Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

by D_Malik1 min read15th May 20131250 comments

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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.

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.

8Qiaochu_Yuan8yI'm just spitballing here, but... blogs with the comments turned off.
8CCC8yI 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."
5jamesf8yI'm going to Hacker School [https://www.hackerschool.com/] this summer. It has a lot of praise [https://www.hackerschool.com/testimonials] 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.

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.

5Roxolan8yThe 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".
6wedrifid8yThe 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.
5wedrifid8yWe could perhaps consider it a time value [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_value_of_money] generator limited by max credit. This could be reasonably analogized to a perpetual motion machine with an ongoing finite output.

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.

...it 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.

[-][anonymous]7y 14

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

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?

9John_Maxwell8yHow 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 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/hvu/what_are_you_working_on_july_2013/9bea] 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.

[-][anonymous]8y 10

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!

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.

6ialdabaoth8yActually, 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.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2013/04/why-are-taller-people-more-intelligent/#.UZsQvIpDsqg

5Vaniver8yUm, 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.
9Estarlio8yI'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.
8MugaSofer8yBeing 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.
5wedrifid8yIf 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.
8Zaine8yYou seem to have knowledge about how to do this effectively - please share that knowledge or the sources for it.

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 :

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19020207 http://blog.simplejustice.us/files/66432-58232/SSQUKalistFinal.pdf http://ideas.repec.org/p/hhs/sunrpe/2006_0013.html http://www.nber.org/papers/w9873.pdf?new_window=1 http://www.nber.org/digest/sep03/w9873.html

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.

4JoshuaFox8yOK, 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.

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.

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.

4Friendly-HI8yI'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.
6Desrtopa8yWhat do people named Kevin get called when they grow up then?
6fubarobfusco8yNames 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. [http://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/] 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.

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.)

9DanArmak8yThis 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 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yermak_Timofeyevich]. 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.
5BerryPick68yYou 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.
8Desrtopa8yThis 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 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_adams]. 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.
7Wrongnesslessness8yI'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.
4RichardKennaway8yYou 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.

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.

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.

6Jonathan_Graehl8yWhen 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.
[-][anonymous]8y 16

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.

9jtolds8yHe 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.
4Jonathan_Graehl8ySure. 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.
6SilasBarta8yI 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.

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.

4JacekLach8yBut 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.
8RomeoStevens8ySoylent Orange [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h2h/i_hate_preparing_food_my_solution/] (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.
5Estarlio8yDoes 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.
8magfrump8yThat wouldn't be consistent with studies showing very strong and consistent effects on children. Source: the section in this blog post from Yvain [http://squid314.livejournal.com/346391.html], the section on Multivitamins. Direct link to study. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10706232]

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.

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...

6shminux8yWhat is the fanbase of a median fiction or fanfiction? Probably somewhere between 0 and 1, including the author and their mother?

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: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/04/how-to-get-up-right-away-when-your-alarm-goes-off/

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.

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.

9XFrequentist8yI'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!

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?

[-][anonymous]8y 22

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 http://earlyretirementextreme.com/ 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".

6D_Malik8yWow, 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 [http://80000hours.org/earning-to-give].

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

[pollid:465]

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.

5PrometheanFaun8yIt'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.
7RomeoStevens8yafter 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.

4[anonymous]8yI 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 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/52g/the_good_news_of_situationist_psychology/] 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.
4NancyLebovitz8yWhat 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.
7[anonymous]8yNot necessarily. There is inflation.

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

6Dentin8yEven 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.
5Vladimir_Nesov8yFollowing the rule of thumb [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_study] 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)).

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.

Related:

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."

5Armok_GoB8yFrom the sound of it it'd seem you can make that happen deliberately, and without the need for going insane. no need for hope.
6shminux8yWould 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.

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)

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.

[-][anonymous]8y 16

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.

8someonewrongonthenet8yIsn'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 ...demonized...it?

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

9Armok_GoB8yI 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).
8hylleddin8yVigil 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.
6Decius8yWhat 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)

8Decius8yHas your Tulpa ever won an argument with you that you didn't already know you wanted to lose?

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.

8Plasmon8yThis reminds me of the Abramelin operation [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_Abramelin#Abramelin_operation], a ritual that supposedly summons guardian angels.
7klkblake8yThis 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.
6drnickbone8ySo, "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...
7bramflakes8yTulpas 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)

7Kaj_Sotala8yOn 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.
6Kindly8ySome 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.
5Vulture7yAccording to an anonymous poster on 4chan [http://www.webcitation.org/67UBpOp6v] : 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' [http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/opinion/luhrmann-conjuring-up-our-own-gods.html?_r=0] . 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 [https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-IrwpisjguaZHd4MnRuSV9SQWM/edit?usp=sharing]. 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.
4wedrifid8yThere are tulpa domain experts?
5mare-of-night8yI 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 [http://community.tulpa.info/index.php] 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.
5D_Malik8yI asked the subreddit about possible practical uses of tulpas, and was told that
9gwern8yThat 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?)
8Prismattic8yAsk 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.

4pure-awesome7yRelevant to this topic: Keith Johnstone's 'Masks'. It would be better to read the relevant section in his book "Impro [http://www.amazon.com/Impro-Improvisation-Theatre-Keith-Johnstone/dp/0878301178] " for the whole story (I got it at my university library) but this [http://embodied.quora.com/Impro-Masks-and-Trance] collection of quotes followed by this [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGpzYa9d-Hk] 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.

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.

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.

7diegocaleiro8yI made a post [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/hfw/why_is_it_rational_to_invest_in_retirement_i_dont/] 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...

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)

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!

4baiter8yCan you share which books worked best for you regarding productivity and depression?
4gothgirl4206668yI 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.

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.

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)

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.

7dvasya8yA 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.

7Eliezer Yudkowsky8yHanson 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

9Wei_Dai8yIt 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?
5Vladimir_Nesov8yThis 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.
4cousin_it8yThat 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.
9Wei_Dai8yWeren'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.

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)

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.

5RichardKennaway8yIn ordinary language, all universal quantifiers are implicitly bounded.

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).

[-][anonymous]8y 25

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)

7wedrifid8yNote 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.

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

RSS reader/other notification of new procrastination available.

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.

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.

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)

4Armok_GoB8yOr 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.

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.

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.
8Qiaochu_Yuan8yI have friends who do this with lectures and audiobooks, which seems at least more productive-sounding.
7Nic_Smith8yI'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.

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...

(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.

5Nisan8yWhat'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.

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)

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.

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.

7Armok_GoB8yYou should have tried sending the morse code SOS message using it!

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

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.

If you're a fast reader, you can return an ebook from Amazon within 7 days of purchase really frickin easily. You can buy and return most popular books with a few clicks, without getting off your butt.

(Sigh.) It's bad enough that you've chosen to defect; it's downright evil to try to popularize the notion of defecting. The more people do this sort of thing, the more likely it is that Amazon changes their policies, affecting those of us who are co-operating (i.e., not exploiting the policy).

If you must obtain ebooks by extralegal means, there are such things as torrents and ebook sites, where you will find far more books than you will ever be able to read, and where you will only be committing copyright infringement, instead of infringement, wire fraud, theft of resources, and violation of that stupid US anti-hacking law that Aaron Swartz was being prosecuted under. (Oh, and let's not forget the part where you just came pretty close to admitting that you've committed those crimes already.)

Advocating law-breaking on LW for ethical reasons might be one thing; advocating it for reasons of petty selfishness is quite another.

[Edited to add: this comment is not about protecting Amazon; it's about 1) not promoting illegal activities on LW, and 2) it not being a good idea to get into a habit of defecting on agreements (whether social/informal or legal/formal because of self-serving rationalizations like, "they can afford it" or "I can get away with it".]

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.

5[anonymous]8yThe 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.
5diegocaleiro8yI'd like to confirm that indeed Sonja's book is your source. Less comparison correlates with higher happiness.

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...

9CronoDAS8yIndeed it is! Compare strategic default [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_default].

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

5ChristianKl8yIf you don't have any collateral and someone loan's you $500,000 it's partly their problem for engaging in the loan.
4ThrustVectoring8yMitt 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).

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.

9Qiaochu_Yuan8yNot ridiculous enough!

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.

6sixes_and_sevens8yThat particular analogy (cf. "thinspiration [http://thinspiration-pictures.blogspot.co.uk/]") 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.
8ikrase8yYou 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.
8maia8yI 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.

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?"

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.

6CronoDAS8yThe same kind of thing also tends to work if you're famous but not wealthy.

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.

7orthonormal8yAgreed 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.

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.

7[anonymous]7yBTW, see Gwern's essay about that [http://www.gwern.net/Ethical%20sperm%20donation].
4brazil847yEncourage people who are genetically similar to you to reproduce.
[-][anonymous]8y 17

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.

5MugaSofer8yMust ... resist ... urge ... to plug vegetarianism ...

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!

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.

4Qiaochu_Yuan8yWhere's the scam in this story?

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

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)

  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)

7skepsci8yHow 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."
4Estarlio8yDepending 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.
7Bugmaster8yThis 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.
4MichaelVassar8yGeneralizing about 'poor countries' like this annoys me.
4mare-of-night8yI 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.
4Osiris8yI 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.

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: http://www.utdallas.edu/~liebowit/keys1.html.)

6wadavis8yFor 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 Achmiz8yA 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 Achmiz2yUpdate: I have recently purchased the Unicomp Spacesaver M [http://www.pckeyboard.com/page/category/SpacesaverM][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.
5MichaelPeep8yWhile 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.

Also not very ridiculous. Seems like it would be more at home in the boring advice repository.

9MugaSofer8yWhat if you spend a lot of time using keyboards purchased by someone else?

The keyboard is irrelevant if you don't look at the keys, it's the keyboard layout that's relevant, and that's a software setting. I was very confused the first time I used a computer whose keyboard layout had been changed to Dvorak.

But there is something of a problem if you share a computer with someone who uses Qwerty, I guess. Switching back and forth might get annoying (although maybe you can set an AutoHotKey to do it?).

6falenas1088yOther people use my computer fairly often, and I just set it to shift back and forth with command+shift+1. I can change it before I give it to them, so others won't even know if I don't want them to.
4ModusPonies8yKeyboard covers [http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_17?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=dvorak+keyboard+cover&sprefix=dvorak+keyboard+c%2Caps%2C142] can solve the hardware side of this problem.

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+.

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.

[-][anonymous]8y 15

(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.

5[anonymous]8yIIRC There's a video (TED talk?) out there of a guy using this for audience participation, to great effect. Edit: Here. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gjreHt0tRI]

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.

In academia, Munchkining has recently taken off.

These techniques for getting tenure have long existed, but they have been codified only in the last few years.

  • Self-citation

  • Multiple publication of the same materials.

  • To aid in citing several of your own articles that are effectively the same article, rotate "first author" privileges among coauthors so that multiple self-citations don't occur near each other in the alphabetically ordered bibliography.

  • And many more. Here is a selection.

The downsides are that you have to put some significant time into this topic to know what a good deal is, learn how the market and auction houses operate and to build a diverse or highly specialized and sought-after collection that is very likely to rise in value compared to other possible collections you could compile (which overall will almost certainly rise in value too, but maybe not as much as a collection you put some thought into).

Those don't seem like substantial downsides, and ones that would be incurred already by a lot of smart philatelists.

The efficient markets hypothesis asks: why can stamps be a decent investment compared to something like an index fund? Especially since there are things like hedge funds for collectibles, and stamps are a leading suspect (along with wine and art and comic books).

The Scientific 7-Minute Workout

In 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair and a wall, it fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science.

Oh, it's very munchkiny, and a very valid way to become immortal is to change yourself into something which is easy to make immortal. You just lose everything about yourself that death would have taken.

6khafra8yDeath takes more from someone who hasn't changed themselves, at least partially, into something that can survive past it. A vigilante is just a man lost in the scramble for his own gratification. He can be destroyed, or locked up. But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can't stop you, then you become something else entirely...A legend, Mr. Wayne.
8Decius8yDid you think to kill me? There's no flesh and blood within this cloak to kill. There is only an idea. And ideas are bulletproof.
5Houshalter8yWell that's not entirely true. His idea does destroy a lot of yourself, but many parts like your personality or ideas or even some memories maybe, may be able to be passed on. I would consider it at least partial immortality. I would still consider an option for immortality if my personality and whatnot survived, but I had amnesia and couldn't remember anything. Even better if I can retain all the important memories. But this would be extremely difficult and immoral as hell. Also I'm sure, just by chance, there is someone out there who has an extremely similar personality and values to myself. That's at least mildly comforting if I thought I was going to die, about as much as this form of immortality would be.

LASIK surgery is now pretty cheap, and depending on how much you spend on new glasses, optometrist appointments, contact lenses etc., it might actually pay for itself eventually. It should also save you time and effort, and might make you look better.

6Qiaochu_Yuan8y"Pretty cheap"? I looked up the prices once in the name of VoI and saw numbers in the range of $2,500. I'm pretty sure I can improve my life more than LASIK would with $2,500 worth of other improvements.

But if you would spend 2500$ over ten years of glasses- and contacts-wearing - which is very possible, especially if you're prone to breaking them - then it pays for itself already. Or twenty years, whatever, ignoring alternative ways to invest that money. Add in more for the massive convenience of not having to deal with glasses and contacts, too.

This is why I'm going in for a LASIK pre-op next week. I'm certain it will improve my quality of life appreciably and save me money over the long term to boot.

6jefftk8y$250 a year for glasses seems high given that my $90 glasses have been fine since 2008. I do have an extra pair ($40, not titanium framed) for backup, and should get new ones to update my prescription, but $250/year? If you hate glasses then lasik might be worth it, but I doubt it's cheaper for many people.
9Kevin8yProbably more like $3500 in the Bay Area. Lasik circa 2013 is way, way, way better than Lasik circa 2003. It's mostly done by machine based on a precalculated map of your eye. Correcting higher order aberrations improves aspects of your vision that can't be improved by glasses or contacts. To me, this feels like vastly improved 3d vision resolution. I can see the intricate structure of the leaves of trees much better than before. The cost is reasonable enough when amortized over a decade. Lasik sort of wears off over time, so worst case, plan on getting your eyes lasered every decade. Or, plan on getting them lasered for a decade or two, and then get a lens replacement when they can come with high resolution heads up displays.
4MichaelVassar8ySeconded. I had NO IDEA how much discrimination I suffered for wearing glasses until I gave them up. Contacts might be a better alternative if you expect to be wearing Google Glasses in a few years anyway though.
6moreati8yI'm intrigued. What was the nature of the discrimination? How did you know glasses/not-glasses was the cause? Any specific examples?

The most basic is that as far as I can tell, I had never been hit on while wearing glasses, and that started happening regularly.

4Caspian8yI don't think it would substitute for optometrist appointments, just for getting new glasses of the same prescription as you already had. For people who have had LASIK, had your glasses prescriptions been changing up until then? And did you vision continue to change afterwards?

Showering daily seems to be unhealthy; decreasing shower frequency would save time, and it might be easy to control body odor with antiperspirants. Here's an NYT article.

Relatedly, there exist forms of clothing that stay wrinkle- and odor-free for 100 days of wearing without washing, though at the moment a shirt costs $100.

A less radical version of this is to take only short, lukewarm showers. Taking a fast, 3-5 minute lukewarm shower seems to get almost all of the benefits of long, hot, soapy showers with very few of the negative side-effects. It also saves time.

I made the switch years ago, and I find that my dry skin problems are entirely solved. I still take a hot and soapy shower occasionally, but it isn't an every day kind of thing.

8Omid8yAren't antiperspirants unhealthy?

I think of myself as having solid medium status at LW. I'm quite pleased with it, but don't feel a drive for more status.

I think of myself as having solid medium status at LW. I'm quite pleased with it, but don't feel a drive for more status.

I think you may be underestimating a little. It is easy to neglect just how many lower status people there are... because low status people just don't seem as salient and visible.

[-][anonymous]8y 12

IIRC, people used to think that the Sun was about a median-luminosity star, but actually it's more like 85th percentile; but less bright stars are harder to see. (And my parents don't think of themselves as particularly wealthy people, because they tend to compare themselves to the people you see on TV, rather than the people you see in the streets.)

4Desrtopa8yIn general, I think that if you're on the top all-time contributors sidebar, other people are going to see you as above medium status.

My basic sanity check for any sort of experiment purporting to show a new mechanism responsible for obesity, is "under this mechanism, does it make sense for lots of people to be obese now in America, but hardly anyone a hundred years ago in America, or today in countries like Japan where people have high access to resources but eat less?"

If a mechanism for obesity leaves you confused by the patterns of obesity that occur in the real world, then it's probably better not to afford it much likelihood.

7drethelin8yI'm not sure what your response is supposed to be saying to the grandparent. Wouldn't this make total sense if gut flora changed in the united states over the past 100 years? especially if you consider that period includes the introduction and widespread use of antibiotics as well as diet changes, chemical effects that are known to change gut flora. Because gut flora is acquired from the mother, it makes sense that different ethnic groups in different parts of the world would have different compositions also. Gut flora in various societies doesn't seem to have been studied very much (I'm a lazy googler and only found one study that was tangential) but I wouldn't be surprised if different nations had different gut flora.
7Desrtopa8yDifferent nations may have different gut flora, but my past googling indicates a degree of national weight average and national caloric intake which would be awfully conspicuous if gut flora were the real mechanism at work.

Tulpas are free!

created through intense prolonged visualization/practice (about an hour a day for two months).

That is not free.

It's common knowledge that taller people are more successful. This effect is also pretty strong - for instance, tall people make an average of $789 per inch per year and this has been shown repeatedly in a set of four large-scale salary survey studies.

We don't know that it's causation, but it seems very likely that people judge others' general fitness, consciously or not, by looking at their height (which makes evopsych sense, considering for instance that malnutrition decreases height).

I can think of two ways to Goodhart this (are there more?): you can improve your posture, or you can raise your feet off the ground using elevator shoes or heel lifts, giving you say 2'' (which is $1,600 per year, plus nonmonetary gains) for less than $20.

Intelligence is correlated with height.

I am climbing on my ladder to contemplate the best ways to use this information.

Standing on the shoulders of giants, indeed.

This says to me that early childhood nutrition is the common factor here.

Right, so that implies that some of the benefits from being taller might actually be benefits from increased intelligence, and so merely increasing height might not confer those benefits. It also implies that you could make people think you're smarter by making yourself taller.

7Desrtopa8yIt's a pretty weak correlation though, I don't think that it could realistically account for an earning difference of nearly $800 per year per inch if height is just an intermediary for the causative agent of intelligence.

Some (but not all) humans experience the autonomic sensory meridian response, a sort of tingling sensation caused by various visual and auditory stimuli. I think it's partly an adaptation to encourage humans to bond through social grooming (removing fleas from hair, etc.). It often causes sleepiness.

So: one thing I've been trying is to use ASMR to make myself go to sleep faster and sleep better, by playing ASMR-inducing sounds through sleep-suitable headphones. I don't know whether this works (planning to measure it sometime) but it definitely feels nice.

To test whether ASMR works on you, and to get ASMR stimuli, go to http://www.reddit.com/r/asmr/top/?sort=top&t=all .

I'm planning to try combining this with periodic audio of someone saying "you are dreaming", as a way of inducing lucid dreams.

In India, the internet service provider "Tata Docomo" provides a wireless service called "Photon Plus" that uses a Huawei dongle to connect to the internet. I use this dongle and my plan consists of unlimited internet usage with speeds of 3.2 Mbps upto 5GB and then it is reduced to 153 Kbps (yeah! Imagine that!) for the rest of the month.

I have worked out a hack that gives me the full speed even after I have exhausted the 5GB data. I don't know if this is true about other service providers, but Tata Docomo tracks data usage every time I disconnect from the internet. So, if my earlier usage was 4GB and I have used 2GB in my current session, it won't be added to my total until I disconnect and end the session. So, even if I cross the 5GB limit in my current session, I still get the 3.2 Mbps as the records don't have me crossing the limit yet.

Thus, every month, I use the dongle for browsing etc until I reach close to the 5GB mark. Then I disconnect the dongle and then reconnect it, then I line up ALL the downloads that I have been saving for the month and don't disconnect again until all of them are completed.

Using this trick, I have been able to download more than 15GB data every month for the past 4 months. Unfortunately, there is a safety mechanism that the Tata Docome people have implemented, that disconnects the dongle automatically if it has been left connected for more than 24 hours. So, now I only have 24 hours to do my thing. But that is quite enough for my needs :)

This isn't much use now (at least not in the northern hemisphere) but in wintertime, an uninsulated attic is effectively a refrigerator your parents don't know about. Whether you use this knowledge to store secret artisanal cheeses, or beer, is up to you.

4MugaSofer8yMy first thought :)

Not my impression of her. Feel free to link to these attacks.

[-][anonymous]8y 12

One rarely reads self-reports of insanity.

You know what it's called when you hear voices giving you "advice"? Paranoid schizophrenia. Outright visual hallucinations?

Sounds like the noncentral fallacy. That you are somewhat in control, and that the tulpa will leave you alone (at least temporarily) if asked, seem like relevant differences from the more central cases of mental illness.

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.

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."

Kickstarter actually rejected them. :(

More here

A most excellent suggestion! I find that a good high-quality sand from an exotic beach is just the thing. It can also be used to replace the sugar in pastry, though the resulting dental bills are quite high.

Well, it's too late now. If a new account shows up and posts hideously unethical suggestions, kinda obvious who it is.

Worse, anyone at all can now start a new account, post whatever horrid and disgusting ideas they want and everyone will think they are Luke's.

That's actually better, not worse, it gives plausible deniability.

Which is why I said it. So maybe he'll actually post.

It seems to be possible to create sexual fetishes through classical conditioning, and it's hypothesized that this is how most sexual fetishes are created. It might be possible to use this to increase motivation for some specific task. I have not tried this, though I have unsuccessfully tried using pornographic images as reinforcement for anki reviews, using my picture-flasher plugin.

I think there a fairly good chance that the pornographic images will put you into a mental state where you can't effectively concentrate on Anki reviews.

Try to take advantage of possible Sapir Whorf effects by constructing your own language to use for thinking in. I got this idea after finding a link here to this New York Times article which has several examples of such effects.

Random brainstorming on potential things to consider including:

It would probably be best to do this after learning at least one other language that is quite different from your native language. Also, keeping ways words can be wrong in mind is likely a good idea.

This would likely also have the same effects as thinking in any foreign language

I may or may not actually try this after I've learned Korean sufficiently well.

7TheOtherDave7yIncidentally, learning a new language isn't required for this. One can, for example, adopt the habit of saying "I want X to work" or "I expect X to work" or "I would be happier if X worked" or "I would be happier if I expected X to work" instead of "X should work" while continuing to speak English. Put differently: the habit of setting trigger-points around certain words ("should," "think", "want", "can", :will", etc.) to ensure that I actually know what I'm saying when I say them is useful.
6Unnamed8yScott (Yvain) did this in his fictional world [http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/05/06/raikoth-laws-language-and-society/#comment-10632] . For example:
5[anonymous]8yDon't go overboard with that -- IIRC, extremely few people succeed in becoming fluent in Lojban. IOW, think twice before flouting a linguistic universal [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_universal]. Not everyone would agree that “I want it to work” is a correct restatement of deontic modality. (The one I use when wanting to avoid the ambiguity of “should” is “it had better work”.) That effect is due to the fact that you're forced to use your System 2. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/bxn/learn_a_foreign_language_to_reduce_bias/6ffs] It probably disappears after you become too fluent in the language (for example, FWIW, I don't ‘feel’ that happening with English). Also, +1 or ygert's suggestion to read The Language Construction Kit, and you may want to check out the resources I mentioned in my reply [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h9b/post_ridiculous_munchkin_ideas/926g].
5ygert8yCertainly a ridiculous munchkin idea! It's a cool idea, although I would estimate that the actual difficulty of getting it working is very high. If you do manage, that would be quite awesome though. If you are serious about actually trying this, check out The Language Construction Kit [http://www.zompist.com/kit.html]. It's a pretty cool website giving tips and advice on language construction. Perhaps it could be useful.

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 just meant that paying $300/month for driveway parking would seem crazy to the large set of people used to paying $300/month or less for nice housing inside in various other parts of the world.

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].

My instinct is that this is stupid, but I have a feeling I may be mindkilled on this. Someone should test this; create sockpuppets with male and female names to see how common and critical replies are.

Would normally have downvoted, incidentally, but not going to in case I'm just siezing upon excuses to lower the status of perceived political opponents.

If you're given a cookie that's hard to give up, but you're worried about calories.

You do not deserve the cookie, but can earn 1/2 of it by throwing 1/2 of it away.

Works every time.

You do not deserve the cookie, but can earn 1/2 of it by throwing 1/2 of it away.

So then you've received your 1/2 of a cookie, but since you're worried about calories, you can earn half of that (1/4 of a full cookie) by throwing half of it away ...

That's the way the cookie crumbles. (Also not that different from money being taxed repeatedly (taxed as income then VAT then taxed as income ... repeat ad paupertam.)

Zeno's Cookie?

However, reverse Boring might be Interesting.

Practice getting off the Internet and going to bed:

Starting while not absorbed in browsing the web, find some not-too-compelling website, browse for a few minutes (not enough to get really into it) and then go and lie in bed for a few minutes (which shouldn't feel as difficult as it's not committing to a full night's sleep). While in bed, let your mind wander away from the internet. This practice can lead into practice for getting out of bed.

I tried this a bit - I'm not sure it was worthwhile, as I did sometimes get absorbed in browsing when trying this exercise.

In case anyone here hasn't heard of it, I've started using HabitRPG recently, and have really enjoyed using it so far.

so the solution to having to wear glasses all the time is to wear different glasses all the time?

I started doing this a while ago.

There are a lot of fake memory cards going around on ebay. You can tell they are fake because they are going for a lot less (a third or less of the price, exact amount varies) than other places. They actually are just hacked to be less capacity than they claim. You can verify the exact capacity by using a program called h2testw.

I buy a few cards, wait for them to ship, dispute the transaction, and usually I get the money back without having to send back the item. (Once I had to send it back, but ebay paid for the shipping. Usually not, though.)

Viola, free memory cards. If you have paypal credit, it's even better, as you don't have to pay until later and you may cancel it before the payment is due. I'm ripping off scammers, so no ethical problems either.

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.)

5matt8yWhen 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).

I use classical conditioning on myself with genres of music to either help me focus or to relax. Basically I just always (and only) play a certain type of music when I'm working, and then switch to another type of music when I want to start winding down for the day.

I use these two stations because they have no words or commercials: (work): http://somafm.com/thetrip/ (relax): http://somafm.com/dronezone/

It definitely helps me. Sometimes if I forget to turn off the music I end up working way too late. Also, it's incredible how the focus and desire to work comes on almost instantly when I put my headphones on. I use very good passive noise cancelling headphones (they reduce ~25db of sound), so literally all I hear is the music, and I have to take them off to talk to people/leave the computer, which probably strengthens the effect

I don't get that any of them identify themselves as higher status than they are. Certainly Anna, Alicorn, and Julia have very high community status.

(There often is no need for an actual causal model to strongly believe in an effect, correlation is sufficient. Some of the most commonly used pharmaceutical substances had/still have an unknown causal mechanism for their effect. Still, I do have one in this case:)

You are teaching your brain to create false sensory inputs, and to assign agency to those false inputs where non is there.

Once you've broken down those barriers and overcome your brain's inside-outside classifier - training which may be in part innate and in part established in your earliest infancy ("If I feel this, then there is something touching my left hand") - there is no reason the "advice" / interaction cannot turn harmful or malicious, that the voices cannot become threatening.

I find it plausible that the sort of people who can train themselves to actually see imaginary people (probably a minority even in the tulpa community) already had a predisposition towards schizophrenia, and have the bad fortune to trigger it themselves. Or that late-onset schizophrenia individuals mislabel themselves and enter the tulpa community. What's the harm:

Even if beneficial at first, there is no easy treatment ... (read more)

5drethelin8yThis is a lot stronger and better of an argument than trying to argue from DSM definitions. Be cautious about imposing mental states that can affect your decision-making is a good general rule, and yet tons of people happily drink, take drugs, and meditate. You can say each and all of these things have risks but people don't normally say you shouldn't drink because it makes you act like you have lower IQ or someone who's got a motor control problem in their brain.

Yes, but the operative question here isn't whether it's mental illness, it's whether it's beneficial. Similarity to harmful mental illnesses is a reason to be really careful (having a very low prior probability of anything that fits the "mental illness" category being a good thing), but it's not a knockdown argument.

If we accept psychology's rule that a mental trait is only an illness if it interferes with your life (meaning moderate to large negative effect on a person's life, as I understand it), then something being a mental illness is a knockdown argument that it is not beneficial. But in that case, you have to prove that the thing has a negative affect on the person's life before you can know that is a mental illness. (See also http://lesswrong.com/lw/nf/the_parable_of_hemlock/.)

Get moderately good at painting. Post your work online under a pseudonym. Fake your own death, or rather the death of your pseudonymous self, in a tragic and dramatic fashion. Sell your work at an elevated price.

Have you actually asked if they can tell a difference, or have they just not said anything? Because it's considered socially rude to tell someone they need to take a shower.

Bupropion did nothing for me.

I suspect this is a special case of the general rule "if you have depression, seek appropriate treatment," which is really really good advice.

8John_Maxwell8yThe low hanging fruit is to read the book Feeling Good [http://www.amazon.com/Feeling-Good-Mood-Therapy-ebook/dp/B009UW5X4C/], which has been shown to help depression in studies.

I thought that the distinguishing feature of munchkinry is that it's an ingenious solution which cannot be effectively reused, and thus its main utility is inspirational. Like the Kobayashi Maru test hacking, or winning a Game Room battle by rushing the gate, or, in less fictional cases, using airplanes as powerful incendiary projectiles, or winning over $100k by gaming a game show.

8JoshuaZ8ySome people use the term that way, but at least in the pen and paper roleplaying world it is closer to how D_Malik is using the term.

Living in a van seems like it could decrease your cost of living a lot more than it decreases your quality of life. Getting set up in a van would cost about $12k, so it could pay for itself in a year. Here is a good guide on this.

One could also consider going completely homeless; here is an article by a math student who did that.

Until a few years ago, students were permitted to sleep overnight on the ubiquitous couches in the university student center of my Alma Mater. There are tales of a student who eschewed paying for housing and simply slept on the couches of the student center, and used locker room showers, for an entire year.

Unfortunately this individual's munchkinism led to the policy being revised to prevent this behavior - or so the tale goes.

4TobyBartels8yWhen I was a grad student, I preferred to spend time in my office and go home only to shower once every two or three days (especially before TAing a class, when I would also put on shoes). This annoyed some people, and eventually they got through a policy that the building was closed for 8 hours at night, told only me, and enforced it only against me. My TA union went ballistic when the campus police got involved; in the grievance process, we eventually settled that I only had to maintain a residence outside of the office (or something like that, I don't exactly remember, but anyway it was something that I'd been doing anyway), so a victory for labour solidarity! There was another person around at this time, a munchkin dedicated to gaining XP in studying interesting mathematics. Actually being a grad student had too many distractions, and he quit that before I got there, but he continued to hang around and collaborate on research with one of the professors. Every few years, he would take a sabbatical for a few months to get some money by coding, but mostly he slept in my office and ate a microwaved mixture of rice, cheese, frozen mixed vegetables, and spices. He did what I was only accused of doing, and I don't know why the authorities never went after him; I think that his existence just couldn't be classified in their consciousness. (It's been a few years, but I'm pretty sure that he's still there.)

In the crazy economics of Bay Area housing, driveway parking for a van in a desirable location with electricity and shower access is $200-$300/month.

6Decius8yIn a related note, I was able to steal showers from a gym for several months because I would go straight to the locker room with my bag (acting as though I was going to sign in later) and shower, then leave in my street clothes. I was only called out once, while I was leaving; I just kept walking and didn't come back for a few days.

Never buy anything from Amazon without checking eBay first. I think every generic thing in the world is available on eBay, IME at about half the price.

(May not be worth it for books and other media. But I just bought a pile of stuff for moving house with, down to replacement light bulbs for when we take our expensive daylight CFLs with us. And it's always fun to just casually buy six rolls of packing tape and a 100-metre roll of bubble wrap, even when you have an actual reason to.)

I think every generic thing in the world is available on eBay, IME at about half the price.

If this is true, there's a huge amount of money to be made buying things on eBay and selling them on Amazon.

A ridiculous munchkin idea which has long been floating around this community is increasingly looking less ridiculous: transcranial direct current stimulation is shown to improve mental arithmetic and rote learning of things like times tables with differences significant even 6 months after training. Original paper.

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.

You could for example apply your argument to say "well, is the voice threatening to kill you only if you don't study for your test? If so, isn't the net effect beneficial, and as such it's not really a mental illness? If you like being motivated by your voices, you don't suffer from schizophrenia, that's only for people who dislike their voices."

If you're going to define schizophrenia as voices that are bad for the person, then that would mean that it's only for people who dislike their voices (and are not deluded about whether the voices are ... (read more)

Probably not at all.

But what if I want expectations about my rationality level to be artificially high?

Then change your nick to be very similar to that of a top contributor.

I was really confused there for a moment.

I hadn't noticed that until you pointed it out. That is genius.

Or do both!

And thus, Aliza_Ludshowski was born.

Rule 63 meets LW.

At least it wasn't also rule 34.

There is a distinct absence of Eliezer Yudkowsky/Michael Vassar slashfic on the internet. Let's keep it that way.

By mentioning it, you have only made it more likely. Are you sure you want what you're saying, or do you only wish to denote it while connoting the opposite?

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.

http://tuxedage.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/the-least-accepted-part-of-me-a-defense-of-waifus/

A well-known trick for memorizing things verbatim is to make them rhyme and put them in a song. Most people reading this know the alphabet song, for instance, and you can use this to learn US states and capitals or chemical elements.

Maybe it would be possible to do this without the rhyming, by using text-to-speech software to convert the information into audio and then playing that over vocals-free music. Instead of text-to-speech software, you could buy/get an audiobook with the information, if one exists. It might be possible to use this, for instance, t... (read more)

5bramflakes8ySpaced-repetition software is much more convenient and scalable than coming up with rhymes all the time.
9Kawoomba8yFor all the advice at the OP's behest, "ridiculous" was his request.

A lot of writers seem to have characters who are pretty much like tulpas.

Full details here, but in summary: Take 2mg of melatonin 20 minutes before bed, and train yourself to think only of boring things and/or nothing after you lie down. Falling asleep becomes MUCH easier and more predictable.

This one is the sort of thing where there are a bunch of assumption that shrouds reasonable on their own, but implasible in conjunction:

A1: you don't have to perfectly transfer your entire conectome to still be "the same person"; only things that are actually part of your current identity are needed

A2: if your identity changes gradually over time, even into something that if the change was faster it'd be considered disruptive, you're still "the same person".

A3: the human identity can be very extensively modified using behavioural techni... (read more)

This isn't a clever way to accomplish something. This is a way of willfully misinterpreting definitions until you can claim success without changing reality.

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying.

—Woody Allen

That which is made immortal by such a method is not me.