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

Comment author: RomeoStevens 28 January 2017 07:02:42AM *  11 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: folkTheory 03 February 2017 03:39:25AM 0 points [-]

I could really benefit from a better note taking system such as the one you mention in item 2. Could you give me some pointers for improving note taking? Relatedly, what system/app do you use for the note taking?

Welcome to LessWrong (10th Thread, January 2017) (Thread A)

11 folkTheory 07 January 2017 05:43AM

(Thread B for January is here, created as a duplicate by accident)

Hi, do you read the LessWrong website, but haven't commented yet (or not very much)? Are you a bit scared of the harsh community, or do you feel that questions which are new and interesting for you could be old and boring for the older members?

This is the place for the new members to become courageous and ask what they wanted to ask. Or just to say hi.

The older members are strongly encouraged to be gentle and patient (or just skip the entire discussion if they can't).

Newbies, welcome!


The long version:


If you've recently joined the Less Wrong community, please leave a comment here and introduce yourself. We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing, what you value, how you came to identify as an aspiring rationalist or how you found us. You can skip right to that if you like; the rest of this post consists of a few things you might find helpful. More can be found at the FAQ.


A few notes about the site mechanics

To post your first comment, you must have carried out the e-mail confirmation: When you signed up to create your account, an e-mail was sent to the address you provided with a link that you need to follow to confirm your e-mail address. You must do this before you can post!

Less Wrong comments are threaded for easy following of multiple conversations. To respond to any comment, click the "Reply" link at the bottom of that comment's box. Within the comment box, links and formatting are achieved via Markdown syntax (you can click the "Help" link below the text box to bring up a primer).

You may have noticed that all the posts and comments on this site have buttons to vote them up or down, and all the users have "karma" scores which come from the sum of all their comments and posts. This immediate easy feedback mechanism helps keep arguments from turning into flamewars and helps make the best posts more visible; it's part of what makes discussions on Less Wrong look different from those anywhere else on the Internet.

However, it can feel really irritating to get downvoted, especially if one doesn't know why. It happens to all of us sometimes, and it's perfectly acceptable to ask for an explanation. (Sometimes it's the unwritten LW etiquette; we have different norms than other forums.) Take note when you're downvoted a lot on one topic, as it often means that several members of the community think you're missing an important point or making a mistake in reasoning— not just that they disagree with you! If you have any questions about karma or voting, please feel free to ask here.

Replies to your comments across the site, plus private messages from other users, will show up in your inbox. You can reach it via the little mail icon beneath your karma score on the upper right of most pages. When you have a new reply or message, it glows red. You can also click on any user's name to view all of their comments and posts.

All recent posts (from both Main and Discussion) are available here. At the same time, it's definitely worth your time commenting on old posts; veteran users look through the recent comments thread quite often (there's a separate recent comments thread for the Discussion section, for whatever reason), and a conversation begun anywhere will pick up contributors that way.  There's also a succession of open comment threads for discussion of anything remotely related to rationality.

Discussions on Less Wrong tend to end differently than in most other forums; a surprising number end when one participant changes their mind, or when multiple people clarify their views enough and reach agreement. More commonly, though, people will just stop when they've better identified their deeper disagreements, or simply "tap out" of a discussion that's stopped being productive. (Seriously, you can just write "I'm tapping out of this thread.") This is absolutely OK, and it's one good way to avoid the flamewars that plague many sites.

There's actually more than meets the eye here: look near the top of the page for the "WIKI", "DISCUSSION" and "SEQUENCES" links.
LW WIKI: This is our attempt to make searching by topic feasible, as well as to store information like common abbreviations and idioms. It's a good place to look if someone's speaking Greek to you.
LW DISCUSSION: This is a forum just like the top-level one, with two key differences: in the top-level forum, posts require the author to have 20 karma in order to publish, and any upvotes or downvotes on the post are multiplied by 10. Thus there's a lot more informal dialogue in the Discussion section, including some of the more fun conversations here.
SEQUENCES: A huge corpus of material mostly written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his days of blogging at Overcoming Bias, before Less Wrong was started. Much of the discussion here will casually depend on or refer to ideas brought up in those posts, so reading them can really help with present discussions. Besides which, they're pretty engrossing in my opinion. They are also available in a book form.

A few notes about the community

If you've come to Less Wrong to  discuss a particular topic, this thread would be a great place to start the conversation. By commenting here, and checking the responses, you'll probably get a good read on what, if anything, has already been said here on that topic, what's widely understood and what you might still need to take some time explaining.

If your welcome comment starts a huge discussion, then please move to the next step and create a LW Discussion post to continue the conversation; we can fit many more welcomes onto each thread if fewer of them sprout 400+ comments. (To do this: click "Create new article" in the upper right corner next to your username, then write the article, then at the bottom take the menu "Post to" and change it from "Drafts" to "Less Wrong Discussion". Then click "Submit". When you edit a published post, clicking "Save and continue" does correctly update the post.)

If you want to write a post about a LW-relevant topic, awesome! I highly recommend you submit your first post to Less Wrong Discussion; don't worry, you can later promote it from there to the main page if it's well-received. (It's much better to get some feedback before every vote counts for 10 karma—honestly, you don't know what you don't know about the community norms here.)

Alternatively, if you're still unsure where to submit a post, whether to submit it at all, would like some feedback before submitting, or want to gauge interest, you can ask / provide your draft / summarize your submission in the latest open comment thread. In fact, Open Threads are intended for anything 'worth saying, but not worth its own post', so please do dive in! Informally, there is also the unofficial Less Wrong IRC chat room, and you might also like to take a look at some of the other regular special threads; they're a great way to get involved with the community!

If you'd like to connect with other LWers in real life, we have  meetups  in various parts of the world. Check the wiki page for places with regular meetups, or the upcoming (irregular) meetups page. There's also a Facebook group. If you have your own blog or other online presence, please feel free to link it.

If English is not your first language, don't let that make you afraid to post or comment. You can get English help on Discussion- or Main-level posts by sending a PM to one of the following users (use the "send message" link on the upper right of their user page). Either put the text of the post in the PM, or just say that you'd like English help and you'll get a response with an email address. 
Barry Cotter

A note for theists: you will find the Less Wrong community to be predominantly atheist, though not completely so, and most of us are genuinely respectful of religious people who keep the usual community norms. It's worth saying that we might think religion is off-topic in some places where you think it's on-topic, so be thoughtful about where and how you start explicitly talking about it; some of us are happy to talk about religion, some of us aren't interested. Bear in mind that many of us really, truly have given full consideration to theistic claims and found them to be false, so starting with the most common arguments is pretty likely just to annoy people. Anyhow, it's absolutely OK to mention that you're religious in your welcome post and to invite a discussion there.

A list of some posts that are pretty awesome

I recommend the major sequences to everybody, but I realize how daunting they look at first. So for purposes of immediate gratification, the following posts are particularly interesting/illuminating/provocative and don't require any previous reading:

More suggestions are welcome! Or just check out the top-rated posts from the history of Less Wrong. Most posts at +50 or more are well worth your time.

Welcome to Less Wrong, and we look forward to hearing from you throughout the site!

Comment author: folkTheory 24 December 2015 11:18:56PM 19 points [-]

Just donated $1100

Comment author: folkTheory 16 March 2015 10:29:17PM *  3 points [-]

This is fantastic Malcolm, thank you!

Comment author: ChristianKl 10 February 2015 12:49:10AM 3 points [-]

I think it would be interesting but I see no good reason to do a retreat for specifically for rationalists. I'm not sure whether there are people in this community who are at the 10,000 hour skill level. It's probably easier to find that outside.

I'm apologizing in advance for a bit of bit irreducible spirituality. I try to keep it to a minimum.

I have two experiences of group meditations among rationalists. On was last year at the European Community Camp in Berlin. It felt like there was nobody in the room who gave the thing stability. In the dose of 15-20 minutes that's not harmful but I wouldn't expect a few days in that state to be good.

I lead a meditation during the solstice celebration in Leipzig and only used 20 minutes of 30 that I had asked for on the agenda, because that felt enough.

In total that leads me to think that meditation makes a decent agenda item at an LW event but no good program for a complete day. At least without someone to lead the event who really knows what they are doing.

Comment author: folkTheory 10 February 2015 03:12:17AM 0 points [-]

Good point, thank you.

Comment author: folkTheory 09 February 2015 05:24:28PM 6 points [-]

I recently got into practicing meditation, and got a lot out of the old LW posts about it. I was wondering if there is any interest to have a meditation retreat for rationalists?

Comment author: folkTheory 31 January 2015 07:27:54PM 22 points [-]

Donated $1000

Comment author: BenLowell 16 January 2015 03:25:18AM 7 points [-]

This is awesome!!!

Comment author: folkTheory 16 January 2015 03:25:41AM 5 points [-]

Upvoted for phaticness

Comment author: folkTheory 16 September 2013 07:40:18AM 1 point [-]

I'm signed up for the programming one. This'll be my first time at CFAR. pretty excited!

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 21 July 2013 12:50:47AM -2 points [-]

Are you already married? What do your current spouses say?

Comment author: folkTheory 22 July 2013 01:07:28AM 2 points [-]

I am not currently married.

View more: Next