Book Review Review (end of the bounty program)

This post calls an official end to the LessWrong Sep/​Oct 2021 Book Review Bounty Program!! A huge thank you to everyone who submitted! You’ve produced some superb content.

I launched the program with the goals of getting more great content on the site, encouraging people to practice useful skills, getting people to learn about many aspects of the world, and just surfacing some talented writers/​thinkers. I think the program succeeded.

36 book reviews were posted in the last month. I have paid out $500 to nine of them so far, and expect to pay out several more once: (a) I’ve finished reading them all, (b) the authors have messaged me to request payment.

If you want to collect the bounty for your book review, please message me via Intercom or email (

In terms of encouraging people to learn about many aspects of the world, the submitted book reviews spanned parenting, history, philosophy, immigration policy, magic, the microbiome, operational excellence, mathematical logic, moral psychology, and yet more topics.

These are some of my personal favorites that I’ve read so far, in no particular order:

You can see all of the reviews in the Book Reviews tag. Make sure to click “load more”

As far as surfacing new talent goes, quite a few contributors were making their first post on LessWrong. Kudos to Sam Marks and TheRealSlimHippo, authors of two of my favorites listed above, who are new to posting. Great first contributions.

One review author told me that he was initially too shy to write anything on LessWrong, but that the $500 incentive was actually enough to get him to do it. He sent me this image:


The bounty program demonstrated to me that we can incentivize the creation of good content with bounties, perhaps (in this case) making it easier for people to spend the 10-30 hours required to produce a good review. I plan for LessWrong to experiment more with such programs.

If I have any reservations about this program, it’s that I feel some of the entries were lacking in “core LessWrong virtue”. Something like they were missing the epistemic focus that most LessWrong essays have, even when they were otherwise engagingly and enjoyably written. I don’t think this is insurmountable–clearer and more actionable requirements, as well as better onboarding for new contributors, can be provided–but it is something to be mindful of in the design of these programs.

What comes next?

I expect to run more writing/​research bounty programs in the near future! Probably we will cycle through a variety of writing/​research tasks beyond book reviews, e.g. distillation/​summarization tasks, writing wiki articles, answering open questions and similar.

If you have an idea for the kind of writing we should incentivize with bounties, please comment below.

Thanks again to everyone who wrote a book review! (Or three!)