We know that mainstream thinking gets a lot of things wrong. Many of us have experienced being mocked because of our concern for AI extinction-risk. There are plenty of other examples of times where now well-evidenced beliefs were seen as crazy in some way. This post was prompted by my reading around meditation and mindfulness - twenty years ago if you said that meditation had a number of mental and even physical health benefits and was worth practicing for non-religious reasons, then you would be laughed at as a New Age type who probably believed in crystal healing and astrology too. Now there's stacks of scientific evidence supporting that view.
I would like to keep an open mind and not dismiss fact-claims just because they pattern-match to weird...
There’s a tendency to want to score high on every metric you come across. When I first read Kegan’s 5 stages of adult development, I wanted to be a stage 5 meta-rationalist! Reading the meditation book “The Mind Illuminated” (TMI), I wanted to be stage 10 (and enlightened and stage 8 jhana and…)! I remember seeing this dancer moonwalk sideways and wanting to be that good too!
This tendency is harmful.
But isn’t it good to want to be good at things? Depends on the "things" and your personal goals. What I’m pointing out is a tendency to become emotionally invested in metrics and standards, without careful thought on what you actually value. If you don’t seriously investigate your own personal preferences and taste, you may spend years of...
Epistemic status: Anecdote.
tl;dr: I had multiple opportunities to notice my confusion, but failed every time until I actually thought about it. Ended up testing positive for COVID, despite expectations.
I started preparing for the pandemic in January 2020. At the time, I was living alone. In January, my visa lapsed, and I moved in with someone else while waiting for a new visa to finish processing. Among all the people I know around the world, I think I was the single most cautious. Nobody had seen my face directly for almost a year, I was always masked (and, since October, double masked), I washed fastidiously, and never spent too long near others.
With the move, though, I was exposed to far more risk, which was the other person's activities....
So I emailed Julia to share my thoughts. Shortened version:
Personally, I thought Vitalik’s and your commentary on Glen Weyl’s characterisation of the EA and rationality community missed something important.
Glen spent a lot of time interacting with people from the black community and other cultural niches and asking for their perspectives. He said that he learned more from that than from the theoretical work he did before.
To me, Glen’s criticism came across as unnuanced (eg. EAs also donate to GiveDirectly, and it’s not like we force people to take what we give them). I also resonate with that critiques of rationality and
Political polarization in the USA has been increasing for decades, and has become quite severe. This may have a variety of causes, but it seems highly probable that the internet has played a large role, by facilitating the toxoplasma of rage to an unprecedented degree.
Recently I have the (wishful) feeling that the parties have moved so far apart that there is "room in the center". The left is for people who are fed up with the extremes of the right. The right is for people who are fed up with the extremes of the left. But where do people go if they've become fed up with both extremes?
The question is: how would the new center work? There's not room for a new political party; plurality voting makes...
I owe tremendous acknowledgments to Kelsey Piper, Oliver Habryka, Greg Lewis, and Ben Shaya. This post is built on their arguments and feedback (though I may have misunderstood them).
I plead before the Master of Cost-Benefit Ratios. “All year and longer I have followed your dictates. Please, Master, can I burn my microCovid spreadsheets? Can I bury my masks? Pour out my hand sanitizer as a libation to you? Please, I beseech thee.”
“Well, how good is your vaccine?” responds the Master.
“Quite good!” I beg. “We’ve all heard the numbers, 90-95%. Even MicroCOVID.org has made it official: a 10x reduction for Pfizer and Moderna!”
The Master of Cost-Benefit Ratio shakes his head. “It helps, it definitely helps, but don’t throw out that spreadsheet just yet. One meal at a crowded
I'm not a biologist, but I'm trying to get something like a gears-level understanding of the situation we are in. There are phenomena that seem superficially clear to me, but if I'm honest, I do not really understand what's going on.
For example, take the new Covid variants from Great Britain, South Africa and India. It is often said that the danger for such mutations is higher if a population already has some immunity because it increases the selection pressure. First, I thought "that's obvious, it's just how evolution works". But, how exactly does this work?
Here is my current understanding:
* Viruses do not have a metabolism, which is why I suspect that there is no strong competition in the human body among different virus variants. (Please correct me...
Sometimes when I talk to people about how to be a strong rationalist, I get the impression they are making a specific error.
The error looks like this: they think that good thinking is good thinking irrespective of environment. If they just learn to avoid rationalization and setting the bottom-line first, then they will have true beliefs about their environment, and if there's something that's true and well-evidenced, they will come to believe it in time.
Let me give an extreme example.
Consider what a thoughtful person today thinks of a place like the Soviet Union under Stalin. This was a nation with evil running through their streets. People were vanished in the night, whole communities starved to death, the information sources were controlled by the powerful, and many other...