[ Question ]

Applied Rationality podcast - feedback?

by Bae's Theorem 1 min read31st Jan 201912 comments


My goal is to help non-rationalists become rationalists, and provide exercises for existing rationalists to hone their skills, in the form of audio/video episodes.

'Rationally Speaking' and 'The Bayesian Conspiracy' are lovely, but they don't serve the function I have in mind.

Since I am an amature rationalist, and possibly the least intelligent person in this community, it would be ideal for someone else to run this (preferrably CFAR themselves, or at least someone who has attended). If there is an existing project like this, please point me to it so I can support it. If not, I at least have the drive to get the ball rolling.

I would probably start by using the 'Hammertime' sequence as material, and breaking it down a bit so the average layperson can understand it easier. This would require very little knowledge on my part, and give me time to maybe find a replacement host, cohost, or a queue of interviewees to assist in future episodes.

My question: is there any feedback you can give on this idea?

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Since I am an amature rationalist, and possibly the least intelligent person in this community, it would be ideal for someone else to run this (preferrably CFAR themselves, or at least someone who has attended).

It seemed like you could probably use to read this blogpost by Zvi. I don't want to offer generic empty encouragement, but do have a concrete model of what sort of projects are promising.

  • The moneyquote from Zvi's post is "you're probably one level higher than you think you are, and ready for one level higher worth of challenge." (What this means depends on where you're at).
  • It's generally good for people to undertake projects that they might not be ready for, but which will cause them to grow in useful and interesting ways.
  • There are some particular classes of project that seem obvious/salient, but do come with some risks if you're less experienced: outreach projects (such as what you're proposing, I think) and coordination projects (such as, say, a rationality wiki or donation pooling tool).
  • This doesn't mean don't do that class of project, but it means take some considerations into account.

Outreach projects run the risk of giving people a false impression of the content. Sometimes it can make the group/community/project look bad, sometimes it can just present a confusing image of it (because communication is hard).

Coordination projects are risky because they gamble with the resource of "people being willing to invest effort switching tools or habits". (i.e. if you get everyone to switch to a new thing, and then it turns out the thing isn't very good, then they're less willing to switch the next time someone comes up with a new coordination tool)

This project is fairly "outreach" flavored. But I think is fairly low risk so long as you make sure to distinguish the brand. (i.e. there are people who created a LessWrong youtube channel, which wasn't actually affiliated with LessWrong, which got a bit confusing).

I do think "make a podcast based on Hammertime" is a pretty decent project (although I'd maybe chat with the author of Hammertime about it, esp if you're going to make the link explicit). I agree with ChristianKI's note that you should actually first try to integrate each technique and get a sense of whether it worked for you (or why it did not).

Intelligence and knowledge are two separate issues.

If you spent enough time practicing a technique, you will be able to say something useful about it even if you aren't qualifying for Mensa.

Don't try to read an article from the hammertime series and try to summarize it immediately. It's a mistake to assume that making a technique easier to understand takes little knowledge. You need to understand a technique deeply to give an explanation of it that's easy to understand.

Spent the time to integrate a technique you read about into your life and once you have the feeling that you regularly use the technique for yourself in a way that's valuable to you.

It might take you longer then other people to learn the technique but as long as you are willing to put in the effort to learn it, you will still be able to get the knowledge.

Growth mindset ;)

Please, don't undermine yourself :)

As Scott Alexander said - the LessWrong survey found the lowest percentile in this community to 85th percentile of the general population. that means one with the lowest score here is still quite smart.

Also, take a look at dunning-Kruger effect, not because the inadequate rate themselves high, but because "the best performers will systematically underestimate how good they are, by about 15 percentile points." You can also read around Yudkowsky on modesty.

And statistically speaking, i think i should believe (due to base rate) that you're in the mean/median of intelligence of this community. than, due to your modesty, only put you higher.

(Hopefully i haven't pressed this point to much, it just saddens me to people under-confident in themselves. i feel that way too sometimes, so i want to help others when i can)

My question: is there any feedback you can give on this idea

Yes - Do it! go for it! have fun! you don't have to be the most adequate, and you won't need to fake adequacy.

Other then that, i think starting with hammer time can be a great way to start if you don't feel confident enough to do otherwise, and you can invite people from the community and ask them questions. i think that's a good starting point :)