Where are All the Successful Rationalists?

Applied divinity studies:

It’s been 13 years since Yudkowsky published the sequences, and 11 years since he wrote “Rationality is Systematized Winning“.

So where are all the winners?

The people that jump to mind are Nick Bostrom (Oxford Professor of Philosophy, author), Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld (run OpenPhil and GiveWell, directing ~300M in annual donations) and Will MacAskill (Oxford Professor of Philosophy, author).

But somehow that feels like cheating. We know rationalism is a good meme, so it doesn’t seem fair to cite people whose accomplishments are largely built off of convincing someone else that rationalism is important. They’re successful, but at a meta-level, only in the same way Steve Bannon is successful, and to a much lesser extent.

By comparison, Miyamoto Musashi, who Yudkowsky quotes extensively in the post, and who coined the phrase “the Ichi school is the spirit of winning”, appears to have been one of the greatest swordsmen of his era. According to Wikipedia, he:

  • Fought duels against the most famous schools in Kyoto, and never lost
  • Defeated an “adept” at age 13
  • Was granted the title “Unrivaled Under Heaven” by the shogun at 21
  • Single handedly ended the Yoshioka School by defeating 3 masters, and then a 70 person ambush of followers