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Rationality: From AI to Zombies

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,247 ratings  ·  132 reviews
What does it actually mean to be rational? Not Hollywood-style "rational," where you forsake all human feeling to embrace Cold Hard Logic. Real rationality, of the sort studied by psychologists, social scientists, and mathematicians. The kind of rationality where you make good decisions, even when it's hard; where you reason well, even in the face of massive uncertainty; w ...more
Kindle Edition, 1813 pages
Published March 11th 2015 by Machine Intelligence Research Institute
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Larper It does teach you how to be rational.

I have not read Copi's Introduction to Logic but I can't imagine a better book about rationality than Eliezer's R…more
It does teach you how to be rational.

I have not read Copi's Introduction to Logic but I can't imagine a better book about rationality than Eliezer's Rationality.

It teaches you about all the cognitive biases and provides examples. It's also mostly very easy to follow.(less)
Wesley Fenza Read the "How To Actually Change Your Mind" section first. Honestly, I'd suggest skipping most of the remaining sections unless you're particularly in…moreRead the "How To Actually Change Your Mind" section first. Honestly, I'd suggest skipping most of the remaining sections unless you're particularly interested in a specific topic. (less)

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Apart from just a few niggling quips I might have had with a few parts of this absolutely fantastic collection of essays, I think I've found one of my most absolute favorite books of all time.

I've read a ton of philosophy over the years and more psychology, thanks to my degree in psychology, but nothing QUITE prepared me for this. What we have here is not just a man in the process of designing, from the ground-up, a nice AI that won't turn around and rationally destroy us all because we're ver
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Confession: The ideas in this book helped shape my identity and gave my life a direction.

Do you,
a) want to improve yourself as a human being, or
b) think that 'Nah, I'm pretty much fine the way I currently am'?

If you said yes to either question, this book is for you. It is a revelation that will make you a better human being. And the fact remains that it is usually those who think themselves wise that need a wake up call the most.

You will learn that you are wrong about most of the things most of
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
If I could have read just one book in my whole life, this would be it.
Gleb Posobin
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-reread
Whew, I have finally finished “Rationality: from AI to Zombies” by Eliezer Yudkowsky, which is a collection of his posts from and, organized in “sequences” — sequences of posts on the same topic.

What does it mean to be rational? Why is that a good idea to act rationally? What prevents us from making optimal decisions? How can we fix ourselves? Do we even need fixing if we feel happy? Why “rationalists” are not more successful than other people?

This large collecti
Jimmy Longley
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Reviewed as part of my 100 books challenge:

Run-on Sentence Summary

Rationality, a long and meandering collection of posts from the blog Less Wrong, purports to instruct people how to leverage probability and and understanding human biases to be better but squanders the premise digressing and bashing religion.

The promise of this book is enticing. We are told that by learning to behave rationally, we will behave more optimally and see the world more cl
Oct 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Jesus Christ it's been 8 years but I finally did it ...more
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Life-changing author
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do you consider yourself rational? Do you think being rational is important? After reading this book, my answers to these questions are "not very much at all" and "it's the most important thing in the world". More than anything I've read before, this book gives me the sense of being important, in a way that if more people read this book and get it then the world would be a much, much nicer place to live.

So, what's this book about? Like the title says, it handles the subject of rationality - not
Hamish Seamus
I learned a lot of really good stuff from this book. I learned that the entropy of statistical mechanics and the entropy of information theory are fundamentally the same thing. I learned that the many world's interpretation of quantum mechanics is a more natural way of understanding the Schrodinger equation than the Copenhagen interpretation, but it isn't clear how to get Born statistics in MWI. I learned that it's easier to use Bayes' Rule using ratios than using percentages. I learned about a ...more
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-sciences
This long, long, long, blog collection in the name of a book has countless flaws, but its biggest achievement is it makes one think.

I should modify that: it makes its readers think based on where sciences and technologies are today. If one picks up any philosopher from previous centuries, their work might appear much more structured, pathbreaking, readable and/or comprehensive but almost always misguided based on what we know today. To learn something even from the best works of the greatest of
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
Did not finish, read about a third. Full of thought provoking comments and logic. But written as a collection of essays with an incessant anti religion theme. Tried to keep plowing through, but gave up. His definition of rationality and belief in the divine don't seem to be compatible. Favorite quote: You cannot obtain more truth for a fixed proposition by arguing it; you can make more people believe it, but you cannot make it more true . ...more
David Shackelford
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rationality
For somebody engaged in the rationalist community and Yudkowsky's other work, AI to Zombies is an epic tome filled with insight, terror, humor, and context around rationality, AI risk, and philosophy. It's very rough around the edges in pacing and tone, though, so hard to recommend to somebody not already invested in the author and his ideas. ...more
Wesley Fenza
May 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Starts very strong, but veers off into topics that have nothing to do with rationality. There is far too much lip service to evolutionary psychology, which is really disappointing. The rationalist obsession with artificial intelligence comes through in unnecessary ways.

I'd recommend reading the "How to Actually Change Your Mind" section and skipping the rest.
Francis Bezooyen
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This inspiring and monumental body of essays should be considered essential reading for anyone who aspires to be rational.
Shivam Vats
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The biggest impact of this book on me has been to clearly mark the art of rationality as a distinct art worth working on.
Ben Gutierrez
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: I haven't finished this book, but there are a couple things I want to say about it anyway.

I've given up trying to get friends and family to read Yudkowsky's writings. There is a certain sort of person that is excited by applied rationality and I've only met one of those people outside of something like Hacker News or the Less Wrong mailing lists. You should read this book, it could change your life and the way you look at the world, just like it changed me.

Maybe you'd prefer Harry Po
Blake Borgeson
Jul 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, life, favorites
Eliezer Yudkowsky is a force of nature. Want to be smarter, as in better at defining and achieving your goals? Start here. If you're not the type to get turned off by Eliezer's style, you'll get an inspiring and sweeping view of ways our brains excel and ways they're full of evolutionary bugs.

Want an intro to these ideas that's more of the fanfiction sort? Start with Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and see if at the end of it you don't want to get started on being more of your own
Moritz Grauel
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very long... Some of the essays are really worth reading... But it becomes quite evident that it is just a collection of essays from a web site. They have done a great job organising them and putting a common thread through them though. But it remains, some of the essays are a lot better than others
Teo 2050


Yudkowsky E (2015) (49:41) Rationality - From AI to Zombies

Preface (Eliezer Yudkowsky, February 2015)

Biases: An Introduction (by Rob Bensinger)
• Rational Feelings
• The Many Faces of Bias
• A Word About This Text
• Map and Territory

Book I: Map and Territory

A. Predictably Wrong
001. What Do I Mean By “Rationality”?
002. Feeling Rational
003. Why Truth? And . . .
004. . . . What’s a Bias, Again?
005. Availability
006. Burdensome Details
007. Planning Fallacy
008. Illusion of Tran
Sam Havens
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you hang out at the intersection of machine learning, math, and philosophy, you are probably already aware of Yudkowsky. You probably have an opinion already formed. I don't know what it would be like going into this book with preconceived notions. I somehow managed to not hear about Rationalists, Yudkowski, or most of his ideas - though I had read Superintelligence by Bostrom.

Anyway, I couldn't shut up about this book the whole time I was reading it. Which was quite a while, because it is a
Daniel Hageman
While this started out with some of the basics regarding bias countering/recognition, this book has taught me many new things (favorite = probabilities of Darwinian mutation successes and a new framing of Newcomb's problem), lowered my credence in some ideas (most notably regarding the conceivability of philosophical zombies as it relates to property dualism/epiphenomenalism), provided bolstering arguments to other beliefs I already had (effective altruism), and made some claims I maintain disag ...more
Rodrigo Sampaio
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Disclaimer: I did not finish this “book.” I stopped nearly half-way after realizing how much was still left.

Much of the other commonly-found criticisms on the low-rating reviews seem to me spot-on, so if you’ve read enough of them and already feel discouraged, my review can be skipped to the very last paragraph.

To start: this is not a book, at least not in the traditional/expected sense. It’s a huge collection of essays that leads to a very long and clumsy compilation, full of redundancy and u
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Waaayy too long for my tastes. But most of the stuff ain't fluff, it's just 100 ways to skin a cat. Would wager to say that it's one of the most influential books I've read in a long while, but it also took almost a year of intermittent reading to finish it! ...more
Steven Normore
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed this. Will read again.
Virginia Rand
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Interesting, but I found it a bit hard to understand in many places and when he says from AI to zombies he mostly means AI.
Alexey Efimik
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Extremely long and at the same time information dense book about the art of thinking.

Highly reccomend.
I appreciate that this is a very very lengthy book compiled with a collection of great essays with different topics and styles. Undoubtedly they covered quite a lot of powerful concepts and provided fair arguments, but I have to say I didn't enjoyed the reading experience. Some chapters are so concise, clear, straightforward but some are just outright confusing.

I marked all the great chapters that I loved under reading progress and skipped some of them (when I can't even comprehend the fourth p
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is what you’d get if you cross Richard Dawkins with Douglas Hofstadter... and get the result high on LSD.

And I mean this as a compliment! AI to Zombies is as mind-altering as the most potent of psychoactive substances (which, to be clear, the author claims not to use). I spent 2 months reading and rereading it, soaking up all of the dozens of messages it delivers, questioning every aspect of my identity as a rational thinker. Not a conversation going by without me coming up with someth
These essays are fumbling attempts to put into words lessons that would be better taught by experience. But at least there’s underlying math, plus experimental evidence from cognitive psychology on how humans actually think. Maybe that will be enough to cross the stratospherically high threshold required for a discipline that lets you actually get it right, instead of just constraining you to interesting new mistakes.

everyone needs to learn at least one technical subject. Physics; compute
Sep 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Karl by: HPMOR
A gargantuan collection of essays on rationality. It maps out the hundreds of mistakes we systematically make, starting with well known cognitive biases and straying into more speculative grounds, all of it written with humor and clarity, as illustrated by the following:

“Oops is the sound we make when we improve our beliefs and strategies; so to look back at a time and not see anything you did wrong means that you haven’t learned anything or changed your mind since then.”

This collection is just
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From Wikipedia:

Eliezer Shlomo Yudkowsky is an American artificial intelligence researcher concerned with the singularity and an advocate of friendly artificial intelligence, living in Redwood City, California.

Yudkowsky did not attend high school and is an autodidact with no formal education in artificial intelligence. He co-founded the nonprofit Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (

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