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How to practice rationality?

by warrenjordan1 min read23rd Dec 20207 comments



Newbie to rationality and to LW. I'm currently going through the Hammertime Sequence to help provide structure to my rationality practice. Once I'm done, I'm not sure how I can integrate a daily/routine practice for rationality. Does anyone have suggestions how I can go about practicing? 

Reading some of the Sequences and the CFAR handbook have helped, but I'm definitely an experiential learner and find myself not knowing how to put rationality into routine practice. Any suggestions or resources would be helpful! 

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Better to start concrete: What goals do you have?

If you have simple and well-understood goals, in a domain that has clear rules or which your ancestral environment would reasonably have prepared you for.. you probably don't particularly need "rationality".  (ref) Just go out into the world and see, feel, do. Seek ordinary wisdom through experience and listen to your instincts. Anything else will distract you, not help you

I say this seriously: don't try to do things "rationally" just for the sake of being rational. You will kriff up important parts of your functioning while lacking the internal compass necessary to correct the course.

Got it? Good.

Now, to brainstorm the areas you may want to use rationality-flavored thinking on: What do you have trouble predicting? Where is average not good enough? Where do you contradict yourself? What conditions are your plans and strategies fragile to? Where do other people have trouble predicting you? (or predict you too well?)

Look into these. Consider how you can best find out what's actually true

And then? I suggest journaling.

Boring advice, everybody says it. But it's true. Think out your thoughts in detail. Reflect on the happenings of the day and whether you endorse the decisions you made. Collect questions and ideas to check up on. Track the progress on your goals. Record your intentions and predictions so you can't lie about them to yourself later.

I recommend Zettelkasten or Bullet Journal for an organizing methodology, and Roam/Logseq for keeping a digital notebook, but it also works fine if you just write. Alternately, keep an audio recorder in your pocket.

And if you still really want little rationality modules to practice specific skills or solve particular problems, go to clearerthinking.org.

As a data point, and also to fight selection bias, I don't do any rationality exercises. (Maybe I should.)

What works for you to cultivate rational thinking, if you are not doing rationality exercises? 

2Viliam10dI have no hard data to prove that my rational thinking is improving, so maybe it isn't. But here are the things I am trying recently: Reduce the social media: I almost stopped reading Reddit, and there are days when I don't use Facebook. Now my major distraction is Hacker News, but I try to reduce that, too. I downloaded and read a few textbooks, mostly on math. The idea is that if I am curious about something, e.g. set theory, it is more efficient to get the fundamentals right first, and only then proceed to more controversial parts. (Here, the rational thing is not the information I get from the textbook per se, but rather the habit to look at the textbook first.) I tried to meditate again... but this was only a week or two ago, so no results to report yet. (The expected benefit is to be able to focus better and reduce distracting thoughts.)

There are a variety of rationality techniques like goal factoring, setting 5 minutes timers to think about an issue or internal double crux. 

If you want to practicce rationality you can apply those techniques to the challenge you face in your daily life on a regular basis. 

1 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 3:28 PM

There might not really be good answers to this. Most of rationality stuff is meta-level practices to apply to object-level activities, and "daily/routine practice" is very much something in the object level. The idea that there's a practice regimen for rationality that looks something like existing school curriculums we all get trained to assume a practice regimen should look like feels related to the failed idea (see also) that we could use the existing school curriculum model to teach critical thinking.

So the boring advice might be, have an object level craft of the sort you might study for an university degree (medicine, law, engineering, science, pie-making) you are learning. Try to get very good at it. Study rationality techniques as tools to help you get very good at the object level craft. Skipping the object level craft is like trying to go from Kegan stage 3 to Kegan stage 5, which doesn't work if you skip stage 4.