1. According to the survey, only 13% of SSC commenters identify as rationalists. Almost none of the rationalists I know IRL comment on SSC. Saying “rationalist community” when you mean “SSC comments section” or vice versa will leave everybody pretty confused.
2. Not every blog by a Christian is “a Christian blog”, and not every blog by a rationalist is “a rationalist blog”. I would hope blogs by Christians don’t go around praising Baal, and I try to have some minimum standards too, but I don’t want to claim this blog is doing any kind of special “rationality” work beyond showing people interesting problems.
3. Or consider the difference between a church picnic and a monastery. Both have their uses, and the church picnic will hopefully avoid praising Baal, but there’s a limit to how Christian!virtuous it can get without any structure or barriers to entry. A monastery can do much better by being more selective and carefully planned. Insofar as SSC makes any pretensions to being “rationalist”, it’s a rationalist picnic and not a rationalist monastery.
4. Everything above applies to SSC’s engagement with effective altruism too, except 100x more.
5. I’ve been consistently skeptical of claims that rationality has much practical utility if you’re already pretty smart and have good intuitions and domain-specific knowledge. There might be exceptions for some domains too new or weird to have evolved good specific knowledge, or where the incentives are so skewed that the specific knowledge will optimize for signaling rather than truly good work (and maybe 99% of value is in domains like this, so maybe I’m not saying much). In any case, if rationality has much practical utility for your everyday life, you won’t find that practical utility here.
6. I’m even skeptical of claims that rationality can do things that ought to be trivial, like searching through the self-help corpus to figure out what works, and then exploiting those things to get a practical advantage consistently and at scale. I agree this sounds easy, but I’ve seen it founder too many times. In any case, if rationality can do this, you won’t find that here either.
7. If you want places that try harder and make bigger claims, your best starting points for rationality are Center for Applied Rationality, Less Wrong, and various AI safety stuff. For effective altruism effectivealtruism.org, 80,000 Hours, Giving What We Can, and the EA Forum. There’s also your local meetup group, and various smaller or more private efforts who are welcome to leave their pitch in the comments if they want. Obviously not everyone who tries hard succeeds, and not everyone who makes big claims can back them up.
8. I’m not renouncing or trying to distance myself from the rationalist community. I still think they’re great. It’s just an attempt to clear up some common concerns I’ve run into – both in terms of whether SSC actually is these other things, and of whether it’s falsely claiming to be these other things in a way that might mislead people. It isn’t. Sorry for any confusion this might have caused.
9. Every time I say anything more sophisticated than a fourth-grader’s strawman of an evil robot who doesn’t understand love, someone on social media interprets this as “SSC finally officially forsakes rationalism, admits rationality can never work!” If I ever want to officially forsake rationalism, or admit that being rational can never work, I promise I’ll say so in so many words. If I haven’t said this, consider that you might not know what you’re talking about.