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WhiskyJack comments on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2012) - Less Wrong

25 Post author: orthonormal 26 December 2011 10:57PM

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Comment author: WhiskyJack 06 April 2012 03:11:42PM 10 points [-]


tl;dr This seems like a place that I can use to shore up some of my cognitive shortcomings, eliminate some bias and expand my worldview. Maybe I can help someone else along the way.

I have been reading the material here for the last several days and have decided that this is a community that I would like to be a part of and hopefully contribute to. My greatest interests are improving my map of the territory(how great is that analogy?), using my constantly improving map to be a better husband and father, and exploring transhumanist ideas and conceits.

I came to be a rationalist when I started reading somewhat milquetoast skeptical literature. Having been raised religious and having served in the Marine Corps I have found that I have a tendency to allow arguments from authority too much credence. If I am not careful I can serve as quite the dutiful drone.

It became important over the last few months that I be able to do as much of my own philosophical and scientific legwork as possible. If an author or speaker that I enjoy espouses ideas I am inclined to agree with it is vital (in my estimation) that I either be able to verify the information presented myself or locate reliable independent verification. This is the type of thinking that I feel I owe my wife and son. LessWrong seems like it aligns well with that ideal. Bias and gullibility kill.

The religious arguments were fun at first, but have become boring. The issue is resolved to my satisfaction. I tend to approach things scientifically instead of philosophically. I struggle to grok philosophy. I think that means I need to redouble my efforts there. My maths could use work, but aren't as sorry as some folks. I get algebra and have survived a few classes in statistics. Keyword: survived.

I am slowly chewing my way through the sequences and learning a good bit. I'm not the fastest thinker, so I will have to read some of them a few times to get the ideas involved. Some of the quantum ideas seem wildly exotic, but that just means I am going to have to really brush up on my physics....of which I have none. I'm not about to make an argument from incredulity there. I don't know enough to HAVE an opinion yet.

I used to read Common Sense Atheism and I find myself now thinking, "Ah, this is what Luke was going on about.' There is some pretty cool stuff here and I look forward to contributing what I can.

Comment author: TimS 06 April 2012 03:51:31PM *  2 points [-]

Welcome to LessWrong. One of the most interesting parts of LessWrong for me is noticing the cognitive bias in our thought process. For example, noticing that one dislikes another solely because the other is a member of a different group. (Psychology calls this the in-group bias).

Noticing those sorts of mistakes doesn't necessarily require all that much mathematical ability. In short, the hope in this community is that clear thinking helps you achieve your stated goals (rather than some inaccurate approximation created by unclear thinking from the imperfect brain). In short, don't sweat the math, there's lots of practical stuff that can be achieved without it. If you are particularly interested in improving your self-awareness, might I recommend Alicorn's Luminosity sequence?

Comment author: WhiskyJack 06 April 2012 05:46:39PM 0 points [-]

Thanks! I consider myself more self aware than most, largely because I have done work similar to what is proposed in the Luminosity sequence myself. Of course interesting arguments could be had about how subjective the experience is, what ‘self’ I am even trying to be aware of (would that just be semantic?), but the result was a positive net gain in my quality of life. I'm curious to try the work with different techniques, though.

It will be interesting to see if the concept I hold of myself as pretty self-aware survives around here. All part of the process, I suppose.

As far as the math... If I don't try I definitely won't learn it. It will be a struggle, though.

Comment author: Vaniver 18 April 2012 12:28:17AM 0 points [-]


My background is in physics and mathematical optimization techniques, and so it interests me a lot what perspective people without those skills have on the sorts of thinking and strategies we talk about on Less Wrong. Knowing what [inferential gaps] we missed is really useful to writers or educators. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

Or, if it comes to it, to let sleeping theories lie. Lots of posters here don't finish all of the sequences, or avoid the more esoteric decision theory posts.

Comment author: Larks 18 April 2012 12:11:38AM 0 points [-]

Did you burn any bridges while in the Marines?

Comment author: GuySrinivasan 18 April 2012 12:37:19AM 0 points [-]

You said you were religious before serving... were you by chance a Mason? :D

Comment author: Vaniver 18 April 2012 12:18:21AM 0 points [-]

Is that question literal or metaphorical?

Comment author: Larks 18 April 2012 09:32:04AM 2 points [-]
Comment author: wedrifid 18 April 2012 06:19:29AM 1 point [-]

Is that question literal or metaphorical?

Almost certainly metaphorical. I mean, at the very least the Marines would have used explosives rather than fire.