Epistemic status: trawlin' for anecdotes/commiserations; satiating-morbid-curiosity

I'm also interested in non-romantic relationships, but I'm particularly interested in hearing about long term relationships between folks within EA and/or LW and someone[s] outside it.

By outside of EA/Rat I don't just mean "not active in the communities". I mean: doesn't have the philosophical machinery of rationality [ethics/meta-ethics/epistemology/cog sci/etc] and doesn't seem inclined to pick it up.

Things that I'm particularly curious about:

  • how long these relationships lasted
  • how you feel about the relationship: in what ways was/is it successful or unsuccessful?
  • if your partner doesn't have a "rationalist frame", how you deal with that
  • any other random thoughts this elicits
New Answer
Ask Related Question
New Comment

10 Answers

My husband and I have been married for 8 years and have known each other for 18.

We share a sense of humor (very important for my everyday life) and some tastes in fiction, but have divergent hobbies and intellectual pursuits. He is not interested in rationality.

Although I sometimes wish we had more interests in common, it's relaxing to not have him be competition in those areas. With regard to rationality, he rarely calls me out on biases or tries to get me to explain a problem more precisely than I already have. I have other friends who do that, and although I respect and appreciate it, it's not always comfortable. My husband is someone comfortable I can always turn to. He sympathizes, reassures me, and helps me brainstorm solutions. He's intelligent, motivated, and has good ideas that often cut across the ruts I've been wearing in my thought process. He respects and trusts my ability to think through things thoroughly, and doesn't denigrate it as overthinking, though sometimes I'm disappointed he doesn't always want to hear the saga of how I came to make a decision.

As for EA, we currently donate 5% of our net income to mostly effective charities, primarily due to my wishes. My husband appreciates GiveWell's guidance, reads up on their top charities, and voices some preferences about which ones he's feeling each year during our allocation conversation. He understands behind-the-scenes tools like QALYs but doesn't geek out about them like I do, which I am fine with.

Together for 21 years, married for 17, two kids, all good.

The major thing I had to learn was how to communicate certain things, and when to keep my mouth shut. For example, she doesn't ascribe to the principle of charity when it comes to strangers or the out group. We used to have fights about it (object level always, "why are you taking their side?!?") before I realized they were fundamentally unproductive. And I can think of a couple of key times that she was right and I was overly charitable, including in a work context that really mattered.

On the EA front, we donate 10% of income, to a mix of things -- hers more socially determined, mine more EA-ish, but good organizations all.

I think the world is full of people who don't t think the way you do, no matter who you are, so it's important to be able to form relationships with lots of kinds of people. Hopefully some experience/interest in rationality could help identify otherwise puzzling communication failures.

Also, practically speaking, less wrong / EA / rationalism are heavily male, so most people will need to find someone outside the community as a life partner.

After a traumatic experience involving an attempt to flirt with someone with SJW tendencies and getting punished for it, I decided not to date anyone in the EA/rationalist space for a while, and treat my engagement with this community as purely professional. Also because 1) I don't want to get too much sucked into this culture, 2) I don't want to make the gender imbalance of single people even worse

But most importantly I suspect that 3) if your coworkers are also your dating pool, you're going to be quite strongly addicted to your narrative, which will make it much harder to own up to evidence if your narrative isn't working out.

I've been with my current girlfriend for 2 years now. For me that's a long time, my previous maximum out of ±8 relationships was 1 year. She's not a rationalist in any sense of the word. Compared to rats, she's less open to experience, much more agreeable, and much less neurotic. Especially the latter is a breath of fresh air.

She soothes me, anchors me in normality. She reminds me that LessWrong and EA are just a bunch of ideas. It's not that she says it, it's that I get to see reality through her experience, which is quite sober. 

I don't feel an urge to "convert" her. Quite the opposite. 

What does "±8 relationships" mean? Is that a shorthand for 0±8, and if so, does that mean you're giving the range 0-8, or are you also claiming you've potentially had a negative number of relationships (and if so what does that mean)? Or does it mean "8±n relationships", for some value of n?

2niplav2moI interpreted it the way I would normally write "~8 relationships".
2toonalfrink2mothis

Married for 20ish years to such a person. In fact, not only is she not anyone I'd call a rationalist, she's not even really interested in any of the works of the mind... philosophy, science, literature, etc.

It's been 95% happy times between us. For my part I think we stick together because she makes me laugh, I'm very easy going, and it's not of the utmost importance to me that my life partner is interested in the same things as I.

All that being said, I wouldn't recommend it. I think we've lucked out so far in that we've been able to make it work as well as we have. If I was looking for a new partner I wouldn't count on such luck.

I've been dating my current GF for ~five years now. I think something that's allowed the relationship to work well from my end was doing certain stoic/meditative moves. At a certain point in my meditation practice, after reading Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, I decided that "unsatisfactoriness" might be the voice in the back of my mind that is always finding something to complain about. Maybe it's just correlated with getting older and gradually settling hormone levels, but having that handle on that mental process really helped stabilize my equanimity in the relationship, with my GF who is higher-conscientiousness/lower-openness than I am.

However, in recent months, I've started to wonder if I've underestimated how important openness is for me in a partner; some part of me has started to experience the reflexive 'no' that often comes with lower-openness as a form of attack. It's something my GF and I are working on, and she's aware of the way some of my processing of the relationship has changed, but it's giving me a lot of pause lately.

W/r/t my GF not having a rationalist frame: in reflective moments, this can be unsettling for my self-conception as someone who is a good, clear communicator. Man, if I can't move the needle with one person, in five years, what the f...?

Man, if I can't move the needle with one person, in five years, what the f...?

Ouch!

On the other hand, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home."

2Randomized, Controlled2mo🤣 this thread was worth it just for that

The biggest rationalist-ish issue for me has been my partners not being interested (or actively disinterested) in signing up for cryonics. This has been the case in three multi-year relationships.

Oh, yeah, both my mom, sister and GF have been entirely uninterested in cryo, but it hasn't caused any issues for me yet. Has it been actively problematic?

Since you've mentioned you're also interested in non-romantic relationships, I (late 20s M) have been casual dating on Tinder for four years. I tend to select my matches based on how attractive they look to me. Most of my dates are students in humanities or arts, service workers, or working professionals in non-STEM fields such as hospitality or translation. Programmers, models and blue collar workers are rarer.

On the first date I typically start with FORD smalltalk topics (family, occupation, recreation, dreams). I discovered that this approach doesn't always need to be boring - I can ask my date about what would she do with a billion dollars, or tell her about the time my organoid kidneys got transformed into beating hearts during my PhD research. This prompt often leads my date to ask: "you're not going to steal my kidneys, are you?", to which I reply: "I'm the least likely person to do this - if I need some, I will just grow them in my lab".

After that we can transition into our topics of interest (that is, if we're not making out yet by this point). Last month I invited my match on a first date to a bar where I told her about Fermi Paradox, then about AI alignment, then I asked her whether she would take hypothetical anti-aging pills, then we kissed and went to a love hotel. Two months ago, on another first date my match spent 90 minutes trying to solve a simple logical riddle, then gave up and left. I didn't hear from her again.

Irrationality is one thing I found hard to deal with - for example when my date brings up astrology signs. At first I was very argumentative or tried to convince my date that she's wrong, but that tends to go poorly. Nowadays I simply switch the topic to my love of astronomy, or play a little prank on my date:

"What's your sign?"

"I don't remember"

"Well, what's your birth date?"

"It's in February"

she pulls out astrological sign table

"Which day?"

"30th"

"Well you're Pisces then"

"I'm pretty sure February 30th is not on your calendar"

sudden realization

The majority of my dates I only see once or twice, but some of them transformed into friendships or FWB-type relationships. Many of them live in other cities or abroad, but they call me up from time to time when they return to my city. We also keep contact through social media (Instagram).

I'm happy with my dating life and with people I meet - I just wish it was more frequent and less expensive. Almost all of my dates are nice and kind people, some of them can have interesting conversations or can point out my flaws and improve me. My dates also tend to drag me out of my comfort zone and give me a reason to try stuff I would never try for myself, like spontaneously flying to Amsterdam or going to a trampoline park. As for the deep discussion of rationalist-adjacent topics, I'm quite satisfied just talking about them online or with my IRL friends and coworkers.

Two months ago, on another first date my match spent 90 minutes trying to solve a simple logical riddle, then gave up and left. I didn't hear from her again.

what was the riddle?

3Vlad Loweren2moYou are on a circular train, with carriages connecting so that they form a closed loop. There is a lightbulb in each carriage which is randomly set either on or off. You can find a switch to each lightbulb in the same carriage. You can only interact with switches and nothing else. You have infinite time, the train is not infinite but arbitrarily long. How do you determine, with 100% certainty, how many carriages are there in a loop?
4philip_b2moSolution: I can do the following to check if the train's length is a divisor of n. Remember the state of the lightbulb in the current carriage, then go n carriages forward and check if the state of the light is the same as remembered. If not, the train's length is not a divisor of n. Otherwise, flip the light switch and go backwards n carriages, check the light. If it's the same as remembered, the train's length is not a divisor of n, otherwise it's a divisor of n. The overall algorithm is, for each n from 1 to infinity, perform the above steps and stop as soon as you encounter the first n such that the train's length is a divisor of n. This n will be the train's length.
2Vlad Loweren2moWell done, however it's one of the more convoluted correct answers that I've seen.
3Randomized, Controlled2moI have a solution that involves moving back and forth across the loop. You pick a starting point, car 0, and move +1 car right and ensure the light is on, then go left to car -1 and ensure the light is off; then go to car +2: ON, car -2: off, etc. The first time you travel more than half way around the loop, you'll toggle a switch from the "other branch", which you'll then discover when you reverse. That will allow you to compute the total size of the loop.
1Mary Chernyshenko2moBreak a switch and go counting the carriages until you see it again?
5Vlad Loweren2moI guess it works with the riddle as formulated, but the true solution has to use the actual switch function.
2Richard_Kennaway2moIf the dating partner solves it, then for extra credit, have them give a solution taking time proportional to the length of the loop.
  • how long these relationships lasted
    • 12 years and counting (from well before I was involved in raionality)
  • how you feel about the relationship: in what ways was/is it successful or unsuccessful?
    • Successful. Any problems are more of the type "2 different people trying to cooperate but with different wants/needs" than anything specific to rationality (i.e. I don't think these things would go much better if she was a rationalist)
    • Possibly such issues might come up less often but I'm not convinced this would be the case.
  • if your partner doesn't have a "rationalist frame", how you deal with that
    • Basically we just understand and respect each other's frame even if we each think our own is better.
    • I've deliberately told her about lots of rationality things - base rates may be the most commonly referred to one, plus putting probabilities on things
    • We are each interested in each other's interests because the other person is interested (or at least we try to be!). She will listen to my rants even though she personally has absolutely no interest in the specific area.
    • Also, agreeing with Dustin "I'm very easy going, and it's not of the utmost importance to me that my life partner is interested in the same things as I."
  • any other random thoughts this elicits
    • Being interested in rationality-type things seems (for me) slightly off as a thing to optimise for. I would more target general intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness, respect. Being into rationality type things is probably a good indicator of this but isn't the thing itself.

I've been married 6 years (together for 9), and my wife is not a rationalist, and wouldn't be interested. OTOH, she is by far the most intuitively metarational person I've ever met, as well as being highly conscientious, context-aware, and excellent at predicting other people's thoughts and actions. We each use different toolboxes that have turned out to often reach the same conclusions, and otherwise complement one another's insights well. Early on we had lots of deep discussions about lots of topics, as one does, and just like any relationship, built up our own repertoire of shared metaphors and references and stories that we can use to explain our viewpoints to each other. It does sometimes feel a bit like translating thoughts into a foreign memeplex for me, but that's basically true for almost any interaction I could have with almost anyone. What I find more challenging is that she is both much more person-oriented (which frankly I need, as I can be quite oblivious to people) and conflict-theoretic than me, which sometimes leads to us talking past each other or thinking the other is trying to escalate an argument. That's happening less and less, though.

1 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:45 PM

The time I found LW is also the time I started (monogamously) dating my current partner who is also a rationalist. So I don't have an experience of identifying as a rationalist and dating someone who is obviously not. Generally speaking, willful irrationality always frustrated me, but you need to make some compromises in order to have relationships.

Just wanted to comment that there is probably a difference between casually dating someone (if they are nice to be with and good in bed, why should I care about their ability to do Bayesian statistics) and organizing your life together with someone (so if they make irrational choices, you also bear the costs, possibly for years).

But looking at current answers, people seem mostly happy. Maybe rationality actually matters very little in our everyday lives, and no matter whether we read LessWrong or not, most of the time we are just following our social scripts. (Also, rationalists probably break up quickly with obviously irrational partners, so we are talking about those who are "not LW-rationalists, but also not obviously irrational".)