The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

For the first time, you can now buy the best new ideas on LessWrong in a physical book set, titled:

A Map that Reflects the Territory: Essays by the LessWrong Community

It is available for pre-order here.

The standard advice for creating things is “show, don’t tell”, so first some images of the books, followed by a short FAQ by me (Ben).

The full five-book set. Yes, that’s the iconic Mississippi river flowing across the spines.
Each book has a unique color.
The first book: Epistemology.
The second book: Agency.
The third book: Coordination.
The fourth book: Curiosity.
The fifth book: Alignment.


What exactly is in the book set?

LessWrong has an annual Review process (the second of which is beginning today!) to determine the best content on the site. We reviewed all the posts on LessWrong from 2018, and users voted to rank the best of them, the outcome of which can be seen here.

Of the over 2000 LessWrong posts reviewed, this book contains 41 of the top voted essays, along with some comment sections, some reviews, a few extra essays to give context, and some preface/​meta writing.

What are the books in the set?

The essays have been clustered around five topics relating to rationality: Epistemology, Agency, Coordination, Curiosity, and Alignment.

Are all the essays in this book from 2018?

Yes, all the essays in this book were originally published in 2018, and were reviewed and voted on during the 2018 LessWrong Review (which happened at the end of 2019).

How small are the books?

Each book is 4x6 inches, small enough to fit in your pocket. This was the book size that, empirically, most beta-testers found that they actually read.

Can I order a copy of the book?

Pre-order the book here for $29. We currently sell to North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Israel. (If you bought it by end-of-day Wednesday December 9th and ordered within North America, you’ll get it before Christmas.) You’ll be able to buy the book on Amazon in a couple of weeks.

How much is shipping?

The price above includes shipping to any location that we accept shipping addresses for. We are still figuring out some details about shipping internationally, so if you are somewhere that is not North America, there is a small chance (~10%) that we will reach out to you to ask you for more shipping details, and an even smaller chance (~6%) that we offer you the option to either pay for some additional shipping fees or get a refund.

Can I order more than one copy at a time?

Yes. Just open the form multiple times. We will make sure to combine your shipments.

Does this book assume I have read other LessWrong content, like The Sequences?

No. It’s largely standalone, and does not require reading other content on the site, although it will be enhanced by having engaged with those ideas.

Can I see an extract from the book?

Sure. Here is the preface and first chapter of Curiosity, specifically the essay Is Science Slowing Down? by Scott Alexander.

I’m new — what is this all about? What is ‘rationality’?

A scientist is not simply someone who tries to understand how biological life works, or how chemicals combine, or how physical objects move, but is someone who uses the general scientific method in all areas, that allows them to empirically test their beliefs and discover what’s true in general.

Similarly, a rationalist is not simply someone who tries to think clearly about their personal life, or who tries to understand how civilization works, or who tries to figure out what’s true in a single domain like nutrition or machine learning; a rationalist is someone who is curious about the general thinking patterns that allows them to think clearly in all such areas, and understand the laws and tools that help them make good decisions in general.

Just as someone seeking to understand science and the scientific method might look into a great number of different fields (electromagnetism, astronomy, medicine, and so on), someone seeking to understand generally accurate and useful cognitive algorithms would explore a lot of fields and areas. The essays in this set explore questions about arguments, aesthetics, artificial intelligence, introspection, markets, game theory, and more, which all shed light on the core subject of rationality.

Who is this book for?

This book is for people who want to read the best of what LessWrong has to offer. It’s for the people who read best away from screens, away from distractions. It’s for people who do not check the site regularly, but would still like to get the top content. For many people this is the best way to read LessWrong.

I think there’s a lot of people who find the discussion on LessWrong interesting, or are interested in the ideas, or found LessWrong’s early discussion of the coronavirus personally valuable, or who know Scott Alexander got started on LessWrong, and would like to see we’re about. This book is one of the best ways to do that.

Show me the table of contents?

Sure thing. Here’s each book in order.

A Sketch of Good CommunicationBen Pace
Local Validity as a Key to Sanity and CivilizationEliezer Yudkowsky
The Loudest Alarm is Probably FalsePatrick LaVictoire
Varieties of Argumentative ExperienceScott Alexander
More BabbleAlkjash
Naming the NamelessSarah Constantin
Toolbox-thinking and Law-thinkingEliezer Yudkowsky
Toward a New Technical Explanation of Technical ExplanationAbram Demski
Noticing the Taste of LotusMichael ‘Valentine’ Smith
The Tails Coming Apart As Metaphor For LifeScott Alexander
Meta-Honesty: Firming up Honesty Around its Edge-CasesEliezer Yudkowsky
Explaining Insight Meditation and Enlightenment in Non-Mysterious TermsKaj Sotala
Being a Robust AgentRaymond Arnold
Anti-social PunishmentMartin Sustrik
The Costly Coordination Mechanism of Common KnowledgeBen Pace
Unrolling Social Metacognition: Three Levels of Meta are not EnoughAndrew Critch
The Intelligent Social WebMichael ‘Valentine’ Smith
Prediction Markets: When Do They Work?Zvi Mowshowitz
Spaghetti TowersGeorgia Ray
On the Loss and Preservation of KnowledgeSamo Burja
A Voting Theory PrimerJameson Quinn
The Pavlov StrategySarah Constantin
Inadequate Equilibria vs Governance of the CommonsMartin Sustrik
Is Science Slowing Down?Scott Alexander
What Motivated Rescuers during the Holocaust?Martin Sustrik
Is There an Untrollable Mathematician?Abram Demski
Why Did Everything Take So Long?Katja Grace
Is Clickbait Destroying Our General Intelligence?Eliezer Yudkowsky
What Makes People Intellectually Active?Abram Demski
Are Minimal Circuits Daemon-Free?Paul Christiano
Is There Something Beyond Astronomical Waste?Wei Dai
Do Birth Order Effects Exist?Eli Tyre, Bucky, Raymond Arnold
Hyperbolic GrowthPaul Christiano
Specification Gaming Examples in AIVictoria Krakovna
Takeoff SpeedsPaul Christiano
The Rocket Alignment ProblemEliezer Yudkowsky
Embedded AgentsAbram Demski
& Scott Garrabrant
FAQ about Iterated AmplificationAlex Zhu
Challenges to Christiano’s Iterated Amplification ProposalEliezer Yudkowsky
Response to FAQ on Iterated AmplificationEliezer Yudkowsky
Robustness to ScaleScott Garrabrant
Coherence Arguments Do Not Imply Goal-Directed BehaviorRohin Shah

Who made this book set?

I (Ben Pace) and Jacob Lagerros (of the Future of Humanity Institute) made these books, alongside my colleagues on the LessWrong Team: Oliver Habryka, Raymond Arnold, Ruby Bloom, and Jim Babcock.

Can I give this book as a gift?

Yes. This is a well-designed, beautiful set of books, designed to be relatively self-contained and not require having read LessWrong before, and that look attractive on coffee-tables and bookshelves, suitable for friends, partners, and family members who read non-fiction.

What about the book called ‘Alignment’? Isn’t that going to be very technical and have lots of assumptions about AI?

For those who have no knowledge of the subject of AI alignment, the book is structured to help motivate the topic, starting with questions about AI progress and risks, before moving into the meat of open questions about the subject.

The Alignment book will be tough reading for those not acquainted with the ongoing discourse around the topic, but I think it will still be rewarding for those who read it.

I have a blog, and might want to review the book. Can I get a review copy?

Yes! I’m offering free copies of the book for review. I’d love to get reviews from critics of the rationality community, members of the rationality community, people who don’t really know what the community is about but know that SlateStarCodex is awesome, and more.

If you’d like to review the book and would like a free copy, fill out this form and I’ll get back to you. (Or you can just email me at if that works better for you.) If you’re not sure if your blog is cool enough, your blog is probably cool enough.

Also, you should know that if you write a public review of the essay collection I’ll put a link to your review on the official landing page for the book, no matter if it’s positive, negative, or not-even-on-that-spectrum.

(No, tweets don’t count, though I guess tweet threads can, but I prefer blog posts. I reserve the right to not include things I read as primarily trolling.)

I have a podcast and might be interested in talking with you about LessWrong. Are you interested in coming on?

Yes. I’m interested in appearing on a few podcasts to let people know about the book. Concretely, I’d propose a joint-appearance with myself and Oliver Habryka, where we can talk about LessWrong, our vision for its future as an institution, how we think it fits into the broader landscape of intellectual progress, the challenges of managing internet forums, and more. No podcast too small (or too big, I guess). If you like LessWrong and you’d like us to come on, we’re happy to do it. Email me at

I’d like something from you that’s not a podcast or a book. Can I reach out?

Yeah, reach out. If you run a newsletter, a mailing list, a google group, or something, and think some of your users would like to know about the book, I’d appreciate you sharing it there with a sentence or two about why you think LessWrong is interest or worth reading. And if you’d like my input on something, happy to give it via email.

I have a question not answered here?

There’s a comment box right below.

Remind me again, how can I pre-order it?

Here it is.

I don’t want to pre-order it, I want to be notified when I can buy it on Amazon

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