I dunno. I have PhD in engineering. In my graduate research and in my brief life as a practicing scientist, I used rationalist skills like "search for more hypotheses" and "think exclusively about the problem for five minutes before doing anything else" and generally leveraged LW-style thinking, that I didn't learn in school, to be more successful and productive than I probably would have been otherwise. I could probably write a lengthy article about how I perceive LW to have helped me in my life, but I know that it would seem extremely post hoc and you could also probably say that the skills I'm using are not unique to LW. All I can say is that the core insight that formed the crux of my dissertation arose because I was using a very LW-style approach to analyzing a problem.

The thing about rationalist skills is that LW does not any cannot have a monopoly on them. In fact, the valuable function of LW (at least in the past) has been to both aggregate and sort through potentially actionable strategic directives and algorithms.

What's interesting to me is that school doesn't do that at all. I got through however-many years of schooling and earned a PhD without once taking a class about Science, about how to actually do it, about what the process of Science is. I absorbed some habits from advisers and mentors, that's about it. The only place that I even know of where people talk at length about the inner operations of mind that correspond to the outer reality where one observes discoveries being made is Less Wrong.

And if you're an entrepreneur and don't care about science, then Less Wrong is also one of a few places where people talk at length about how to marshal your crappy human brain and coax it to working productively on tasks that you have deliberately and strategically chosen.

One problem is that I'm probably thinking of the Less Wrong of four years ago rather than the Less Wrong of today. In any case, all those old posts that I found so much value in are still there.

the skills I'm using are not unique to LW.

I feel like this is an important point that goes a long way to give one the intellectual / social humility IlyaShpitser is pointing at, and I agree completely that the value of LW as a site/community/etc. is primarily in sorting and aggregating. (It's the people that do the creating or transferring.)

Open thread, Dec. 21 - Dec. 27, 2015

by MrMind 1 min read21st Dec 2015233 comments

2


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