As an experiment, here's a thread for people to post about things they care about. Specifically, for things that are possible to contribute to, in some way, and preferably, to invite others to join.

Mine is buying and donating highschool textbooks to schools in the 'grey zone' of Ukraine (where the war kinda isn't fought, but few people would be surprised if it started.) I don't deliver them myself, though.

What's yours?

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A friend and I are investigating why the cryonics movement hasn't been more successful and looking at what can be done to improve the situation. We have some ideas and have begun reaching out to people in the cryonics community. If you are interested in helping, message me. Right now it is mostly researching things about the existing cryonics organizations and coming up with ideas. In the future, there could be lots of other ways to contribute.

What does "successful" look like here? Number of patients in cryonic storage? Successfully revived tissues or experimental animals?

To me, success would be the number of patient's signed up for cryonics, greater cultural acceptance and recognition of cryonics as a reasonable patient choice from the medical field and government.

Maybe starting the Church of the Frost Giants and declaring cryonic suspension to be a religiously mandated funerary practice would work to that end.

I think actually reviving some ice mice might be a bigger step, though.

success would be the number of patient's signed up for cryonics, greater cultural acceptance and recognition of cryonics as a reasonable patient choice from the medical field and government

It's interesting that none of these criteria actually have anything to do with the promise of cryonics.

The reality today is that we are probably still a long way off from being able to revive someone. To me, the promise of cryonics has a lot to do with being a fallback plan for life extension technologies. Consequently, it is important that it be available and used today. Thus my definition of success. That said, if the cryonics movement were more successful in the way I have described, a lot more effort and money would go into cryonics research and bring us much closer to being able to revive someone. It would also mean that currently cryopreserved patients would be more likely to be cared for long enough to be revived.

Signing up for cryonics is ridiculously complicated. There should be a one-click group life insurance policy for funding it, and a notary that comes to you to complete the paperwork. It should take less than 10 minutes to get the ball rolling, and less than an hour time commitment total (albeit in chunks at a time as the paperwork is processed), and a single auto-billed monthly payment. Upgrading to a cryonics trust should be of similarly little complexity.

Also there should be late night basic cable channels showing cryonics infomercials. I'm quite serious about this.

I'm quite serious about this.

Are you? Well then, go make it happen.

Otherwise it sounds like entitled whining.

It's not the most useful thing I could be doing with my skillset, connections, and limited time. But if someone were to take up the torch (like the OP), I'd do what I can to support it.

In case it wasn't clear, my "it should..." statements were my own evaluations of how simplified the process could become with some process design optimization, not baseless "I want a pony!" whining. I am signed up for cryonics with Alcor and am familiar with the legal hurdles they require and why. I think those requirements can be met with a much more streamlined process, however it would require scaling up faster than word of mouth (hence, infomercial territory).

So when you say you're quite serious about it, what exactly do you mean?

"there should be late night basic cable channels showing cryonics infomercials" is the sort of thing that sounds like a joke. Presumably they want to make it clear that that was not a joke.

Maybe they said it ironically :-P

Philh is correct.

What I'm about to say is within the context of seeing you be one of the most frequent commenters on this site.

Otherwise it sounds like entitled whining.

That is really unfriendly to say; honestly the word I want to use is "nasty" but that is probably hyperbolic/hypocritical. I'm not sure if you realize this but a culture of macho challenging like this discourages people from participating. I think you and several other commenters who determine the baseline culture of this site should try to be more friendly. I have seen you in particular use a smiley before so that's good and you're probably a friendly person along many dimensions. But I want to emphasize how intimidated newcomers or people who are otherwise uncomfortable with what is probably interpreted-by-you as joshing-around with LW-friends. To you it may feel like you are pursuing less-wrongness, but to people who are more neurotic and/or more unfamiliar with this forum it can come across as feeling hounded, even if vicariously.

I do not want to pick on people I don't know but there are other frequent commenters who could use this message too.

Well, first of all I don't think I determine the baseline culture of the site. I'm more of an outlier here and I was just a lurker when the site was in its heyday.

Second, as opposed to some, I don't want just more people. I want more interesting, smart, competent people and yes, this implies that I prefer a certain class of people to not be here -- preferably by not showing up here at all. Relative rarity of idiots is a BIG advantage of LW -- if you want broad participation Reddit, etc. are there for you.

Third, "hounded"? This is the 'net and though a particular technology has been desired by many, it hasn't been invented yet. Close the browser or switch to a different tab and hey! you're free and safe.

I agree that signing up for cryonics is far too complicated and this is one of the things that needs to be addressed. My friend and I have a number of ideas how that might be done.

While I'm not sure about late night basic cable infomercials, existing cryonics organizations certainly don't carry out much if any advertising. There are a number of good reasons that they are not advertising. Those can and should be addressed by any future cryonics organization.

The cryonics movement is not successful because there are ZERO instances of reviving a corpsicle. What other measure of success would you want to pursue?

Responding with a comment because a down-vote is not available...

This is a tired strawman argument that seems to rear its head in every discussion of cryonics. Cryonics patients are being stored for future revival, perhaps in the distant future. Successful revival is dependent on the technology existing in the future to reverse vitrification damage. It's of no relevance whether that technology exists today, just that it is within the realm of physical possibility to create such technology and that sufficient funds are provided up front for perpetual storage, since we don't know how long it will be until that technology exists. (But we know with near certainty that such technology is possible, by a number of different routes).

This is explained in the FAQs of all cryonics organizations I'm aware of.

Downvote accepted, I do miss that feedback mechanism (when it worked, not when it got abused). My comment was perhaps over-brief.

I stand by my assertion that any definition of "successful" for cryonics must include actual revivals or measurable progress toward such. Nobody would ever wonder why chemotherapy isn't more successful because many cancer patients choose not to try it.

It now occurs to me that OP may have intentionally distinguished "cryonics movement" from "cryonics" in terms of success metrics, in which case I'm still concerned, but have expressed the wrong dimension of concern.

Yes, I believe we have wandered off he OP's original topic.

But for what it's with I think you are comparing apples to oranges. All cryonics cases that have not experienced early failure due to organizational or engineering flaws are still ongoIng. Only about 2% have failed. The other 98% remains to be seen. It is absolutely the case that modern cryonics organizations like Alcor have made tremendous progress in increasing the probably of success, mostly through organizational and funding changes, but also improvements to the suspension process as well.

If I may take a stab at this: it's probably a combination of 1) Costs a lot 2) Benefit isn't expected for many decades 3) No guarantee that it would work

Anyone taking a heurisitc approach to reasoning about whether to sign up for cryonics rather than a probabilistic one ( which isn't irrational if you have no way to estimate the probabilities involved available to you ) could therefore easily evaluate it as not worth doing.

The religious might also see it as an attempt to cheat God, which rarely ends well in the mythology.

Right now, it's overcoming my unbearable procrastination/lethargy/aversion to/for anything that even seems unpleasant. If I can't do hard work, I'm basically useless for whatever I have planned anyway, so it's critical.

Two (unrelated) suggestions, from personal experience:

  1. See a psychiatrist. There may be a chemical solution.

  2. Go out of your comfort zone. Sign up for intense martial arts classes, and don't quit after you come home bruised from your first session. It will not take long to overcome pain thresholds. Mental pain/aversion is not the same as physical pain, yes, but the skill of breaking past aversion limits is transferable. There's a reason for the saying "pain is only in the mind."

It seems to be a common desire around here. See the akrasia tactics thread. I started reading Mini Habits after seeing it recommended there. The technique looks promising for your problem.

I finished the book. It's not that long. I'll try to summarize the thesis.

Your capacity to work is based on three forces: motivation, willpower, and habit. Motivation is too unreliable: sometimes you have it, sometimes you don't. Habits are those behaviors that are easier to do than to not do; habits are the most reliable. But they have a chicken and egg problem. You can't use a habit you don't have. Willpower is the most useful, but you have a very limited supply of it; when willpower is overtaxed you can't use it until it recharges enough.

The mistake of most of the self help genre is to focus on motivation. Forget about motivation. You can't control it reliably. You should instead focus on willpower, but considering its limited supply, you must spend it efficiently by bootstrapping just a few habits at a time. Make a daily goal of "stupid simple" positive behaviors you can accomplish with little appreciable effort, that you can FORCE yourself to do even at the last minute, with a headache, while sleep deprived. The deadline is when you fall asleep. Something like reading just two pages of a book, or writing fifty words, or a single push up. If those sound too hard, think of something even easier. Maybe you just open the book. Maybe you just write a single word.

Your abstract goals may be lofty, but your concrete goals must be humble. When you've established a framework of habit, you are free to surf the waves of motivation to do "bonus reps". Read more pages, write more words, do more push ups. But only when you feel like it. It's very important psychologically to count the stupid simple behavior alone as a success. Because you've maintained the habit. Often the hardest part of work is starting. Your mini habit will set you in motion. At that point it's often easier to keep moving. Over time you'll entrench the habit, build willpower by exercising it, and accumulate some real accomplishment.

Once it's a real habit (i.e. easier to do than to not do), then it's no longer costing willpower and you try to add another one.

There are other details in the book. (And parts of it are probably worthless.) What the mindset looks like. How to avoid certain common failure modes. A particularly important one is about breaking your streak. If you accidentally miss a day, it can be very discouraging. Building a habit is like riding a bike up a hill. It's harder to do than to not do, until you reach the top. Don't think of a missed day as a broken link in the chain. Think of it as sliding down the hill, but not all the way down the hill. You've lost progress, but not all progress. This is not an excuse to skip days. It's an excuse to continue even if you miss one by accident. It's better to keep going.

Does the book seem worth reading? If you can't muster the willpower to check it out, just try the technique on one mini habit for a week. Let me know how it goes.

Great summary, and also great advice!

I would recommend reading Don't Shoot the Dog (a book about conditioning in general), which provides some background for this advice. (But maybe it already is in the book, and you just didn't mention it in the summary.) For example...

It's very important psychologically to count the stupid simple behavior alone as a success.

..this is "obvious in hindsight" when you think about conditioning. If you want the habit to establish firmly, you need to reward it, emotionally, even if it is merely a small part of a large picture. People often make a mistake that they are trying to reward too large chunks of work, but that's wrong -- conditioning works best at small chunks, because timing is critical (the best reward is the immediate reward).

Imagine that your goal is "eat healthy food, exercise and develop huge muscles, improve sex life, find a better job, and make tons of money", but all you actually managed to do during the last month is "do 10 push-ups (almost) every morning". There are two ways to react to this:

a) Say "this is great, I am exercising regularly, and this body is becoming stronger and stronger every day" after each exercise. If you do this, the little monkey in your head, responsible for regularity of exercise, will feel really happy, and will make you want to exercise every day.

Yes, there are more things to do, but you can work on them later. And with the exercise-management monkey working happily on its task, you will have one less thing to worry about.

b) Say "okay, this sucks, I barely do the 10 push-ups, and I completely failed at all the remaining goals" after each exercise. If you do this, the little monkey in your head, responsible for regularity of exercise, will feel sad and commit suicide, so the next day you will have a huge "ugh field" around the idea of exercise.

Now this is strictly worse than the previous option. And yet many people will do exactly this. Why? Something about signalling and status hierarchies... you probably instinctively feel a need to kick yourself, to prevent the alpha of the group kicking you instead. (What could help overcome this instinct would probably be to imagine a "reference group" consisting of people who are not exercising at all -- clearly your habit of doing 10 push-ups a day makes you superior to all of them. A time to celebrate victory!)

bootstrapping just a few habits at a time

If you try to bootstrap 5 habits at a time, and only 2 stick, and the remaining 3 fail, what you should do is reward yourself for getting from level zero to level two. (The remaining habits you can work with in the future, when the two already established ones will be done mostly automatically.)

Meditation also looks like an interesting avenue. The practice of controlling attention might improve willpower.

Many people have been through similar periods and overcome them, so asking around will yield plenty of anecdotal advice. And I assume you've read the old /u/lukeprog piece How to Beat Procrastination.

For me, regular exercise has helped for general motivation, energy levels, willpower--the opposite of akrasia generally. (How to bootstrap the motivation to exercise? I made a promise to a friend and she agreed to hold me accountable to exercising. It was also easier because there was someone I wanted to impress.)

Good luck. When you've got a handle on it, do share what helped most/least.

Working out has been too troublesome for me, but I do like endorphin boosts. Who needs drugs when you can get your brain to drug you for you?

Anytime you're feeling down, just do some kinda movement until your muscles burn a little then stop. It takes like 10 seconds of arm flapping or 3 crunches.

You can do it multiple times a day and keep a running tally to build up the initial affordance.

Good point. You don't have to go to the gym. I used to do jumping jacks in sets of 100, several sets throughout the day. Gradually increase the number of daily sets.

Can we post even if what we care about is secret? :)

I care about finding ways to turn a desktop computer into an a better auxiliary organ of the brain.

I am also interested in that. I'm interested if you are trying to solve a single problem or whether you are trying to do something more general.

I'm focusing on something highly specific right now: a dirty, hack-riddled attempt at turning python into a usable live-programming environment. This is a far cry from my general interest of building an OS ( or "operating environment" ) which effectively has a reflective understanding of its own internals, programming language and operations.

This splits into many sub-problems; so the one I'm primarily fascinated by is how to construct a programming language that a computer not only can execute but understands the semantics of in various dimensions and at varying conceptual levels ( hence creating potential for manipulating the machine at using abstract concepts that are not necessarily rigorously defined beforehand ).

usable live-programming environment

Better than ipython/Jupyter in which way?

an OS ( or "operating environment" ) which effectively has a reflective understanding of its own internals

Something like a Smalltalk environment?

For one thing I need to be able to run it on on a server without x-windows on it; so I need to be able to change code on my own machine, have a script upload it to the remote server and update the running code without halting any running processes. I also need the input source code to be transformed so every variable assignment, function-call or generator call is wrapped in a logging function which can be switched on or off, and for the output of the logs to be viewable by something basically resembling an Excel spreadsheet, where rows and columns can be filtered out according to the source and nature of the logging message; so I can examine the operational trace of a complex running program to find the source of a bug without having to manually write logging statements and try/except blocks throughout the whole system. I don't know to what extent Jupyter's feature-set intersects with what I need but when I checked it out it seemed to be basically browser-based.

"Something like a Smalltalk environment" - yes. Pharo looks a lot like what I would want and I have toyed with it slightly.

Lively Kernel is a Smalltalk-like environment that runs in the browser. It might be better for that server-side stuff than normal Smalltalk.

Unfortunately, it's written in JavaScript, which is not a good language, but I think it can also compile ClojureScript, which is much better. Cloxp is a related project that's more Clojure-based.

Amber Smalltalk also runs in-browser. The maintainer has kind of gone off in a weird direction, but it still works. PharoJS was supposed to be an alternative with a different approach, but I'm not sure if it was ever completed.

Emacs is the closest Lisp has to a Smalltalk environment. There are emacsen written in other lisps, like EdWin and Hemlock. These can be run in a terminal over ssh.

Sounds like you need to look into erlang.

update the running code without halting any running processes

That's more a function of the way you code up the running processes and less a function of the language involved, but I suspect that systems where a language can be combined with, essentially, a VM and an OS (LISP, Smalltalk) can make that a lot easier. Wrangling Python to become LISP is going to be... quite an exercise.

But if all you need is to change the values of some variables and/or what some functions so, that looks doable.

wrapped in a logging function

So basically you want to run your code inside a debugger?

That's more of a function of the way you code up the running processes

Well not necessarily, depending on what kind of transforms you can apply to the source before feeding it to the interpreter, and the degree of fuss you're willing to put up with in terms of defining global functions with special names to handle resurrection of state and so on.

Python wasn't picked specifically because it's ideal for doing this kind of thing but just because it's easy for hacking prototypes together and useful for many things. At the risk of overstating my progress - some of the things that seemed to me like they would be the most difficult do now work at some level.

want to run your code inside a debugger

I want the option to do that if I want to. There's no reason it has to be done that way if the overhead added seems to be excessive. It's also a case of being able to specify the degree to which it's running in a debugger ( in otherwords the level of resolution of the logs ).

Edit: lighttable is also very close to what I would consider a good operating environment.

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I really want self-driving cars to be widely adopted as soon as possible. There are many reasons, the one that occurred to me today while walking down the street is : look at all the cars on the street. Now imagine all the parked cars disappear, and only the moving cars remain. A lot less clutter, right? What could we do with all that space? That's the future we could have if SDCs appear (assuming that most people will use services like Lyft/Uber with robotic drivers instead of owning their own car).

The improvement in human productivity would be substantial, just in terms of the time saved while not driving, not to mention the extra man-hours from people not dying in preventable collisions.

I've also been thinking that it could cause a big shakeup in the housing market, as living in suburbs would be more appealing when your hour-long commute is reading/working time instead of driving time.

You mean living in suburbs is not appealing? ;)

Nah. We'll own our own SDC's, and they'll wait for us like the existing ones do. Uber/Lyft would need to be HUGELY cheaper than owning a car to make up for having to wait for them to arrive to go anywhere.

I sometimes wonder if there is more low hanging fruit in lives that could be saved if car safety was improved. Self driving cars are obviously one way to do that, but I worry that we're ignoring easier solutions because self driving cars will solve the problem eventually (not that I know what those easier solutions are).

What could we do with all that space?

I don't know, what? Nothing particularly exciting comes to my mind...

Nothing particularly exciting comes to my mind

Property prices would fall. Sounds like a job for real-estate entrepreneurs.

I'd like to see the end of state lotteries, although I know that's not gonna happen.

There may be other approaches. A little searching reveals that six states don't have lotteries. And they have different reasons.

Alabama, Mississippi, and Utah have long resisted due to religious objections. Spreading the Gospel may not be an approach we approve of, but it proves that cultures can develop immunity to certain common human failures. There have historically been successful efforts to shift culture via media and education. Designated drivers are a notable example. Perhaps something similar could work.

Surprisingly, Nevada is one of the six, despite rampant legalized gambling. There's not enough cultural objection here. What there is, instead, is a big casino lobby that doesn't like competition. A well-funded, well-organized lobby can overrule an unorganized majority. The Prohibition is a notable example. A constitutional amendment would do the job, but we probably wouldn't need to go that far.

The last two are Alaska and Hawaii. The reason for this is that they don't border other states. You see, the other Bible Belt states also resisted lotteries for a time, but when your citizens can just cross the border to a neighbor to get their tickets, then a very compelling argument arises in the state legislature: "If they're doing it anyway, shouldn't we get the tax money?". This caused a kind of domino effect and state lotteries proliferated. It also means that focusing on one state at a time is probably not going to work. I'm not sure how else this insight helps us.

It's a tax on the mathematically challenged. The obvious path forward is better math education.

I think it's a little bit worse than this.

A lot of people who gamble compulsively don't do it because the odds are beyond them. (It's really easy to play slots a bunch of times, lose a lot of money, and realize you lost a lot of money.) There's something neurologically strange about people who gamble frequently even though they lose, and it's hard to pinpoint it, but it seems like variable reinforcement is winning out over logic.

If you buy a large number of lottery tickets, you're pretty likely to win some sort of prize. Related example: slot machines are designed to generate a bonus round or a jackpot about once within each ~$100, and that's a pretty normal level of play for someone who does it compulsively. Also, like casino games like slots and blackjack, lottery tickets are pretty good at generating near misses and losses-disguised-as-wins, particularly scratcher and instant-ticket lotteries because those tend to involve a small pool of symbols and elaborate presentation.

There's also a giant sunk cost fallacy problem -- the problem is that understanding the sunk cost fallacy isn't enough to defeat it for a lot of people.

I would be willing to guess that a significant proportion of the people who play the lottery a lot probably have an accurate picture of the odds, but due to mental health problems they're going to continue to waste far too much money on it. I'd also be willing to guess that they generate most of the lottery proceeds just because even though they're numerically few, they buy more tickets than anyone else.

The most expensive games are free. I looked a little into the economics of mobile apps, and the most profitable seem to use the freemium business model. And furthermore, most of the profit in the freemium model is from a handful "whales" as they're called in the business. A greater number of users spend only small amounts and most don't spend at all. I suspect these "whales" have the same mental issue.

I also vaguely recall hearing about a Parkinson's disease patient that got hooked on slots because of the drugs she was using to treat her condition. When she stopped taking the medication, her addiction also subsided. The whales may have a similar imbalance.

There's a blogger you might enjoy reading whose name is Ramin Shokrizade: . He's some kind of consultant for video game monetization schemes. I think he's a little bit hyperbolic and overwrought sometimes, but he has a lot of direct experience and textual evidence collected from other designers at companies like Zynga.

I think there are a lot of psych topics that are relevant for freemium games but not normal gambling, which means they're a great zone for research. Normal gambling games like poker, blackjack, slots, and lotteries tend to play the same way from round to round, which means they get a lot of addiction potential from normal variable reinforcement-type stuff. But freemium games are allowed to exhibit significant differences in play as time goes on, which means they can give the user some free wins to start with, some powerups that will eventually deplete, stuff like that. (There was a great wrestling game I ran into where the first three bosses could be beaten by mashing buttons and the fourth one was literally impossible without cheating -- too greedy, perhaps?)

Maybe the big important thing is that a lot of people are really loss-averse and having some kind of state between rounds means the game can threaten to take things away from you if it wants to. In a lot of normal gambling situations, you can cut your losses and walk away. Sunk cost fallacy means many people are bad at deciding to do that, but a force even stronger than sunk cost fallacy is loss-averseness. Common example: "you've won an item, but your inventory is full -- delete something or you'll lose it forever."

Pachinko machines are more loosely regulated and if I remember right, some even implement F2P-like loss-averseness schemes. Remember Mann Co. Keys in Team Fortress, where the game presents you the opportunity for a reward but disguises it as a reward by itself? At one point it was in vogue for pachinko machines to tell you earned a jackpot, but make you play a ton of extra rounds to "unlock" it. (by getting lucky again) -- effectively the same scheme, not that evil by itself. What made it evil was that if you stopped playing the machine, anyone else could start up playing it and steal your jackpot.

In a perfect world, the better math education would be funded by the proceeds from said state lotteries.