Founding a rationalist group at the University of Michigan

The Vision

As far as I know, there aren’t any LW-style university rationalist groups. I’ll be attending the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) as a graduate student starting this fall, and plan to be there for 1.5-2 years. While I’m there, I’d like to start a LW group.

There should be a mix of activities. They should let people achieve a mix of learning, creativity, socializing, and activism. Here’s the sort of event that might accomplish each:

  • Learning: A book club, perhaps combining writings from within and outside the LW-associated community

  • Creativity: A research club, lightning talks, or project lab

  • Socializing: Careful outdoor gatherings for the foreseeable future

  • Activism: Focused on building, maintaining, and positively shaping the local LW community, and connecting with the small existing EA community at UM

I might call it simply the UM LessWrong Community. After Julia Galef’s book Scout Mindset, I’ve also considered the name The Scout Society.

Here are some key subgoals:

  1. Be sustainable. This community should develop healthy norms about when to directly support its members, when to point them to campus resources, and when to exclude people who are behaving in destructive ways. It also needs all members to contribute toward making it good, and should demand and enable personal initiative.

  2. Be useful. We should start by trying to identify our own and each others’ needs, understand why they’re not being adequately met, and create events and oppotunities that address those problems.

  3. Be proud. This means making ourselves proud, by doing our duty, achieving success/​utility, and converging on the truth. It also means taking pride in ourselves, and open about who we are.

  4. Be fast. Do things efficiently, try things out.

  5. Be awesome. Fun, beauty, and pleasure are important. This means art, music, houseplants, food, games, and exploration.

How Can I Help?

  1. PM me if you know people living in Ann Arbor who might be good fits and interested in participating.

  2. Suggest reading assignments for a monthly book club that combine some literature from near the LW-sphere with something far from it. It should take maybe 5 hours. A collection of blog posts, part of a book. Be liberal with your ideas.

  3. Describe your idea of what unique needs a university rationalist club could fulfill, as opposed to all the other student organizations and social clubs out there.

  4. Share a story about your experience with a rationalist community, or founding a student club.