a brief form introducing yourself to us. We're looking forward to hearing from you! Please know, however, that our group is nearing capacity, so we cannot admit everyone who applies.