Epistemic Status: Halfway between a poem and a how-to guide.

There's a specific type of communication, called vibing, that I feel was in large part missing from the rationalist community in Berkeley.

I've tried to talk to people about this type of communication before, but the closest I can usually get is "throwing around emotions" and people don't seem to understand that.

Today, I found something I wrote years ago that seems to do a better job of describing what this type of communication feels like then all of my recent attempts. It feels like this:

Words are not words… they are just a flowing of value. Not an exchange, but a flow.

You do not judge people based on words, you are just feeling the inherent value that those words express. This comes from the core of the person, everyone can appreciate this inherent value. When you respond (and you respond with all your being, words are just a small part), you are acknowledging this value, and you are giving a part of yourself… letting your value flow forth.

Ever noticed how good music can get you into the moment? Listen to others like you listen to the music. You are merely enjoying the Inherent value that the music is holding in itself. You can start to sing along… Acknowledging the songs value without judging it, as well as giving a part of yourself. I have seen dismal rooms TRANSFORMED when one person comes in just singing a tune. Eventually everybody is doing it… allowing the value to flow throughout the room.

This is the same thing that happens in conversations where somebody is completely in the moment. Their value flows forth, affecting everybody. I have been this person, I have been affected by this person. You know the one I’m talking about.

You too can be this person. There are several ways to get yourself to this state, where you’re not thinking or judging, just letting the value flow throughout the interaction.

The first way to do this is to listen for the inherent value coming from others. Don’t try to listen to their words (hear their words all the same) just try to listen to their value. Passion is the biggest indicator of core value, the easiest to spot. Listen to the passion behind someones words, and you will soon be moved into this state. The Inherent value is always there, passion just brings it to the surface.

The next thing to do is to VOICE YOUR THOUGHTS. Thoughts are poison to the flow of value. Having long trains of thought will disrupt the flow of value. Instead of continuing to have the thoughts voice your thoughts stop thinking. By voicing your thoughts directly after you have them, you are effectively stopping the thought train in its track. Your inherent value is being voiced.

Another important aspect is to feel your value. I don’t know if other people have this, but I actually physically feel this as a WARMTH throughout my body, a stillness in my mind, a fluidity to my movements. Value should flow from you when you are sitting, just sitting. You will get stares, people will feel the value flowing to them.

Senses, use them. Hear, smell, taste, feel, see. Don’t judge. Hear, and be in wonder of the sounds. Smell, and let the joy of the smell spread through you. Taste, let your body be overcome by the sensation. Feel, and let all your warmth be amplified, the touch of a lover when you are communicating like this is electric. Value flows from and to you and all becomes amplified. See. See the value. Not physical but tangible still. Value flows.

Feel the flow of value with all your senses.
See the inherent value in all people.
Be the value, until it is YOU who is flowing throughout.

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I'm not 100% sure I grokked this post, but a thing that it makes me think of, which may or may not be relevant:

One thing that's particularly hard (in my experience) is to maintain positive vibes while giving critical feedback. It's not just that you need to couch the feedback in a way that doesn't sting. Even if it doesn't sting, it can shift someone out of a satisfying and/or useful flow state.

This is particularly important in domains where being in a state of playfulness or flow is important to whatever your task is. The most salient domain to me is music.

I have observed people who can totally give feedback to a group of musicians that feels like it takes the energy of the room, transforms it somewhat, and returns it to the musicians with words like "yeah man! groovy. Let's try it again and try out [x quality]."

Whereas when I'm music-directing and hear something that sounds off, the default thing that happens is that I stop, think for a minute (and I think have a somewhat angry looking expression on my face because that's what my resting-thinking-face looks like), and then figure out what to say and then say it, and then by that point it doesn't matter how I word it or what expression I have, I've already harmed the energy in the room.

The solution as I understand it tends to involve two things:

  • cultivating "resting good vibes" as an overall stance, which is somewhat complicated (and maybe is what the OP is describing, not sure if we're talking about the same thing), so that even if you're sitting and thinking for a minute it communicates something more like tranquility than "I'm thinking about how to politely criticize you."
  • gaining domain expertise in the subject matter you're critiquing, so that you don't have to pause as much, since part of what kills the energy is the pause itself. If it takes me a minute to figure out what as wrong with a thing, then at best I can transmute the energy from "high excitement" to "tranquil reflection", and sometimes I really needed the high excitement. Whereas nowadays, I'm slightly better than I was 5 years ago at quickly noticing what was off about a thing and having a cached way of talking about it.

Yes, this is very related to the benefits of what vibing is. I think that "communication with emotional flow" is as close to a succinct description of vibing as I've gotten to. By respecting the emotional energy in the room you can be honest without breaking the vibe of flow.

On a more meta note, I really appreciate that all of your comments on my posts seem to make an effort to model the norms I put in my commenting guidelines. I don't know if it's intentional or not but it is appreciated.

Yes, I strongly agree that this is missing and it sucks. I have a lot to say about why I think this is happening, which hopefully will be converted from a Google Doc into a series of blog posts soonish.

Looking forward to this. Feel free to send me an invite to look over the google doc.

Yes, but also once you get good at vibing you want to go vibe with people on your favorite frequency / topic. Also I think some topics are more “vibable“ than others, and rationality is just not one of them.


It's gotta be tough to engage in any sort of rationality with a mindset that says that "thoughts are poison to the flow of value".


It's tricky, that's for sure.

It's less that thoughts alone are poison and more that, spending attention on thoughts is poison to the process of observing being (because it's distracting from the pure observing being-ness of being).

Enjoying the music is different from saying "I enjoy the music". In that difference is the difference between the thought and the doing part of enjoying the music.


There are plenty of things that are usually impaired by thinking. Thinking, however, is not one of them. So while I'm sure you could "vibe" about rationality, that would need to be an activity very different from actually doing rationality.

(Of course one doesn't have to be doing rationality all the time! And some of those things that are usually impaired by thinking are excellent things to do. So, for the avoidance of doubt, I'm not saying that "vibing" is a Bad Thing. I'm not sure it belongs here, though. Why do we need "What vibing feels like" any more than we need "What being stoned feels like" or "What cuddling with a romantic partner feels like"?)


It's worth considering the description of "acting via system 1". As similar and relevant to vibing as described.

Healthy rationality long term needs to integrate both s1 and s2. Not just get the s2 right. Also the more s2 functions that can be entrusted to s1 effectively, the more s2 is free to leap forward into smarter ways of doing things.

One thing that's important about this post is that it's meant to evoke a particular set of felt senses more than be literally accurate. For instance, under certain definitions of "thinking", the only way to avoid it would be to be unconscious or dead, which I'm obviously not trying to state here. This post was merely trying to evoke a certain phenomenological state, without delving into why that state was useful.

There's a few reasons I think that vibing is useful for rationality, besides being an affordance that can allow you to enjoy communication in a new way (which I think would be reason enough). Note that many of these depend on models that I haven't written up yet, so I don't have the means to show why I believe them.

  • Vibing allows groups to communicate in a way that minimizes rationalizations and defensiveness in the discussion
  • Vibing allows a sort of proto "Looking" where you can see the world and your own psychology more for what it is as a group
  • Vibing allows groups to quickly see if a person will fit into their culture
  • Vibing gives you a better sense of the values people are actually optimizing for, including your own

I think that this sort of list can be dangerous because consciously trying to achieve these things can prevent you from vibing, in a similar way that consciously trying to practice reading people can harm circling, even though it's a benefit of circling.

It's tough to engage in the sort of rationality that the Berkeley rationality community likes to engage in.

A good analogy is circling, which is a style of communication that the Berkeley rationality HAS picked up. You might say "it's tough to engage in rationality without logic being a central component of communication," but I think a central thing that makes circling so good at getting at important truths is that it allows and encourages you to engage in communication where you don't feel the need to justify everything you say logically. (Someone will disagree with me here, just substitute "logic" for some other thing that exists in normal rationality discourse but not in circling).

Vibing is importantly different from circling, but it has this same quality of getting at "truthiness" that typical rationality discussion can't get at by throwing away some of the tenets of traditional rationality communication. I don't think you should necessarily be talking about rationality when vibing, but I do think that you're engaging in rationality when vibing, in a similar manner to circling.


It seems to me like you are using "rationality" with a much broader meaning than currently appears to me to be useful.

"Vibing", as you describe it, appears to be fundamentally non-rational. Once again, that doesn't mean it's bad, it doesn't even mean it's not extremely valuable, but something that essentially requires stopping thinking as soon as it rears its ugly head is, whatever its merits, not engaging in rationality. Even if it provides a way of getting at truths that what-I-would-call-rationality can't reach.

(Cf. the discussions long ago about the perils of saying "rational" when we actually mean "optimal" or "good".)

FYI, the way I define "instrumental rationality", which I think is "specific enough to be useful" without being so specific as to be overly constraining, is:

"The study of how to improve your cognitive processes in order to make better decisions."

And for epistemic rationality, "the study of how to improve your cognitive processes in order to have beliefs that more accurately reflect reality."

In both cases, I think it's actually plausible that the OP has some bearing. [Although, disclaimer that I'm not 100% sure I grok the OP, and might be talking about something subtly different].

I think it's a crucial rationalist skill to be able to apply "thinking" of the sort the OP is gesturing at avoiding. But, it seems quite important to me that there's types of ideas and literal truths that are harder to grasp if you're only capable of thinking in a highly analytical way.

One lens to look at this through: You need to both babble and prune in order to find useful things to say, and generating good babble can involve a lot of cognitive work that looks superficially irrational. This is fine, although you will eventually want to make sure the babble can pass through some kind of pruning filter.

  • example 1: drawing connections between things you wouldn't otherwise be able to notice, even if reason you drew those connections didn't make much sense. I.e you happened to be staring at a tree and it pointed you towards a tree metaphor
  • example 2: if you're highly engaging your prune module to check if things make sense, you may be overly committing to a given ontology that isn't actually quite right. Or your S1 might be picking up on things that are important that you can't fully articulate, and you're tempted to throw that information out completely rather than stew on it until you have a better idea of what's going on.

This isn't an argument for "vibing" in particular being useful, but it's a more general argument that even epistemic rationality often requires you to be operate in modes that seem superficially "a-rational", to give you access to more ideas and information.

Elsethread I used the "music" as an example of something that requires good vibes in order to execute well, and I think there are kinds intellectual creativity that are more in the genre-of-rationality (i.e. puzzle solving) that may also benefit more from being in a playful mode, although I'm less confident about the details of this.

I mostly agree with this. If rationality means "systematized winning" them I'm comfortable including Vibing in it, but if it means something more specific than I wouldn't include this in rationality. However, I still think it belongs on LessWrong, which is more about creating common knowledge to allow for systematized winning.

Actually I take that last part back. I could see people who love to vibe about rationality. I think I actually do too, just at a certain level of depth / casually,

Are drugs involved in “vibing”? (If so, what sort of drugs?)

No, there aren't any sort of drugs needed for vibing. The way certain people describe/experience Molly makes me think it helps them with vibing, although I don't really get the same effect.

Similarly, I think for some people who tend to be anxious alcohol can help with vibing (it helps me) but it also reduces the awareness aspect which is important.