February Meetup – Reasoning in the face of bias from observation selection effects

The next monthly discussion meetup is Saturday, February 4 @ 2 PM (see below for location details). My apologies for not sending this sooner.

I want to emphasize in particular for this meetup that you should feel free to come to the meetup even if you don’t do any (or only some) of the suggested reading. These are just starting points to get the discussion going and are by no means required.

For this month’s meetup, we’re going to “explore how to reason when you suspect that your evidence is biased by observation selection effects” using Nick Bostrom’s ” Anthropic Bias: Observation selection effects in science and philosophy”. The whole book (available for free online) is relatively short (205 pages), but we’ve selected a few chapters to focus on which amount to roughly 2 hours of reading, perhaps more due to the density at times. Again, feel free to come however much you have read.

A bit more about the book from the Preface: “We will be discussing many interesting applications. Philosophical thought experiments and paradoxes aside, we will use our results to address several juicy bits of contemporary science: cosmology (how many universes are there?), evolution theory (how improbable was the evolution of intelligent life on our planet?), the problem of time’s arrow (can it be given a thermodynamic explanation?), game theoretic problems with imperfect recall (how to model them?), traffic analysis (why is the “next lane” faster?) and a lot more—the sort of stuff that intellectually active people like to think about…”

The key details and suggested readings/videos are below.

Also, please feel free to come even if you’re worried it will be awkward, you won’t fit in, or you aren’t the “typical person who comes to a Rationality meetup.” We are welcoming (albeit occasionally argumentative)!


Date: Saturday, 2/4 @ 2pm–4pm (roughly)
Location: South Loop Strength & Conditioning – upstairs in the mezzanine
645 S Clark
Chicago IL 60605
Note: Todd owns this gym so that’s why there’s a Rationality meetup at a gym 🙂
If you have trouble finding us, text/call Shane at 608-436-1809.


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Full book, available as on the web or as a PDF: https://anthropic-principle.com/q=book/table_of_contents/

Select chapters:

Chapter 3 (Anthropic Principles): https://anthropic-principle.com/q=book/chapter_3/
Chapter 4 (Thought Experiments Supporting the Self-Sampling Assumption): https://anthropic-principle.com/q=book/chapter_4/
Chapter 6 (The Doomsday Argument): https://anthropic-principle.com/q=book/chapter_6/
Chapter 9 (Paradoxes of the Self-Sampling Assumption: https://anthropic-principle.com/q=book/chapter_9/

Also note: “[The] website … contain[s] a preprint archive of relevant writings that are available online, an updated bibliography, primers on various topics, and other resources to aid scholars and interested laypersons to get up to speed with the latest research on observation selection effects.”