Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.
Common knowledge is important. So I wanted to note:
Every year on Solstice feedback forms, I get concerns about songs like "The X days of X-Risk" or "When I Die" (featuring lines including 'they may freeze my body when I die'), that they are too weird and ingroupy and offputting to people who aren't super-nerdy-transhumanists
But I also get comments from people who know little about X-risk or cryonics or whatever who say "these songs are hilarious and awesome." Sunday Assemblies who have no connection to Less Wrong sing When I Die and it's a crowd favorite every year.
And my impression is that people are only really weirded out by these songs on behalf of other people who are only weirded out by them on behalf of other people. There might be a couple people who are genuinely offput the ideas but if so it's not super clear to me. I take very seriously the notion of making Solstice inclusive while retaining it's "soul", talk to lots of people about what they find alienating or weird, and try to create something that can resonate with as many people as possible.
So I want it to at least be clear: if you are personally actually offput by those songs for your own sake, that makes sense and I want to know about it, but if you're just worried about other people, I'm pretty confident you don't need to be. The songs are designed so you don't need to take them seriously if you don't want to.
Random note 1: I think the only line that's raised concern from some non-LW-ish people for When I Die is "I'd prefer to never die at all", and that's because it's literally putting words in people's mouths which aren't true for everyone. I mentioned that to Glen. We'll see if he can think of anything else
Random note 2: Reactions to more serious songs like "Five Thousand Years" seem generally positive among non-transhumanists, although sometimes slightly confused. The new transhumanist-ish song this year, Endless Light, has gotten overall good reviews.
In light of SDR's comment yesterday, instead of writing a new post today I compiled my list of ideas I wanted to write about, partly to lay them out there and see if any stood out as better than the rest, and partly so that maybe they would be a little more out in the wild than if I hold them until I get around to them. I realise there is not a thesis in this post, but I figured it would be better to write one of these than to write each in it's own post with the potential to be good or bad.
Original post: http://bearlamp.com.au/many-draft-concepts/
I create ideas at about the rate of 3 a day, without trying to. I write at about a rate of 1.5 a day. Which leaves me always behind. Even if I write about the best ideas I can think of, some good ones might never be covered. This is an effort to draft out a good stack of them so that maybe it can help me not have to write them all out, by better defining which ones are the good ones and which ones are a bit more useless.
With that in mind, in no particular order - a list of unwritten posts:
From my old table of contents
Goals of your lesswrong group – As a guided/workthrough exercise in deciding why the group exists and what it should do. Help people work out what they want out of it (do people know)? setting goals, doing something particularly interesting or routine, having fun, changing your mind, being activists in the world around you. Whatever the reasons you care about, work them out and move towards them. Nothing particularly groundbreaking in the process here. Sit down with the group with pens and paper, maybe run a resolve cycle, maybe talk about ideas and settle on a few, then decide how to carry them out. Relevant links: Sydney meetup, group resources (estimate 2hrs to write)
Goals interrogation + Goal levels – Goal interrogation is about asking <is this thing I want to do actually a goal of mine> and <is my current plan the best way to achieve that>, goal levels are something out of Sydney Lesswrong that help you have mutual long term goals and supporting short term goal. There are 3 main levels, Dream, Year, Daily (or approximate) you want dream goals like going to the moon, you want yearly goals like getting another year further in your degree and you want daily goals like studying today that contribute to the upper level goals. Any time you are feeling lost you can look at the guide you set out for yourself and use it to direct you. (3hrs)
How to human – A zero to human guide. A guide for basic functionality of a humanoid system. Something of a conglomeration of maslow, mental health, so you feel like shit and system thinking. Am I conscious?Am I breathing? Am I bleeding or injured (major or minor)? Am I falling or otherwise in danger and about to cause the earlier questions to return false? Do I know where I am? Am I safe? Do I need to relieve myself (or other bodily functions, i.e. itchy)? Have I had enough water? sleep? food? Is my mind altered (alcohol or other drugs)? Am I stuck with sensory input I can't control (noise, smells, things touching me)? Am I too hot or too cold? Is my environment too hot or too cold? Or unstable? Am I with people or alone? Is this okay? Am I clean (showered, teeth, other personal cleaning rituals)? Have I had some sunlight and fresh air in the past few days? Have I had too much sunlight or wind in the past few days? Do I feel stressed? Okay? Happy? Worried? Suspicious? Scared? Was I doing something? What am I doing? do I want to be doing something else? Am I being watched (is that okay?)? Have I interacted with humans in the past 24 hours? Have I had alone time in the past 24 hours? Do I have any existing conditions I can run a check on - i.e. depression? Are my valuables secure? Are the people I care about safe? (4hrs)
List of common strategies for getting shit done – things like scheduling/allocating time, pomodoros, committing to things externally, complice, beeminder, other trackers. (4hrs)
List of superpowers and kryptonites – when asking the question “what are my superpowers?” and “what are my kryptonites?”. Knowledge is power; working with your powers and working out how to avoid your kryptonites is a method to improve yourself. What are you really good at, and what do you absolutely suck at and would be better delegating to other people. The more you know about yourself, the more you can do the right thing by your powers or weaknesses and save yourself troubles.
List of effective behaviours – small life-improving habits that add together to make awesomeness from nothing. And how to pick them up. Short list: toothbrush in the shower, scales in front of the fridge, healthy food in the most accessible position in the fridge, make the unhealthy stuff a little more inacessible, keep some clocks fast - i.e. the clock in your car (so you get there early), prepare for expected barriers ahead of time (i.e. packing the gym bag and leaving it at the door), and more.
Stress prevention checklist – feeling off? You want to have already outsourced the hard work for “things I should check on about myself” to your past self. Make it easier for future you. Especially in the times that you might be vulnerable. Generate a list of things that you want to check are working correctly. i.e. did I drink today? Did I do my regular exercise? Did I take my medication? Have I run late today? Do I have my work under control?
Make it easier for future you. Especially in the times that you might be vulnerable. – as its own post in curtailing bad habits that you can expect to happen when you are compromised. inspired by candy-bar moments and turning them into carrot-moments or other more productive things. This applies beyond diet, and might involve turning TV-hour into book-hour (for other tasks you want to do instead of tasks you automatically do)
A p=np approach to learning – Sometimes you have to learn things the long way; but sometimes there is a short cut. Where you could say, “I wish someone had just taken me on the easy path early on”. It’s not a perfect idea; but start looking for the shortcuts where you might be saying “I wish someone had told me sooner”. Of course the answer is, “but I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway” which is something that can be worked on as well. (2hrs)
Rationalists guide to dating – Attraction. Relationships. Doing things with a known preference. Don’t like unintelligent people? Don’t try to date them. Think first; then act - and iteratively experiment; an exercise in thinking hard about things before trying trial-and-error on the world. Think about places where you might meet the kinds of people you want to meet, then use strategies that go there instead of strategies that flop in the general direction of progress. (half written)
Training inherent powers (weights, temperatures, smells, estimation powers) – practice makes perfect right? Imagine if you knew the temperature always, the weight of things by lifting them, the composition of foods by tasting them, the distance between things without measuring. How can we train these, how can we improve. Probably not inherently useful to life, but fun to train your system 1! (2hrs)
Strike to the heart of the question. The strongest one; not the one you want to defeat – Steelman not Strawman. Don’t ask “how do I win at the question”; ask, “am I giving the best answer to the best question I can give”. More poetic than anything else - this post would enumerate the feelings of victory and what not to feel victorious about, as well as trying to feel what it's like to be on the other side of the discussion to yourself, frustratingly trying to get a point across while a point is being flung at yourself. (2hrs)
How to approach a new problem – similar to the “How to solve X” post. But considerations for working backwards from a wicked problem, as well as trying “The least bad solution I know of”, Murphy-jitsu, and known solutions to similar problems. Step 0. I notice I am approaching a problem.
Spices – Adventures in sensory experience land. I ran an event of spice-smelling/guessing for a group of 30 people. I wrote several documents in the process about spices and how to run the event. I want to publish these. As an exercise - it's a fun game of guess-the-spice.
Wing it VS Plan – All of the what, why, who, and what you should do of the two. Some people seem to be the kind of person who is always just winging it. In contrast, some people make ridiculously complicated plans that work. Most of us are probably somewhere in the middle. I suggest that the more of a planner you can be the better because you can always fall back on winging it, and you probably will. But if you don't have a plan and are already winging it - you can't fall back on the other option. This concept came to me while playing ingress, which encourages you to plan your actions before you make them.
On-stage bias – The changes we make when we go onto a stage include extra makeup to adjust for the bright lights, and speaking louder to adjust for the audience which is far away. When we consider the rest of our lives, maybe we want to appear specifically X (i.e, confident, friendly) so we should change ourselves to suit the natural skews in how we present based on the "stage" we are appearing on. appear as the person you want to appear as, not the person you naturally appear as.
Creating a workspace – considerations when thinking about a “place” of work, including desk, screen, surrounding distractions, and basically any factors that come into it. Similar to how the very long list of sleep maintenance suggestions covers environmental factors in your sleep environment but for a workspace.
Posts added to the list since then
Doing a cost|benefit analysis - This is something we rely on when enumerating the options and choices ahead of us, but something I have never explicitly looked into. Some costs that can get overlooked include: Time, Money, Energy, Emotions, Space, Clutter, Distraction/Attention, Memory, Side effects, and probably more. I'd like to see a How to X guide for CBA. (wikipedia)
Extinction learning at home - A cross between intermittent reward (the worst kind of addiction), and what we know about extinguishing it. Then applying that to "convincing" yourself to extinguish bad habits by experiential learning. Uses the CFAR internal Double Crux technique, precommit yourself to a challenge, for example - "If I scroll through 20 facebook posts in a row and they are all not worth my time, I will be convinced that I should spend less time on facebook because it's not worth my time" Adjust 20 to whatever position your double crux believes to be true, then run a test and iterate. You have to genuinely agree with the premise before running the test. This can work for a number of committed habits which you want to extinguish. (new idea as at the writing of this post)
How to write a dating ad - A suggestion to include information that is easy to ask questions about (this is hard). For example; don't write, "I like camping", write "I like hiking overnight with my dog", giving away details in a way that makes them worth inquiring about. The same reason applies to why writing "I'm a great guy" is really not going to get people to believe you, as opposed to demonstrating the claim. (show, don't tell)
How to give yourself aversions - an investigation into aversive actions and potentially how to avoid collecting them when you have a better understanding of how they happen. (I have not done the research and will need to do that before publishing the post)
How to give someone else an aversion - similar to above, we know we can work differently to other people, and at the intersection of that is a misunderstanding that can leave people uncomfortable.
Lists - Creating lists is a great thing, currently in draft - some considerations about what lists are, what they do, what they are used for, what they can be used for, where they come in handy, and the suggestion that you should use lists more. (also some digital list-keeping solutions)
Choice to remember the details - this stems from choosing to remember names, a point in the conversation where people sometimes tune out. As a mindfulness concept you can choose to remember the details. (short article, not exactly sure why I wanted to write about this)
What is a problem - On the path of problem solving, understanding what a problem is will help you to understand how to attack it. Nothing more complicated than this picture to explain it. The barrier is a problem. This doesn't seem important on it's own but as a foundation for thinking about problems it's good to have sitting around somewhere.
How to/not attend a meetup - for anyone who has never been to a meetup, and anyone who wants the good tips on etiquette for being the new guy in a room of friends. First meetup: shut up and listen, try not to be too much of an impact on the existing meetup group or you might misunderstand the culture.
Noticing the world, Repercussions and taking advantage of them - There are regularly world events that I notice. Things like the olympics, Pokemon go coming out, the (recent) spaceX rocket failure. I try to notice when big events happen and try to think about how to take advantage of the event or the repercussions caused by that event. Motivated to think not only about all the olympians (and the fuss leading up to the olympics), but all the people at home who signed up to a gym because of the publicity of the competitive sport. If only I could get in on the profit of gym signups...
leastgood but only solution I know of - So you know of a solution, but it's rubbish. Or probably is. Also you have no better solutions. Treat this solution as the best solution you have (because it is) and start implementing it, as you do that - keep looking for other solutions. But at least you have a solution to work with!
Self-management thoughts - When you ask yourself, "am I making progress?", "do I want to be in this conversation?" and other self management thoughts. And an investigation into them - it's a CFAR technique but their writing on the topic is brief. (needs research)
instrumental supply-hoarding behaviour - A discussion about the benefits of hoarding supplies for future use. Covering also - what supplies are not a good idea to store, and what supplies are. Maybe this will be useful for people who store things for later days, and hopefully help to consolidate and add some purposefulness to their process.
list of sub groups that I have tried - Before running my local lesswrong group I partook in a great deal of other groups. This was meant as a list with comments on each group.
If you have nothing to do – make better tools for use when real work comes along - This was probably going to be a poetic style motivation post about exactly what the title suggests. Be Prepared.
what other people are good at (as support) - When reaching out for support, some people will be good at things that other people are not. For example - emotional support, time to spend on each other, ideas for solving your problems. Different people might be better or worse than others. Thinking about this can make your strategies towards solving your problems a bit easier to manage. Knowing what works and what does not work, or what you can reliably expect when you reach out for support from some people - is going to supercharge your fulfilment of those needs.
Focusing - An already written guide to Eugine Gendlin's focusing technique. That needs polishing before publishing. The short form: treat your system 1 as a very powerful machine that understands your problems and their solutions more than you do; use your system 2 to ask it questions and see what it returns.
Rewrite: how to become a 1000 year old vampire - I got as far as breaking down this post and got stuck at draft form before rewriting. Might take another stab at it soon.
Should you tell people your goals? - This thread in a post. In summary: It depends on the environment, the wrong environment is actually demotivational, the right environment is extra motivational.
Meta: this took around 4 hours to write up. Which is ridiculously longer than usual. I noticed a substantial number of breaks being taken - not sure if that relates to the difficulty of creating so many summaries or just me today. Still. This experiment might help my future writing focus/direction so I figured I would try it out. If you see an idea of particularly high value I will be happy to try to cover it in more detail.
If there was one element of statistical literacy that you could magically implant in every head, what would it be?
Alternatively, what single concept from statistics would most improve people's interpretations of popular news and daily life events?
This list has several purposes:
- For someone with some completed goals who is looking to move forward to new horizons; help you consider which common goal-pursuits you have not explored and if you want to try to strive for something in one of these directions.
- For someone without clear goals who is looking to create them and does not know where to start.
- For someone with too many specific goals who is looking to consider the essences of those goals and what they are really striving for.
- For someone who doesn't really understand goals or why we go after them to get a better feel for "what" potential goals could be.
What to do with this list?
- Go through this list (copy paste to your own document) and cross out the things you probably don't care about. Some of these have overlapping solutions of projects that you can do that fulfils multiple goal-space concepts. (5mins)
- For the remaining goals; rank them either "1 to n", in "tiers" of high to low priority or generally order them in some way that is coherent to you. (For serious quantification; consider giving them points - i.e. 100 points for achieving a self-awareness and understanding goal but a pleasure/creativity goal might be only worth 20 points in comparison) (10mins)
- Make a list of your ongoing projects (5-10mins), and check if they actually match up to your most preferable goals. (or your number ranking) (5-10mins) If not; make sure you have a really really good excuse for yourself.
- Consider how you might like to do things differently that prioritise your current plans to fit more inline with your goals. (10-20mins)
- Repeat this task at an appropriate interval (6monthly, monthly, when your goals significantly change, when your life significantly changes, when major projects end)
Why have goals?
Other (and negative stimuli):
Chris Nolan's Joker is a very clever guy, almost Monroesque in his ability to identify hypocrisy and inconsistency. One of his most interesting scenes in the film has him point out how people estimate horrible things differently depending on whether they're part of what's "normal", what's "expected", rather than on how inherently horrifying they are, or how many people are involved.
Soon people extrapolated this observation to other such apparent inconsistencies in human judgment, where a behaviour that once was acceptable, with a simple tweak or change in context, becomes the subject of a much more serious reaction.
I think there's rationalist merit in giving these inconsistencies a serious look. I intuit that there's some sort of underlying pattern to them, something that makes psychological sense, in the roundabout way that most irrational things do. I think that much good could come out of figuring out what that root cause is, and how to predict this effect and manage it.
Phenomena that come to mind, are, for instance, from an Effective Altruism point of view, the expenses incurred in counter-terrorism (including some wars that were very expensive in treasure and lives), and the number of lives said expenses save, compared with the number of lives that could be saved by spending that same amount into improving road safety, increasing public helathcare expense where it would do the most good, building better lightning rods (in the USA you're four times more likely to be struck by thunder than by terrorists), or legalizing drugs.
What do y'all think? Why do people have their priorities all jumbled-up? How can we predict these effects? How can we work around them?
Common Sense Atheism has recently had a string of fantastic introductory LessWrong related material. First easing its audience into the singularity, then summarising the sequences, yesterday affirming that Death is a Problem to be Solved, and finally today by presenting An Intuitive Explanation of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Intuitive Explanation of Bayes’ Theorem.
From the article:
Eliezer’s explanation of this hugely important law of probability is probably the best one on the internet, but I fear it may still be too fast-moving for those who haven’t needed to do even algeba since high school. Eliezer calls it “excruciatingly gentle,” but he must be measuring “gentle” on a scale for people who were reading Feynman at age 9 and doing calculus at age 13 like him.
So, I decided to write an even gentler introduction to Bayes’ Theorem. One that is gentle for normal people.
It may be interesting if you want to do a review of Bayes' Theorem from a different perspective, or offer some introductory material for others. From a wider viewpoint, it's great to see a popular blog joining our cause for raising the sanity waterline.