This is a special post for quick takes by Matt Goldenberg. Only they can create top-level comments. Comments here also appear on the Quick Takes page and All Posts page.

Where I write up some small ideas that I've been happening that may eventually become their own top level posts. I'll start populating with a few ideas I've posted up as twitter/Facebook thoughts.

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Stephen Covey says that maturity is being able to find the balance between Courage and Consideration. Courage being the desire to express yourself and say your truth, consideration being recognizing the consequences of what you say on others.

I often wish that this was common knowledge in the rationality community (or just society in general) because I see so many fights between people who are on opposite sides of the spectrum and don't recognize the need for balance.

Courage is putting your needs first, consideration is putting someone else's needs first, the balance is putting your needs equally. There are some other dichotomies that I think are pointing to a similar distinction.


From parenting literature:


From a course on confidence:


From attachment theory:


From my three types of safe spaces:

We'll make you grow---->Own Your Safety---> We'll protect you.


Certain people m... (read more)

I found Taber's radical honesty workshops very useful for a framing of how to deal with telling the truth. According to him telling the truth is usually about choosing pain now instead of pain in the future. However not all kinds of pain are equal. A person who practices yoga has to be able to tell the pain from stretching from the pain of hurting their joints. In the same way a person who speaks in a radical honest way should be aware of the pain that the statement produces and be able to distinguish whether it's healthy or isn't. Courage is only valuable when it comes with the wisdom to know when the pain you are exposing yourself is healthy and when it isn't. The teenager who expresses courage to signal courage to his friends without any sense of whether the risk he takes is worth it isn't mature. Building up thick emotional walls and telling "the truth" without any consideration of the effects of the act of communication doesn't lead to honest conversation in the radical honesty sense. As it turns out, it also doesn't have much to do with real courage as it's still avoiding the conversations that are actually difficult.
2Matt Goldenberg
I like this framing, the idea of useful and nonuseful pain. It seems like a similary useful definition of maturity.
One difference is that different types of pain come with slightly different qualia. This allows communication that's in contact with what's felt in the moment which isn't there in ideas of maturity where maturity is about following rules that certain things shouldn't be spoken.
Excellent comment! "Have other people mind themselves and ignore the consequences" comes in various degrees and flavors. In the discussions about decoupling norms I have seen (mostly in the context of Sam Harris), it appeared me that they (decoupling norms) were treated as the opposite of "being responsible for people uncharitably misunderstanding what you are saying." So I worry that presenting it as though courage = decoupling norms makes it harder to get your point across, out of worry that people might lump your sophisticated feedback/criticism together with some of the often not-so-sophisticated criticism directed at people like Sam Harris. No matter what one might think of Harris, to me at least he seems to come across as a lot more empathetic and circumspect and less "truth over everything else" than the rationalists whose attitude about truth-seeking's relation to other virtues I find off-putting. Having made this caveat, I think you're actually right that "decoupling norms" can go too far, and that there's a gradual spectrum from "not feeling responsible for people uncharitably misunderstanding what you are saying" to "not feeling responsible about other people's feelings ever, unless maybe if a perfect utilitarian robot in their place would also have well-justified instrumental reasons to turn on facial expressions for being hurt or upset". I just wanted to make clear that it's compatible to think that decoupling norms are generally good as long as considerateness and tact also come into play. (Hopefully this would mitigate worries that the rationalist community would lose something important by trying to reward considerateness a bit more.)


One of my biggest learning experiences over the last few years was moving to the Bay Area, and attempting to be accepted into the "Rationality Tribe".

When I first took my CFAR workshop years ago, and interacted with the people in the group, I was enamored. A group of people who was into saving the world, self-improvement, understanding their own minds, connecting with others - I felt like I had found my people.

A few short months later I moved to the Bay Area.

I had never been good at joining groups or tribes. From a very early age, I made my friend group (sometimes very small) by finding solid individuals that could connect to my particular brand of manic, ambitious, and open, and bringing them together through my own events and hangouts.

In Portland, where I was before moving to the Bay, I really felt I had a handle on this, meeting people at events (knowing there weren't many who would connect with me in Portland), then regularly hosting my own events like dinner parties and meetups to bring together the best people.

Anyway, when I got to the Bay, I for the first time tried really hard to be accepted into existing tribes. Not on... (read more)

Being a rationalist is not the only trait the individual rationalists have. Other traits may prevent you from clicking with them. There may be traits frequent in the Bay Area that are unpleasant to you. Also, being an aspiring rationalist is not a binary thing. Some people try harder, some only join for the social experience. Assuming that the base rate of people "trying things hard" is very low, I would expect that even among people who identify as rationalists, the majority is there only for the social reasons. If you try to fit in with the group as a whole, it means you will mostly try to fit in with these people. But if you are not there primarily for social reasons, that is already one thing that will make you not fit in. (By the way, no disrespect meant here. Most of people who identify as rationalists only for social reasons are very nice people.) What you could do, in my opinion, is find a subgroup you feel comfortable with, and accept that this is the natural state of things. Also, speaking as an introvert, I can more easily connect with individuals than with groups. The group is simply a place where I can find such individuals with greater frequency, and conveniently meet more of them at the same place. Or -- as you wrote -- you could create such subgroup around yourself. Hopefully, it will be easier in the Bay Area than it would be otherwise.
2Matt Goldenberg
I'm pretty pessimistic about this, it's never worked for me before, nor did I I find any existing subgroup in the rationality community that I could do this. Definitely, but why limit it to just rationalists in that case?
Good point. Not sure how well a mixed group of rationalists and non-rationalists would function. But you could create more than one group.
Speaking as a Bay Area native,[1] I would not use the word "hopefully" here! (One would hope to find or create a subgroup, but it would be nicer if it were possible to do this somewhere with less-insane housing prices and ambient culture. Hoping that it needs to be done here on account of just having moved here would be the sunk cost fallacy.) ---------------------------------------- 1. Raised in Walnut Creek, presently in Berkeley. ↩︎
2Matt Goldenberg
Note that as someone who has up and moved multiple times, I can assure you that it's possible to make friends in other cities. If you've never moved out of your home city, I recommend doing it at least once, for a few years, even if you move back at the end.
I'm curious how much of this you attribute to (the following random hypotheses I just formed, as well as any other hypotheses you have): * tribal integration being generally hard * Bay rationalists being particular bad at Tribal/friendship * Bay rationalists not having enough social infrastructure, or other problems distinct from "bad at Tribal" (i.e. I think the math may just not work out for many friends you can expect to make quickly, and how much help you'll have making friends) * specific (possibly subtle) differences from the culture-you-wanted and the culture-that-was-there. (i.e. you pushing for changes or having opinions that ran against the status quo)
2Matt Goldenberg
Are you asking about my particular realization here, or this part: ?
Hmm, either I guess. It definitely looks like there are some kind of issues in this space that I’d like to help the Bay community improve at, but am not sure what kind of improvements are tractable and am trying to just get a better shape of the situation. 
2Matt Goldenberg
Some thoughts on this: I personally just am not really made to fit into communities, I do a much better job building my own. I'd say that in my particular case, this issue screens off a lot of the other issues. In the case of the Bay Area rationality as a whole, I think that in general it does a fairly bad job of being a friendly community for people who want to join communities, some of the causes of this seem to be (in no particular order) * High levels of autism and autism spectrum disorder. * A large gender imbalance. * Weird status dynamics.
As someone who has considered making the Pilgrimmage To The Bay for precisely that reason and as someone who decided against it partly due to that particular concern, I thank you for giving me a data-point on it. Being a rationalist in the real worldtm can be hard. The set of people who actually worry about saving the world, understanding their own minds and connecting with others is pretty low. In my bubble at least, picking a random hobby and incidentally becoming friends with someone at it and then incidentally getting slammed and incidentally an impromptu conversation has been the best performing strategy so far in terms of success per opportunity-cost. As a result, looking from the outside at a rationalist community that cares about all these things looks like a fantastical life-changing ideal. But, from the outside view, all the people I've seen who've aggressively targeted those ideals have gotten crushed. So I've adopted a strategy of Not Doing That. (pssst: this doesn't just apply to the rationalist community! it applies to any community oriented around values disproportionately held by individuals who have been disenfranchised by broader society in any way! there are a lot of implications here and they're all mildly depressing!)


The Gervais Principle says that when an organization is run by Sociopaths, it inevitably devolves into infighting and politics that the sociopaths use to make decisions, and then blame them on others. What this creates is a misaligned organization - people aren't working towards the same thing, and therefore much wasted work goes towards undoing what others have done, or assigning blame to someone that isn't yourself. Organizations with people that aren't aligned can sometimes luck into good outcomes, especially if the most skilled players (the most skilled sociopaths) want them to. They aren't necessarily dead players, but they're running on borrowed time - borrowed for the usefulness to the sociopaths.

Dead organizations are those that are run by Rao's clueless (or less commonly, by Rao's losers, in which case you have a Bureaucracy that outlived its' founder). They can't do anything new because they're run by people that can't question the rulesets they're in. As a clueless leading a dead organization, one effective strategy seems to be to accept the memes around you unquestioningly and really ... (read more)


The Instrumental/Epistemic split is awful.  If rationality is systematized winning, all rationality is instrumental.

So then, what are three types of Instrumental Rationality?

  1. Generative Rationality
    1. What mental models will best help me/my organization/my culture generate ideas that will allow us to systematically win?
  2. Evaluative Rationality
    1. What mental models will best help me/my organization/my culture evaluate ideas, and predict which ones will allow us to systematically win?
  3. Effectuative Rationality
    1. What mental models will best  help me/my organization/my culture implement those ideas in an effective way that will help us to systematically win?

Evaluation typically gets lumped under "Epistemics" , Effectuation typically gets lumped under "Instrumentals" and Generation is typically given the shaft - certainly creativity is undervalued as an explicit goal in the rationality community (although it's implicitly valued in that people who create good ideas are given high status).

Great leaders can switch between these 3 modes at will.  

If you look at Steve Jobs' reality distortion field, it's him being able to switch between

... (read more)
4Matt Goldenberg
P.S. Was thinking about writing this up more coherently as a top level post. Is there any interest in that?
I'd like to see it, and even more I'd like to see the tweaking and objections from people who see the levels as exclusive and incremental, rather than filters which can be simultaneously used or switched among as needed.
2Matt Goldenberg
What happens if you the parts of your mind responsible for generative rationality, the positive optimistic part, takes over without input from Evaluative and Effectuative rationality?  It might look a light like Persistent Euphoric States.
This is an interesting concern. I think it's useful to distinguish these things. I'm not sure how big a concern it is for the Simulacra Levels thing to cover this case – my current worry is that the Simulacra concept is trying to do too many things. But, since it does look like Zvi is hoping to have it be a Grand Unified Theory, I agree the Grand Unified version of it should account for this sort of thing.

Been mulling around about doing a podcast in which each episode is based on acquiring a particular skillset (self-love, focus, making good investments) instead of just interviewing a particular person.

I interview a few people who have a particular skill (e.g. self-love, focus, creating cash flow businesses), and model the cognitive strategies that are common between them. Then interview a few people who struggle a lot with that skill, and model the cognitive strategies that are common between them. Finally, model a few people who used to be bad at the skill but are now good, and model the strategies that are common for them to make the switch.

The episode is cut to tell a narrative of what the skills are to be acquired, what beliefs/attitudes need to be let go of and acquired, and the process to acquire them, rather than focusing on interviewing a particular person

If there's enough interest, I'll do a pilot episode. Comment with what skillset you'd love to see a pilot episode on.

Upvote if you'd have 50% or more chance of listening to the first episode.

Sounds interesting! The question is, how good are people at introspection: what if the strategies they report are not the strategies they actually use? For example, because they omit the parts that seem unimportant, but that actually make the difference. (Maybe positive or negative thinking is irrelevant, but imagining blue things is crucial.) Or what if "the thing that brings success" causes the narrative of the cognitive strategy, but merely changing the cognitive strategy will not cause "the thing that brings success"? (People imagining blue things will be driven to succeed in love, and also to think a lot about fluffy kittens. However, thinking about fluffy kittens will not make you imagine blue things, and therefore will not bring you success in love. Even if all people successful in love report thinking about fluffy kittens a lot.)
2Matt Goldenberg
I think its' probably likely that gaining knowledge in this way will have systematic biases (OK, this is probably true of all types of knowledge acquisition strategies, but you pointed out some good ones for this particular knowledge gathering technique.) Anyways, based on my own research (and practical experience over the past few months doing this sort of modelling for people with/without procrastination issues) here are some of the things you can do to reduce the bias: * Try to inner sim using the strategy yourself and see if it works. * Model multiple people, and find the strategies that seem to be commonalities. * Check for congruence with people as they're talking. Use common indicators of cached answers like instant answers or lack of emotional charge. * Make sure people are embodied in a particular experience as they discuss, rather than trying to "figure themselves out" from the outside. * Use introspection tools from a variety of disciplines like thinking at the edge, coherence therapy, etc that can allow people to get better access to internal models. All that being said, there will still be bias, but I think with these techniques there's not SO much bias that its' a useless endeavor.
2Matt Goldenberg
I'm doing interviews for this now. I've gotten great feedback from people I've interviewed, saying it gave then a better understanding of themselves. If you're interested in being interviewed, sign up here.
Sounds interesting. I think it may be difficult to find a person, let alone multiple people on a given topic, who are have a particular skill but are also able to articulate it and/or identify the cognitive strategies they use successfully. Regardless, I'd like to hear about how people reduce repetitive talk in their own heads - how to focus on new thoughts as opposed to old, recurring ones...if that makes sense.
4Matt Goldenberg
Is this ruminating, AKA repetively going over bad memories and negative thoughts? Or is it more getting stuck with cached thoughts and not coming up with original things?

The four levels of listening, from some old notes:

1. Content - Do you actually understand what this person is saying? Do they understand that you understand?

2. Subtext - Do you actually understand how this person feels about what they're saying? Do they understand that you understand?

3. Intent- Do you actually understand WHY this person is saying what they're saying? Do they understand that you understand?

4. Paradigm - Do you actually understand what all of the above says about who this person is and how they view the world? Do they understand that you understand?


The role of the Kegan 5 in a good organization:

1. Reinvent the rules and mission of the organization as the landscape changes, and frame them in a way that makes sense to the kegan 3 and 4s.

2. Notice when sociopaths are arbitraging the difference between the rules and the terminal goals, and shut it down.


Sociopaths (in the Gervais principle sense) are powerful because they're Kegan 4.5. They know how to take the realities of Kegan 4's and 3's and deftly manipulate them, forcing them into alignment with whatever is a good reality for the Sociopath.

The most effective norm I know to combat this behavior is Radical Transparency. Radical transparency is different from radical honesty. Radical honesty says that you should ignore consideration and consequences in favor of courage. Radical transparency doesn't make any suggestions about what you should say, only that everyone in the organization should be privy to things everyone says. This makes it exceedingly hard for sociopaths to maintain multiple realities.

... (read more)
It feels to me unwise to use the term Sociopaths in this way because it means that you lose the ability to distinguish clinical sociopaths from people who aren't. Distinguishing clinical sociopaths from people that aren't is important because interaction with them is fundamentally different. Techniques for dealing with grief that were taught to prisoners helped reduce recidivism rates for the average prisoner but increased it for sociopaths.
2Matt Goldenberg
I'm importing the term from Venkatash Rao, and his essays on the Gervais principle. I agree this is an instance of word inflation, which is generally bad. From now on I'll start referring to this as "Gervais Sociopaths" in my writing.
Seems like it could work, but I wonder what other effects it could have. For example, if someone makes a mistake, you can't tell them discreetly; the only way to provide a feedback on a minor mistake is to announce it to the entire company. By the way, are you going to enforce this rule after working hours? What prevents two bad actors from meeting in private and agreeing to pretend having some deniable bias in other to further their selfish goals? Like, some things are measurable, but some things are a matter of subjective judgment, and two people could agree to always have the subjective judgment colored in each other's favor, and against their mutual enemy. In a way that even if other people notice, you could still insist that what X does simply feels right to you, and what Y does rubs you the wrong way even if you can't explain why. Also, people in the company would be exposed to each other, and perhaps the vulnerability would cancel out. But then someone leaves, is no longer part of the company, but still has all the info on the remaining members. Could this info be used against the former colleagues? The former colleagues still have info on the one that left, but not on his new colleagues. Also, if someone strategically joins only for a while, he could take care not to expose himself too much, while everything else would be exposed to him. This assumes the new mail clerk will be a reasonable person. Someone who doesn't understand the CEO's situation or loves to create drama could use this opportunity to give the CEO tons of useless feedback. And then complain about hypocrisy when others tell him to slow down.
4Matt Goldenberg
I had already updated away from this particular tool, and this comment makes me update further. I still have the intuition that this can work well in a culture that has transcended things like blame and shame, but for 99% of organizations radical transparency might not be the best tool. Yes, there are in fact areas where this can break down. Note that ANY rule can be gamed, and the proper thing to do is to refer back to values rather than trying to make ungameable rules. In this case, the others might in fact point out that the values of the organization are such that everyone should be open to feedback, including mail clerks. If this happened persistently with say 1 in every 4 people, then the organization would look at their hiring practices to see how to reduce that. If this happened consistently with new hires, the organization would look at their training practices, etc. The sociopath repellent here only works in the context of the other things I've written about good organizations, like strongly teaching and ingraining the values and making sure decisions always point back to them, having strong vetting procedures, etc. Viewing this or other posts in the series as a list of tips risks taking them out of context.
This note won't make sense to anyone who isn't already familiar with the Sociopath framework in which you're discussing this, but I did want to call out that Venkat Rao (at least when he wrote the Gervais Principle) explicitly stated that sociopaths are amoral and has fairly clearly (especially relative to his other opinions) stated that he thinks having more Sociopaths wouldn't be a bad thing. Here are a few quotes from Morality, Compassion, and the Sociopath which talk about this: I apologize if this just seems like nitpicking your terminology, but I'm calling it out because I'm curious whether you agree with his abstract definition but disagree with his moral assessment of Sociopaths, vice versa, or something else entirely? As a concrete example, I think Venkat would argue that early EA was a form of Sociopath compassion and that for the sorts of world-denting things a lot LWers tend to be interested in, Sociopathy (again, as he defines it) is going to be the right stance to take.
2Matt Goldenberg
Rao's sociopaths are Kegan 4.5, they're nihilistic and aren't good for long lasting organizations because they view the notion of organizational goals as nonsensical. I agree that there's no moral bent to them but if you're trying to create an organization with a goal they're not useful. Instead, you want an organization that can develop Kegan 5 leaders.
This doesn't seem like it's addressing Anlam's question though. Gandhi doesn't seem nihilist. I assume (from this quote, which was new to me), that in Kegan terms, Rao probably meant something ranging from 4.5 to 5.
4Matt Goldenberg
I think Rao was at Kegan 4.5 when he wrote the sequence and didn't realize Kegan 5 existed. Rao was saying "There's no moral bent" to Kegan 4.5 because he was at the stage of realizing there was no such thing as morals. At that level you can also view Kegan 4.5's as obviously correct and the ones who end up moving society forward into interesting directions, they're forces of creative destruction. There's no view of Kegan 5 at that level, so you'll mistake Kegan 5's as either Kegan 3's or other Kegan 4.5's, which may be the cause of the confusion here.

How to Read a Book is the quintessential how to book on gaining knowledge from a modernist perspective. What would a metamodern version of HTRAB look like?

HTRAB says that the main question you should be asking when reading a book is "Is this true?" The relationship you're concerned with is between the material and the real world.

But in a meta-modern perspective, you want to consider many other relationships.

One of those is the three way relationships between yourself, the material, and reality. Asking questions like "What new perspectives can I gain from this?" and "How does this relate to my other models of the world?"

Another is the relationship between the author and their source material. What does this writing say about the perspective of the author? Why did they choose to write this. This is bringing in a more post-modern/critical theory perspective.

HTRAB recommends "Synoptic Reading" - finding many books on the same subject or that circle around a specific topic to get a broad overview of the topic.

A meta-modern take would also look into other ways of grouping books. What about exploring facets of yourself through exploring authors that think differently and similarly to you? What about crafting a narrative as you dig into interesting parts of each book you move through?

What other takes would a Meta-Modern version of HTRAB encompass?


There's at least 3 types of psychological "safe spaces":

1. We'll protect you.
We'll make sure there's nothing in the space that can actively touch your wounds. This is a place to heal with plenty of sunshine and water. Anyone who's in this space is agreeing to be extra careful to not poke any wounds, and the space will actively expel anyone who does. Most liberal arts colleges are trying to achieve this sort of safety.

2. Own your safety.
There may or may not be things in this space that can actively touch your wounds. You're expected to do what's necessary to protect them, up to and including leaving the space if need be. You have an active right to know your own boundaries and participate or not as needed. Many self-help groups are looking to achieve this sort of safety.

3. We'll make you grow.
This space is meant to poke at your wounds, but only to make you grow. We'll probably waterboard the shit out of you, but we won't let you drown. Anyone who's too fragile for this environment should enter at their own peril. This is Bridgewater, certain parts of the US Military, and other DDOs.

This is a half formed t... (read more)

There's a pattern I've noticed in my self that's quite self-destructive.

It goes something like this:

  • Meet new people that I like, try to hide all my flaws and be really impressive, so they'll love me and accept me.
  • After getting comfortable with them, noticing that they don't really love me if they don't love the flaws that I haven't been showing them.
  • Stop taking care of myself, downward spiral, so that I can see they'll take care of me at my worst and I know they REALLY love me.
  • People justifiably get fed up with me not taking care of myself, and reject me. This triggers the thought that I'm unlovable.
  • Because I'm not lovable, when I meet new people, I have to hide my flaws in order for them to love me.

This pattern is destructive, and has been one of the main things holding me back from becoming as self-sufficient as I'd like. I NEED to be dependent on others to prove they love me.

What's interesting about this pattern is how self-defeating it is. Do people not wanting to support me mean that they don't love me? No, it just means that they don't want to support another adult. Does hiding all my flaws help people accept me? No, it just sets me up for a crash later. Does constantly crashing from successful ventures help any of this? No, it makes it harder to seem successful, AND harder to be able to show my flaws without having people run away.

2Matt Goldenberg
I've made significant progress on this by working on self-love and self-trust.
That sounds to me like the belief "I'm not lovable" causes you trouble and it would make sense to get rid of it. Transform Yourself provides one framework of how to go about it. The Lefkoe method would be a different one.
4Matt Goldenberg
I've tried both of those, as well as a host of other tools. I only recently (the past year) developed the belief "I am lovable", which allowed me to see this pattern. I can now belief report both " I am lovable" and " I'm not lovable"
Don't have much else to say for now but :(

As part of the Athena Rationality Project, we've recently launched two new prototype apps that may be of interest to LWers

Virtual Akrasia Coach

The first is a Virtual Akrasia Coach, which comes out of a few months of studying various interventions for Akrasia, then testing the resulting ~25 habits/skills through internet based lessons to refine them.  We then took the resulting flowchart for dealing with Akrasia, and created a "Virtual Coach" that can walk you through a work session, ensuring your work is focused, productive and enjoyable.

Right now about 10% of people find it useful to use in every session, 10% of people find it useful to use when they're procrastinating, and 10% of people find it useful to use when they're practicing the anti-akrasia habits. The rest don't find it useful, or think it would be useful but don't tend to use it.

I know many of you may be wondering how the idea of 25 skills fits in with the Internal Conflict model of akrasia. One way to frame the skills is that for people with chronic akrasia, we've found that they tend to have certain patterns that lead to internal conflict - For instance, one side thinks i... (read more)

Trying to describe a particular aspect of Moloch I'm calling hyper-inductivity:


The machine is hyper-inductive. Your descriptions of the machine are part of the machine. The machine wants you to escape, that is part of the machine. The machine knows that you know this. That is part of the machine.

Your trauma fuels the machine. Healing your trauma fuels the machine. Traumatizing your kids fuels the machine. Failing to traumatize your kids fuels the machine.

Defecting on the prisoner's dilemma fuels the machine. Telling others not to defect on the prison... (read more)

Recently went on a quest to find the best way to minimize the cord clutter, cord management, and charging anxiety that creates a dozen trivial inconveniences throughout the day.

Here's what worked for me:

1. For each area that is a wire maze, I get one of these surge protectors with 18 outlets and 3 usb slots:

2. For everywhere I am that I am likely to want to charge something, I fill 1 -3 of the slots with these 6ft multi-charging usb cables (more slots if I'm likely to want to charge multiple things). I get a couple extras for ... (read more)

2Matt Goldenberg
^ Affiliate links.  Feel free to search them on your own if you don't want some of the money to go to me.  If affiliate links are against the rules, let me know mods!
Not a mod, but personally, I'm happy to have links to products that long-term members personally use and recommend. I'd mildly prefer links over affiliate or normal links, but not enough to worry about it.
A link can be both affiliate and smile, they stack.
2Matt Goldenberg
But I'm not sure how to do it with their affiliate link creator. The default link they give me is not smile.

In response to a "sell LW to me" post:

I think that the thing LW is trying to do is hard. I think that there's a legitimate split in the community, around the things you're calling "cyber-bullying" - I think there should be a place for crockers rules style combat culture reasoning, but I also want a community that is charitable and respectful and kind while maintaining good epistemics.

I also think there's a legitimate split in the community around the things you're calling "epistemically sketchy" - I think ... (read more)

A frequent failure mode that I have as a leader:

  • Someone comes on to a new project, and makes a few suggestions.
  • All of those suggestions are things we/I have thought about and discussed in detail, and we have detailed reasons why we've made the decisions we have.
  • I tell the person those reasons.
  • The person comes away feeling like the project isn't really open to criticism feedback, and their ideas won't be heard.

I think a good policy is to just say yes to WHATEVER experiment someone who is new to the project proposes, and let them take their ow... (read more)

I've rarely seen teams do this well and agree that your proposed approach is much better than the alternative in many cases. I've definitely seen cases where insiders thought something was impossible and then a new person went and did it. (I've been the insider, the new person who ignored the advice and succeeded, and the new person who ignored the advice and failed.) That said, I think there's a middle ground where you convey why you chose not to do something but also leave it open for the person to try anyway. The downside of just letting them do it without giving context is they may fail for a silly rather than genuine reason. What I'm suggesting could look something like the following.
5Matt Goldenberg
Some concrete updates I had around this idea, based on discussion on Facebook. * One really relevant factor is the criticism coming from a person in authority, and leaders should be extra careful of critizing ideas. By steering them towards other, less authorative figures that you think will give valid critiques, you can avoid this failure. * Another potential obvious pitfall here is people feeling like they were set up to fail by not having all the relevant information. The idea here is to make people feel like they have agency, obviously not to hide information. * Even if you do the above, people can feel patronized if it seems like you're doing this as a tactic because you think they can't take criticism. This can be true even if giving them criticism would indeed be harmful for the team dynamic. Thus, the emphasizing ways to increase agency over avoiding criticism is key here.
This combination of failure modes seems pretty dicey. I think I've encountered something similar in relationships, where my naive thought was "they're doing something wrong/harmful and I should help them avoid it" but I eventually realized "them having an internal locus of control and not feeling like I'm out to micromanage them is way more important than any given suboptimal thing they're doing."

I think philosophical bullet biting is usually wrong. It can be useful to make a theory that you KNOW is wrong, and bite a bullet in order to make progress on a philosophical problem. However, I think it can be quite damaging to accept a practical theory of ethics that feels practical and consistent to you, but breaks some of your major moral intuitions. In this case I think it's better to go "I don't know how to come up with a consistent theory for this part of my actions, but I'll follow my gut instead."

Note that this is the op... (read more)

4Said Achmiz
Related: this old comment of mine about rules and exceptions.
FYI I think that'd make a good post with a handy title that'd make it easier to refer to
5Said Achmiz
"There are no exceptions." "Rules contain exceptions." "How to make Rules." "How to make Exceptions."
Thanks for the crisp articulation. One short answer is: "I, Raemon, do not really bite bullets. What I do is something more like "flag where there were bullets I didn't bite, or areas that I am confused about, and mark those on my Internal Map with a giant red-pen 'PLEASE EVALUATE LATER WHEN YOU ARE HAVE TIME AND/OR ARE WISER' label." One example of this: I describe my moral intuitions as "Sort of like median-preference utilitarianism, but not really. Median-preference-utilitarianism seems to break slightly less often in ways slightly more forgiveable than other moral theories, but not by much." Meanwhile, my decision-making is something like "95% selfish, 5% altruistic within the 'sort of but not really median-preference-utilitarian-lens', but I look for ways for the 95% selfish part to get what it wants while generating positive externalities for the 5% altruistic part." And I endorse people doing a similarly hacky system as they figure themselves out. (Also, while I don't remember exactly how I phrased things, I don't actually think robust agency is a thing people should pursue by default. It's something that's useful for certain types of people who have certain precursor properties. I tried to phrase my posts like 'here are some reasons it might be better to be more robustly-agentic, where you'll be experiencing a tradeoff if you don't do it', but not making the claim that the RA tradeoffs are correct for everyone)
On the flipside, I think a disagreement I have with habryka (or did, a year or two ago), was something like habryka saying: "It's better to build an explicit model, try to use the model for real, and then notice when it breaks, and then build a new model. This will cause you to underperform initially but eventually outclass those who were trying to hack together various bits of cultural wisdom without understanding them." I think I roughly agree with that statement of his, I just think that the cost of lots of people doing this at once are fairly high and that you should instead do something like 'start with vague cultural wisdom that seems to work and slowly replace it with more robust things as you gain skills that enable you to do so.'
4Matt Goldenberg
I think the thing I actually do here most often is start with a bunch of incompatible models that I learned elsewhere, then try to randomly apply them and see my results. Over time I notice that certain parts work and don't, and that certain models tend to work in certain situations. Eventually, I examine my actual beliefs on the situation and find something like "Oh, I've actually developed my own theory of this that ties together the best parts of all of these models and my own observations." Sometimes I help this along explicitly by introspecting on the switching rules/similarities and differences between models, etc. This feels related to the thing that happens with my moral intuitions, except that there are internal models that didn't seem to come from outside or my own experiences at all, basic things I like and dislike, and so sometimes all these models converge and I still have a separate thing that's like NOPE, still not there yet.
This seems basically fine, but I mean my advice to apply to, like, 4 and 12 year olds who don't really understand what a model is. Anything model-shaped or robust-shaped has to bootstrap from something that's more Cultural wisdom shaped. (but, I probably agree that you can have cultural wisdom that more directly bootstraps you into 'learn to build models')
3Matt Goldenberg
I think I was viewing "cultural wisdom' as basically its' own blackbox model, and in practice I think this is basically how I treat it. Nitpick: Human's are definitely creating models at 12, and able to understand that what they're creating are models.
How does this compare with empiricism - specifically saying "This is testable, so let's test it."?
2Matt Goldenberg
I think there's an inferential distance step I'm missing here, because I'm actually a bit at a loss as to how to relate my post to empiricism.

Something I've been thinking about lately is the concept of Aesthetic Pathology. The idea that our trauma's and beliefs can shape what we allow ourselves to see as beautiful or ugly.

Take for instance the broad aesthetic of order, or chaos. Depending on what we've been punished or admired for, we may find one or the other aesthetic beautiful.

This can then bleed into influencing our actual beliefs, we may think that someone who keeps order is "good" if we have the order aesthetic, or have the belief that "in order to get things done we must maintain order".


... (read more)
I tend to model aesthetics as more deeply entwined with other preferences and heuristics. Whether caused by trauma, early or late training, genetic or environmental predilection, or whatever, there are many elements of each individual's utility function that are somewhat resistant to introspection. Your proposed causality (trauma, and punished/rewarded framework) is generally applicable - not only to things generally in the aesthetic realm, but also in the policy-preference, social-interaction, and many other topics where "belief" mostly means "more trusted models" rather than "concrete probabilities of propositional future experiences". As you note, it's not fully resistant to introspection - you can train yourself to notice and enjoy (or to notice and disprefer) things differently than your past. Sometimes a partial explanation of causality for your belief can help. Sometimes it's a non-explanation just-so story, giving you permission to change. And sometimes you can change just by deciding that you'll meet your considered goals more easily if you let go of those particular heuristics.

Something else in the vein of "things EAs and rationalists should be paying attention to in regards to Corona."

There's a common failure mode in large human systems where one outlier causes us to create a rule that is a worse equilibrium. In the PersonalMBA, Josh Kaufman talks about someone taking advantage of a "buy any book you want" rule that a company has - so you make it so that you can no longer get any free books.

This same pattern has happened before in the US, after 9-11 - We created a whole bunch of security theater, that ... (read more)

Was thinking a bit about the how to make it real for people that the quarantine depressing the economy kills people just like Coronavirus does.

Was thinking about finding a simple good enough correlation between economic depression and death, then creating a "flattening the curve" graphic that shows how many deaths we would save from stopping the economic freefall at different points. Combining this was clear narratives about recession could be quite effective.

On the other hand, I think it's quite plausible that this particular problem will ... (read more)

It's interesting because you would intuitively think this, but there is actually not terrible evidence linking periods of economic growth to increased mortality. Here is the article in nature. Is non-profit funding really that inelastic in depression?
2Matt Goldenberg
Wow that is fascinating. It does make the case harder to make because you have to start quantifying happiness/depression, etc and trade off against lives. Much much harder to simplify enough to make it viral. Updates towards capitalism being horrible. It probably varies quite a bit by sector, and where funding comes from for different non-profits. In the case of AI safety I think it's likely more inelastic than AI capability.
2Matt Goldenberg
It was brought to my attention on Lesswrong that depressions actually save lives. Which would make it much harder to build a simple "two curves to flatten" narrative out of.
Wait, you received evidence that didn't just refute your hypothesis, it reversed it. If you accept that, shouldn't you also reverse your proposed remedy? Shouldn't you now argue _IN FAVOR_ of shutting down more completely - it saves lives both directly by limiting the spread of the virus AND indirectly by slowing the economy. (note: this is intended to be semi-humorous - my base position is that the economic causes and effects are far too complex and distributed to really predict impact on that level, or to predict what policies might improve what outcomes).
2Matt Goldenberg
I did update from this quite significantly.

When trying to browse LW keyboard only using Vimium, there are some tasks I get blocked on because they're not marked as links or buttons. E.g. the "Read More" button is not recognized as clickable by Vimium so I have to use the mouse.

I suspect this means that the read more button is also not picked up by many accessibility tools. Something for the LW team to look at, and may be worth doing a general accessibility audit.

Oh, interesting. That's a fair point.

One of my favorite life hacks to stop procrastinating is to install website/app blocking software on your phone and computer.

However, many people have tried this method, and found that they can't do it consistently. They inevitably end up uninstalling or disabling the software a few months into using it.

In a moment of "weakness", they uninstall/disable/remove the software, and then never end up reinstalling/enabling it for months.

The truth is, this moment of "weakness" isn't weakness ... (read more)

I think one of the biggest problems with ouble crux is that by finding double cruxes, it implicitly encourages us to look at the most mutually legible parts of our maps.

However, the biggest differences in frames aren't where you think X and I think not X, it's where you think X and I think "What the hell do you mean by X?" or "Why do you even care about X anyway it seems irrelevant?"

In my previous startup, this led to a situation where we were agreeing on what to do, but there were deep unaddressed differences in why we were d... (read more)

Does anyone here struggle with perfectionism? I'd love to talk to you and get an understanding of your experience.

One of the enduring insights I've gotten from elityre is that different world models are often about the weight and importance of different ideas, not about how likely those things are to be true. For instance, The Elephant in the Brain isn't about whether or not signalling exists, its' about how central signalling is to the worldview of Simler and Hanson. Similarly with Antifragility and Nassim Taleb.

One way to say this is that disagreement is often about the importance of an idea, not its' truth.

Another way to say this is that wor... (read more)

A Matter of Degree
Yeah. This problem is especially bad in politics. I've been calling it "importance disagreements", e.g. here and here. There's no definitive blogpost, you're welcome to write one :-)
2Matt Goldenberg
Note that I think we're talking about similar things, but have slightly different framing. For instance, you say : I think "Value Importance" disagreements definitely do happen, and Ruby talks about them in "The Rock and the Hard Place". However, I'm also trying to point at "Fact Importance" as a thing that people often assume away when trying to model each other. I'd even go as far to say that often what seems like "value importance" intractable debates are often "hidden assumption fact importance debates". For instance, we might both have the belief that signalling effects peoples' behaviors, and the belief that people are trying to achieve happiness, and we both assign moderately high probability on each of these factors. However, unless I understand, in their world model, how MUCH they think signalling effects behaviors in comparison to seeking happiness, I've probably just unknowingly imported my own importance weights onto those items. Any time you're using heuristics (which most good thinkers are) its' important to go up and model the meta-heuristics that allow you to choose how much a given heuristic effects a given situation.
Yeah, I guess I wasn't separating these things. A belief like "capitalists take X% of the value created by workers" can feel important both for its moral urgency and for its explanatory power - in politics that's pretty typical.
Depends on the value of X.
Just wanted to quickly assert strongly that I wouldn't characterize my post cited above as being only about value disagreements (value disagreements might even be a minority of applicable cases). Consider Alice and Bob who are aligned on the value of not dying. They are arguing heatedly over whether to stay where they are vs run into the forest. Same value, still a rock and hard place situation.
2Matt Goldenberg
Similarly, we might both agree on the meta-heuristics in a specific situation, but I have models that apply a heuristic to 50x the situations that you do, so even though you agree that the heuristic is true, you disagree on how important it is because you don't have the models to apply it to all the situations that I can.
If you make it explicit like "X is important" vs "X is not important" I have hard time to use the word "disagree" on it. Like if A and B emphasis and have signaling as similarly central in their worldviews saying "we agree on signaling" sounds wrong. Also saying stuff like "I disagree with racism" sounds like a funky way to get that point across.
2Matt Goldenberg
I think disagree is not semantically accurate for the thing I'm trying to point at, but it still feels internally often like "We have a fundamental disagreement about how to view this situation", it make more sense to talk about "our models being in agreement" than us being in agreement.

I've had a draft sitting in my posts section for months about shallow, deep, and transfer learning. Just made a Twitter thread that gets at the basics. And figured I'd post here to gauge interest in a longer post with examples.

Love kindle, love Evernote. But never highlight good ideas. It's level one reading. Instead use written notes and link important ideas to previous concepts you know.

Level 1: What's important? What does this mean?

Level 2: How does this link to compare/contrast to previous concepts or experiences? Do I believe this?

Level 3: How is th

... (read more)
I notice that this all makes perfect sense but that I don't expect to use it that much. Which I think is more of a failure of my part to set up my life such that I can be using my "deliberate effort" brain while reading. I mostly do reading in the evening when I'm tired (where the base-situation was "using facebook or something", and I was trying to at least get extra value out of my dead brain state) Currently my "deliberate effort" hours go into coding, and writing. This seems probably bad, but it feels like a significant sacrifice to do less of either. Mrr.
3Matt Goldenberg
Note this this mostly doesn't feel like deliberate effort anymore now that it's a habit for me. It took maybe 3 months of it being deliberate effort, but now my mind just automatically notices something important while I'm learning and asks "what is this related to?" I haven't checked if reading is more tiring than before, but I also haven't noticed anything to that effect.
That all makes sense – once the habit is ingrained I wouldn't expect it to be deliberate effort per se (but, would still require me to make time for this that isn't 'right before I go to sleep while lying in bed')

CW: Don't recommend reading this post if you're prone to disordered eating.

Am I being being too incautious by doing an 88 hour fast once a week? It seems pretty unstudied in the long term, there's mostly studies on 48 hour fasts, and then like 30 day fasts.

The few studies on people with cancer or arthritis seem to indicate only good things, and the animal studies point to some really good things like resetting parts of your immune systems in great ways.

It also seems to be the most consistent way for me to get the type of calorie restriction that has been s... (read more)

If you're going to do this, I would suggest getting a few DEXA scans to make sure you aren't losing muscle mass. Also, you may need to replenish salt during the fast, and your salt needs may change with the weather, so watch out if heat or exercise makes you sweat.
4Matt Goldenberg
Yeah. Currently I can just tell from body makeup and strength gains when weightlifting that I've actually been gaining muscle mass, but this may just be "regaining" and not sure if I'll begin losing when I hit my previous point.   I have been trying to drink water throughout the day, every other glass I include a bit of salt in. One thing I wondered about was electrolytes, do you know if I should be adding those?
Is losing weight one of your goals with this?   Like you said, since it hasn't been studied you're not going to find anything conclusive about it, but it may be a good idea to skip the fast once a month (i.e. 3 weeks where you do 88 hour fasts, then 1 week where you don't fast at all).
2Matt Goldenberg
Yes, it's definitelyone of the goals here, although equality about longevity, helping my acid reflux, and other immune system benefits

I can't wrap my brain around the computational theory of consciousness.

Who decides how to interpret the computations?  If I have a beach, are the lighter grains 0 and darker grains 1?  What about the smaller and bigger grains? What if I decide to use the motion of the planets to switch between these 4 interpretations.

Surely under infinite definitions of computation, there are infinite consciousnesses experience infinite states at any given time, just from pure chance.

Suppose that consciousness were not a no-place function, but rather a one-place function. Specifically, whether something is conscious or not is relative to some reality. (A bit like movement relative to reference frames in physics.) Would that help?
2Matt Goldenberg
  How does this relate back to the example with the sand?  Is there a sand-planet reality that's just like ours, but in that reality the sand is conscious and we're not? I don't think I quite get what a reality is in the function.
I was thinking of the computational theory of consciousness as basically being the same thing as saying that consciousness could be substrate independent. (E.g. you could have conscious uploads.) I think this then leads you to ask, "If consciousness is not specific to a substrate, and it's just a pattern, how can we ever say that something does or does not exhibit the pattern? Can't I arbitrarily map between objects and parts of the pattern, and say that something is isomorphic to consciousness, and therefore is conscious?" And my proposal is that maybe it makes sense to talk in terms of something like reference frames. Sure, there's some reference frame where you could map between grains of sand and neurons, but it's a crazy reference frame and not one that we care about.
I don't have a well-developed theory here. But a few related ideas: * simplicity matters * evolution over time matters -- maybe you can map all the neurons in my head and their activations at a given moment in time to a bunch of grains of sand, but the mapping is going to fall apart at the next moment (unless you include some crazy updating rule, but that violates the simplicity requirement) * accessibility matters -- I'm a bit hesitant on this one. I don't want to say that someone with locked in syndrome is not conscious. But if some mathematical object that only exists in Tegmark V is conscious (according to the previous definitions), but there's no way for us to interact with it, then maybe that's less relevant.
2Matt Goldenberg
Ahh I see. Yeah, I think that assigning moral weight to different properties of consciousness might be a good way forward here. But it still seems really weird that there are infinite consciousnesses operating at any given time, and makes me a bit suspicious of the computational theory of consciousness.
2Matt Goldenberg
I mean, from that reference frame, does that consciousness feel pain?  If so, why do we not care about it?  It seems to me like when it comes to morality, the thing that matters is the reference frame of the consciousness, and not our reference frame (I think some similar argument applies to longtermism). Maybe we want to tile the universe in such a way that there more infinitely countable pleasure patterns than pain patterns, or something. And how does this relate back to realities? Are we saying that the sand operates in separate reality?
For the way I mean reference frame, I only care about my reference frame. (Or maybe I care about other frames in proportion to how much they align with mine.) Note that this is not the same thing as egoism.
2Matt Goldenberg
  How do you define reference frame?  
I don't have a good answer for this. I'm kinda still at the vague intuition stage rather than clear theory stage.
2Matt Goldenberg
My sense is that reference frame for you is something like "how externally similar is this entity to me" whereas for me the thing that matters is "How similar internally is this consciousness to my consciousness."  Which, if the computational theory of consciousness is true, the answer is "many consciousnesses are very similar." Obviously this is at the level of "not even a straw man" since you're gesturing at vague intuitions, but based on our discussion so far this is as close as I can point to a crux.
Hmm, it's not so much about how similar it is to me as it is like, whether it's on the same plane of existence. I mean, I guess that's a certain kind of similarity. But I'm willing to impute moral worth to very alien kinds of consciousness, as long as it actually "makes sense" to call them a consciousness. The making sense part is the key issue though, and a bit underspecified.
Here's an analogy -- is Hamlet conscious? Well, Hamlet doesn't really exist in our universe, so my plan for now is to not consider him a consciousness worth caring about. But if you start to deal with harder cases, whether it exists in our universe becomes a trickier question.
2Matt Goldenberg
To me this is simply empirical.  Is the computational theory of consciousness true without reservation?  Then if the computation exists in our universe, the consciousness exists.  Perhaps it's only partially true, and more complex computations, or computations that take longer to run, have less of a sense of consciousness, and therefore it exists, but 
See also .
Yeah, this has always been my worry as well
Have you seen Brian Tomasik's page about this? If so what do you find unconvincing, and if not what do you think of it?
4Matt Goldenberg
He seems to be trying to formalize the intuition about what types of computational consciousness we already intuitively give moral weight to, but the very thing I'm worried about is that our intuitions are wrong (in the same way that our intuitions about physics don't hold when we think about environments much bigger or smaller than our own). That is, if the computational consciousness theory is true, and computations with higher complexity feel just as much pain and pleasure and dreams and goals etc as things we normally define as conscious, why should we lower their moral weight?
That makes sense, thanks for clarifying. What I've seen most often on LessWrong is to come up with reasons for preferring simple interpretations in the course of trying to solve other philosophical problems such as anthropics, the problem of induction, and infinite ethics. For example, if we try to explain why our world seems to be simple we might end up with something like UDASSA or Scott Garrabrant's idea of preferring simple worlds (this section is also relevant). Once we have something like UDASSA, we can say that joke interpretations do not have much weight since it takes many more bits to specify how to "extract" the observer moments given a description of our physical world.
That's why you need to use some sort of complexity-weighting for theories like this, so that minds that are very hard to specify(given some fixed encoding of 'the world') are considered 'less real' than easy-to-specify ones.
2Matt Goldenberg
I think that only makes sense to do if those minds are literally "less conscious" than other minds though. Otherwise why would I care less about them because they're more complex?  It does make sense to me to talk about "speed" and "number of observer moments" as part of moral weight, but "complexity of definition" to me only makes sense if those minds experience things differently than I do.
Description complexity is the natural generalization of "speed" and "number of observer moments" to infinite universes/arbitrary embeddings of minds in those universes. It manages to scale as (the log of) the density of copies of an entity, while avoiding giving all the measure to Boltzmann brains.
2Matt Goldenberg
Again this seems to be an empirical question that you can't just assume.
Is it an empirical question? It seems more like a philosophical question(what evidence could we see that would change our minds?) Here's a (not particularly rigorous) philosophical argument in favour. The substrate on which a mind is running shouldn't affect its moral status. So we should consider all computable mappings from the world to a mind as being 'real'. On the other hand, we want the total "number" of observer-moments in a given world to be finite(otherwise we can't compare the values of different worlds). This suggests that we should assign a 'weight' to different experiences, which must be exponentially decreasing in program length for the sum to converge.
2Matt Goldenberg
We could talk to different minds and have them describe their experience, and then compare the number of observer moments to their complexity.
But the question then becomes how you sample these minds you are talking to. Do you just go around literally speaking to them? Clearly this will miss a lot of minds. But you can't use completely arbitrary ways of accessing them either, because then you might end up packing most of the 'mind' into your way of interfacing with them. Weighting by complexity is meant to provide a good way of sampling minds, that includes all computable patterns without attributing mind-fulness to noise. (Just to clarify a bit, 'complexity' here is referring to the complexity of selecting a mind given the world, not the complexity of the mind itself. It's meant to be a generalization of 'number of copies' and 'exists/does not exist', not a property inherent to the mind)
2Matt Goldenberg
It seems like you can get quite a bit of data with minds that you can interface with?  I think it's true that you can't sample the space of all possible minds, but testing this hypothesis on just a few seems like high VoI.
What hypothesis would you be "testing"? What I'm proposing is an idealized version of a sampling procedure that could be used to run tests, namely, sampling mind-like things according to their description complexity. If you mean that we should check if the minds we usually see in the world have low complexity, I think that already seems to be the case, in that we're the end-result of a low-complexity process starting from simple conditions, and can be pinpointed in the world relatively simply.
2Matt Goldenberg
  I mean, I'm saying get minds with many different complexities, figure out a way to communicate with them, and ask them about their experience.   That would help to figure out if complexity is indeed correlated with observer moments. But how you test this feels different from the question of whether or not it's true.
I think we're talking about different things. I'm talking about how you would locate minds in an arbitrary computational structure(and how to count them), you're talking about determining what's valuable about a mind once we've found it.

Here are some of the common criticisms I get of myself. If you know me, either in person, through secondhand accounts feel free to comment with your thoughts on which ones feel correct to you and any nuance or comments you'd like to make. Full license for this particular thread to operate on Crocker's rules and not take my feelings into account. If you don't feel comfortable commenting publicly, also feel free to message with your thoughts.

  • I have too low epistemic rigor.
  • Too confident in myself
  • Not confident enough in myself.
  • Too focused on status.
  • I don't keep good company.
  • I'm too impulsive.
  • Too risk seeking.

I've had a similar conversation many times recently related to Kegan's levels of development and Constructive-developmental theory:

X: Okay, but isn't this just pseudoscience like Myers-Briggs?

Me: No, there's been a lot of scientific research into constructive-developmental theory.

X: Yeah, but does it have strong inter-rater reliablity?

Me: Yes, it has both strong inter-rater reliablity and test retest reliablity. In addition, it has strong correlation with other measures of adult development that themselves have a strong evidence base.

X... (read more)

I'd be interested in a post that was just focused on laying out what the empirical evidence was (preferably decoupled from trying to sell me on the theory too hard)

(a bit more details on how I'm thinking about this. Note that this is just my own opinion, not necessarily representing any LW team consensus) I'm generally interested in getting LW to a state where * it's possible to bring up psych theories that seem wooey at first glance, but * it's also clearer: * what the epistemic status of those theories are * what timeframes are reasonable to expect that epistemic status to reach a state where we have a better sense of how true/useful the theory is * have some kind of plan to deprecate weird theories if they turn out to be BS I think there are some additional constraints on developmental theories, where for social reasons I think it makes sense to lean harder in the "strong standards of evidence" direction. I think Dan Speyer's suspicions (articulated on FB) are pretty reasonable, and whether they're reasonable or not they also seem to a fact-of-the-matter that needs to be addressed anyhow. I've recently updated that developmental theories might be pretty important, but I think there's a lot of ways to use them poorly and I wanna get it right.

I have seen much talk on Less Wrong lately of “development stages” and “Kegan” and so forth. Naturally I am skeptical; so I do endorse any attempt to figure out if any of this stuff is worth anything. To aid in our efforts, I’d like to say a bit about what might convince me be a little less skeptical.

A theory should explain facts; and so the very first thing we’d have to do, as investigators, is figure out if there’s anything to explain. Specifically: we would have to look at the world, observe people, examine their behavior, their patterns of thinking and interacting with other people, their professed beliefs and principles, etc., etc., and see if these fall into any sorts of patterns or clusters, such that they may be categorized according to some scheme, where some people act like this [and here we might give some broad description], while other people act like that.

(Clearly, the answer to this question would be: yes, people’s behavior obviously falls into predictable, clustered patterns. But what sort, exactly? Some work would need to be done, at least, to enumerate and describe them.)

Second, we would have to see whether these patterns that we observe may be separated, or facto

... (read more)
2Matt Goldenberg
Why must a developmental theory be normative? A descriptive theory that says all humans go through stages where they get less moral over time works still as an interesting descriptive theory. Similary, there's certain Developmental stages that probably aren't normative of everyone around you is in a lower developmental stage, but it can still be descriptive as the next stage most humans go through if they indeed progress.
2Said Achmiz
I did not say anything about the theory being normative. “A descriptive theory that says all humans go through stages where they get less moral over time” is entirely consistent with what I described. Note that “moral” is a quality with normative significance—compare “get less extraverted over time” or “get less risk-seeking over time”.
2Matt Goldenberg
Ahh, so is the idea just that you don't care about a specific type of development if it doesn't have consequences that matter?
0Said Achmiz
Whether I care is hardly at issue; all the theories of “adult development” and similar clearly deal with variation along normatively significant dimensions. If, for some reason, you propose to defend a theory of development that has no such normative aspect, then by all means remove that requirement from my list. (Kegan’s theory, however, clearly falls into the “normatively significant variation” category.)
2Matt Goldenberg
I think that EG constructive-developmental theory studiously avoids normative claims. The level that fits best is context dependent on the surrounding culture.
2Said Achmiz
Fair enough. Assuming that’s the case, then anyone proposing to defend that particular theory is exempt from that particular question.
3Matt Goldenberg
Just in case it isn't clear, constructive-developmental theory and "kegan's levels of development" are two names for the same thing.
2Said Achmiz
Ah, my mistake. However, in that case I don’t really understand what you mean. But, in any case, the rest of my original comment stands. I look forward to any such detailed commentary on the fact-based motivation for any sort of developmental theory, from anyone who feels up to the task of providing such.
4Matt Goldenberg
Looks like Sarah Constantine beat me to it, although I think here lit review missed a few studies I've seen.
From her post: Are you calling those 63% strong inter-rater reliablity or are you referring to other studies?
2Matt Goldenberg
There's as far as I know 3 studies on this. She found the one with 63% agreement, whereas the previous two studies had about 80% agreement
My general takeaway from that post was that in terms of psychometric validity, most developmental psychology is quite bad. Did I miss something? This doesn't necessarily mean the underlying concepts aren't real, but I do think that in terms of the quality metrics that psychometrics tends to assess things on, I don't think the evidence base is very good.
2Matt Goldenberg
I haven't looked into general developmental theories like Sarah Constantin, but have looked into the studies on Constructive Developmental theory. My takeaways (mostly supported by her research, although she misses a lot) is that basically all the data points towards confirming the theory, with high information value on further research * high interrater reliability * high test-retest reliability * good correlation with age * good correlations with age in multiple cultures * good correlation with measures of certainty types of achievement like leadership As Sarah points at, the biggest thing missing is evidence that the steps procede in order with no skipping, but as far as I can tell there's no counterevidence for that either. Also, replications of the other things. Perhaps if I had went into this looking at a bunch of other failed developmental theories, my priors would have been such that I would have described it as "not enough evidence to confirm the theory". However, given this is the only developmental theory I looked into, my takeaways was "promising theory with preliminary support, needs more confirming research"
Oh, I was looking for that recently. Apparently predates LessWrong integration with her blog
4Matt Goldenberg
Yes, this is what I'm imagining. A simple post that just summarizes the epistemic status, potentially as the start of a sequence for later posts that use it as a building block for other ideas.


Framing the Gervais principle in terms of Kegan:

Losers - Kegan 3

Clueless - Kegan 4

Sociopaths - Kegan 4.5

To run a great organization, the first thing you need is to be lead not by a sociopath, but someone who is Kegan 5. Then you need sociopath repellent.

The Gervais principle works on the fact that at the bottom, the losers see what the sociopaths are doing and opt-out, finding enjoyment elsewhere. The clueless, in the middle, believe the stories the sociopaths are telling them and hold the party line. The sociopaths, at the top, a... (read more)


Something I've been noticing lately in a lot of places is that many people have the intuition that change is bad, and the default should be to maintain the status quo. This is epitomized by the Zvi article Change is Bad.

I tend to have the exact opposite intuition, and feel a sense of dread or foreboding when I see a lack of change in institutions or individuals I care about, and work to create that change when possible. Here's some of the models that seem to be behind this:

  • Change is inevitable. The broader systems in which the sy
... (read more)

I can hover over quick takes to get the full comment, but not popular comments.

Had an excellent interview with Hazard yesterday breaking down his felt sense of dealing with fear.

As someone who does parkour and tricking, he's had to develop unique models that navigate the tension between ignoring his fear (which can lead to injury or death) and being consumed by fear (meaning he could never practice his craft).

He implicitly breaks down fear into four categories, each with their own steps:

1. Fear Alarm Bells

2. Surfacing From Water

3. Listening

4. Transmuting to Resolve (or Backing off)

At each step, he has tools and techniques (again, tha... (read more)

You have a podcast?
2Matt Goldenberg
In development right now.

Couldn't Eliezer just remove every reference to Harry Potter and publish it separately? It worked for E.L James.

A lot of what makes it neat is the deliberate contrast. Maybe not more than 50% of what made it neat but it's be a nontrivial hit. Some story beats I think were sort of dependent on the deliberate contrast for their narrative heft, so you need to redo them, which would require some craftmanship. So, like, sure, it's doable. But the whole point of HPMOR was also to be something he could do for fun in is off hours with no willpower (which it eventually failed at anyhow).
4Matt Goldenberg
A few years ago I remember him talking about how he was thinking about writing a thriller to get money but couldn't muster the motivation.  It feels like if that's still a possibility it at least makes sense to try to hire an editor to do this for a few key chapters and see how it turns out.
Is this question based on some intent or plan that Eliezer has? It's perhaps possible to make it technically compliant with US and UK copyright law. Change the names, acknowledge the thematic (non-protected) inspiration, rewrite maybe 1/10 of scenes that are based too closely on HP books and films. It's almost certainly impossible to do so without violating the wishes and goodwill of J.K. Rowling, who gives her blessing to create non-commercial derivative works. Making such a derivative work, then when it becomes popular due to the nature of the derivation, to skirt the law to sell it, would be fairly evil.
2Matt Goldenberg
Context for "How does this relate to Eliezer's plans?" is basically he was at one point talking on Facebook about writing a thriller similar to The Davinci code to make a ton of money and get connections(my memory about his post, don't quote it) but had trouble motivating himself to write a thriller. I don't feel like you have to do this? Like, 50 shades of gray doesn't feel like it's skirting the law in regards to Twilight, it's a story in it's own right that has thematic elements and characters derived as inspiration.  I feel like blocking an edit on the case that it was originally using Harry Potter as inspiration would be fairly evil in itself.
I don't actually know much specifics about 50SoG - I tried to read it at the height of it's popularity, and gave up a few chapters in. I did read the first Twilight book, and didn't see that much similarity in the parts of 50SoG I got through. I never looked at the fanfic version of 50SoG. As such, I don't know how clearly derivative the fanfic was, nor how much changed to the published novel. My guesses about these factors are that they point to 50SoG being vaguely inspired by Twilight where HPMoR is clearly derived from HP books and films. Note that my moral view is not binding - I think it'd be wrong to use someone's permission to make noncommercial derivations, then change the minimal amount to make money. That's based on the suggestion of fairly minimal rewriting to change names and replace too-obvious references, and my interpretation of J.K.R.'s wishes. If it's a much deeper rewrite, including changing the basic plot to something other than a dark lord returning based on prophecies about a connection to a young boy hero, who turns out to be possessing a teacher at a school that's silly and amusing in some very specific ways, it's not problematic at all. And it's not HPMoR at that point either - it's some other possibly-magical story that uses some of the non-Rowling concepts from HPMoR.

"Medium Engagement Activities" are the death of culture creation.

Expecting someone to show up for a ~1-hour or more event every week that helps shape your culture is great for culture creation, or requiring them to wear a dress code - large commitments are good in the early stages.

Removing trivial inconveniences to following your values and rules is great for building culture, doing things that require no or low engagement but help shape group cohesion.  Design does a lot here - no commitment tools to shape culture are great during early stages.

But me... (read more)

 A strong vision can cover for a lot of internal tension - the external tension between your vision and what you want can hide internal tension related to not meeting all your needs.

But, it can't cover forever - eventually, your other needs get louder and louder until they drown out your vision, leading to a crash in productivity.

It can help to know what your leading indicators for ignoring your needs... that way, you can catch a crash before it happens, and make sure you resolve that internal tension.  For me, it's my weight creeping up.  I... (read more)

3 Possibilities for a Lesswrong talk:

1. In this shortform,  I show how the attractor for a cult (Kegan 4.5 leaders) is very easy to confuse with the attractor for a great culture (Kegan 5 leaders).   This is a pattern I've noticed a bunch when looking at good cultures, and I'd love to do a talk called "Cult is the root of culture"  where I show a bunch of instances of this.

2. I've been continuing to explore the idea aesthetic bias in beliefs and the concept of aesthetic pathology.  I'd love to do a talk exploring some of those ideas and

... (read more)
2Matt Goldenberg
Ehh, I realized that I don't understand the first two well enough to give a good 5 minute talk, and the last one can't be given experientially in 5 minutes. Will instead choose a topic that's more transparent to me and conceptual in nature.
I’m most interested in number 1

Grudgingness is the productivity killer.

We've noticed all our choices. We've brainstormed better options. We've decided that this is the best course of action.

And yet, it's an awful choice. Reality forced us into a bad situation, and we hold a grudge against.

So we do our task.

But we kick, and scream, and moan about having to do it. We can do it, but we're not gonna like it! We can do it, but by god are we gonna expend energy showing ourselves how much we don't like it.

And so we sit there, pushing against that which can not be moved.

Holding on to our grudge

... (read more)
One step deeper into the maze - why fight it? Why bother to remember that this is currently necessary to meet our immediate goals, but also contradicts our overall preferences? (note: I generally agree, just giving a counterpoint. I think the key is that letting-go is temporary. You can accept it and move on, but you should have a trigger or date to re-examine the grudge and determine if it's time to do something about it.)

*Virtual Procrastination Coach*

For the past few months I've been doing a deep dive into Procrastination, trying to find the cognitive strategies that people who have no trouble with procrastination use to overcome their procrastination.
This deep dive has involved:

* Introspecting on my own cognitive strategies
* Reading the self help literature and mining cognitive strategies
* Scouring the scientific literature for reviews and meta studies related to overcoming procrastination, and mining the cognitive strategies.
*Interviewing people who h... (read more)


John is a Greenblot, a member of the species that KNOWS that the ultimate goal, the way to win, is to minimize the amount of blue in the world, and maximize the amount of green.

The Greenblots have developed theories of cooperation, that allow them to work together to make more green. And complicated theories of light to explain the true nature of green, and several competing systems of ethics that describe the greenness or blueness of various actions, in a very complicated sense that actually clearly leads to the co... (read more)


Vibing is a type of communication where the content is a medium through which you can play with the emotional rhythm. I've said before that the Berkely rationalist community is missing this, and that that's important, but have never really explained why vibing is important.

Firstly, vibing is one of the purest forms of play - if you're playing with others, but you're not vibing, there's an important emotional connection component missing from your play.

Secondly, vibing is a way to screen for people whose emoti... (read more)

I'm so curious about this. I presume there isn't, like, a video example of "vibing"? I'd love to see that
1Matt Goldenberg
I don't think vibing is that an unsual a method of communication, most people have seen it and participated in it... rationalists in Berkeley just happen to be really bad at it. Unfortunately I can't find a video example (don't know what to search for) but I did write up a post that was trying to explain it from the inside.
Yeah, I've read that one, and I guess that would let someone who've had the same experience understand what you mean, but not someone who haven't had the experience. I feel similarly to when I read Valentine's post on kensho—there is clearly something valuable, but I don't have the slightest idea of what it is. (At least unlike with kensho, in this example it is possible to eventually have an objective account to point to, e.g. video.)

Are there big takeaways from Moral Mazes that you don't get from The Gervais Principle?

2Gordon Seidoh Worley
My memory of The Gervais Principle is that it gets wrapped up in lots of fairly specific models of how people interact, whereas Moral Mazes has a more diffuse "you are contaminated by interacting with the system" vibe. So in the end maybe pretty similar, but with different emphases.

Having trouble being decisive? Turns out there's only two simple mindset shifts that separate decisive people from indecisive people.

Indecisive people view decisions as a fork in the road. They can stand there forever, trying to decide which way to go.

Decisive people view decisions more like a train switch, that will change the direction of the train they're already inside. If they don't pull the lever in time, the decision to stay on their current path is made for them.

When indecisive people try out this metaphor, sometimes they discover something... thin

... (read more)

The things that I'm most qualified to teach are the things that I'm worst at.

Take procrastination for example. My particular genetic and cultural makeup ensured that focus would never be a strong suit. As a result, I went through basically every problem that someone who struggles through procrastination goes through. I ran into a ton of issues surrounding it, attacked it from a variety of angles, and got to a point where I can ship cool projects and do great work. Probably average or slightly above in productivity, but functional.

Meanwhile, wh... (read more)

While this seems accurate in these cases, I'm not sure how far this model generalizes. In domains where teaching mostly means debugging, having encountered and overcome a sufficiently a wide variety of problems may be important. But there are also domains where people start out blank, rather than starting out with a broken version of the skill; in those cases, it may be that only the most skilled people know what the skill even looks like. I expect programming, for example, to fall in this category.
2Matt Goldenberg
Agree, the model doesn't fully generalize and lacks nuance. I think programming is a plausible counterexample.
Are you good at teaching people (your) existing conceptual models? (As opposed to how to make their own.)
2Matt Goldenberg
I think I'm decent at it. I suppose you could answer this question better than I.


A few weeks ago I ran a workshop at the EA hotel that taught my Framework for internal debugging. It went well but there was obviously too much content, and I have doubts about the ability for it to consistently effect people in the real world.

I've started planning for the next workshop, and creating test content. The idea is to teach the material as a series of habits where specific mental sensations/smells are associated with specific mental moves. These implementation intentions can be practiced through focused... (read more)

(Taken from a comment)

One of the problem's with Rao's Gervais principle that I later realized(that I think Zvi's sequence shares to some degree) is that it doesn't distinguish between Kegan 4.5 Sociopaths, and Kegan 5 leaders.  This creates the impossible choice between having freedom as a loser, meaning as a clueless, or influence as as a sociopath, pick one.

Similarly, Zvi's sequence gives the choice of truth as a simulacra 1,  belonging as Simulacra 2, and influence as Simulacra 4.

Neither framing admits that it's possible to get to a stage of l... (read more)

4Gordon Seidoh Worley
Thanks, I think this helps me see what I find slightly off about both, and also Zvi's writing on "moral mazes". In all three cases, it's acting as if the frames and roles people feel themselves to be trapped in are the ground reality, rather than a way of being those people are choosing to take on. They present models that seem to claim a complete description, but fail to realize that even if they are complete descriptions it's possible to pull back and see people and statements and roles to be in multiple states at once, or for parts of the model to be under or over specified such that stuff gets lumped together that should be split apart.
The simulacra levels are not mutually exclusive, a given statement should be interpreted at all four levels simultaneously: * Level 1 (facts): What does the statement claim about the world? * Level 2 (deception): What actions does belief in the statement's truth incite? * Level 3 (identity): Which groups does uttering this statement serve as evidence for belonging to? * Level 4 (consequences): What goals does uttering this statement serve?
4Matt Goldenberg
Yes, and I think this is largely missing or distorted in the sequence. I think the post that gets closest to really truly recognizing this is "Simulacra levels and their interactions"
My takeaway was that awareness of all levels is necessary if you want to reliably remain on level 1 (make sure that you don't trigger responses for levels 2-4 by crafting statements that have no salient interpretations at levels 2-4). So both the problem and the solution involve reading statements at multiple levels. (The innovation is in how this heuristic is more principled/general than things like "don't talk about politics or religion". You might even manage to talk about politics and religion without triggering levels 2-4.)
Is this a problem for the theory, or a problem for human participants in society that the theory exposes?  I suspect that people of varying capability do have this conundrum - it may not be a pure choice they make, but the paths they take will lead them to less-than-perfect situations and interactions.
2Matt Goldenberg
It reveals an incompleteness in the theory.  
But The Gervais Principle is a model of a tv show, not directly of reality.  I haven't seen the particular show, but most tv shows are not trying to model reality, but reflect it, and distorting it is fair and even expected.  There's an argument to be made that the distortions are what makes it interesting. Do you see this differently?
2Gordon Seidoh Worley
I think Rao is clearly trying to take a model from the show and present it as saying something meaningful about the world we live in and not just the world of the show.
Yes, I agree with that.  Of course it's meaningful!  It wouldn't be a reflection of reality if it wasn't.  But meaningful isn't the same as complete or undistorted. For example, I think it's meaningful (maybe not the most insightful thing that could possibly be said, but meaningful) to talk about the original Star Trek in terms of head, heart, and gut as reflected in the characters of Spock, McCoy, and Kirk.  I don't think this covers everything that Star Trek is, or everything that those characters are, or everything that real people can be, but it's an interesting pattern (and from there one can have some fun considering felt senses and gut feelings, because so often people use an even simpler model and just contrast head and heart, so I think it's fun to consider the gut as Captain). I saw The Gervais Principle as a way of looking at the show and at those aspects of reality that are reflected in the show (I read the whole thing for the reflections of reality, not the show analysis), and an interesting one, but not necessarily intended to be complete to every possibility (especially possibilities not explored in the show) or even...I mean, I'd have to read it again, but just as real people aren't only one of head heart gut, in terms of The Gervais Principle, I thought there was some simplification going on, but I can't actually remember if I thought the categories were more like personality types (which are usually a continuum), or like cultures, or like roles that one is forced into and then forced to act according to.  I remember aspects of all of these, actually.
2Matt Goldenberg
Yeah, I think that Rao is using the Office to illustrate what he sees as a real world pattern.

It seems like the spirit of the Litany of Gendlin is basically false?

Owning up to what's true makes things way worse if you don't have the psychological immune system to handle the negative news/deal with the trauma or whatever.

And it's precisely the things that you are avoiding looking at that are  most likely to be those things you can't handle, as that's WHY you developed the response of not looking at them.

Pedantically speaking, whether this is true or not depends on what you mean by "it"; owning up to it [a fact about the world external to oneself] does not make it [that fact] worse, but if your psychology can't handle unpleasant truths, then owning up to it [a specific fact about the external world] make may it [the world as a whole] worse.

But this is a bit of a dodge; I think the right way to look at it is that, in most cases, a false belief is a form of debt; you'll probably have to own up to it eventually, and there's a cost to be paid when you do, but time-shifting that cost further into the future creates additional costs, because you make worse decisions and form other incorrect beliefs in the mean time.

Habryka framed the Gendlin litany as a stoic meditation, which made me dislike it a bit less. i.e, it's something you say to yourself to help make it true that you can endure the truth, by choosing to adopt a frame where the truth is already out there. (not sure if habryka exactly endorses this summary) The main issue I then have with it (through this frame) is it says "people can endure what is true", rather than "I can endure what's true" – "people" sounds like it's making a claim about the external world, rather than a mantra I'm repeating to myself. (Although I can imagine a reading where the "people" is still directed inward rather than outward) I guess put another way, further steelmanning the original version: the fact that people can stand what's true, doesn't mean that they do stand what's true. You can be reminding yourself of what's possible, and committing to cleave towards the truth and be the sort of the person who will stand what's true by framing it as something you're already enduring.
I think it's probably true that the Litany of Gendlin is irrecoverably false, but I feel drawn to apologia anyway. I think the central point of the litany is its equivocation between "you can stand what is true (because, whether you know it or not, you already are standing what is true)" and "you can stand to know what is true". When someone thinks, "I can't have wasted my time on this startup. If I have I'll just die", they must really mean "If I find out I have I'll just die". Otherwise presumably they can conclude from their continued aliveness that they didn't waste their life, and move on. The litany is an invitation to allow yourself to have less fallout from acknowledging or finding out the truth because you finding it out isn't what causes it to be true, however bad the world might be because it's true. A local frame might be "whatever additional terrible ways it feels like the world must be now if X is true are bucket errors". So when you say "Owning up to what's true makes things way worse if you don't have the psychological immune system to handle the negative news/deal with the trauma or whatever", you're not responding to the litany as I see it. The litany says (emphasis added) "Owning up to it doesn't make it worse". Owning up to what's true doesn't make the true thing worse. It might make things worse, but it doesn't make the true thing worse (though I'm sure there are, in fact, tricky counterexamples here) (The Litany of Gendlin is important to me, so I wanted to defend it!)
We obviously can’t give our attention to every truth. The LoG has to be contextual. If you’re spending a lot of resources pursuing an impossible goal because you’re willfully ignoring an uncomfortable fact, stop denying the truth. Build the emotional skills to work through disappointment in a healthy way and move on with your life. My issue with the LoG is its tone. It seems to frame the process of coping with disappointment as a dispassionate one. Like we’re supposed to be a computer. I think that’s unhelpful on the margin for most people most of the time.
I wonder why it seems like it suggests dispassion to you, but to me it suggests grace in the presence of pain. The grace for me I think comes from the outward- and upward-reaching (to me) "to be interacted with" and "to be lived", and grace with acknowledgement of pain comes from "they are already enduring it"

Just had an excellent chat with CFAR Cofounder (although no longer a part of CFAR) Michael Smith breaking down in excruciating detail a skill he calls "Breaking Free."

A step by step process to:

1. Notice auto-pilot scripts you are running that are causing you pain.

2. Dissolve them so you can see what actions will lead to what you truly want.

Now, I'm looking for people to teach this skill to! It would involve a ~2 hour session where I ask you why you want the skill, and teach it to you, then a ~30 minute followup session a couple weeks later where we talk ab... (read more)

I may be interested. DM me

CFAR's "Adjust Your Seat" principle and associated story is probably one of my most frequently referenced concepts when teaching rationality techniques.

I wish there was a LW post about it.

My biggest win lately (Courtesy of Elliot Teperman) in regards to self love is to get in the habit of thinking of myself as the parent of a child (myself) who I have unconditional love for, and saying what that parent would say.

An unexpected benefit of this is that I've started talking like this to others.

Like, sometimes my friends just need to hear that I appreciate them as a human being, and am proud of them for what they accomplished and its' not the type of thing I used to say at all.

And so do I, I didn't realize how much I needed to hea... (read more)

2Gordon Seidoh Worley
I think this has some interesting parallels to transactional analysis. In that model you could think of it as exercising your parent part to talk to your child part and to talk to the child part of others.

  • Today I had a great chat with a friend on the difference between #Fluidity and #Congruency
  • For the past decade+ my goal has been #Congruency (also often called #Alignment), the idea that there should be no difference between who I am internally, what I do externally, and how I represent myself to others
  • This worked well for quite a long time, and led me great places, but the problems with #Congruency started to show more obviously recently.
  • Firstly, my internal sense of "rightness" wasn't easily encapsulated in a single sense of consistent pri
... (read more)
3Matt Goldenberg
Sorry for all the hashtags, this was originally written in Roam.
Is Roam as useful a medium for you to read in, as it is for you to write in?


Ruby recently made an excellent post called Causal Reality vs. Social Reality. One way to frame what he was writing was he was trying to point at that 58% of the population is on Kegan's stage 3, and a lot of what rationality is doing is trying to move people to stage 4.

I made a reply to that (knowing it might not be that well received) essentially trying to steelman Kegan 3 from a Kegan 4 perspective - that is, is there a valid systemic reason based on long term goals to act as if all you car... (read more)

I happen to roughly agree with this but be warned that there are people who get off this train right about here.
*raises hand and gets off the train*
2Matt Goldenberg
You strike me as someone very heaven focused, so I am surprised you got off the train at about here. I wonder, if you expand the concept of "how everyone feels" to include Eudomonic happiness - that is, its' not just about how they feel, but second order ideas of how they would feel about the meaningfullness/rightness of their own feelings (and how you feel about the meaningfullness/rightfullness of their actions), do you still get off the train?
Yeah, it seems pretty plausible that I care about things that don't have any experience. It seems likely that I prefer a universe tiled with amazing beautiful paintings but no conscious observers to a universe filled with literal mountains of feces but no conscious observers. I don't really know how much I prefer one over the other, but if you give me the choice between the two I would definitely choose the first one.
1Matt Goldenberg
There's a lot of underlying models here around the "Heaven and Enlightenment" dichotomy that I've been playing with. That is, it seems like when introspecting people either same to want to get to a point where everyone feels great, or get to a point where they can feel great/ok/at peace with everyone not feeling great. (Some people are in the middle, and for instance want to create heaven with their proximate tribe or family, and enlightenment around the suffering of the broader world). One of the things I found out recently that makes me put more weight into the heaven and enlightenment dichotomy is that research into Kegan stage 5 has found there are two types of Kegan stage 5 - people who get really interested in other people and how they feel and how to make them do better (Heaven), and people who get really interested in their own experience and their own body and what's going on internally (enlightenment). That is, when you've discarded all your instrumental values and ontologies as fluid and contextual and open to change and growth, whats' left is your terminal values - Either heaven, or enlightenment.
I responded to your original comment here. I don't know the Kegan types well enough (perhaps I should) to say whether that's a framing I agree with or not.

Surprising thing I've found as I begin to study and integrate skillful coercive motivation is the centrality of belief in providence and faith of this way of motivating yourself. Here are some central examples: the first from War of Art, the second from The Tools, the third from David Goggins. these aren't cherry picked (this is a whole section of War of Art and a whole chapter of The Tools).


This has interesting implications given that as a society (at least in america) we've historically been motivated by this type of masculine, apollonian motivation - bu... (read more)

We need a research on whether atheists are more likely to suffer from akrasia. If we take Julian Jaynes seriously, the human brain has a rational hemisphere and a motivating hemisphere. Religion connects these hemispheres, allowing them to work in synergy. Skepticism seems to split them. Effective atheists are probably the ones who despite being atheists still believe in some kind of "higher power", such as fate or destiny or the spirit of history or some bullshit like that. Probably still activates the motivating hemisphere to some degree, only now instead of hearing a clear voice, only some nonverbal guidance is provided. Deep atheism probably silences the motivating hemisphere completely. The question is, how to harness the power of the religious hemisphere without being religious (or believing some nominally non-religious bullshit). How to be fully rational and fully motivated at the same time. Can we say something like "I know this is pure bullshit, but God please give me the power to accomplish my goals and smite my enemies!" and actually mean it? Is this what will unleash the true era of rationalist world optimization?
2Matt Goldenberg
Request for feedback: Do I sound like a raving lunatic above?
2Maxwell Peterson
I do think it has some of that feeling to me, yeah. I had to re-read the entire thing 3 or 4 times to understand what it meant. My best guesses as to why: I felt whiplashed on transitions like “be motivated towards what's good and true. This is exactly what Marc Gafni is trying to do with Cosmo-Erotic Humanism”, since I don’t know him or that type of Humanism, but the sentence structure suggests to me that I am expected to know these. A possible rewrite could perhaps be “There are two projects I know of that aim to create a belief system that works with, instead of against, technology. The first is Marc Gafni; he calls his ‘Cosmo-Erotic Humanism’…” There are some places I feel a colon would be better than a comma. Though I’m not sure how important these are, it would help slow down the pace of the writing: “increasingly let go of faith in higher powers as a tenet of our central religion: secular humanism.” “But this is crumbling: the cold philosophy” While minor punctuation differences like this are usually not too important, the way you wrote gives me a sense of, like, too much happening too fast: “wow, this is a ton of information delivered extremely quickly, and I don’t know what appolonian means, I don’t know who Gafni is, or what dataism is…” So maybe slowing down the pace with stronger punctuation like colons is more important than it would otherwise be? Also, phrases like “our central religion is secular humanism” and “mystical true wise core” read as very Woo. I can see where both are coming from, but I’ve read a lot of Woo, but I think many readers would bounce off these phrases. They can still be communicated, but perhaps something like “in place of religion, many have turned to Secular Humanism. Secular humanism says that X, Y, Z, but has no concept of a higher power. That means the core motivation that…” (To be honest I’ve forgotten what secular humanism is, so this was another phrase that added to my feeling of everything moving too fast, and me b
3Matt Goldenberg
Thanks. Appreciate this. I'm going to give another shot at writing this

My sense is that most people who haven't done one in the last 6 months or so would benefit from at least a week long silent retreat without phone, computer, or books.

I just realized that humans are misaligned mesaoptimizers. Evolution "wanted" us to be pure reproduction maximizers but because of our training distribution we ended up valuing things like love, truth and beauty as terminal values. We're simply misaligned AIs run amok.

How do you nominate a post for the 2019 review.  When I click on "Nominations" I only see posts that were already nominated.  When I go to a posts page to make a comment, I don't see any obvious way to make it a nomination.

Edit: Found it! Click the 3 dots menu at the top of a post.

Alright, now somebody needs to write the "Pain is a contextually useful unit of effort of which the value varies depending on your situation, genetics, and upbringing" post.

I sort of want to create a gpt-3 bot that automatically does this for any X is Good or X is Bad post.

Mods are asleep, post pictures of mushroom clouds.

Is there much EA work into tail risk from GMOs ruining crops or ecosystems?

If not, why not?

When interviewing people who were both very productive, and enjoyed work immensely, they turned out to be remarkably similar in terms of the emotional content of how they related to tasks. Here are the 5 emotions that can make work productive and enjoyable:

  1. Unqualified Desire
    1. Definition: Wanting the outcome of your task without reservation. Wanting to do the task without reservation.
    2. Questions:
      • What's bad about this outcome or task?
      • How can I remove the bad aspects?
  2. Resolve
    • Definition: A sense that "I will do this task". As opposed to Unqualified Desire, which is
... (read more)

One of the things I've been working on in the background over the past ~year is changing my relationship to money. This has allowed me to make more of it while feeling great about it.

Here are the 2 biggest shifts I made:

1. I had a deep-rooted sub-conscious belief that if I got money, it would corrupt me, amplify the worst parts of me. Then, I realized that having money will allow me to hire coaches and advisors who's sole purpose is to help me reach my deepest values. I spent lots of time consciously visualizing this, and recognizing on a deep level that I

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I had one of my pilot students for the akrasia course I'm working on point out today that something I don't cover in my course is indecision. I used to have a bit of problem with that, but not enough to have sunk a lot of time into determining the qualia and mental moves related to defeating it.

Has anyone reading this gone from being really indecisive (and procrastinating because of it) to much more decisive? Or is currently working on making the switch I'd love to talk to you/model you.

As a bonus thank you, you'll of course get a free version of the course (along with all the guided meditations and audios) when it's complete.


At the extremes, people have one of four life goals: To achieve a state of nothingness (hinayana enlightenment), to achieve a state of oneness (mahayana enlightenment), to achieve a utopia of meaning (galts gulch), or to achieve a utopia of togetherness (hive... (read more)

I'm interested in a medium-fleshed-out version of this comment that holds my hand more than the current one does. (Not sure whether I'd want the full fledged post version yet) (In general, happy to see more people using shortform feeds) ((also, you probably didn't mean to call it a short-term feed))
1Matt Goldenberg
Will do.
You should add integral's interior and exterior to the diagram.
2Matt Goldenberg
Interior and exterior is one component of heaven and enlightenment. It's possible to break up that one axis into several axes but its' usually correlated enough to not have to do that for the vast majority of people and organizations.
1Aleksi Liimatainen
These are not distinct things - they're alternative ways to frame one thing. All roads lead to Rome, so to speak. The way I see it, full enlightenment entails attaining all four at once. Just don't get distracted by the taste of lotus on the way.
2Matt Goldenberg
This is a common belief and it may in fact be true, but it's at odds with the ontology as presented. There are tradeoffs between which one you choose in this ontology.
3Aleksi Liimatainen
Ontologically distinct enlightenments suggest path dependence. That seems correct on reflection; updating and reframing. Enlightenment is caused by a certain observation about mind/reality that is salient, obvious in retrospect and reliably triggers major updates. The referent of this observation is universal and invariant but its interpretation and the resulting updates may not be; the mind can only work with what it has. In other words, enlightenment has one referent in the territory but the resulting maps are path dependent. This seems consistent with what I know about spirituality-related failure modes and doctrinal disagreements. Also, the sixties. So yeah. Caution is warranted. Just keep in mind that your skull is an information bottleneck, not an ontological boundary.

Zuck and Musk point to energy as a quickly approaching deep learning bottleneck over and above compute.

This to me seems like it could slow takeoff substantially and effectively create a wall for a long time.

Best arguments against this?

1Hauke Hillebrandt
You can compute where energy is cheap, then send the results (e.g. weights, inference) on where ever needed. But Amazon just bought rented half a nuclear power plant (1GW) near Pennsylvania, so maybe it doesn't make sense now.
2Matt Goldenberg
i don't think the constraint is that energy is too expensive? i think we just literally don't have enough of it concentrated in one place but i have no idea actually

Yes, but people also constantly exchange increased reproductive capacity for love, truth, and beauty (the world would look very different if reproductive capacity was the only terminal value people were optimizing for).  It's not that reproductive capacity isn't a terminal value of humans, it's that it's not the only one, and people make tradeoffs for other terminal values all the time.

It sort of seems like Predictive Processing provides a grounded foundation for the simulation argument.

Random question for traders?

What percent of "gains" from trading do you think currently come from algorithms and AI vs. human traders?

If any trader answers it, I would also be very interested in their error bars. How much uncertainty is there?

Is society just a tool to get Kegan 3 frames to want to LARP Kegan 4 and Kegan 5 frames?

4Gordon Seidoh Worley
I mean, this is a weird way to put it, but kinda. At Kegan 3 the ground truth is taken for granted, and is heavily constructed via social reality. You can have a traditional society that isn't trying to do anything other than maintain the existing reality that works for people at this stage of development. On the other hand, modern civilization (as in, modern industrial civilization with loose family ties and trusting strangers and impersonal organizations that function like machinery) basically demands people at least come up to Kegan 4 to really succeed, and historically put lots of systems in place to help people get there. It does end up asking people to try their best and fake it until they actually develop, with people playing at Kegan 4 without actually being there. A classic example I can think of is the way modern society, and especially modern organizations, expect people to function in compartmentalized ways. Like, say you work at a company, and you, Alice, have beef with your coworker, Bob. The expectation is that you'll act "professionally", which is essentially the LARPing thing you're getting at, where there are rules around how you are supposed to behave in the workplace, and one of those is engaging with people in the workplace only on limited terms. The whole person doesn't come to work, only their work "mask". So your beef with Bob must be kept out of the workplace, lest you be fired yourself, and Bob can readily get himself out of trouble if you break the rules and bring the beef to work by saying "hey, Alice isn't acting professionally!".
4Gordon Seidoh Worley
I feel like I only wrote half that comment. Here's the rest. That kind of compartmentalization is not something that comes naturally to people without systems in place to push them to it. In a traditional society, there's just sort of one social sphere (attempts at secret groups for ritual purposes notwithstanding) that overlaps with everything and you can bring your whole self all the time everywhere and people will expect you to do that. It's only that we ask more of people in our modern world because compartmentalization works well as a bridge to help people at stage 3 get by in a world that expects them to be at stage 4 or higher: it keeps complex social interactions functioning when the people involved would otherwise interact in ways that would eventually, compounded over many interactions, tear modern society apart. I think much of the difficulty and dissatisfaction people find in the modern world comes from some critical mass of people developing to Kegan 5, reshaping society, and then tearing apart some of the things that helped people bridge into the Kegan 4 level and modern society. To go back to professionalism, lots of aspects of traditional professionalism have broken down. For the people this works for they really enjoy the more casual atmosphere, but it makes it harder for people who are at Kegan 3 to fully join the party because it requires stepping out into a groundless space that's difficult to navigate without solid frames provided to them. For all the stifling of traditional notions of professionalism, it at least created an equal ground with known rules that made it easier for people to come up into. I think we underappreciate how difficult the erosion of these norms makes it for people who are at Kegan 3. And I want to importantly emphasize that we need to make a world that's accessible to folks at Kegan 3, because this is the natural developmental level for most adult humans. So, in fact, I'd say, to use your metaphor, we're asking people

I have a visceral negative reaction to the comments on this post.

It really annoys me that rationalists are so bad at understanding and using analogy.

What can I do to get an intuitive grasp of Kelly betting? Are there apps I can play or exercises I can try?

But can't you just believe in Rokos anti-basilisk, the aligned AI that will punish you if you bring a malevolent AI into existence?

There's no feedback loop that results in that AI being created. 
You do if the super benevolent AI isn't dumber than a defectbot.
2Matt Goldenberg
I mean, you get the standard utopia that the aligned AI gives you.  And you're more likely to end up in worlds with aligned AIs that disincentivize unaligned AIs from being created, so maybe there's an anthropic feedback loop? 
I'm not sure that most people who seek to create aligned AI's want an AI that starts doing the Last Judgment and punishes people for their misdeads for causal trade reasons.  It's been a while since I read Roko's post, but I don't think that it makes any argument for the resulting AI being non-Aligned. Being aligned doesn't prevent the AI from assuming that it's existence is very high utility and doing acausal trade to further the chances of existing.

I've been thinking a bit about the relationship between Perfectionism, Fear-of-Failure, and Fear-of-Success, as I've been teaching them this week in my course.

They all have a very similar structure, where each has a component of a "shadow value" - something that's important to us that we tend not to acknowledge, as well as a "acknowledged value" - something that we allow ourselves to acknowledge as important.  

The solution for all 3 is similar - separate the shadow value from the known value, then figure out if each value (both shadow and known) actua

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Is the shadow value always identity related? (You are good/[identity X which is good]/not? Perception/model of self worth?)
2Matt Goldenberg
I'm not sure if the perfectionism case (being perfect to please others) fits the identity pattern.  Although admittedly, in some people the shadow/acknowledged value is flipped - some people will acknowledge being perfect to please others, but won't acknowledge the part of themselves that want to do it for themselves.
Thinking that some things aren't all right to acknowledge might be more fundamental. I was guessing that "all of the shadow stuff is about how people think of themselves (i.e. identity. I am _, I am not _.) because it's something people get tied up in, and it's a reason someone might want to deny something. I also think of Perfectionism (and it's opposites, not trying (if the standard is unobtainable*)) as being (related to) fear of failure. *This might cash out as: "I'm good at X" -> does well, puts in a lot of effort (Maybe judges people for having low standards, or has different personal standards, whether high, nonjudgemental, distributed, etc.), may seek it out + challenges in domain "I'm bad at Y" -> doesn't try, scrapes by, avoids/ugh field/procrastinates, says 'it doesn't matter'/'i don't care', judges self, maybe dirty pain (It's not super easy to delineate 'enjoys/seeks out thing' from (consistently) 'works to get better at it'.)