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In response to comment by [deleted] on Open Thread, Jun. 29 - Jul. 5, 2015
Comment author: passive_fist 29 June 2015 08:44:20AM 1 point [-]

I wouldn't recommend online dating. Stats released by various online dating sites reveal that there are usually far more men than (active) women, the women get a couple of orders of magnitude more attention than the men do, and a significant fraction of people on these sites actually never get to meet anyone there in person. There have been some recent attempts at apps/sites aimed at solving these problems but I'm not aware of any that have been particularly successful. I'd love to be proven wrong though as my information about online dating is from 1-2 years ago.

Comment author: Prismattic 29 June 2015 07:12:36PM *  2 points [-]

Counter-anecdote. I am a hetero man and have been using OkCupid since July 2012. I have had almost 40 first dates, about 5 second dates, and 2 relationships from it in that time.

Both the median and mean age difference of the women who have gone out with me has been about 7 years younger than me, with the youngest 15 years younger and the oldest 1 year older than me. Comparison between genders is hard, especially from the inside, but I'm confident that at least a few of these women would be rated as more attractive than I am. While most of them probably weren't as high IQ as I am, screening out people of totally incompatible intellect ahead of time is pretty easy.

I'm told that I'm lucky in that I've never run into anyone really crazy or unpleasant, but of ~40 first dates, only 2 have been really awkward, and none scarily so.

(Admitted other-optimizing warning: I am already in my mid-30s, possibly autism-adjacent but not actually autistic, and although my face is nothing special, I am in exceptionally good shape. On the other hand, that's partly to compensate for being a single father, so it probably balances out somewhat. I'm also on the US east coast, which has a more favorable gender balance in the population at large than, in particular, the Bay area, where many rationalists seem to congregate..)

Comment author: Prismattic 31 May 2015 04:07:47AM 12 points [-]

(None of the following should be particularly surprising. I just want to provide additional personal confirmation that well-established cognitive techniques work as advertised.)

I have fairly strong social anxiety and get overstimulated by loud noises/bright lights. I've previously conditioned myself out of most ordinary and small-group anxiety through a)unavoidable practice with socializing and b)getting a black belt. However, until recently, I continued to have problems with a)a strong stress response to crowds and b)inability to hit on women (at least outside of OKCupid, where the invitation to do so is implicit).

Over the last month, I've successfully applied a couple of standard techniques to deal with this. First, about once or twice a week I would go to a crowded, noisy bar alone and just nurse a drink and people watch for an hour. Exposure therapy worked exactly as expected -- my pulse no longer elevates, I don't perspire excessively, etc. in the crowded/noisy environment.

However, I didn't actually talk to anyone, and even though I can generally be about 95% confident that I will be at least the second-most muscular person in any bar I walk into, I have found that the "strong silent type" approach does not work at all. So it was time for step two. Before going to the bar, I made a commitment on Facebook to make a small extra charitable donation if I did not strike up a conversation with an attractive woman within 60 minutes of arrival (with the intention of increasing the donation amount each time in case of failure. Note that I did not choose a donation to a cause I disagree with, because that would have been adding a source of additional stress in an already stressful situation. The actual motivator here was more "not fail publicly in front of my FB friends," since I'll end up donating to AMF or GiveDirectly eventually regardless.)

And it turns out that pre-commitment works as intended, too. I made my first attempt about 20 minutes in. I did strike up a brief but extremely awkward conversation for a minute or two. I consider this a useful outcome, because it reinforces {failed awkwardly --> no serious consequences} on a subconscious level. I tried again another 20 minutes later (with arguably the most attractive woman in the bar at the time), had a pleasant conversation for 5 or 10 minutes, and got her name.

I don't regard any of this as a particularly heroic accomplishment. I just want to reinforce that, as they say, useful technique is useful.

Group rationality diary, May 24th - June 13th

5 Prismattic 31 May 2015 03:41AM

This is the public group rationality diary for May 24th - June 13th, 2015. It's a place to record and chat about it if you have done, or are actively doing, things like:

  • Established a useful new habit

  • Obtained new evidence that made you change your mind about some belief

  • Decided to behave in a different way in some set of situations

  • Optimized some part of a common routine or cached behavior

  • Consciously changed your emotions or affect with respect to something

  • Consciously pursued new valuable information about something that could make a big difference in your life

  • Learned something new about your beliefs, behavior, or life that surprised you

  • Tried doing any of the above and failed

Or anything else interesting which you want to share, so that other people can think about it, and perhaps be inspired to take action themselves. Try to include enough details so that everyone can use each other's experiences to learn about what tends to work out, and what doesn't tend to work out.

Archive of previous rationality diaries

Note to future posters: no one is in charge of posting these threads. If it's time for a new thread, and you want a new thread, just create it. It should run for about two weeks, finish on a Saturday, and have the 'group_rationality_diary' tag.

Comment author: roystgnr 05 January 2015 09:50:13PM 6 points [-]

Could you elaborate on your experience? The liberal philosophizing I've seen seems to go even further than Kling does. He suggests a possibly-subconscious implicit common thread, whereas they often talk explicitly about "punching up versus punching down", or redefine various subcategories of prejudice to only mean "prejudice plus power".

I can think of cases where there's a clear position among the U.S. left wing but that position isn't unambiguously objectively described as "support the oppressed against the oppressor", but even in those cases the activism for that position is usually given that framing.

Comment author: Prismattic 08 January 2015 02:46:48AM 4 points [-]

(Prefacing this by noting that I am not going to get into a normative discussion here of whether liberal values are better or worse than libertarian values. I'm only addressing the question of whether Arnold Kling is accurately framing liberal values.)

I'll leave speaking about what's wrong with the conservative frame for an actual conservative (from my also-outside perspective, it doesn't sound particularly accurate).

But as far as liberalism goes, I think what Kling describes might be an accurate depiction of, say, "social justice" blogs, but those are a subset of liberalism, not the essence of it, and it doesn't describe the way the blue tribe people I grew up around (New England, middle class, disproportionately Jewish) reasoned, nor do I think it captures the way the more wonkish liberal bloggers reason.

More specifically, libertarians think that only libertarians care about freedom, while liberals think that libertarians are privileging one particular, controversial, definition of freedom -- the negative liberty of freedom from government (and only government, and in some but not all cases, specifically Federal but not local government) coercion. The liberals I have always known also think that maximizing freedom is the goal, but we define it as something like the autonomy in practice to flourish. So for example, some (not all) libertarians think the Civil Rights Act reduced aggregate freedom, but pretty much all liberals think it increased it. There is a similar divergence in attitudes about net effect on freedom with regards to regulatory interference in freedom of contract between parties with unequal bargaining power. Etc.

Comment author: blacktrance 07 January 2015 03:45:36AM 1 point [-]

I think he meant that Kling, being a libertarian, failed the Turing Test when describing the framework behind the progressive and conservative viewpoints.

Comment author: Prismattic 07 January 2015 04:40:34AM 0 points [-]


Comment author: blacktrance 04 January 2015 07:58:15PM 9 points [-]

As Arnold Kling suggests, progressives think of issues on an oppressor-oppressed axis. Women, poor people, and immigrants are all seen as oppressed, which is why feminism, raising the minimum wage, and support for more immigration are positions that are often found together.

Comment author: Prismattic 04 January 2015 09:59:40PM 2 points [-]

In my experience, libertarians tend to think highly of Arnold Kling's taxonomy, and liberals and conservatives do not. I regard it as a Turing test fail.

Comment author: Username 10 December 2014 11:13:47PM *  18 points [-]

This might not be a hack, but it is useful information.

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

Along these lines, I asked reddit last week for ideas of things that you can buy which will cost more upfront, but would eventually pay for themselves. My stipulation for the post was that they had to make the money back within one year, didn't require much more time or skill, and would have to be backed up with a calculation. YMMV based on your habits and climate, but here's what made the cut:

  • Switching from disposable razors to safety razors
  • Buying a weight set off craigslist and ditching a gym membership
  • Buying a chest freezer off craigslist and buying meat only in bulk or when on sale
  • Buying the tools for any home project rather than paying someone to fix it
  • Buying a cable modem rather than renting it (or ditching cable and using a chromecast paired with internet services)
  • Switching to a programmable thermostat
  • Buying an electric mattress pad and turning the heat down 10deg in the winter
  • Insulating your home
  • Switching to a low-flow shower nozzle
  • Keeping an herb garden/indoor plant rather than buying fresh herbs
  • Using a menstrual cup rather than tampons
  • Using cloth diapers rather than disposable ones
  • Buying a washing machine rather than going to a laundrymat
  • Buying a smartphone off-contract and getting a cheaper plan
  • Using a breadmaker rather than buying store bread
  • Homebrewing rather than buying beer (probably the most questionable ROI here because of the time and beer consumption needed)
  • Buying a haircut kit and cutting your own hair
  • Brewing your own coffee instead of buying it
  • If you smoke, rolling your own cigarettes or switching to an e-cig

The meta life-hack here is to make personal questions engaging and use the internet to source ideas.

Comment author: Prismattic 11 December 2014 03:55:32AM *  3 points [-]

Not related to upfront costs per se, but here are some additional thrift tips.

  1. A top-loading freezer loses less heat when opened than a front-loading freezer. Regardless of which kind you have, though, packing all the space not taken up by food with bottled tap water will greatly reduce the heat loss and save you money on your electrical bill.

  2. If you're in the US, you're probably using fabric softener when you do laundry. I have experimented with the concentration of liquid fabric softener, and found that you can dilute it with water down to about 5-10% of its original strength and it still softens the clothing. I do laundry for a family of 3, and I only have to buy fabric softener once every six months or so, if that.

  3. Laundry detergent is not quite as extreme as fabric softener, but I've found that diluting it (or if powder, just using less) to about 80% of its original concentration works fine, unless your clothes are really dirty or really smelly.

  4. Still on the topic of laundry. Most of the time, there is no reason to wash your clothes with hot water. Unless they are really disgusting, cold water works fine, and save electricity.

  5. If you don't want to switch from disposable razors, you can greatly extend their life by stropping them (against your arm works fine; just remember not to do it in the damaging direction).

  6. If you eat out (not very thrifty to begin with, but sometimes time is precious), remember that even a non-alcoholic beverage is probably adding $2 to your bill ($2.40 with tip). Switch to water when eating out, and if you do so once a week, you're saving about $125/year.

Comment author: [deleted] 21 November 2014 02:47:21AM 5 points [-]

"crowding out"

Comment author: Prismattic 21 November 2014 04:52:59AM 2 points [-]

Ok, but I didn't say this had already happened. I said it is something I would not want to see happen in future. Possibly you were just using my comment as a convenient anchor for a point you were already prepping for someone else, but it doesn't really make sense to address it to me.

Comment author: [deleted] 20 November 2014 04:36:22AM 10 points [-]

That being said, there's ample discussion already on Slate Star Codex, and I wouldn't want to see it crowding out other topics here.

I keep hearing people say this. This is a rationalist site; why hasn't anyone gone out and generated some statistics?

Comment author: Prismattic 21 November 2014 01:16:23AM 1 point [-]

I don't understand which half of that sentence you are objecting to, or what statistic in particular you would be looking for.

Comment author: WalterL 18 November 2014 05:55:16PM 25 points [-]

C. S. Lewis describes the protagonist in The Man Who Was Thursday's relationship with the antag roughly like this. "He was coward enough to be frightened of force, but not coward enough to worship it." That's basically my relationship with the left.

I grew up in Massachusetts, so I became conservative initially through disgust at the excesses of the dems. I'm not proud of this, I'm sure if I grew up in RepublicTown USA I'd have started out a dem, basic smartypants contrianism. Like so many who fancied ourselves prodigies (I got a 1600 on my SAT, I read Calvin and Hobbes, Encyclopedia Brown, etc.)I regarded myself basically as a defender of a bastion of truth from a sea of fools.

Moving to college, however, I started seeing over the walls a different class of liberal, the Uruk Hai, if you will. I could never join them, but I deeply wanted to understand them. Why are the worst filled with passionate intensity? What was this movement that could only speak in irony? Why were the John Stewarts the real leaders, not the politicians? What's up with the left?

The reverse question was also demanding my attention. Why were my Right buddies so dreadful? Shouldn't these racists, these homophobes, these uneducated plebes be on the other side? Hard to defend truth alongside someone who wouldn't know it if it throttled him.

The task was impossible, I feared. The rank and file didn't understand themselves, and I wasn't confident that their existed a second tier. (As a conservative, I was super familiar with the "You are under the control of evil masters" meme, and it was rubbish when applied to us, so I figured it wouldn't be any better aimed at the left. Just Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin repurposed).

When President Bush took over I was ready for a golden age. Watching how the successfully elected conservative politicians fared against the Left was an eye opener. When Congressional Democrats, and then President Obama took over I thought that the Darkest Timeline had come, and once again the results were a revelation. I had been surprised twice, I took stock.

I watched Yes Minister around this time, and had my first realization. This was comedy, sure, but not really. This explained the Obama/Bush paradox. They, and their whole stable of fellow politicians, hadn't had the power to change anything, who did? Sir Humphrey. Not incarnate and hilarious, of course, but my experience in the corporate world had given me plenty of examples of the power of the rank and file to influence the bosses. I didn't quite articulate it, but I understood that the unelected G10+'s must be running the show.

I encountered Less Wrong at some point, and became familiar with the notion of dissolving a question. From there it was a brief hop to Moldbug's site (forget which post took me exactly, hang around long enough and you'll see mention of it on here). His open letter and introduction series took many of my own realizations and slotted them together into a cohesive framework, which made sense of the world.

Comment author: Prismattic 19 November 2014 02:06:15AM *  5 points [-]

Why were the John Stewarts the real leaders, not the politicians? What's up with the left?

There are lot of legitimate criticisms to single the left out for. But this is not one of them.

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