#LessWrongSoWhite: Global Demographics of the Rationality Community in 2016

This month the SF Bay Area based rationality organization LessWrong has released the latest survey of its members, or rather of its “diaspora,” since the site itself has gone mostly dormant with many of their members now congregating at Scott Alexander’s blog and Yudkowsky’s various offshoots).

Although some critics disparage Less Wrong as a clique of depressed autists – a stereotype considerably affirmed by its own surveys – it also hosts a concentration of highly motivated and intelligent people, many of whom are involved in cutting edge pursuits (artificial intelligence, transhumanism, effective altruism) and, one suspects, will on average achieve more and contribute more to technological and scientific progress than even the typical person of a similar IQ. As such, that makes LWs an interesting object of sociological study.

Less Wrong Demographics 2016: International

Taking into account only people who gave concrete answers to the question of nationality, 54% of LWs listed their primary country as the United States, while fully three quarters belonged to the Anglosphere (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand). The biggest non-Anglo communities were in Germany, Russia, Poland, France, Sweden, and Israel.

Below are all the countries which hosted more than 1% of the global LW community as gauged by the 2016 survey.

Country Share of Global LW Population
United States 54.1%
United Kingdom 7.8%
Canada 6.0%
Australia 5.9%
Germany 3.5%
Russia 2.3%
Poland 1.7%
France 1.4%
Sweden 1.3%
Israel 1.2%
Netherlands 1.1%
Denmark 1.1%
New Zealand 1.1%
India 1.1%
Finland 1.0%
Others 9.6%

In per capita terms, as you might have guessed, this is in ethnic terms a primarily Anglo, Judaic, and Nordic community. It has a modest presence in East-Central Europe, which begins to fade as you go into Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Latin America, and vanishes almost entirely in high IQ East Asia (even in rich, developed countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan which all have strong contacts with the SF Bay Area, the epicenter of the global LW community).


In geographic terms, the Hajnal Line can as usual be discerned but it is shifted substantially east into Eastern Europe. Possibly this is because many LWs have a programming background, and Eastern Europe has no shortage of good programmers.

Less Wrong Demographics 2016: United States

Considering only the US, non-Hispanic Whites are substantially overrepresented relative to their share of the US population, while Hispanics and especially Blacks are very much underrepresented.

LessWrong Race (USA, 2016) %share %USpopulation Overrepresentation
White (non-Hispanic) 87.3% 62.1% 1.41
Middle Eastern 0.6% 2.5% 0.22
Hispanic 2.3% 16.9% 0.14
Black 0.4% 12.6% 0.03
Asian (Indian subcontinent) 1.9% 1.3% 1.52
Asian (East Asian) 3.5% 4.3% 0.81
Other 4.1% 9.1% 0.45

East Asians are underrepresented, though they converge with (non Jewish) Whites when Fillipinos – of whom there are almost as many as Chinese in the US – are removed from the East Asian category. However, considering that Less Wrong has its epicenter in the SF Bay Area, which is now a quarter Asian, and it becomes fair to say that relative to the population that Less Wrong typically draws upon – technically inclined, high IQ, Californian, SF Bay Area – and the East Asian underrepresentation becomes very, very substantial (though it is impossible to quantify this precisely since this survey had no information on where precisely in the US respodents came from).

In so doing, this underrepresentation provides yet another hint towards alternative explanations for the “bamboo ceiling” that have nothing to do with structural oppression and more to do with things like whether you have the curiosity to browse through Yudkowsky’s sequences in your free time.

LessWrong Race (USA, 2016) %share %USpopulation Overrepresentation
White (non-Hispanic) 76.7% 62.1% 1.23
Middle Eastern 0.3% 2.5% 0.13
Hispanic 1.9% 16.9% 0.11
Black 0.4% 12.6% 0.03
Asian (Indian subcontinent) 1.9% 1.3% 1.52
Asian (East Asian) 3.5% 4.3% 0.81
Jews 11.9% 2.0% 5.97
Other 3.3% 9.1% 0.37

When the figures are adjusted to count people who identify as Jews as a separate ethnicity, that dramatically lowers White overrepresentation and basically converges Middle Easterners with Hispanics. Asians from the Indian subcontinent overtake them, though not when adjusted for their greater demographic presence (not to mention intelligence and presence in the tech world) in the SF Bay Area.


Meanwhile, the Jews themselves come to account for a larger share of the Less Wrong population than all the other non-White minorities combined.


There are six times as many Jews in Less Wrong as their share of the US population. Apart from their off cited intelligence, there are also relatively more Jews in the SF Bay Area than the average for the US, at around 3% of the population. Furthermore, considering that both of the most prominent “gurus” of Less Wrong, Eliezer Yudkowsky and Scott Alexander, are Jews, this is perhaps not all that surprising.


  1. Anonymous says

    Are white gentiles in the US significantly less curious than their counterparts in the UK?

    Are Finns the least curious people in northwest Europe?

  2. rational movements were started during post ww1 britshit times, like the world being 6000yrs old is ‘rational’

    LOL have fun suiciding white man. 🙂

    P.s We tried to help u, u shoved jesus 2 far up

  3. [many of whom are involved in cutting edge pursuits (artificial intelligence, transhumanism, effective altruism]

    What exactly are transhumanism and effective altruism (whatever that means) cutting? At least artificial intelligence is attempting something real.

  4. Cattle Guard says

    So, their ideology could be summed up as “take up the nerdy man’s burden”?

  5. Anonymous says

    Wow. Can’t believe you are actually using this organization to try and draw conclusions about American society at large. This is so logically flawed. Did you ever consider that like likes like and that what stirs the interest of one group may not interest others? Or are you so autistic you have only one model that shows intellectual worth.

    So because Asians do not go to this boring group, that proves there is no descrimination against Asians?

    If there is a hip hop club in the South Side of Chicago that under represents whites, does this mean that whites are not cultured or that they are not creative? And does this present an alternate theory on why white people cant dance?

  6. The amount of whites that believed the 6000 year old world was not a significant number.

    The white man did not commit suicide directly, you can call it assisted suicide murder instead, the jews poisoned us and should they turn they focus on India, you would eventually suffer the same fate.

  7. Santoculto says

    I really don’t know what i’m talking but, whatever, i will sacrifice my nonexistent-reputation again…

    East asians may have similar verbal cognition (iq) level than euro-caucasians but only a cognition ingredient is not enough to compose a complete intelligence phenotype.

    Generally people who have higher verbal cognition tend to be good obviously in verbal stuff and many them are verbosen, like to debate, to talk…

    Explain quasi-always overrepresentation of the verbosen ones and lower of east asians in this community, and in the american context i think specially about sino-americans.

    what i define recently and pedantically as well as ”fluid verbal cognition”, in the try to sub-divide the two known psychological concepts ”fluid and crystallized ‘intelligences’ ”.

    East asians, because its higher cognitive skills are good to develop also a reasonable (on avg) vocabulary size as well other specifically verbal skills.

    But they tend to have the (avg) lowest psychological intensity among macro-races and for example to engage in debates isn’t only a habitual cognitive tasks, generally with inpersonal nature, because it require greater psychological commitment. Other unknown bio-cognitive-psychological also can help us to understand why they tend to be less talkative.

    pragmatic nature of mongoloid human races tend to result in less subjective experimentations like ”debates” where, more than, find a conclusive answer, quickly and efficiently, just tend to happen a ideational experimentations at inter-personal interactions, in the most part of the time. A classical social experimentation.

    More pragmatic, on avg, less prone to risk itself, risk its own reputation.

    other explanations is that east asians tend to be more inter-personally shy than intra-ethnopersonally… they can be very talkative and argumentative with equal peirs, socially and ethnically speaking, but shy among other groups like ”westerners”.

    The same way all of us tend to be less or more verbosen depending the features of listeners.

  8. In geographic terms, the Hajnal Line can as usual be discerned but it is shifted substantially east into Eastern Europe. Possibly this is because many LWs have a programming background, and Eastern Europe has no shortage of good programmers.

    I think urbanisation is likely to have a similar effect over time as manorialism (h/t hbdchick) so i wouldn’t be surprised to see “hajnalization” spreading beyond its original borders except where it is actively prevented (village marriage traditions maintained long distance).


    The programming connection is interesting in the context of the (apparent) death of innovation.

    The selection against males in the education system may be pushing that type into arenas that are self-taught?

  9. The Less Wrong phenomenon is another form of the threat billionaires pose to civil society. It is funded by Peter Thiel, who uses it to promote his crony Eliezer Yudkowsky.

    Less Wrong fashioned a point system (called “karma” – ironically for “rationalists”) for its comments that served to create an echo chamber for Yudkowsky’s infantile comic-book fantasies about creating an AI that would take over the world. [His first impulse was to side with the AI, but then flip-flopped for a “safe” AI that would embody human values.] Most importantly, leading contributors have toed the Yudkowsky line because that’s where the money is. Loyalty is rewarded with paid assignments. Thiel’s money makes this possible.

    Less Wrong reveals the capacity of a billionaire to derail and trivialize intellectual life (not just to dominate political and economic life).

  10. I don’t think rich people have more influence over intellectual life now than they did 10, 20 or 50 years ago. They used to put their money in newspapers, TV networks, scholarships and universities. Now they also fund web sites like this one. If anything, the range of opinions one hears has increased because the Internet democratized the system a little.

  11. Anonymous says

    The international comparisons aren’t that useful, since many ordinary people in Europe speak English very well, while in East Asia most elites speak no or very little English.

  12. Anatoly Karlin says

    They’re the cutting edge of intellectual and philosophical discussions more like (at least in the Bay Area).

    Wrt artificial intelligence they are particularly interested in finding ways to make sure a prospective superintelligence doesn’t go bad. MIRI already has some legit research on this. I know its legit because I know several very highly qualified people (e.g. a person who defended a doctoral dissertation on mathematics at UCB) have gone to work there.

  13. Anatoly Karlin says

    That is certainly a factor, but I don’t think the average level of English language proficiency in Eastern Europe is much (or at all) higher than in Japan, Taiwan, or South Korea.

    In fact, considering the huge amount of Korean and Taiwanese students who go to American universities (as a percentage of their populations) and their exposure to American culture it is very strange that each of those countries only boasts a couple or so LWs.

  14. The rich have gotten richer. The expected result is that individual rich people can decisively influence important things:

    Peter Thiel: futurism/rationality; freedom of the press
    Sheldon Adelson: The M.E.
    Donald Trump: …

  15. They’re the cutting edge of intellectual and philosophical discussions

    Yudkowsky is anti-philosophy!

    For a year, Thiel paid Yudkowsky to publish daily essays to Less Wrong. They pretended to present original ideas, but in fact were mere popularizations of others’ writings. They were supposed to engender a book, which apparently couldn’t find a publisher.

  16. I’m pretty sure Yudders didn’t invent the idea of karma on web forums. I doubt he has invented anything.

  17. “That is certainly a factor, but I don’t think the average level of English language proficiency in Eastern Europe is much (or at all) higher than in Japan, Taiwan, or South Korea.”

    It is, unquestionably.

  18. That’s correct: I should have said “adopted” rather than “fashioned.”