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Comment author: Benquo 26 April 2017 09:39:56PM 0 points [-]

If I were against mimesis and perceptual learning, I'd have to be against babies, but babies are good.

It makes sense that people who haven't learned the syntax at all might have to learn that before learning substance. But it sounds like the sort of pedagogy you're describing is trying to pretend to teach things much faster than most of the students are ready for.

Comment author: drossbucket 27 April 2017 07:39:21PM 0 points [-]

Hm, I think people vary a lot on this. I like to have a blurred outline of a thing before I fill in detailed steps; I find it painful and frustrating to be dragged through detailed logical steps without that context. I find mimesis is good for producing the blurred outline.

Agreed that classes also often go way too fast. University intro maths courses (in the UK at least) are often pretty terrible for this. But I have no problem in principle with people learning a mix of syntax and substance at the same time.

Comment author: drossbucket 26 April 2017 06:23:14PM *  2 points [-]

I like this, but I don't think mimesis is always a bad thing, at all. It's often a useful stage on the route to deeper understanding. You see this in teaching sometimes: you're trying to teach the cross product, but they're learning that they need to underline their vectors, and that they should put some punctuation and explanatory words between their equations so another person can follow the argument. Eventually they will definitely need to learn both sets of things, but if you just get back vector salad with explanatory words interpolated between it they've still learned something that will be useful in their mathematical career.

I've never been a teaching assistant for a proofs course, but I imagine you have to mark a lot of epsilon salad, because I'm pretty sure I produced a lot of epsilon salad as a student in the course of internalising the language.

These days as a relatively noob programmer it's normally me doing the babbling, and I've used this strategy consciously: offer up some network protocol salad or version control salad and gauge from my boss's face how much it sounds like the real thing. I find that when I've filled in an outline like that and know roughly how to talk a language, it's much easier to fill in the detailed steps.

Comment author: moridinamael 11 April 2017 04:18:19PM *  3 points [-]
  • Daily journaling, -2 points, consistently for stints of a month or so with large gaps. I tried to keep up a morning journaling practice of gratitude journaling, priming myself on a number of important meta-level questions, and keeping track of what I was planning to do that day in pursuit of my high-level goals. In the end, all this really did was take up a lot of time every morning and leave me with a sort of scattered and unsatisfied mentality about how there's so much to do.

  • Monthly journaling, +7 points, pretty consistently for 3 years. At the start of each month I open up a new Evernote document and write in it whenever I feel like it. Some of my journal entries are ten thousand word essays. Some of them are just aggregations of links that I thought were interesting that month. Usually the entries are divided by topic, with some of the topics usually being physical health, mental/"spiritual" development, and progress on long-term projects or life events. At the end of each month, I share the journal entry with a handful of very close friends. The journal provides a nice long-term record of my thought processes regarding my life and my projects, it's really nice to be able to look back over it, and it never at any time feels like a chore. It keeps me focused and excited about my long-term projects because I like to have progress that I can write about and share with my friends.

  • Beeminder, +3 points, off and on for over 3 years. That point score might drop lower if I fully accounted for all the time I put into thinking through Beeminder goals, and for all the money I've lost by failing at them. Some Beeminder goals turn out to be good, some turn out to just make you hate Beeminder and not do what you wanted to do anyway. Just making sure your goals are SMART goals does not seem to be an adequate criterion.

  • Getting Things Done, +1 points, off and on for over 4 years. A system which sucks up a large amount of time and rarely provides a return on that investment, relative to just mentally keeping track of things. I can't really say that I drop the ball more frequently when I'm not actively using GTD.

  • Meditation, +3 points, off and on for 3 years. The utility of meditation depends very much on what's going on in my life.

  • Exercise, +4 points, random stints. While I'm consistently working out, my energy and emotional-endocrine-whatever balance seems much better and I get more done. I'm just in a better mood overall.

  • Children, +10 points, 4.5 years. You can't really not do things when you have children. That "I'll do it later" voice just kind of shrivels up and dies eventually, at least regarding kid-related stuff.

  • Following obsession energy, +10 points, 3 years. I've written a book and an iPhone app just by noticing that I was really excited about those projects and feeding those obsessions, riding those waves until they ran out. They always run out eventually, but I accomplish so much more for having let just let myself loose and not trying to constrain myself to working on what I "should" be working on.

Comment author: drossbucket 12 April 2017 05:06:39PM *  0 points [-]

I like the sound of the monthly journalling thing - normally I see reviewing included in these things as some kind of virtuous-but-dull thing people make themselves sit down to do at the end of the week or whatever, and it sounds so unappealing I can never be bothered to even try it. Your version sounds pretty enjoyable.

Comment author: drossbucket 10 April 2017 07:10:30PM *  5 points [-]

Cool, I like these sorts of lists! Here's mine:

  1. (Mostly) giving up caffeine. 7 points, ~5 years. Much easier to get up in the morning. I have a single cup of tea maybe once or twice a month if I feel like I need waking up more, and that's enough to do the job now. Best used in combination with another elite lifehack, highly recommended if you can manage it:

  2. Getting enough sleep. 7 points, ~5 years.

  3. Pomodoros. 8 points, ~9 months. Really excellent and not sure why I resisted the idea so long. Turns out lots of half hour blocks really add up, and it's significantly changed how I work. This is a relatively recent thing so probably still overexcited about it.

  4. Keeping my desk clear of paper. 6 points, ~2 years. I used to be awful at having stuff piled up everywhere, which would put me off working at home and convince me that I had to go to a library or something. This works by having box files so that the paper never ends up there in the first place.

  5. Lot of calendar reminder email alerts. 4 points, ~3 years. Not exactly life-changing but I have fewer birthday present buying panics.

  6. Todoist. 3 points, ~9 months. It has Gmail integration so I do check it, and it sort of works, but gets clogged with stale stuff too easily. I generally find todo lists hard though so this is good by my standards.

  7. Beeminder. 5 points (but hard to attach a single number to), used for ~4 months 2 years ago and then stopped. Extremely effective way to simulate the stress of having a lot of external deadlines. It worked brilliantly on a time-sensitive project I had, but too stress-inducing for me to want to use permanently. It did do an excellent job of reminding me what being a productive person felt like, and I'd use it again if I really needed to, but mostly it just made me realise I needed to get my internal motivation working better.

  8. Leechblock type browser extensions. 4 points, used them on and off for ~4 years up to about two years ago. I think the one I liked most was called Crackbook, which added a delay to the page load time instead of outright blocking it. They tend to work OK until they don't. There's no particular reason I stopped using them, except that the problem doesn't seem so urgent now I have a normal full time job and value my free time a bit more.

Comment author: Elo 28 February 2017 08:41:40PM 2 points [-]

ChristianKl has it as a pet project, a few of us have read the book, the original audiobook is the best source apparently. It seems to have some legitimacy about it, essentially trying to give a way of S1 to communicate with S2.

There is nothing mysterious about it. You set up some conditions that should make it easier for the two systems to communicate through sensory perceptions. Thinking of a problem, thinking of a feeling of "broken" that represents that problem, like a knot. Then think of what it would take to fix that broken feeling, like untying the knot or unravelling the spaghetti. Then try to put that solution feeling into words for yourself.

except with some better direction and hints than two sentences, and a meditative environment.

Comment author: drossbucket 01 March 2017 07:23:02PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for the extra description, that's helpful! I might give the audiobook a go then.

Comment author: ChristianKl 01 March 2017 12:16:58PM 2 points [-]

The official website is http://www.focusing.org/index.html . It contains a basic description of the technique and references to various resources.

A 2001 article suggests that around that time there were around 80 studies done on Focusing.

Picking up the skill simply by reading the explanation of the official website might require familiarity with the basic concepts that are involved that most people might not have. A few LW people found the Focusing audiobook helpful.

After having done a lot of research into teaching rationality CFAR seems to consider it to be a basic building stone that's worthwhile to teach.

I personally taught Focusing workshops at the last two European Community Weekends and I think two times to our LessWrong Dojo.

Comment author: drossbucket 01 March 2017 07:19:41PM 0 points [-]

Thanks very much! Yes I wasn't really expecting to be able to pick up too much from an online explanation, but a bit of context is nice to decide whether to explore further. It sounds like the audiobook would be a good resource after that.

Comment author: ChristianKl 28 February 2017 08:23:45AM 0 points [-]

Do you know how many people who participate in the CFAR focusing workshop got Focusing enough to fell a felt shift?

Comment author: drossbucket 28 February 2017 07:28:17PM *  0 points [-]

Another question on the subject of Focusing: is anyone able to point to any good online resources explaining what it is / how to try it / any theoretical background it has?

On the one hand, I'm fascinated by pre-verbal, 'embodied' aspects of thinking, and this 'felt sense' idea sounds well worth exploring. On the other hand, as with anything in the self-help-adjacent area there looks to be a lot of dubious stuff and people wanting to sell you things, and if anyone has already looked into this and can save me from wading through the rubbish I'd really appreciate it.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 28 January 2017 09:46:05PM 5 points [-]

The executive summary would be that TAPs are cfar discovering one of these. You can hit various systems with the decomposition hammer and you'll start to see the more common pieces crop up over and over. OODA loop, GTD, analogical reasoning, sorting schemes for prioritization. The tell tale sign of one of these is that you can feed it to itself, which indicates it is flexible enough to take all sorts of arguments.

I'll try to write a short post on it at some point.

Comment author: drossbucket 29 January 2017 08:24:59PM 0 points [-]

Thanks, that's useful! A post on this some time sounds good.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 28 January 2017 07:02:42AM *  13 points [-]

This is inspiring, thank you.

Edit crossposted:

The past 18 months have seen what subjectively feels like more progress than the previous 8 years combined. Inspired by this post I want to briefly outline my current guesses for what the inputs to this have been. Why do I consider myself to have leveled up?

  1. I can trace the genesis of experiences in a much less flinchy, moralizing, or otherwise unhelpful way. This is a dramatic performance improvement for the debugging console, making me more likely to use it.

  2. I consume more worthwhile material than at any previous point in my life, while taking detailed notes that allow me to refer back to it systematically.

  3. As a result of 1, iterating habits is much more effective. All of my self care: sleep, exercise, diet, etc. have improved in ways I expect to be more robust (though not immune) to disruption.

  4. Noticeable decrease in neuroticism. I.e. negative moods are less harsh and shorter in duration.

  5. Noticeable decrease in stress and reactivity. People yelling in my face (including people who have power over processes vital to projects) hasn't bothered me much lately whereas before it would have me shaken for days, and likely cause an unpleasant recall months or years later.

  6. It feels like there is more room in my mind to think bigger, more complex thoughts.

  7. Feel more excited and less defensive when encountering critical feedback or the idea that I have a blindspot.

  8. Far fewer problems seem intractable.

  9. My problem decomposition skills seem improved in the sense that when I talk over problems with intelligent friends I often feel it is easy to point out many potentially useful distinctions that their current model does not make and suggest ways we might test them. I can also rubber duck my own plans in this way and improve their quality dramatically. It's not that this didn't happen before, but there is a sharp clarity that wasn't there before.

Things that seem to have helped (lots of potential confounding with the biggest one being age. I am somewhat disinclined to believe that due to the suddenness of the shift. Shrug.):

  1. Movement. Sure, having an exercise habit, but also just physically altering my state when I am not functioning well gets things working more often than not. Weights, cardio, yoga, but also just walking and sit stand desk ($30 from Ikea parts).

  2. Info triaging. Reading many things at a coarser level and prioritizing more ruthlessly based on what seems valuable, alive. This is a rather pithy description for something of such vast value. It is probably worth a post. (huge ht to Alex Ray for finally finally convincing me to actually do this.)

  3. Developing exobrain systems that work for me in a pleasant rather than onerous, virtue based way. eg I use workflowy, pomodoros, and konmarie like systems a lot. I find many other systems for organizing my priorities to be unpleasant, so I don't use them. Note I said organize my priorities, I don't use such systems in order to try to make myself work. Once I stopp thinking of these as 'productivity systems' I started getting tons of value out of them. That frame is propaganda for an internal fight that it's better to get a ceasefire on rather than developing ever more powerful weapons for.

  4. Noticing negative self talk and not putting up with it. Internal parts that are motivated to get something can engage respectfully with other parts/values or they can be ignored. This got more subtle as I got better at it. I went from noticing explicitly violent internal moves (yelling, shaming, etc.) to noticing that parts use things like hypnotic binding, misleading choice of words to frame issues etc. Your parts are as smart as you because they are you. (sometimes they seem smarter because systems arrived at via selection don't have to stick to a particular abstraction level the way explicitly planned ones do)

  5. Internalizing the core framework of coherence therapy and Immunity to Change by Kegan: that your current bugs/negative emotions/etc. are trying to help you and if you don't acknowledge the important job they are doing any fighting you do against them likely won't work. Or in other words, akrasia is self healing unless you figure out the ways your current coping strategies are helping you get your needs met and you find alternate ways.

  6. I don't know what to call this one that won't induce an eye roll. To paraphrase Lama Yeshe: 'I am not telling you to help others as some sort of virtuous commandment. I am saying that from a 100% selfish standpoint you should try out focusing on the needs of others. Try it for 3 weeks, and honestly evaluate if your life is better. If not, you never have to do it again. But it will likely be impossible not to notice how much better things go when you get in the habit of keeping a lookout for ways you can assist others in their positive goals. No one is telling you to give up your critical faculties and be taken advantage of. And you'll find that your paranoia was unwarranted.' I'll note that if you are secretly keeping a tally of how people owe you you are not doing the thing. This might be semi-involuntary and take conscious effort to drop. Others might be wary as they suspect you of angling for some advantage. Let them in on the secret that you are being selfish. Those you genuinely enjoy helping and those you don't will work itself out naturally.

  7. My attention span has improved dramatically as a result of significantly reduced use of super stimuli (news feeds, video games, pornography, super stimulating foods, hero's journey fiction, hyper attention grabbing style music, frequency of hamster pellet checks (fb, email, messaging, etc.), video binging) and the resulting free time is shocking.

  8. Schematizing everything. This is an improvement not to normal mental tools but to the mental toolbox. Collecting schematic workflows that other tools can be plugged in to for specific tasks. There are far fewer of these and they assist in the mental availability of the correct mental tools because they have what Eugene Gendlin calls a 'specific' or 'sharp' blank. ie a blank that knows what it is looking for (what was that word? no that's not it etc.). Ever wonder why you can remember thousands of words but not 100 mental tools? Because you have a rich associational web for your words (connotation space) but not one for mental tools. This starts fixing that. The sooner you start the better.

  9. Noting (outlined here: http://lesswrong.com/…/triaging_mental_phenomena_or_leveli…/).

  10. Rituals make your life more like Groundhog Day. Mainly used for the meta-habits of setting intentions around other habits and doing reflection. A morning and evening routine is very worth it. It will repeatedly fail, you have to keep iterating so it fits your current life.

  11. Climbing out of the valley of bad meta of believing if I just installed the correct set of mental tools and habits that things would magically fall into place at some indeterminate point in the future. Realizing that I can't use the outputs of other people's processes as my process (as you would be doing if you tried to instantiate this list as a set of processes rather than using it as inspiration to examine your own life more closely)

  12. Meta: carefully investigating motivation, prioritizing, meaning, the concept of 'carefully investigating', goals, systems, mental tools, mental states, search strategies, what counts as an explanation, tacit vs explicit, procedural vs declarative, and others.

Comment author: drossbucket 28 January 2017 11:18:18AM *  2 points [-]

Item eight of your second list ('schematizing everything') sounds really interesting. Is it possible to give some specific examples? I'd like to get clearer on what you mean by 'schematic workflows that other tools can be plugged into'.

Comment author: shev 19 January 2017 08:00:00PM *  2 points [-]

I only heard this phrase "postrationality" for the first time a few days ago, maybe because I don't keep up with the rationality-blog-metaverse that well, and I really don't understand it.

All the descriptions I come across when I look for them seem to describe "rationality, plus being willing to talk about human experience too", but I thought the LW-sphere was already into talking about human experience and whatnot. So is it just "we're not comfortable talking about human experience on in the rationalist sphere so we made our own sphere"? That is, a cultural divide?

That first link writes "Postrationality recognizes that System 1 and System 2 (if they even exist) have different strengths and weaknesses, and what we need is an appropriate interplay between the two.". Yet I would imagine everyone on LW would be interested in talking about System 1 and how it works and anything interesting we can say about it. So what's the difference?

Comment author: drossbucket 20 January 2017 08:17:20PM 4 points [-]

I'm not a massive fan of the 'postrationality' label but I do like some of the content, so I thought I'd try and explain why I'm attracted to it. I hope this comment is not too long. I'm not deeply involved but I have spent a lot of time recently reading my way through David Chapman's Meaningness site and commenting there a bit (as 'lk').

One of my minor obsessions is thinking and reading about the role of intuition in maths. (Probably the best example of what I'm thinking of is Thurston's wonderful Proof and Progress in Mathematics.) As Thurston's essay describes, mathematicians make progress using a range of human faculties including not just logical deduction but also spatial and geometric intuition, language, metaphors and associations, and processes occurring in time. Chapman is good on this, whereas a lot of the original Less Wrong content seems to have rather a narrow focus on logic and probabilistic inference. (I think this is less true now.)

Mathematical intuition is how I normally approach this subject, but I think this is generally applicable to how we reason about all kinds of topics and come to useful conclusions. There should be a really wide variety of literature to raid for insights here. I'd expect useful contributions from fields such as phenomenology and meditation practice (and some of the 'instrumental rationality' folk wisdom) where there's a focus on introspection of private mental phenomena, and also looking at the same thing from the outside and trying to study how people in a specific field think about problems (apparently this is called 'ethnomethodology'.) There's probably also a fair bit to extract more widely from continental philosophy and pomo literature, which I know little about (I'm aware there's also lots of rubbish).

There's another side to the postrationality thing that seems to involve a strong interest in various 'social technologies' and ritual practices, which often shades into what I'll kind-of-uncharitably call LARPing various religious/traditional beliefs. I think the idea is that you have to be involved pretty deeply in some version of Buddhism/Catholicism/paganism/whatever to gain any kind of visceral understanding of what's useful there. From the outside, though, it still looks like a lot of rather uncritical acceptance of the usual sort of traditional rubbish humans believe, and getting involved with one particular type of this seems kind of arbitrary to me. (I exclude Chapman from this criticism, he is very forthright about what he think is bad/useless in Buddhism and what he thinks is worth preserving.) It's probably obvious at this point that I don't at all understand the appeal of this myself, though I'm open to learning more about it.

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