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NYC Meetup 6/21

There will be a New York City rationalist/LW/SSC meetup at Highgarden House (851 Park Place, Brooklyn) on Sunday, June 21 at 6:00 PM.

If you’re reading this and can make it to Brooklyn, you’re invited.

There was some discussion at the last Michigan meetup about how the previous sentence should be emphasized more. If you are reading this and can make it to Brookyln, you’re invited. You do not have to have read very much of this blog or Less Wrong, you do not have to agree with me about anything, you do not have to “be smart enough” for any value of “enough”, and you do not have to be the “sort of person” whom you think goes to these things. In fact, the less you are like everyone else, the more interesting it will be.

No particular activities planned beyond undirected conversation, but there will probably be pizza, and Raemon has raised the possibility of a dramatic reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for those interested (in a way that doesn’t interfere with continued undirected conversation for people who don’t want to do that).

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107 Responses to NYC Meetup 6/21

  1. Anonymous says:


  2. Rangi says:

    How many people usually come to the New York meetups? If I’m in the city on Sunday, I’ll also come. Up until now I’ve only “met” rationalist(-adjacent) people online.

  3. Arthur B. says:

    By attempting to be maximally inclusive, you’re de facto excluding the people who value a selected attendance. If you have no filters whatsoever, you’ll have more people show up, but you’ll dilute the meaning of the event into nothing. Basically the NRX argument against entryism applies.

    • Deiseach says:

      On the other hand, Arthur B., if Scott and his friends are a bit fed-up of seeing the same six old faces always turning up, then inviting “come one, come all” is a way of getting in new members.

      Should a dolt, dunce, or Non-U person show up to the New York meeting, they probably won’t enjoy themselves and won’t bother turning up again to the next one. However, should it possibly be that a person who meets the highly selective criteria that you apply to those permitted to breathe the air in your vicinity does turn up, then that’s a new rationalist (or rationalist-friendly) person who has found a congenial group of which to be part and to which to contribute.

      • I think that the subject matter itself is a sufficient filter for this kind of event. People uninterested in rationalism are unlikely to come, at least until the meetup gets somehow notorious enough that it’s in danger of entryism.

        That said, I would totally come to one of these meetups even though I’m not rationalist in the least, on the hopes that it would be something like an SSC comment threat IRL.

        • Deiseach says:

          on the hopes that it would be something like an SSC comment threat IRL

          (Possibly) drunk angry crazy people yelling at each other about chocolate? 🙂

          Or at least, that seems to be what Arthur B. fears by letting in those not a “selected attendance”.

        • Arthur B. says:

          You’d think that, and yet, it is by this very process that the New York Less Wrong meetup turned from a group that talked about AI and decision theory into a cuddle puddle meetup. Oh, and because “instrumental rationality”. Now, I have nothing against people who enjoy cuddling in puddles, but certainly the original purpose was lost in the process.

          Of course, this was hailed as an astounding success by the people who self selected for staying.

          • Brad says:

            May I suggest a formalized structuring of events? You could begin by only allowing certain initiated members in who agree to certain rationalist principles and likewise formally express said rationalistic ideals, which will, of course, be agreed upon by senior members of the community. Those who fail to adhere may be expunged from the group, of course.

            You could, form there, move on to structured events involving this pool of individuals, possibly including chosen event speakers, printed materials to help people follow along, planned gatherings designed to increase the utility of the community at large, and – simply for their pleasing ascetic value – pipe organs and/or long, flowing robes?

            Just a thought.

          • Adam says:

            I mean, there’s a place in life for both AI discussions and sex parties and they may as well be with the same people if you like those people.

          • Deiseach says:

            I apologise for coming across as snarky, Arthur B., but using phrases like “people who value a selected attendance” does invite the supposition that what you’re asking is “How do we keep the riff-raff out and only have the kinds of high-class person I would preferentially choose with whom to associate?” which, to be honest, sounds snobby.

            Now, if your real fear is “Ah, sweet Cosmic Spirit of Sagan, will this degenerate into cuddling all over the shop instead of rational, elevating discourse? Just like the last time?”, that’s perfectly legit, and you perhaps could have phrased it as what you hoped would not eventuate rather than non-specific remarks that sounded like “Let’s administer IQ tests before we even let them walk in the door”.

          • Careless says:

            which, to be honest, sounds snobby.

            I do not think he is worried about sounding too snobby here.

          • Arthur B. says:

            @Deiseach, in my experience, the two aren’t unrelated. This isn’t to say that there aren’t smart, interesting people who do enjoy and partake in such activities. But if high level discussions leave out a substantial fraction of the attendees, it is unlikely that the group dynamic will converge to that format.

            @Careless, I prefer “elitist”

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I think LW is bigger than “AI and decision theory” – I can’t do decision theory worth beans, for example, so that description would exclude me, which makes me not too keen to go along with it.

            I agree “AI and decision theory” is something that needs its own group, but I think billing it as a “Less Wrong group” invites exactly the problems you’re mentioning.

            Luckily, SSC has no particular mission statement so I’m not worried about it collapsing into a social club because it doesn’t especially aspire to more.

            Also, I’m less worried about SSC entryism than LW entryism, because in LW new people produce content so entryism can cause exponential drift (bad people start producing content which attracts worse people, who start producing worse content which attracts even worse people), but here only I produce content so drift is linear at worst. [EDIT: I see Jos already noticed this]

          • Arthur B. says:

            “AI” and “decision theory” discussions were not meant as an exhaustive list of interesting activities but as an example of things which are more interesting to many people than “cuddle puddles”

          • Anon256 says:

            Incidentally, the NYC LW meetup generally doesn’t have cuddles anymore. (I am somewhat disappointed about this change.)

          • Raemon says:

            In addition to the “NYC meetups haven’t had a cuddle pile for 1-2 years” thing…

            …in all the time I’ve been at the NY Less Wrong meetup, there was not a time when we *didn’t* talk about AI and other interesting topics – we just did it while some people were cuddling.

            (It is possible there was brief window just before I got there this was not true)

          • Deiseach says:

            Adam, I admit I am tickled by the notion of a mathematical exam before engaging in the orgy.

            Not that either maths or orgies appeal to me, so I wouldn’t be participating in either event 🙂

          • I admit I am tickled by the notion of a mathematical exam before engaging in the orgy.

            Hold on. Is “cuddle puddle” a euphemism for group sex?

            You mean, when shy, nerdy participants in online intellectual discussion all meet one another for the first time, their clothes come off?

            This seems unlikely!

          • Deiseach says:

            Hold on. Is “cuddle puddle” a euphemism for group sex?

            Oh, I wasn’t insinuating that at all, Larry! I was referencing what Adam said about ” there’s a place in life for both AI discussions and sex parties”.

            And so we see how inflated expectations develop: from cuddle-puddles to sex parties to orgies. Tsk, tsk! 🙂

          • Anonymous says:

            Where does the correlation between LW and cuddling come from in the first place? Why is there such a large intersection between sets of people who like cuddling with strangers and people who like rationality? The two things seem completely unrelated to me.

          • Arthur B. says:

            @Anonymous, great question! There isn’t! It’s a dumb path dependency problem mixed with some dose of conformism and tribalism. Once you get in that equilibrium it’s really hard to get out because typically only people who enjoy this activity are not going to be grossed out by it – the rest will stop attempting any social gathering.

            @Larry, no it’s not an euphemism, it is a pretty literal description.

            @Raemon, oh please, we attended some of the same events: it was unstructured, chaotic and no discussion got particularly far.

            Regarding “…while people were cuddling”…

            Unless they are explicitly looking for this, the vast majority of people are actively put off by the idea of sitting next to a group of people loudly giggling and petting each other. You may not necessarily realize this since such people self select not to show up at events involving these activities.

            You might say: “Well, it’s their problem for caring about something that doesn’t affect/concern them! Why cater to the preferences of bigots?”

            Would you say the same if the activity consisted in flinging poo across the room? How about a ritual where people self-mutilate, have sex with goats, ritually kill them and smear their naked bodies with the sacrificial blood?
            “Hey it’s cool, you can talk about your nerdy topics… but you see, what we really want is to build a community here, because people need to belong. So yeah, our thing is going to be molesting goats before ritually sacrificing them. Hey, it’s fine, just go in that corner and talk about AI all you want, you can just look the other way, right?”

            Now if you feel that’s unreasonable, then you don’t have a principled opposition to restricting the type of activities people engage in, what you have is the opinion that “cuddle puddles” are perfectly fine and should be appealing.

            Of course after a few months of goat play, it will be hailed as a wonderful development: “Wow, that goat play was such a great idea! We got a ton of new members, and they all really agree that goat orgies are totally the way to go! Success!”

          • Nornagest says:

            Is “cuddle puddle” a euphemism for group sex?

            Generally, no.

          • ozymandias says:

            I am confused about what is stopping Arthur B from starting his own cuddle-free group full of people driven away by the cuddle puddles. Better to light a candle than to curse the hairpetting &c.

          • Raemon says:

            Something I’ve been curious all the times you’ve ranted about the cuddle-puddles: how many specific people can you name who stopped coming because of them? The narrative you describe is certainly plausible, but I can only think of 2 people who stopped coming in that time period. There were other people who didn’t like cuddle puddles, but they kept coming and eventually the cuddle-puddles stopped.

            (You’re certainly right that there are plenty of other potential people who could have been invited who would have hated cuddle-puddles, but nobody was actively inviting those people in the first place.)

            More relevant to this discussion: I think you conflate the cuddle-puddle issue with basically any other issue you have with the LW community.

            Take your OP in this thread. It was TOTALLY not the issue that we had “no barrier to entry.” The problem was that several group organizers *actively* initiated cuddle puddles on purpose, and then actively recruited people who would like them. This is precisely the opposite of the issue you describe in your OP. They created a barrier to entry, just one you didn’t like.

            Nowadays we have a variety of events for different people with different preferences, I can’t remember the last time there was a cuddle puddle, and Tuesdays are almost exactly the way you originally remembered them.

          • Nornagest says:

            I am confused about what is stopping Arthur B from starting his own cuddle-free group full of people driven away by the cuddle puddles.

            He can, of course. But if the main draw of the original meetup is Scott Alexander’s presence, and the new one doesn’t include cuddles but also doesn’t include Scott Alexander, then I doubt it’s going to be competitive (unless there are enormous and hitherto unsuspected masses of lurking cuddle-phobes floating silently around the community, which I doubt). That doesn’t oblige Scott to ban cuddling, but it does have strategic implications, and it also informs the tenor of the group and its conclusions.

            I’m no great foe of cuddles, but I would tentatively assign this whole phenomenon to the pattern where geek circles slowly and painfully reinvent levels of formality and the public/private distinction from the ground up after throwing the original norms away ’cause, you know, that stuff’s for normals.

          • Ever An Anon says:

            As a data point, I was strongly considering going to physical meetings back when I was active on LW proper a few years back but was deterred by the off-putting vibe I got from their descriptions. A big part of that was the cuddling / hugging / poly stuff, though the constant ‘Are we a cult?’ vs ‘We’re not a cult!’ threads at the time didn’t help either.

            Not a huge loss, I ended up joining a weight training group and getting into Game instead so in terms of “rationality = winning” I came out ahead. But yeah the rumors have probably depressed membership.

          • ozymandias says:

            Nornagest: I’m talking about Arthur’s complaint about the NYC rationalist community, not his advice to Scott. If he would like a cuddle-free rationalist meetup group, then creating one himself seems much more likely to reach his goals than arguing with Raemon on SSC. (I’ll even signal-boost it for him– although perhaps my readership is too cuddle-friendly for that to be entirely effective.)

          • Nornagest says:

            @ozy — Okay, yeah, that makes sense. It might be interpreted as a status play, but there’s no fundamental reason why a cuddle-free NYC LW meetup couldn’t work.

            Of course, if what Raemon said in his last comment is accurate, it might already have been done for him.

          • Anon256 says:

            @Anonymous: I’m not sure why the correlation exists, but other communities of smart young people I’ve known (notably certain social circles at universities like Caltech and CMU) also tend to be quite high in cuddling. From my own subjective point of view it feels like the correlation is because they’re smart enough to see that cuddling is an inherently good thing and effective enough to make it happen, but I know there are also lots of similarly smart people who disagree so this doesn’t actually explain it. Maybe just something about willingness to question social norms?

            @Raemon: “I can’t remember the last time there was a cuddle puddle” I think the last time there was one at an NYC LW event was the most recent post-Solstice party.

          • Thomas Eliot says:

            >The narrative you describe is certainly plausible, but I can only think of 2 people who stopped coming in that time period.


            Is it me and my wife? That’s why we stopped coming

          • Arthur B. says:

            I can name at least five other people on top of my head (so with Thomas Eliott and his wife, that would be 7). Of course, there are probably a lot of people who attended once and never came back. How do I know that? Because you had something shy of group sex happening, that’s why! It doesn’t take a very deep knowledge of society to know that’s going to be quite off-putting to a lot of people.

          • onyomi says:

            I have never participated in a “rationalist” meetup, but I have been friends with a lot of nerdy types. The sort who frequent anime conventions, etc.

            In my experience, they are both more “touch deprived” and more aware of that fact than average. It’s almost like an overcompensation for the fact that shy, nerdy people often don’t get a lot of physical contact, either romantic or friendly, and are kind of bad at doing it in a casual, non-awkward way (this applies to me too, and I have definitely felt “touch deprived” during times when I was single).

            I think they overcompensate for this by creating a culture where non-sexual touching is almost enforced. Sort of like people who are normally too restrained to get drunk playing a drinking game, imposing penalty drinks, etc. It’s a way of changing the equilibrium from a place where many would like to cuddle but none dare, to a place where *not* cuddling is actually the awkward option, contra most of society.

            This could understandably make people who genuinely don’t want to cuddle feel awkward, but I can also understand why they do it.

            I think US culture currently, and especially for heterosexual men, is way too touch-averse. A friend told me, for example, that in Sri Lanka, where she had lived for a while, platonic friends were seemingly always touching each other. Holding hands and arms around shoulders when walking, etc.

            Consider some of these old-timey pictures:


            Can you imagine heterosexual men posing like this today? One might say, “oh well, some of these were closeted gay men who had to pretend to just be really close platonic friends back in the 19th century.” Maybe some were, but the whole rugby team?

            The opposite extreme is Japan, where, on average they maintain the largest conventional distance between conversation partners. They also have one of the highest suicide rates.

          • Raemon says:

            Thomas and his wife were a different time period.

            I don’t actually object to the argument “cuddle puddles are bad norm for a public facing rationality event.” (I actually agree. Or rather, I think it’s important for non-cuddly public facing events to exist, possibly in tandem with cuddly public facing events)

            What I object to is most of the specific arguments Arthur makes against them.

            1) It’s not necessary for groups to retain the same norms indefinitely. Groups evolve. Old topics get overdone/boring. This means that people who especially liked old topics or activities may get frustrated – but if the majority of people are interested in a particular new topic or activity, the group is going to evolve and that’s fine.

            If one person’s implementing a change against everyone else’s will, that sucks. I think there’s some reasonable debate over whether this happened re: cuddling. There is NOT reasonable debate about whether this happened re: “people wanting a community.”

            The majority clearly wanted a community and a group to belong to. It’s unfortunate that Arthur and a few other people didn’t want that focus, but THAT change was definitely not an instance of a minority changing the group in unnatural ways.

            2) They are not an instance of “letting in too many people” – they were instance of trying a new norm on purpose.

            3) There are many people who don’t come because of cuddling. There are many other smart, worthwhile people who don’t come because of interrupt culture norms, or because AI-all-the-time gets boring.

            4) No matter WHAT norms we’ve had (and they’ve changed over the years), we *never* get more than 15-ish people on a regular basis.

          • Arthur B. says:


            1) It wasn’t a majority, it was an intentional shift initiated by Will which in turns attracted more people with religion envy at the expense of interest in philosophy, rational thinking, AI, or what have you.

            2) they were an instance of explicitly attempting to build a cult, complete with Will going to church to learn some some tricks of the trades (as documented on the publicly available mailing list). I’ll grant you that the problem wasn’t openness, it was deliberate. This makes me even sadder.

            3 & 4) your goal may be to maximize attendance but it isn’t the standard by which I’m observing failure. The nature (in an Aristotelician sense) of a Less Wrong group should be to discuss and improve their knowledge in the type of topics typically debated on Less Wrong.

            Astonishingly, bundling such discussions with an orgy cult atmosphere was detrimental to that goal.

          • Rich says:

            (Broad generalizations follow. It is very possible that some reader will be in the group of people I’m talking about, and some of the things I’m saying don’t apply to him/her. Also, to be clear, it is based on my experience during a specific window of time that ended about 3.5 years ago.)

            Arthur pointed me to this comment thread as it touched on some topics he and I have discussed in the past (I am a casual SSC reader but wouldn’t have seen this thread). I attended the NYC LW meetup very consistently for a while (I was probably a “core member” for fifteen months or so), and the people I met there include a roommate, some very close friends, and my wife (and three of my groomsmen). EY also threatened (offered?) to write slash fiction about me once. If you were around then, we almost certainly know each other.

            I had a higher tolerance than Arthur for a lot of the cuddling+ stuff, so my perspective is a bit different, but it does overlap. I stopped attending in part because hanging out with my then-girlfriend (now wife) was more appealing, and in part because said future wife was extremely creeped out by the cuddling+ (she had only been to a few meetups), but probably most of all because many of the close friends I’d made in the meetup had stopped attending (in addition to Arthur, also people whose first names started with letters like W, B, and A). These people were all educated professionals in their mid-late 20s who generally had their shit together. We watched movies, we played games, we talked about LW topics, recommended sci-fi books, went out for drinks, talked about our love lives, etc., the point being we were normal adult friends who happened to share some uncommon interests. Most of us are now married (with kids or near-term plans for kids), have competitive jobs, and can hold a five-minute conversation with a stranger without seeming like someone who necessarily goes to things like LW meetups.

            In contrast, (and yes I’m generalizing, and no this doesn’t apply to every individual, and that goes for my whole comment): the people who remained (and therefore the kind of people who started joining) generally had at least some of the following traits:

            – Major emotional and/or social issues (I’m not talking about being bad at making eye contact, but much more serious stuff)
            – Still in college (not that there’s anything wrong with that, just painting a picture)
            – Unemployed/drifting through life/crappy job
            – Body odor
            – Of the heterosexual males (which most were), weird towards female attendees, which put an even stronger selection pressure on which women stuck around.
            – I’m not going to say anything about the women in the group because there were so few and so even things which were actually true of e.g. 3 out of 5 of them might sound personal. But I don’t want to give the impression that the women were perfect and only the men were flawed, because that certainly wasn’t true.

            My main thesis (and I think Arthur would agree) is that a meetup about LW-like topics is evolutionarily unstable. A large portion of the people attracted to such a meetup have a history of undermet social needs, and eventually these people get comfortable enough to start meeting each other’s social needs, and that is obviously much more fun than talking about X-risk (or playing Illuminati or giving presentations about Solomonoff Induction or doing cognitive-bias exercises or pitching each other startup ideas), so meeting historically undermet social needs becomes the main focus, and so people who need less of that get less out of being at the meetup and eventually leave, and people who get more out of that are more likely to stick around. Around when I left, cuddle puddles were routine, and at least sometimes ended up being more than just cuddling. Never actual group sex, at least when I was there, but (to be vague) definitely stuff that would get you arrested if you did it in public, and stuff you could probably sell videos of on the internet.

            If this had been purely in addition to the stuff I liked about the meetup, I might have kept going (almost certainly if I hadn’t happened to meet my wife when I did), but it wasn’t purely in addition. By the end of 2011, it wasn’t uncommon for people to stick around for maybe 15 minutes of discussion of the evening’s nominal topic in our host’s living room before they started getting bored, and after about 20-30 minutes, 15 people had drifted into the bedroom and only maybe 3-5 people were left in the living room. I would also estimate that the average age of the meetup dropped by 2-4 years and the median income of employed attendees probably dropped by mid-five figures or more. (I don’t mean to imply that there is necessarily anything wrong with poor college students (I was one once), I’m just trying to put some kind of numbers on at least part of this.) We also added an extra meetup on Thursdays, which was basically group therapy…which was a good idea for multiple reasons, and I’m not criticizing it, just giving it as an example of the shifting atmosphere.

            This might not have happened if the main authority figures of the meetup weren’t on board (they were)…but I think what authority figures who weren’t on board with it would eventually have ended up doing would look reasonably similar to Arthur’s proposals, if less harsh.

            I still live in NY, and might attend if I didn’t have father’s day plans. In any case, I think an occasional meetup where people mostly don’t know each other will go fine whether or not you follow Arthur’s advice. If you want to start a closer community of people who know each other well and see each other on a regular basis, the group will eventually converge on activities which maximize the members’ marginal hedons…so you should consider what kinds of hedonic activity you want to be the lowest hanging fruit for the people in attendance.

          • Raemon says:

            I actually think Rich’s evaluation is more or less accurate (especially insofar as he did a pretty good job describing it without specifying a value judgment)

            My own timeline description is:

            – bunch of folk got together, with some clusters of overlapping interests that included

            – initial focus on intellectual topics. Many people had never met anyone we could talk so thoroughly about AI with, so they were really excited about that.

            – period of time when there was heavy experimentation with various stuff focusing on building a community. Many people had never been in a place where they could experiment with touch and emotional needs in a nonjudgmental atmosphere, and so they were really excited about that.

            (in this period, overall group size stayed the same. 5-10 people leaving does sound about right, which was maybe a fourth our regulars)

            – period of time where a lot of people leveled up, got better jobs or started startups or other ambitious project, and there was a wave of excitement over that…

            …and then a period where we had basically done all the things we were excited about… and then the group dissipated.

            It was rebuilt at the beginning of this year, with a largely different group of people. “Weird” stuff is generally held at other meetups.

          • onyomi says:

            I’ve never been to any of these meetups and don’t know anyone involved, but this cuddle controversy reminds me of:


            I’m not saying I necessarily agree with the author that all of these are a problem, though I certainly think some of them are to at least some extent, but they do sum up my social interactions with nerdy people quite well. I don’t know if the rationality community has any similar problems.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m currently (but slowly) working on a “Five More Geek Social Fallacies” post for LW Discussion, based partly on what I’ve seen in the meetup scene.

            Does that answer your question?

    • Jos says:

      IMHO, entryism isn’t as great of a threat in fora where there isn’t an ability for participants to shift the course of an organization. If a bunch of people show up who want Scott to do more pharma blogging and less SJW blogging, they can only do so by persuading Scott, in which case maybe he’ll appreciate it.

      Otherwise, he might enjoy meeting his readers, regardless of their other characteristics. (Compare the comment threads – at a certain point, there are so many people that it’s hard to find your favorite commenters without tools, but otherwise, I don’t think entryism is a problem).

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Being inviting is a filter against exclusive people, yes.

    • FJ says:

      The filters don’t have to be explicit to be effective. For example, this event is scheduled around dinnertime on Father’s Day. That will be highly effective in discouraging attendance among people who have an important prior commitment at that time.

      To be clear: I’m certain that nobody *intended* to filter out fathers by scheduling the meetup at that time. I’m not trying to cast aspersions on Scott or anyone else. And I’m pretty stoked about my first Father’s Day, so I will graciously forgive this outrageous “microaggression.” 😉

      • Randy M says:

        I hadn’t gathered that there was a big parental representation on this site. I suspect I am well outside the norm, but admittedly that is mostly just an impression and I’m not sure what it is based on.

        • Nicholas says:

          There is, as I understand it, a large number of men’s children in this community.

        • FJ says:

          I suspect you’re right, but “the less you are like everyone else, the more interesting it will be.” If parents (who are a sizable fraction of the general population) are substantially under-represented at these events, that’s interesting in itself and they might enrich the discussion.

          Obvious counterpoint: New parents are widely considered to be exceptionally boring people who have a very limited conversational repertoire. I can attest that this stereotype has a strong basis in fact. So perhaps Scott was wrong and (this particular form of) diversity would be detrimental to the meetup. Now I’m curious what the truth is!

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Yeah, sorry about that, but I’m in NYC for a wedding for a weekend and that was the only time available.

    • Nick says:

      What you’re getting at is true, but I wouldn’t say Scott’s diluting the event into nothing. There’s still a great deal of selection here since this is only advertised to LW and SSC.

    • FeepingCreature says:

      Few indeed are these among the Rationalist kind who must socially be nudged downward… 😉

    • Anonymous says:

      Meh, how many people who aren’t that into SSC or LW would come to a SSC meetup anyway? Seems like a non-issue to me.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      When we talked about this in Michigan no one had ever been annoyed by the presence of “the wrong sort of person” at a meetup, and many people said that they were interesting insofar as there were unusual people to talk to and a wide range of views.

      So while in principle it’s a trade-off just like everything else, in practice I think we’re still well on the side of the curve where more inclusivity = good.

      • Linch says:

        At the risk of stating the obvious, your invitation already filters anyone who doesn’t trawl SSC between today and Sunday at 6, which is a fairly decent filter against many traits.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Eh, I’ll put in one for this. I was at a LW meetup at your house about 2 years ago where we spent a lot of time rehashing basics — whereas, like, a lot of what I liked about LW was that there was this basic “consensus” that we didn’t have to spend all the time rehashing. And I suspect that part of the problem was having a lot of non-LWers there that particular time. That said, that’s the only time I’ve noticed that problem.

        • LTP says:

          “whereas, like, a lot of what I liked about LW was that there was this basic “consensus” that we didn’t have to spend all the time rehashing”

          I think some people really like debating and hashing out foundational matters, and others really don’t and would rather pursue the details and implications of a foundation they take to be true (or, at the very least, likely true). One sees this all over the place. Feminist and social justice types even segregate the so-called 101 stuff away all the time (too often, in my view, but I digress).

          So, I can certainly understand your frustration. This is why I’ve always stayed away from LW meet-ups, because as much as I am similar to LWers in that I like philosophy, meta discussions, detest the way political discourse typically operates, like discussing ideas that might be taboo in other spaces, and cuddle puddles, I also don’t agree with a lot of the foundations of the LW consensus, so I worry that I would just annoy people or not fit in as I do very much like debating these foundational issues rather than letting them slide to talk about more specific issues.*

          Still, I think there needs to be room for both, and I think it’s totally legitimate if Scott wants to be more open to people outside the consensus.

          *And I don’t particularly like Yudkowsky nor certain aspects of the discourse and culture on itself, even as I like some LW adjacent personalities and spaces like Scott and this site, respectively, which furthers this feeling.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            M, I think maybe I didn’t convey my point very well. There’s a difference between a serious objector who is aware that they are in disagreement with the “consensus”, and someone who is just hashing this out for the first time and rediscovering standard arguments (many of which are dumb 😛 ). The former can produce interesting discussions (though you have to make sure that other people don’t pile on them). The latter are more of a problem, and this particular meetup was full of the latter.

            (And I would say a basic problem with the feminist/SJ-handling of “101 type stuff” is they assume that anyone who disagrees is of the latter sort and just needs to be “educated”, and have no idea how to handle the former. But yeah maybe I should really cut that off here. 🙂 )

      • Nornagest says:

        I showed up to the Berkeley meetup a few months back and found it loud, unstructured, and full of uninteresting people who mainly seemed to want to play nerd status games. I ended up playing with my phone until the herd shifted out of the restaurant, and was eventually able to find an interesting conversation after it had shed some of its weight of people, but I came pretty close to walking away — partly because it was an uncomfortably large crowd for the meetup format, but partly because of the participants.

        I have no idea how you’d effectively filter against this sort of thing, but I’d have been happier with filters in place. Whatever we’d best be filtering for, though, I doubt it’s pure smarts or agreement with SSC consensus; if anything, we’re already overselecting for those.

        • Anonymous says:

          Rumor has it that the bay area LW open-invitation meetups have all been abandoned to annoying people. Also, to size.

          I have only been to LW meetups in three cities, but in all of them there has been discussion of bad apples.

      • Vegemeister says:

        If you ask people in person at a meetup if they have ever been annoyed by the presence of “the wrong sort of person” at a meetup, you are asking them to publicly, in synchronous communication, insinuate that one of their fellows is the wrong sort of person. They also have the option to accuse someone specifically of being the wrong sort, which, although probably even more dangerous, at least allows the audience to evaluate whether the elitist is right. Or, they could say nothing. Anyone with even the finest modicum of tact will say nothing.

        I do not oppose inclusivity (and, in fact, my position is moot because I have no way traveling to New York), but I must point out that this particular evidence is very very weak.

    • Alex Godofsky says:

      Flip side: the people willing to attend an event that self-consciously filters those who aren’t “smart enough” are much more likely to be jackasses.

    • drethelin says:

      Scott very rarely has meetups in New York, so a slow process of degeneration is very unlikely to take place.

      Also, for every group that gets diluted and changes into something some members no longer want, there are probably 2 other groups that die out because people don’t show up.

      Also Highgarden is BIG: If you want you can easily segregate conversations and cuddling into separate zones. Or various conversations into different zones. Or whatever. This works better when a ton of people show up rather than a few.

      Finally: Consider that Scott is a person with his own agency and friends, as are you. Both of you theoretically have the ability to invite very specific sets of people you know and trust to have good conversations with. The very nature of wanting to keep these private means that they’re not going to be the ones you post inviting everyone too! They can be a different event from the “everyone can come” meetups. If you or Scott wants these, you can try to set them up. And conversely: If Scott is setting up a more public meetup, then that is probably something he wants to take place and attend!

  4. Dinaroozie says:

    *sigh* I hope that one day I get invited to one of these things.

    Seriously though, I think that clarification is well-said. It’s easy to imagine the “everyone’s invited” sentence as a throwaway phrase in these kinds of things, so it’s nice to have direct confirmation that it’s not. I hope the inclusive approach continues to go well for the meetups.

  5. Jon says:

    Is there aren apartment number for the meetup?

  6. The_Duck says:

    80% probability I’ll attend. I’ve never been to one of these before.

  7. Ronan says:

    I’ve never commented on SSC before, despite being a religious reader ever since “I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup”‘s posting. The incredible intelligence and perceptiveness of this blog and its comments, and the LW community in general, have educated me a lot this year, though I admit I have frequently felt “not smart enough” to enter the discussions.

    I greatly appreciate the reachout to people like me made so explicit and it’s likely that I’ll come, Brooklyn resident that I am. Thanks for your welcoming words.

    • I’ve also never commented on SSC, but read always. Glad to see the welcoming words about coming to the meet-up. My husband and I live just over a mile away, and will stop in.

      We’re predicting with about 72.5% confidence that we will be the oldest people there!

      Jody Lanard and Peter Sandman

  8. Adam says:

    If somehow you ever end up in Dallas, I’m in.

  9. I would totally come except I’m flying out of town on the 20th.

    • Linch says:

      I’m really tempted to go even though I’m in DC right now. I was planning to stay here for a week but it’s possible meeting up with Scott is worth cutting my trip short.

      Decisions, decisions.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I’m always in New York for Solstice celebration, so you can just wait six months.

        • Linch says:

          Darn…well unfortunately I’m going to work in Madison for an electronical medical records company starting in ~July

          • drethelin says:

            Welcome to working for Epic!

          • Linch says:

            You work there too? How is the company? Lots of people on online sites complain about the stress+high hours, but irl people tell me that’s just IS. Is this true? (I will be working for TS).

            Also, will I be seeing you at the next EA Madison meetup?

          • drethelin says:

            I don’t actually work there, I was just showing off how obvious to someone in Madison it is that you’re talking about Epic. I haven’t been to an EA meetup yet but perhaps one day. I used to go to the LW meetups until a ton of people moved away.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I don’t even live in Madison and I could tell you meant Epic. 😛 (OK, because I have friends who works for Epic.)

          • Linch says:

            Yeah I was in a party in Maryland the other day and some of my friends figured out I was going to Epic when I said “company in Madison.”

            Apparently it’s a lot more well-known than I thought.

            You should totally consider joining the EA meetup! I’ve only met two Madison EA’ers (I had a chance to hang out with them after my interview) but they seemed like interesting people.

            Sniffnoy-> If they’re cool, can you introduce me to them? I don’t exactly know a lot of people in Madison/Epic, and joining a pre-existing social group will relieve a lot of stress.

  10. There was some discussion at the last Michigan meetup about how the previous sentence should be emphasized more. If you are reading this and can make it to Brookyln, you’re invited. You do not have to have read very much of this blog or Less Wrong, you do not have to agree with me about anything, you do not have to “be smart enough” for any value of “enough”, and you do not have to be the “sort of person” whom you think goes to these things. In fact, the less you are like everyone else, the more interesting it will be.

    I had the extremely good fortune of having partaken in the Berlin LessWrong Community Weekend that just passed (by stroke of luck; the lists were actually full when I asked to join), and it strikes me how much this reminds me of my experience. I came feeling like I might intrude, since I didn’t self-identify as a member of the community. I left using the word we to refer to LessWrong.

    So I’d just like to emphasise to anyone that’s reading this far that this is an invitation to be taken seriously and you will be welcome. At least I’m going to assume the European LessWrong community is not substantially different from the one in the US, which seems like a very safe bet to make given how much of it is organised through the internet.

    Also, to those of you who can make it to the New York meet-up: Enjoy yourselves! 🙂

    • Eli says:

      I want to second this, given my experience attending the Israeli LW-Tel-Aviv meetups. The first time I went, I went for a board-games night and worried that it would be a cult centered around the Sequences as a holy text and focused on various forms of nerd-status wanking about utility maximization.

      I arrived and found it full of interesting, intelligent people with their own damn views, who wanted a place to play board games and talk about stuff with the presumption that everyone around would tolerate being treated as if they’d heard of certain stuff (viz: Bayesian statistics, the LessWrong web-o-sphere) before and hold certain pre-assumed views (eg: strong secularism, strong naturalism). LW-Tel-Avivim are some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, and I made a permanent friend in Benjamin Fox there.

  11. Thomas Eliot says:

    I’m disappointed that I’m not seeing more enthusiasm for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Come on guys, it is the best play, and this will literally be on Midsummer Night. Plus, audience participation! You will be invited to play a role for as much or as little as you like!

    • Kevin Carlson says:

      I would be *so* enthused, but I’m in LA!

    • Liskantope says:

      I would love to participate in a reading of Midsummer Night’s Dream and to attend a meetup in general, and this is the first SSC meetup it would actually be feasible for me to attend, if it weren’t for a particular commitment I have this weekend only. *frustration*

    • Seconded that it’s the best play, and I’m once again envious and dismayed about being in the wrong city for this.

  12. jtgw says:

    I’m a religious fundamentalist, young earth creationist homophobic, transphobic believer in traditional gender roles and school prayer. Can I come?

  13. Someone says:

    Never having been to a meetup before, is an RSVP required/expected? Or do I just show up?

  14. Noah Siegel says:

    Is Highgarden a reference to ASoIaF?

  15. How late do meet-ups tend to run?

  16. Christopher says:

    Hmm… California, Michigan, NYC. These travels are moving in the right direction. Here’s hoping that you have cause to come to the UK at some point!

  17. Ever An Anon says:

    So I’m considering attending a different meet-up fairly soon, since it seems like a good way to meet interesting people and I’ve been in the general LW/SSC orbit for a while now under various names.

    But one thing is concerning me: is the cuddle culture thing just a San Francisco phenomenon or has it spread out to the whole LW community? I’m not worried about something like that happening in a restaurant but by the same token I have a strong preference not to be a part of groups with those norms.

    • Thomas Eliot says:

      I share your preferences and this will be happening in my house. I will, at the very most, have a single room wherein cuddle puddles are allowed.

      • Ever An Anon says:

        That sounds good, it’s a shame I’m not living in the city anymore. I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun though.

        I was mainly wondering about LW meet-ups generally. I don’t want to mention the specific one I’m thinking about attending, mentioned way too much of my personal life / politics here to risk doxxing myself, but just knowing the base rate would help.

        • Thomas Eliot says:

          It varies over time and location. I don’t attend the NYC meetups regularly but I think it does not occur in the majority of meetups here.

          • Jacobian says:

            I haven’t seen a single cuddle in a LW NYC Tuesday meetup since they restarted in January, but it’s entirely plausible that everyone just waits for me leave to immediately puddle-up and make fun of me.

  18. Eli says:

    Nope, sorry, Boston.

  19. BBA says:

    NYC resident but will probably be out of town then.

    My heresy is that I think Joe Orton had it right: You can’t be a rationalist in an irrational world. It isn’t rational.

  20. Max Kesin says:

    @Raemon, I’ll back Arthur B up (somewhat). I think it’s fine to make Scott’s coming a generally undirected social activity, but while I don’t remember things getting quite close to an outright indecency I think I’ve become much more selective to the meetups I come to because of some of that vibe. I’m +1 for decoupling “rationalist” activities from co-incidental activities that might hinder the things we care about (hypothetical example: I’d hesitate to bring an older married AI researcher to the group). (BTW don’t take this as censorship of personal enjoyment choices – more power to you for making your life more fun!)

  21. Devon K says:

    I live in NYC, love the blog, and would love to come, but I’m supposed to have dinner with my dad that night for Father’s Day. Any data on how late these meetups usually run? I might be able to swing by afterward.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone posted from a plane or train? I think I’m setting the vehicular speed record for posting on SSC (currently on a bus en route to NYC!).

  23. Is it alright to crash and leave in the morning? I’d be doing mass transit from Philadelphia, and I don’t want to be coming home at 3 or 4 in the morning.

  24. Parker says:

    NYC resident, but I’m the proud father of a two-year old. Enjoy, all, and I hope to make it to the next meet up.

  25. Timing says:

    So I was bored and alone on Sterling Pl. yesterday and just found out about this now.