Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Comment author: Dahlen 01 October 2014 02:48:19AM *  4 points [-]
  • I got into the habit of doing a quick web search for just about anything for purposes such as finding out more about something (to keep myself from letting an inaccurate idea/cached thought inform my view on the matter), checking internet consensus on the best ways to go about solving common problems, checking whether I'm right or wrong on a factual belief, and many others. It may not sound like much of an improvement in rationality, but I learned loads during the last few days half spent googling random things. (By the way, I probably wouldn't have done this out of the inconvenience of turning on my desktop PC until now; I recently got myself a tablet.)

    • As a result, I learned pretty much all I needed, within reason, in order to fix my diet and workout program. I stopped eating crap entirely, cold turkey; filled my fridge only with the most nutritious foods I know of; began to restrict my calorie count to resting metabolic rate level to ensure I never have to deal with unwanted weight gain again (although I'm not sure yet whether this provides the life extension benefits of calorie restriction); optimized my workouts for maximum fat burning along with an increase in lean body mass and am currently trying to figure out a way around joint pain caused by running a lot. The results are... pretty shocking for someone who hasn't seen me in a long time. ;)

    • Finally did something about my suspected dopamine deficit. For years I've been trying out all sorts of methods for increasing my motivation and productivity, with no avail, because I simply could never muster enough will to get stuff done, my natural inclination being to just laze around all day long. Then I found out about MAO-Is and how they work, and started popping the only over-the-counter supplements that contained MAO-Is that I had around. (I doubt I could have gotten a prescription for anything else; the doctor I've spoken to regarding my dopamine levels recommended me no medication whatsoever.)

I wasn't looking for the non-selective kind, only MAO-B inhibitors interested me, since I couldn't say I was feeling particularly low on serotonin. They unexpectedly came in handy. I recently had something happen to me that would have left me a total wreck otherwise (indeed, similar events in the past did leave me a total wreck); the antidepressant effect was the only reason why I kept feeling basically normal on an affective level. (On a behavioral level, though, I couldn't help acting like a depressed person. That's the only problem I've been noticing so far; your emotions get out of sync with your behavior, and you can't predict yourself anymore.)

Memory has improved; I kept having episodes of random recall. No more brain fog as well; I'm more alert and aware of my surroundings. As for the intended effect... I definitely have a lower "activation energy" now; at last I notice myself starting to study spontaneously, without a lot of inner conflict, anguish and reluctance about the matter. However, it may take a higher dosage for me to have the crazy levels of motivation that my study schedule would require; last night, for instance, after taking my usual MAO-I dosage, I went out with some people and smoked a little (yes, yes, I know...). Now, cigarettes also contain MAO-Is along with nicotine, and apparently that's what makes them so addictive; there are certain warnings when combining two MAO-Is. When I got back home, I began feeling a little over-stimulated. I was energetic as hell and very responsive to any idea that came to me. It would occur to me to do things that I'm normally unenthusiastic about, and my mind would go all "Why, that's a great idea, let's do it!". If the effect lasted a little longer, I might have gotten much more done.

The bottom line, they helped, and they helped a great deal. To everybody who's been trying for a long time to improve motivation and tried everything from Pomodoros to precommitment to psychotherapy: please please please consider dopaminergics. It may have been your core issue all along. There's no substitute for naturally feeling like doing a lot of stuff, and no software (psychological hacks) that can get shoddy hardware (neurochemistry) to run like a supercomputer. Once you do, you may regret not having done it earlier.

  • On an unrelated note: ever since I completed CFAR's sunk cost fallacy exercise book, I don't think I've fallen prey to that bias (that I know of). I now recognize it very easily and tried to give some friends the intuition behind why it is irrational.
Comment author: Viliam_Bur 01 October 2014 08:19:42AM *  2 points [-]

How long are you doing this? Long enough to believe the improvements are permanent? (As opposed to: every new stuff seems great at the beginning, and then things return to average.) Maybe you could share the specific advice that worked, in an article.

Comment author: polymathwannabe 30 September 2014 03:18:59PM *  2 points [-]

So far I've only been able to get VR Bulimia, I am I.V. blur, Lumbar VII, and Evil rumba (changing one letter but keeping the same sound).

Have you checked whether it gives a viable anagram in your native language?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 September 2014 08:54:30PM 0 points [-]

Have you checked whether it gives a viable anagram in your native language?

The online anagram programs I tried didn't produce anything useful.

Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 30 September 2014 10:02:26AM 2 points [-]

You could try to add "I am" or "The" to your name and look what the anagram generator spits out then.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 September 2014 12:40:48PM *  1 point [-]

That feels like cheating. (I totally felt like this when reading the anagram explanation of Harry Potter.) I guess I will just use something other than an anagram. It was just a whim of the moment.

Well, if I were impressed by the result, I would use it, but I guess I'm not. (Though, I could use the anagrams later for some purpose other than the name of the blog.)

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 September 2014 08:35:38AM *  4 points [-]

I was thinking about making a new blog, maybe using an anagram of my name for the blog title. Here are the possibilities:

Burial Vim -- has a nice dark flavor, but how many people actually know the meaning of "vim"? I never heard it before

Via Librum -- has a nice Latin sound, but it's probably gramatically incorrect. could someone please check this for me?

I Rival Bum -- uhm... I guess I'll skip this one...

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 29 September 2014 05:08:11PM 1 point [-]

What are people here's favorite programming languages, for what application, and why?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 29 September 2014 09:13:03PM 1 point [-]

Java; for web applications; because I have most experience in it and I also like statical typing.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 29 September 2014 10:26:17AM 8 points [-]

The natural selection needs time.

If we travel across the universe, and meet an AI who travelled across the universe before it met us, we can assume there was some kind of "evolutionary" pressure on this AI.

If we build a new AI, not knowing what exactly we are doing (especially if we tried some really bad idea like: "just connect the neurons randomly, give it huge computing power, and see what happens; trust me, the superintelligence will discover the one true morality"), there is no natural selection yet, and the new AI may do pretty much anything.

Comment author: ShannonFriedman 28 September 2014 07:48:06PM 1 point [-]

Thank you for giving me something challenging to work with that I cannot instantly respond to :) I will process and respond over the next day or two.

I can tell you a couple of elements the response will include. One is that men of science tend to over-extrapolate. Ie: that your microwave works means certain things, which are more probable to relate to other certain things. However, you can take these chains of logic out very far to where they become very flimsy, but justify the flimsy parts with the word SCIENCE.

Another element is something I will refer to casually for now as "solving the problem from the middle." You can have a very logical and concrete beautiful thing that looks like a solution in the middle of a puzzle, that does not really relate to the beginning or end.

This is the classic logic fallacy that I see Less Wrongers engage in, such as the straw man argument in this comment.

He makes a beautiful point that everyone agrees with including me, that doesn't have anything to do with the larger topic at hand. Because he does so in a way that is tangentially related to what I was actually saying, it appears to be a part of the larger topic at hand, it appears on the surface that he knows the answer.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 29 September 2014 09:58:06AM *  5 points [-]

men of science tend to over-extrapolate. Ie: that your microwave works means certain things, which are more probable to relate to other certain things. However, you can take these chains of logic out very far to where they become very flimsy

In other words: Physics is highly reliable. You believe in the standard scientific explanation of physics. This creates a feeling of great confidence in "what you believe"... and then you are prone to apply this confidence mistakenly to everything that seems to belong to the literary genre of science. -- Even if the scientific field is not as reliable as physics. Or if you are not an expert in the given field, so regardless of the reliability of the field itself, your understanding of what the field says is unreliable.

I know a few people like this... who have a degree in computer science, are good at maths, have read a few popular science books on physics... which makes them believe they are "experts on science" in general... and then they produce laughable simplifications of psychology, and crackpot theories of evolution. Everything they say follows "logically" from their long and convoluted thought chains. Everything you say, even if it is standard science 101, they dismiss as not sufficiently Popper-approved.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 September 2014 02:18:25AM 0 points [-]

Anyone who believes in miracles doesn't believe the laws of physics are entirely reliable. This is most but not all religious people.

On the other hand, it's probably more important to find out how often, in what way, and under what circumstances someone believes the laws of physics break down rather than whether they believe the laws of physics are absolutely true all the time.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 29 September 2014 09:07:22AM 1 point [-]

Anyone who believes in miracles doesn't believe the laws of physics are entirely reliable.

Yeah, but they may have the concept (not necessarily explicit) of separate magisteria... so they may believe that the laws of physics are entirely reliable when constructing a microwave oven and similar stuff, but unreliable when God purposefully decides to break them.

In other words, if you believe we live in the Matrix, but you also believe that the Lords of Matrix don't micromanage most of the stuff, you can still scientifically research the (default) rules of the Matrix.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 28 September 2014 07:24:16PM *  3 points [-]

In the world of science, I can reason by the results. My microwave oven works. What is the chance it would work, if we got physics wrong?

I believe the base rate of "a random machine doing seemingly miraculous things" is pretty low, otherwise we would be surrounded by magical machines built on theories often incompatible with the official physics. And I mean, magical machines that would work as obviously and reliably as my microwave oven does, or as my mobile phone does... not just something supposedly providing some invisble and hard-to-measure effects.

Now my personal life, and my everyday beliefs, that seems like a different kind of game. I see people with different beliefs, having not significantly worse or better results than myself. (A colleague of mine told me recently that he heard that the theory of evolution was disproved. Doesn't have any impact on his programming skills, which is what he gets paid for. But a better example would be some idea outside of science.) I don't have this kind of feedback for the correctness of my ideas. Thus it would be incorrect to put the same degree of faith in them.

Unfortunately, I have no mind-reading abilities, so I don't know what the obviously successful people believe in. I can listen to what they tell me, but there are problems with this.

First, people compartmentalize (and that's the charitable approach; sometimes they also just plainly lie), so what they tell me they believe may not be the same thing they actually believe or alieve. (For example, reading the books by Kiyosaki will not give me the recipe for how to be as rich as Kiyosaki. The true secret of Kiyosaki is more likely something like: Just pretend to know the secret of being rich, and let other people pay you for whatever soundbites you have for them. It's not like someone would ever do a double-blind study to verify your teachings.)

Second, there could be a selection bias; even if most of the successful people believe the same thing, there may be even more unsuccessful people believing the very same thing. For example, "follow your passion" or "just buy a lottery ticket" may make a few people incredibly rich, and yet, it may be a poor strategy on average. But we will only hear the stories of the winners. "Yeah, I used to be a chicken like you, but then I decided to follow my gut, and played a few rounds of the Russian roulette, and look where I am now! If you are so smart, why aren't you as rich as me?"

In response to Assessing oneself
Comment author: James_Miller 26 September 2014 07:40:11PM *  3 points [-]

If you have a few hundred dollars (or it's covered by insurance) you could get an IQ test from a qualified professional. Your college might even offer this service for students attempting to see if they have learning disabilities.

And the compromise is to study economics. The academic market for economists with Phds is great.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 27 September 2014 06:57:36AM *  6 points [-]

And the compromise is to study economics.

A similar strategy worked successfully for my friend. As a student, he was very enthusiastic about math and programming, but a big part of that was influence of his friends, me included. Later he saw evidence that he was in these topics, let's say, above average, but not great enough. (He would be able to write simple programs, and he would get the job, but the more complex parts would be too abstract for him.) He tried studying informatics, and dropped out.

So he switched to economics, choosing some study that also included maths. Hanging out with different kinds of people he discovered he had good social skills (he didn't notice that while hanging out with nerds). These days he is a consultant, and his specialization could be described as applying database tools to examine or improve economical stats of companies. (Imagine a huge company which has a lot of data in dozen different systems, including Excel sheets; those systems are not connected, they don't even use a similar structure, and the company actually doesn't even know which divisions or products are profitable. So my friend comes, and uses different tools to connect all those data sources together, and then creates easy-to-read reports. Which is not as easy as it seems, because those data sources describe the data differently, so he must examine the underlying territory to understand what can be connected with what. Also he must reduce all the available information into cca seven very simple graphs, so that even the most stupid managers could understand that easily.) So, he has some IT things there, enough to make him feel happy for living his dream of working in IT, but no lambda calculus or anything like that. On the other hand, travelling and debating with clients is okay for his extraverted nature.

View more: Next