This is my 100ᵗʰ post on Less Wrong

by lsusr1 min read14th Feb 20216 comments

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Postmortems & Retrospectives
Personal Blog

I started blogging one and a half years ago. Blogging has helped my life in many ways. I have met interesting people online I would never have encountered in meatspace. I have received educated feedback on esoteric topics. I have shared fun projects like Luna Lovegood and the Chamber of Secrets and the 2020 Less Wrong Darwin Game with strangers around the globe.

But the most important thing about Less Wrong is it has made me a more positive person, in multiple senses of the word.

  1. Speaking in affirmative statements.
  2. Being nice to people. Looking at the bright side of things.

Most ideas come in the form of " is true" or " is false". In mathematics " is true" and " is false" contain exactly the same information. In real life they don't. Most real life questions have competing answers, one of which is true. If you say "answer is true" then you answer the question. If is large and you say "answer is false" then you have conveyed almost zero information.

If a stranger says something wrong then you should ignore them. Otherwise these people are literally taking your life. Before I began blogging, if I read a post with 100 claims and 1 of them was wrong then I would focus on the 1 wrong claim. Now I focus on the 99 true claims.

I used to think about the world as a conflict between right and wrong. Now I think about it as a conflict between action and inaction. The problem isn't that the Bad Guys are promoting Bad Ideas. The problem is that the overwhelming majority of people aren't promoting anything at all. Thinking for yourself doesn't equal consuming the right media. It equals 𝕔𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘 media.

I used to think of writers as important people who should be held to lofty standards. Now I think of writers as ordinary people on an adventure of discovery. I want to encourage them. After all, when people write nice comments on my posts it makes me really happy. I usually read them several times.

There are a many of people who contribute to this community, but my favorite people to notice are the ones who write nice comments. Thank you Ben Pace for being such a positive force in this community. You always have such nice things to say to people.

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Jeese louise. I saw this post and the opening paragraph and came to say something to the effect of ”Your HPMOR fanfic and Darwin Games competition are both excellent projects that make me feel at home on LW and move you in my mind to the ideal of a LessWronger” and then I got to the ending and I suddenly felt so called out. You got me lsusr! And you’re very welcome :)

Your 100 posts have been excellent. Here’s to many more.

This post was a one-two punch for me. The first hit was "Otherwise these people are literally taking your life." It had a screaming resonance in my head, not because of the specific case of arguing with people online (which is not a problem I have) but because of the general "time is life" idea that the linked Paul Graham post talks about.

The second hit was the paragraph about action. Another line that screamingly resonates in my head is "LET'S GOOOO", which I first heard in reference to deploying the COVID vaccine. Somehow, it now feels to me like it applies to the whole human endeavour.

I love the Paul Graham post, and I noticed with delight that the URL's slug is just "vb", which presumably stands for vita brevis. Here are a couple links that contain similar messages.

https://jsomers.net/blog/speed-matters 

https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/11/09/ars-longa-vita-brevis/ 

Your contributions have been a highlight of the past couple of years. Please keep writing!

Thank you so much. Comments like this are the main way I measure whether anyone even reads the stuff I put online.

Thinking for yourself doesn't equal consuming the right media. It equals 𝕔𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘 media.

I agree strongly with this. Sometimes I experience believing a thing because I hear it get said, and then tell other people about the thing, then when I try to explain the claim I'm making, I realize that I don't know why it's true or if it even is true, then I feel embarrassed for saying something that isn't true. When I'm writing, I have the privilege of saving myself a chunk of embarrassment, because when I realize the point I'm making is complete baloney, I can just throw away what I'm working on, and move forward in life all the wiser, all while nobody is none the wiser about my mistakes.

... For the sake of excercise, let me play devil's advocate:

Thinking for yourself doesn't equal consuming the right media. It equals 𝕔𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘 media.

Actually, I strongly disagree with what this is implying. You are correct that having a self-image of oneself as someone who thinks freely because of the media one consumes is often delusional, but you don't need to create media to arrive at accurate beliefs. The important thing is to actually be in the habit of asking yourself if what you believe is true, and putting in effort to protect yourself from false beliefs. As an example, I have an Anki deck that I use for everything under the sun. While many of the things in this deck are objective and relatively easy to verify, other parts are subjective and absurdly hard to make sure are true. Often, I will come across something that I originally suspected was true, or a useful statement to remember, only to ask myself if I actually believed it, and end up removing the card when I realize I don't agree with it. (I've even, once upon a time, intentionally added cards that I knew were not the truth, but similar to other cards that were correct, to see if I would believe them. I'm pretty happy that I've since suspended (almost?) all of them, that way I know that I'm actually thinking critically about what I read... unless one of them got through the cracks, and I've convinced myself of something that was deliberately false! That would be embarrassingly hilarious)

Studying using Anki isn't really a creative process, but it often forces your brain to go through motions similar to what you do when you're creating, unlike most things in life. Actually trying to do the thing you have beliefs about also forces you to confront misconceptions, since your misconceptions will shove themselves into your face when you make contact with reality. Along a similar vein, video games and simulations will also force you to correct misconceptions, since you will notice when the system doesn't react the way you expect- but this can also be dangerous, since if there are any inaccuracies in the game, you will go through life extra convinced about something that's false. [1]


Having played devil's advocate, and having argued both sides of the coin, what do I actually believe? I believe that misconceptions need a seed to get you to challenge them, and there are different ways to get that seed. But oftentimes, the cheapest way to get that seed is to write, and this makes me inclined to agree with Isusr's quote (and is why I strongly upvoted this post). You can think for yourself without writing, but someone who doesn't write will have many more received misconceptions than people who actually put in the effort to write what they believe is true.

[1] Having played Pandemic (flash) and Plauge, Inc years ago helped me react to the COVID situation in a more informed way, but I completely misjudged the importance of border controls for handling a pandemic. Post-COVID, I don't think border controls are worth much (aside from delaying spread in the first 2 or 3 months, and helping form a barrier between the parts of the world which have wildly different effectiveness of response), but in Plague, Inc., border controls are a huge pain in the butt for the virus, whereas once a country is infected, it is basically guaranteed that you will kill everybody in the nation. Hence, I thought that strong border controls were needed to prevent the spread of the virus, which I no longer believe is correct.

When I'm writing, I have the privilege of saving myself a chunk of embarrassment, because when I realize the point I'm making is complete baloney, I can just throw away what I'm working on, and move forward in life all the wiser, all while nobody is none the wiser about my mistakes.

This is another benefit I've gotten from writing too. I can fool myself through speaking in a way I cannot pull off while writing.