Minding our way to the heavens

I'm keeping a blog now! But I'm sure you've already noticed. Perhaps you're brimming with questions: "What sort of blog is this? What will you write about? Who even are you, anyway?"

Or, more likely, you're already bored. This is the internet, after all. Certain protocols must be followed. So fine, here's a picture of my friend's kitten:

Svenly Baratheon, first of his name

Now that I've permanently won your affection, I'm going to haphazardly answer those questions you never asked.

Who even are you, anyway?

Nate Soares, known as So8res various cyberplaces. Don't ask me how to pronounce that, because I don't.

I'm an aspiring rationalist, which means that I spend a lot of time thinking about how I think about things, ostensibly so that I'll get better at it.

I've somehow attained the ability to Actually Get Things Done, which has been working out for me so far. I turn my skills towards literally saving the universe, because apparently nobody ever got around to teaching me modesty.

It's hard to transmit tone via text, so allow me to emphasize that I'm almost always kidding. If you can interpret my writing as either "infuriating" or "a lame attempt to be funny," please give me the benefit of the doubt and go with the latter.

Except for the saving-the-universe thing. I'm dead serious about that.

Seriously though.

It's hard to briefly frame for what I do for a living, but the short version is this: It seems possible to create intelligences far more capable than any human. It also seems rather difficult to... aim them. I do research at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute to figure out how to aim these things before someone unleashes a poorly directed superintelligence in an unsuspecting universe.

If all this seems foreign to you, I strongly recommend the book Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom of Oxford. In a pinch, Stuart Armstrong's Smarter Than Us might suffice.

Insofar as I'm assuming that these ideas are new to you, I'll note that this is a form of existential risk reduction, which is a type of effective altruism — and if you don't know about effective altruism, you're in for a treat. There's a whole community of people honestly trying to do as much good as they can, using data and evidence! It's awesome.

What will you write about?

Whatever I want! Which actually narrows things down quite a bit.

I spend my days studying math, attempting to self-improve, and doing whatever the polite word for "frantic research" is. (Is it just "research"? I bet it's just "research.") I'm not sure what I'll write, but it's safe to assume it will be a mash-up of rationality techniques, math insights, and armchair philosophizing, with a dash of whatever captures my fancy.

I like to pretend that it will be something like Scott Alexander's brilliant SlateStarCodex with less medicine and more math, but that might be too audacious a goal, even for me.

I've spent a fair bit of my time developing rationality techniques that I'm struggling to articulate (with the help of the wonderful CFAR community), and much of that material will be posted here. If the idea of a "rationality technique" sounds new and interesting to you, check out LessWrong, a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. The main idea is that your brain doesn't always do the right things by default, and you can do much better with hard work and constant vigilance. I suggest starting at Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions if you're curious. When I discuss my techniques and ideas, I'll be referencing many memes from the LessWrong memespace. (In fact, I've already seeded this blog with some of my LessWrong posts.)

All of this sounds new and strange. Are you a crazy person?


In seriousness, though, this blog will often build off of ideas presented elsewhere. I aim to make my posts accessible regardless of background. I'm not here to repeat what's been said, but I'll continue adding lots of context links. If I say anything that sounds opaque, let me know in the comments. I often succumb to the illusion of transparency, despite my best efforts.

Just kidding, I'm actually bored, because I've heard of all these things before.

That doesn't mean you're off the hook! The illusion of transparency is a doozy. I'll soon begin spouting crazy new ideas, and it's your job to let me know when I'm confusing.

What's up with the blog title?

Well, see, I plan to do at least two things with this blog:

  1. Share thoughts and experiences as I attempt to self-improve, becoming more the type of person I want to be.
  2. Discuss the careful creation of superintelligence, and whatever else it takes to ensure that the future of humanity is bright.

I've successfully captured both these broad categories with a single horrible pun, which I will not apologize for. So please join me as we embark,

Minding our way
(to the heavens)