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Comment author: free_rip 22 April 2014 08:02:20AM 5 points [-]

I've been reading about maximizers and satisficers, and I'm interested to see where LessWrong people fall on the scale. I predict it'll be signficantly on the maximizer side of things.

A maximizer is someone who always tries to make the best choice possible, and as a result often takes a long time to make choices and feels regret for the choice they do make ('could I have made a better one?'). However, their choices tend to be judged as better, eg. maximizers tend to get jobs with higher incomes and better working conditions, but to be less happy with them anyway. A satisficer is someone who tries to make a 'good enough' choice - they tend to make choices faster and be happier with them, despite the choices being judged (generally) as worse than those of maximizers.

If you want, take this quiz

And put your score into the poll below:


Comment author: daenerys 22 April 2014 09:41:55PM *  0 points [-]

That quiz looks like it could use an update to fit modern society. It was hard to answer questions about "channel surfing" or "renting videos" in the modern era of hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Also, thinking back to the days of actual video rental stores, it was much easier to choose a movie there than it is to choose one on Netflix. Possibly because the Netflix selections tends towards "second rate movies I've never heard of OR first rate movies that I've already watched or am not interested in")

Anyways, I am a natural maximizer, which causes lots of stress towards decisions, so I've trained myself towards being a satisficer. I often try to think of decisions in the framework of "it doesn't matter that much WHAT I decide to do here, so long as I just make a decision and move forward with it".

I think about research where they show that the hardest decisions are the least important (if it was obvious which option was significantly better, then it wouldn't be a hard decision.) I think about research where they show that people are happier with decisions when they can't back out of them, so don't second-guess them. I think about cost-benefit analysis and how maximizing that particular decision probably isn't worth the time or stress.

A specific example: I tend to have trouble deciding what to order at restaurants. Knowing that whatever they serve at a restaurant is going to be relatively good, it's not that important what I decide. So when the waitress asks if everyone is ready to order I say "yes", even though I'm not ready, knowing that I will have to choose SOMETHING when it gets to me, and in reality I would be happy with any of the options.

Comment author: Optimal 14 April 2014 02:57:44PM 4 points [-]

Funny story: I actually did try tracking daily 'social interaction time' for a while. It's much harder to track than anything else, because it is such a fluid and unpredictable activity, and I don't have access to my spreadsheets while socializing.

I've had moderate social anxiety for many years, starting because of issues (mostly inside my head) in early public school. It was severely exacerbated when I switched to online school because I spent so much time, locked in my room, on pleasurable activities.

I have a small group of friends who I met in public school; we still meet once every couple of months to play video/board games. This results only in casual interaction centered around the game, never anything serious that involves personal issues or philosophical debates. And of course, the entire time, I am thinking that I could be doing something more productive or fun-efficient. Those friends are not exactly positive influences: they spend a lot of their time on video games (CoD etc.), and they are constantly laughing at internet memes or terrible sex jokes. I've tried meeting other people online, but I never really can get engaged with them, also because I feel that I am using time inefficiently. So, in the social interaction department, I am not really making any progress. That could be considered another big problem in my life; I probably should have included it in the main article.

Comment author: daenerys 14 April 2014 10:21:24PM 3 points [-]

A great way to track time spent on activities (especially fluid and unpredicatable ones) is an app called TagTime. It works best on Android, but you can also get it on your computer if you're hacky. It pings you at random intervals that average out to be worth 45 minutes each, and asks what you're doing at that exact moment. You create tags for different activities, so you just click on the relevant tag(s), and don't have to type in anything. It also integrates with Beeminder, if you'd like to track things that way.

Comment author: jkaufman 06 April 2014 06:09:32PM 1 point [-]

In the US the guest is still expected to bring them, but as a host it's really nice to be able to provide for your guest if they need it.

Comment author: daenerys 07 April 2014 01:47:25AM 0 points [-]

In the US the guest is still expected to bring them, but as a host it's really nice to be able to provide for your guest if they need it.


Plus, there are many emergencies where a guest wouldn't be prepared. For example, maybe someone who was coming for a couple hours to hang out/play games had their contact fall out. Or maybe a date went really well, and somebody stays the night who wasn't specifically packed for such. Maybe a friend needs last-minute emergency crash space, etc.

Items to Have In Case of Emergency...Maybe.

22 daenerys 03 April 2014 12:23AM

This post is inspired by a recent comment thread on my Facebook. I asked people to respond with whether or not they kept fire/lock boxes in their homes for their important documents (mainly to prove to a friend that this is a Thing People Do). It was pretty evenly divided, with slightly more people having them, than not. The interesting pattern I noticed was that almost ALL of my non-rationality community friends DID have them, and almost NONE of my rationality community friends did, and some hadn't even considered it.

This could be because getting a lock box is not an optimal use of time or money, OR it could be because rationalists often overlook the mundane household-y things more than the average person. I'm actually not certain which it is, so am writing this post presenting the case of why you should keep certain emergency items in the hope that either I'll get some interesting points for why you shouldn't prep that I haven't thought of yet, OR will get even better ideas in the comments.

General Case

Many LWers are concerned about x-risks that have a small chance of causing massive damage. We may or may not see this occur in our lifetime. However, there are small problems that occur every 2-3 years or so (extended blackout, being snowed in, etc), and there are mid-sized catastrophes that you might see a couple times in your life (blizzards, hurricanes, etc). It is likely that at least once in your life you will be snowed in your house and the pipes will burst or freeze (or whatever the local equivalent is, if you live in a warmer climate). Having the basic preparations ready for these occurrences is low cost (many minor emergencies require a similar set of preparations), and high payoff. 

Medicine and Hospitality

This category is so minor, you probably don't consider it to be "emergency", but it's still A Thing To Prepare For. It really sucks having to go to the store when you're sick because you don't already have the medicine you need at hand. It's better to keep the basics always available, just in case. You, or a guest, are likely to be grateful that you have these on hand. Even if you personally never get sick, I consider a well-stocked medicine cabinet to be a point of hospitality. If you have people over to your place with any frequency, it is nice to have:


  • Pain Reliever (ibuprofen, NSAID)
  • Zyrtec (Especially if you have cats. Guests might be allergic!)
  • Antacids, Chewable Pepto, Gas-X (Especially if you have people over for food)
  • Multipurpose contact solution (getting something in your contact without any solution nearby is both rare and awful)
  • Neosporin/bandaids (esp. if your cats scratch :P)


  • Spare toothbrush (esp. if you might have a multi-day guest)
  • Single use disposable toothbrushes (such as Wisp). These are also good to carry with you in your backpack or purse.)
  • Pads/tampons (Yes, even if you're a guy. They should be somewhere obvious such as under the sink, so that your guest doesn't need to ask)
Of course, you can also go all out with your First Aid kit, and also include less common items like epi pens, bandages, etc.

Vehicle Kits

The stuff you keep at home isn't going to be very helpful if you have a minor emergency while travelling. Some things that are useful to keep in your car include

  • Blanket
  • Water
  • Protein/ granola bar
  • Jumper Cables
  • Spare Tire and jack
  • If you get frequent headaches or the like, you might also want to keep your preferred pain reliever or whatnot in the car

Minor Catastrophe Preparation

These are somewhat geography dependent. Adjust for whatever catastrophes are common in your area. There are places where if you don't have 4 wheel drive, you're just not going to be able to leave your house during a snowstorm. There are places where tornadoes or earthquakes are common. There are places where a bad hurricane rolls through every couple years. If you're new to an area, make sure you know what the local "regular" emergency is.

Some of these are a bit of a harder sell, I think. 

  • Flashlights (that you can find in the dark)
  • Spare batteries
  • Candles/Lighter
  • Water (ready.gov says one gallon per person per day, and have enough for 3 days)
  • Non perishable food (ideally that doesn't need to be cooked, e.g. canned goods)
  • Manual can opener
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Action: check out ready.gov for the emergencies that are most common for your area, and read their recommendations

Bigger Preparations

This list goes a bit beyond the basics:
  • A "Go Bag" (something pre-packed that you can grab and go)
  • A fire-safe lock box (not only does this protect your documents, but it helps in organizing that there is an obvious place where these important documents go, and not just "somewhere in that file drawer...or somewhere else")
  • Back up your data in the cloud
  • Moar water, moar food


Comment author: iarwain1 01 April 2014 02:08:18PM 1 point [-]

What are rational approaches to preparing on an individual level for the possible occurrence of various types of catastrophes? I'm not referring to proactively trying to stop the catastrophes, but rather to being prepared in case something does happen. I'm primarily interested in global catastrophes (pandemic, economic catastrophe, solar flare knocking out the internet, etc.). But I'm also curious about rationalists living in areas susceptible to regional disasters (local economic collapse, wars, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, ecological disasters, etc.) - what do you do to prepare for these possibilities?

Comment author: daenerys 02 April 2014 11:52:16PM 2 points [-]

I have a draft of a post relating to Emergency Preparedness. I can probably fish it out and post it.

Comment author: chaosmage 06 March 2014 09:00:12AM 5 points [-]

One area of my life I'd like to optimize is my cleaning. What I have is habits I picked up from others, what I want is knowledge of which tasks have which effects, so I can focus on what makes sense and leave out steps that are just a waste of time.

Anybody have a good source for that?

I'm aware that a good solution would be to hand everything over to a cleaning person. But if I do that, I'd still want to know what exactly I want to pay for.

Comment author: daenerys 11 March 2014 10:11:42AM 1 point [-]

Organizing is investment cleaning. It takes a lot more time in the beginning (it will even look WORSE mid-project), but once you have a place for everything it is SO much quicker and easier to put everything in its place. If your area isn't organized, then you have to think about each think you pick up or clean. Where does this go? Where should I put it? Once you've organized, cleaning is a simple process of putting things back where they belong.

Some heuristics: Things you use frequently should be easy to get to, and easy to put away. For example put your most frequent coat on a hook, not hanger. You want to have shelf space and or a canvas box that is currently empty, to use for future miscellaneous items. Don't be hesitant to just get rid of things.

Re: Picking Up- The number one most important thing to take care of is trash/garbage. Pick it up, put it in a bag, take it out. Do not let it accumulate. This leads to smells and contributes most to a feeling of "grossness". Kitty litter also falls under this category. Number two thing to pick up is clothes. They go in a hamper. For people on this site, number three is probably books. Clothes and books both have the quality of being large, often strewn about, and easy to pick up.

Comment author: Coscott 04 March 2014 04:11:00AM *  7 points [-]

I am getting married in less than a month, and I just realized that the wedding is probably the Schelling point event of my life. Therefore, if I were to make a commitment to change something about myself, now is probably the time to do it. It seems to me that If I want to make a short term resolution to change something about myself, I should start on New Years Day, so that I can have that extra push of being able to say "I have not done X this year." However, If I want to make a long term change, the best time to do it is probably the wedding, since it is probably the Schelling point of events in my life.

So what are some useful commitments I can make in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?

One idea is to get a "Precommitment Journal", and commit to follow anything that I write down in there, but in that case, I have technically followed everything I have written in that non-existent journal, so that commitment does not really need a Schelling point start date.

Comment author: daenerys 04 March 2014 08:39:38PM *  9 points [-]

I would say the big one to start is Family Traditions, and the like. Ideas:

  • A weekly or bi-weekly date night where you go do something different (no dinner-and-a-movie.)

  • If you don't usually have a "Family Dinner", make one day of the week a "Family Dinner" night.

  • Weekly or monthly get-together where you can hash out plans, see what's been problematic, hopefully correct things before they lead to arguments, etc

  • The yearly traditions such as: having a jar where you write down all the awesome things that happened on slips of paper, and read the paper on New Years, various holiday traditions, or yearly vacations, or whatnot

Comment author: daenerys 01 March 2014 06:29:23AM 5 points [-]

Someone was asking a while back for meetup descriptions, what you did/ how it went, etc. Figured I'd post some Columbus Rationality videos here. All but the last are from the mega-meetup.

Jesse Galef on Defense Against the Dark Arts: The Ethics and Psychology of Persuasion

Eric on Applications of Models in Everyday Life (it's good, but skip about 10-15 minutes when there's herding-cats-nitpicky audience :P)

Elissa on Effective Altruism

Rita on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Don on A Synergy of Eastern and Western Approaches

Gleb on Setting and Achieving Goals

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 01 February 2014 08:55:32PM 0 points [-]

Fiction Books Thread

Comment author: daenerys 01 February 2014 11:01:30PM *  7 points [-]

It's been mentioned before a couple years ago, but I highly recommend The Steerswoman's Road. Definitely what we would consider to be rationalist "fantasy", though as the protagonist applies logic and scientific reasoning, it becomes more of a sci fi.

From a blogger who explains better than I could: "Too much science fiction glorifies mere scientific fact and appeals to scientific authority. Such books are doomed to obsolescence as the state of the art passes them by. Rosemary Kirstein’s books, in contrast, are made timeless by their emphasis on the process of science, which anyone can do. The Steerswoman is a fun work of fantasy fiction with dragons, sword fights, and magic — and also a well-honed work of science fiction, demanding to know the answers to hard questions and the logic behind the magic. The Steerswoman lets the reader watch as the characters use the scientific method to discover the true nature of their world. I cannot recommend this book, and its sequels, highly enough."

Comment author: NoahTheDuke 22 January 2014 03:33:02AM 1 point [-]

I'd love to hear more about the bot. How does it work? Where is it run? Can others access it too?

Comment author: daenerys 22 January 2014 03:48:27AM *  5 points [-]

I don't speak Computer, but this is the bot: http://aaronparecki.com/articles/2011/02/12/1/loqi-the-friendly-irc-bot

We use him in a company hipchat room, and I don't know if he has been altered/reprogrammed in any way to run auctions.

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