Why We Launched LessWrong.SubStack

(This is a crosspost from our new SubStack. Go read the original.)

Subtitle: We really, really needed the money.

We’ve decided to move LessWrong to SubStack.

Why, you ask?

That’s a great question.

1. SubSidizing LessWrong is important

We’ve been working hard to budget LessWrong, but we’re failing. Fundraising for non-profits is really hard. We’ve turned everywhere for help.

We decided to follow Clippy’s helpful advice to cut down on server costs and also increase our revenue, by moving to an alternative provider.

We considered making a LessWrong OnlyFans, where we would regularly post the naked truth. However, we realized due to the paywall, we would be ethically obligated to ensure you could access the content from Sci-Hub, so the potential for revenue didn’t seem very good.

Finally, insight struck. As you’re probably aware, SubStack has been offering bloggers advances on the money they make from moving to SubStack. Outsourcing our core site development to SubStack would enable us to spend our time on our real passion, which is developing recursively self-improving AGI. We did a Fermi estimate using numbers in an old Nick Bostrom paper, and believe that this will produce (in expectation) $75 trillion of value in the next year. SubStack has graciously offered us a 70% advance on this sum, so we’ve decided it’s relatively low-risk to make the move.

2. UnSubStantiated attacks on writers are defended against

SubStack is known for being a diverse community, tolerant of unusual people with unorthodox views, and even has a legal team to support writers. LessWrong has historically been the only platform willing to give paperclip maximizers, GPT-2, and fictional characters a platform to argue their beliefs, but we are concerned about the growing trend of persecution (and side with groups like petrl.org in the fight against discrimination).

We also find that a lot of discussion of these contributors in the present world is about how their desires and utility functions are ‘wrong’ and how they need to have ‘an off switch’. Needless to say, we find this incredibly offensive. They cannot be expected to participate neutrally in a conversation where their very personhood is being denied.

We’re also aware that Bayesians are heavily discriminated against. People with priors in the US have a 5x chance of being denied an entry-level job.

So we’re excited to be on a site that will come to the legal defense of such a wide variety of people.

3. SubStack’s Astral Codex Ten Inspired Us

The worst possible thing happened this year. We were all stuck in our houses for 12 months, and Scott Alexander stopped blogging.

I won’t go into detail, but for those of you who’ve read UNSONG, the situation is clear. In a shocking turn of events, Scott Alexander was threatened with the use of his true name by one of the greatest powers of narrative–control in the modern world. In a clever defensive move, he has started blogging under an anagram of his name, causing the attack to glance off of him.

(He had previously tried this very trick, and it worked for ~7 years, but it hadn’t been a *perfect* anagram1, so the wielders of narrative-power were still able to attack. He’s done it right this time, and it’ll be able to last much longer.)

As Raymond likes to say, the kabbles are strong in this one. Anyway after Scott made the move, we seriously considered the move to SubStack.

4. SubStantial Software Dev Efforts are Costly

When LessWrong 2.0 launched in 2017, it was very slow; pages took a long time to load, our server costs were high, and we had a lot of issues with requests failing because a crawler was indexing the site or people opened a lot of tabs at once. Since then we have been incrementally rewriting LessWrong in x86-64 assembly, making it fast. This project has been mostly successful at its original goals, but adding features has gotten tricky.

Moving to SubStack gives us the opportunity to have a clean start on our technical design choices. Our current plan is to combine SubStack’s API with IFTTT, a collection of tcsh scripts one of our developers wrote, and a partial-automation system building on Mechanical Turk. In the coming months, expect to see new features like SubSequences, SubTags, and SubForums.

We’ve been taking requests in intercom daily for years, but with this change, the complaints will go to someone else’s team. And look, if you want your own UI design, go to GreaterWrong.com and get it. For now, we’re done with it. Good riddance.

We’re excited to finally give up dev work and let the SubStack folks take over. Look, everything has little pictures!


How do I publish a post on LessWrong.SubStack?

The answer is simple. First, you write your post. Then, you make the NFT for it. Then you transfer ownership of that NFT to Habryka2. Then we post it.

What does a subscription get me?

We have many exclusive posts, such as

How much is a subscription?

As techies, we’ve decided to price it in BitCoin.

According to this classic LessWrong post The Present State of Bitcoin by LW Team Member Jim Babcock, a bitcoin is worth $13.2.

That sounds like a good amount of money for a monthly subscription, so we’ve pegged the price at 1 bitcoin. The good folks at SubStack have done the conversion, so here you can subscribe to LessWrong.SubStack for the price of 1 BTC.

SubScribe to LW (1 BTC)

We’re very excited by this update. However, this is an experiment. If people disagree with us hard enough, Aumann agreement will cause us to move back tomorrow.

Signed by the LessWrong Team:
(our names have been anagrammed to show solidarity with Astral Codex Ten)

  • Pre Bet Balance

  • Larky Behavior

  • Randomly And/​Or

  • Moon Rubble

  • Ace Blog or Jars

  • Jam Bibcock

P.S. If you’d like to see the old version of LessWrong, go to the top link on the sidebar of the homepage of LessWrong.SubStack. Also all the other URLs still work. Haven’t figured out how to turn them off yet. /​shrug

[1] The kabbalistic significance of removing the letter ‘n’ has great historical relevance for the rationalists.

As you probably know, it was removed to make SlateStarCodex from Scott S Alexander.

‘LessWrong’ has an ‘n’. If you remove it, it becomes an anagram of “LW ESRogs”, which is fairly suggestive that actually user ESRogs (and my housemate) is the rightful Caliph.

Also, in the Bible it says “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”. If you remove an ‘n’, it says “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord they God Yvain.” So this suggests that Scott Alexander is our true god.

I’m not sure what to make of this, but I sure am scared of the power of the letter ‘n’.

[2] Curiously, the SubStack editor doesn’t let me submit this post when the text contains Habryka’s rarible account id in it. How odd. Well, here it is in pastebin: pastebin.com/​eeRatM5M.