Lesswrongers are typically bad at actually doing things. Given how we're pulled towards the average of the people we spend the most time with, what are good ways/places to find people who actually do things?

Edit: By "actually do things" I mean agentic, don't theorize too much, gain contact with reality. The opposite of the armchair smart person who doesn't Do Anything (the latter I would like to be less of)

New Answer
New Comment

7 Answers sorted by

The first answer is that I think the stereotype of LWers who aren't agentic is out of date (the article you linked is 13 years old). Much of the time when I meet LWers they're running or key figures in ambitious projects, organizing useful events, or doing interesting research.

The second answer is that the way I meet these people is through reaching out to see if our projects have synergy, or them reaching out to me, or a mutual friend introducing us. Also going to conferences or workshops or meetups and doing the same.

A few times I've gone to Rationality or EA meetups and I'm one of the people with the most agency there. Usually I don't go back to those meetups, and I imagine there's an evaporative cooling effect where other who do things also don't go.

So the second answer is that the way to connect with people who do things is to do things - then you have something to connect about.

Communities dedicated to a specific activity usually contain members that engage in that activity. Examples include:

  • meditators
  • hiking clubs
  • pick-up artists
  • weightlifters
  • quantified self
  • open source software contributors

Therefore, I think it's often a good idea to come to a conclusion of what one wants to do, and then seeking out people specifically to do that thing. I have found search engines useful to look for meetups.

Then again, in many of the do-things communities I've participated in the "all talk no action" problem is often well-known and frowned upon, see e.g. buffers and fuckarounditis.

“It must always be remembered that the Buddha way can provide relief from suffering only for those who actually practice.”

—Mahasi Sayadaw, Agga Maha Pandita

Excellent post. To do things, do things, and surround yourself with people who do things. To do things better, you have to practice rationality, but without some specific target goal, you can't evaluate whether you are being successful at your practice of rationality.

You’re in Berkeley, last I was at the grouphouse Arcadia, it was filled with people getting ground-level contact with the world. My experience with Berkeley is you just need to get away from EAs/rationalists in order to find people doing a bunch of agentic stuff (though most EAs and rationalists I’ve met I think strike the right balamce between thought and agency, however I would suggest similarly if I noticed EAs and rationalists weren’t agentic and nothing else changed too much about the world as it currently exists).

Somewhat relatedly, you can typically find people doing stuff at hackathons or makerspaces.

Doing things is a solitary activity. When you are doing things with others, other than direct socializing, the only time when you aren't just doing things by yourself but merely in the vicinity of others is when you are learning or there is a feedback loop of mentorship.

What I think you are actually seeking is for others to motivate you. The only person who can motivate you is yourself. When you feel like others are motivating you, what's actually happening is others are motivating you to motivate yourself. If you can't motivate yourself, you might end up dependent on others. You need to gain independence and abstain from external mental influences. Solitude is great for this.

I was more thinking along the lines of "you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with" or something. I'm against external motivation too.

1[anonymous]1y
I think the nuanced answer is you need to know how easily influenced you are by others. It's one thing to be inspired by others' positive traits, which I have luckily experienced in college. It's another thing when influences temporarily blinds you from knowing yourself as you get lost in the moment. I've hung out with friends that I now have cut out of my life because after several years of living a different lifestyle than I used to back in college, I realized it's not something I want in my own life despite it working out for others in my social group. I think solitude is the best environment to develop and get to know yourself first before you venture out into the world and get pulled in every direction that you encounter without knowing how those directions are aligned with your inner core. It's not really separate chunks of period where it's complete solitude and then all social after that. You switch between the two whenever you feel like you need to take a break from one. Step back and re-access your situation once in a while.

Do what? Can you clarify a bit what you mean?

The best I've found is to work in a somewhat dynamic business where your role is not perfectly defined.  Especially at small companies, or the parts of large companies that are relatively new and scrappy, you will be surrounded by people trying to model their part of the world well enough to improve it on a specific dimension.  And judged on your ability to do so.  

1 comment, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 5:59 AM

Does EA count as actually doing things? Earning to give? Does AI Alignment research count? Or do you mean something else?