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Comment author: knb 26 January 2012 12:51:15AM *  55 points [-]

Let's do the impossible and think the unthinkable! I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

  • Smart people often think social institutions are basically arbitrary and that they can engineer better ways using their mighty brains. Because these institutions aren't actually arbitrary, their tinkering is generally harmful and sometimes causes social dysfunction, suffering, and death on a massive scale. Less Wrong is unusually bad in this regard, and that is a serious indictment of "rationality" as practiced by LessWrongers.
  • A case of this especially relevant to Less Wrong is "Evangelical Polyamory".
  • Atheists assume that self-identified atheists are representative of non-religious people and use flattering data about self-identified atheists to draw (likely) false conclusions about the world being better without religion. The expected value of arguing for atheism is small and quite possibly negative.
  • Ceteris paribus dictatorships work better than democracies.
  • Nerd culture is increasingly hyper-permissive and basically juvenile and stultifying. Nerds were better off when they had to struggle to meet society's expectations for normal behavior.

I would also like to endorse GLaDOS's excellent list.

Comment author: patrissimo 10 February 2014 06:07:03PM 6 points [-]

As a former Evangelical Polyamorist, now a born-again Monogamist, I enthusiastically endorse items 1 & 2 in this comment.

It can be thought of as the cultural equivalent of Algernon's Law - any small cultural change is a net evolutionary disadvantage. I might add "previously accessible to our ancestors", since the same principle doesn't apply to newly accessible changes, which weren't previously available for cultural optimism. This applies to organizing via websites. It does not apply to polyamory (except inasmuch as birth control, std prevention, and paternity testings may have affected the relevant tradeoffs, though limited to the degree that our reactions are hardwired and relevant).

Comment author: patrissimo 06 August 2011 03:44:52AM 20 points [-]

Eliezer Yudkowsky's keyboard only has two keys: 1 and 0.

Comment author: patrissimo 06 August 2011 03:44:37AM 20 points [-]

The speed of light used to be much lower before Eliezer Yudkowsky optimized the laws of physics.

Comment author: patrissimo 06 August 2011 03:44:11AM 3 points [-]

Eliezer Yudkowsky doesn't have a chin, underneath his beard is another brain.

Comment author: patrissimo 09 July 2011 05:47:10PM 3 points [-]

As a contrarian rationalist, I can assure you that my attitudes are the results of my personality & upbringing, not some bold brave conscious decision. I was always different, enough that conforming wouldn't have worked, so finding true & interesting & positive-attention-capturing ways to be different was my best path. The result is that I'm biased towards contrarian theses, which I think is useful for improving group rationality in most cases, but still isn't rational.

Comment author: rhollerith_dot_com 29 March 2011 03:05:01PM *  0 points [-]

I can tell you with near certainty without doing any (more) experiments that learning new things is one of my main sources of pleasure, and I can say with less certainty but with high confidence (given Alfie Kohn's Punished by Rewards and other arguments) that spending too much time treating (or even considering) my learning as a means to some other end will significantly reduce my ability to take pleasure in learning and consequently will be counterproductive.

If Patri or anyone else can become more efficient in his learning without significantly reducing his enjoyment of learning, that of course is good and fine. This article however is evidence that Patri wants to go or has gone beyond that. Or so it starts to seem to me.

I am starting to believe that Patri is motivated by status and worldly accomplishment much more than by learning or curiosity, and if Patri is indeed (as this article suggests) forgoing opportunities to take pleasure in learning for the sake of optimizing his increases in status or accomplishment, well, then even though Patri certainly is a fine and commendable young man, that is a mistake (more likely than not, IMHO) since there are some troublesome aspects to the natural human capacity to take pleasure in increases in status (aspects not shared by human curiosity), and making curiosity subservient to the former will tend to strengthen the former at the expense of the latter.

If there is interest, I will expand on these troublesome aspects.

Comment author: patrissimo 29 March 2011 08:47:22PM 7 points [-]

I am starting to believe that Patri is motivated by status and worldly accomplishment much more than by learning or curiosity, and if Patri is indeed (as this article suggests) forgoing opportunities to take pleasure in learning for the sake of optimizing his increases in status or accomplishment, well, then even though Patri certainly is a fine and commendable young man, that is a mistake

Yes, I am indeed attempting to choose my reading based on how it supports my consciously chosen goals, rather than simply the vague non-goal of "learning" or short-term hedonic utility ("pleasure"). There is a name for this - it's called "instrumental rationality", and I'm rather surprised to find an LW commenter calling it a mistake! I thought I could count on it as a shared assumption.

Now, the question of what I'm motivated by & whether that's good is totally separate. I frankly admit that one of my goals is to climb the status ladder, and I can understand why some people might not see that as desirable. On the other hand, I'm again surprised to find "worldly accomplishment" characterized negatively - isn't accomplishing things in the world the point of...everything?

Curiosity is fun for kids, but the world ain't gonna save itself.

Comment author: djcb 28 March 2011 11:08:27AM *  5 points [-]

I've mentioned it in earlier posts, but I like to emphasize once more the use of audio books; as they allow you to fill a lot of your otherwise-idle time (say, commuting, running, shopping etc.), you can effectively get a lot more 'reading' done.

Obviously, audio books are not very good (unfortunately) for really technical expositions, but one can use them to read a lot of fiction, popular science, history, that kind of thing. I've been doing that for a few years and I got more 'reading' done than I ever thought possible.

Another little 'trick' for reading more is to read PDFs and the like with 'autoscroll' turned on (at least Evince and Acrobat support this). Using autoscroll forces me to really concentrate and also allows we to sit back and 'experience' the book. Again, this does not work well for highly technical books, but quite well for more 'prosaic' material.

Comment author: patrissimo 28 March 2011 06:36:57PM 0 points [-]

I use audio books / podcasts some, but I don't run, have a minimal commute, and so don't end up getting much time in.

Comment author: jimrandomh 28 March 2011 02:10:51PM *  4 points [-]

There are two ends to optimize here; you can focus on selecting the best things, or focus on getting rid of the worst things. I used to read way too much news, for example; and after reading something good I'd usually go on to read its comments even if I knew (or would have known if I'd thought about it) that they wouldn't be worth it. Before deciding which of two good books to cut, install a time profiler like RescueTime or ManicTime to make sure you know where your reading time's really going.

Comment author: patrissimo 28 March 2011 06:36:26PM 0 points [-]

I'm pretty good at getting rid of the worst things, still trying to figure out what the best things are.

Comment author: paulfchristiano 27 March 2011 08:46:38PM 2 points [-]

My point was that questions like "What is the goal of reading?" don't really arise when optimizing generally, only when optimizing reading.

If I want to improve my performance at some task and reading is the best way to do it then so be it, but its not clear why I would be comparing the benefits of "reading to improve at foo" to the benefits of "reading to make conversation" in particular rather than the benefits of exercise (say).

When I read now it is normally because I have some pressing reason to read a particular book. The things I read (which are typically either very technical or descriptions/analysis of some event or person I am curious about) would not be turned up by trying to prioritize among books.

I do agree that prioritizing books is a useful activity if you spend much time reading, and that thinking about optimization--however you want to slice it up--is generally a good idea. I like your post. I was just offering an observation which I have found helpful (and which has caused me not to spend much time either reading or thinking about which books to read).

Comment author: patrissimo 27 March 2011 09:06:56PM 0 points [-]

I see, that makes sense. I find it easiest to prioritize within a domain like "books", vs. among all possible skill-increasing activities. Also, when it comes to "generally increasing my knowledge / improving my map", that is something that I think it makes sense to allocate a fixed bucket of time to, although one should also compare alternatives like documentaries, blogs, and conversations as ways of doing it.

Comment author: JRMayne 27 March 2011 04:26:39AM *  2 points [-]
  1. I don't think you need any calculus at all to be good at poker. People who are good at poker tend to know calculus, but that's because the US has made the highly dubious decision to prioritize calculus over statistics for smart high school students.

  2. It's not going to be emotional irrationality that's going to derail your target audience. I played poker in my college years - not enough to get great, but enough to get competent. Playing low-level poker is different than higher-level poker. Experience, intelligence, and presence are all helpful.

  3. Mid-six figures? Seriously? Since I'm not playing online, I don't know except from reports from others... but if you're talking $300 an hour in profit (which it appears you are) I think you've misestimated. I've had nice conversations with a couple of poker pros, and I know some electrically smart people, and I don't personally know anyone who is making $300 an hour. [Edit: I know that such people exist. They are typically devoted to their craft, and have been doing it since a young age.] If you have someone from a standing start (little or no experience outside home games) and give them 10 hours a week for the next year.... well, I'm willing to play any of 'em heads-up for cash.

Comment author: patrissimo 27 March 2011 08:40:43PM 4 points [-]

I personally know many people who have made those figures in the past, although high-stakes online poker has gotten much tougher in the past few years and it takes extremely high skill to make that much now.

I have personally made about $240/hr at online poker ($200 NLH SNGs on Party Poker back before the UIGEA). But I couldn't make anywhere near that nowadays.

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