Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Help Roko become a better rationalist!

-6 [deleted] 02 December 2009 08:23AM

Last time, I wrote about 11 core rationalist skills. Now I would like some help from the LW community: which of these skills am I good at, which ones am I bad at? Just to recap, the skills are:

  • Actually want an accurate map
  • Keep your eyes on the prize
  • Entangle yourself with the evidence
  • Be Curious
  • Aumann-update
  • Know standard Biases
  • Know Probability theory 
  • Know your own mind
  • Be well calibrated
  • Use analytic philosophy
  • Resist Thoughtcrime

I'll post a description of each one of these skills as a comment, and if you think I am good at that skill, vote it up. If you think I am bad at it, vote it down. Don't be too shy - even if you are biased or uncertain - because over the course of many votes, these biases and errors will cancel out to some extent. (This is the "guess the number of beans in a jar by asking 50 people to guess and taking the average" method)

EDIT: We can also comment on each rationalist skill to say how well I am doing at that skill. Later today, I will do this myself. 

Thanks in advance! 

Comments (18)

Comment author: MichaelVassar 09 December 2009 06:59:42PM 5 points [-]

My first concern is that people may tend to excel in lists of items that they draw up. The areas where one is likely to be weak may include areas which one doesn't value enough to either list or develop. That said, I'll discuss the weaknesses I see in Roko on the listed skills. I won't discuss his strengths because I have some of the weaknesses Eliezer listed in "Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate" and its successor posts.

I would say that "be curious" is the place where Roko needs the most work, at least compared to our typical crowd. Because he has leadership potential, "know your own mind" may be a higher utility place for him to focus though, as its long tail risks are larger

I was going to say Black Swan risks, but that's laughably wrong, I couldn't know very easily where the largest Black Swan risks are, though curiosity seems likely to catch them best, but I know perfectly well what the known, established long tail risks of leaders not knowing their minds are.

Without cultivated "eye on prize" and curiosity I suspect that analytic philosophy is a weakness rather than a strength. Likewise, resisting thoughtcrime is more likely to be a weakness if not coupled to knowing one's mind.

Comment author: orthonormal 05 December 2009 12:10:31AM 5 points [-]

General statement: your current self-analysis is probably less accurate than the Outside View you get by considering past mistakes. Look back at your old blogging of ideas you no longer subscribe to, and look for the failures of rationality there. It's most likely that those are the areas you still need the most work on.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 02 December 2009 09:44:23AM 3 points [-]

Roko, even though presumably know you better than most Less Wrong users since I've met you in real life, I'm finding it very difficult to estimate your rationalist skills.

When I take an online personality test, I try to think of examples from my life that demonstrate that my personality is one way or another. It's often difficult to come up with examples, and sometimes I will come up with examples that contradict one another.

Given that it's difficult for me to come up with examples demonstrating how I am, and that I live with myself every waking hour, imagine how hard it is for me to do the same thing for you. I gave you a downvote on probability theory for having trouble explaining causality to me, and an upvote on entangling yourself with the evidence because your website says your morality changed "almost overnight" after reading The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Truth about Morality, but what am I supposed to do for the others? Imagine something that would demonstrate presence or lack of a characteristic and then try and figure out if you would do it?

I guess that might work. An interesting variation on this exercise would be for you to supply this action that demonstrates your strength or weakness in advance. This would make things easier on the people being surveyed and might help you interpret your results better.

Comment deleted 02 December 2009 08:28:51AM [-]
Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 02 December 2009 09:47:27AM 0 points [-]

What is the difference between free will and lack of determinism? What's the definition of free will?

Comment author: Jack 02 December 2009 10:55:17AM *  1 point [-]

Well for one thing, there appear to be non-deterministic systems (possibly real ones, definitely conceived ones) that we would never say have free will. If x is a radioactive atom whether or not it decays in the next minute is undetermined. But the atom does not have free will. And actually, it is hard to make sense of what free will would be if it was just a lack of determinism since the extent to which an event is undetermined is also the extent to which it is random. One cannot control something that is random. But free will means having control over our actions. Ergo: if our actions are free they cannot be undetermined.

(And I know the particle decay picture is resolved differently with MW, but we don't have any other non-deterministic systems to talk about.)

Comment deleted 02 December 2009 10:04:50AM [-]
Comment author: timtyler 09 December 2009 05:17:35PM 0 points [-]

Hmm. You can ask the question: "are most leprechauns taller than fairies?" too.

In itself, asking questions doesn't prove very much.

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 10 December 2009 12:23:43AM 1 point [-]

"are most leprechauns taller than fairies?"

Yes. p=0.95.

Comment deleted 10 December 2009 12:07:31AM [-]
Comment author: timtyler 11 December 2009 07:46:40PM 0 points [-]

The point was that merely asking a question proves very little.

For another example, one can ask whether felines are smarter than cats (on average).

That's a coherent question - and its answer is "no".

Comment author: wedrifid 10 December 2009 03:28:00AM *  0 points [-]

it does seem to show that "fairy" and "leprechaun" are distinct concepts, which is not entirely a contentless statement.

But everyone knows that LEPRecon (Lower Elements Police reconnaissance division) is a job title and leprechauns are, in fact, fairies. This leads me to approximate the question and answer "most leprechauns are above average fairy height". This is to be expected for cops in general, above or below ground.

It seems that even if leprechauns are fairies the concepts are distinct.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 December 2009 08:48:26AM *  1 point [-]

I'll post a description of each one of these skills as a comment, and if you think I am good at that skill, vote it up. If you think I am bad at it, vote it down. Don't be too shy - even if you are biased or uncertain - because over the course of many votes, these biases and errors will cancel out to some extent. Thanks in advance!

The usual approach with this kind of thing is to include another comment as a karma sink for those who desire one. That can be expected to increase the accuracy of the feedback you infer.

I like the idea approach you are taking here. Proactive and rather bold. I've added a few votes here and there. I have to note, however, that I while I have a general positive impression of your posts I haven't built up a particularly clear model of how you think. This is, all else being equal a good thing. I mostly form models of people's thought processes when they have obvious biasses that I find damn irritating.

Comment deleted 02 December 2009 08:24:14AM [-]
Comment author: wedrifid 02 December 2009 09:02:03AM 1 point [-]

You seem to want an accurate map. I've got no idea if this is motivated by having something to protect. Do you?