Gwern Branwen

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About Gwern Branwen

Omar Khayyam also came to the Vizier...but not to ask for title or office. 'The greatest boon you can confer on me,' he said, 'is to let me live in a corner under the shadow of your fortune, to spread wide the advantages of Science, and pray for your long life and prosperity.'

I'm an online writer who specializes in writing about odd and niche subjects: self-experiments on nootropics & sleep & cognition, the dark net markets and Bitcoin, statistical analyses of unexpected topics, meta-analyses, anime, and the occasional short story or poem; you may have seen some of my writing on HN or Reddit, or featured in the Economist or Wired. If you find any of that interesting, perhaps you could contribute? (Some of my projects and writings take a long time and steady support is much appreciated.)

My current projects are:

Past projects/writing examples include:

For monthly updates, you can subscribe to my newsletter or read newsletter archives.
Here are some quotes from my anonymous feedback form from fans of my writing (and a few from elsewhere):

If you don’t know Gwern, you should know Gwern.

I want to say I really appreciate your essays, and I’ve found your mindset and general attitude of rationality really inspiring in my own life. I’m just a college student studying for an undergrad in engineering, but I haven’t known anyone, even my professors, to produce this style of work as merely “something I do for fun in my free time.” Often, people simply don’t write as well as you do and by consequence they are more boring. On that note, please keep writing. I’ve learned a fair amount from your work - from discovering Haskell to using R for statistics work (another good choice, though I’ve again had trouble learning it) and I really think your opinions on computer science and software are dead-on. Tea is worth a mention as well. I went from drinking bagged black tea to oolong bought from Upton. I particularly like the ginseng-covered oolong there, though perhaps only because I enjoy the gimmick of it. Either way, I would never have advanced further into the hobby had I not encountered Upton, which I credit to your article on tea…Oh yeah, and I’ll be sending some BTC your way. I’d like to see more technology and computer science essays ;)

I haven’t met many people who are so obviously much smarter than me. By that I mean that the reasoning skills that the smartest people I’ve seen display are at least around the same as mine. Even if they are not, I can see I could still reach the same level if I worked on it. Then there is you. You seem to have pretty much taught yourself how to think like a scientist from scratch. You know how to analyze old knowledge and see how it all relates. But you take this a step further, producing whole new kinds of knowledge and encouraging further directions in thought. Thanks for the work you’ve done so far. You give me faith in humanity, and I’m not sure how many people notice your exceptional situation but it’s something you should feel proud of. I’m going to continue to study your work and hopefully learn new skills. You have gathered such a solid foundation in one place that I’m confident I can become a better thinker by learning from you. Anyway, great website and I hope you keep writing. Your pal, Anon.
Great thank you for your writing on melatonin. You convinced me to try it (for some reason I thought it was not over-the-counter in my country, but I turned out to be wrong). It was simply the most helpful piece of advice I read in previous 3 months (and I have been actively trying to fight my insomnia all this time). Your concept of “long content” is quite inspiring, made me write a few pieces on my own (after all, if you strive for quality, not quantity and newsworthiness, you can move at a very slow and comfortable pace and finally get somewhere). Your love for typography is also shining through the pages but doesn’t annoy the reader with emptiness, as it often happens with pure graphic designers/typographers.
Your website is amazing
Hiya Gwern, Thanks for doing stuff! I’ve read a range of your writings (though not hugely in detail on any one topic) and I find it really interesting. You write lots, you do nice programming things, you listen to Touhou music (one time you’d liked the exact same YouTube videos I had just watched, 2spooky) and do other things which are often enlightening thanks to the extensive research you do. I’ve also found a lot of things through your links and been inspired by some of your writings (e.g. recently copying your neat (!Wikipedia) tag for a preprocessor). tl;dr This is a fan letter. Thanks for doings things & writing about them online so much, because it’s interesting and drives me to do & write for myself!
Content wise, it’s great.
Thank you so much for your work, time, and research: you’ve been instrumental in shaping my views and goals. I’m just a high school senior, but I now know what I would like to do…When I read that you used a Debian system (in passing) I decided to give it a try. I’m no longer a Mac OSX only user…In all of my college essays (yuck!) where they asked you to list influential blogs, etc, I mentioned you. I’m curious as to how some admissions counselor would react. Under any case, I plan to go to graduate school, get a PhD, become a faculty member (in neuroscience) and develop nootropics and euphoriants. Your methods of blinding yourself are invaluable (why doesn’t everyone do this!).
nice work you’re doing :)
just wanted to let you know that you have been one of the most influential bloggers in my life. Your articles are well-reasoned and thought-out and have succeeded educating me on issues I have never thought to even consider earlier. Moreover I love that the language is comprehensible and not the usual mind-bogglingly complex language used by most researchers in their fields even when you read only the abstract of their work. For the record, I found you a year or two ago on Hacker News. It was probably on the topic of sleep. Also, I have recently started to get more into the rationalist diaspora, where you alongside LessWrong and SSC are the biggest influencers for me.
Gwern rocks my socks off. <3
Thanks for writing. You are honest and deep, but your perspective always seems to contain some hope. As someone who spends a lot of time looking at the world cynically and shares a lot of your apparent interests, I really appreciate the hopeful, positive part. Your ultimately positive take on subcultures as a way of escaping marginalization, for instance, helped me overcome some of the buried shame I’ve got going on as a pretty marginalized person (in some respects, anyway)…Overall, thanks for writing. Your work is interesting, inspiring and damn impressive. I hope you’re happy and don’t suffer too much.
You, Sir, are fucking awesome!
You are an awesome person, the world is definitely better off because you’re writing good content, and you’re directly responsible for about $5000 of my lifetime income so far (through your write-up on Modafinil) and likely more through convincing me to talk about the fact that Modafinil exists to other programmers and knowledge works. You’re probably one of the top ten people in my life in terms of how much my belief changes on a topic after hearing their opinion on something.

Gwern's got some of my favorite research on the Internet. Such a wellspring of clear thinking, great citing, and immense practicality.
Hello there, I just wanted to say that as someone interested in privacy and anonymity that your Anonymity and Entropy essay is probably one of the best I have ever read on the subject. It made more things click for me than watching hundreds upon hundreds of hours of lectures on privacy and anonymity online did for me. It really is some of the best and clearest writing on the subject I have ever seen. I had only seen a few episodes of the anime, but that was more than enough for me to get the gist of your example. Very very clear writing. I saw that you had actually updated the page recently, but your updates/modifications are often very minor I've found. The piece is so good I feel like a part 2 with a secondary example played out could easily be created. ...This piece is probably just the best on the subject that exists. I can't thank you enough for just existing and having the mind that you do, and doing the work you are doing.
I appreciate your work, Gwern Branwen.
i like all the uncommon words you use. and many of the topics you research and write about, and how you write about them, with the many passages from books and quotes from people you reference or include in your essays (i really do like a lot of those). the sometimes endless graphs and quantification i can tolerate. and i like your notes and your travel logs and the little observations you make. AND YOUR PERSONALITY IS GREAT TOO. i really like it.
I’m extremely attracted to you, Gwern.
I’m a student at a University in the UK and I’m currently doing my dissertation on the illicit markets available through Tor. I’m particularly interested in the way they force us to rethink the failing War on Drugs, but the work covers a wider range of issues. I’d like to thank you for the hard work you must have put in to make such a wealth of information on these matters available in one place.
U R TEH BEST!!1!1!1!!1!!1!!11!11111!!!1
I don’t know if you’d read this or not but if you do, then let me tell you that your website is one of the best places on the internet that I have come across. The amount of research in your posts and sheer versatility has left me in awe. I am trying to bend my mind across Functional Programming and so far it has been pretty exciting journey. I hope you keep writing in future.
Enjoy reading your articles, great website!
Just wanted to say how much I admire your site. I have been thinking of setting up my own hundred-year-strong Hakyll-based website but I’m not up to snuff. Not yet, at least. Anyway, I don’t expect we’ll ever met IRL but know that there is at least one entity out there who credits you as a major formative influence on its life.
Gwern, You have taught me so much. I thank you!
truly remarkable website, very well organized and informative, with diversified interesting content, the result of undoubtedly scores of hacker polymath ethics. you put a lot of dedication in making this to share it with the world. thanks. if some loosely bits of strings serve as a snapshot of the self it pictures you well
I appreciate your honesty and careful research.
your page always has neat stuff to read, thanks for making all this public
You kick ass. Somehow, you’ve managed to follow me around through all of my interests. I’ve found you commenting on a TDCS article on Scientific American, I found you when I was searching for info on Dual-n Back, I found you when I was researching the silk road market, and it appears that you and I share many interests.
…It makes want to try to do what you are doing.
Incredible website. From your dive into nootropics to your practical programming posts. I’m a 23-year-old student that’s graduating this semester. Mostly interested in self-taught programming and stimulant experimentation right now. Your website is like a glimpse at what my blog would look like in the future.
Hi gwern. I love your site, so thanks for all your work!
your website is very very interesting, and it made me feel curious and enthusiastic about things again. Thanks for that. Your ‘about me’ page is also very clever. By the time one reads a couple of these articles, one asks oneself how old could you be, but this information is nowhere to be found :)
Thank you for all info your site provided to me these last years.
I recently came across your website by chance and all I can say is wow, your writing is pretty damn amazing! I’m working on a sort of blog myself, and, honestly, thanks for the inspiration! I’ve never seen anything like the amount of detail you put into your text anywhere.
my password is ‘gwernisbest1’ too bad you don’t know my username :P
I had a 10% estimate that you were actually a pseudonym for an underground research collective with very eclectic tastes.
Gwern was weird before bitcoin.. Awesome.. But weird. I love reading his stuff and it comes out at such a voracious rate I can't keep up
Gwern is an impressive individual that appears to put a tremendous effort into thorough investigation of a shockingly broad range of very useful topics. I have an overwhelmingly positive attitude towards him, and tremendous respect for his work ethic and intelligence.
Love your writing - the scrutiny and topics. You are very inspiring!
I’m wondering if there is some different way of displaying large footnotes like this. But anyway, not too big of a deal, and your site is fantastic! Long time reader, I always get sucked in by a new article and then spend a lot of time going through the archives :)
You’re a god! Thank you for making this [DNM dataset] available!
I enjoy your musings very much, keep up the amazing work on the site.
About half the people reading this paragraph are going to say “Wait, don’t the FDA and the entire decision-making apparatus of the United States government have more data and credibility than one guy with a website?” The other half of the people know Gwern.
I really enjoyed your write up. I just happened to google and it popped up.
Hey Gwern, I love your style so much I decided to copy some of it. “Standing on the shoulders of giants”, or something in that spirit. While my intellect might not be quite as refined I do sympathize with the intentions; so I hope you don’t mind.
Gwern brings forth innumerable things to nourish online readers.

I still vividly remember the first day I discovered I promptly lost about three whole days, and realized how small my world had been.

I love you man, no homo. Your existence makes life in general even more awesome.
Regarding the nootropics and self-experimentation, I urge you to be careful. You’re probably the type of creature the world needs more, not less of. Thanks for sharing your work, and I wish you good health.
Very interesting…..Enjoyed the read and gave me some things to ponder…hmmm :))
so I’ve had this tab open for some time, and just got to reading it. Much like the other material I have read, your writing is extremely well thought out. I doubt you need an ego boost, though.
Hey, I know you hear it a lot, but anyway… want to say thank you for your essays.
I’m currently reading through your Nootropics section, it’s incredibly interesting so far, but I’ve only just started. It’s the first time I’ve found actually actionable data on Nootropics.
Your writing is awesome, by the way– it will probably inspire my own website at some point.
Your essays are excellent. The content is interesting, your level of analytic detail is inspirational, and I love your writing style. Please keep up the great work.
Congratulations for your excellent work and many thanks for releasing it to the public domain.
gwern I love reading your writings and essays and insane simulations that you have going on. Obviously I know you from the /r/dnm, I just wish I knew you in rrsl
Gwern, like others endowed with brilliant minds and the will to follow his own intellectual star, is a treasure given by the gods to humankind.
You’re an amazing writer and researcher and I doubt you get told that often enough. Keep doing you however you want to do that. You’re a good writing machine
Thanks… really, deeply, sincerely, thanks. Amazing, interesting, compelling… Whoa, thanks.
I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and or the thoughts of you combined with a worthy interviewee around any of your interests. Hello Patreon!
Why are you so fucking based?
You are my hero. Because of you, I was inspired to start my own blog site with Hakyll and markdown.
Keep on updating and being awesome gwern! I wish I could communicate with you outside of anon but obviously we know what we do is dangerous
…Regardless of whether you decide to read it, keep writing, I very much enjoy reading it.
Your style, thoroughness, liberality, and scientific approach to everything inspires me to do great things. Thank you and keep going.
I found your nootropics resource page extremely helpful. Thank you for taking the time to assemble it.
I’ve been following your site for a few years now (since the beginning of the dual n-back meta-review) and it has been a pleasure.
Your writing and work is astonishingly compelling, granular and useful. Thank you so much for providing it.

Thank you for your site. I don't have much to say in response to anything yet. I'm a young mind that is still discovering the more worthwhile parts of the internet. This and LW have proven to be amazing jumping points for thorough knowledge acquisition and comprehension (and skills for both of those). You've got a lot of good information that was on my list of things to research/figure out, so I've saved a lot of time because of this discovery. Thank you again.
Seriously excellent work, though - it’s a rare person who is willing to do research, especially in such quantities!

Gwern, as you likely already know, is a mysterious formless entity of great diligence and intellect. Thus far, many have assumed him to be a benign presence. But how certain of Gwern’s motives can we be? Recently, he has begun to craft objects of great power. And many admire him more for this. But within his creations, one finds hints of a twisted humour. Look closely at his miracles and victims begin to emerge. Take an older project of his, A wonder to behold? An amusement but nothing more?...How many more young men sit, hunched and enslaved to this magic? What strange purpose does this serve?
Your essay on stress is brief yet thought-provoking. I find your work incredible and wanted to say thank you.

'I looked up Dune inbreeding to see how they approached it and got this fucking thesis.' '/looks at the website. I can't tell if this dude is a genius or a lunatic....' 'He's the one who made this waifu generator.' (Yes.)

Love your website, and your work in general. The article that has improved my life the most was the spaced repetition one, so thank you very much for that.

In case you're wondering why I'm getting married. I just sent my fiancee a Gwern essay and she was like "oh I didn't know you read Gwern!"
I just wanted to say you write very interesting and fine articles. I hope to achieve your level of success one day.
I'd previously avoided reading as gwern is obviously the avatar of a deity in the intellectual pantheon and I was worried I would fall into a rabbit hole reading it. Turns out I was right.
Thanks for all the writing! The world needs a few Gwern-like people to catch possibilities as they arise, and I'm glad you're one of them.

His writing style is unique and endearing, but a self assured arrogance is pervasive, though sometimes charming. He is an admitted contrarian, and his contributions to Haskell and other lesser known/used projects lead me to believe he more than likely has a tendency to root for an underdog and attack a victor. He is primed to wax poetic on the shortcomings of successes while boasting about the heroics of losers.

Love your work. Another curious fellow is heartwarming to find.

I've been an avid reader for a while now, but I  rarely comment on anything online, as a general thing. The depth and breadth of analysis, and due diligence in fleshing out
hypotheses and *actually putting in the work* of working them out is breathtaking, light years ahead of most of the other stuff on the internet, and better written/researched than even a depressingly huge fraction of published papers. I can only aspire to be as thorough in my own writings, but will simply say in the meantime that this entire website to me is a testament to just how sharp and powerful rational inquiry can be when actually carried out in its entirety. A true gem and one that I'd be sad to lose if it ever were to disappear off the internet.

Gwern: not just a putative human, now also a reference

Also Gwern is a treasure brought to you by the Internet, a cornucopia of treasures so ridiculously overflowing with abundance that it pops out a Gwern for free as a side effect. a) his website is up their with TVTropes in terms of places you could get lost for days and b) I had assigned a 10% probability that he was actually a pen name for an underground research collective but no he actually exists and is one person

The question isn't "why would Gwern do this", it's "who's going to stop him?"

The design of your site is really great. When I first came across it I was in a bit of shock about how beautiful it was. And, of course, your writing is really good. Just thought you'd like to know that. Have a great day!

So Gwern...just like… lives. He writes these essays on the internet and he collects information. He's a phenomenal guy- very friendly if you meet him- seems super nice. I don't know him well, but I've only positive things to say about my interaction with him. And his essays will blow your mind.

And criticism:
[mircea_popescu:] oh and incidentally, definitely worth reading ; that fellow is almost exactly the tmsr antichrist : haskellite as far as computing science goes ; consumate lesswrongian as long as theology goes ; tardpedia “inclusionist” as long as political philosophy goes. pretty much every mistaken, poisonous or outright wrong assumption “modern” “civilisation” makes, he makes loudly, unapologetically, roundly.
too long
Does Gwern Branwen suffer/benefit from savant syndrome? Jesus taught by using parables which His Disciples never seemed to understand. Gwern Branwen teaches by using gibberish which his disciples can’t understand but pretend they do anyway. Is Gwern Branwen modern culture’s Jesus?

our generation’s L. Ron Hubbard...I take that back. After reading the article, he’s our generation’s Lyndon LaRouche (as if we needed another one, because the original is still alive at age 95).

Wut This is beyond fubar, son.

“He is at once the truly clever person and the stupid person’s idea of the clever person.”

That guy is a Less Wrong mega autist don't listen to him.

"Gwern. Annoying bugger..." -- Craig Wright

The guy is a massive wanker writes the most boring and banal takes, and is hailed as some sort of genius. He is basically the ESR of crypto.

Gwern is a loose cannon.

I am honestly concerned for Gwern's mental health. So much personal optimization taken to such an extreme, doing blatantly illegal things and blogging about it. Some are probably quite unhealthy.

gwern, of course, is a turboautist

Another case of Gwern sperging out about inconsequential things and deluding himself into thinking its profound because of MUH STATISTICS.

gwern is the dreariest person in the world; don't let him rob life of its joys.
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