Thus spake Eliezer:

A Munchkin is the sort of person who, faced with a role-playing game, reads through the rulebooks over and over until he finds a way to combine three innocuous-seeming magical items into a cycle of infinite wish spells.  Or who, in real life, composes a surprisingly effective diet out of drinking a quarter-cup of extra-light olive oil at least one hour before and after tasting anything else.  Or combines liquid nitrogen and antifreeze and life-insurance policies into a ridiculously cheap method of defeating the invincible specter of unavoidable Death.  Or figures out how to build the real-life version of the cycle of infinite wish spells.

It seems that many here might have outlandish ideas for ways of improving our lives. For instance, a recent post advocated installing really bright lights as a way to boost alertness and productivity. We should not adopt such hacks into our dogma until we're pretty sure they work; however, one way of knowing whether a crazy idea works is to try implementing it, and you may have more ideas than you're planning to implement.

So: please post all such lifehack ideas! Even if you haven't tried them, even if they seem unlikely to work. Post them separately, unless some other way would be more appropriate. If you've tried some idea and it hasn't worked, it would be useful to post that too.

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If you are a human, then the biggest influence on your personality is your peer group. Choose your peers.

If you want to be better at math, surround yourself with mathematicians. If you want to be more productive, hang out with productive people. If you want to be outgoing or artistic or altruistic or polite or proactive or smart or just about anything else, find people who are better than you at that thing and become friends with them. The status-seeking conformity-loving parts of your mind will push you to become like them. (The incorrect but pithy version: "You are an average of the five people you spend the most time with.")

I've had a lot of success with this technique by going to the Less Wrong meetups in Boston, and by making a habit of attending any event where I'll be the stupidest person in the room (such as the average Less Wrong meetup).

If you are a human, then the biggest influence on your personality is your peer group. Choose your peers.

See The Good News of Situationist Psychology.

That is exactly how I felt that day too my friend. Now look at us, you kept surrounded by awesomeness, while I came back into trying to cause awesomeness from scratch, and pull it up. It's not that I failed. By any metric, I have succeeded. But my energy has been drained through the process, while I expect yours to have tripled. As far as I've been told, you haven't had an existential crisis [], and you didn't have to worry about calibrating [] for how frequently your goals change (though from 20-24 your rate of change was much higher than mine, you stabilized much more than I did) For these reasons I want to go to Berkeley in August, and surround once again with the MIRI, Leverage, CFAR people. This time not for recalibrating and returning. This time to find out how to stay in the Berkeley-Oxford hub.

If I decide to seek company of some people, because according to some metric M they are better than me, I am helping myself, because I am exposing myself to people better than me, but at the same time I am hurting them, because I expose them to a person that is worse than them, according to the same metric. OK, one possible way out of this problem is to say that different people use different metrics. But if we assume there is one shared metric, or at least that metrics used by smart enough people are similar, is there a way to help some people without harming others?

Possible solution would be to make the relationships between people asymetrical, so they would be stronger in the "better person to worse person" direction, but weaker in the opposite direction. -- This is not a new idea, because this is what actually happens when you read someone's book, or if you attend someone's lecture. The question is, how much is the influence reduced this way. (What is the ratio between influence I get from the books and from the people I meet in person? What strategies can I use to change this ratio? E.g. I could spend more time reading, but that would have some social costs; but perh... (read more)

If I decide to seek company of some people, because according to some metric M they are better than me, I am helping myself, because I am exposing myself to people better than me, but at the same time I am hurting them, because I expose them to a person that is worse than them, according to the same metric.

I am not convinced that being around people slightly worse than yourself is bad for you. Especially when you get into a mentor role. When you actively try to help others understand and improve, this forces you to think about what you are actually doing, which probably improves your behavior.

Disclaimer: purely anecdotal, and does not apply to all metrics.

I'm just spitballing here, but... blogs with the comments turned off.
I wonder, if the whole theory is true, what are loners training themselves towards? I.e. those who don't surround themselves with people at all.
Depends on why they do that. I can imagine a person going to isolation because they care about a project they started and want to finish it as soon as possible. I can also imagine a person isolating themselves as a result of depression.
I wish I could remember where I originally saw this quote: "If you hang out with smart people, you will get smarter. If you hang out with dumb people, you will get dumber. If you hang out with rich people, they'll leave you with the bill and you will get poorer."
It is probably most useful if you hang out with people who are just a little higher than you on a given metric. You get the pull upwards, and the inferential (and other) distances are still small. It probably wouldn't be very useful for a dumb person trying to hang out with Nobel Price winners. Most likely, the dumb person would completely misunderstand them and get overconfident. A company of average people would be more useful for the dumb person, as they could empathise more, and give better practical advice. Similarly, hanging out with richer people will cost you more. They can also give you some good advice and contacts, but if the inferential distances are too large, you will not be able to use them.
Yes, that's all true. The other point in the quote is that it's not a good idea to hang out with the sort of people who prey on other people, because then you will get preyed on.
I'm going to Hacker School [] this summer. It has a lot of praise [] for making people good at programming in a very short amount of time, and it works on exactly this principle; students are selected almost exclusively for desire+ability to get better at programming, and so everyone pursues their pre-existing goal much more effectively than if they weren't all reinforcing/teaching each other.
That seems to imply loners tend to be more unusual in all respects, because of regression to the mean. If they weren't loners, they would regress to the mean of the people they associated with, which as the number of associates rises, tends towards the mean of the population. So this theory explains the (anecdotally) observed fact that loners tend to be unusual people in other respects too.
I think the same might work with online forums. E.g. an interesting way to motivate oneself to learn programming might be to spend a lot of time hanging out on the IRC channels for the tools you want to learn.
Is the corollary to this that if you want to become an outlier, i.e. not a linear combination of your peers but a point on the convex hull, you should spend less time hanging around with other people?
Or cluster with outliers. The population is large enough that you should expect to find enough outliers to form a peer group.
Does anyone know off-hand whether this effect remains or is as strong with introverts?
I am an introvert and this effect is strong for me. But the best way to see if it works for you is to try it.

I have discovered a way to carry a credit card balance indefinitely, interest-free, without making payments, using only an Amazon Kindle.

How my card works is, any purchases made during Month N get applied to the balance due in the middle of Month N+1. So if I make a purchase now, in May 2013, it goes on the balance due June 15th. If I don't pay the full May balance by June 15th, then and only then do they start charging interest. This is pretty typical of credit cards, I think.

Now the key loophole is that refunds are counted as payments, and are applied immediately, but purchases are applied to the balance due next month. So if I buy something on June 5th, and return it on June 6th, the purchase goes toward the balance due on July 15th, but the refund is applied as a payment on the balance due on June 15th! So you can pay your entire June balance with nothing but refunds, and you won't have to worry about paying for those purchases until July, at which time you can do the whole thing again. The debt is still there, of course, because all you've done is add and then subtract say $100 from your balance, but absolutely no interest is charged. This process is limited only by your credi... (read more)

Upvoted for the fact that the author actually implemented the idea into practice. Too many other posts on this thread are just theorycrafting.

That was what impressed you? Not my creation of a real-life financial perpetual motion machine?

As far as I understand (and I could be wrong), your machine does not actually generate money, but merely defers payment until some future date. It does so by essentially exploiting a bug in the Kindle + Credit Card system, and it has an upper limit of whatever your max credit line is. My guess is that if this trick becomes popular, someone will patch the bug (probably Amazon, credit card companies are pretty slow).

So, don't get me wrong, it's a nice hack, but it's hardly perpetual or earth-shattering. One similar trick I know of is to have several credit cards, and use them to keep transferring the balance between them before interest accumulates; but this is less efficient, since the "free balance transfer" special offers occur relatively rarely.

Okay, "perpetual motion machine" might have been hyperbolic -- the comparison I had in mind was to what we might call a "weak" perpetual motion machine, which doesn't generate energy but is exactly frictionless, so it twirls forever without energy input.

So, don't get me wrong, it's a nice hack, but it's hardly perpetual or earth-shattering. One similar trick I know of is to have several credit cards, and use them to keep transferring the balance between them before interest accumulates; but this is less efficient, since the "free balance transfer" special offers occur relatively rarely.

Interesting! Didn't know about that variant.

Do it for long enough and inflation will eventually reduce the debt to a negligible amount. In twenty years, at three percent rate of inflation, your debt will only be worth 54% of what it initially was!
The hack generates money if you invest the "loan" into something that pays interests in less than a month. Not enough money to be worth your time, of course; but it's still infinite free money for a given value of "infinite".
The hack generates money if you invest the loan into anything that pays interest. It requires fiddling to be done monthly but the investment can be anything and can be ongoing.
We could perhaps consider it a time value [] generator limited by max credit. This could be reasonably analogized to a perpetual motion machine with an ongoing finite output.
What does Amazon have to gain from patching it?

I'm assuming that the constant churn of purchases and returns costs them money. For example:

  • Some credit cards charge vendors (not consumers) a non-refundable per-transaction fee
  • The returned books may mess up their analytics (including royalty calculations)
  • Returning a book is usually a rare event, and may thus be computationally expensive

I would worry the effect this may have on your credit rating if anyone catches you at it, together with possibly more serious effects. This could potentially be considered fraud. Altogether it seems much more sensible to simply live within your means and pay off your credit balance each month. seems much more sensible...

This is the "ridiculous munchkin ideas" thread, not the "sensible advice you've already heard" thread.

This could potentially be considered fraud.

A more pertinent worry. Especially with cards that give a percentage of each purchase as "reward points" or something, I'd be worried about this.


Excessive returns will possibly get you banned from Amazon for life, with no warning, as many have discovered.

But probably not for e-books as there is no recognizable loss for Amazon controlling.
Better to think of ways to not spend money than think of ways to keep on living relying on other peoples' money.

Better to think of ways to not spend money than think of ways to keep on living relying on other peoples' money.

You don't get rich that way, though. Sure, you can accumulate a comfortable amount of low-grade wealth, but all the real games are played with other people's money. The only difference between B_For_Bandana's trick and the typical externalities exploited by your average high roller is the number of zeros involved in the figures.

No way! Our noble masters got their rightful place on top of the Holy Free Market due to their hard work, brilliance, laudable ambition and - as much ressentiment as it might cause in the weak and envious - their overall innate superiority that separates them from the lower orders! ...And even if they do use tricks like that on occasion, lazy and worthless commoners like you shouldn't dare imitate them. In the hands of the good and the great they do no harm, but just any unwashed pleb exploiting loopholes like those is dangerously subversive of the natural hierarchy.

It may no longer be fashionable to point people to "Politics is the Mind-Killer", but that was the best example of a good, solid, and avoidable dig at the other side that I've seen for quite some time. Mockery contributes nothing, especially in a thread where as far as I can tell no one's advocated the positions you're mocking. Downvoted.

Fair enough. Yeah, I ought to at least stick to using those with some more context.
There's even a special page on the Amazon website for the express purpose of cancelling ebook purchases within the last 7 days: []

So I've recently decided to change my real name from an oriental one to John Adams. I am not white.

There’s a significant amount of evidence that shows that

(1) Common names have better reception in many areas, especially publication and job interviews.

(2) White names do significantly better than non-white names

(3) Last names that begin with the early letters of the alphabet have a significant advantage over last names beginning with the latter letters of the alphabet.

Source :

Therefore if I were to use "John", one of the most common 'white' first names, along with Adams, a 'white' surname that also begins with the letter A, it should stand that I would be conferred a number of advantages.

Furthermore, I have very little attachment to my family heritage. Switching names doesn’t cost me anything beyond a minor inconvenience of having to do paperwork. For some people, changing your name may be extremely worthwhile, depend... (read more)

I once considered changing my name to Ben Abard but decided that the original Eliezer Yudkowsky sounded more like a scientist.

I wonder how Jewish names perform relative to gentile names.

Reminds me of all the Jewish actors who've changed their names to make it in Hollywood, and all the executives who've done the exact opposite.

I've always been mildly annoyed that I don't have an eastern European last name. All the cool mathematicians seem to have eastern European last names.

OK, there are disproportionately many Jewish scientists, but how else does "Eliezer Yudkowsky" sound like a scientist's name? Now, if you really want a name that sounds like a scientist, how about renaming yourself Isaac Feynmann, Galileo Crick, or Rosalind Newton?

Actually, most people will identify with a scientist's last name more than a first name - so pick a scientist's last name that sounds like a first name for your own first name, and then another last name that sounds like a last name for your last name.

I'll be Maxwell Tesla.

Too funny; those are the middle names of my kids! :)

I have a Caribbean-American friend who's grateful his parents gave him a fairly white name for exactly this reason. I think having the same name as a famous historical figure would be bad for your google search results, though.

Being hard to Google can also be a plus.

Or he could adopt a middle name that would distinguish him when people really wanted to search for him.

My father once heard a story about this. An Asian immigrant family decided to give their son an American-sounding first name, "Peter". Unfortunately, their family name was "Pan"... Probably an urban legend, but kind of funny...

The biggest flaw in this idea is that almost nothing in your references applies to you! They pretty much cover only black and white names, not Oriental ones. You can't conclude that a white name benefits you because it would benefit a black person. Even in the Swedish study, a quick trip to Wikipedia shows that the number of foreign-born residents from east Asia in Sweden is a tiny percentage.

Furthermore, none of the studies you quote account for switching costs since they just compare people who already have the names, except for the Swedish one, but I would expect that the switching cost as a new immigrant is much less than for someone who has been living with his name for a while.

(2) White names do significantly better than non-white names

Not all white names are made equal. You want a name that's associated with high status in the country in which you live.

In Germany being named Kevin is a low status signal. The same is true for most US names. Lower class people in Germany are more likely to give their children the name of US celebrities than German high class people.

I'm German and would agree. Kevin not only sounds low Status but is also a name for kids, so it's even handicapped in more than one respect. I've thought about adopting "Aaron Alexander Grey", the middle name being my father's first name and Grey being an adaptation of my current last name that probably no one except Germans could really hope to pronounce correctly. Also I don't want to stay in Germany so Aaron Alexander Grey is more of an attempt at a name that I imagine may be overall an internationally well recieved name. Thoughts? By the way if you're a German citizen you can't just change your name unless you provide a good reason... like having idiot parents who decided Adolf is a proper first name for their child (way after WW2 mind you). If ever, I'll probably change my name once I become a Swedish citizen where you can do that kind of thing. Being Swedish (at least by citizenship) is probably also a very good signal internationally speaking. Better than German for sure.
What do people named Kevin get called when they grow up then?
Names trend over time in rather smooth curves of popularity. In the U.S., there aren't any laws about what you can call your kids, but the Social Security Administration tracks popularity of names. [] For instance, the second most popular girl's name this year is Emma, which was also the third most popular in 1880 ... and the 451st most popular at its low point in 1978. The most popular name today, Sophia, tracks a similar curve with a low point in the '40s. The most popular girl's name in my age cohort was Jennifer — the #1 girl's name from 1970 to 1984! — but Jennifer has been on the way down ever since. Today's American girls are more likely to have an Aunt Jenny than a classmate Jenny. To me, Jennifer (or Jessica, Melissa, Amy, or Heather) sounds like someone my age, not a little kid. Young girls are named Ashley, Hannah, Madison, Alexis ... and baby girls are Isabella, Sophia, Emma. Male names are stabler than female names, but mostly because some names (Michael, Matthew, Daniel, William ...) are persistently popular.
Bacon. Spacey. Sorbo. Costner. Kline.
If you go to the ex-Eastern Block, you find German usually has the signal "awesome rich industrial powerhouse, want to imitate, the kind of capitalist overlord I would want to be become, bossing over everybody" and Swedish has the signal "pretty people with funny ideas like non-gendered kindergartens, lacking courage or else they would beat the shit out of immigrant rapists". Basically in Eastern Europe German is the second most powerful signal after American, and since people tend to worship power it works...
Could very well be true. But it leaves open the curious question what on earth I would be looking for in the ex-eastern block ;)
Cheap talent mainly.
Same in my country. And my reason is pretty similar -- I've had people from my own country who constantly mispronounce my name, and I don't even want to think how badly foreign people would distort it, as I plan to emigrate. (Also I don't find it in the least bit euphonic, but that's not a reason I would ever admit to on a state form.) But I gather from your comment that compatibility with foreign languages / pronunciations is not considered an acceptable reason in countries that have stricter laws concerning name change? Also, that if you have dual citizenship and one of your countries allows you a name change, the other country is obliged to recognize the name change? Is that right?
What's supposed to oblige the country? In general it probably gives you a decent reason to request a name change in the other country as well. If you however search an unreasonable name you might still get denied.
I don't know, I was asking whether I had understood the parent comment right. I don't know much about name change legislation, and would like to find out more. I was thinking along the lines of, well, it's not as if any given country "owns" somebody's name -- it's a property of the person, right? As in, you can't have one legal name in one country and another in some other country. That's what common sense tells me at least. But then again I've been surprised by law on several occasions in the past, to say the least...
2TheOtherDave8y []
I know it's at least possible to have variant names; I am legally registered in different countries by parallell names analogous to "Venice" and "Venezia".
Gee. Law's weirder than I thought. But these facts open up some promising possibilities, now that I think about it... after all it's the munchkin ideas thread. Thanks to everybody for clearing this up for me, and thanks to whatever higher power is least astronomically unlikely to exist for not giving me the suicidal idea to pursue law as a profession.
Nope. Your relationship to your name doesn't fit most of the bundle of rights that the word "property" implies. Of course you can. Why not? Consider immigrants who acquired a new citizenship but did not renounce their old one -- the names on their two sets of papers do not have to be identical.
That's a bad train of thought. You have to think about the institutions involved. There are certain things that international law guarantees to you, that your country is obliged to provide to you. Things like "Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law." "Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him." In this case also important: "(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality." You don't really have an inane right for two nationalities. If a country allows you dual citizenship it's a nice thing to do. As such I wouldn't expect naming right to arise as a consequence. That's certainly not the case. If I remember right you can't have the same legal name in South Korea as in Germany or New York. In South Korea your name needs to be written in Hangul and the legal documents about you are addressed to the name in Hangul. In Germany your name has to be in the standard Latin alphabet (I don't know how much accents it allows). Quick Googling suggests that the case for China is similar. You get to choose between Simplified characters or Traditional Chinese ones.
No, there are certain things that international law says are guaranteed to you, that international law says your country is obliged to provide to you. You need the additional premise "if international law says a country is obliged to provide something, then that country is obliged to provide it". I see no reason to believe that premise. It doesn't seem to be true either as a statement about how countries should behave or about how countries actually behave.
A double twist: there are German names that look like English names but are actually German names. Michael, Paul. Just wondering: what would Germans associate with the name Helga for women? To me it sounds Viking-awesome (heiligr). If you want to name your kids in a way that is compatible without pronounciation issues in the larger Central European area, from Denmark to Hungary or Serbia, there are unfortunately not so many choices. For boys, Robert, Norbert, Henrik and of course the ubiquitous Peter. For girls, Helga, maybe Judit, Eva, Anna, For example something like Catherine is not a very good idea because it is written different in every language, from Katalin to Yekaterina. Anna has only one mutant forms, Anne in English, otherwise quite stable. For boys the stablest name is Norbert it either doesn't exist in a language or if it does it is written and pronounce exactly the same. However I think people are becoming more "creative" and less compatibility-oriented with names... I know a German couple living in London who have a son called Yuriy. Reason? Gagarin. "We wanted someone who goes up". Okay...
In general people in the creative class do so. It's not the names the average banker, doctor or judge gives their child.

Definitely agree that changing your name is a good option to have on the table.

I'd note though that in some industries having a Google-unique name is king. It really depends what your "personal brand strategy" is. I remember reading an interview with a marketer who recommended people consider name changes. Her name was "Faith Popcorn". I read that single interview probably 5-10 years ago. It wasn't even a particularly interesting interview. I still remember her name, though.

A disadvantage of that particular name is that it's the name of no fewer than two famous people).

(Or is that an advantage?)

That's an advantage! My name will thus be subconsciously associated with high-status people.

I think it's probably advantageous to have one's name be subconsciously associated with high status people, but not to have it be consciously associated.

For instance, a name like "James" may have higher class associations than "Antwon," but naming a kid "Jimmy Carter Washington" is liable to raise the associations to a conscious level and provoke speculation about the motives of the parents (or other namer.)

This sounds like an excellent idea. I'm going to take the liberty of discussing my own name and I hope to get some opinions. My surname, 'Armak', is a misspeling of Ermak, sometimes written Yermak []. I have no love lost for this name. Its main effect on my life is that when I introduce myself, people respond with "Daniel What?". And people who see it written in Hebrew always pronounce it wrong (because Hebrew normally has no written vowels, it's very bad at transliteration of foreign names). It would be an ordinary name in Russia or Ukraine, but I'm unlikely to even visit those countries. So I want to choose a common name that is "at home" in Hebrew and English and, preferably, Russian. Something short and simple that can be pronounced by speakers of pretty much any language, in case I associate with Chinese in the future, or something similarly unexpected. But I'm very much afraid of bureaucratic hassle. It's easy to change a name, but records with the old name will follow me all my life. And I'm afraid that many organizations deal poorly with people who try to prove that their name changed and they should have access to their accounts or records opened under their old names. On the other hand, most Western women and a few men change their names when they marry (and sometimes when they divorce). And this presumably doesn't create big difficulties, because it's socially expected. So maybe the infrastructure for name-changing already exists and my fears are unfounded. Has this been quantified? Like surveying people who changed their legal names (other than when marrying or divorcing) after a few years. Disclaimer: I haven't been serious enough to invest the time to research this myself.
You don't find that surnames in Hebrew just get mispronounced a ton, in general? Other than ones which have standard pronunciation, I encounter constant errors with people trying to figure out which vowels to put where when it comes to last names, although that may be biased because my last name, despite being very straightforward in English, is a puzzle for Israelis. Also, from anecdotal data and a bit of personal knowledge, changing your last name here in Israel doesn't seem like much of a hassle, other than having to do it in person.
Foreign ones do, certainly. That's why I'd be looking for one that's familiar to speakers of both Hebrew and English.
My dad changed his name when he became a citizen...and got sufficiently annoyed at the hassle that he changed his name back. Note - this wasn't a major name change, he changed it from "Amarjit Singh Jolly" to "Jolly Amarjit Singh"
This sounds like a reasonable motivation to change one's name, but personally, I would have picked something not already attached to a rather famous person []. I think it's probably more advantageous to have a name which is "generic" in that it doesn't immediately call up a single immediate association.
I've always wanted a name like that! But I'm worried that with such a generic English name people will expect me to speak perfect English, which means they'll be negatively surprised when they hear my noticeable accent.
You will be impossible to google for with the name "John Adams". Whether that matters to you is up to you, but a Google check is a good idea anyway. As it happens, the real John Adams is a very illustrious figure (in America), but you want to avoid calling yourself Charles Manson.
I've considered changing my name since the first day I understood that names could be relatively normal. You see my kind parents thought it would be endearing to name me Dusty. Suffice to say, I've had a hard time projecting a certain sort of image for myself with a name like that. The only merit I've ever noted in my birthname is recognition. For better or worse, no one forgets a Dusty. I try to diffuse some of the negative image by shoehorning in humor, "hello I'm Dusty, like the adjective," but eventually I'm going to have to get it changed...
Are you sure White names do better than ALL non-White names? The papers you sourced compare US White to Black names and Swedish to "immigrant" names -- both kind of hyperbolic examples. Nothing about White names vs Asian names, which I would expect to get different results. Also, in some industries or cases having a foreign/ethnic/unique name could be a positive. FWIW, if I met an Asian guy with a WASPy name like John Adams I would think either he is adopted or changed his name/identity, which might send me negative signals such as duplicity, cunning, and cowardice.
Lots of Asian Americans are adopted, or are mixed European/Asians. European male / Asian female pairings (which would lead to a European last name) are about three times as common as European female / Asian male pairings. In general, first name assimilation is seen positively by most Americans I know, and has been very common in the Asian American community, both for first-generation immigrants and their descendants. (Last name assimilation is less common, but I think still seen positively.) Of the Eastern Asian grad students I know, it is common to adopt a Western first name (especially if they're Chinese; the transliteration from Chinese to English [] was clearly not designed by an English-speaker, as Chowchew [] can attest).
Consider Jon Adams, as name length increases, average income [] decreases.
Names whose spelling is ambiguous are generally a bad idea.
Jay Lee?
In California changing your name costs two or three hundred dollars.
In New Jersey, it's a bit over one hundred.
Cheaper to get married and then divorced, maybe.
When naming you children consider giving them multiple names from different cultures. You don't have to use the names actively, just add them and use the first one. This simplifies 'changing' the name later much - as you already have the name.

Learn some basic voice production for stage techniques. How your voice sounds is an absurdly strongly weighted component of a first impression, particularly over a phone or prior to direct introduction, and being able to project your voice in a commanding fashion has an overpowered influence on how much people listen to you and consider you a 'natural leader.' In particular, learn what it means to speak from the diaphragm, and learn some basic exercises for strengthening your subsidiary vocal chords like Khargyraa and basic tuvan throat singing, and you'll be surprised at how much it makes people sit up and listen. You might coincidentally have your voice drop into a lower register after about a month of such exercises, it (anecdatally) happened to me and several people in my voice production for stage class in college. (class of 25, 6 people had their voices drop within the first 4 months, teacher said those numbers were normal.)

Most people just assume you're born with a voice and have to deal with it, which is demonstrably untrue, and so they consider your voice to reflect your character.

That sounds like very useful advice. Do you have some suggestions for where to start learning this? E.g. particular books, classes, or Youtube videos?

Yes, I do have particular books, classes, youtube videos, lectures, exercises, and other resources. It is highly dependent on your particular vocal tendencies, so your mileage will vary for all of them. But just as i don't feel comfortable posting physical fitness advice due to the above issues, i don't feel inclined to share the techniques which worked well for me or have worked for my students without providing the support to ensure you gain maximum benefit from them. So I will simply state some intriguing names of techniques and remain available to answer questions from your own journey, instead of listing techniques which will be mostly useless and are easily disproven in the majority of circumstances.
That being said, here are a couple of links. Diaphragm Breathing/Speaking: [] Khargyraa Techniques: [] The best tip for the Khargyraa stuff is just to watch that video and maybe this one and then wing it for a while, trying to get the sound right. If you manage it, try just saying some stuff in a normal voice and note the difference. It is immediate and surprising. This link is nice because the guy is such an amateur! He clearly learned, like, one technique (probably from youtube) and then posted his immediate results on youtube, so it's a good starting point. []
How do you guys feel about sharing hacks to increase your status, given that status can be a bit of a zero-sum game? I think I may have identified a nootropic that has the effect of making one feel and act higher status, but I'm not sure I want to just tell the entire world about it, given the positional nature of status. Edit: see here [] for more.

A very small number of people read LW, and a fraction of those people are going to apply any status hacks. Only a small number of people are going to apply status hacks, and they are the people who are diligent enough to research and implement them.

Posting such hacks is not going to push everyone to universally adopt them and return everyone to the previous status quo.

Posting such hacks is not going to push everyone to universally adopt them and return everyone to the previous status quo.

And even if it did, some of the actions that would increase one's positional status also have positive-sum effects (though in this specific case of voice training, they don't seem to be overwhelmingly large to me).

Just tell people in such a way that only the kind of people you'd want to have higher status will pay attention.

Just tell people in such a way that only the kind of people you'd want to have higher status will pay attention.

For example, by posting it on lesswrong!

Well, the more people who know about it, the greater the chance that one of them will tell someone about it who I'd prefer not to have high status. I guess there are decently big taboos against taking drugs in our culture, so it probably wouldn't spread like wildfire. Actually, right now I have the opposite problem: I have friends who I'd like to be higher status and I'm trying to persuade them to try it but they won't.

There no reason why we should give more status to tall people or who are otherwise physically strong. It's much better to give status to those people who are smart enough to apply hacks.

Actually, like skin color and facial structure, height is a pretty good indicator of intelligence. (This isn't genetic or even A->B causative; it's simply a fact that height and IQ are both highly dependent on childhood nutrition). I don't say this to advocate heightism any more than I would advocate racism; I'm merely pointing out that in our current environment, they happen to correlate pretty well, and anyone under 6'2" should pause and contemplate the implications of that.

I had the impression that the height/intelligence correlation was actually quite weak:

the correlation between height and intelligence is not that high. This association is probably not going to be intuitively visible to anyone, but rather only shows up in large data sets.

Um, I don't think you're using this correlation correctly. Because we have a model where nutritional deficiencies lead to both short height and low IQ, the amount of information we get is dependent on where we are in the height and IQ spectrum. Basically, if you're uncharacteristically short, say -2 sigma or lower, then you should be worried; if -1 sigma or lower, a slight suspicion; 0 or higher, little information, rather than the "if you aren't more than +1.3 sigma, contemplate." Except that this correlation is much less informative than, say, IQ tests.
Tesla was just under 6'2", I'll spot you him. Einstein was 5'9". Christopher Langan [] is 5'11". Wolfram Alpha couldn't give me a height for Feynman, Hofstadter, or Darwin. Nutrition is not the only derterminant of height.
Certainly; nor is it the only determinant of intelligence. "Highly dependent" != "solely dependent". But someone who wanted to maximize the chance of interacting intelligent and successful people would do well to pay attention to height, for multiple reasons - not the least of which is that everyone ELSE who wants to maximize the chance of interacting with intelligent and successful people tends to pay attention to height (even if they themselves are not tall). Also, note that your "name X highly intelligent people who were not at optimal height" strategy is primarily anecdotal, and also that 6'2" to 6'4" is the optimal height for maximizing your height-based status gain, not the baseline height.
There probably are lots of things you could pay attention to instead that would give you more information. (I'm 6'2", just in case anyone suspects this is sour grapes.)
I'm very curious why someone would vote this down.
I'm not sure that someone can just feel higher status - I don't think status is a single, persistent variable. Like my karate teacher is high-status when it comes to karate, but when it comes to the associated history I think he's about as useful as tits on a bull. The upshot of which is that while I think there are probably things that relate to multiple domains, confidence for instance, the questions to do with increasing those individual things seem less loaded to answer in terms of whether you should post a hack.
Being high status is difficult. Acting high status is probably easier, and likely to increase your actual status somewhat simply because people mistake you for high status and so treat you as high status and it's all self-referential. Disclaimer: it's also possible you would be seen as having ideas above your station and promptly quashed.
If you have a reason to wish to favour non-munchkins over munchkins in regards to status then it would follow that censoring such things is appropriate. Which one? There are plenty of substances that have the effect of making one feel and act higher status. I am somewhat curious which one you are referring to.
0John_Maxwell10y []
I'm curious as to how you went about identifying such a nootropic.
I didn't deliberately set out to find it, really. I'm also not quite sure how well it works yet. The effects are supposed to be cumulative, meaning the longer you have been taking it, the more of a confident jerk you become, and you continue being a confident jerk even after coming off of it (maybe). I doubt it's that much of a game changer really, it's a pretty commonly used nootropic and not many people list improved confidence as one of the effects--perhaps because the effects are subtle and only come with continued usage, or perhaps because they simply aren't very strong effects to begin with. It might be useful for people who have chronic social awkwardness though. (if anyone reading this ever sees me act like a confident jerk, please tell me)
How do you know it works better than a placebo ?
This description doesn't really make me want to use it. At all.
Late to your question, but the issue is IMHO that status-hacks are fairly obvious, just expensive / time-consuming / hard, and actually they are supposed to be. The whole reason they work is that they are fairly exclusive, they convey status by putting you into a club most people cannot belong to, and this cannot really work as a cheat code that is protected only by secrecy. It must be, by necessity, something hard enough to do even if you know how. One obvious example is hiring a stylist, using his advice to replace your whole wardrobe, probably with DKNY level of designers stuff and even getting them fitted by a tailor afterward. Perfectly well know except it costs about a car and thus most people won't / can't do it.
I feel great about it. Let the users decide for themselves.
You seem to have knowledge about how to do this effectively - please share that knowledge or the sources for it.
I've read some basics on this, around 2006, but it's hard to think of more to say than "let most of the force in your breath come from lower." I do find that sitting up straight or standing is much better for this than slouching or lying down, etc. I generally do voicework standing (I only do the minimum for my own projects; I'm not much of an actor). It's the same breathing principals for playing a wind instrument, a lot of martial arts, meditation, etc. (The latter just focuses on breathing without the forceful projection, but the principal of controlling the breath with muscles lower than your throat and upper chest remains the same.)
@cae_jones, the technique you are referring to here is technically known as 'Diaphragm Breathing.' It is very effective and good both actively and passively, and used in voice training for stage, singing, and a variety of martial arts and meditative schools. It will also become second nature very quickly when practiced, and is the single best technique to know the existence of, which is why I taught it at the first rationality minicamp and the first boot camp. Here is the technique, in brief form. YMMV. Take a deep breath, placing one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Note which hand moves. If your upper chest hand moves, you have much to gain. If your stomach hand moves, you will have an easy time making progress. If both move, you are partway along already. To improve your diaphragm breathing, keep one hand on your stomach and fake a yawn. Your stomach hand should move, a lot. Not a little bit, but noticeably. It should feel like you just got fat :). continue fake yawning in this fashion until you can separate the breathing from your stomach from the concept of a 'fake yawn,' and whenever you have a moment include either fake yawns (at the beginning), or diaphragm breathing (same thing, without the ostentatious yawn) in your quick meditations.
@Zaine, I considered a lesswrong post on it, but it is very difficult to give general advice on the topic due to interactions between identity and voice, the fact that many people already use many techniques and so could get bored with a list, etc etc. How would you advise structuring such a sharing post?
I would identify a representative set of specific circumstances which would benefit from 'vocal training techniques', then go into detailed explanation of the physiological changes that effect a benefit in each specific circumstance. Now that the generally applicable part has been covered, you can detail various techniques designed to achieve the effects. As each person will have differing degrees of success with different exercises, list many, but at the outset state the ultimate goal for the technique the set of exercises are designed to develop, exempli gratia "You will feel X once it has worked" (I don't know if this is possible). If you are clear that one is only learning how to use their body more effectively, I should not think considerations of identity will prove problematic - if it does, abandoning the exercises undoes the effects, correct? I would also mention that incorrect use of one's voice over long periods of time damages it; increasing one's ability to use it correctly will help preserve their ability to produce voice into the future.
I know how to project voice, and I do it when singing all the time, but I always forget to do that in normal conversations.
@army 1987, it is the difference between knowing how to do push ups well, and run well, and do situps, and being strong in the sense that a blacksmith is strong. One is a sort of ability to perform a bounded activity, the other comes from constant use of the muscles in question over time. When you've done the right exercises, you don't have to remember, you're just strong and you have a life which makes you stronger every day.
Makes sense to me -- I've noticed the same difference between improving my posture by telling myself not to slouch vs improving my posture by exercising so that I won't even feel the need to slouch in the first place.
This is cool []! -- but how does being able to do it make a difference when you're speaking normally? (Other than the voice-lowering thing you mentioned.) While I'm asking questions: Did you or any of your classmates find it did long-term harm to the high singing voice? (I'm specifically interested in the male voice just below the break.)
'How does being able to do it make a difference when you're speaking normally?' The vocal exercises drop your register immediately, particularly even a moment or two of Khargyraa will sort of... remind you that you have a lower register under your normal voice for no extra work, and sticks with you for about an hour if stressless or fifteen mins if stressed (public speaking, etc.). Also after extended use you develop the additional vocal muscles- it's like working on your core to increase your run times, by improving a range of seldom-used muscles you gain capabilities in your mains. 'Did you or any of your classmates find it did long-term harm to the high singing voice?' We weren't singing students. It was a Voice Projection for Stage class, followed by Diction and Dialects. Personally i've found that my high singing voice is more accurately pitched, but that may be due to an entirely different suite of exercises i've been pursuing simultaneously.
That would be rather surprising for me, considering that I already have a deep bass singing voice. Or are you talking about your speaking voice and not your vocal range? Because I often speak at a much higher pitch, especially when I'm trying to sound friendly.
Yes, i am referring to your normal speaking voice. Khargyraa and Tuvan techniques in particular add undertones to your normal speaking voice, making it seem deeper and more resonant when the exercises are performed regularly. It is not that your 'normal voice' becomes more resonant, but that the concept of 'normal voice' is actually based on a combination of vocal chords and you simply add to the mix, increasing the apparent depth and resonance of the timbre which the brain sums the voice into. In short, yes, I am referring to normal speaking voice, though it also allows some fun things when singing. Like metal screams without injuring vocal chords, at any register.

I learned how to crank out patents. My thinking, over the years, shifted from "Wow, I can really be an inventor," to "Wow, I can Munchkin a ridiculously misconfigured system" and beyond that to "This is really awful."

My blog post: "The evil engineer's guide to patents".

Since Munchkining means following the letter of the rules, while bypassing the unspoken rules, we should consider how often it is accompanied by moral dissonance.

Getting a patent through is far from cheap. While the filing fee is not much, the rest is prohibitively expensive if it's not paid for by your employer, about $10k or so per simple patent, all told. Probably not worth it for a line on your resume in most cases. I wonder if there is a way to munchkin this cost.

The article is aimed mostly at salaried employees, and so the cost is not relevant, so long as the employer wants to pay it, which they generally do.

I wonder if there is a way to munchkin this cost

There sure is. As described in the blog:

... but if you're doing patents on your own, here's how to start off cheap. File a provisional patent in the US (the only country that counts) for $110, with a brief description in ordinary language. It lasts for a year, and you can file up to a year after you release your “invention” in a software product (if you even intend to do that). So, you have two years to find funding for the real patent, or just to abandon the provisional patent once your company is either stable and successful or stable and dead.

(I did the provisional patent thing myself once.)

At worse, even if you abandon it because of cost, no problem: As mentioned in the blog post

You don’t care much if the patent office accepts your patent. What's important to you... is that it gets filed. You can honestly list "patent applications” on your CV ... It takes five to eight years for the patent to get finally approved [which is so long that no one much cares about the difference when reading a CV].

I meant getting the actual patent, even if you are not successful at funding it.
Not that I know of. But why would you care about getting an issued patent (particularly in software) if you do not want to be a patent troll? Considering this from the perspective of how an employer would see my CV, take a look at my list of patents []. Can you even tell the difference: Which are (1) under review at the USPTO; (2) abandoned by a bankrupt startup (two or three, but there is no public record of that, so even I don't officially know); (3) rejected (none, that almost never happens); (4) issued and approved as patents? But I will grant that listing the $100 provisional patent application in your CV as a "patent application" is beyond the bounds of good taste. I do not list my (long-gone) provisional patent anywhere. Thus, patents in your resume do provide a real signal (though weaker than many people think): They show that someone (an employer) thought it was worth investing some money in filing it.
Darn it. I was just about to suggest "be a patent troll" as a Munchkin-y thing to do. Apparently, it's really, really easy to get patents accepted, even on things that are very broad, that have been done before, are blindingly obvious, or are even things you don't actually know how to make! The way things stand, you could probably get a patent for a Star Trek style teleporter with a few block diagrams and some fancy-sounding bullshit, and I'm dead serious about that. You know what one guy [] managed to patent? "Machine vision" - connecting a camera, any camera, to a computer. He first applied for the patent in 1954, but years later enforced variations of it against people who used bar code scanners []. You can't make a submarine patent [] any more, so patenting a Star Trek teleporter probably won't make you any money, but people have indeed made money patenting things that were impractical when they were patented. For example, someone patented remote online backup services [], then someone else bought the patent and started suing people trying to offer those services. In general, because defending a lawsuit in the U.S. is expensive, there are people who manage to make quite a bit of money by threatening to sue people on shaky grounds and offering to settle for less than the cost to defend the case. (Many other countries discourage this kind of extortion by forcing a losing plaintiff to pay the defendant's court costs, but that has a chilling effect on valid lawsuits as well as bogus ones.)
Broken link and no copy on
2ignoranceprior7y copy [] (takes a few seconds to load) copy []

If you want to increase your pulling strength without much effort, get a pullup bar and put it in a doorway in your home. Then just make a habit of doing pullups every time you walk by. This is remarkably effective. I've been doing this for two weeks and have seen significant improvement.

It's important to actually have it on a doorway at all times. Ours was sitting in a closet for several months, and during that time, I used it maybe twice. In the past two weeks, with it actually on a doorway and requiring no effort for me to set up and start using it, I've been doing ~5 chinups every day. (The number has been going up as I've gotten better at it; I'm looking forward to when I can actually do dead-hang pullups.)

$20 on Amazon.

I think a general policy of decreasing the startup cost of doing things you want to do is a useful one. Rewarding yourself helps too, but sometimes you just need to lower the activation energy.

I've done, recommended, and been recommended this before and am in wholehearted agreement. I would be remiss however if I did not share a word of caution: that model of pull up bar leaves black marks, and after extended use, will probably dent a wooden door frame. I do not know of a model of that type that does not share this design flaw.

I recall doing exactly that in junior high, and increasing my chin-up count from 0 to 12 or so within 3-4 months, without consciously worrying about it. My P.E. teacher was impressed. In retrospect, going through puberty must have helped, too.
What if you're not capable of doing a pullup? (I've never been able to do one.)

I can't do a full pullup either. A couple of weeks ago I couldn't even really do a chin-up (though I used to be able to). I just did assisted / negatives, which for me means... Jump! Then lower yourself down as slowly as you can. And jump a little bit less every time until you can do it without using your legs at all.

And then once you can do it from standing level, you work up to doing it from a dead hang somehow. I'm hazy on the details there because I've never gotten that far myself.

Assuming you don't have access to a gym, one thing to try is to obtain a strong theraband []. Hold the band with both arms out in front of you, elbows slightly bent, and extend your arms out to your sides. You should feel this in the upper back muscles. If this gets easy, double up the band. Eventually that should provide enough upper back strength to try a pull-up. (You'll also need to do some biceps training, which you could also do with an anchored theraband, or with household objects, if you don't want to obtain dumbbells.) If you have access to gym equipment, then pull-downs with a lat bar [] and bent over rowing [] train most of the muscles you will need.
If you have easy access to a gym with machines (e.g. if you are a student), one of those machines is hopefully an assisted pull-up machine which will let you add counter-weight as necessary.
Wide push-ups will get you partway there, which the same tool is actually pretty good for (flip it over on the floor).
For those that don't have a convenient place to hang a pullup bar, or as a general alternative/addon, I recommend dumbbells. I bought a nice set (2 x 20kg, 0.5, 1.25, 2, 5kg increments) for around $100 and cancelled my gym membership. They paid for themselves in 2 months time. Now I'm saving money and more fit then ever because I actually workout, instead of making excuses why not to go to the gym (it's too cooold, it's raaaining, I don't have tiiiime, etc.)
Nick Winter used a similar scheme [] (albeit with a towel) & found that not only did he get better at pullups, his 1 mile time & bench press improved as well!

There's kind of a growing movement around Rob Rhinehart's Soylent thing, dunno if you folks have heard of this.

Basically, he got tired of making food all the time and tried to figure out the absolute minimum required chemical compounds required for a healthy diet, and then posted the overall list, and has now been roughly food free for three months, along with a bunch of other people.

It seems awesome to me and I'm hoping this sort of idea becomes more prevalent. My favorite quote from him I can't now find, but it's something along the lines of "I enjoy going to the movie theater, but I don't particularly feel the need to go three times a day."

There's small reddit community/discourse groups around getting your own mixture.

I find this incredibly fascinating. Especially the ability to save hours every day from not needing to eat. If the guy doesn't die after a year or so, I'm definitely trying this out.

When I looked at his blog last, he was eating out socially (understandable). So we onlookers won't get to enjoy his discovery of any new micro-nutrient deficiency syndromes. I wasn't especially impressed by his approach. Maybe he'll get some good advice from others, but I didn't think he was anyone to listen to.

It's not impressive as a medical experiment, but it's pretty impressive for actually-getting-something-done.

If it turns out that he can survive comfortably on his concoction plus highly irregular meals at restaurants, that's useful information. Just not as useful as the results of a more thorough experiment.

He actually spent the first two months on a Soylent-only diet, and only recently added social eating. I think he said something in his three month blog post about a week he spent eating normal food, and he ended up feeling way crappier.
Sure. But 2 months is not long enough. Some unaccounted-for vitamin with a long half-life or a low requirement could give deficiency symptoms after 4 months but not 2. Also, people on restrictive diets post all the time about how crappy they feel when they reintroduce something. For him to slide comfortably into the explanation "thus my product makes me feel better than restaurant food" is typical of such dieters' enthusiasm. Although bad restaurant food does exist, much of the digestive upset people experience when going out to eat is simply down to overeating, late eating, or alcohol.
That was also a week he spent travelling. Sleeping away from home, long plane/car rides, irregular schedule, and all the other attendant discomforts are quite enough to throw me off my game, even without dietary shifts.
Could also be a temporary effect. Your gut flora adjusts to what you're eating, and a sudden shift in composition can cause digestive distress.
I would be more surprised if, by only eating when you're socially required to, you happened to get the exact essential nutrients the diet would otherwise leave you without.
here's what i was thinking: 1. "real food" has plenty of vitamins and stuff 2. some of that stuff might have a long half-life in the body 3. and be needed only in small (catalytic?) amounts. so that 1. you wouldn't know about them if you just studied basic nutrition textbooks (or perhaps nobody knows about them) 2. if your social eating is frequent enough, you'd never lack them. so, ideally, people following some soylent-type practice strictly will develop some interesting symptoms, and we'll discover some new stuff. but if they cheat, we don't learn as much. i admit there's a good possibility that we already know about all the vitamin-like stuff there is. after soylenters start showing better 10-year mortality, i'll gladly join them.

This is interesting. For years I've blended together various ingredients (mostly stuff like broccoli, lentils, sweet pepper, ricotta, canned tuna, olive oil, various grains and nuts such as flax, sesame, hazelnut, sunflower), balanced these for macro and micro-nutrients using cron-o-meter, further optimized along various axes such as cost, taste, ease of use, ease of preparation, packaging, cleaning up etc. Food is primarily something I do to feed myself in the end, and I dislike it when there's too much fluff.

I'd be more wary of mixing together purified/refined nutrients though. Just as licking iron bars won't provide you with your daily needs for iron (elemental iron isn't very soluble and your body wouldn't be able to assimilate it well), there's more and more evidence that whole plants and animal parts contain more than just the usual nutrients, and that this particular mix may be needed to stay in good health - and conversely that substituting multivitamins and refined macronutrients for normal food may run the risk of missing some essential, complex interactions/packaging that occurs in it and which changes the way your body assimilates it.

Now of course, many people eat junk food and still live to be 60-70 so there's some leeway. We'll only really know whether Soylent is healthy enough (like, for someone interested in life extension, and not just satisfied with a classical life span) if this experiment goes for decades, and if it's done using more people, controlled conditions, etc (in short, using Science).

Some people thrive for decades (including Stephen Hawking) tube fed with nutritionally complete enteral formulas. Semi-annual blood tests pick up any deficiencies, and supplements are added if needed. Several companies make "Soylent", the one I am familiar with is Abbott Nutrition.

If there's something there that isn't priced for sale to hospitals, or restricted in sale to hospitals, and has been formulated so as to be edible by people who are tired of real food, go ahead and post it. My understanding is that tube-feeding is not the same use-case as Soylent at all, with tube-fed material needing to be essentially predigested and correspondingly expensive or something along those lines, and no concern for edible taste for obvious reasons.

I've done some looking, but I haven't seen anything out there that looks like it's meant to be eaten, meant to replace food, and priced at an affordable level for sole consumption.

But there is a significant difference between taking a medical formula under doctors supervision and mixing up the most common nutrition ingredients and claiming it to be a cure-all-be-all food. Didn't the guy forget to include iron in his first mixture? Another 'Soylent' equivalent I know of is Sustagen Hospital Formula.
Soylent Orange [] (with new and improved recipe. Okay, I just added marmite, but it's significantly more nutritionally complete than before) This is a less radical version of the idea using store bought ingredients to achieve roughly the same ends.
I'm curious about how you make your Soylent. Do you just take all those ingredients and mix them in a blender? Do you have another page with more information?
There's a cell with directions on the spreadsheet. But essentially yes. Part of the appeal is that it takes less than 5 minutes. This is also a reminder for me that I should really turn it into an infographic or at least make a more complete blogpost.
Oh I see the directions now. Yes, it would help if you included all of this into a detailed blogpost and explained what other meals you consume (and how often) to get a complete picture of how to adopt the diet oneself. I would like to experiment.
Does anyone know what the time-line is on vitamin deficiencies? I mean might this be like cigarettes - increases your risk of something going wrong massively but only becomes apparent years down the line when you're already screwed.
That wouldn't be consistent with studies showing very strong and consistent effects on children. Source: the section in this blog post from Yvain [], the section on Multivitamins. Direct link to study. []
I'm also trying making a total food replacement this summer. Recommendation for people trying to make their own: start by buying just the macronutrients (oil / carbs / protein), and finding a blend you'll be okay with consuming. It's unlikely that the micronutrients will make it appreciably tastier, so if you can't find one you like without putting the micronutrients in it then you should abort. (The micronutrients represent a far more significant capital outlay, if you buy the ingredients separately rather than going with a multivitamin.)
Further discussion: []
That sounds particularly appealing to someone like me who outright forgets to be hungry. It seems I shall now be looking into this.
Is there more to the Soylent thing than mixing off-the-shelf protein shake powder, olive oil, multivitamin pills, and mineral supplement pills and then eating it?
Not really. In fact I'm beginning to think that the Soylent guy is obfuscating his source of supplies in order to obfuscate how simple it is. I found a powder that is 100% of everything for $1 a scoop at costco.
This looks like it might solve several food problems I've been having. (Not wanting to interrupt work to get food, being hungry but not wanting any particular food, and needing to eat every 2-3 hours to keep my blood sugar under control. That last one is mainly a problem because eating in the middle of class or a meeting looks weird, and I could probably get away with a drink more easily.) I might try something like it this summer, probably while eating normal food once or twice a day to reduce the risk.
Intermittent fasting solves a number of these issues...
This makes me want to ask if any of the people on the soylent diet are diabetic and how that's going.

How to find a mate when you have really specific tastes:

  1. Think about the kind of fiction your ideal mate would want to read.
  2. Write that kind of fiction.
  3. Start a website compiling your fiction. Hire someone off DeviantArt to illustrate it.
  4. Once you've got a decent fanbase, post a message on your website saying that you are looking for a mate.
  5. Read emails from fans who say they want to be your mate.

Why I think this will work: A while ago I posted a romantic/erotic story to Reddit (which is 3/4 male). I hadn't seen the fantasy represented in any romance/erotica I'd ever read, so I figured I was alone in desiring it. Imagine my surprise when two women sent me unsolicited PM's asking me to role-play.

This works better when some of the MOTAS who read the fiction have also met you in the flesh (N=2). Also, having at least one protagonist who shares some of the more prominent features of your personality (i.e., your warped sense of humor if you're liable to inflict that on your mate) might be more effective at selecting on the audience (if they like the protagonist, they may be able to tolerate your own twisted humor) but here I haven't tried it your way for comparison.

Why I think this will work: A while ago I posted a romantic/erotic story to Reddit (which is 3/4 male). I hadn't seen the fantasy represented in any romance/erotica I'd ever read, so I figured I was alone in desiring it. Imagine my surprise when two women sent me unsolicited PM's asking me to role-play.

But on the other hand, writers are routinely surprised by the audiences their material finds - and don't find. So you need some way of evaluating your current audience to see if your ideal mate is actually likely to be in it, or if your cute pony show turned out to have many nerdy male fans instead...

I think most MLP fans are in the intended demographic. Teenage male fans are simply more salient than grade-school female fans.
If nothing else, the 'unexpected' fans are reducing your yield and may be driving out potential matches. (If you were into little girls, would you be happy or unhappy about bronies? If you wanted money, maybe happy, if chicks maybe unhappy because on the margin, little girls may be skeeved out by bronies and not become regular readers. You know what, I should've chosen a better example for this topic than MLP.)
What is the fanbase of a median fiction or fanfiction? Probably somewhere between 0 and 1, including the author and their mother?
Any fiction writers want to chime in? The fact that I accidentally successfully used this strategy is one data point. And then you look at amateur fiction websites, and see a lot of poorly written work that nonetheless has fans is another.

I write fanfiction set in the Mass Effect universe. My work is probably "amateur" as I make no claims of being a writer. It's all just for fun for me.

I wouldn't try this technique personally, as I'm not interested in meeting people who I'm compatible with, but geographically isolated from. The odds that one of the people responding would be from the same city as me seem pretty slim.

What I can tell you about my traffic stats is that I get about a thousand unique views every time I post a new chapter. Of the people who add my story to their favorites or set an author alert for my work (so that they are emailed every time I post new content), the majority seem to be people identifying as women on their own profile pages. (My fanfiction includes a popular "ship" meaning that romance is an important focus in it.) I get anywhere from two to around six written replies to each chapter I post. The majority of people who write to me identify as men, however, while less women write to me, I would rank the average quality of correspondence higher among the women who do choose to write than the men. I've actually become very good friends with a woman who I met through fanfiction, but I've never met her in person as she lives in Germany and I in the States.

My mom has never read my story.

I think Yudkowsky has said that HPMoR was a factor in getting together with most of his girlfriends, though he did not actually meet them because of it.
Beware of these [].
They've sent me photos, their comment history checks out and one of them showed me her Facebook page. I'm pretty sure they're legit.
Yes, and the chance that any of the two live near you?

When I was having a lot of trouble getting out of bed reasonably promptly in the mornings: practice getting out of bed - but not after just having woken up, that's what I was having trouble with in the first place. No, during the day, having been up for a while, go lie in bed for a couple of minutes with the alarm set, then get up when it goes off. Also, make this a pleasant routine with stretching, smiling and deep breathing.

I found this idea on the net here, which may have more details:

I tried it and it seemed to help a lot for a while, and I feel more in control of my weekend mornings.

An alternative, courtesy of Anders Sandberg (via Kaj Sotala), is to set your alarm to ring two hours before your desired wake-up time, take one or two 50mg caffeine pills when it rings, and go back to sleep immediately thereafter. When you wake two hours later, getting out of bed shouldn't be a problem. Details here.

Coffeine doesn't work for ~10% of the population (like me). ADDED: I don't know exactly what's different and to what extent the effect exists but caffein doesn't have significant waking or alerting effects on me. At least not a 200mg pill (corresp. 2 liter coke or 2-5 cups of coffee). These I take to treat migraine where the caffeine does have a very notable effect on me. And the opposite: From Health: Does Coffee Make You Sleepy? Researchers now understand how caffeine works on the nervous system. For some, it may cause the opposite of its intended effect. By Roger Downey [] See also [] for migraine and caffeine.
What do you mean with "doesn't work". Your A1 receptors are formed in a way where caffeine doesn't connect to them?
Answered above
Does that work for you?
I tried it only a few times and didn't notice any clear effects. So as far as I can tell, no, it doesn't work for me. Have you tested this intervention on yourself more systematically?
I'm currently trying it out [] on a loose alternating-day basis; if it seems to be working, I may upgrade to blinding & randomization. EDIT: it does correlate with earlier wake up, so I've upgraded to randomization; the blinding didn't work out because the caffeine pills have too detectible a flavor.

FYI, this training is part of USAF basic training. With more yelling. I wouldn't call it a pleasant routine, but it's certainly effective when you do it for six hours straight and start to get an adrenaline surge when your alarm goes off.

That still persists 1.5 years later, so it may be a munchkin hack in itself.

I'd be interested in hearing more about your training experience; I'm sure the USAF and the like have discovered more than a few interesting behavioral hacks!

I agree absolutely - however the effect wanes. I found the behavior would go extinct maybe a week or so after a 20 minute session of doing this. Reading this has inspired me to do the straightforward thing and just practice weekly.
I have found that I wake much more effectively when the alarm is very quiet; rather than waking suddenly and having my brain rebel, I wake over the course of 30 second to 2 minutes. This works much better than it has any reason to. The downside is that a very quiet alarm is easy to miss, and if there is environmental noise at the same time as the alarm goes off (from the air coming on to trash pickup), it's much too easy to sleep through. The solution that worked best for me was to run a white noise generator (actually an air filter) all night; this raised the noise threshold so that a louder alarm was needed to still be a quiet-but-audible alarm; the louder alarm is loud enough to be heard over the white noise, and thus loud enough to be heard over any environmental noise that is not also loud enough to wake me. Another useful trick, albeit slightly more painful, is to get up at the same time every morning. This means also on weekends. It really does help, but requires that you are willing to actually wake up enough to get out of bed. Once you are 'up', you may decide to just read Facebook for 5 minutes before going back to bed (I usually just went to the bathroom and then read in bed for 15 minutes before falling back to sleep). I only use this when I have a significant change in schedule, and only for a couple of weeks.

Obvious idea is obvious: Save and invest a very large percentage of your income - I'm at 25%, but I'm not very ambitious. At 75% you can retire for three years for every year you work, even without assuming any gains from investment income or any other sources of income. If you are 30 and reasonably established in your career, this means you can work for ten years and then retire.

That rather assumes you can live on 25% of your income.

For me 25% of my income would be far below the poverty line and the legal minimum wage. I couldn't live on that even if I moved back in with my parents.

Are most people here really so rich that they can follow this advice and take it in stride?

I disagree with your assumption that you need to be rich/making lots of money in order to save. It's not necesarily about being rich, it's also about spending less. People get very used to spending whatever it is they make. Lots of people live off $15k and manage to survive. Lots of people live of $100k and manage to wind up bankrupt. The trick is to not adjust your standard of living and expectations to be what you think you "deserve".

After getting a divorce a couple years ago, I got very used to living off of significantly less than the poverty line. After getting a "real" job, I've been making a concerted effort to not raise my standard of living TOO much. Despite making less than you (50% of my income would be below the poverty line), I still manage to only live off about half of what I make. Right now, the rest is going into paying off debts and student loans, but in about a year and a half those will be taken care of, and the rest can go into savings. (I may rebudget at that time and save less, if I feel like it would be a good idea to raise my standard of living again, then. However, I wouldn't have to.)

It's fascinating to read about people like who choose frugality over work

Here is a second resource, the successor of Jacob, creator of ERE, Mr. Money Mustache. This website has the same concept, taken to the same extremes, though he has a more colloquial style. He proclaims to live a luxurious life on 8,000 a year a person (family of three). This includes taking multiple road trips with his family, eating organic foods and other such "luxuries".

Wow, I think that link is the most useful thing I've gotten from this thread; thanks. I've had similar ideas for a while but never knew there was this much info online about it. Their techniques look like they could be very useful for people interested in hardcore professional philanthropy [].
Thanks for posting this! Looks quite interesting.

What part of your current income do you need to live on?


Note: The idea about the last two options is that high-school and university students are not socially expected to live on their own income. So the last option is for those who are not expected to live on their own income, and the previous option is for those who are socially expected to live on their own income, but they can't.

By "current income" let's assume the average for a few months, not some exceptional income or a temporary loss of income that happened yesterday.

It's worth noting that the results of this poll could be skewed by the fact that it's much easier to for students to give an answer.
after tax pay of 75k a year isn't crazy unusual for software devs living in major cities. Living on 15k in these places is very doable, though some might consider it crazy depending on their habits. After 6 years one could then live fairly well in a relatively poor country on 15k.

I don't mean to cut the party short, but living for years in a poor country is not as awesome as it sounds. What seems awesome instead is to go for poor countries for 6 to 8 months per year, and live with your parents or someone who loves you a lot in the other 4 months every year. I've met a Slovenian programmer who did that, knew 10 languages, worked in London for 4 months per year and seemed to have pretty much nailed the "maxing out on hedons" lifestyle.

I moved out of my parent's house as soon as I was able, finding the cost in raw hedons and effects on my disposition and behavior [] to be way too high to justify the money saved. And I have a fine family, not abusive or otherwise terrible - just not a place where I was ever able to be happy or productive.
What went wrong when you were with your family? Zl ulcbgurfvf vf gung gurer jrer gbb znal vagreehcgvbaf naq/be gbb zhpu abvfr sbe lbh gb or ng lbhe orfg.
I'd guess it was more likely to be emotional stuff relating to living with people who once had such control over you. I can't stand living at my parents' for very long either... it's just stressful and emotionally draining.
Additionally, there are ways to get people to pay for your living costs in very poor countries. If you live in the US and are looking for a fun but not too easy early retirement, spending two years in the Peace Corps is not a bad way to go -- if you do want to spend a few extra thousand on living expenses it will go a lot further than it would in America, and if you just want to let your retirement funds gather a few years of additional interest you can do that. The PC does take married couples and loves people with college degrees and work experience. No kids, though.
75% is only an example. Adjust according to what you can actually manage to save. If you are paid $100k, as is by no means impossible for this demographic (and in fact is rather easy if you're a two-income household)m then 75% is easily doable. At $25k, which is also by no means impossible for our demographic, then yes, the 75% savings rate becomes difficult.
Not necessarily. There is inflation.

Please read "without assuming any real gains from..."

invest in inflation-indexed bonds.
Even at 55-60%, which is what I did, it still builds up REALLY fast. Realistically though, you'll have to work more than ten years unless you're getting pretty good return on your investments.
Following the rule of thumb [] that one can spend about 4% of investment a year for it to remain sustainable, it's sufficient to accumulate about 25 times more than you spend in a year, which at 80% saving rate can be achieved in 6 years (more to reduce risk and/or accommodate possible future increase in spending (above inflation)).
There happens to be an article [] in the New York Times today about the 4% rule, based on a new paper titled The 4 Percent Rule is Not Safe in a Low-Yield World []. It also seems worth noting that the 4% rule assumes a payout period of 30 years, so it's not entirely applicable for the purposes of this thread.

My neck is asymmetrical because some years back I used to often lie in bed while using a laptop, and would prop my head up on my left elbow, but not my right because there was a wall in the way. In general, using a laptop while lying in bed is an ergonomics nightmare. The ideal would be to lie on your back with the laptop suspended in the air above you, except that that would make typing inconvenient.

So a friend recently blew my mind by informing me that prism glasses are a thing. These rotate your field of vision 90 degrees downwards, so that you can lie on your back and look straight up while still seeing your laptop. I have tried these and highly recommend them.

That said: You should probably not do non-sleep/sex things in bed because that can contribute to insomnia. I recommend trying a standing desk, by putting a box or a chair on top of your desk and putting your laptop on top of that, then just standing permanently; it will be painful at first. Also currently experimenting with only allowing myself to sit down with my laptop if I'm at the same time doing the highest-value thing I could be doing (which is usually ugh-fielded and unpleasant because otherwise I'd have already do... (read more)

Relatedly, you can buy goggles that make you see the world inverted up/down or left/right, or rotated. These look incredibly cool but I haven't yet thought of any actual use for them. You can get 30-degree goggles here [] ($15) or 180-degree goggles here [] ($25), or make your own [], or get an adjustable thing [] ($80).
Obligatory note re: standing desk ergonomics: [] The lesson seems to be to mostly sit, but stand and walk around every 30-45 minutes or so.
Crankish? This is bog-standard body language / NLP thing. It is the opposite of power posing.
Why is this crankish? I consider this totally plausible.
Related: I have a messy selection of anecdotal and apocryphal evidence that exacerbating relative height differences between men and women has an immediate effect on how attractive they find each other, (i.e. if a [hetero] man is standing on a chair and looking down at a [hetero] woman, he will find her instantly more attractive than if he were standing at ground level, and vice versa).

This study is relevant:

Abstract: Human faces show marked sexual shape dimorphism, and this affects their attractiveness. Humans also show marked height dimorphism, which means that men typically view women’s faces from slightly above and women typically view men’s faces from slightly below. We tested the idea that this perspective difference may be the evolutionary origin of the face shape dimorphism by having males and females rate the masculinity/femininity and attractiveness of male and female faces that had been manipulated in pitch (forward or backward tilt), simulating viewing the face from slightly above or below. As predicted, tilting female faces upwards decreased their perceived femininity and attractiveness, whereas tilting them downwards increased their perceived femininity and attractiveness. Male faces tilted up were judged to be more masculine, and tilted down judged to be less masculine. This suggests that sexual selection may have embodied this viewpoint difference into the actual facial proportions of men and women.

I'm strongly tempted to provide anecdotes related to this, and was halfway to the reply box before I caught myself and remembered how tied up this is in my personal brand of weird. Suffice it to say, I totally believe that standing erect and facing forward is better for mood/confidence overall. (And that believing this is not sufficient reason for me to do so all that often.)
For my main home display, I have a data projecter pointed at the far bedroom wall. I often lie in bed, on my back, with the display "floating" above me. Also, it's far enough away that my eyes stay relaxed (focused at infinity).

Another historical case, Smokey Yunick, the car racer and mechanic:

As with most successful racers, Yunick was a master of the grey area straddling the rules. Perhaps his most famous exploit was his #13 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle, driven by Curtis Turner. The car was so much faster than the competition during testing that they were certain that cheating was involved; some sort of aerodynamic enhancement was strongly suspected, but the car's profile seemed to be entirely stock, as the rules required. It was eventually discovered that Yunick had lowered and modified the roof and windows and raised the floor (to lower the body) of the production car. Since then, NASCAR required each race car's roof, hood, and trunk to fit templates representing the production car's exact profile. Another Yunick improvisation was getting around the regulations specifying a maximum size for the fuel tank, by using 11-foot (3 meter) coils of 2-inch (5-centimeter) diameter tubing for the fuel line to add about 5 gallons (19 liters) to the car's fuel capacity. Once, NASCAR officials came up with a list of nine items for Yunick to fix before the car would be allowed on the track. The suspicious NASCAR officials had removed the tank for inspection. Yunick started the car with no gas tank and said "Better make it ten," and drove it back to the pits. He used a basketball in the fuel tank which could be inflated when the car's fuel capacity was checked and deflated for the race.

A tulpa is an "imaginary friend" (a vivid hallucination of an external consciousness) created through intense prolonged visualization/practice (about an hour a day for two months). People who claim to have created tulpas say that the hallucination looks and sounds realistic. Some claim that the tulpa can remember things they've consciously forgotten or is better than them at mental math.

Here's an FAQ, a list of guides and a subreddit.

Not sure whether this is actually possible (I'd guess it would be basically impossible for the 3% of people who are incapable of mental imagery, for instance); many people on the subreddit are unreliable, such as occult enthusiasts (who believe in magick and think that tulpas are more than just hallucinations) and 13-year-old boys.

If this is real, there's probably some way of using this to develop skills faster or become more productive.

As someone with a tulpa, I figure I should probably share my experiences. Vigil has been around since I was 11 or 12, so I can't effectively compare my abilities before and after he showed up.

He has dedicated himself to improving our rationality, and has been a substantial help in pointing out fallacies in my thinking. However, we're skeptical that this is anything a more traditional inner monologue wouldn't figure out. The biggest apparent benefit is that being a tulpa allows him a greater degree of mental flexibility than me, making it easier for him to point out and avoid motivated thinking. Unfortunately, we haven't found a way to test this.

I'm afraid he doesn't know any "tricks" like accessing subconscious thoughts or super math skills.

While Vigil has been around for over a decade, I only found out about the tulpa community very recently, so I know very little about it. I also don't know anything about creating them intentionally, he just showed up one day.

If you have any questions for me or him, we're happy to answer.

...just to be clear on this, you have a persistent hallucination who follows you around and offers you rationality advice and points out fallacies in your thinking?

If I ever go insane, I hope it's like this.

Would what's considered a normal sense of self count as a persistent hallucination?

See "free will".

...just to be clear on this, you have a persistent hallucination who follows you around and offers you rationality advice and points out fallacies in your thinking?

This is strikingly similar to Epictetus' version of Stoic meditation whereby you imagine a sage to be following you around throughout the day and critiquing your thought patterns and motives while encouraging you towards greater virtue.


I mean, if 10 years from now, when you are doing something quick and dirty, you suddenly visualize that I am looking over your shoulders and say to yourself "Dijkstra would not have liked this", well, that would be enough immortality for me.

Edsger W. Dijkstra

The hallucination doesn't have auditory or visual components, but does have a sense of presence component that varies in strength.

Indeed, this style of insanity might beat sanity.

Tulpas, especially as construed in this subthread, remind me of daimones in Walter Jon Williams' Aristoi. I've always thought that having / being able to create such mental entities would be super-cool; but I do worry about detrimental effects on mental health of following the methods described in the tulpa community.

You are obligated by law to phrase those insights in the form "If X is Y, I don't want to be not-Y."

From the sound of it it'd seem you can make that happen deliberately, and without the need for going insane. no need for hope.
We also have internet self-reports from people who tried it that they are not insane.

One rarely reads self-reports of insanity.

Would Vigil want to post under his own nick? If so, better register it while still available.

That's a good idea, thanks. Note that my host's posting has significant input from me, so this account is only likely to be used for disagreements and things addressed specifically to me.

...many people argue for (their) god by pointing out that they are often "feeling his presence" and since many claim to speak with him as well, maybe that's really just one form of tupla without the insight that it is actually a hallucination. Surely that's not how most people experience belief, but I never really considered that some of them might actually carry around a vivid invisible (or visible for all I know) hallucination quite like that. Could explain why some of the really batshit crazy ones going on about how god constantly speaks to them manage to be quite so convincing. From now on my two tulpa buddies will be Eliezer and an artificial intelligence engaged in constant conversation while I make toast, love, and take a shower. Too bad they'll never be smarter than me though.

I would think there should be a general warning against deliberately promoting the effects of dissociative identity disorder etc, without adequate medical supervision.

I really doubt that tulpas have much to do with DID, or with anything dangerous for that matter. Based on my admittedly anecdotal experience, a milder version of having them is at least somewhat common among writers and role-players, who say that they're able to talk to the fictional characters they've created. The people in question seem... well, as sane as you get when talking about strongly creative people. An even milder version, where the character you're writing or role-playing just takes a life of their own and acts in a completely unanticipated manner, but one that's consistent with their personality, is even more common, and I've personally experienced it many times. Once the character is well-formed enough, it just feels "wrong" to make them act in some particular manner that goes against their personality, and if you force them to do it anyway you'll feel bad and guilty afterwards.

I would presume that tulpas are nothing but our normal person-emulation circuitry acting somewhat more strongly than usual. You know those situations where you can guess what your friend would say in response to some comment, or when you feel guilty about doing something that somebody important to you would disapprove of? Same principle, quite probably.

This article seems relevant (if someone can find a less terrible pdf, I would appreciate it). Abstract:

The illusion of independent agency (IIS) occurs when a fictional character is experienced by the person who created it as having independent thoughts, words, and/or actions. Children often report this sort of independence in their descriptions of imaginary companions. This study investigated the extent to which adult writers experience IIA with the characters they create for their works of fiction. Fifty fiction writers were interviewed about the development of their characters and their memories for childhood imaginary companions. Ninety-two percent of the writers reported at least some experience of IIA. The writers who had published their work had more frequent and detailed reports of IIA, suggesting that the illusion could be related to expertise. As a group, the writers scored higher than population norms in empathy, dissociation, and memories for childhood imaginary companions.

The range of intensities reported by the writers seems to match up with the reports in r/Tulpas, so I think it's safe to say that it is the same phenomena, albeit achieved via slightly different me... (read more)

Very few people have actually managed switching, from what I have read. I personally do not recommend it, but I am somewhat biased on that topic. Merging is a term I've rarely heard. Perhaps it is favored by the more metaphysically minded? I've not heard good reports of this, and all I have heard of "merging" was a very few individuals well known to be internet trolls on 4chan.
Great find!
This is my current best theory as to what my tulpa is.

As someone who both successfully experimented with tulpa creation in his youth, and who has since developed various mental disorders (mostly neuroticisms involving power- and status-mediated social realities), I would strongly second this warning. Correlation isn't causation, of course, but at the very least I've learned to adjust my priors upwards regarding the idea that Crowley-style magickal experimentation can be psychologically damaging.

I think tulpas are more like schizophrenia than dissociative identity disorder. But now that you mention it, dissociative identity disorder does look like fertile ground for finding more munchkinly ideas.

For instance, at least one person I know has admitted to mentally pretending to be another person I know in order to be more extroverted. Maybe this could be combined with tulpas, say by visualizing/hallucinating that you're being possessed by a tulpa.

I've always pretended to be in order to get whatever skill I've needed. I just call it "putting on hats". I learned to dance by pretending to be a dancer, I learned to sing by pretending to be a singer. When I teach, I pretend to be a teacher, and when I lead I pretend to be a leader (these last two actually came a lot easier to me when I was teaching hooping than now when I'm teaching rationality stuffs, and I haven't really sat down to figure out why. I probably should though, because I am significantly better at when I can pretend to be it. And I highly value being better at these specific skills right now.)

I had always thought everyone did this, but now I see I might be generalizing from one example.

It's interesting that demons in computer science are called that way. They have exactly the same functionality as the demons that occult enthusiasts proclaim to use.

Even if you don't believe in the occult, be aware that out culture has a lot of stories about how summoning demons might be a bad idea.

You are moving in territory where you don't have mainstream psychology knowledge that guides you and shows you where the dangers lie. You are left with a mental framework of occult defense against evil forces. It's the only knowledge that you can access to guide that way. Having to learn to protect yourself against evil spirits when you don't believe in spirits is a quite messed up.

I had an experience where my arm moved around if I didn't try to control it consciously after doing "spirit healing". I didn't believe in spirits and was fairly confident that it's just my brain doing weird stuff. On the other hand I had to face the fact that the brain doing weird stuff might not be harmless. Fortunately the thing went away after a few month with the help of a person who called it a specter without me saying anything specific about it.

You can always say: "Well, it's just my mind doing something strange." At the same time it's a hard confrontation.

Isn't this more like, our (human) culture has a ton of instances when "summoning" "demons" is encouraged, and Christianity didn't like it and so
Don't forget that some denominations practice the summoning of the "holy spirit," which seems to result in some interesting antics.
This is incredibly pedantic. (Also rather unjustified, due to my own lack of knowledge regarding occult enthusiasts.) However: Although daemons in computer science are rather akin to daemons in classical mythology (sort of, kind of, close enough), they really don't particularly resemble our modern conception of demons. I mean, they can totally get a programmer into "Sorcerer's Apprentice"-style shenanigans, but I've never heard of a daemon tempting anyone. I have previously recommend to friends that alcohol is a moderately good way to develop empathy for those less intelligent than oneself. (That is, it is a good way for those who really cannot comprehend the way other people get confused by certain ideas). I wager that there are a wide array of methods to gain knowledge of some of the stranger confusions the human mind is a capable of. Ignoring chemical means, sleep deprivation is probably the simplest. Also, congratulations for going through these experiences and retaining (what I assume is) a coherent and rational belief-system. A lot of people would not.

but I've never heard of a daemon tempting anyone.

RSS reader/other notification of new procrastination available.

Computer daemons don't tempt people. There's little danger is using them. At least as long they aren't AGI's. Tulpa's are something like AGI's that don't run on computer but on your own brain. D_Malik read a proposal for creating tulpas with specifically tell the reader that they aren't supposed to created for "practical purposes". After reading it he thinks: "Hey, if tulpa can do those things, we can probably create them for a lot of practical purposes." That looks like a textbook example of temptation to me. I don't want to advocate that you never give in to such temptations but just taking there Tulpa creation manual and changing a bit to make the Tulpa more "practical" doesn't sound like a good strategy to me. The best framework for doing something like this might be hypnosis. It's practioners are more "reasonable" than magick people. This and related experiences caused me to become more agnostic over a bunch of things.

Since we're talking about Tulpas, I feel obligated to mention that I have one. In case anyone wants anecdata.

I have a bunch of LW relevant question I'd like to ask a tulpa, especially one of a LWer that's likely to be familiar with the concepts already: Do you see yourself as non human? Would you want to be more or less humanlike than you currently are? What do you think about the possibility that your values might differ enough from human ones that many here might refer to you as Unfriendly? Does being already bodiless and created give you different views of things like uploading and copies than your host? I'll probably have more questions after getting the answer to these and/or in realtime conversation not in a public place. Also, getting thee answers from as many different tulpae as possible would be the best. Edit: I also have some private questions for someone who's decently knowledgeable about them in general (have several, has been in the community for a long time).
Vigil speaking. Not exactly. I consider myself a part of a human. My host and I would both like to get rid of several cognitive biases that plague humans, as I'm sure many people here would. Beyond that, I like myself as I am now. My values are the same as my hosts in most situations. I am sure there are a few people who would consider our values Unfriendly, but I don't think the majority of people would. No. Feel free to contact us.
Sure. pm me those private questions. 1. No. I'm a human. 2. I don't see the need to be any more or less human like, since I already am human. (My Tulpa, unlike myself, does not see being 'human-like' as a spectrum, but rather as a binary.) 3. I don't see it that way. I'm dependent on my host, and my values align more with my host than the average person does. Calling me unfriendly would be wrong. 4. Not really - I don't think much about uploading and copying, only my host does. I trust his opinions.
What would you estimate the cost/benefit ratio to be, and what variables do you think are most relevant?

Without going into detail, overall my usage of Tulpas have benefited me more than it has hurt me, although it has somewhat hurt me in my early childhood when I would accidentally create Tulpas and not realize that they were a part of my imagination (And imagine them to come from an external source.) It's very difficult to say if the same would apply for anyone else, since Your Mileage May Vary.

I also suspect creating Tulpas may come significantly easier for some people than others, and this may affect the cost-benefit analysis. Tulpas come very naturally for me, and as I've mentioned, my first Tulpa was completely accidental and I did not even realize it was a Tulpa until a year or two later. On the other hand, I've read posts about people on /r/Tulpa that have spend hours daily trying to force Tulpas without actually managing to create them. If I had to spend an hour every day in order to obtain a Tulpa, I wouldn't even bother -- also because there's no way I'm willing to sacrifice that much time for a Tulpa. But the fact that I can will a Tulpa into existence relatively easily helps.

A different variable that may affect whether having a Tulpa is worth it is if you have social des... (read more)

Has your Tulpa ever won an argument with you that you didn't already know you wanted to lose?
Tulpas no, dream characters yes.
What types of social desires do you satisfy through your tulpa which you have not been able to with your online or meatspace friends?
I've written a blog post some time ago that doesn't directly refer to Tulpas, but does somewhat answer this question of the social desires that I fulfill through this method. I think this sufficiently answers your question, although if you feel like it doesn't, let me know, and I'll write something for Tulpas directly. []
Say you want to write a story - can you offload the idea to your tulpa, entertain yourself for a few hours, then ask them to dictate to you the story, now fully fleshed-out? Can you give them control of your body so they can write it themselves?
A lot of writers seem to have characters who are pretty much like tulpas.
This, to the extent that the character can veto a proposed plot point. "I wouldn't do that."
So I tried experimenting. I couldn't do it to a degree of sufficiently high fidelity to be able to say "A Tulpa wrote a story on my behalf." I'll be trying again soon.

I can't believe that this is something people talk about. I've had a group of people in my head for years, complete with the mindscape the reddit FAQ talks about. I just thought I was a little bit crazy; it's nice to see that there's a name for it.

I can't imagine having to deal with just one though. I started with four, which seemed like a good idea when I was eleven, and I found that distracting enough. Having only one sounds like being locked in a small room with only one companion -- I'd rather be in solitary. I kept creating more regardless, and I finally ended up with sixteen (many of those only half-formed, to be fair), before I figured out how to get them to talk amongst themselves and leave me alone. Most are still there (a few seem to have disappeared), I just stay out of that room.

My advice would be to avoid doing this at all, but if you do, create at least two, and give them a nice room (or set of rooms) to stay in with a defined exit. You'll thank me later.

I can't tell if this is a joke or not.
I think you may be generalizing from one example [] here. We're quite happy with just the two of us.Any more would be too crowded for us. I imagine the optimum size depends on the personalities of those involved. I'm not sure I agree about suggesting people avoid this entirely, but I certainly would advise caution.
This reminds me of the Abramelin operation [], a ritual that supposedly summons guardian angels.
That sounds like some serious dedication to internal family systems for someone who is very superstitious.
Some thoughts about how to munchkin tulpas: 1. If domain experts say that the obvious ways to exploit having a tulpa fail, they are probably right. That means I'm skeptical about things such as "tulpa will remind you to do your homework ahead of time and do mental math for you". 2. The most promising idea is to exploit your interpersonal instincts: trick your brain into thinking someone is there. This has benefits for social extraverts, for people who are more productive when working in groups, or for people susceptible to peer pressure (maybe you'd be uncomfortable picking your nose in front of your imaginary friend). 3. But if this works, presumably there is a corresponding downside for people who enjoy being left alone to think. 4. Probably the scariest objection I've seen here is that a tulpa might make you dumber due to diverting concentration. But I'm not sure this is obviously true, in the same way that always carrying a set of weights will not make you weaker. I'm not sure this is obviously false either, and I don't see a good way to find out.
According to an anonymous poster on 4chan []: Even if the poster is straight-up lying, this is a clever munchkin use for tulpas and interesting idea for an experiment (although I admit I know practically nothing about the typical performance patterns with that kind of problem-solving). also, a couple of other points: * Psychologist T. M. Luhrmann has suggested that tulpas are essentially the same phenomenon as evangelical Christians 'speaking to God' []. I can't find any evidence that evangelicals have a higher rate of mental illness than the general population, so I consider that a good sign on the mental health-risks front. * If you are worried about mental health risks (EDIT: Or the ethics of simulating a consciousness!), then you should probably treat guides to tulpa creation ('forcing') as an information hazard. The techniques are purely psychological and fairly easy to implement; after reading such a guide, I had to struggle to prevent myself from immediately putting it into action. ETA: Some prior art on the parallel problem-solving idea []. I'd say it fairly well puts to rest that munchkin application. In terms of implications for the mechanics of tulpas, I'd be curious how teams of two physical people would do on those games.
There are tulpa domain experts?
The people writing the FAQs. Presumably they've at least thought about the issue much longer than I have, and have encountered more instances.
Domain experts saying that the obvious ways to exploit a phenomenon fail is usually evidence against the existence of said phenomenon. []
Your link advocates appeal to something more reliable than domain experts: Observed response to large market incentives.
Yes, but we already know tulpas don't actually exist.
Only in a very specific sense of "exist". Do hallucinations exist? That-which-is-being-hallucinated does not, but the mental phenomenon does exist. One might in a similar vein interpret the question "do tulpas exist?" as "are there people who can deliberately run additional minds on their wetware and interact with these minds by means of a hallucinatory avatar?". I would argue that the tulpa's inability to do anything munchkiny is evidence against their existence even in this far weaker sense.
This is fascinating. I'm rather surprised that people seem to be able to actually see their tulpa after a while. I do worry about the ethical implications though -- with what we see with split brain patients, it seems plausible that a tulpa may actually be a separate person. Indeed, if this is true, and the tulpa's memories aren't being confabulated on the spot, it would suggest that the host would lose the use of the part of their brain that is running the tulpa, decreasing their intelligence. Which is a pity, because I really want to try this, but I don't want to risk permanently decreasing my intelligence.
So, "Votes for tulpas" then! How many of them can you create inside one head? The next stage would be "Vote for tulpas!". Getting a tulpa elected as president using the votes of other tulpas would be a real munchkin coup...
I've been wondering if the headaches people report while forming a tulpa are caused by spending more mental energy than normal.
You should get one of the occult enthusiasts to check if Tulpas leave ghosts ;) More seriously, I suspect the brain is already capable of this sort of thing - dreams, for example - even if it's usually running in the background being your model of the world or somesuch.
Tulpas and other such experiences seem plausible given how prone we are to hallucinating things anyway (see intense religious experiences for example), and I wouldn't be surprised if some people would be able to create them consciously. However I doubt that most people can do this. The regulars of /r/tulpas are probably not very representative of the population at large, whether through their unusual proficiency with mental imagery or some deeper eccentricity. Creating a tulpa in order to develop skills faster or become more productive might work, but the question is whether the gains weighted by probability of success are higher than other, more conventional (and indeed, mentally healthy) methods. I think not.

I am reminded of an occult practice I have heard of called evoking or assuming a godform, in which one temporarily assumes the role of a 'god' - a personification of some aspect of humanity which is conceived of as having infinite capability in some sphere of activity, often taken from an ancient pantheon to give it personality and depth. With your mind temporarily working in that framework, it 'rubs off' on your everyday activities and you sometimes stop limiting yourself and do things that you wouldnt do before in that sphere of endeavor.

It looks like people trying to intentionally produce personifications with similarities to all sorts of archetypes and minor deities that people have dealt with across history. People have been doing this as long as there have been people, just normally by invoking personifications and archetypes from their culture, not trying to create their own. The saner strands of modern neopagans and occultists acknowledge that these archetypes only exist in the mind but make the point that they have effects in the real world through human action, especially when they are in the minds of many people. You also don't need to hallucinate to use an archetyp... (read more)

On the topic of religious experiences, I found this bit from the linked tulpa FAQ very interesting: That sounds quite strongly like some believers' experience of being able to talk to God and hearing Him answer back would be a manifestation of the same phenomenon. A while back, gwern was pasting excerpts from a book which talked about religious communities where the ability to talk with God was considered a skill that you needed to hone with regular practice. That sounds strongly reminiscent of this: talk to God long enough, and eventually you'll get back an answer - from an emulated mind that aligns itself with the preconceived traits you give it.
I browsed around the tulpa community some more, and found some mentions of "servitors", which have the same mental recall abilities (and apparently better access to current information - some people there claim to have made "status bars" projected on top of their vision), but the community doesn't consider them sentient. This forum [] has had several conversations about them. The people there tend to (badly) apply AI ideas to servitors, but that might just be an aesthetic choice. This would probably be a better munchkin option, since it has most of the same usefulness as a tulpa, but much less likely to be sentient. Supposedly they have a tendency to become able to pass the turing test by accident, which is a little worrying, but that could be the human tendency to personify everything. In general, what I'm taking away from this is that intense visualizing can have really weird results, including hallucinations, and conscious access to information that's usually hidden from you. I don't have a high degree of certainty about that, though, because of the source.
I asked the subreddit about possible practical uses of tulpas, and was told that
That sounds like a very practical use to me. Many people are lonely. (I remember reading one thing where wasn't there a guy making a tulpa of MLP's Twilight Sparkle?)
Ask them if they're utilitarians. If they say yes, suggest that according to some versions of utilitarianism they may be ethically obligated to mass produce tulpas until they run out of space in their heads.

By the same logic, you should mass produce children until you can no longer feed them all.

Islam, Catholocism and others approve, though they're vague about what happens once you run out of space or can no longer feed them. Sharp tongues may claim that has already happened.
Relevant to this topic: Keith Johnstone's 'Masks'. It would be better to read the relevant section in his book "Impro []" for the whole story (I got it at my university library) but this [] collection of quotes followed by this [] video should give enough of an introduction. The idea is that while the people wear these masks, they are able to become a character with a personality different from the actor's original. The actor doesn't feel as if they are controlling the character. That being said, it doesn't happen immediately: It can take a few sessions for the actor to get the feel for the thing. The other thing is that the Masks usually have to learn to talk (albeit at an advanced pace) eventually taking on the vocabulary of their host. It's very interesting reading, to say the least.
I can't imagine that your ROI would be positive though.

This is for people interested in optimizing for academic fame (for a given level of talent and effort and other costs). Instead of trying to get a PhD and a job in academia (which is very costly and due to "publish or perish" forces you to work on topics that are currently popular in academia), get a job that leaves you with a lot of free time, or find a way to retire early. Use your free time to search for important problems that are being neglected by academia. When you find one, pick off some of the low-hanging fruit in that area and publish your results somewhere. Then, (A) if you're impatient for recognition, use your results to make an undeniable impact on the world (see Bitcoin for example), or (B) if you're patient, move on to another neglected topic and repeat, knowing that in a few years or decades, the neglected topic you found will likely become a hot topic and you'll be credited for being the first to investigate it.

Instead of trying to get a PhD and a job in academia (which is very costly and due to "publish or perish" forces you to work on topics that are currently popular in academia), get a job that leaves you with a lot of free time, or find a way to retire early.

On the bright side, if we forget the "job in academia" part and just focus on the "PhD" part, a PhD can fit these criteria reasonably well.

Before I justify that, I should acknowledge the many articles arguing, with some justice, that a PhD will ruin your life. These articles make fair points, although I notice they have a lot of overlap, mostly concluding that if you get a PhD you'll spend 6+ years running up masses of debt, with massive teaching loads and no health insurance, worked to death by an ogre as you try to spin literary criticism out of novels analyzed to death decades ago.

The obvious solution: don't do a PhD in a country where taking 7 years to finish is normal; don't do a PhD unless someone's paying you to do it; don't do a PhD in a department that assigns you endless teaching duties; don't do a PhD in a country without a universal healthcare system; don't choose a supervisor who expl... (read more)

"don't do a PhD in a country without a universal healthcare system" Funded PhD's in the US commonly include health insurance coverage as part of your stipend. This is yet more support for your main point: the fact that getting a PhD in some programs/fields is a bad idea does not mean you should avoid a PhD from any program/field.

FWIK, some universities allow you to get PhD in computer science by submitting PhD thesis for review and paying some amount of money (~$1200 on my university). This way, one can follow your advice and still get PhD.

Tell us more. Much more, in excruciating detail. I am reasonably sure I remember reading Eliezer write about the impossiblity of what you just described, i.e. getting a Ph.D. without necessarily having an advisor, funding or a Bachelor's degree.

A PhD is only as good as the reputation of your advisor. If everybody knows your advisor then you won't have a problem finding a job in academia. If your PhD is not backed by a prominent professor with a name, you're going to have a very difficult time finding a good position. It may be a bit easier in CS, where universities have to compete with industry, compared to my field (physics/chemistry/materials science), but generally this is how academia works. An easily obtainable PhD is generally not the right kind of signal.

A PhD is only as good as the reputation of your advisor. If everybody knows your advisor then you won't have a problem finding a job in academia.

I would amend this to be "if everybody knows your advisor you'll have FEWER problems finding a job in academia." Some fields are very, very crowded (theoretical physics, for instance). For a very brief time, I was in a small team at a consulting company where 3 out of the 4 of us had done a science phd under a Nobel winner, and still ended up making major career transitions after half a decade of postdocs. Science is crowded, the more basic the research the more crowded the field. To first order, no one gets a job. If you are under a famous advisor you might move your odds up to 1/10 or 1/5 or something like that.

email me with info about that company, OK? Sounds like maybe MetaMed should inquire into working with them.
Extraordinary claims....
7Eliezer Yudkowsky10y
Hanson has a post somewhere about how the first-movers often don't get credited, just the prestigious second-movers.

Sociology of science calls this the Matthew Effect

Ohh. "Kolmogorov Complexity" was actually invented by Solomonoff. Interesting.
It could be that prestigious second-movers deserve the credit if they are responsible for getting people to pay attention to the previously neglected topics, and possibly we already credit first-movers more than we should (which is why I said "optimize for academic fame" instead of "positive social impact"). Which brings up a question: what determines the topics that academia pays attention to? If we had a good model for that, maybe we could use it to generate some munchkin ideas for making it pay attention to important but neglected ideas?
I hope the irony was intentional. (Here's [] the post, btw.)

He has another post about how if you say something outrageous that later becomes common wisdom, you won't be widely admired for having said it first; you will still be thought of as a crank.

Cognitive bias is now much more popular and fashionable than it was when I first started talking to my friends about it after reading Eliezer's posts. I predict that zero people will say "so it looks like this Eliezer guy you keep talking about was ahead of the curve on cognitive bias, maybe it's worth hearing some of his other ideas?"

This setting seems more optimal for actually doing theoretical work of your own choosing without getting distracted by a need to compete or justify your interests. It seems less risky/way easier than trying to get the same benefits while working within academia, but you won't get the external motivation/guidance/sanity-checking and by default won't be as close to the professional community.
Right, you can get the same benefits in academia by getting tenure, but how many people manage that, and even if you do, the most productive period of your life might already be over by then. This is an important consideration. The external motivation/guidance/sanity-checking provided by the relevant online non-professional communities were enough for me to be productive and not become a crank, etc., but maybe (as cousin_it suggests) I'm very unusual in that regard.
That plan worked for you, but you're very unusual. You'd probably be an even bigger intellectual celebrity if you took the academic path. Someone closer to average, like me, cannot do research alone, only in a group of like-minded people.
Weren't you essentially following my plan too, i.e., working in your free time on topics being neglected by academia? (Are you still doing this, BTW, after you quit from being an SI research associate?) Are you implying that the plan isn't working for you? I'm not sure how you figured that. If I had gone into academia I most likely would have gone into computer science and specialized in something not particularly Earth-shattering like crypto optimization (i.e., making crypto algorithms faster), or if I was lucky maybe I could have pursued my b-money idea. But I never would have had the opportunity to pursue my interests in philosophy (which seems to have a chance of making me more famous in the future when academia or posthumans discover or reinvent UDT). Even if I had somehow gotten a job in academic philosophical research, it took me 3-4 years exploring various dead ends before getting the idea that the solution to anthropic reasoning / indexical uncertainty is in the shape of a decision theory, and then even more years to formulate it into the form you saw in my LW post. I don't know how I would have survived in academia for those years without any publishable results. Instead what probably would have happened (and what apparently happened to every professional philosopher who actually worked on the topic) is that I would have been forced to quickly come up with some sort of wrong solution just to have something to publish.
This reminds me of the story of Robert Edgar, who created the DNA and protein sequence alignment program MUSCLE. He got a PhD in physics, but considers that a mistake. He did his bioinformatics work after selling a company and having free time. The bioinformatics work was notable enough that it's how I know of him. His blog post, from which I learned this story: []
"Instead of trying to get a PhD and a job in academia (which is very costly and due to "publish or perish" forces you to work on topics that are currently popular in academia), get a job that leaves you with a lot of free time" Part of the attraction of academia to me is that it is exactly the job that leaves you with lots of free time. A professor only has to be in a certain place at a certain time 3-12 hours per week (depending on teaching load), 30 weeks per year. After tenure, you can research whatever you want, especially if you aren't in a lab-science field that leaves you dependent on grants. Even before tenure I can work on neglected problems, so long as they aren't neglected due to their low prestige.
Yes but before you get tenure you've wasted your most productive and fun youthful years getting tenure.

Boring munchkin technique #2: invest in tax advantaged index funds with low fees. Specifically, in the following order:

  1. Max out your employer's matching contribution, if available. It is near impossible to beat an immediate 50% or 100% return, even if you have to borrow money in order to take advantage of this.

  2. Pay off credit card debt. Do not keep any high interest loans. Do not keep a revolving balance on credit cards.

  3. Depending on circumstances (e.g. if you lose your job, is moving back in with your parents an option?) have a few months of living expenses available in ready cash.

  4. Put as much money as you can afford into tax advantaged retirement accounts. In the U.S. that means 401K, 403b, IRA, SEP, etc.

  5. Allocate all your investments except possibly your emergency fund into low cost index funds. 1% fees are way too high. Vanguard has some good funds with fees as low as 0.1%.

I could say more, but that's the basics. Do that and you'll probably be in the 90th percentile or higher of successful investors. If folks are interested in hearing more, let me know; and I'll whip up a post on rational financial planning. If there's a lot of interest, it might even be worth a sequence.

1% fees are way too high. Vanguard has some good funds with fees as low as 0.1%.

That number is a bit out of date; they recently cut fees for many (most?) of their funds. Now I'm only paying 0.05% on my main index fund. I'm pretty cheerful about this.

I made a post [] replying to the retirement suggestion. It makes me very confused. I just don't get why people care about retirement plans so much... Elharo, if you can respond to my inquiry, that would be awesome...
Tax-deferred retirement accounts make sense if you expect your tax rate to be lower in retirement than now. I expect tax rates to increase, so would rather pay the tax now than when I take the money out. In US, Roth IRA allows that. "Your Money or Your Life" is worth reading. Build up your savings and decrease your spending until earnings on savings equal spending. After that, you don't have to work for money. Worthwhile work still enhances health and happiness, though. Robert Frank's books on economics make the point that relative income is more important than widely recognized. Two examples he may have missed: 1) it's not just how much education you have, but how it compares to the competition. So the best-educated get the best jobs, but that doesn't mean everyone would have a good job if everyone was better educated. 2) losing health insurance is a disaster if you are competing for health services with the insured. But if everyone loses health insurance (e.g., Medicare collapses), doctors will have to lower their fees.
I would also be interested in hearing more about your take on financial planning.
I would be interested in hearing more about rational financial planning. :)
Missing attribution [].

To encourage yourself to do some massive, granular task:

  • Upon completion of each granule, give yourself a reward with some probability.

  • A reward is a small piece of food or a sip of a drink, etc.

  • Never eat or drink anything except as a reward for working on the task.

This really works extremely well for me; I have been doing this for about 2 months, at first only with anki reviews and more recently for several other things. The feeling is very similar to addictions like video games or entertaining websites; I often think "I should probably go do X, but let me instead do just one more anki card" and a half-hour later I realize I still haven't done X.

More things:

  • Make the rewards unlikely and small so that you stay constantly hungry. Bonus: caloric restriction.

  • Create a timed reminder, say half-hourly, to do just a few granules of the task. This encourages episodes of the "just one more" effect.

  • Put reinforcers within arm's reach, both temporally (make granules easy and quick, so that hunger feels like an urge to do the task rather than an urge to cheat the system) and spacially (so that you are constantly reminded of your hunger and tempted to do the task

... (read more)
I have tried several variants of this process. As expected, the largest road-block has been part 3 - the self-control not to consume the reward despite lack of completion. I will mention that on the few occasions I have gotten this to work, my excitement and enjoyment was much higher than average. The desire and excitement for food seemed to translate into the task at hand.
This seems like a recipe for letting yourself get dehydrated. Am I missing something?
Right, maybe it would be best to let yourself have unlimited amounts of plain water. Or you could e.g. let yourself have as much water as you want for the first hour you're at work, to encourage yourself to go there earlier while still avoiding serious dehydration. Or have an optional sip of water with every non-water reward you take.
This is transformative. Thank you.
This seems very interesting, and it's really cool that you've already been working on it. To clarify, you said you don't eat or drink anything unless it's a reward. Does this mean halting all meals? How do you manage to eat healthily if all food has to stay within arm's reach? I suppose some fruits could stay out, but what about cooked meats or vegetables? What do you do for recreation times: hanging out with others, visiting relatives, or just going to the beach or something, etc?
Yes, stop all meals. You can get something a bit like a meal if you do a very high-value highly-rewarded task. Also, I let myself eat whatever I want for a few hours after doing something sufficiently awesome (such as accumulating sufficiently many CoZE points, or when I spent 3 hours coding up a system to implement another lifehack thing). My eating habits are a lot less healthy than they used to be - chips, fruit juice, candy, chocolate-chip cookies, etc., but also healthier things like nuts, popcorn, sandwiches and meat. If you do a high-value, highly-rewarded task, you can finish things quite quickly. At the moment I feel like health isn't as important as good reinforcement, but I'm planning to research that more. I don't do much social interaction (I don't value it highly terminally, and most of it is instrumentally useless) but have broken the system twice to eat lunch with people, and put it on hold for 3 days while away at a college's admit weekend.

At the moment I feel like health isn't as important as good reinforcement

You traded HP for XP.

You traded HP for XP.

Alternately, he abused Toughness, trained Willpower, gained a piety boost and moved his alignment a few beads towards L+.

From the comment you link to: Any results from this part now? Also, what other things have you used this with?
Still using this for posture, and my posture is improving (though it's confounded by the posture brace I bought a while back, which seems to actually work). Not using this for standing/sitting; instead I now stand most of the time, and only sit while doing the highest-value thing I could be doing (which is usually ugh-fielded and unpleasant). I've given up on regulating my sleep schedule. Other things I currently use the food-reinforcements for: * CoZE. For those who haven't been to workshops: this is an awesome CFAR invention; rejection therapy [] is a subset of it. I walk around with a bag of chocolates while doing this and reward actions. After accumulating a certain number of CoZE points, I allow myself to eat whatever I want for the next couple hours. * Reality checks for inducing lucid dreams. * I have an hourly mental ritual that involves a bunch of visualizations that feel like they should increase agency and do other things. * Coming up with useful new ideas. * Taking supplements.

Oftentimes, when I'm not in a good mood, I simply decide to be in a good mood, and soon I am in a good mood. It's surprisingly effective. You just have to consciously tell yourself that you decide to be in a good mood and try to be in a good mood. Of course this doesn't work all the time. I'm generally a happy person, so it's perhaps easier for me.

I was once in a horrible mood... I felt really guilty/regretful about something I'd done earlier, and felt terrible. Then I was distracted for about half an hour by math homework, and when I was walking outside a few minutes later I caught myself whistling. I was like "Whoa, self! You're supposed to be upset right now!" and almost descended back into the pit of despair, but then I stopped midstride and said "Wait a sec. Why would I want to be upset?" and so I didn't. I kept whistling and had a great day.
Of note: doing this does expend willpower, but I've found the more often I do it, the more "in a good mood" feels like my default state, and the less willpower it takes on average to get there.
Seconded; all the above statements are true for me too.

Instead of hoping to find the one Super Cool Trick that'll let you become a superhuman overnight, read five or so (scientifically minded) self-help books addressing the biggest problem area in your life, make a moderate to large amount of effort to implement the knowledge in your life, and then repeat for your other problem areas, until in a year or two you become a superhuman.

This worked for me for productivity and depression, next is social skills/social anxiety.

Also, let your body occupy a lot of space in order to feel more relaxed, feel confident, and signal status.

Let your body occupy little space in order to feel less confident and signal lack of status, thus compensating for typical but unfortunate human tendencies to think much more highly of their opinions than is actually justifiable and to prop up ubiquitous and costly signaling games. Harness the power of negative thinking!

It's not informative to send different signals than other people would send in your situation. You are proposing sending dishonest signals, which is uncooperative.
(I've thought about that, but the consideration that seemed more salient to me at the time was: If you send different signals than expected then those who can notice subtlety will notice a discrepancy given, say, a few hours of interaction. Yes you'll be oft-discounted (and you will have incurred this cost yourself and I don't deny that this is indeed a cost worth considering), but the people who falsely present themselves as more important than they are so vastly outweigh the people who falsely present themselves as less important than they are that causing someone to update their estimate of your importance upwards is more likely to make a (justifiable) positive impression than the alternative case which involves someone having to eventually update their estimate of your importance downwards. It's like the inverse of "don't throw pearls before swine". (I'm drunk, I apologize if I'm stating the obvious.))
Of course, if you've gone through the trouble of thinking it through that far, you probably don't want to decrease your confidence too much, or you may wind up deferring to those expansive, confident fools who didn't think it through at all :P
Well there has to be some advantage to these behaviors people say are bad for us. Like fearing rejection, being submissive, bad body language, not being confident, etc. Otherwise why do we naturally feel such strong instincts to do those things if there is such advantage to be had in doing otherwise?

Behaving low-status has the advantage of avoiding status fights in your tribe... by giving up. At the proper moment in the ancient environment it could save your life.

That does not necessarily mean the cost-benefit analysis would have the same outcome today.

Right. This is the "evolutionary optimality challenge" of Bostrom and Sandberg, which is "If the proposed intervention would result in an enhancement, why have we not already evolved to be that way?" Gwern's excellent article [] on that lists some ways to escape the challenge; I'm not sure which are at play here, but I think dominance is generally a good idea.
Can you share which books worked best for you regarding productivity and depression?
I would recommend for productivity Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Halverson and Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. The Procrastination by Piers Steel is also pretty good but lukeprog's summary of it on this site basically contains all the useful information. For depression, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns. I can't recommend this book enough.

Man, this is that thing I was talking about earlier when someone takes a colloquial phrase that sounds like a universal quantifier and interprets it as literally a universal quantifier.

Yeah, people do that all the time.

In ordinary language, all universal quantifiers are implicitly bounded.
Actually, what's at play here is not the implicit domain restriction of natural language quantifiers, because he obviously didn't restrict the domain of the quantifier to just those mathematicians that have an Eastern European last name; that'd make the statement trivial. Rather, the phenomenon we see here is what's self-explanatorily called "loose talk", where you can say things that are strictly true when they are close enough to being true, i.e. when the exceptions don't matter for current purposes.
A typical failure mode for computer scientists, who typically are trained to check statements against boundary cases / extreme values, to make sure an exception isn't thrown / that the result isn't out of bounds.

Sprinkle an emetic (a vomit-inducing drug) into foods that you want to stop eating, such as chocolate. It is well-known that nausea causes a long-lasting aversion to the food preceding it. (For instance, this is a problem for chemotherapy patients - the drug therapy causes nausea, which they then associate with food.)

I haven't tried any of this, but I'd be very surprised if this wasn't an easy, long-term solution to the problem of people wanting to eat food that they don't want to want to eat.

Maybe this could even be extended to non-food addictions, such as video games or mindless internet browsing. One person I know quit smoking cold turkey this way (by throwing up after smoking a cigarette, not with an emetic).


Bulimia studies might be a good place to start when evaluating the effects of such a program!

Single anecdata point - I quit smoking by deliberately causing myself to gag and think of vomiting whenever I saw or thought about cigarettes. It was very effective.

Don't do anything like that unless you know something about how to undo it.

The theories about which foods are unhealthy keep changing, and you might find out that you personally need something which has be called unhealthy.

Don't do anything like that unless you know something about how to undo it.

Urging caution sounds wise, but I think it's exactly wrong here. One's goal in giving advice should be to alter others' behavior in beneficial ways; people will probably tend to take fewer risks with emetics than is optimal (because they're risk-averse, and vomiting is unpleasant), so your advice is in the wrong direction. Caution (higher significance criterion) is the act of increasing missed opportunities (false negatives) so that you take less wrong actions (false positives); this is a tradeoff.

This is analogous to how, for instance, the FDA kills more people by delaying medications' approval than it saves by ensuring medication is safe before approving it.

All over this thread, people keep urging caution where my judgment is that they should be urging the exact opposite.

I would personally recommend against training your body out of finding particular foods pleasurable. Instead, I would recommend exploring alternative food combinations that satiate the same craving.

I.e., expand your palette rather than restrict it.

Also, mindfulness meditation can be useful here. I have a reasonable amount of anecdotal evidence (p ~= 0.7) that a lot of overeating problems center around focussing on the oral aspects of digestion rather than the gastrointestinal.

Remember that your stomach has enough neurons to make an entire second brain - a small one, but a brain nonetheless. Like any neural network, it needs training, and focus and attention are the best way to access it.

Sometime, sit down with a healthy meal with a reasonable amount of nuanced flavors (my particular favorite would be a vegetable stir-fry). Sit down and begin eating, and pay VERY close attention to your body. Don't just pay attention to tip-of-tongue flavors; focus on the feeling of chewing the food, focus on how it feels going down your esophagus, and ESPECIALLY focus on the feeling of the food hitting your stomach. After every bite, see if you can actually detect the different neurological chang... (read more)

Note to self: If I ever have chemotherapy be sure to either only eat foods I already don't like or eat foods that are unhealthy but tasty.
This fits the general pattern of using life change events (like start/end of relationship, illness, study, job) to couple and combine with positive habit changes.
This seems very valuable. Will try, and try to remember to post results.

Tried. Don't expect my results to be generalizable.

Once again, I have no reason to believe that same would happen to anyone.

In any case: Not many good medicines induce vomit. Most people who try it, use water, specially warm water, with mustard. This has all sorts of complications because mustard has a taste and a smell etc... nevertheless, no one in the pharmacy or wikipedia or friends who read pharmapapers had any other indication that would beat mustard water.

I wanted to stop liking chocolate. I waited for a while, so the organism would be sure it was not from lunch, and at dinner time I eat a lot of chocolate, and drank some mustard water. I kept looking at, smelling and thinking about chocolate, and would taste chocolate instantaneously after quickly swallowing the mustard water with my nose held.

It was obvious something bad was going on inside me, less than 10 seconds after the mustard. But my body is not a natural regurgitator. Long story short, I failed to even regurgitate. And now I can say that the weirdest meal I have ever had was composed of 120 grams of white chocolate, 100 grams of lindt milk chocolate, 100 grams of yellow mustard, 1,5 liter of water, and 50 grams of extra strong seedy mustard.

After that I started thinking about fighting for Monsieur Mangetout Guinness title for eating metals and glasses...

Thanks for actually trying this! I tried to get hold of syrup of ipecac, which seems to reliably cause vomiting, but it's hard to get in US pharmacies, and Amazon doesn't sell it (except homeopathically). Did your friends say that mustard water works better than syrup of ipecac?
Does this mean you still like chocolate?
The White chocolate bar was 170 grams. the other 50 I ate the next day. Delicious, as always.
Another datapoint: I tried this a while back with mustard powder in warm water. I ate some chocolate, then downed around a cup of warm water with mustard powder (I forget how much powder it was). This was insufficient to make me vomit; I only felt slightly nauseated. I tried using my finger, wrapped in toilet paper, to agitate my uvula (the thing that hangs from the roof of the mouth behind the tongue). This made me gag, but not vomit. I tried again the next day, with the same results. I may have eaten slightly less chocolate after this, but I failed to develop any long-lasting taste aversion. I tried to get hold of syrup of ipecac before trying the mustard powder, but nobody sells it, not even online, except homeopathically - not even on eBay, or on sketchy chemistry-supply websites. It stopped being sold around 2005 because a review said that it's not useful for curing poisoning. (Because vomiting doesn't always get rid of poison, and it complicates the diagnosis. So the main reason isn't that it's bad for you, although it's obviously bad for you too.) I don't think warm water and mustard make for a very good emetic. Next time I or someone else tries this, I think we should try the finger-in-mouth technique, together with syrup of ipecac (if that can be obtained), or smelling extremely powerful bad smells [], or maybe warm saltwater. I also looked around on pro-bulimia boards online (yes, such things exist), but they didn't seem to have any ideas beyond what's listed above.
Bad smells wont work since the pavlovian association will be with the smell. We have to do it through transcranial magnetic stimuli to the pons and Area Postrema, like they do in rodents. In rodents it works perfectly. Anyone know how to do that? I'd be very happy to vomit in an EEG or FMRI
Is zslastman [] the someone you know who quit smoking this way, or can I count yours as a second data point? And if it’s someone else, can you give some details? This sounds like the best plan I saw on this thread.
Anecdotal evidence: I drank orange juice with m&ms when I was a kid, and it made me vomit. Since then I cannot eat/drink m&ms or orange juice without thinking about that, and the smell of the two makes me nauseous.
Be careful about using this! I have a sneaking suspicion that my car-sickness resulted in an aversion to cars.

First-time poster, long time lurker. This discussion piqued my interest.

If you have your own business, a very cost effective way of promoting it is to get a part-time job, (or 'side quest' in D&D parlance) that involves delivering something such as catalogues, phone-books or even takeaway food or a paper-round in the location where your business operates. You can easily slip in your own flyers or business cards in along with whatever you are delivering. The wage from the part-time job will easily pay for the extra printing and mileage costs. I do this and my p/t employer hasn't found out yet or even explicitly or implicitly forbidden me from doing this; in fact, my p/t boss is pretty wily entrepreneurial sort of chap so he would probably actually approve so long as I am still good at his job.

If you are new to a scientific topic, note that the first half of a paper often tends to summarize common knowledge within the field that is necessary to understand the conclusion. Often this is more readable/interesting than the rest of the paper, suggesting that you can spend more time reading scientific papers by skipping the denser and more original parts.

By the same principle, read the first chapter (approximately) of next term's textbook to get a good summary of what you need to learn now. You can continue this method all the way to research monographs, as long as you can tell what books are at the next level (and if there is a next level, but that's where the papers come in). Of course, you only get an overview, but sometimes that's all that you need.
I do this all the time. When I can't find reviews, I just read the introductions of related research papers.

I've started watching TV Shows at 2X speed. This has been incredible:

  • I can watch twice as much TV in the same amount of time.
  • Lots of TV shows which are very interesting, but are slow (e.g. Breaking Bad, Sopranos) become MUCH funner to watch.

I started doing this a few months ago. It started when I realized that I already listened to Audiobooks at 2X-3X, and that TV Shows are basically the same thing.

Some tips:

  • You should use the VLC player, which lets you 2X while preserving proper audio.
  • In VLC, you can hit the "+" button to go to 1.5X, then again to go to 2X, 3X, 4X etc.
  • You can start with watching things at 1.5X speed, then go to 2X when you feel confident.
  • At higher speeds, you should watch with subtitles, which makes things much easier to follow.
I have friends who do this with lectures and audiobooks, which seems at least more productive-sounding.
I've personally found playing anime at 1.1x to be a difference which is barely even noticeable, but further speed increases to be somewhat annoying, and 1.5x+ to be unwatchable. It's likely low-hanging fruit for many, but YMMV.
It depends a lot on the quality of the speed-up algorithm. One cheap way of speeding up audio is to drop samples, but this significantly reduces audio quality. Personally, I find anything above 1.2x to be annoying, but I still do it - not to save time, but to improve my japanese-understanding capability.
Here's why I think this is something most people can do: I am personally a "native-level" English speaker, having spent 6 years of my childhood in English-speaking countries. I am now in a non-English-speaking country though. A friend of mine who is also doing this is not a native English speaker, and while his English is quite good, it is clearly not native-speaking level. However, he also manages to watch almost all shows at least at 1.5X speed. Of course YMMV, but I would encourage people to at least try this out and see if it hurts their enjoyment of shows or not.
I wonder, is it possible to slow down shows for those of us trying to learn a new language who have not yet reached 1X fluency? Assuming it's technically feasible, does it help? I'll have to try that.
Very interesting idea, hadn't thought of thought. You can technically slow down shows in VLC by pressing the - key, it slows to 0.67X speed I believe. Please let us know what you find, I may try it out myself for practicing Spanish.
Yep, that works. See uncle post - usually I speed things up, but for hard-to-understand shows I've found that slowing them down gives me more time to correlate subs and audio - or to try comprehending the audio without subs, at that.
I highly recommend people who use cars to somehow do this in their cellphones and connect the cellphone to the car soundsystem. I cannot stress how much Traffic is not traffic anymore as soon as it become introduction to evolutionary anthropology. Bostrom told me there is cellphone software for accelerating podcasts, but it only worked for paid ones. Does anyone know one that is free?

Actually, I would suggest not focusing your attention on evolutionary anthropology while you're supposed to be piloting a multi-ton vehicle at high speeds.

Most people are far worse at driving than they believe themselves to be.

Now, assuming you're not in a car at the moment, you can probably hack something up using mplayer - there's at least one android port of that. You may need to write your own UI, though, and I suspect it'll reduce your battery life significantly. (Android native players take advantage of decoding hardware, mplayer probably doesn't. Also, the fourier transform required to speed up voice without affecting pitch is expensive.)

When you're driving a daily commute your mind is going to wander unless you have extraordinary focus control / mindfulness training. It's not obvious to me that it's more dangerous to have it directed to evolutionary anthropology than to what you're going to do when you get home (or wherever else it wandered).
There's a difference between accidental mental wanderings and deliberately focusing on a sped-up textbook. If you're listening to a sped-up textbook without focusing on it, I'd say you won't get much out of the experience.
(After reading that sentence, in particular the word “evolutionary”, before reading what you were replying to, I had briefly thought you were arguing against this [] and gone WTF.)
Interesting. I definitely do this with Coursera... but you haven't noticed any dramatic timing being thrown off?
Not really, in the sense that everything is half the time so the timing between things is still intact. Are there some "dramatic sequences" in which I miss part of the intention of the directors/etc.? Yes, I'm sure there are. But for at least a large portion of the shows I watch, most of the important stuff is in the dialogue anyway. Disclaimer: I'm probably a less visual person than most, which means I don't pay as much attention to the visual aesthetics of shows as others do. Also - some sequences even I don't watch at 2X, mostly action sequences and the like.
I've switched from VLC to Daum's PotPlayer which has fantastic support for youtube videos and playlists and allows speeding up videos like this. It also uses significantly less memory and cpu than watching youtube in firefox.

Boring munchkin technique #1: What if I told you there was a place you could go where they would give you books? paper or ebook, whichever you prefer. And if they didn't have the book you wanted, they would order it for you? And when you were done with the book. and didn't want it cluttering up your apartment any more, you could give it back to them; and they would store it for you until needed it again? So not only does this service get you books. It effectively increases the amount of living space you have, and the general neatness of your apartment or house. How much would you pay for such a service? $50 a month? $100 a month? $5000 a year? How much do you spend on books now that you have to store and manage?

Of course, you already know there is such a service, and it doesn't cost you even $10 a month. It's the public library. If you haven't stopped into your public library lately, it's time to check it out again. Public libraries have become a lot more effective in the last decade. You can now order books online, and have them delivered to your local branch, so if you remember a time when the library rarely had what you wanted, check again. It's no longer just a place to browse... (read more)

Or you could get it even more conveniently, even faster, and even cheaper from the internet. Even if you for some reason hesitate to pirate, it's easy to find a legally free alternative to anything.
On that note.. could anyone recommend a good tracker for literature?
Time? I get the idea with most of them but it takes me a couple of hours to get down to the library and back whereas it's like a couple of minutes to order from Amazon or somewhere.
Amazon takes a minimum of 1 calendar day to get a paper book to me, and that's at some extra cost. I can get a paper book from my local library in under an hour if it's on the shelves. (It helps that I live a block away from the Brooklyn Central Library.) If the book I want is not on the shelves, them amazon may be quicker; and I may order from them if I really need the book ASAP. For ebooks it's a wash on time, though amazon does have a much better selection of ebooks. As with all advice, adjust to fit your personal circumstances. If you live 2 hours away from the nearest library, you may be willing to trade money for time, especially if it['s a book you're pretty sure you're going to want to refer to repeatedly, rather than just read once and put on a shelf, never to be looked at again. I suspect most folks live closer than that. Many people who live in an urban or suburban area walk or drive by a public library on an almost daily basis. There are certainly reasons to buy some books rather than merely borrowing them. But my main point is that before reflexively going to amazon and clicking "buy It now", you should take a few seconds to consider whether you might be better off searching for it at the library first. I am astonished at how many book hoarders I know who have apartments stacked with paper tomes, sometimes almost dangerously so, who somehow never consider setting foot in a public library.

(The below is stated with no modulation for my level of confidence, which actually isn't very high.)

MDMA is a useful way to improve social skills permanently, or help make you more emotionally available.

While under the influence of it, you're very empathic, and very socially fearless. The experiences you have talking to people in this state can then transfer to when you're sober. For instance, you might notice that your openness is well-received, which lets you see that you've been under-confident.

Many people do something similar with alcohol: they learn to socialise when drunk, and that makes it easier to socialise when not drunk. I believe MDMA is better for this purpose, because it doesn't inhibit your memory at all, and you're more "yourself" than when drunk.

To get this benefit it's important to take a well-tolerated dose, and not to drink much: you don't want to be a mangled mess, or the next day you'll just be embarrassed, especially because you'll be mildly depressed from the come-down.

I've found MDMA to be quite addictive, and most users have trouble controlling their use once they are on the drug: they'll re-dose, even if they hadn't planned to, once the first dose begins to fade. So this "hack" is far from free of danger. But I believe the cost/benefit is still better than alcohol for many situations.

What's your dosage schedule? Have you noticed a decreased ability to experience pleasure?

Make a list of all the projects you could undertake, then use Fermi calculations to estimate the costs and benefits of each on various axes (time, money, status...), with time discounting. Combine the axes into one measure of how much you'd profit from doing each project. Then actually use the numbers to decide what to work on next.

You might also intuitively guess the profit from each task and take a weighted average of that and the more analytical calculations, because system I often outperforms system II.

I'm currently in the middle of this; so far the top items match my intuitions (e.g. go do more CoZE), so I'm not benefitting much from the analysis. Part of my reason for creating this thread is to gather more ideas for things to do and to get other people to help me research how worthwhile possible projects are.

What is CoZE?
Comfort Zone Expansion. Presumably a CFAR created generalization of Rejection Therapy and related exercises that are intended to do what the name suggests.

Excess body fat and obesity are an immune response to gram-negative gut bacteria, not a metabolic problem. Fix it by taking oral polymyxin, or a comparable antibiotic.

So they've established very firmly that gut bacteria are sufficient to cause excess body fat, but whether that's the main source in the general human population is unknown.

Quack quack goes the duck. I wouldn't use such an experimental treatment even on your pet rat.

(It does sound vaguely promising, like thousands of other candidate substances in translational medicine that didn't pan out.)

Edit: The paper is not from the journal Nature, it is instead from a different journal which is also published by the same company. The paper was published in The ISME Journal, with an impact factor of 7.4, compared to Nature's impact factor of 31! So next time, please do your research.

The paper is open access, but your link is blocked unless entered directly (they probably don't accept any non-site values for the HTTP referer field). This link should work.

Also, before you start taking antibiotics, here's the relevant part from that abstract:

The obesity-inducing capacity of this human-derived endotoxin producer in gnotobiotic mi

... (read more)
Thanks for pointing out the journal error, that has been corrected. Also big thanks for the working link. The "experiment" with the human subject in the ISMEJ article was stupid, which was why I didn't mention it. Everything I'm saying is based on the mouse experiments. I do think your interpretation of these experiments is way too restricted. In a frequentist sense, everything you're saying is reasonable, since we don't know how well various results generalize (mouse to human, intravenous to oral, etc...). But in a Bayesian sense, this is pretty good evidence. I guessed that polymyxin would reduce body fat (regardless of how it's administered) just based on reading the ISMEJ article, which never mentioned antibiotics. That means the first article alone was enough to promote the hypothesis out of entropy. I then found the second article by searching for papers discussing polymyxin and obesity, and the result was what I expected (large drop in fat after polymyxin administration), so that's a big evidential boost in favor. Neither of those gives evidence for the mouse result generalizing to humans. However, we do know that gram-negative bacteria are pretty ubiquitous and do trigger an immune response in humans similar to that in mice, so based on the physical systems we should expect a similar response to antibiotics. There was a special issue of Nature focusing on human microbiota a few months back which seems to have a lot more relevant research with humans, but I haven't had time to go through them in depth yet (which is why this was a poorly-researched comment rather than a full discussion post).

Autogenics is a biofeedback technique that induces a state of intense relaxation. It's supposed to be able to help change compulsive behaviors, though I haven't tried that myself. I have found it very helpful for getting to sleep, though, and pleasant as well. I used this guide for what I have done so far.

Fun anecdote: Once, while I was cuddling with my boyfriend, he said, "I can hear your heartbeat!" A few moments later he jerked and looked at me in shock. "It just slowed down!" :-) I felt like a wizard. Biofeedback is cool.

It's probably worth trying if you have problems sleeping. Interestingly, it's found to be useful in treating a several mild mental and physical problems, like headaches, anxiety, mild depression, and sleep disorders. It's also used for pain relief for natural childbirth. (Meaning, for women who don't want to have an epidural.)

I just got this galvanic skin response biofeedback device in the mail a few days ago. Rest your fingers on it and there's a tone goes up as you get more stressed out and down as you get more relaxed. I haven't been experimenting with it very long, but using the device and trying to make the tone go down does seem to be quite an effective way to relax. Housemates have found the tone annoying, but wearing ear-encompassing headphones on top of the supplied earbuds seems to deal with that.

How long do you think it will take for you to know whether it's effective long term? Could you post an update then?
I'll try to. I doubt it will stop acting as an effective way to relax at some point, if that's what you're wondering. I think it's more likely that I'll forget to use it. I actually did have a little bit of trouble early on 'cause it's really easy to bring yourself out of a relaxed state, which causes the tone to increase in pitch, and high-pitched tones aren't very relaxing (for me at least). So there's a bit of a downward spiral there, and it can get kinda frustrating if you get set back repeatedly this way. But this wasn't an issue on my most recent usage attempt.
Oh, and another thought: Have you considered trying to use this to learn to go in the opposite direction, i.e., increase your excitement? It might be useful to be able to do both!
OK, I tried this a couple times today, with disappointing results. I was trying to use it to help me focus on a video lecture I was watching, but I found it pretty hard to maintain any sustained increase in my level of activation... even when I got it to spike temporarily, it would immediately start going down. Also, the fact that it read data from my fingers meant I couldn't use that hand to create spaced repetition cards. Overall, it served as way more of a distraction than an asset, and I don't think I noticed any focus benefits immediately afterwards when I stopped using it and restarted the video I was watching from the beginning. It's conceivable that you could make this work through a gradual increase rather than sudden spiking, or configure the dial so that it would only start to make noise once your level of activation went below some threshold. I might experiment with those ideas in the future. If you want increased alertness, there are other hacks in the thread for that, like D_Malik's ideas of blue-tinted glasses or spraying/splashing water on your face (and of course there's always caffeine etc.) Supposedly yawning also improves alertness.
Hmm, okay. I was considering trying it on its own, rather than while doing something else. I know I wasn't able to do autogenics exercises while trying to do something else before, and now I sort of can after having practiced, so I would expect it to go poorly to try to go the other direction for the first time while otherwise occupied. After you mentioned this I realized I have all the parts on hand to make a DIY galvanic skin response sensor. I got the hardware set up, and now I'm working on getting the software set up in a nice way. Hopefully it will work out :-)
Yep, I have considered that. I've been kind of distracted by the possibility of being able to do focused work even while in a relaxed/parasympathetic state, which seems more optimal but also harder (maybe impossible).
You should have tried sending the morse code SOS message using it!

"Help, I'm trapped in an autonomic nervous system!"

The recommended practice time is quite long, is that to be able to do it at will or something? See for example this Youtube video [] which was effective for me today, and this is the first time I've tried this.
Yeah, I think the goal is to be able to enter an autogenic state in under a minute (if you look at the regular practice routine at the end, it is quite short). I've been basically doing the first few exercises from time to time, off and on for a few years, and I'm able to get pretty relaxed in a few minutes. It's been useful to me even without following the practice schedule strictly.

I recall reading that one of the best predictors of reported happiness is how much a person tends to compare herself to others. (I'm fairly sure I got that from the book "The How of Happiness" by Sonja Lyubomirsky)

You can probably get a quick but decent estimate of where you are on that "comparison-tendency" scale by recalling if you ever feel a sting of jealousy or if it otherwise negatively impacts your mood, or initiates a mental comparison when you see that someone else is up to something really amazingly cool on facebook. How do you generally tend to feel when you see people who are better looking or richer, or <insert desirable characteristic that others have and you don't> ?

I compared myself a lot with others some years ago, but all it took for me to get rid of that nasty mind-habit was to become aware of it every time I was doing it, and realizing that its a stupid and unhealthy habit. Thinking back it probably took me somewhere between 4 and 6 months until this way of thinking became essentially extinct and ultimately even somewhat alien. And I'm happy to say that I'm much happier now, arguably in part because I kicked that habit of thought.

So i... (read more)

You can probably get a quick but decent estimate of where you are on that "comparison-tendency" scale...

I am enjoying this sentence fragment immensely.

The trick to resolve the apparent paradox, I think, is to keep a firm distinction between describing people and emotionally evaluating people and then understand that the idea is only about cutting out the latter.
:'D Also, what he said:
I'd like to confirm that indeed Sonja's book is your source. Less comparison correlates with higher happiness.
I try to compare my personal finances, and the quality of my job, to the human median. It helps.

I have a horrible thought.

Most (legally acquired) debts are dischargeable in bankruptcy. That puts a floor on the amount of money one can lose. If your net worth is "almost nothing" and you can find suckers, er, I mean, organizations with loose standards that are willing to lend you money, then the expected utility of risky bets changes in a way that favors you - because going bankrupt while owing $10,000 isn't much different than going bankrupt while owing $500,000. Of course, going bankrupt is still pretty bad either way, but the upside of winning a risky, highly leveraged bet can also be correspondingly large...

Personally, I don't think this is a good idea and is probably unethical anyway, but it is the kind of crazy thing a certain kind of munchkin would do...

probably unethical anyway

Sure, but it's a way to sell a small part of your soul for lots of money. You can then do an arbitrage operation, by using that money to buy lots of cheap soul, e.g. through efficient charity.

Whether it's unethical would seem to me to depend on who you are raising the money from and what they perceive the rules of the game to be. From my perspective, doing the submissive, 'morally cautious', un-winning thing rather than the game theoretical thing is unethical.

This is called moral hazard. If the "suckers" who loaned you the money are "too big to fail" and in turn need bailing out, it is a form of negative externality.

Plenty of examples here in the recent financial crisis...

Indeed it is! Compare strategic default [].

I thought this was what 90% of the economy is made of almost everyone doing?

If you don't have any collateral and someone loan's you $500,000 it's partly their problem for engaging in the loan.
Mitt Romney made the vast majority of his money doing this. He'd buy a company cheaply that has a lot of debt (in particular, pension obligations). He'd then jump the queue for getting paid out and shaft all the other debt holders (in particular, pensioners).
I knew someone who did this: bought large amounts of jewelry-making and other crafting supplies on credit, went bankrupt, and then made a living by using the supplies. It feels like theft to me.
IME the likelihood of success in risky ventures decreases faster than benefits increase.
You'll hurt your credit rating, right? Which makes it harder to find places to rent, 'cause landlords will want to know your credit rating. And of course, harder to get credit cards, auto loans, mortgages.
Yes, of course. If your risky bet doesn't pay off, you're screwed - but there's a limit to how screwed you can get.
Where are you going to find someone stupid enough to lend you $500k without assets and income? There are door to door lenders but they charge very high fees (though not nearly as much as pay day lenders) and lend relatively small amounts partially because of the risk of someone without much to lose doing this sort of strategy.
Well you become a NINJA []. Probably a bit hard to get one now, but you could always wait for the next bubble... Scary munchkin ideas are obviously absurd, until they happen.

OK, a serious one now.

If you're looking to motivate yourself towards certain activities, use fictional characters as imaginary rivals.

For example, Stephen Amell is a ridiculously buff dude who plays the titular character in the TV show Arrow). He spends a non-negligible amount of screen-time prancing around with his shirt off. While this does not contribute to my hedonic appreciation of the show, I find myself a lot more motivated to get up and do some exercise after watching it.

I suspect this is my brain alerting me to the presence of a ridiculously buff rival who spends time prancing around with his shirt off, which results in some mechanism motivating me to compete along that axis. I also suspect this would work along different axes of rivalry. Watching lots of fictional smart people achieve lots of awesome fictionally smart things may be a good motivator for academic activities.

On the other hand, fictional worlds are not constrained by such trivial things as "plausibility" - how smart or conscientious or strong a character is is purely up to the whim of the author. Comparing yourself to these "superstimulus role models" might not be a mentally healthy thing to do - look at how many young girls (and boys!) are starving themselves in the pursuit of magazine-model beauty.

Of course the aliens couldn't possibly really look like that. A holo, only an overoptimized holo. That was a lesson everyone (every human?) learned before puberty, not to let reality seem diminished by fiction. As the proverb went, It's bad enough comparing yourself to Isaac Newton without comparing yourself to Kimball Kinnison.

That particular analogy (cf. "thinspiration []") had occurred to me, though I suspect the general process (look at superstimulatory examples of what you aspire towards) is something most people have an intuitive grasp of, and I (and perhaps other people broadly like me, who are probably over-represented on Less Wrong) simply haven't cottoned on to it until now.
You have to be careful with this sort of thing. It's possible to accidentally make yourself unhappy even if you don;t actually harm yourself or something. I think different people respond to this sort of thing in different ways.
I suspect that for me, this tends to turn on the "Activate low-status sympathy-seeking behaviors" module instead of the "Try to be more high status" one.
Same here. I often get intimidated rather than competitive.
0[anonymous]8y []
Researchers frequently use serum testosterone levels as a proxy of competitive drives e.g. in stereotype threat tests. Which suggests this is fixable with things like lifting weights or doing scary things like boxing, munchung almonds etc. This matters, because it is not simply about a trick but - in my case at least - it is about everybody who seems better than me makes me feel kinda miserable, so getting more competitive is necessary for happiness / non-depression in such cases.
Somewhat relatedly, I sometimes find using fictional characters (or stereotypes) as anti-inspiration. For example, I may ask myself "what would Sheldon Cooper [] do?" and then make sure not to do that.
Reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

Not sure that's what the OP is doing. It's one thing to say "This is obviously stupid; I should do the opposite." It's different to say "This is obviously stupid; I shouldn't do it."

However, reverse Boring might be Interesting.

I have a female friend who recently said something along the lines of "normally I think guys who go around topless are kind of dicks trying to show off, but that guy had the muscles to pull it off". I think it was just after that that I started using my resistance bands more. edit: to clarify, she was talking about a real person who had been wandering around topless.

For instance, a recent post advocated installing really bright lights as a way to boost alertness and productivity. We should not adopt such hacks into our dogma until we're pretty sure they work

Why's that? Please remember the value of information here! Bright lights cost very little either upfront (maybe like <$100?) or on an ongoing basis (higher electrical bill), while an experiment may be very costly (or so I infer from the near-absence of anyone but me doing randomized self-experiments), and the benefits cumulatively large over the X years a bright light will last before breaking or burning out; hence, the best course may be simply to try it out.

Agreed in particular, disagree in general: several of the plausible suggestions here could have significant downside risks. In particular, I'm not going to switch to Soylent or create a tulpa until I've seen good evidence that it doesn't wreck any significant fraction of people's lives.

Keep a spray bottle full of water. Set up a reminder to make you spray yourself with the water every 30 minutes. This might boost alertness through the mammalian diving reflex. I have halfheartedly tried this, and it definitely does temporarily boost alertness, but I don't know how long the effect lasts or whether tolerance develops. I'm slightly concerned that it could damage electronics.

(the study from the wiki article [])
Very interesting details. You can easily cool your face by combining the spray bottle with a small desk fan, one of which I already have. It looks pretty critical that you also hold your breath while you do it. I think I will try this.

Use a tool like f.lux to change the color temperature of your screen depending on time of day.

Your eyes will be much happier when it matches the surrounding room, and/or lowering the temperature when it's close to bed-time will help you fall asleep.

Not ridiculous enough!
Relatedly, for sources of light that aren't your screen, get orange-tinted glasses []. Also, of course, melatonin [].
I've now tried f.lux for the past week or so. And now I'm disabling it. I like working late at night, and being a student in a term of revising but no lectures, I'm very flexible about what times I have to wake up. So it made me tired when I didn't want to be which was annoying. It did work very well at getting me to bed though, so I'll definitely reenable it when I want to go to bed earlier.
If you have a late but fairly consistent bedtime, you can set your location several time zones to the west. f.lux kicks in at sunset in your reported location.
I've used it for ages but stopped using it recently because in fact my eyes are not happier when I use it - they are about the same. On the other hand it can get annoying when everything on your screen is more orangey than it is supposed to be.

Spread your genes without having children:

  • Donate to sperm/egg banks.

  • Sign up for genetic studies where your beneficial genes will be targeted if humanity decides to go a Gattacca-like route.

BTW, see Gwern's essay about that [].
Encourage people who are genetically similar to you to reproduce.
My twin sister is trying to subscribe me to have a second child so that she would not have to have any, and I feel like'genetic similarities' are just not strong enough motivation.

If you happen to be a fairly wealthy but not so famous female American socialite, you could leak a sex tape, get yourself on some reality TV shows, stage a fake wedding for the media that nets you $18 million, and spin all this into a variety of fragrance and cosmetic product lines.

The same kind of thing also tends to work if you're famous but not wealthy.
And marry Kanye.
I knew that home film studio would be useful for something...

This brings to mind the dollar-coin-frequent-flyer-miles scam a few years ago. Where basically, the US treasury started making dollar coins and no one used them. To encourage their circulation, they would sell boxes of coins online with free shipping. Munchkins started buying them with credit cards that gave frequent flier miles, then would deposit the coins at their bank and pay off the credit card. Result: millions of frequent flier miles for free.

The US treasury no longer accepts credit cards for online dollar coin purchases.

Where's the scam in this story?
I guess I should have said scheme.
  1. Get a bunch of capital.

  2. Go to a poor country (specifically, a country where food and buildings are cheap).

  3. Build a great big school.

  4. Offer the following deal to parents of gifted children: they send their children to you, and you'll educate them for free, for ten years. At the end of ten years, the newly educated young adults either go to college, get a job, or be a bum. If at any point they do start working, you get (say) 10% of their income for 10 years.

  5. Do it smartly: Skimp on "humanities"; no ancient literature for these kids. Reading, writing, math, science, programming. Get them ready for future jobs by giving them deep, versatile, malleable skills.

  6. Do it cheaply: Use technology as efficiently as possible, so you don't have to pay for too many instructors. A campus wide internet connection and a $100 netbook per kid should get most of the possible value; maybe have some real computers for the programmers. Obviously you still need some instructors.

  7. Do it morally (this might rule it out completely, since you are kind of creating indentured servants, and also because you are sucking cognitive resources from that area).

  8. Profit!

This is feasible because the biggest resource is still human cognitive resources. I'd bet that poor countries have untapped smart brains.

Step 1 isn't getting the money. Step 1 is getting trustworthy people together.

Here's what happens to your program. You get someone to administer "gifted" tests. All their friends and family are suddenly "gifted". They cheat or bribe their way into staying in the program. They then take the "education" they got and go work somewhere with your impressive-looking credentials.

Then your reputation tanks as employers find out that you're yet another foreign school which churns out impressive-looking credentials that do not reliably signal ability.

Note that my second paragraph is a big big part of why some schools and countries have a much easier time getting employed in the US than others.

Very feasible but lots of work. I wouldn't invest in someone starting such a venture unless they had demonstrated the ability to make money by working hard as an independent business owner in the past, but I'd be happy to invest in and advise such a venture if it was run by the right kind of person.

Right, let's get started. Ten years sounds like a nice round number, but is it optimal? To answer that first we need to consider what age children to admit. We want them young enough to become fluent in English quickly; all the high paying jobs are in English speaking countries, barring Asia - should we consider teaching Chinese as well? Maybe, but let's think about that later.
To ensure they still have a wide range of pronounceable phonemes, they should be younger than seven. The younger the better, though, and we don't want them to learn wrong things we'll have to reteach, so before schooling age: at the maximum, five. Should we go younger, though?

Well, what do children learn from their families? Affection might be one, assuming they're from an affectionate family. If they live in a culture where many children are the norm, then they may learn responsibility as well. They may also learn abuse, if that's their family culture. Perhaps they'll gain life experience? I'm not confident about that.
Well, if we go younger, then how young? Pre-bowel control training? Certainly not pre-solid foods; breast-feeding will contribute to their IQ. Children learn from anything and eve... (read more)

Upvoted. This is a quite interesting thought experiment, and maybe even worth a post of its own. I encourage you to write more on this subject.
This. I've been known to say that if I were a billionaire, my third priority would be building a ridiculous castle [] and living out my days as an eccentric headmaster [ Dumbledore]. This belies the more down-to-Earth intention that if, after looking into it in more detail, FAI and life extension both seem like they'll be insufficient in my lifetime to prevent biological death (even if not information theoretic death []), investing in injecting sanity (even if concentrated in a few [] world-beaters []) into the world would be a likely next priority. (Cf. MIRI, CFAR.) So I'm definitely interested in the idea of rational!Academy.
How do you enforce the 10% salary tithe? One obvious difficulty in educating children for free and then expecting them to pay you back after they become educated is that, most places, minors cannot enter into legally binding contracts. So the kid graduates, gets a great job (in a country that won't recognize the contract), and says, "I never agreed to pay you 10% of my salary, so I'm keeping it."
Depending on your country, even adults can't under a fair number of conditions. Having very unequal bargaining positions, for instance, violates the idea of freedom of contract - which will render it unenforceable in some places. I think it's called undue influence.
This kind of a plan sounds great, but is IMO close to untenable in the real world. Out of what ? Sure, you can build the building itself. But you also need (among other things) electric power, a reliable food supply, clean water, medical care, computers, plus a ton of muscle to protect you from people who will want to take all of the previously mentioned stuff. Poor countries have none of that. Well, they might have some muscle, but reliable security is tough to buy. You will be overwhelmed with offers in a matter of days. How do you decide which children are gifted ? How will you enforce that ? Actually, before you can enforce anything, where will your graduates find work ? Where will you get them ? Do your kids speak English ? Do your instructors ? Trust me, this will be the least of your worries.
Generalizing about 'poor countries' like this annoys me.
I wonder if #4 could be (sort-of) implemented as a very long-term loan? College loans in the US can have a lot of those features, they're just not income-adjusted. Another way to profit from this is spreading ideas to the students - when someone spends 10 years in a boarding school, they're going to be very influenced by what other people in the school think. It would be really dark-artsy to go all-out in indoctrinating the students into your values, but they're bound to absorb some things from their teachers unless you intentionally try to prevent it. I think one of the difficult things would be identifying the gifted children. You might a lot of parents applying "just in case", and it would be a balance between that and missing a lot of gifted children because they didn't know about the program or couldn't pass a barrier like an application fee. And if you're recruiting from extremely poor populations, you'll want to take children in as young as possible so they don't spend too long on an insufficient diet, so you might have to find an intelligence test/filter that works for children who can't read yet. Overall, I like this idea very much. It could make for interesting meta-charity, too.
I recommend teaching nonsense. A little bit of science fiction, mythology, and an introduction to the world's multifaceted culture (the Internet helps, but not nearly as much as people seem to imagine) may result in more creativity and attention to lessons children in poor countries would find boring. Yes, we want useful people, but a great part of that is creating a free, strong human being, not a clever machine or a rebel.
Quick cost analysis: Assuming they get good programming jobs, you'd be getting at most, say, 10000 USD per year per kid or $100,000 USD per kid. A country low on this list []_per_capita) has a GDP of under 5000 USD. Assuming you want decent facilities and educators, you'll need, say, 3 times the GDP per student per year. If you're giving them 10 years of education, that's $150,000 in cost. This doesn't work out even assuming a 100% success rate in getting them very high-end jobs. If you go for a very, very cheap place you might be able to get that to, say, $5000 a year in expenses per kid which works out if you get good success rates. So this gives some obvious ways to get this to work: * You need to go for really as cheap a country as you can find and take full advantage of tech to reduce costs * More than 10% for 10 years might be necessary. * Alternative sources for funding - alumni donations are the current system most places use but would be weird to have on top of mandatory payments * Don't educate them for 10 years or only do part-time education for some of it. (Can you give them the netbooks and have them study on their own for half the year while they live with their family?)
3x GDP/student/year? That's an absurdly high estimate.
Possible problems: Education in a poor country may be highly regulated. You may need to bribe government officials all the time just to be allowed to teach anyone there. (Corruption may be one of the reasons why the country is so poor.) If the country is poor, your former students will get very low salaries, if they decide to stay in their country. Ten percent of their income may be just enough to cover the costs of education, not enough to make a profit. In the worst case (most poor countries), you can expect many of your students getting killed in some civil war or dying from medical problems, and maybe even you will be accused of witchcraft and burned. Are you planning to teach all subjects alone? In a very poor country, you might have a problem to find sufficiently smart teachers.
All fair points, to which there might be workarounds... but the title of the post is "Post Ridiculous Munchkin Ideas".
Seth Robert's idea of putting a noseclip on your nose while you it to lose weight is ridiculous to most people. It's not ridiculous because there are practical problems with putting noseclips on your nose. It ridiculous because normal people just don't put noseclips on their noses when they eat. If there are practical problems with implementing your idea why should a munchkin do them?
I don't think that's supposed to literally mean to post ideas that are ridiculous, but rather to post ideas that are not the sort of thing one normally thinks about.

Need some dead animal flesh in your diet on a budget? Organ meats are cheap, healthy, but (ymmv) still tasty. The chicken livers I got this week were less than a dollar per serving, and they're full of vitamins and protein. Chicken hearts are ~$2 per pound at my store and have a milder flavor if you find livers unpalatable. Not sure if I should have posted this here or in the Boring Advice Repository.

A word of caution though: you could easily get too much vitamin A from eating liver. This might lead to permanent liver damage among other problems.

Related: chicken feet are also about $2/lb at my store, but yield many times more broth than a similar amount of meat or bones. It's also much tastier than canned broth, and you can make it very strong and store it compactly in the freezer for a long time. And you get to chase your roommate around with a terrifying scaly dinosaur foot whose claws open and close as you pull on the tendons.

Some butchers will give away soup bones for free as well.

Must ... resist ... urge ... to plug vegetarianism ...
Oh, go on then.
Resistance is clearly futile.

Cold Thermogenesis

Taking very cold showers or baths. You gradually decrease the temperature of your shower over several weeks. I can now take a shower or bath with the water on just cold. Other people use ice to lower the temperature of their baths even further.

Some claim that it has significant health benefits, but I haven't noticed any although I haven't been doing it for very long. Still, it's neat to be able to modify your body to tolerate something that would have previously caused unbearable pain.

Here is some discussion of cold thermogenesis on a paleo website.

Just wanted to say that I've always wanted to take cold showers but never managed to pull it off because my body refuses to step into the cold shower stream. Somehow, until I read your post, it never occurred to me that I could start the shower at a nice warm temperature, step in, and then turn it down over the course of a few seconds. I've been doing this successfully for a few days and feeling great. Thanks!

BTW, I've found that changing the temperature of the water over time feels much less uncomfortable if the water is pouring directly onto my head than if it's going (say) on my feet.
What is the chance of developing rheumatism as a side effect?
Why would you suspect that rheumatism is a possible side effect?
When I was a child, very cold showers were the latest fashion in my country, doctors recomended them for everyone, especially for children, to develop tolerance to cold weather. Luckily, my parents resisted. A few years later, doctors stopped recommending it, and just pretended the whole thing never happened. -- Later I heard from a doctor that the recommendation was followed by a visible increase of rheumatism, including small children, so they realized it was not that good idea. Apparently, the people giving health advice at internet yet have to learn.
... that anecdotal evidence is not reliable? I googled "cold shower rheumatism" and found a study [] suggesting that exposure to cold water (in this case, winter swimming) actually relieves the pain associated with existing rheumatism. A plausible explanation of your doctor's observation is that cold showers made people who already had rheumatism more likely to report it to doctors. I would certainly be wary of making children do it, but I actually have noticed that my tolerance to cold weather has gotten slightly better after cold showers (and it's noticeably lower on the days where I don't take a cold shower). The effect may be mostly psychological but it's still an effect.
A very weak study in this context, for multiple reasons: Somewhat obscure journal (impact factor of 1.06 []), end point was the swimmers' mood, which may also influence pain reporting, intervention was winter swimming, which is much dfifferent from cold showers in many ways (shower != sports activity), the pool of participants was structurally non-overlapping (children versus people who go winter swimming!), the pain relief is confounded by also feeling "more energetic, active and brisk", compared to controls who did not do that sports activity, the list goes on. Yea.
Anecdotal evidence... compared with a discussion of cold thermogenesis on a paleo website... well, that's a difficult choice. What exactly is the difference?
I didn't claim that my evidence was more reliable, just that it wasn't less reliable. Anyway, I'm not the one making a claim about how cold showers affect a large number of people, I'm only making a claim about how they affect me.
It's fun to be able to actually feel your body generating heat after awhile. I also feel somewhat more alert after doing it in the morning. Haven't noticed much other than that though.

(I remembered this yesterday while writing a comment about something else, but LeechBlock stopped me before I was able to write it here.)

The black keys on a piano keyboard form a pentatonic scale; that is to say, so long as you have an anywhere-near-decent sense of rhythm, nearly anything you can improvise using those keys alone will sound good. Non-musicians will be pretty unlikely to notice what you're doing, if they aren't very close to you.

IIRC There's a video (TED talk?) out there of a guy using this for audience participation, to great effect. Edit: Here. []
Wow, that's a big help to me. I can never remember the pentatonic scale, so that alone acts as an easy reference no matter what key I'm in.

Here's a method for learning a complex subject that seems to accelerate acquiring instrumental skill and the ability to use the knowledge creatively. As a bonus, you make progress on projects you've deferred for want of technical skills you're learning now.

Project Mapping: a) Make a list of projects you're working or intend to do sometime. The more the projects excite you, the more effective this technique. b) Take a bite of your subject (a chapter or topic, smaller the better) c) Go to your project journal. Pick one or more projects from the list to connect to the material you learned. If they can't conceivably connect ... then why are you learning this? d) No matter how great the gap between the complexity and difficulty of your project and the simplicity of the elementary material you just learned, even if it's just whole number addition, describe ways to apply the knowledge to some aspect or part of your project. This is the actual "secret sauce" of the technique. e) Return to each bite to "rehearse" it by adding even more ideas, and feel free to connect in and use more advanced material you've learned, too. f) If... (read more)

I have unintentially been implementing something like this in anki.

Maybe when plenty of people have used tulpas for decades

Never happen if no-one tries. I agree that it looks dangerous, but this is the ridiculous munchkin ideas thread, not the boring advice or low-hanging fruit threads.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away...

This is a well known one, but I only recently got around to actually doing it, so I suspect that there are others that also haven't done it yet.

Learn to touch type. The kind of person you probably are if you are reading Less Wrong spends a remarkable fraction of the day typing at a computer. As such, even a small increase in typing speed and skill can save you huge amount of time and effort. And it is not at all hard to learn. This investment of a small amount of time and energy to learn to touch type pays back huge dividends in time saved.

One other point: If you are going to learn to touch type, there is no point whatsoever to doing so in the Qwerty keyboard layout. It is just as easy or easier to learn a better layout (like Dvorak or Colemak), which also will give you a bigger boost to your typing speed and efficiency.

The kind of person you probably are if you are reading Less Wrong spends a remarkable fraction of the day typing at a computer. As such, even a small increase in typing speed and skill can save you huge amount of time and effort.

This is a highly dubious claim. I (occupations: software engineer, student (CS major)) spend a remarkable fraction of the day at a computer... but do I spend most of that typing? I do not. I'm doing more typing right now, writing this comment, than I do in a much larger period of doing actual work. Even if you only look at the time I spend actively coding (rather than reading documentation / literature, thinking about a problem, debugging, tinkering, etc.) that's still not mostly typing.

Furthermore, citation needed on the claim that touch-typing, as opposed to the way I type now, will save a "huge amount of time and effort".

It is just as easy or easier to learn a better layout (like Dvorak or Colemak), which also will give you a bigger boost to your typing speed and efficiency.

So very citation needed on this one. (Counter-citation:

For desk work that is not typing, look into a gaming keyboard and mouse. My drafting co-workers have bound short macros to the extra keyboard keys for frequently used commands, I am weighing the benefits to use the same approach for frequently used equations during design calculations.
4Said Achmiz10y
A reasonable suggestion, though I find that the time required to bind the macros, then remember them, then remember to use them, is too much effort for me. That, of course, is up to personal preference. Also: do you know of a gaming keyboard that is a Mac keyboard (presence of appropriate keys and layout) and has clicky-keys (a la the Apple Extended / Matias ProTouch Edit: got the name wrong, it's the Matias Tactile Pro)?
8Said Achmiz5y
Update: I have recently purchased the Unicomp Spacesaver M [][1], and it is everything I ever wanted from a keyboard. I can’t recommend it highly enough! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [1] Basically, it’s an IBM Model M—with buckling-spring keys—but with a Mac layout and a USB connection.
I had good results with CopyPaste, a program which creates multiple clipboards you can store things in on a semipermanent basis. ctrl-shift-v-2 could be the command to paste the second stored clipboard, for instance (depending on your settings - it was very configurable). That only works for things that allow the use of the edit menu - not palette hotkey selections - but it could be a help.
While we don't spend all our time in front of a computer typing, it does seem to represent a non negligible portion of our days. Assuming an hour a day of typing on average for the rest of your life, the time you will spend typing is tens of thousands of hours. I'm currently learning Dvorak and it looks like it's going to take about 30-40 hours to be able to type properly. So the gains in efficiency don't have to be very significant to pay off. To check how efficient the time investment is I checked my typing speed. Like you, probably, I'm not a touch typer but I felt like I was typing pretty decently before, and measured at 40 wpm on both of the two websites that I tried, with no mistakes. I'll check my speeds with Dvorak once I'm done with the lessons, and again after a few months of practice, to settle this debate hopefully, but just from having done the first ten or so lessons I can already see that Dvorak is going to be a major improvement, if not in speed, definitely in terms of comfort.
0Said Achmiz10y
You make an interesting point about likely spending over 10k hours typing over the course of the rest of our respective lives, although I note that even if you are right, I'd have to invest 30-40 hours now in order to learn to touch-type, whereas the gains would be spread out over a longer period. That said, please post your results when you get them, I am definitely interested in hearing about it. I do note that you conflate two distinct issues: whether touch-typing is worth learning, and whether Dvorak is a meaningful (or any) improvement over QWERTY. I am definitely far more suspicious of the latter claim than the former (see my link in the grandparent for a thorough debunking).
Even the studies cited by the author in your link show a speed advantage of around 5% for Dvorak over Qwerty. Considering my point of the 10k hours, the payoff is more than worthwhile, before even taking RSI into consideration. On a side note, one of the reasons I decided to learn touch-typing was because I have some free time at the moment and was looking for something else to do than read blog posts all day, so I totally agree with you that investing 30-40 hours now might not be the best for everyone... TDT probably recommends it though.
After having finished the basic course in Dvorak and touch typing for a few weeks now, here is an update on my results: I spent a total of 30 hours learning to touch type, but even once I could touch type properly, I was still really slow, at about 20 wpm immediately after finishing the lessons, half of my original speed. Ten days later, after forcing myself to avoid the QWERTY layout which resulted in some inconvenience, in particular with keyboard shortcuts, I am now typing at about 30 wpm in Dvorak, which is still significantly slower than my previous, unconventional but obviously not so bad, typing in QWERTY. The idea that I will probably spend tens of thousands of hours typing in my life still stands, though, and the touch typing is getting more and more natural each day, I'll try to update my results again after several months to see if there is actually a significant increase in typing speed over the long run. On a side note, comfort is definitely better when touch typing "properly" in Dvorak than when typing "improperly" but faster in QWERTY, however this may be related to the way I positioned my hands on the keyboard rather than to the initial keyboard layout.
All of the evidence I have seen suggests that touchtyping is worth learning. To what extent is that because you're a slow typist? (Do you know your wpm?) Dvorak, Colemak, or the superior QGMLWY [] generally will not increase typing speed for touchtypers, as typing speed for most applications is limited by thinking speed. They will increase efficiency, and one can estimate the reduced effort for any particular corpus with an effort model like carpalx's, and so alternate layouts are primarily useful for people who want to prevent or manage repetitive stress injuries.
2Said Achmiz10y
Links? :) (Or, if this evidence is anecdotal or otherwise not easily linkable — please do elaborate!) I don't know my wpm, but your question baffles me. How would my typing speed affect the fact