Hi everybody,

With the New Year coming up and next year being 2020, I think it's worth reflecting on the last 10 years. As you probably remember the last Sequences post came out towards the end of the decade. How have things gone for you since then? If you're willing to share, here's some things to consider. You can answer as much or as little of this as you want, don't let it scare you off from posting:

(EDIT: This prompt seems to reliably cause people to write stuff that's uncomfortable to post as a comment. If you find this happens to you, go ahead and just excerpt a part which is comfortable to post as a comment and post that instead.)

Before & After

How were things for you at the start and end of the decade? Some categories to ponder:

  • Philosophy
  • Skills
  • Career
  • Lifestyle


How did things change over time? What was your progression through the 2010's?

  • What made you say "oops" and "duh"? What did you update on?
  • How have your preferences changed over time? (e.g. Music, Food)
  • Did you break any promises? Did you keep some difficult ones?
  • Do you have any new habits? Did you break some?


How did you experience the last 10 years? What proportion of the time was spent on good experiences vs. bad? Any notable highlights?

Worth Noting

  • When did you first read The Sequences, if ever?
  • Are you overall satisfied or dissatisfied with how the decade went?
  • Is there any advice you'd give to your past self? How do you think they'd react to it? (Just so we don't have to read it 30 times, yes, you would buy bitcoin)
  • What do you think the zeitgeist of this decade was? What aspects and events do you think you'll remember the 2010's for? What do you think society at large will remember the 2010's for?

And of course if there's anything else you'd like to share, feel free. :)

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I've been thinking about this a lot lately. 2019 has been a year of many changes for me, but mostly by way of consolidting everything I've been learning to reshape my own mind. From the outside it would look like the rest of the decade, 2009-2018, was way more eventful. Starting in 2009 I graduated college, got a job, went to grad school, quit grad school, got a dog and a cat, bought a house, got married, got into hiking and yoga and meditation, and read the Sequences and lots of other things.

As for advice - I would try to convey the importance of self-acceptance and self-compassion, and the fact that it's really, really unhealthy mentally to believe that a virtuous person cannot value his own life and well-being above that of anyone else, at least if that person is human and living on Earth in the current time. I would provide a long reading recommendation list, though honestly I don't know if any of what I said could efficiently bridge the inferential gap between me and him.



How was my decade?

First 6 years - painful and miserable spent in a state of hopelessness and self-loathing. A deep depression with suicide was a constantly considered option. I wanted it all to stop.

I gave up my career as a veterinary surgeon, which was all I'd ever wanted to be since I was 6 but I hated it more and more through the years. The wins were just me doing my job so I got no joy/satisfaction/anything positive in those. The losses always hit hard, the fear and doubt - could I have done more/did I miss something/what if I'd done something different? The losses always outnumbered the wins in the end.

Now, that I've learned to use my body correctly - to use the right muscles, to physically balance my body and work towards dynamic alignment and a full range of natural movement - it's a whole new world for me.

So past advice to myself - Learn to use your body better - starting with your Base-Line muscles (pelvic floor Base, rectus abdominis Line) the key to connecting body and mind. Would I have listened? I hope so because the anatomy is solid and should be able to stand up to scrutiny if I can get anyone else to consider it.

Well that was quite cathartic!



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Before and After

At the start of the decade I was 13, I'm now 23.


Before: I was a recovering conspiracy theorist. I'd figured out on my own that my beliefs should be able to predict the future, and started insisting they do. I wrote down things I expected to happen by a certain time in a giant list, and went back to record the outcome. I wanted to be a video game developer, but didn't know how to start.

A 13 year old boy sits on a swingset in his backyard, listening to Owl City[0] and Lemon Demon[1] as frosty dew melts off green grass in the morning sun. He's daydreaming about the end of the world and his impending death. There is no god and nobody is coming to save him.

After: The oldest copy of Harry Potter and The Methods Of Rationality I can find on my computer is dated January 1st of 2011 at 4:13AM. Now in 2019 I have read many books about phreakers, hackers, makers, computer wizards, rationalists, stats nerds, and the subjects that interest them. My enthusiastic anarchism has given way to a grim realpolitik that still values freedom but understands there are no easy solutions and everything runs on incentives. I call myself an extropian because 'singularitan' sounds too awkward.

A young man is washing the main board of an original Xbox with vinegar. His work bench has an overhead light, it's the brightest thing in the room and everything else looks dim by comparison. The intent of the Xbox was that its data be confined to its aging hardware. He remembers taking Adderall that day, he has perfect focus as he washes away the corrosion left behind by the clock capacitor. During this task he reflects on the decay inherent in all things. The data in his brain is also confined to its aging hardware, and as it ages it corrodes. In his reflections he is no different from this Xbox, peering into his magnifying glass at an eroded trace on the board he sees the infinite void ahead of him. He imagines himself to be washing the body of an embryonic god.


Before: I was probably most skilled at playing Halo, and only so good at that. I found the idea of writing a 2-3 page essay an imposition. It was around this time that I first installed Linux, I could not program.

After: I am now probably most skilled at writing, but only so good at that. ;) I can write a 12 page lab report in a weekend. I'm skilled enough at programming to write a compiler.

Career & Lifestyle

Career is just starting, though I did make a point of trying to do Real Things during school. Lifestyle is more or less unchanged, a lot of time spent indoors on nerdy things.


Oops and Duh

  • The curse of dimensionality makes it easy to get confused about peoples relative ability to each other. It is however a map/territory error to believe that your confusion means there is no sense in which some people are massively more competent than others. Duh.
  • People are only a little altruistic, and only value 'purity' in products a little for its own sake. Distributed systems will generally lose to centralized systems which are more convenient, because they more or less compete on the same metrics. If you want people to use them then, you need to work a lot harder. Oops.
  • The reason why you got diagnosed with ADD as a kid isn't because it was a fad, it's because you had every symptom including the emotional regulation issues[2] which are part of the disorder but not in the DSM. Incidentally, you have to fight so hard to do schoolwork because you have untreated ADD. Oops.
  • Instead of trying to write your own programs while you learn to program, you'd be better off trying to clone other programs that already exist. This frees you from having to do any of the design while you struggle with programming, gives you an objective measure of progress, ensures you are capable of doing useful work, and has other benefits as well. I wasted lots of time by not knowing this. Duh.


Probably the biggest habit I broke was playing video games. I rarely play video games these days, and go out of my way to avoid television and fiction stories as well. Life is too short to waste it on transient hallucinations, the real world is much more interesting.

I think the biggest habit I started was talking to people, a lot. With the Internet and smart phones you can basically always be in a conversation if you want to. I started making a point of always talking to people about my ideas, getting feedback, practicing persuasion, etc.


I spent 7 of the last 10 years in school, and I hate school. Realistically then if I'm being honest with myself, this was not a fun decade for me. I probably had more bad experiences than good, but the good experiences were good enough to balance it out.

Maybe I'll come back to this section later and edit in more, maybe I won't. :)

Worth Noting

  • I'm overall satisfied with this decade. I could have done more if I was playing perfectly, but I feel pretty good about where I am right now.

  • My past self should really get their ADD treated before they spend 4 years of high school struggling against it. He should also stop focusing so much on program 'correctness' or whatever that he's not even qualified to understand, and just focus on replicating the computer programs he interacts with. It's okay to use a web framework. The reason they're not intellectually satisfied with the web is that all the knowledge they want is on Google Scholar and buried in academic PDF's and print books. I think my past self would probably be pretty skeptical of a lot of this, and then figure out it's true as they're not making progress fast enough.

  • I'll probably remember the 2010's for: Anonymous, Wikileaks, Machine Learning, frivolous smartphone driven social media apps, memes, the Lain-ification of the Internet with the alt-right & Trump (etc), economic anxiety and rent seeking, the death of journalism.

[0]: This Is The Future by Owl City

[1]: Sundial by Lemon Demon

[2]: I grew up and no longer have emotional regulation issues.

I've already given this an upvote, but I'm also leaving a comment because I think LessWrong has a shortage of this kind of content. I think broad personal overviews are particularly important because a lot of useful information you can get from "comparing notes" is hard to turn into standalone essays.


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For me the decade ends in a sudden collaborative attempt to do the impossible, so multidimensional and urgent, that there's no chance for me to reflect on the decade that is ending, or even to really describe what's going on. Maybe a few months from now, there will be a chance to reflect.

The person “I” “was” in 2009 is subjectively a grandparent to me now.

I believe I am now slowly progressing toward the level of maturity “I” “should have” had ten years ago. Most of the intervening time has consisted of a combination of stagnation and disastrous missteps.

I'm not sure there's much advice I'd give those past selves in practice, since most of the important bits I think they would have inevitably misinterpreted out of context. What I would most want to do is try to compress their necessary experiences so they'd require less overall time, leaving someone like me showing up in, say, 2014 instead; this would have given a very high positive delta in expected value of my life. There are certain people and situations I would have warned them not to wait on; there are certain elements of material life I would have warned them to attend to more thoroughly to avoid me being mired in their executive debt; and there are certain gestalts which I would like to transmit to them which I would have to think for a very long time to be able to put into a form that can be unpacked from words. But the specifics are all too high-context to be useful here.

If I tried to generalize the most useful bits, I would say something like: seek out ways in which your developmental environment didn't provide useful examples of things that people who are good at having the sort of life you want to have do, and then force yourself through any discomfort necessary to acquire new examples, with a heavy lean toward visceral examples and experience, as well as not being afraid to try synthesizing examples yourself (while avoiding clinging to these as authoritative just because you made them in a way comfortable to you). For people with more directly material desires than mine, this may read as applying more to superficial cultural traits, in which case I would still say, don't be afraid to assimilate if the people you're assimilating to are admirable to you. Contrariwise, make sure they aren't just expressing attributes you like on the surface, because that signal will get drowned out by posers being louder than achievers (used broadly, including in senses that don't read to the dominant culture as “achievement”); look for deeper evidence that they are good at following through.

The problem with all this is that upon rereading it, it sounds like pretty vapid Normal Life Advice, and this reminds me of how I currently think these sorts of personal retrospectives are best handled in the context of people who've already been following each other's life tracks, are loosely aligned, and have enough of a subconscious-layer (“system-1”, I suppose) emotional bond with each other to avoid most of the message getting lost to internal misalignment friction. Which would imply that if you don't have such people, having them can have a very high mutual long-term value, which in turn is just another phrasing of “make and keep close friends, dammit”, which is yet another piece of Normal Life Advice…

The doing is always the problem, isn't it?