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AnnaSalamon comments on Raising the Sanity Waterline - Less Wrong

114 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 March 2009 04:28AM

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Comment author: AnnaSalamon 12 March 2009 09:00:08AM 13 points [-]

If you want them to have it as the ground state of their mind in everyday life, you probably need to have taught them songs about it in kindergarten.

I don't know; I agree with you about the likely effects of the four-credit class, but OB has had substantial effects on me and various other people I know, despite not reaching us in kindergarten. Why does OB work as well as it does?

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 14 March 2009 12:58:41AM *  20 points [-]

Also, I think it's the way OB's teachings get reinforced daily. You don't just study one course and then forget about it: if you read OB/LW regularly, you get constant tiny nudges in the right direction. There's research suggesting that frequent small events have a stronger effect on one's happiness than rare big ones, and I suspect it's the same when it comes to learning new patterns of thought. Our minds are constantly changing and adapting, so if you just make a change once, it'll be drowned out in the sea of other changes. You'll want to bring it up to the point where it becomes self-reinforcing, and that takes time.

This is the reason why I suspect Eliezer's book won't actually have as big of an effect as many may think. Most people will probably read it, think it amazing, think they absolutely have to apply it to their normal lives... then go on and worry about their bills and partners and forget about the book. The main benefit will be for those who'll actually be startled enough to go online and find out more - if they end up as regular readers of OB and LW, or find some other rationality resource, then they have hope. Otherwise, probably not.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 14 March 2009 02:19:04AM 11 points [-]

This is a very good point that I'll try to keep in mind, and another solution would be to have a decent community.

Comment author: MBlume 14 March 2009 01:08:32AM 5 points [-]

Perhaps Eliezer's book should have a note -- please read one chapter per day?

I don't know, I came in and read a little over a year's worth of Eliezer's OB posts in a couple months' exploration, and I think it had a pretty solid impact on me.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 12 March 2009 10:05:37AM 16 points [-]

Unrepresentative sample. Nobody would start reading OB unless they were already at least a rationalist-wannabe.

Comment author: AnnaSalamon 12 March 2009 10:21:55AM *  8 points [-]

I agree about the unrepresentative sample. It would be interesting to try teaching OB in a small class-sized four-credit college seminar, with a follow-up a year later, to see if the material can be presented so as to have impact on ordinary university students, or on ordinary students at a selective university. Probably worthwhile as an experiment, after we do some more basic research seeing if we can detect this "rationality" thing in a survey or something of the OB readership (so we'd know what to test for).

But even given that OB is starting with all or mostly rationalist wannabes, I'm surprised at the impact its had on my and others' thinking, relative to what happens to rationalist wannabes who don't read OB, or who aren't members of this community.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 12 March 2009 11:49:33AM 5 points [-]

I'd be interested in trying to drag the age range down as low as possible - could 13-year-olds handle uncut OB? I think yes.

I can only speak for myself here, but personally what changed my thinking after reading OB was understanding both how things work, and why they necessarily must be that way and no other. Now when I think about that, I realize it allowed me to completely prune many search trees and redirect a lot of wasted effort "sitting on fences".

Comment author: Swimmy 12 March 2009 05:47:04PM 4 points [-]

I started reading OB because I liked Robin Hanson as an economist. I continued reading because I liked Yudkowsky as a writer. I agree I'm still part of an unrepresentative sample (people who are willing to read and consider Yudkowsky's long ramblings), but not everyone found the site because of an interest in rationality per se.

Unfortunately, anyone taking a college course probably would be interested in rationality qua rationality. But the lessons are still valuable for those poor souls who, like I once was, are still religious despite it. The same for those who are religious fence-sitters.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 12 March 2009 08:00:06PM 1 point [-]

You were de-converted? Interesting. What clinched it?

Comment author: Swimmy 12 March 2009 11:07:59PM *  4 points [-]

I left a comment about it here: http://lesswrong.com/lw/2/tell_your_rationalist_origin_story/45#comments

Long story short, OB helped a lot.