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90% of problems are recommendation and adaption problems

6 Post author: casebash 12 July 2017 04:53AM

Want to improve your memory? Start a business? Fix your dating life?

The chances are that out of the thousands upon thousands of books and blogs out there on each of these topics there are already several that will tell you all that you need. I'm not saying that this will immediately solve your problem - you will still need to put in the hard yards of experiment and practise - just that lack of knowledge will no longer be the limiting factor.

This suggests if we want to be winning at life (as any good rationalist should), what is most important isn't creating brilliant and completely unprecedented approaches to solve these problems, but rather taking ideas that already exist.

The first problem is recommendation - finding which out of all of the thousands of books out there are the most helpful for a particular problem. Unfortunately, recommendation is not an easy problem at all. Two people may both be dealing with procrastination problems, but what works for one person may not work for another person. Further, even for the same idea, it is incredibly subjective what counts as a clear explanation - some people may want more detail, others less, some people may find some examples really compelling, others won't. Recommendations are generally either one person's individual recommendations or those which recieved the highest vote, but there probably are other methods of producing a recommendation that should be looked into, such as asking people survey questions and matching on that, or asking people to rate a book on different factors.

The second problem is adaption. Although you shouldn't need to create any new ideas, it is likely that certain elements will need more explanation and certain elements less. For example, when writing for the rationalist community, you may need to be more precise and be clearer when you are talking figuratively, rather than literally. Alternatively, you can probably just link people to certain common ideas such as the map and territory without having to explain it.

I'll finish with a rhetorical question - what percent of solutions here are new ideas and what percentage are existing solutions? Are these in the right ratio?

UPDATE: (Please note: This article is not about time spent learning vs. time spent practising, but about existing ideas vs. new ideas. The reason why this is the focus is because LW can potentially recommend resources or adapt resources, but it can't practise for you!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments (13)

Comment author: Dagon 12 July 2017 05:34:50PM 2 points [-]

I'm assuming you mean "new to you" ideas, not actually novel concepts for humanity as a whole. Both are rare, the latter almost vanishingly so. A lot of things we consider "new ideas" for ourselves are actually "new salience of an existing idea" or "change in relative weighting of previous ideas".

All to say that your rhetorical question is not the best way to think of this. Novelty isn't the hard part for ideas, it's application to decisions and weighting of competing ideas. Similarly, "recommendation" isn't the problem, it's one (imperfect) solution to the problem of decision-making costs (search costs in economic frameworks).

You're right it's not about time learning vs time practicing. It's about time in decision-making (including research, planning, and modeling results) vs time in action. Often called the explore vs exploit problem, and often framed as if it is knowledge being sought, but that's mostly because it's easier to come up with examples of that than examples of time spent deciding which framework fits better.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 19 July 2017 08:53:58PM 0 points [-]

I'm assuming you mean "new to you" ideas, not actually novel concepts for humanity as a whole. Both are rare, the latter almost vanishingly so. A lot of things we consider "new ideas" for ourselves are actually "new salience of an existing idea" or "change in relative weighting of previous ideas".

Uh, please do not say this unless you have spent a significant number of hours actually trying to do some research/novel conceptual work. If you do, you might, spoiler alert, find out that what you stated here is rather wrong

Comment author: casebash 14 July 2017 10:07:04AM 0 points [-]

"I'm assuming you mean "new to you" ideas, not actually novel concepts for humanity as a whole. Both are rare, the latter almost vanishingly so. A lot of things we consider "new ideas" for ourselves are actually "new salience of an existing idea" or "change in relative weighting of previous ideas"." - well that was kind of the point. That if we want to help people coming up with new ideas is somewhat overrated vs. recommending existing resources or adapting existing ideas.

Comment author: cousin_it 12 July 2017 10:50:32AM *  2 points [-]

I think the point of reading is finding interesting ideas. For that purpose it's great. But trying to improve your life by reading usually leads to frustration and guilt. It feels liberating to let go of that notion and just read for the sake of reading. Better to spend your "improvement fuel" on other things, like joining targeted activities with other people.

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 13 July 2017 02:55:15PM *  1 point [-]

A lot of what I consider "self-improvement literature" is not of the "do hard changes on yourself" kind.

  • Much value can be derived by learning recipes for doing things (e.g. negotiation, weight loss, marksmanship)

  • Also much value is derived from gaining alternative lenses on things that while being more than skin-deep do not involve the kind of hard personality changes you're objecting to (Frankl's book on meaning had some of that effect on me)

Comment author: casebash 12 July 2017 01:51:50PM *  0 points [-]

I guess what I was saying that insofar as you require knowledge what you tend to need is usually a recommendation to read an existing resource or an adaption of ideas in an existing resource as opposed to new ideas. The balance of knowledge vs. practise is somewhat outside the scope of this article.

In particular, I wrote: "I'm not saying that this will immediately solve your problem - you will still need to put in the hard yards of experiment and practise - just that lack of knowledge will no longer be the limiting factor."

Comment deleted 13 July 2017 10:34:01AM *  [-]
Comment author: username2 13 July 2017 10:41:55AM 2 points [-]

SPAM SPAM

Comment author: ChristianKl 13 July 2017 05:50:26PM 2 points [-]

Making posts like this produces unnecessary noise. The post stays per default even when the spam gets deleted.

Comment author: casebash 14 July 2017 10:05:05AM 1 point [-]

Hopefully the new LW has an option to completely delete a thread.

Comment author: casebash 13 July 2017 02:47:45PM 0 points [-]

I can't see any option to report it :-(

Comment author: Viliam 17 July 2017 03:43:23PM *  0 points [-]

Post a comment in the latest Open Thread (hopefully some moderator is reading it) with a link to offending comment.

(Yeah, having a "report spam" button would be more convenient.)

Comment author: Lumifer 13 July 2017 03:43:13PM 0 points [-]

Just yell "Bucket & mop to thread X!" really loudly.