THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

We’ve Got Five Years, What A Surprise

Today is the fifth anniversary of Slate Star Codex. Overall I’m very happy with how this project is going so far, and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who’s made things work behind the scenes.

Trike Apps generously volunteered to host me free of charge. I give them the highest praise it is possible to give a hosting company – namely, that I completely forgot about their existence until right now because I’ve never had to worry about anything. Special thanks to Matt Fallshaw and Cat Truscott for their kindness and patience.

Bakkot has done various things behind the scenes to make the blog more useable – fixing WordPress bugs, helping with moderation tasks, and adding cool new features like the green highlights around new comments. A big part of the success of the comments section is thanks to his innovations; the remaining horribleness is mostly my fault. Rory O and Alice M have also helped with this.

Michael K and Mason H have done other behind-the-scenes work, especially improving the design. Remember when the front page looked like this? No? Thank Michael and Mason.

The subreddit moderation team – led by Bakkot again, but also _Vulture_, coderman9, PM_ME_YOUR_OBSIDIAN, tailcalled, werttrew, utilsucks, and cjet79 – keeps the subreddit in line, and deserves special gratitude for wading through all of your horrible offensive opinions in the process of redirecting them into the Culture Wars thread.

Deluks917 started the Discord, which is thriving. Thanks to him and the rest of the Discord moderation team – Celestia, notaraptor, and vivafringe.

Jeremiah started the podcast, which continues to update very regularly.

Mingyuan runs the general repository of meetups. Thank her if you’ve been able to find an SSC meetup in your area – and if you haven’t, give her a little while, since she’s working on a better and higher-tech version. Thanks also to everyone who organizes meetups. I’m most familiar with David Friedman’s very large and regular South Bay meetups, but I understand there are decent-sized groups all around the world and I’m grateful for everyone who puts work into it.

Cody, Oliver, and other people organized the Unsong wrap celebration so efficiently that I’m still not sure exactly what happened or who did what. I just showed up and everything seems to have worked. Apologies if I am forgetting people or exactly what they did.

Katja has organized the Open Thread system so that it posts on time and with the right decimals. She also gives general moral support and puts up with me. She also arranged the Unsong wrap after-party and has given me lots of interesting things to think about.

Ozy and Elizabeth have guest-blogged here very briefly. Thanks to them – and congratulations to Ozy on the recent birth of their first child.

Roland helped transform my post on antidepressants into a scientific paper that got accepted by a pharmacology journal. Ada Palmer’s thoughts on finally publishing a novel are pretty much how I feel about finally having published a journal article. Preliminary thanks also to everyone currently working with me on similar projects for other posts.

Scott Aaronson, Leah Libresco, and other more established bloggers – plus some Real Journalists like Conor Friedersdorf, Tom Chivers and Ross Douthat – linked to me and encouraged me when I was relatively new to this, and helped convince me that this “blogging” thing might work out.

Thanks to all our advertisers, but especially to Beeminder and MealSquares, who have stuck with me since the beginning and put up with everything from me never remembering to respond to their emails to me gratutitiously and unfairly insulting their products. I actually think they’re both great companies and totally recommend that you Beemind the number of MealSquares you eat, or something.

Thanks to everyone who supports me on Patreon. Your money pays for things like the Mechanical Turk version of the SSC survey, my books and subscriptions, and me having more time to work on the blog.

Thanks to everyone I’ve engaged with. Again and again I’ve had the experience of reading something, criticizing it (sometimes savagely), and having the author be incredibly nice to me, walk me through where we disagree, and then continue being friendly and supportive afterwards. Some people in this category include Ezra Klein, Adam Grant, Nathan Robinson, Curtis Yarvin, Bryan Caplan, David Friedman (again), Dylan Matthews, Brendan Nyhan, Nick Land, Julia Rohrer, and Freddie de Boer. I continue to disagree with them strongly on a lot of things but can’t find even the tiniest bit of fault with their decency on a personal level.

Thanks to all the people who seem to genuinely dislike me and wish me ill, but who have been decent enough not to let it get to the point of doxxing me or threatening my personal safety, my career, or my relationship with my patients.

Thanks to everyone who comments and contributes to discussions. Some people who I’ve heard praised again and again – John Schilling on international affairs, David Friedman on economic issues, Deiseach on religious and cultural issues, and of course Bean on battleships. But everybody is appreciated. Godwin’s Law says that if you want a question answered online, you shouldn’t ask – you should post something wrong and let people correct you. But I have had good luck groping towards the best answer I can, then letting a bunch of experts show up and fill in the details.

Thanks to everyone who takes the (long, often poorly worded) surveys. Without you, interesting findings like this would not be possible – and trust me, there’s more where that came from once I have time to write it up. One of my goals is to find more ways to use this blog’s readership to advance psychological research, and your surprising willingness to waste time on any crazy questions I throw at you has been delightful.

Thanks to everyone who sent me emails, requests, and questions for not being a jerk when I didn’t answer for several weeks or, in many cases, ever. Without your tolerance for my rudeness, I would have much less time to write.

I am probably forgetting all sorts of people – if so, no offense meant. You are all great.

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91 Responses to We’ve Got Five Years, What A Surprise

  1. Alkatyn says:

    This makes me realise I must have been reading your stuff in various places, LW, LJ, and here, for almost a decade now, which feels very strange. I’ve always been impressed and envious of your ability to generate so much good writing. And you’ve influenced my thinking tremendously on a variety of subjects.

      • b_jonas says:

        My guess is that LJ stands for Livejournal, a popular blogging website at “http://livejournal.com”. I believe that Scott has had a blog there before he started Slate Star Codex, but he deliberately wanted to disassociate the new blog Slate Star Codex from the old one, which is why they aren’t obviously linked either way. You can find the old blog with a bit of web searching, but it’s not easy to prove that it’s really Scott’s.

  2. Jai says:

    > Godwin’s Law says that if you want a question answered online, you shouldn’t ask – you should post something wrong and let people correct you.

    …I can only aspire to this level of trolling.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think I might have stolen that from a discussion on Reddit. In my defense, I really can’t remember what the law is called.

        • rahien.din says:

          Check this out :

          Cunningham himself denies ownership of the law, calling it a “misquote that disproves itself by propagating through the internet”

          Cunningham denies that he is the originator of the law. Furthermore, he claims that the law’s propagation through the internet is evidence of its incorrectness, and this claim directly opposes the central claim of the law.

          And by making these assertions in a YouTube video… he satisfies Cunningham’s Law!

          Consider also Stigler’s Law of Eponymy – is this some kind of weird corollary?

          • Jorge Lupus says:

            And that video disproves the Wadsworth Constant. The internet is a bunch of made up shit, apparently!

      • Shannon Alther says:

        Godwin’s law states that as an internet discussion goes on, the probability of a comparison involving Adolf Hitler being made approaches 1.

        • jonmarcus says:

          Yeah, right. You know who else said the probability of being compared to Hitler approaches 1???!?!

    • Nornagest says:

      I didn’t catch that the first time through, but that’s beautiful.

  3. Fluffy Buffalo says:

    Congratulations, and thank you for doing your best to bring truth and reason into the world!
    …so, when are you going to take the next steps to world domination? I’m sure you could spend an entertaining three hours on Joe Rogan’s show, or on Sam Harris’ podcast…

    • bobbingandweaving says:

      That would contaminate Scott’s pond with people seeking to safely increase their testosterone levels.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I looked into this sort of thing briefly and discovered this whole insular world of people who constantly say things like “What if Bret Weinstein went on Dave Rubin with Joe Rogan and did an interview with Sam Harris channeling Jordan Peterson? OWNED!” and now I’m kind of scared to touch any of it.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Well, you _are_ frustratingly obscure. Well, probably it’s pretty nice (read, awesome) to be in a bubble with mostly intelligent, like-minded people, but it’s still a bubble. And I’d pay good money to see you outside it. Come to think of it, would you be open to a kickstarter?…

        • Virbie says:

          Nooo the reader/commenter bubble is and has been my second favorite thing about reading Scott’s stuff. Is that selfish? Yes…

      • Atlas says:

        I looked into this sort of thing briefly and discovered this whole insular world of people who constantly say things like “What if Bret Weinstein went on Dave Rubin with Joe Rogan and did an interview with Sam Harris channeling Jordan Peterson? OWNED!” and now I’m kind of scared to touch any of it.

        As a marginal appreciator of this insular world, I feel honor-bound to note:

        Is this really any different from how any community of letters—united by shared intellectual interests, major figures and watering holes—appears to outsiders? E.g.,

        “Did you read Eliezer Yudkowksy’s response to Scott Alexander’s critique of Robin Hanson’s theory about Gwern’s[…]of Scott Aaronson’s blog post? The map is not the territory!”

  4. James Green says:

    This is the most interesting blog that I know of.

  5. Markus Ramikin says:

    When I occasionally get a grumpy period where I basically check nothing online except for work email, SSC is the only blog I still read then.

    Thank you for everything you’ve written.

    Especially Moloch.

    And Mealsquares needs to start shipping to Europe.

    Is the journal that got your paper online? Anywhere we can see the rewritten version?

    • somervta says:

      It is – though I suppose posting a link to it would effectively
      deanonymize (de-pseudonymize?) Scott, so I won’t. Still, you can find it on Google Scholar if you know his True Name

      • Markus Ramikin says:

        I didn’t, but pointing me to Google Scholar was enough. Obvious in retrospect. I really shouldn’t post while on insufficient sleep.

        Since I can’t find an option to delete or edit already made comments, Scott, if you wanna delete these comments so as not to make it too easy for people, I’m cool with it.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        You can also find it on Google Scholar if you don’t know “his True Name”.

  6. fion says:

    And thank you for the blog, Scott!

    I think it says something when even a “thank you” post can be entertaining and enjoyable…

  7. meltedcheesefondue says:

    And, of course, thank you ^_^

    Your blog is of great value to the future of the world.

    • Bugmaster says:

      At the very least, it’s both insightful and entertaining. I think “future of the world” might be a bit of a high bar, seeing as even most major media outlets probably cannot claim that honor.

  8. bobbingandweaving says:

    Well done Scott. You’re all a bunch of pedantic bastards, but I love you.

  9. The Element of Surprise says:

    I’m going to join the commenters above. Your blog is by far my favourite, you manage to write in a way that is both very insightful and very entertaining. I hope you will go on blogging for a long time to come.

  10. BlindKungFuMaster says:

    When I saw the title I was kind of hoping for a new estimate of how much time we still have for the ai alignment problem …

    Congratulations!

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Me, too, or possibly a snarky look at the Doomsday Clock.

      Congratulations on five years of excellent writing and a good commentariat.

  11. TheMadMapmaker says:

    Just to say this is a great blog, and congrats to all the people mentioned in this post 🙂

  12. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    My #1 rule on the Internet is ‘Never read the comments.’

    This blog is the one exception to that. I know of no higher praise I can offer a website.

    Thanks for everything, and here’s to five years more! 🙂

  13. bean says:

    Congratulations on five years. I look forward to the next five.

  14. Anaxagoras says:

    Some people in this category include Ezra Klein, Adam Grant, Nathan Robinson, Curtis Yarvin, Bryan Caplan, David Friedman (again), Dylan Matthews, Brendan Nyhan, Nick Land, Julia Rohrer, and Freddie de Boer

    Probably the first time some of these people appear on a list together.

    Great job running this blog! You’ve got good ideas, the writing chops to convey them, and the inclination to just keep on writing. This has been one of my favorite sites since I discovered it, so thank you!

  15. robirahman says:

    Finding Slate Star Codex might be the best thing that’s ever happened to my life. My girlfriend and roommates read it too (it’s how we all met!) and they are just a few examples of the thoughtful and kind people this blog and its community consistently attract.

    Also, Unsong is possibly my favorite book. If it ever gets published, I’m going to buy ten copies and start handing them out everywhere.

  16. Nick says:

    Happy fifth! I do love this blog and its weird and wonderful commentariat. Keep doing what you’re doing, Scott.

  17. Dopaminer says:

    Hey thanks you but also all those cool people. You guys made a nice community here. 🙂 Good job.

  18. Inside a semicircle of displays says:

    The more I read SSC, the more I disagree, the more I like it. Doesn’t usually work that way. It’s a rare treasure.

  19. Eponymous says:

    And thank YOU Scott for writing an awesome blog!

    For what it’s worth, while only a small fraction of my friends read SSC (as far as I know!), essentially ALL of the most intelligent ones do. And my social circle is not rationalist adjacent in general. From this I infer that your blog is having an intellectual influence far greater than the number of readers alone suggests.

  20. Ciaran says:

    Thanks for the blog, Scott. Glad to be along for the ride.

  21. Well... says:

    Scott, thanks for cultivating such an incredible online “community.” It’s really an oasis, and not just in the context of the internet.

    @Deluks:

    The Discord link hasn’t worked for me for a long time. Maybe you could contact me and we can figure out what’s going on. Reply back and I’ll provide contact info.

  22. fr8train_ssc says:

    Congratulations! Is it just me, or did you change the banner subtitle from human flourishing mines to “home of the word duplication illusion” recently? For year six?

  23. lambdaphagy says:

    Ad multos annos!

  24. McCastles says:

    I am a simple man: I see Scott referencing David Bowie, I click and I read 😀

  25. Peffern says:

    I feel like I should say something but I don’t know what to say so I’ll thank SSC for helping me formally understand my own opinions and generally being a unique and awesome forum.

  26. Deiseach says:

    Five years on the Internet must be, like, a million in dog years or something 🙂

    Many congratulations! The traditional anniversary gift for the fifth anniversary, Hallmark informs me, is wood (modern is silverware).

    I don’t know what an appropriate wooden gift would be (sponsor tree-planting?) but anyway, accept a virtual version of it!

  27. anonymousskimmer says:

    Using the second definition of “scat” on google.

    Scat dates Rolex. 🙂

    I’ve wanted to post that for a while, and finally found an appropriate place.

  28. John Schilling says:

    Thank you, Scott, for creating this blog and the community that surrounds it. I’m not sure what the magic formula is for civil discourse among intellectually and ideologically diverse people on the internet, but I thought it had been lost forever a decade or so ago. Part of it, apparently, involves writing well-thought and well-researched articles of the sort that appeal to intellectually and ideologically diverse people, so do please keep that up. And we’ll try to hold up our end of the implied bargain.

  29. nelshoy says:

    You left off me (snipawolf) and zahlman off as subreddit mods (you have to click the And 2 Others), and while I’ve been neglecting my mod duties and don’t deserve recognition, zahlman certainly does!

  30. b_jonas says:

    Wow! SSC is only five years old? I assumed it was older than that, probably ten years old. I should have realized it isn’t, because I’ve seen the list of articles in “http://slatestarcodex.com/archives/”. What might have confused me is that the other ones among the very few blogs that I read and are still active are actually over ten years old.

  31. Bakkot says:

    Congrats!

    I like to take these anniversary threads as an opportunity to mention some features of the comment system which are often overlooked. Feel free to suggest other things you’d like, but no promises.

    Also, I have less time to spend reading the comment threads here than I used to, so if people have been trying to report comment system bugs or otherwise get my attention in the comments I may have overlooked that. Sorry! Feel free to raise them in this subthread or GitHub. Keep in mind that everything I’m doing is client side: I can’t really make changes to how things work under the hood, just how they look.

    Partial non-obvious feature list:

    • You can hide a comment and its children using the ‘hide’ link at the bottom of every comment.
    • The box in the upper right expands to a list of new comments. Clicking on an item will bring you to it.
    • Speaking of the box in the upper right, you can change the date in it to change which comments are marked as new. This is especially useful if you accidentally reload or something.
    • New comments have the text “~ new ~” (without the spaces) added, so you can C-f that text to easily move between them.
    • Child comments have a link to their parent comment next to the “Hide” link mentioned above. This is particularly useful if you’re deep within a subthread and wish to exit it: just keep clicking that link until you get to the top comment in the thread, then hide it.
    • There’s a secret bonus tool which will let you get email notifications for replies to your comments and @mentions! It was made by /u/theverbiageecstatic on reddit a long time ago, and I have been totally failing to follow up on it by making integrating the link with the site here (and tweaking the maximum-nesting comments to have a “reply” link which automatically populates the box with an @mention, and a couple other things). But it exists, and it works.

  32. I remember first reading this blog in early 2015 or so and being blow away. There was nothing at all like it at the time and still isn’t..

  33. rahien.din says:

    Let me add to all the above : I haven’t been reading or replying here long, but you and the commentariot have already taught me an awful lot.

    Thanks so much!

  34. And thanks to you for establishing the only place I know of online where I can routinely have civil arguments on a wide range of topics with people holding a range of views from communists to anarcho-capitalists, atheists to Catholics.

  35. jddt says:

    “Thanks to all the people who seem to genuinely dislike me and wish me ill”

    Haha, oh gosh — you just so cute ^_^

  36. dark orchid says:

    Congratulations! I only discovered this site a few months ago, but it’s a gift that keeps on giving. The post on writing and humour alone has hugely helped me in life and in office politics.

  37. dreeves says:

    [glow!] Thank you! But did I miss any gratuitous and unfair insults? I still get a warm fuzzy feeling remembering all the nice things you said about us when we chatted at Miranda and Ruby’s wedding. 🙂

    Also, I don’t think the verb “beemind” should be capitalized.

  38. benwave says:

    The existence of this place fills me with hope, the greatest gift. Many happy returns, Scott!

  39. GlenWill says:

    I’ve been reading for about a year and a half. I’m new to the rationalist community, and don’t post a lot yet.

    When I recommend this site to others, I tell them to go for Scott’s excellent writing, but stay for the engaging discussion on each post. I’m continually impressed that so many people, with such differing opinions, can engage with so much civility and respect. It’s really a remarkable achievement, given the utter wasteland most comment sections have become.

  40. Jesse R says:

    Thanks for letting us lurkers lurk. Couldn’t have asked for five better years of carefree lurking!

    • Inside a semicircle of displays says:

      [Tiny brain] – Engaging in culture wars in the comments
      [Normal brain] – Rarely commenting to elaborate on obscure topics faintly related to the post
      [Big glowy brain] – Always lurk, never post

  41. Muro says:

    Scott, you’ve helped me more than you know 🙂

  42. jordanrastrick says:

    Whenever I talk to people how I wished I spent much less of my spare time reading random crap from the internet – links people share on Facebook and so on – I contrast that with what I’d prefer to spend internet reading time on instead, and the example I cite without fail is Slate Star Codex.

    There may exist something online that’s consistently better than SSC, but if so, I have yet to come across it.

    Mazel tov on the anniversary, and here’s to the next five years.

  43. Atlas says:

    Thanks for churning out all the great writing (seriously! So much writing that is also so good! I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t read it with my own two eyes!) and creating such a model internet community. FWIW, I have some very fond memories of some otherwise rainy, grey and dispiriting days, because I recall reading and reflecting upon many SSC posts over lunch.

  44. I think you are one of the most rational and empirically minded internet personalities out there. So good job and uh… keep it up!

  45. vV_Vv says:

    Congratulations!

  46. Guy in TN says:

    You are operating one of the best sites on the internet, but you probably know that already. While I don’t always agree with you, your intellectual clarity and civility are a rare treasure that I keep coming back to. I find myself thinking back to the concepts your articles have crystallized, time and time again.

    Just wanted to show my appreciation on this occasion!

  47. outis says:

    I can’t remember how I found this blog, but I’ve been reading it regularly ever since. It’s the only blog where I make sure to read every post. It got closer to any other website to inspiring me to start my own, which is a mark of exceptional distinction.

  48. CatCube says:

    I forgot to post here yesterday, but I wanted to thank you for this blog. I think I found it from Megan McArdle sometime in 2015, and I’ve enjoyed reading and commenting here. Maybe a little too much, as a matter of fact. It’s hard for me to focus on doing my Source Selection Plan at work when this website is right there.

  49. inky says:

    Thanks for the book reviews. They have changed my mind (repeatedly) and my life (so far only once but in a major way). And thank you for everything else.

  50. BethanyAnne says:

    This blog is a delight. I don’t understand everything in it, and I don’t agree with everything I do understand, but my life is richer for having found it. Of particular note was the review of Seeing Like a State.