European Community Weekend 2015 Impressions Thread

by Gunnar_Zarncke1 min read14th Jun 201518 comments

29

Personal Blog

The European Community Weekend in Berlin is over and was plain awesome.

This is no complete report of the event but a place where you can e.g. comment on the event, link to photos or what else you want to share.

I'm not the organizer of the Meetup but I have been there and for me it was the most grand experience since last years European Community Weekend. Meeting so many energetic, compassionate and in general awesome people - some from last year or many new. Great presentations and workshops. And such a positive and open athmosphere.

Cheers to all participants!

See also the Facebook Group for the Community Event

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The second Secular Sermon, which premiered at the LWCW2015, is now online. I'll add a recording at some point - but of course you can make your own, since following advice gotten at the LWCW, the Sermons are now CC0 licensed.

I came to LWCW2015 struggling. This spring has been personally difficult for me, and so I didn't even want to talk about what I do, what interests me. I didn't even have it in me to tell Christian that my lightning talk was supposed to be cancelled.

This time there were places to hide from people and places to come to people. There was time that needed my own ideas. There were enough people so that I wouldn't feel awkward not knowing someone who joins my table at lunch on Sunday. Enough people so that "everybody hugs" would not be the default.

In general - there was time and space and good people to let me heal some, move and open at my own pace. I came home happier than I have been in 6 months. And I even have some anchors to keep the good parts.

I guess many participants are still in Berlin, traveling back home or understandably quite exhausted (I'm having sore muscles still and I guess esp. for the after-event boldering group it's much worse) ;-)

Many many thanks to the organizers from the Berlin LW meetup for making this possible. You did an awesome job and I think you found a great mix of talks, workshops and breaks (if you can call these intermissions packed with opportunities to engage in everything "breaks"). Also the location was nearly ideal with lots of inside and outside places to use. Did I mention the cuddle fort in the basement?

Now a roughly chronological log of activities I remembered especially fondly:

During Kajs workshop on growth circles (based on CFAR workshops) I got valuable feedback and ideas for new approaches on my most pressing challenges.

I very much liked the relating games. I already adapt them for my children and other settings.

Another thing I will try out is the model of motivation in teams developed by Tara. Or at least I will relate it to a colleague and will see whether we can apply it fruitfully (meeting already arranged).

I enjoyed the mutual comfort of the cuddle fort and had the opportunity for the first time to offer some massage to people I diodn't already know that well. Apparently it was quite well received.

I was deeply impressed by the Seven Secular Sermons.

There were also countless inspiring, deep and/or fun discussion about artificial languages, cuddling, face blindness, future of humanity, limits of technology, lucid dreaming, machine learning, massage, parenting, relationships, tulipas and many more topics.

All of this was rounded up by the sustainable change talk which prompted us to start acting on what we learned and I arrived at these points:

  • Resolve some immediate questions from the event,
  • Put my notes into structured form and then into my Anki deck(s).
  • Reconsider loving kindness meditation.
  • Exchange contact information (which I forgot last time) and
  • Find someone who'd agree to periodically asks me for progress on my parenting blog.

Sadly I failed on the last item, but I precommitted on organizing another LessWrong Hamburg Meetup and already got some positive feedback in that direction. Cheers Neike!

The event was rounded up with a moving key note and a group photo ("3-2-1- victory!) on the outside.

Many many cheers to all participants! Without you this wouldn't have been possible! You are awesome!

Hi Gunnar, it was great meeting you in the event!

Regarding the "failed" item, I would gladly volunteer to ask you if this is something that can be accomplished over e-mail.

Cheers!

I would very much appreciate that! E-Mail should be totally fine (I have seen your E-Mail on the list).

About a week ago I started a routine to work on the blog at least a bit every day. That routine was broken by the LW weekend and I'm still processing all the input from the event (retaining the memory seems more important than keeping the routine). But I want to pick up the work on the blog tomorrow. I don't think it is necessary to ask me every day but I think I should have some progress to tell about every week.

Great! Expect my queries once a week. :)

Got your query and answered it. The commitment made me anticipate you query and did help to pick up work on it.

Great weekend with lots of good talks. Many thanks to the flawless organization! Truly excellent. It would be great if Berlin could develop into a rationalist/EA hub, as was mentioned at the end.

[-][anonymous]6y 1

I remember reading somewhere that of all European cities, Berlin has the most freelancing-oriented, startup-oriented, so Silicon Valley-ish business culture. This could be relevant as it tends to mesh well with Rationalism IMHO although in ways I am not 100% sure I understand. But "Berlin freelancers" is almost a stereotype now.

I don't know the details, I wasn't there since way before the Wall fell. I assume things must have changed a bit :-))

Also, what facilitated the freelancing/startup culture in Berlin? Here in Vienna people seem to be really loyal to their jobs, less of this kind of dynamicity. Is Berlin significantly less credentialist? As it is AFAIK a well-known problem in German-speaking cultures that businesses would e.g. value more employees who have a university degree in programming vs. employees who simply learned it on their own and do it well. I think the common name for this is credentialism. And it seems to me that this stick to your job culture here is due to credentialism, that people can only be employed in their official profession. So I would imagine a more dynamic business culture could come from less credentialism.

Lots of young people want to live in Berlin, because it's big and liberal and there's so much going on, meaning there's a good supply for young driven people. Berlin doesn't have much financial industry to compete with tech for the smart ones. And because of Berlin's history, the centers of Germany's large tech companies are elsewhere.

But I don't think Berlin stands out from other metropolitan areas nearly as much as Silicon Valley does. There are a lot of technology start-ups in and around Munich, a center of medical tech a bit north of there, and the gaming industry is centered in Hamburg.

No comments yet? Well. I find it difficult to put into words how awesome the weekend was. (Sometimes things really do live up to the hype.) 80+ extremely friendly, open and curious people got together to talk about almost everything. The amount of topics covered was super surprising as was the style. I didn't notice any status posing :-). Besides the interesting lectures (a big wave to all the effective altruists) and the impromptu talking we got to excercise social stuff and talk to/play with very nice plushies. I still need some time to process everything, but it was awesome and I look forward to the next (or any similar) event.

My deep thanks to the organizers for creating this amazing event!

The atmosphere was incredibly warm and welcoming.

I met many awesome people and had fun and stimulating conversations. If there is anything I regret, it is not connecting to even more of the participants.

I enjoyed all of the talks. Val's keynote was truly inspiring: he is a great speaker.

Kaj's group debugging workshop was a novelty for me, definitely something to try again in the future.

Looking forward to doing this again next year!

[-][anonymous]6y 2

Were you doing this hugs stuff that was mentioned in the thread about the last one? I wasn't there, but I wonder what is the point, this kind of sentimental, emotional stuff. Does this kind of emotional closeness help the exchange of ideas and information? I would think it is the opposite that helps it: being very impersonal, on surname terms and so on. I mean emotional closeness could faciliate exchange of the "X is really cool, just because I have good feelings about X" type, and you probably don't want it, you probably want exchange of the "X is really useful, because evidence" type and I would think some "coldness" helps more there. Or where did the idea come from? Was the opposite idea (distance, formality,surname terms etc.) tested previously?

However on a meta level I approve of tags, as they are Tell Culture and if they very idea of hugs and emotional closeness comes up at all, tell-culture is probably the only non-awkward way to handle it.

Rationality isn't about being a straw vulcan.

If you want to make progress on issues that matter, you need to deal with emotions. In an environment of distance, people won't be open about their deepest issues.

Building relationships between the participants is also an important goal. They allow people to create projects together. Having meet in person makes it easier to communicate via email afterwards.

It's also simply fun.

Were you doing this hugs stuff that was mentioned in the thread about the last one?

There were both "hugs accepted" and "no hugs" stickers to put on our badges (and of course the option to use neither). A substantial proportion displayed the former, and I may have been the only one to use the latter.

Does this kind of emotional closeness help the exchange of ideas and information? I would think it is the opposite that helps it: being very impersonal, on surname terms and so on.

That's a false opposition. These are two independent dimensions. At the academic conferences I go to, btw, people address each other on first-name terms on the briefest acquaintance, and I can't see that reverting to the surnames and titles of a past age would be an improvement.

Different communities assemble for different purposes. This was a "community weekend", not an academic conference. Ilya Shpitser can call it a cuddle pile; I would describe it as a rationality convention: like an SF convention, but about rationality. A lot of what the rationality community is about is working on one's own rationality, epistemic and instrumental. That involves practical work, not just exchanging ideas and information and listening to insight porn.

Serious technical and non-technical talks were given; there were also two afternoon-long sessions, one on working on debugging oneself, with practical exercises in groups, and one on "relating games". The latter is a specific thing that you can google. (None of the hits that I explored go into concrete detail, but I recognise the sort of thing that it is.) I went to the beginning of the debugging session, but dropped out after Kaj Sotala's introductory talk, only because I was finding the room stiflingly hot and decided I couldn't usefully function there any further. I didn't go to the relating games, mainly because I feared that everyone else might think I was out of place there, being well over twice the median age. I have done things of that general sort before, and in a group of more mixed ages would be inclined to participate. (This observation about ages is not a criticism of LWCW or the rationality community.)

Christian and Richard already addressed your concerns well. Yes, this was a community event, not a conference. We wanted people to find friends and create (deep) connections - you don't get that nearly as much with intellectual conversations.

We're not rational agents, but sophisticated apes, more or less. Most people have social needs for security, closeness, empathy, sharing emotions and so on. We were trying to address that by introducing the relating games and a space for relaxing and cuddling, while (hopefully) not pressuring anyone to participate. It seems that overall we succeeded at this.

Yes, we had "free hugs" and "no hugs" tags available. The "free hugs" ones were way more popular. I think having neither meant "normal social conventions apply, i.e. ask".

Yes it helps a lot. You listen much more closely to someone you feel to be your friend, and hugs are very good at creating that feeling.

[-][anonymous]6y 0

In the 2014 there was a report of partner acrobatics.

It's super beautiful and it looks really fun and connecting. Just wondering if someone can share some tips for learning? A friend tipped me off about some events hosted by a juggling club near where I live, and I'm going to pester a few friends to learn with me with the videos here.

Any competiting advice?

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