Group rationality diary, 6/11/12

by cata1 min read12th Jun 201242 comments


Personal Blog

This is the public group instrumental rationality diary for the week of June 11th. It's a place to record and chat about it if you have done, or are actively doing, things like:

  • Established a useful new habit
  • Obtained new evidence that made you change your mind about some belief
  • Decided to behave in a different way in some set of situations
  • Optimized some part of a common routine or cached behavior
  • Consciously changed your emotions or affect with respect to something
  • Consciously pursued new valuable information about something that could make a big difference in your life
  • Learned something new about your beliefs, behavior, or life that surprised you
  • Tried doing any of the above and failed

Or anything else interesting which you want to share, so that other people can think about it, and perhaps be inspired to take action themselves.  Try to include enough details so that everyone can use each other's experiences to learn about what tends to work out, and what doesn't tend to work out.

Thanks to everyone who contributes!

(Previously: 5/14/125/21/125/28/12, 6/4/12)


42 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 1:42 PM
New Comment

Yesterday I got what was probably a mass email to all of someone's friends, but phrased as a personal request, "Would you please do me this huge favor? Read (this Kickstarter project) and forward it on if you agree with it." I read the Kickstarter project; it was obviously hopeless. And since I'd recently gotten bitten on it, I managed to disagree with the internal part that said, "If you don't explain why this is doomed, nobody will ever tell it to this person; you are the only one who is willing to accept any personal cost, like loss of relationship-points, to bring a benefit to others, like warning them about a doomed project" with the recently formed heuristic "Assume anyone below the level of Julia is probably outside the tiny class of people who experience anything but useless pain on hearing their personal ideas specifically contradicted with any amount of politeness I know how to wield, until specific evidence to the contrary has been gathered in some low-cost way."

Techniques used:

1) Actually update on the evidence eventually.

2) Talk to other people out loud about the problems I've been having about updating on this evidence in hopes this causes my brain to actually remember next time what happened last time.

Technique it seems like I could've used but didn't explicitly invoke:

3) Stop living in the should-universe.

Was a high-level skeptic before she was a CFAR instructor - I would guess that most of her accumulated skill is still from outside our Conspiracy - the point being that there are people like this outside the community ("Muggleborns"), they just have skeptic blogs or something.

Julia Galef, I guess.

What was the project about and why was it obviously hopeless?

"Entropy is wrong" is where I stopped reading the Kickstarter.

"Entropy is wrong" is where I stopped reading the Kickstarter.

Wow. What can that phrase even mean?

... morally :P

... morally :P

Good point. Screw entropy. :P

Wow. What can that phrase even mean?

Uhm, time should run backwards?

Philip K. Dick did say that it should run backwards! I forgot how his line went, though.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Uhm, time should run backwards?

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

Google it and you land on a promised book by Howard Bloom, which also promotes "heresies" like "a does not equal a" and "one plus one does not equal two", as a way to understand "how a godless cosmos creates".

So these are deliberately paradoxical slogans, being used to hype what may be quite mundane insights. "Entropy is wrong" could just mean "despite the second law, growth and evolution are possible".

Fundraising is the mind-killer.

So these are deliberately paradoxical slogans, being used to hype what may be quite mundane insights. "Entropy is wrong" could just mean "despite the second law, growth and evolution are possible".

So they could have said... "There is plenty of neg-entropy out there. Burn it to make fun stuff happen!"?

Google it and you land on a promised book by Howard Bloom, which also promotes "heresies" like "a does not equal a" and "one plus one does not equal two", as a way to understand "how a godless cosmos creates".

I really hope this piece of crackpottery does not reach its target.

ETA: Well, it did, which I guess was inevitable. I just read the Kickstarter TOS, and I can't see any prohibition against gaming their system for publicity instead of raising money, by donating to your own Kickstarter to reach its target, then getting most of your own money back. So it wouldn't be libellous to speculate if this had just happened.

Here is the relevant kickstarter. It's a kickstarter for a media campaign to promote an already-written book.

Ugh, it puts a review of itself at every pledge level.

Shoot me now. No cryonics.

Seven people have put in $700 each. I'm hoping it's the author putting in money to make the project look good, but I have no strong reason to think that's the case.

What's really annoying is that "how a godless universe creates" is actually a question that probably needs to be answered more times, or at least I was explaining to a friend that there's no evidence that life needs more than time and randomness to come into existence.

[-][anonymous]9y 6

A week and a half ago, I started tracking my sleep and wake times (and a couple other factors, such as whether I took melotonin, and if so, at what time) via spreadsheet. The reason for this being that I had been trying to improve my bedtime, and hadn't been making much progress. I haven't had anything I NEEDED to get out of bed early for (early work or school, etc) in over a month, but I find that I am much more productive overall on an earlier cycle.

I noticed, however, that my waking time has been slowly getting better. I think this is a bit of a feedback loop, because once I noticed it (about a week in), I didn't want to break the pattern, and so subconsciously try to wake up at least 5 minutes before the previous day. (But I don't overtly push the issue, or anything)

I think the reason that this is much easier for me to improve on is mainly because my go-to-sleep times are all over place due to Real Life (game nights, discussions with friends, etc). So even though I HAD been succeeding in slowly pushing my sleep schedule back, the randomness/noise in my bedtimes was too high for me to perceive that pattern. I won't be surprised if I graphed my bedtimes after a month or two of recording data, that they WILL, in fact, have gotten generally much earlier, even if the data is too noisy to see any pattern in for just a week's worth.

This was a huge revelation to me when I was recovering from my stroke. What sometimes felt like no progress at all turned out to be, when i measured it, steady and significant progress. I am a huge fan of tracking the stuff I want to improve.

I recently decided (after months of being unhappy with my previous decision) to see if I want to change my major from graphic design to biology. My old decision making was partially based on "I've been drawing my whole life, and am somewhat good at it." I found that I like drawing sometimes, but generally only get enough motivation to paint something every month or so, and rarely ever finish those paintings (Out of the 40 or so paintings I've started, I've completed only about 30% of them.) So I started looking into alternatives. I've loved the sciences since I was little, and have been really curious about the world around me, so I signed up for a biology and chemistry class this fall semester. I just got the textbooks today, and starting going through them out of curiosity. I'm realizing that my high school did an awful job teaching science, and I'm having to review some basic concepts. However, I am not finding myself minding it. It's really interesting.

The other day Patrick mentioned to me on #lesswrong that one of the multiverses Briane Greene talks in his book Hidden Reality... is of the MWI type. So I looked through the book, and here is the relevant passage:

Over the years, a number of researchers including Neill Graham; Bryce DeWitt; James Hartle; Edward Farhi, Jeffrey Goldstone, and Sam Gutmann; David Deutsch; Sidney Coleman; David Albert; and others, including me, have independently come upon a striking mathematical fact that seems central to understanding the nature of probability in quantum mechanics. For the mathematically inclined reader, here’s what it says: Let be the wavefunction for a quantum mechanical system, a vector that’s an element of the Hilbert space H. The wavefunction for n-identical copies of the system is thus. Let A be any Hermitian operator with eigenvalues αk, and eigenfunctions. Let Fk(A) be the “frequency” operator that counts the number of timesappears in a given state lying in. The mathematical result is that lim. That is, as the number of identical copies of the system grows without bound, the wavefunction of the composite system approaches an eigenfunction of the frequency operator, with eigenvalue. This is a remarkable result.

Now, this makes me update more toward the statement "MWI does not require any extra assumptions beyond the Schroedinger equation", though not all the way there, because it postulates "infinitely many identical copies of the system", which is still a separate postulate. There is a further problem with this. Brian Greene again, now for a two-state system:

So from the standpoint of observers (copies of the experimenter) the vast majority would see spin-ups and spin-downs in a ratio that does not agree with the quantum mechanical predictions. Only the very few terms in the expansion of that have 98 percent spin-ups and 2 percent spin-downs are consistent with the quantum mechanical expectation; the result above tells us that these states are the only ones with nonzero Hilbert space norm as n goes to infinity. In some sense, then, the vast majority of terms in the expansion of(the vast majority of copies of the experimenter) need to be considered as “non existent.” The challenge lies in understanding what, if anything, that means.

This is a standard problem in MWI, but still, there are some hints that MWI may be a part of the next step in the quantum theory, when it finally happens.

Were some characters dropped in the block quotes? It looks like some variable names went missing.

Sorry, this is digitized from a printed book.

I successfully held a lotus pose! I put it on a daily to do list that I would have to check off, and I got myself to do it by using the idea of actions as policies. There were a few days where I forgot, but I just accepted that I couldn't do anything about that and continued on. This has led to almost a month of daily stretching for 18 minutes a day. I have previously tried to regularly hold the necessary stretch many times in the past and failed! Now working to make the pose easier and be able to do it both ways. :)

I learned how to juggle three objects because I wanted to increase my coordination and skill at catching/throwing spherical objects (it didn't help with frisbees). I can show off this new skill, and have more confidence that allows me to stop dodging balls thrown at my head and successfully catch them instead. It's enjoyable, and I've started juggling in between working to move around and relax, hopefully increasing my mood/productivity (I haven't measured).

It didn't take very long to learn this basic skill, maybe 10 hours until the low-hanging fruit were eaten.

I've started (as of last Thursday, I think) taking melatonin. I originally took 1mg a night. I did not notice any effect from this. For the past few nights I've taken 2mg. I'd expected that this would cause me to feel tired half an hour after taking it, but this doesn't seem to be the case. But I have been going to bed anyway about half an hour after taking it, then reading for a bit, and then successfully sleeping for about eight hours. (Previously I would often lie awake for what-felt-like ages; sometimes literally more than an hour.) And my sleep cycle hasn't precessed this week, which it did the last few times I had no schedule to wake up for. So it seems to be an improvement. I haven't noticed myself feeling any different throughout the day.

Further experimentation: I should try 3mg, and I should try skipping some days. I'd also like to bring my sleep cycle back by a few hours by Saturday night, because I need to get up early on Sunday.

Also try 300mcg (0.3 mg). If high doses of melatonin don't work or don't work well or seem to have no effect, the next step is to try a lower dosage.

Unfortunately I got it in 1mg capsules, rather than tablets which I could cut up. I might see what I can do though.

Huh. It didn't occur to me that I could just buy more. Thanks.

Annoyingly, I'm in the UK - it looks like Amazon won't ship there, and the UK sellers I've found only sell capsules in 1mg increments. But there's this, which gives me hope that I'll be able to find some way of shipping 300mcg doses to the UK.

My current thinking is that I'll experiment by pulling capsules apart, and if a small dose turns out to be effective I'll try to get it in a more convenient form.

You can try reshipping service like Shipito.

Aqueous melatonin. Dilute as desired (ie. 1:9). Take a drop.

You could also try dissolving the whole capsule in water, which might make measuring out specific fractions easier.

In my experience, melatonin is primarily good for experiencing vivid nightmares. I take it recreationally for that purpose.

Huh. Now I don't know how to classify you in my list of anecdotes: negative, for experiencing vivid nightmares, or positive for taking it recreationally.

If it helps, not all the vivid dreams are nightmares.

I knew a close relative of mine had been suicidal for a while... But Ve had gotten professional help and I was preoccupied with my own problems. A few days ago I obtained knowledge that ve very, very, very nearly completed an effective way of suicide; this shocked me to my core and led me to setting up a number of steps to support ver heavily over the course of the next few month... Luckily this is merely an inconvenience and not a total disruption of plans; this way the update/decision to actually DO something is relatively easy made.

Switched from Epic Win to Habit Judo when I realized the sound effects from the former were actually giving me negative feedback, which is not what I need.

Weighing myself daily or nearly-daily worked so well as a weight-control method, that I decided to keep track of (a) what time I get to bed (hoping not to waste so much time late at night), and (b) how many minutes it takes to get ready in the morning (hoping to compress my morning routine from a couple of hours to under an hour). Hasn't helped so far, but I'll try it for a few more weeks. If it still doesn't work then I need to try something new.

Beginning today, I start journalling (at least a tiny bit each day).

I'm 550 pages into a genetics textbook that I'm reading on my own, which is something I never would have imagined doing two months ago. I've been experiencing success with TDT for habit formation (implementing flossing, fluoride rinsing, sunscreen, running, and taking pills) and using the pomodoro method to chunk my time. I also achieved my goal of creating a piece of fanart for HPMoR (can be watched/read on youtube). Tomorrow or Wednesday I'm going to receive my piracetam + CDPCholine + pyritinol (the nootropics I found recommended as a solid beginner stack). Tomorrow I'm meeting with a researcher to discuss a volunteer position in her genetics lab.

My success with all this has been crucially dependent on finding and recognizing cached beliefs and identities, like "I can't get a cameo in HPMoR, my poetry isn't good enough!" or "I'm a linguist!" or "Drugs are bad!" It's intimidating how many of these I've found and how many more I probably still have to get to.

Awesome video!