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

In response to How to grow faster
Comment author: [deleted] 22 July 2015 10:41:33AM *  3 points [-]

Early in life we learn amazingly fast, but as we transition into adulthood our cognitive development plateaus

Which is a hardware change and you recommend software solutions. The solutions are generally good - they are just general good habits for developing in any field - but it seems to me the answer to this kind of change lies more in nootropics or anti-aging supplements, so chemical / hardware. L-theanine + coffee(in) are always a good start for cracking a tough problem.

(BTW does anyone know what is the closest, in most jurisdictions legal, and mostly safe equivalent to ephedrine? I tried that when I was in the Netherlands when it was still legal and it gave a really big cognitive boost. Reduced appetite and more energy to work out was also a nice bonus. I would occasionally want to use a legal and safer "light version" of that. The last I heard was geranium oil and green coffee beans.)

In response to comment by [deleted] on How to grow faster
Comment author: ephion 22 July 2015 06:21:15PM 0 points [-]

Which jurisdictions? It is legal in the US as Bronkaid. You have to sign for it at a pharmacy, but I have never been turned down for it.

Comment author: spxtr 02 October 2014 02:41:16AM 7 points [-]

Any love for metal on LW?

Comment author: ephion 14 October 2014 05:23:31PM 2 points [-]

Ne Obliviscaris's new song is absurdly good. Actually all of their music is amazing.

Comment author: therufs 17 September 2014 03:17:15PM 8 points [-]

As I was finishing my run today, I noticed that I felt a lot less grumpy and worn out and "whew I'll be glad when this is over" than I often do, which I attribute to finishing my mileage on a gentle decline, rather than at the top of a hill. Then I remembered Kahnemann's colonoscopy study and realized I might be able to harness the peak-end rule to lessen my aversion to running!

This is the first time (that I remember) that I feel like I've gotten my hands on a cheat code and known how to use it. Still trying to decide whether to start by trying to optimize every aversive task or cackling maniacally!

Comment author: ephion 18 September 2014 04:07:20PM 2 points [-]

This is an awesome trick, and I'm going to incorporate it. Thanks!

Comment author: ephion 14 September 2014 03:16:48AM *  17 points [-]

Go to lesswrong.com. See how the 'Main' link is bolded? Click on Discussion. Now Discussion is bolded, and we're in the Discussion section. Ah, so that means I must have just left Main. Let's go back by clicking on Main. Wait, why am I in a different discussion section now? I thought Main was what I saw when I went to the url!

I can't be the only person that is confused by that UI choice. I wasn't aware that 'Main' even had articles for months because of that.

Another UI issue: In Discussion, clicking the big LessWrong logo takes me to... Discussion. In Main (diiscussion forum, not front page of site), clicking the same logo takes me to the front page of the site. These really ought to have the same behavior.

The Sequences are one of the more important parts of LW, but actually getting there isn't immediately obvious. A "Start reading here!" link near the top would be tremendously helpful for new people.

Comment author: Algernoq 22 July 2014 01:38:42AM *  5 points [-]

I'd like to see more "calm discussion" of status differentials in relationships, because a general solution here would address nearly all concerns about polyamory. Thanks to HPMOR for helping me understand the real world.

One recipe for being a player is to go after lower-status (less-attractive) people, fulfill their romantic needs with a mix of planned romance, lies and bravado, have lots of sex, and then give face-saving excuses when abandoning them.

This isn't illegal. It's very difficult to prosecute actually giving other people STDs, or coercing them into sex. Merely telling lies to get sex (or, to swap genders and stereotype, get status and excessive support without providing sex) isn't so bad in comparison.

I'm indignant at Evolution (not at polyamory, monogamy, men, etc.) because I strongly suspect several of my previous partners were raped, and unable to prosecute it. They sort-of got over it and just didn't tell future partners (me) about it. My evidence for this includes being told stories that sounded like half-truths (a stalker followed me! and I was drugged! and now I have this scar! but nothing happened!) and overly-specific denials (nothing's happened to me that would give me panic attacks!). Another quoted a book about recovering from sexual assault. I haven't actually asked any of them, but I don't want to because this conversation would be massively unpleasant as well as unhelpful. Hypothetically:
F: So, yeah. That happened.
M: I'm sorry, not your fault, etc...
M: So, you know who did it?
F: ...yes (in 90% of cases)
M: I want to know who so...
F: No. I'm not a barbarian. Let's move forward.
M: If (when) someone threatens you again, will you threaten them back?
F: No. Again, I'm not a barbarian. I'll avoid them socially but that's it, and I'm out of luck if they're not breaking any laws in public.
M: In my experience with bullies, they don't care about social punishment. They only care about credible physical or legal threats. They're also generally cowards...
F: That's horrifying! I'd never threaten anyone like that!
M: OK, threatening mutually assured destruction comes more naturally to some people than others. Will you at least tell me if you feel scared because someone is pushing your boundaries...
F: No!
M: Well, I don't want to let people push you around and disrupt both of our lives even more. The alternatives (getting rid of privacy, or always carrying high-powered non-lethal weapons) seem more inconvenient. What do you think?
F: I think I'm breaking up with you, because you're creepy.

I am tired of realizing that people I care about were damaged by abusive relationships, and I'm tired of competing with sociopaths in dating and at work. There aren't any good alternatives (ignoring the evil is irrational and near-impossible, fighting the evil is creepy and near-impossible, and becoming a player makes me sad). The "winning" strategy seems to be narcissism and salesmanship -- a mix of Donald Trump and Richard Feynman -- and not feeling guilty about hurting other people. My current "good" strategy is being single and focusing on technical skills now to minimize baggage in the future. Given that Einstein and JFK are adored despite their numerous affairs, perhaps I should update this, or hurry up and invent (a Hobbesian) Leviathan.

without people getting indignant at you

In summary, don't fuck your cultists unless you've turned evil.

Comment author: ephion 25 July 2014 08:18:19PM 5 points [-]

I'd like to see more "calm discussion" of status differentials in relationships, because a general solution here would address nearly all concerns about polyamory.

What concerns do you have, exactly? I've found that the increased fluidity and flexibility inherent to polyamory (vs monogamy, it can't touch singlehood there) are great for reducing the impact and duration for potentially abusive or unhealthy situations, as a) people often have other partners who can help mediate conflicts or alert red flags, b) to isolate a person, the abuser has to go to the additional step of having the person break up with all of their partners. Furthermore, individuals tend toward more satisfying relationships as time goes on as the availability of other relationships tends to either cause less healthy/happy relationships to take less time/attention from the people involved or grow into more healthy/happy relationships.

One recipe for being a player is to go after lower-status (less-attractive) people, fulfill their romantic needs with a mix of planned romance, lies and bravado, have lots of sex, and then give face-saving excuses when abandoning them.

We aren't talking about poly anymore, right? Because this would get a person a terrible reputation in any of the poly circles I know. Or, any social circle I'm a part of at all. Any social scene where this isn't frowned upon isn't the kind of scene I'd like to be a part of.

Comment author: Algernoq 13 July 2014 11:20:30PM *  5 points [-]

I agree, I don't see how polyamory or MIRI's research can be called "less wrong" than the alternatives.

A common LW belief is that polyamory is a better way to have relationships for most people. I disagree. I see how polyamory is the "best" way for a selfish, pleasure-seeking child-free high-status leader to have relationships.

Comment author: ephion 14 July 2014 08:03:37PM 9 points [-]

In my experience with the LW community, they see polyamory as an equally valid alternative to monogamy. Many practice, many don't, and poly people include those with children and those without.

Comment author: sediment 14 July 2014 05:16:22PM *  18 points [-]

Request for advice:

Like many people on lesswrong, I probably lie towards the smart end of the bell curve in terms of intelligence, but I'm starting to suspect that I lie somewhere below the mean in terms of ability to focus, concentrate, and direct my attention.

I only recently became concerned about this because it wasn't much of a problem when I was in school. There, I was able to do acceptably well overall by doing well in the subjects that came easily to me without working hard (science, maths... you know the score) and mediocrely in those that didn't. Ditto my undergrad/bachelor's degree.

But I'm currently struggling rather with the thesis project for my master's degree in computer science. The specifics of the thesis itself don't matter, other than that it's a piece of empirical/numerical research involving a lot of coding and a prose write-up. None of the technical aspects of it are beyond me, and yet I feel like in some way it's the first very difficult thing I've ever tried, really tried, at. The hard part is sustaining interest over the whole length of the thing, planning and organizing the overarching, erm, arc of the project as a whole, and forming a 'narrative' out of all the hard-won bits and pieces of data. (I suppose the fact that I feel fairly sure that the project is likely to find a negative result (i.e. that the method under inspection doesn't offer any gains over simpler methods) also doesn't help my motivation.) Luckily, I did well enough in the taught part of my course that I only need to get a mediocre mark in this part in order to get a 'merit' overall.

But I'm also concerned about how this bodes for my future career. I'd like to do well in work, but I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm deficient in a skill which would allow me to do much better.

To convey what I'm talking about: often when I'm trying to work at home I flit between coding for work, reading, coding for fun, listening to music, etc., etc., etc., and consequent don't engage with any of them very deeply, or get much done. Also, I have almost always taken a very long time to get to sleep, often an hour or more, because I find it hard to 'switch off' my brain when I'm in bed and have decided it's time to go to sleep. (I've recently been making the paradoxical attempt to try very hard to switch my brain off and stop thinking in bed, with, surprisingly, some limited success.)

I feel like I lack the five-second level skill to suppress (or at least, to decline to pursue) any old interesting thought which appears while I'm doing something else.

Things I've attempted:

  • Meditation. It seems plausible that meditating could help to 'train' deliberate attention direction in other aspects of life. Does anyone have any experience with this? I tried checking the literature, and found only one weak-ish study supporting such a hypothesis, but I'd be open to anecdotal evidence. I've tried to meditate a few times (less than ten), for about half an hour each time. The first couple of times I became weirdly aggravated and agitated at how bad at it I was: I was frustrated by the realization that something as simple as focusing on one thing and avoiding other thoughts was beyond me. After the first couple of times, I no longer find it aggravating, but I have yet to find it rewarding, either. I haven't yet managed to obtain the focused, quiet state which I understand is the aim, at least for more than a handful of seconds a couple of times. (Is this normal beginner-level performance?)
  • Pomodoros. I've had some success with doing pomodoros of work, including beeminding them, but I find that they're best suited to well-defined, discrete tasks. Tasks which are more nebulous seem less suited to it. Also, I find it hard to do pomodoros unless I'm feeling high-willpower, but perhaps this is fixable with, erm, the application of more willpower.

Things I've considered but haven't attempted:

  • Medication, self-. Is this the sort of thing which would be amenable to a course of Modafinil, or some other nootropic? I could be open to trying this, if it were likely to work.
  • Medication, other. I could try seeing a doctor to see if what I'm talking about warrants a diagnosis of ADD, and a prescription of Ritalin or a similar drug. I have no idea whether what I'm describing would be considered drastic enough to warrant either of those, though.

Any experience with any of the above, speculation on which of them might bear fruit, or suggestions of completely different ideas welcome.

Is this the sort of thing that can be 'trained' through willpower? It seems like a fairly 'deep', even a fundamental, aspect of brain function, so I wonder how plastic such a thing is. Any thoughts on this welcome also.

Finally, am I just worrying too much about this? I was recently heartened to come across this Nassim Nicholas Taleb quote:

If you get easily bored, it means that your BS detector is functioning properly; if you forget (some) things, it means that your mind knows how to filter; and if you feel sadness, it means that you are human.

Perhaps I just have a very stringent bullshit detector. Evidence in favour of this proposal: I think I am able to focus extremely well on personal projects (typically things that I code for fun and find intrinsically rewarding). In fact, when I stop those, it's less often from boredom and more by guiltily tearing myself away in order to get back to my "real" work. (On the other hand, perhaps there's such a thing as a too-stringent bullshit detector - one so stringent as to give false positives.)

Summary: I'm concerned that my focus/concentration skills are significantly worse than average, and that this could be detrimental to my outcomes in life. How can I improve them?

Comment author: ephion 14 July 2014 06:50:20PM 3 points [-]

Huh -- I've found that pomodoros help me stay on task tremendously. I generally keep a timer tab open, and my brain seems to think "Oh, I can avoid facebook for another five minutes... let's keep working!"

Comment author: David_Gerard 14 July 2014 04:49:36PM *  0 points [-]

Apparently turning techno into an ear-bashing brick wall with that particular distortion (I'm not quite sure what it is ... it's flattening the amplitude of the whole, so that'd be an AM spectrum of a few Hz around everything) that sounds tolerable on headphones and in clubs but shitty on speakers at normal volume doesn't constitute "ruining quality". [themoreyouknow.gif]

But yes, it's the One Weird Trick that made a bunch of stuff sound much more like I actually wanted it to. It's a bit better applied per-instrument (especially bass, or percussion as a group) than to the whole - then it's just another effect.

Comment author: ephion 14 July 2014 05:08:51PM 1 point [-]

Interesting! I have no experience with techno, but my genre of specialty (metal) is also subject to the loudness war. Generally I've found that clipping effects (the free gclip vst is great for this) is good for reducing the imperceptible attack on drums, and some side chain compression to duck the bass when the kick hits are most of what's necessary to be able to apply heavy compression and volume increasing without sacrificing too much quality.

Comment author: eggman 14 July 2014 03:56:38PM 2 points [-]

Uh, I've trawled through Wikipedia for the causes, and symptoms, of mental illnesses, and, according to my doctors (general practitioner, and psychiatrist), I've been good at identifying what I'm experiencing before I've gone to see them about it. The default case is that patients just go to the doctor, report their symptoms, answer questions about their lifestyle lately, and the doctors take care of diagnoses, and/or assigning treatment. I choose to believe that I have such clarity about my own mental processes because my doctors tell me how impressed they are when I come to them seeming to already know what I'm experiencing. I don't know why this is, but my lazy hypothesis is chalking it up to me being smart (people I know tell me this more than I would expect), and that I've become more self-reflective after having attended a CFAR workshop.

Of course, both my doctors, and I, could be prone to confirmation bias, which would be a scary result. Anyway, I've had a similar experience of observing my own behavior, realizing it's abnormal, and being proactive about seeking medical attention. Still, for everyone, diagnosing yourself by trawling Wikipedia, or WebMD, seems a classic example of an exercise prone to confirmation bias (e.g., experiencing something like medical student's disease). This post is a signal that I've qualified my concerns through past experience, and that I encourage you to both seek out a psychiatrist, as I don't expect that to result in a false negative diagnosis, and also to still be careful as you think about this stuff.

Comment author: ephion 14 July 2014 04:54:49PM 3 points [-]

I really appreciate the words of caution. I don't plan on priming the doctor about what I think I have (consciously), and instead just describe my family history and symptoms. Knowing about the medical student's disease and difficulty of self-diagnosis leads me to weight the opinion of an expert higher than my own opinion.

Comment author: ephion 14 July 2014 01:14:45PM 10 points [-]

Man! Last month I posted that I had learned some HTML/CSS/JS and made a really basic website. This month, I learned that I made an A in my CS101 class, am currently making an A in my CS102 class, and picked up a part time internship doing web/mobile (phonegap) development for a startup in my town. I've also started designing a website I want to make, and have built a dev VM with Ruby on Rails built in and configured.

I've got all my financial stuff together to start going back to school full time in the spring, and I'll graduate with my BS Computer Science in Spring 2016.

I've used Pomodoro time management to balance my two partners, full time job, school, internship, and powerlifting.

I also realized that I really should go to a psychiatrist about potentially having bipolar II, as this is a pretty classic hypomanic phase immediately following a depressive phase.

View more: Next