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Comment author: Lumifer 29 October 2015 02:58:23PM 2 points [-]

Unless you have kidney problems, the downsides of overdrinking seem to be very minor. The consequences of missing the right amount to drink seem to be strongly asymmetrical, given that don't you want to err on the side of more water?

Comment author: pjeby 30 October 2015 03:45:43PM 0 points [-]

don't you want to err on the side of more water?

Of course I do. In fact, most of my water consumption is forced, in the sense that I'm drinking without any sensation of thirst. That's the problem: I have little sensation of thirst, unless I'm already drinking. While I'm drinking water I can notice I'm thirsty, or at any rate, that drinking the water is pleasurable. But the rest of the time, I drink by forcing myself to notice that there's water in the 32-ounce glass on my desk and that I should drink it, or that the glass is empty and I should refill it.

But this doesn't help as much as you'd think, because my body doesn't seem to store the water for later demand, and just prompts me to get rid of it instead... then quickly becomes dehydrated again... all with no sensation of thirst except in certain extreme cases. But I can also get too dehydrated to function, without any sensation of thirst.

Comment author: Lumifer 28 October 2015 06:38:37PM 1 point [-]

I find that water reduces a great many pains for me

Have you tried just drinking more on a regular basis? If you find yourself constantly dehydrated, just fix it preemptively.

Comment author: pjeby 28 October 2015 09:14:07PM 0 points [-]

Have you tried just drinking more on a regular basis?

Yes, but since the presence of such pains is the main thing that tells me I've not had enough, it doesn't help too much. An amount that seems sufficient can be easily overwhelmed by say, some hard work and sweating, and/or the use of the car air conditioner to recover from said hard work. Giving a talk or just having a talk with someone can do it, too. So unless I over-drink some of the time, there will always be situations where I end up under-drinking, in the absence of some finer-gauge way to tell my hydration state. I do at least know now to start chugging after I give a workshop, for example. Before I figured out the hydration link, I used to spend many painful hours recovering after each talk I gave.

Comment author: Tem42 19 October 2015 09:49:35PM 3 points [-]

I have. I have no evidence that either pain killers or placebos work in any sort of medical sense; I have clear evidence that swallowing a pill causes me to relax, resulting in a immediate reduction in pain. This is stupid, and I am working on eliminating the pill, but still, if this is what works, I will continue to use it frequently until I find something better.

I think one of the major reasons that people dislike the idea of placebos is because they think that they are being medicine. This has not been my experience. Placebos are better than medicine, because they work directly on your mind, and your mind (my mind, anyway) is sometimes too stupid to pay attention to medicine. I would have been better off, and a bit wealthier, if a doctor had realized this before trying the medical route.

Comment author: pjeby 28 October 2015 06:12:29PM 0 points [-]

I have. I have no evidence that either pain killers or placebos work in any sort of medical sense; I have clear evidence that swallowing a pill causes me to relax, resulting in a immediate reduction in pain.

Do you take the pills with water, and if so, have you tried just drinking the water? I find that water reduces a great many pains for me, including headaches, muscle cramps, and digestive difficulties, so it wouldn't surprise me in the least if the effects you're observing are from water taken with both the pain killer and placebo.

Comment author: pjeby 05 September 2015 02:21:26AM 5 points [-]

The big reason? Construal theory, or as I like to call it, action is not an abstraction. Abstract construal doesn't prime action; concrete construal does.

Second big reason: the affect (yes, I do mean affect) of being precise, is very much negative. Focusing your attention on flaws and potential problems leads to pessimism, not optimism. But optimism is correlated with success, pessimism is not.

Sure, pessimism has some benefits in a technical career, in terms of being good at what you do. But it's in conflict with other things you need for a successful career. TV's Dr. House is an extreme example, but most real people are not as good at the technical part of their job as House nor are the quality of their results usually as important.

Both of these things combine to create the next major problem: a disposition to non-co-operative behavior, aka the "why can't our kind get along?" problem.

Yes, not everyone has these issues, diverse community, etc. But, as a stereotypical and somewhat flippant summary, the issue is that simply by the nature of valuing truth -- precise truth, rather then the mere idea of truth -- one is treating it as being more important than other goals. That means it's rather unlikely that a person interested in it will be sufficiently interested in other goals to make progress there. I would expect it more likely that a person who is not naturally inclined towards rationalism would be able to put it to good use, than someone who's just intellectually interested in rationalism as a conversation topic or as an ideal to aspire to.

To put it another way, if you already have "something to protect", such that rationality is a means towards that end, then rationality can be of some value. If you value rationality for its own sake, well, then that is your goal, and so you can perhaps be called "successful" in relation to it, but it's not likely that anyone who doesn't value rationality for its own sake will consider your accomplishments impressive.

So, the truth value of "rationalists don't win" depends on your definition of "win". Is it "win at achieving their own, perhaps less-than-socially-valued goals? Or "win at things that are impressive to non-rationalists"? I think the latter category is far less likely to occur for those whose terminal values are aimed somewhere near rationality or truth for its own sake.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 July 2015 07:47:41AM *  0 points [-]

For such outcomes, I suggest the methods used by Allen Carr: essentially they work by systematically eliminating all the perceived benefits of the activity you wish to cease.

I have read Allen Carr's Easy Way To Stop Drinking Alcohol. I got the impression he is playing on the reader's pride basically. He did not deny alcohol numbs in the brain whatever bothers you, he said the price is that it numbs everything else to. So basically he was playing a "you don't value the everything else in you?" game and maybe it is just a quirk of mine, I don't know, but whenever people try to play my pride I charge head-in, such as "Yes, I am absolutely worthless.Now what? Your move." I don't really know why I do this. Partially sometimes really feeling like this but partially really not liking the pride play as a method... I just think building anything on people's self-worth is really fragile, right?

The trick to this kind of issue is realizing that your brain is using the wrong baseline for measurement of gain/loss. The correct baseline to use in such a scenario is not how things are now, but how they would be if you didn't have the job.

Is this related to the old saying "learn to desire what you have" or "count your blessings" or the Stoic technique of negative visualization i.e. how much it would suck to lose what you have? Visualize not having it, then having it, pass a mmm-test, that sort of thing?

The optimum use seems to be for situations that trigger an immediate and visceral conditioned response that interferes with your ability to think clearly.

I see - this is why the examples are like foods one dislikes or social anxiety for speaking or I assume approach anxiety at dating etc. I will try it with physical challenges, I remember feeling inferior when I was a child when I was clumsy at things like climbing up ropes and it is possible it is keeping me away from trying such sports.

In contrast to the feeling elimination technique, most everything I teach these days can be considered -- in one way or another -- a Ritual For Changing One's Mind.

Do you write about this i.e. new websites as TTD or DS are not maintained much lately?

In response to comment by [deleted] on Pain and gain motivation
Comment author: pjeby 03 July 2015 05:54:11PM 4 points [-]

I don't really know why I do this.

Any self-help technique can be trivially defeated by arguing with it. And anything can be argued with, because the whole point (evolutionarily speaking) of our critical faculties is to find things we can attack in that which we have defined as our enemy. The truth, relevance, or usefulness of the argument is beside the point.

When I read that book I didn't even notice anything about pride or self-worth, honestly. I wasn't reading it because I drink (I don't), but as research into his approach. I found it fascinating because the various arguments I noticed seemed pretty universal to almost anything one might want to quit.

Anyway, I wasn't looking for things to argue with, so I didn't find any. In general, it's not useful to read a self-help book looking for things to argue with: skim over those, and look for things you agree with, or at least things you can consider with an open mind. Carr's books explicitly point out the need for this consideration at the beginning, and you will get more value out of them if you heed that advice.

Do you write about this i.e. new websites as TTD or DS are not maintained much lately?

Mostly I do online workshops with my paying subscribers, and the occasional tweet about things I'm noticing or realizing as they come up.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 July 2015 07:51:11AM *  0 points [-]

Yes :) But you wrote this comment and chapters 6-7 5 years ago, are there any new developments since then?

I tried them and would like to have the following comments:

  • instant motivation does not seem to work for me for the goals where you really, truly, are running away from something bad and there is no positive goal to pursue. Example: stopping smoking: the best possible outcome of not smoking is staying as healthy as today, the worst outcome of smoking is early painful death. Example: the kind of jobs one does only to pay bills. In both cases there are no possible positive outcomes to imagine: the best case outcome is things staying as they are now.

  • I tried chapter 7 on tomatoes, as I hated them since childhood. When I go back to 3 or 4 years old I simply don't remember how I felt hence I have no feeling to overwrite the current body feeling (gag reflex, sour face).

In response to comment by [deleted] on Pain and gain motivation
Comment author: pjeby 02 July 2015 10:31:49PM 2 points [-]

you wrote this comment and chapters 6-7 5 years ago, are there any new developments since then?

Quite a lot of them. Sadly, none of them make the overall picture any easier to understand. There seem to be an almost infinite number of "things that work" for some set of problems, but almost nothing that works for all the problems, for all of the people, all of the time. The basic idea of negative motivation is still valid, though, as is the idea that the primary negative motivations that are problematic derive from identity issues or pseudo-moral "shoulds".

instant motivation does not seem to work for me for the goals where you really, truly, are running away from something bad and there is no positive goal to pursue

Yes, that was explicitly stated as a qualifier on the technique: if you can't pass the "mmm" test, it's not going to work.

Example: stopping smoking: the best possible outcome of not smoking is staying as healthy as today, the worst outcome of smoking is early painful death

For such outcomes, I suggest the methods used by Allen Carr: essentially they work by systematically eliminating all the perceived benefits of the activity you wish to cease. His books are basically step-by-step persuasion walking you through the reasoning to achieve a realization that the thing you think you're getting is in fact of no value to you. (This is quite different from negative motion or deciding the act isn't "worth" it: rather, it is the systematic demolishing of any positive motivation towards the act, through deliberately induced disillusionment.)

Example: the kind of jobs one does only to pay bills. In both cases there are no possible positive outcomes to imagine: the best case outcome is things staying as they are now.

The trick to this kind of issue is realizing that your brain is using the wrong baseline for measurement of gain/loss. The correct baseline to use in such a scenario is not how things are now, but how they would be if you didn't have the job. Not having the job is the default case, since if you do nothing, that is the result you will get. ;-)

(I am, of course, omitting any details of how to do this change-of-baseline in this comment, due to the difficulty of describing it briefly, in this medium, in a way that would actually be implementable by anyone without the prerequisite skills of introspection and mind-changing.)

I have no feeling to overwrite the current body feeling (gag reflex, sour face).

You're probably overthinking the technique, which doesn't involve higher cognition at all. Certainly, there is nothing in it about "overwriting" anything. The method is simply intensifying a response long enough to trigger a refractory period, during which the response can't be re-triggered at the same intensity as before, leading to having a new experience or reaction in the context of the original triggering thought or external stimulus. (Not entirely unlike "flooding" as a desensitization technique, though I have no idea whether the mechanism is really the same.)

By the time I wrote about that technique, though, I had already mostly stopped using it, because I'd exhausted all the low-hanging fruit in my personal experience. Some people also get much more value out of it than others; I've had a few people who used it extensively and came back gushing to me about completely transforming their lives... while others are like "meh".

The optimum use seems to be for situations that trigger an immediate and visceral conditioned response that interferes with your ability to think clearly. It can be used to eliminate beliefs when the belief was formed later and as a result of the conditioned feeling, but does not work when it's the other way around.

(That is, if the feeling and belief arose at the same time, from the same event, or if the feeling is the result of a belief, then the feeling elimination technique will probably be of little value. Of course, your conscious estimation of which situation applies is unreliable, which means that until you've exhausted your own low-hanging fruit, it's better to just go ahead and try it, rather than guessing.)

In contrast to the feeling elimination technique, most everything I teach these days can be considered -- in one way or another -- a Ritual For Changing One's Mind. Or, more precisely, I recommend rituals developed by other people, and my work focuses more on identifying what it is in your mind that needs changing, and how to know what to change it to.

And unfortunately, the methods of Changing One's Mind are the relatively easy part of that. Sort of like knowing how to use an IDE (programmer's development tool) doesn't tell you what code to write or how to know where a bug is in your code.

Comment author: [deleted] 30 June 2015 02:02:50PM 0 points [-]

Hi Eby,

I think with this refinement process you went from something clear, simple and easy to understand to something difficult and technical.

Nevertheless I think your 2008 theory is correct and probably you did not make it worse, it is just harder to understand now.

I should also like to add this: http://lesswrong.com/lw/21r/pain_and_gain_motivation/cipw

In response to comment by [deleted] on Pain and gain motivation
Comment author: pjeby 01 July 2015 04:22:52PM 1 point [-]

Unfortunately, "true" and "easy to understand" are not synonyms. ;-)

Comment author: pjeby 10 June 2015 07:45:10PM 3 points [-]

It might help to taboo "creativity". I know of three major schools of thought on the subject, all of whose definitions I agree with, despite certain of the group(s) claiming that other group(s) are "wrong. ;-)

One group defines creativity in terms of being able to systematically generate novel alternatives for a design problem, or within some target space.

Another defines it in terms of creating... that is, being able to formulate a desired objective in the first place, and pursue a process of bringing it into being by continually comparing and contrasting the desired state with the current state of reality.

A third defines it in terms of fluency - that the mere practice of generating different sequences of output in some medium causes one to develop an intuitive sense of what sequences are likely to be "good" or "bad". (I don't know a ton about this group, but I heard someone give a talk once on this, demonstrating how teaching children to generate sequences of the form 1-2-3, 1-3-2, 2-3-1, 2-1-3, 3-1-2, 3-2-1 would allow them to learn interesting things about music and mathematics in a very short period, by changing e.g. pitch and duration of notes.)

All three of these characteristics -- the ability to hold a vision, generate alternatives to solve specific problems, and be fluent in the low-level expression of your subject area -- seem to be important to any good definition of "creativity". But quite a lot of materials tend to take on only one of these areas, and then usually some relatively small subset thereof.

Comment author: elspood 14 May 2015 12:24:04AM -1 points [-]

Reading this reply, I was immediately reminded of a situation described by Jen Peeples, I think in an episode of The Atheist Experience, about her co-pilot's reaction of prayer during a life-threatening helicopter incident. ( This Comment is all I could find as reference. )

Unless your particular prayer technique is useful for quickly addressing emergency situations, you probably don't want to be in the habit of relying on it as a general practice. I think the "rubber duck" Socratic approach could still be useful, so this isn't a disagreement with your entire comment, just a warning about possible failure modes.

Comment author: pjeby 17 May 2015 02:14:49PM 3 points [-]

Rubber ducking is for when you're uncertain how to proceed. An incident on a military aircraft is not such a situation: there are checklists that detail precisely how you're supposed to proceed, which you'd better be following.

If you are doing problem-solving in a distressed aircraft, and that problem-solving activity is not explicitly listed on the checklist for the current issue, you are Doing It Wrong. And if you're praying in such a scenario, it had better be something like, "grant me the calm and clarity to follow the checklist, so I'm not distracted by any panicky impulses".

In response to comment by [deleted] on Rationality Quotes Thread May 2015
Comment author: pure-awesome 08 May 2015 06:14:01PM 1 point [-]

This comment resonates with me. I am also a Christian-turned-Atheist.

When something bad happens, or I feel in danger, or I don't know what to do, usually I want to send up a prayer. Then I have to catch myself and remember that yeah, that's not going to help.

Comment author: pjeby 08 May 2015 07:49:48PM 11 points [-]

yeah, that's not going to help

It won't help the situation, but it might help you to better handle the situation. The useful thing about "prayer" isn't that it actually calls down any outside help, but that it forces you to clarify your own thoughts regarding what you want and what would be useful... in much the same way that problem solving is made easier by explaining the problem to somebody else.

Verbal communication forces you to serialize your thoughts, to disassemble what may be a vague or complex structure of interconnecting impulses, ideas, mental models, etc. and then encode it in an organized stream for another mind to re-encode into a similar structure. But the process of doing this forces you to re-encode it as well.

So don't stop using a useful technique for organizing your thoughts, just because there isn't an actual mind on the other end of the encoding process (except maybe yours). Programmers have been known to "rubber duck", i.e., use a literal or figurative rubber duck as the thing to talk to. You're not going to commit some sort of atheist sin by using an imaginary sky deity as your rubber duck. Or ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster to touch you with His Noodly Appendage to grant you the clarity and wisdom you seek. The value of an invocation comes from its invoker, not its invokee.

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