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This is Part 2 of my series shamelessly ripping off the excellent writings of alkjash. Part 1 is here

I. Parables

A. Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein worked in a patent office. In 1905 he published 4 groundbreaking papers on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity and mass-energy equivalence. That year he was awarded a PhD by the University of Zurich.

Pretty soon he no longer had to work in a patent office. This freed him up to work on Einstein solids, the adiabatic principle, Bose–Einstein statistics, zero-point energy, stimulated emission, de Broglie waves, Einstein–Rose... (Read more)

This sounds about right. I would bet capital points that some of this has to do with amount of dopamine in the brain. The points on freedom after transcending survival, experimentation, and self-motivation... those are bought with dopamine (which, based on your other writings, can sometimes be bought with pain, which is kinda convenient in a way!)

6abramdemski12hI'm enjoying the counter-alkjash series! In contrast to my comment on the previous installment [] , I think this installment has a structured model with gears, and told me something about the world. (Still not much mental tech to counter failure modes.)

[I recently made a post in the OT about this, but I figured it might be good as a top-level post for add'l attention.]

After writing Planning 101, I realized that there was no automated tool online for Murphyjitsu, the CFAR technique of problem-proofing plans. (I explain Murphyjitsu in more detail about halfway down the Planning 101 post.)

I was also trying to learn some web-dev at the same time, so I decided to code up this little tool, Plan-Bot, that walks you through a series of planning prompts and displays your answers to the questions. 

In short, you type in what you want to do, it ask

... (Read more)

I got the following:

>Imagine that it is one week later and your solution failed! Do you really think your solution will work? (Enter "yes" or "no)

Isn't the answer always going to be "no"? You just told me that it failed.

In the course of making plans, Murphyjitsu is the practice of strengthening plans by repeatedly envisioning and defending against failure modes until you would be shocked to see it fail. Here’s the basic setup of Murphyjitsu:
1. Make a plan.
2. Imagine that you’ve passed the deadline and find out that the plan failed.
3. If you’re shocked in this scenario, you’re done.
4. Otherwise, simulate the most likely failure mode, defend against it, and repeat.

-alkjash, Hammertime Day 10: Murphyjitsu

Imagine that you are trying to find a doctor in a particular specialty. You are able to think of 12 possible reasons the doctor might refuse to see you. Some are more probable than others and some are easier to minimize/solve than others. You have 5 or 6 doctors to choose from and the 12 failure modes apply to each of them differently. For instance, Dr. A may have a 25% chance of saying "no new patients" whereas Dr. B might be "50%" and Dr. C may be "80%".  What would be the recommended way to reduce the likelihood of failure without spending an inordinate amount of time mitigating things?

A physicist is someone who is interested in and studies physicist.

A rationalist is someone who is interested in and studies rationality.

2AllAmericanBreakfast1hThinking, Too Fast and Too Slow I've noticed that there are two important failure modes in studying for my classes. Too Fast: This is when learning breaks down because I'm trying to read, write, compute, or connect concepts too quickly. Too Slow: This is when learning fails, or just proceeds too inefficiently, because I'm being too cautious, obsessing over words, trying to remember too many details, etc. One hypothesis is that there's some speed of activity that's ideal for any given person, depending on the subject matter and their current level of comfort with it. I seem to have some level of control over the speed and cavalier confidence I bring to answering questions. Do I put down the first response that comes into my head, or wrack my brains looking for some sort of tricky exception that might be relevant? Deciding what that speed should be has always been intuitive. Is there some leverage here to enhance learning by sensitizing myself to the speed at which I ought to be practicing?
2Viliam8hA rationalist is someone who can talk rationally about rationality, I guess. :P One difference between rationality and fame is that you need some rationality in order to recognize and appreciate rationality, while fame can be recognized and admired also (especially?) by people who are not famous. Therefore, rationality has a limited audience. Suppose you have a rationalist who "wins at life". How would a non-rational audience perceive them? Probably as someone "successful", which is a broad category that also includes e.g. lottery winners. Even people famous for being smart, such as Einstein, are probably perceived as "being right" rather than being good at updating, research, or designing experiments. A rationalist can admire another rationalist's ability of changing their mind. And also "winning at life" to the degree we can control for their circumstances (privilege and luck), so that we can be confident it is not mere "success" we admire, but rather "success disportionate to resources and luck". This would require either that the rationalist celebrity regularly publishes their though processes, or that you know them personally. Either way, you need lots of data about how they actually succeeded. You could become a millionaire by buying Bitcoin anonymously, so that would be one example. Depends on what precisely you mean by "success": it is something like "doing/getting X" or rather "being recognized as X"? The latter is inherently social, the former you can often achieve without anyone knowing about it. Sometimes it easier to achieve things if you don't want to take credit; for example if you need a cooperation of a powerful person, it can be useful to convince them that X was actually their idea. Or you can have the power, but live in the shadows, while other people are in the spotlight, and only they know that they actually take commands from you. To be more specific, I think you could make a lot of money by learning something like programming, getting
4AllAmericanBreakfast4hCertainly it is possible to find success in some areas anonymously. No argument with you there! I view LW-style rationality as a community of practice, a culture of people aggregating, transmitting, and extending knowledge about how to think rationally. As in "The Secret of Our Success," we don't accomplish this by independently inventing the techniques we need to do our work. We accomplish this primarily by sharing knowledge that already exists. Another insight from TSOOS is that people use prestige as a guide for who they should imitate. So rationalists tend to respect people with a reputation for rationality. But what if a reputation for rationality can be cultivated separately from tangible accomplishments? In fact, prestige is already one step removed from the tangible accomplishments. But how do we know if somebody is prestigious? Perhaps a reputation can be built not by gaining the respect of others through a track record of tangible accomplishments, but by persuading others that: a) You are widely respected by other people whom they haven't met, or by anonymous people they cannot identify, making them feel behind the times, out of the loop. b) That the basis on which people allocate prestige conventionally is flawed, and that they should do it differently in a way that is favorable to you, making them feel conformist or conservative. c) That other people's track record of tangible accomplishments are in fact worthless, because they are not of the incredible value of the project that the reputation-builder is "working on," or are suspect in terms of their actual utility. This makes people insecure. d) Giving people an ability to participate in the incredible value you are generating by convincing them to evangelize your concept, and thereby to evangelize you. Or of course, just donating money. This makes people feel a sense of meaning and purpose. I could think of other strategies for building hype. One is to participate in cooperative games, whereb

Copying over Anders Sandberg's Twitter summary of the paper:

There is life on Earth but this is not evidence for life being common in the universe! This is since observing life requires living observers. Even if life is very rare, the observers will all see they are on planets with life. Observation selection effects need to be handled!

Observer selection effects are annoying can produce apparently paradoxical effects such that your friends on average have more friends than you or that our existence "prevents" recent giant meteor impacts. But one can control for them with some ingenuity


... (Read more)

Does this have a doomsday-argument-like implication that we're close to the end of the Earth's livable span, because if life takes a long time to evolve observers then it's overwhelmingly probable that consciousness arises shortly before the end of the livable span?

I cook my own meals because restaurant food is expensive. But there are many activities I would prefer to cheap versions independent of price.

I Like I Don't Like
bicycles cars
entrepreneurship jobs
solo adventure guides
barbells exercise machines
meditation psychoactive drugs
Linux, LineageOS Windows, Mac, iPhone
i3, CLI GUI, IDE, desktop metaphor
autodidacting school, tutors

From the perspective of someone with unusually high intelligence, activities involving skill tend to be cheap because our civilization has adequate material capital, The limiting factor of our ind... (Read more)

I recently finished the book The Dictator's Handbook. One thing that surprised me at the end: after many chapters examining (dys)functions of governments, the book suddenly applied the same concepts to corporations.

The main thrust of the book is that we can put countries on a spectrum from dictatorship to democracies, by examining the number of key supporters needed for the government to stay in place. Democracies predictably deliver much more value to citizens. It's a classic story of incentives.

If we look at corporate incentives, most (but not all) corpo... (read more)

This post appeared first on the EA Coaching blog.

Some life paths are well mapped out. If you want to be a doctor, there is a straightforward path through undergrad, med school, and residency (at least in the US). These goals may require a lot of work, but it’s relatively easy to figure out what your next step is. 

However, many cause areas that effective altruists focus on don’t have clear paths to success. You need to figure out what to do for yourself if you’re doing global priorities research, or working on pandemic preparedness, or founding a new charity. Similarly, if you don’t yet kn... (Read more)

Epistemic Status: Personal anecdote with reasonable sounding theory.


I love to read. There is no activity I like more than it, or one I want to do as often. I’ve been blessed with an intensely vivid imagination, and twenty minutes spent reading a well-written short story can elevate my mood through the whole rest of a day. For that reason, you would think I would try to make sure my reading was as high-quality as possible.

At the beginning of 2020 I set out to find out just how much of my reading was high-quality. I started a spreadsheet to make a record of everything I read during t... (Read more)

1. What am I missing from church?

(Or, in general, by lacking a religious/spiritual practice I share with others)

For the past few months I've been thinking about this question.

I haven't regularly attended church in over ten years.  Given how prevalent it is as part of human existence, and how much I have changed in a decade, it seems like "trying it out" or experimenting is at least somewhat warranted.

I predict that there is a church in my city that is culturally compatible with me.

Compatible means a lot of things, but mostly means that I'm better off ... (read more)

What it says on the tin.

Very uncertain about this, but makes an interesting claim about a relation between temperature, caffeine and RSI: