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Comment author: RichardKennaway 02 February 2011 01:07:05AM 93 points [-]

At home there was a game that all the parents played with their children. It was called, What Did You See? Mara was about Dann’s age when she was first called into her father’s room one evening, where he sat in his big carved and coloured chair. He said to her, ‘And now we are going to play a game. What was the thing you liked best today?’

At first she chattered: ‘I played with my cousin . . . I was out with Shera in the garden . . . I made a stone house.’ And then he had said, ‘Tell me about the house.’ And she said, ‘I made a house of the stones that come from the river bed.’ And he said, ‘Now tell me about the stones.’ And she said, ‘They were mostly smooth stones, but some were sharp and had different shapes.’ ‘Tell me what the stones looked like, what colour they were, what did they feel like.’

And by the time the game ended she knew why some stones were smooth and some sharp and why they were different colours, some cracked, some so small they were almost sand. She knew how rivers rolled stones along and how some of them came from far away. She knew that the river had once been twice as wide as it was now. There seemed no end to what she knew, and yet her father had not told her much, but kept asking questions so she found the answers in herself. Like, ‘Why do you think some stones are smooth and round and some still sharp?’ And she thought and replied, ‘Some have been in the water a long time, rubbing against other stones, and some have only just been broken off bigger stones.’ Every evening, either her father or her mother called her in for What Did You See? She loved it. During the day, playing outside or with her toys, alone or with other children, she found herself thinking, Now notice what you are doing, so you can tell them tonight what you saw.

She had thought that the game did not change; but then one evening she was there when her little brother was first asked, What Did You See? and she knew just how much the game had changed for her. Because now it was not just What Did You See? but: What were you thinking? What made you think that? Are you sure that thought is true?

When she became seven, not long ago, and it was time for school, she was in a room with about twenty children – all from her family or from the Big Family – and the teacher, her mother’s sister, said, ‘And now the game: What Did You See?’

Most of the children had played the game since they were tiny; but some had not, and they were pitied by the ones that had, for they did not notice much and were often silent when the others said, ‘I saw . . .’, whatever it was. Mara was at first upset that this game played with so many at once was simpler, more babyish, than when she was with her parents. It was like going right back to the earliest stages of the game: ‘What did you see?’ ‘I saw a bird.’ ‘What kind of a bird?’ ‘It was black and white and had a yellow beak.’ ‘What shape of beak? Why do you think the beak is shaped like that?’

Then she saw what she was supposed to be understanding: Why did one child see this and the other that? Why did it sometimes need several children to see everything about a stone or a bird or a person?

Doris Lessing, "Mara and Dann"

Comment author: [deleted] 07 February 2011 11:05:20PM *  89 points [-]
  1. You have to put yourself in environments where you'll be able to interact with a lot of women. College is in a lot of ways set up perfectly for this: if you're not in college right now, consider joining a class or an activity group. Try to make it one where the gender balance will be in your favor. Book groups are one example--they're wildly tilted towards women (I suspect men just, you know, read books, and don't tend to see the value in sitting around sipping coffee and talking about reading books). But if you like girls who wear glasses, try finding a congenial book group. You'll probably be the only man.

    Even better than book groups, though, are dance classes. Swing and rockabilly aren't super trendy anymore, but the scenes still exist in a quieter way, and these classes are great for single men: a) they're filled mostly with women; b) dance is an inherently flirtatious activity, and the physical leading/following dynamic is one that many women find very sexy; c) even if you don't find a date in that class, you'll have learned an attractive skill, and you'll be able to participate in events that will introduce you to more women; and d) physical exercise is good for building both confidence and sexiness. Yoga classes might work too, or if you can find a martial arts practice that attracts significant numbers of women (maybe check out your local aikido classes?).

    The SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) is also a surprisingly good choice for geeks who want to hook up. Wearing princess dresses is enough of a draw for women that the gender balance, while tilted towards men, isn't too awful, and so many relationships get started in the context of SCA events that there's a joke about it. (The joke is that "SCA" actually stands for "Society for Consenting Adults.")

    There are of course singles bars or activities like speed-dating that are specifically designed to let you meet single women, so you could try those too. A lot of people find those environments stressful and frustrating, which is why I'd suggest finding a social scene that is not specifically about dating.

    Lastly, let all your friends know that you're interested in meeting women. Ask to be introduced to their friends who are single. This is how people used to meet each other and it is still an important avenue to keep open.

  2. You have to ask women out on dates. This part, I know, is hard, and I'm sorry to admit that many women don't even understand how hard it is. You will be rejected and it will suck every time, but this part is a numbers game. You just have to keep doing it until you find the girl who says "yes."

    The pre-reqs for asking a girl out are fewer than you might think. It's best if you have already been introduced and have interacted a bit in a friendly manner. When I say a bit, I really mean just that you've spoken a few times. It is far, far more common for geek guys to err wildly in the opposite direction. Don't do this. If you like her, ask her out, and make your intentions unambiguous. The sooner the better.

    If you're following my advice and meeting girls in activity classes, you would do this by approaching her just after one of the classes, maybe as she's getting her things together or as she's heading out the door. Make eye contact and smile. Start with a compliment that references the interactions you've had--"Hey, I've really been enjoying dancing with you [or "sparring with you," or, "I really liked what you said about the book"] and I wonder if I could take you out to a movie next week."

    Be really clear about the fact that you're asking her for a date. Try not to say something like "I wonder if you'd like to meet for coffee and talk " because she could interpret this as merely a friendly gesture on your part, and you don't want that. A lot of inexperienced guys think they should establish a friendship before they ask a girl out, but you really don't want to sink a lot of time and energy into a girl who is never going to see you "like that." (It is true that established friendships can make a wonderful basis for romance, but never, ever count on that happening.)

    Also, propose a specific activity and a specific time. Don't just say "I wonder if you'd go out with me some time" because a) it sounds a little desperate and b) a lot of women have trouble saying "no" directly (we're socialized not to). Leave her a face-saving way to refuse. If she says "I'd love to but I've been really busy with work/school/life recently," that means no. Move on. (If, on the other hand, she says "I'm going to Guatemala next week, but I'll be back by the end of the month, maybe then?" that means yes.)

Dealing with rejection: When you are rejected, try to be gracious about it, even if she is not. Like I said above, a lot of women truly do not understand how much gumption it takes to put yourself out there by making a pass. If she seems annoyed or condescending or whatever, try to shrug it off; just smile and say "okay, no problem" or something along those lines. Do the same thing if she says "I'd rather just be friends." (But for the love of Pete, do not spend a lot of effort trying to actually cultivate a friendship. Moooooove on.)

It does get easier the more you do it. Just remind yourself that it is a numbers game. The worst thing that can happen is not that you ask ten girls out and they all say no. The worst thing is that you ask ten girls, they say no, and then you stop asking. Because whether it was Girl #11 or Girl #83 who would've fallen head over heels for you, you'll never find her now. Keep looking to meet women, and keep asking them out; these are the two steps that lead to relationships.

Troubleshooting: If you do find that you are consistently rejected, there might be something going on with your self-presentation that is offputting to women. Make sure your basic hygiene is good: that you are wearing clean clothes that fit you, that your hair is cut and that you are clean-shaven. (Facial hair is Advanced Fashion for Men: if fashion is not your ballgame, just shave, trust me.) Ask your friends if there's anything going on with your looks or demeanor that might be getting in your way.

If you are overweight, start an exercise regimen, but do not wait until you are at your ideal weight to start asking women on dates. It is perfectly possible for big dudes to find love, they do it all the time. It IS more important to make sure that you wear flattering clothing that fits you well--a baggy, threadbare tee-shirt and Hawaiian shorts may not cut it. Use Google Images to find pictures of some of the heavier celebrities (like Sean Astin, or Seth Rogan before he slimmed down). Check out what they are/were wearing, and use those pictures as a style guide.

You may also be acting in ways that indicate you don't value yourself, which can make women (and other people in general) instinctively shy away. You will probably need the help of people who actually know you to diagnose these kinds of problems and help you fix them.

In general, though, from my observations, most geek guys are able to get dates so long as they go where the women are, and ask them out. The most common mistake by far is simply failing to execute one or both of these crucial steps.

Comment author: gwern 23 October 2014 02:35:10AM 89 points [-]

Done. Too bad the basilisk question wasn't on it; I hope that will one day be possible.

Comment author: dripgrind 29 July 2011 10:36:20PM 92 points [-]

Only on this site would you see perfectly ordinary charity fundraising techniques described as "dark arts", while in the next article over, the community laments the poor image of the concept of beheading corpses and then making them rise again.

Comment author: 4609287645 15 July 2009 07:47:17AM *  90 points [-]

Why did you put an absolute denial mechanism in my program?

Comment author: stcredzero 29 May 2010 11:29:33PM 85 points [-]

I suspect that the True Prisoner's Dilemma played itself out in the Portugese and Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica. Some natives were said to ask, "Do they eat gold?" They couldn't comprehend why someone would want a shiny decorative material so badly, they'd kill for it. The Spanish were Shiny Decorative Material maximizers.

Comment author: steven0461 10 March 2010 06:50:25AM 80 points [-]

I like my women the way I like my coffee: detrimental to hippocampal neurogenesis, but conducive to short term memory and attentional control.

In response to Polyhacking
Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 August 2011 07:46:45AM 72 points [-]

(Also, spontaneously all kinds of popular. If I'd known I could get this many people interested by hacking poly I might have done it sooner.)

The following is a public service announcement to all women who naturally like at least some shy nerds.

If you are (1) polyamorous and (2) able to directly ask men you find attractive to sleep with you (instead of doing the sheep dance where you freeze motionless and wait for them to approach) - or if you can hack yourself to be like that without too much effort - it is vastly easier than you imagine to acquire an entire harem of high-status and/or handsome nerds.

(For some but not all nerds, this may require that you be reasonably attractive. Most nerd girls I know are reasonably attractive and think they are not. So if you think that you're overweight and hideous and yet oddly enough nerds spend a lot of time talking to you at nerd parties, this means you are pretty.)

This concludes the public service announcement.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 03 October 2010 03:01:34AM *  55 points [-]

This is an Irrationality Game comment; do not be too alarmed by its seemingly preposterous nature.

We are living in a simulation (some agent's (agents') computation). Almost certain. >99.5%.

(ETA: For those brave souls who reason in terms of measure, I mean that a non-negligible fraction of my measure is in a simulation. For those brave souls who reason in terms of decision theoretic significantness, screw you, you're ruining my fun and you know what I mean.)

Comment author: JamesAndrix 03 October 2010 09:45:50PM *  65 points [-]

Panpsychism: All matter has some kind of experience. Atoms have some kind of atomic-qualia that adds up to the things we experience. This seems obviously right to me, but stuff like this is confusing so I'll say 75%

Please note that this comment has been upvoted because the members of lesswrong widely DISAGREE with it. See here for details.

Comment author: Yvain 14 October 2010 07:03:21PM *  79 points [-]

On any task more complicated than sheer physical strength, there is no such thing as inborn talent or practice effects. Any non-retarded human could easily do as well as the top performers in every field, from golf to violin to theoretical physics. All supposed "talent differential" is unconscious social signaling of one's proper social status, linked to self-esteem.

A young child sees how much respect a great violinist gets, knows she's not entitled to as much respect as that violinist, and so does badly at violin to signal cooperation with the social structure. After practicing for many years, she thinks she's signaled enough dedication to earn some more respect, and so plays the violin better.

"Child prodigies" are autistic types who don't understand the unspoken rules of society and so naively use their full powers right away. They end out as social outcasts not by coincidence but as unconscious social punishment for this defection.

Comment author: Giles 08 June 2011 02:45:13AM 77 points [-]

Eliezer Yudkowsky will never have a mid-life crisis.

Comment author: davidamann 14 March 2009 03:53:55AM 79 points [-]

I think a better way to frame this issue would be the following method.

  1. Present your philosophical thought-experiment.
  2. Ask your subject for their response and their justification.
  3. Ask your subject, what would need to change for them to change their belief?

For example, if I respond to your question of the solitary traveler with "You shouldn't do it because of biological concerns." Accept the answer and then ask, what would need to change in this situation for you to accept the killing of the traveler as moral?

I remember this method giving me deeper insight into the Happiness Box experiment.

Here is how the process works:

  1. There is a happiness box. Once you enter it, you will be completely happy through living in a virtual world. You will never leave the box. Would you enter it?
  2. Initial response. Yes, I would enter the box. Since my world is only made up of my perceptions of reality, there is no difference between the happiness box and the real world. Since I will be happier in the happiness box, I would enter.
  3. Reframing question. What would need to change so you would not enter the box.
  4. My response: Well, if I had children or people depending on me, I could not enter.

Surprising conclusion! Aha! Then you do believe that there is a difference between a happiness box and the real world, namely your acceptance of the existence of other minds and the obligations those minds place on you.

That distinction was important to me, not only intellectually but in how I approached my life.

Hope this contributes to the conversation.


Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 01 December 2015 05:22:06AM 78 points [-]

[Coauthor's note] If anyone is willing to offer me karma by upvoting this comment, such that I can post my own stuff someday instead of piggybacking on Anna, I'd appreciate it.

Comment author: Vaniver 23 October 2014 01:41:24AM 75 points [-]

Did the survey!

Comment author: Alicorn 07 April 2011 03:08:53AM *  73 points [-]

When confronting something which may be either a windmill or an evil giant, what question should you be asking?

There are some who ask, "If we do nothing, and that is an evil giant, can we afford to be wrong?" These people consider themselves to be brave and vigilant.

Some ask "If we attack it wrongly, can we afford to pay to replace a windmill?" These people consider themselves cautious and pragmatic.

Still others ask, "With the cost of being wrong so high in either case, shouldn't we always definitively answer the 'windmill vs. giant' question before we act?" And those people consider themselves objective and wise.

But only a tiny few will ask, "Isn't the fact that we're giving equal consideration to the existence of evil giants and windmills a warning sign of insanity in ourselves?"

It's hard to find out what these people consider themselves, because they never get invited to parties.

-- PartiallyClips, "Windmill"

Comment author: ex-Parrot 12 May 2008 04:10:19PM 76 points [-]

You forgot a few cases:

Loretta the Green looked at the sky and said: It is blue. Therefore, it is not the sky. Despite its inmensity, its openness, and those things that look like tufts of white cotton. Now that I think of it, those things don't look quite like cotton.

Bob the Groovy Blue said: Wow. Wait until I tell everyone that it's pink. (He was on acid, as usual).

Ed the Green said: Damm, it's not green. It's black.

Frank the Blue said: Hooray, it's not green. It's black.

(Obviously the last two arrived at night)

And finally John the Ecumenical said: Like I've always said. It's cerulean!

Comment author: dspeyer 03 September 2014 05:06:19PM 75 points [-]

A good rule of thumb might be, “If I added a zero to this number, would the sentence containing it mean something different to me?” If the answer is “no,” maybe the number has no business being in the sentence in the first place.

Randall Munroe on communicating with humans

Comment author: ModusPonies 10 May 2013 07:41:03PM 74 points [-]

If you are a human, then the biggest influence on your personality is your peer group. Choose your peers.

If you want to be better at math, surround yourself with mathematicians. If you want to be more productive, hang out with productive people. If you want to be outgoing or artistic or altruistic or polite or proactive or smart or just about anything else, find people who are better than you at that thing and become friends with them. The status-seeking conformity-loving parts of your mind will push you to become like them. (The incorrect but pithy version: "You are an average of the five people you spend the most time with.")

I've had a lot of success with this technique by going to the Less Wrong meetups in Boston, and by making a habit of attending any event where I'll be the stupidest person in the room (such as the average Less Wrong meetup).

Comment author: Mestroyer 06 February 2013 05:52:02AM *  72 points [-]

"If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?"

"Oh jeez. Probably."

"What!? Why!?"

"Because all my friends did. Think about it -- which scenario is more likely: every single person I know, many of them levelheaded and afraid of heights, abruptly went crazy at exactly the same time... ...or the bridge is on fire?"

Randall Munroe, on updating on other people's beliefs.

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