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Comment author: epigeios 14 May 2016 08:35:06AM *  1 point [-]

Soft skills are hard. I'm extremely good at learning soft skills. I try as hard as I can to teach one whenever someone desires one, but they're damn near impossible to teach. I've thus far only been successful at teaching someone how to do something related, in a way that their mind can grasp and run with, so that a few years later they will have developed the soft skill "on their own" (At which point, they will be doing exactly as I said exactly how I told them to, and they will tell me about this cool new thing they figured out how to do, and question why I didn't ever tell them to do it that way).

So rather than teach how to learn soft skills, I'm going to describe a few of the most useful soft skills I have.

  • Maximize information input in a way that maximizes timeless usability. It works like this: prioritize observations in opposite order. The observation with the highest priority is the observation that is most distant from the desired observation while still being distantly related. The observation with the lowest priority is the observation that was first intended. For example: when performing a scientific experiment, the lowest-priority observation is the result of the experiment. Literally everything you could possibly observe related to the experiment is of higher priority than the direct result of the experiment. The reason for this is that distant observations have a tendency to be more useful for the future than direct observations.
  • Minimize friction to maximize usability at detail. When welding, move the welding rod and heating device at the exact rate that keeps the rod molten, and the welding pieces not-molten. When using a common carbon fiber dremel cutting blade on metal, move the blade through the metal at the exact rate that just barely melts the metal in the direction of the cut. When hammering a nail, make the nail move at a consistent rate that is fast enough to slide past the wood, but slow enough to not split the wood (this is like air resistance at sub-sonic vs super-sonic speeds). When talking to people (assuming you want to maximize usability of the other person's mind), make statements and ask questions at a rate that doesn't overload the person's mind. When drawing a picture with a pencil, move the pencil across the medium at a rate that glides across the medium without catching on the medium.
  • Inference jump to maximize efficiency of skill gain. When developing a theory from a conceptual base, assume a related postulate to be true so that you can obtain more data from experiments. The postulate is most likely not true, but that's not important. Experimenting under the assumption that a postulate is true is very useful in determining why said postulate is not true. Believe nothing. Treat all beliefs and assumed truths as inference jumps, because doing so maximizes their use. In order to make inference jumps with highest usability, all previously beliefs should be considered irrelevant. Failing that, consider the possibility that what you know to be wrong, or believe to be wrong, is in fact true, and use that as an inference jump.

I personally think the conceptual base of Less Wrong is contrary to efficient soft skill development. However, I think the conceptual base of Less Wrong is a potentially good platform to use to begin soft skill development. The most efficient way I can think to do so is to learn to use the conceptual base of Less Wrong, then make the inference jump that everything you've learned from Less Wrong is uselessly inefficient. This is the pattern I see everywhere people strictly adhere to a conceptual base. It's almost always a good platform to expand further from, provided the expansion stops using the platform as soon as possible.

Comment author: AshwinV 18 February 2015 06:18:53AM -1 points [-]

Your inner simulator is probably more accurate than your explicit models in domains where you have a rich experience base, such as social phenomena, and day-to-day physical phenomena.

Not true. At least not likely. If it were so, then most people would pick up soft skills in a rather automatic fashion without the need for too much conscious effort (actually, any conscious effort, since if the inner simulator is more accurate, your intuitions should lead you on the correct/correct-ish path. Ceterus Paribus, this should hold true for the majority of people (i would expect around more than 90%)

Also, I have a more general comment. A large part of the strategy advocatde here seems (to me) to be divided into rough categories: Keep trying stuff and keep reading stuff. You seem to indicate that learning hard facts should be discarded when you find them to be wrong, whereas learning soft skills involves some amount of reading "wrong ideas/facts/information". I get the feeling that you're keeping a double standard here. In the sense, that the timeline for learning a hard fact seems to be almost instantaneous while soft skills seem to be a little more long term (at least that's the sense I got from reading it, as if it was implied). To further illustrate this point, consider the following thought experiment:

  1. You read in a book that gravity doesn't work on cell phones. You drop your phone and find it falls. You've learnt that gravity does in fact work.

  2. You read that flattering people doesn't help. You avoid flattering people and then suddenly notice that your competitors who flattered their bosses/colleagues/friends have advanced their careers/social position.

See, what I'm getting at?

Comment author: epigeios 14 May 2016 07:17:51AM *  0 points [-]

People's inner simulator is almost always more accurate than their explicit models. It's just less precise. The thing about your statement of [if it were more accurate, people would be using it more, and be successful at more things] requires a few initial assumptions to be true. The first is that people are able to use their inner simulator on purpose, which is usually not the case from my observation. The second is that people are able and willing to take the path indicated by their inner simulator when it contrasts with their explicit models, which is also usually not the case. Then there is an additional factor where the inner simulator can (and often does) output a result that is contrary to the facade a person is trying to keep up for social reasons, which provides an additional impetus to reject the inner simulator (even if it is indeed more accurate, and dropping the facade would be the best way to produce the desired long-term result).

In regards to learning/picking up soft skills. People do indeed pick up soft skills automatically. Soft skills are notoriously difficult to teach. Most people that learn a soft skill learn it on their own, through a long-term automatic process, after taking in information that sparks a complicated processing of that information. I've never met someone who learned a soft skill without it being at least partially automatic. There is additional complexity in this in that people are "born" with an "affinity" for certain types of soft skills, and have an extreme amount of trouble learning any soft skills outside of their affinity range.

The actual reason learning soft skills involves reading some amount of "wrong ideas/facts/information" is because the processing of information for soft skill use is different from the processing of information for explicit model use. Or more accurately, the mind has multiple ways of processing information, and is not at all limited to a neuron-only model. The method of processing information for soft skill use is more of a resonance/antenna model, which benefits from additional points of information no matter how wrong they are (as long as they are at least distantly related to something that has at least an iota of truth), up to a limit of what the resonance chamber can hold coherently.

Last, your two points in that thought experiment are explicit model only, and do not relate to soft skill learning or use. The difference would be that you have an explicit use in mind for each experiment. A soft skill necessarily has a soft use. The difficulty in translation of "flattering people doesn't help" is that such things are actually a general-scope statement, and they have to be for soft skill learning and use. So your thought experiment is akin to: "You read that white men can't jump. You ask a white man to jump, and he is successful." You're combining a general-scope statement with an explicit-scope experiment.

Comment author: epigeios 28 December 2013 02:00:01PM *  -2 points [-]

RE: your frazzled after-busy state. Yeah, breathing meditation at that time is not only hard, it's kinda pointless. Well, until you get to the point where you can either enter a state of right-brain flow on purpose, or enter a REM-like state on purpose. When you can do those, breath control is a natural part of it.

A trick is to control your breath while you are busy. Every chance you get, especially when heavily focused on something, take a single slow breath, preferably into either your gut or your whole body (but just a slow breath with no direction is better than not doing it at all). If you can't do that while you are focused on something, practice. This is one of the most important things people learn by practicing QiGung or internal martial arts.

In my experience, controlling my breath while I am busy allows for a faster recovery, and lessens the need for sleep after recovery.

Comment author: epigeios 28 December 2013 01:01:06PM *  2 points [-]

Speaking form personal experience, the breathing meditation you did is what spawned the ability to be mindful of your physical state. This is because in order to successfully breathe into various areas of your body, you have to be mindful of that area. It is directly practicing physical awareness.

The fact that you have become aware of subtleties of flight-or-flight responses is extremely good. That's stage 2 of what it is possible to be mindful of.

Stage 3 is emotions. Try purposefully creating emotions. Try listening to music, and enhancing the emotions you feel from the music one at a time, and slowly. Try changing your emotions the same way you breathe into different parts of your body. Try creating an emotion when you breathe in, and letting it dissipate when you breathe out.

Stage 4 is thoughts. Stage 5 is intuition. Stage 6 is deep subconscious data grouping and relationships. Stage 7 and 8 are a lot more complicated. Stage 8 is what Taoists call "the Tao".

At stage 4, you should also begin practicing what is called "dissolving" in Taoist meditation. That's the ability to be aware of a stuck thought/feeling/whatever, and allow it to dissipate. Methods of doing this involve breathing into the very precise spot you feel is tense when you become aware of the stuck feeling, or slowly stretching and contracting that spot to get the tissues and fluids moving; and may also include image training to imagine that spot liquefying, then gassifying, then becoming a part of your breath so that you can breathe it out. The trick is to become as aware of the stuck feeling as you possibly can, and then relax it slowly. It's necessary to realize that your thoughts and feelings are connected to your fibrous body tissues in order to accomplish this (for example: thought control is connected to nerve tissue control).

Be careful of image meditation. If you choose to go beyond halfway through the path of meditation, you will have to remove all of the images you accidentally lock into your body.

PS. "stages" overlap. "stage" is a loose term I came up with to describe it just now. The Taoists call it "the 8 bodies". They're just a reference so that you can know what is possible, and approximately how much effort is required in order to accomplish it. Half way through, the game changes. All of the way through, the game changes again.

Comment author: epigeios 20 May 2013 10:22:29AM 0 points [-]

Well, I hate to say something against your post here, because I quite agree with it all. Except there is one Mind Projection Fallacy of which I question whether it was done on purpose. The fallacy where you are reducing the poem to it's parts.

The majority of poetry is metaphor. All of the specific examples in that poem are metaphors for the feeling of majesty. So to the poet, those three examples are quite the same. The poet's distaste for scientific reduction isn't that everything is explained away, it's that explaining something reduces it's perceived majesty.

Now, to us reductionists, it is the opposite. Explaining something increases it's perceived majesty. The more explanation required (literally required), the more majestic it is. The difference is a simple alignment of the feeling of majesty. Whether it be aligned to interpretation, or to perception.

So yes, believers in things will likely read the poem and presume that the poet means that rainbows are explained away. Most believers in things certainly react that way, including you. But that was not the intent of the poem (presuming the poet was not a hack). In modern times, the only reason that explanation of the poem is available to us is because we already know that mythical creatures (including ghosts) don't exist. The only reason that explanation of the poem is available to us is because most non-reductionists are actually reductionists, having a strong, deep belief that many things have been explained away by reduction.

However, back when mythical creatures like gnomes and haunts were imagined, it was not without a reason. Never assume that people are referring to mystical creatures and magic when they talk of their perception of reality. They are simply using metaphor to explain something their brain cannot grasp at the moment of perception. Most of the time, they don't even know they're doing it, and so believe the metaphor to be literal. But just because they use the wrong words, that doesn't mean their perception is false, only that their interpretation of their perception is false. The haunts in the air and the gnomes in the mine are still there, they're just not called "haunts" and "gnomes".

So, like the rainbow, haunts and gnomes were not explained away. All three were just explained. What was explained away was the interpretation. What was explained was the perception.

Comment author: SkyDK 23 April 2012 09:36:35PM 1 point [-]

Could you enlighten us with your preferred approach to meditation then? I've had very positive experiences just with simple breathing exercises, but I'd definitely like to improve.

Comment author: epigeios 22 March 2013 01:42:37PM *  -1 points [-]

Crap! I'm sorry I didn't see this. I've had a love/hate relationship with LessWrong while I've been getting as far as I can with meditation. a year late, hopefully you get this response so that it may have some use.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/blr/attentioncontroliscriticalfor/6frz. In this post I describe the steps for learning the prerequisite to Taoist meditation. At the time, I was not able to properly describe Taoist meditation, despite being very familiar with it. I can at least try now.

The prerequisite to Taoist meditation is about practicing being aware, and practicing controlling awareness. Controlling awareness requires being aware of what one is aware of, and so is also a practice of that.

Once one becomes adequate at being aware of anything for a sufficient amount of time, the next step is about figuring out how to find and fix the problems.

The most advanced way to fix a problem is to simply be aware of it until it goes away. maintaining awareness of the problem makes it go away on it's own, without requiring any additional action. However, that is too advanced for most people, and so there are other methods along the way.

Step one is to be aware of tension in the body. There are a myriad of ways to activate tension to make it much easier to observe, and thus be aware of. Breath control (both the fast and slow varieties) is one such way. All tension in the body hinders the passage of fluids and mental signals. Neurons can be tense too.

Step two is to slowly try relaxing everything. This is the basic form of what is known as "dissolving" in meditation.

Step three involves a whole bunch of complicated ways of dissolving tension on deeper levels (Periostium is "deeper" than neurons are "deeper" than ligaments are "deeper" than muscles) To make it less complicated, there is a common practice of breathing slowly while being acutely aware of a block of tension. And in that state, trying to focus the breath in the area of awareness (practice breathing into your stomach, then breathing into your whole body, to make this easier and safer). In this step, emotions rise and come to light, thought patterns arise and come to light, and underlying ways of identifying concepts arise and come to light. The idea is that everything that comes up is a result of tension, and getting rid of the tension makes it not come up again.

Step four is about continuing to try to become better aware. continuing to be aware of deeper and deeper tissues, and corresponding cognitive processes (deeper and deeper emotions, thoughts, intuition, etc). To be aware of deeper cognitive processes, one must relieve the tension on the surface. As such, this is a long process of continuing to go deeper and deeper, going back and forth between steps 1, 2, 3 and 4.

It is possible to force the cognitive result of tension to change, or to push tension somewhere else. This can act as a temporary solution, and is sometimes necessary to deal with particularly strong or deep tension by forcefully removing the surface layers. Doing so usually causes tension to appear somewhere else, and on a equally deep or deeper layer. This is called the "fire method" of meditation.

The order of depth of cognition is: first physical feeling, then instinct, emotion, thought, intuition, identification (subconscious mental grouping), then last the "space" that is occupied by consciousness and cognition. Each layer contains it's own feeling of tension. Each layer also contains it's own feeling of pain, which can be used to find tension.

After about ten years of meditating regularly, I got to the deepest (seventh) layer two weeks ago. FYI: identification, subconscious mental grouping, is the source of karma. Intuition is about quickly(near instantly) solving NP-complete problems (the hardest part is figuring out whether the answer is true, just probable, or false and based on a false premise).

"preferred method" is hard to think about, since I only used others' methods as guidance to create my own. Breathing is integral to any good method, as is relaxing tension. The fastest way to improve is to never go beyond about 70% of your ability. The goal is to continue to go deeper, resolutely. In essence, meditation is extremely simple; but not at all easy. The point of meditation is to confront everything you can't handle, and learn to handle it. The method is really up to you. Taoist meditation is a path, with as many methods as there are martial arts moves (hint: there's not very many).

Once you can use your intuition (which you may already be able to do to an extent), these next things become possible.

Once you get to the level where you can feel Chi, move your body and chi at the same time. Use your moving body to move your chi. Normal ChiGung is equivalent to fast, heavy breathing. Moving your body and chi at the same time is equivalent to slow, controlled breathing.

Step five is to "open" spaces in your body that feel closed. This feels like expanding the capacity of a body tissue. Most importantly, open your joints, to allow proper fluid movement. This should simultaneously improve your posture.

Step six is to "tonify" (acupuncture word), which feels like re-invigorating atrophied tissue (not that I've ever had atrophied tissue).

The next step requires psychic awareness (direct awareness of intuition), and I'm not willing to explain it without room for sufficient detail (I am working on a way to explain it properly). The step after that happens on the deepest layer, and I'm not willing to explain that without going into extreme detail of everything before it (which I am working on). I have been told there is a step after that, but I have no idea what it is.

I hope I'm not too late to give this advice. I hope this advice is helpful or useful in some way. I hope everything is at least vaguely understandable. If you, or anyone else, chooses to follow the path of meditation, good luck. It takes the resolution to succeed at impossible tasks, with equal rewards.

In response to Don't Get Offended
Comment author: TraderJoe 07 March 2013 03:11:18PM *  0 points [-]

Does anyone know how to get offended? I have never experienced the emotion and am interested to know what it feels like.

Comment author: epigeios 22 March 2013 10:51:29AM *  -2 points [-]
  • Imagine that something is true.
  • Observe that it is not true.
  • Keep imagining it is true.
  • Listen to someone state that it is not true.
  • Let the conflict between those two things continue to build up and manifest as a negative emotion directed at the person who stated that it is not true.

An example of imagining that something is true is having the idea that things ought to be a certain way, such as thinking that people ought to be not racist. Observe that people are racist. Continue to think that people ought to be not racist. Hear someone be racist.

The difference between taking offense and being angry is that taking offense is when anger is directed at a concept. It's okay to be angry at a racist for doing racist things, but it's a bad idea to be angry at the concept of racism.

In response to Don't Get Offended
Comment author: shminux 07 March 2013 05:32:11PM *  6 points [-]

As jooyous noted, one of the most important skills is to be able to notice when you are offended, or otherwise emotionally hampered. This is not at all trivial, as you can see from the discussion threads here, where people who are clearly emotionally compromised behave as if they were acting rationally. (Yes, I am guilty of this, too.) I am not sure how to develop this skill of noticing being offended while being offended, but surely there is a training for it. Maybe something as simple as a checklist to go through before commenting would be a start. Checklists are generally a good idea.

In response to comment by shminux on Don't Get Offended
Comment author: epigeios 22 March 2013 09:58:51AM 0 points [-]

The training method is called Taoist meditation.

Do this: be aware of yourself. Once you can do this to some extent, do the next step: be aware of your awareness of yourself.

Keep practicing this forever. That is meditation in a nutshell.

A checklist can help as long as it's used to further the practice of being aware. If you're having trouble being aware of yourself, practice being aware of other things first.

Oh, and another trick is that the fastest way to improve is to never go beyond 70% of your ability. One should only do so to gauge one's ability, to better know what 70% is.

In response to comment by taelor on Don't Get Offended
Comment author: [deleted] 08 March 2013 01:10:09AM 4 points [-]

But on a long term basis, if you find yourself constantly on the recieving end of moving fists, you might want to seriously consider learning to dodge better.

That really, really depends though. Two different people may find themselves in that situation for completely different reasons. Some folks really just can't catch a break; others really are ready to see a slight in anything that remotely discomfits them. Some folks need to learn to dodge better, some folks probably won't get far with any advice that tells them to do something different since all these moving fists are not their idea and they're taking pains to avoid as it is, and I daresay many folks will encounter both types of situations because moving fists are not a single class of thing...

In response to comment by [deleted] on Don't Get Offended
Comment author: epigeios 22 March 2013 09:30:11AM *  2 points [-]

At the low end of the mind, you're absolutely right. The options are: take the hit, dodge, hit back, or redirect the punch away, or don't even get near people in the first place. The best of those options is to redirect the punch away, which is very difficult to do.

At the high end of the mind, where extreme layers of subtlety exist, where most people don't even have the ability to be aware of at any time during their life, there is another way: realize that the punch is not directed at you. At that level of depth into the mind, the offendee actually entices people to say offensive things in order to get offended.

One layer deeper than that, the offendee's subtle body language, and overall "air around them" or "feeling they give off", is what entices people to say things that person will find offensive. At this level, the method is to realize that the punch is not only not directed at you, but is actually directed at the puncher.

As offensively blunt as it is to say: the reality is, it's always the fault of the person who gets offended. Of course, most of the time, all people involved are offended, and so it's everyone's fault. In the end, what I'm trying to say is not "don't be offended", but instead: listen to your feeling of being offended. It knows better than you. It's not telling you what's wrong with other people, it's telling you what's wrong with yourself. It's right.

Comment author: simplicio 11 March 2013 07:30:47PM *  1 point [-]

You give up the notion "if <thing I don't prefer is the case in the universe> then <I must make myself sad or anxious or offended>".

Right, so I think what is being missed here is the functional role sadness, anxiety and offense play in motivating human action. Sadness has intensionality - it is about something - and its proper role in a human mind is to motivate various complex responses along the lines of "avoid this" or "prevent this from ever happening again." Lose the sadness and you lose the motivational power it contains. I don't think this motivational power is actually replaceable by a more generic abstract preference. (Or else charity fundraising would just say "we offer 20 utilitons per dollar" and that would be enough.)

Of course, the kind of emotional distancing recommended here might be necessary if the sadness/anxiety/offense actually becomes, in itself, an obstacle to achieving your goals - which can certainly happen. But it is not the general case.

EDIT: Just to be clear, I am talking descriptively about humans, not prescriptively here. It's too bad that we aren't strongly motivated by "20 utilitons per dollar." We should be! But we aren't.

Comment author: epigeios 22 March 2013 09:17:02AM 4 points [-]

The functional role sadness, fear, suffering, and all such emotions plays is the same role pain plays: It is an indicator, telling the mind where the problem is. There are certainly multiple ways to "fix" the problem. In the end, however, the methods that in any way dampen progress are methods that don't actually fix the problem. (The problem is never external)

Roughly 80% of the time, people are offended by things that they don't know they do themselves. That's why it is very important to listen to the emotional pain: to figure that out.

Roughly 20% of the time, people are offended by things that they do the opposite of on purpose, and take pride in. In this case, it is equally important to listen to the emotional pain: to figure out that they are doing the wrong thing. These two things can overlap.

Roughly 50% of the time, people get offended at their own imaginations; and what they are offended by has no bearing in reality. As in: they put words in people's mouths, or they alter definitions. At these times, there is no reasonable way to avoid offending these people. They alter their understanding of reality so that they can be offended. They're basically addicted to getting offended. Yes, I really mean 50%.

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