Back again. Let’s become stronger.

This week’s challenge: 

Years ago you found yourself hurled into existence, facing a vast universe with a mind capable of the Art of Rationality, reading a LessWrong post at this very moment. 

Yet in your life there is a particular problem. I don’t know what it is. Maybe your chair is uncomfortable; you’re not getting as high scores as you want at the Math Olympiad; or you’ve got insomnia. 

Whatever it is, pick one specific problem in your life. 

Find a way to solve it. 

You have 1 hour to come up with 50 ways. 

(But no need to implement the solutions within 1 hour!)

Looking back

Here are the champions who made it to 50 last week, with stars indicating their streak: 

★★★ Slider, gjm, Harmless, jacobjacob, Tetraspace Grouping

★★ athom, johnswentworth, ryan_b, Ericf, Bucky, Mark Xu, CptDrMoreno, Yonge

★ TurnTrout, Tighe, knite

Why measure streaks? 

Last week Bucky commented: 

I don't like measuring things by streaks - if you want to do a list I think doing it by total number of challenges completed is better. Streaks are a less accurate indication of effort put in or potential gains achieved and have more potential to create unhealthy incentives.

But I disagree. I replied:

One of the goals of the challenge is building a culture of practice. I think consistency is an incredibly important part of that. That's how you get compound returns. A portfolio that grows 7% every year will grow ~30x over fifty years. But a portfolio that grows that much only every other year will only grow about ~5x. (Even though the first one only put in "twice as much effort".)

Moving forwards

I’m now entering week 4 out of the 7-week babble streak I committed to. If you want more regularity in practicing your creativity, feel free to post a comment committing to also going all the way to 7. 

This week we’re trying something new: applied babble. I haven’t tried it before, so am very curious to see what will happen. Feel free to add a note to your comment about how useful you found the exercise, and whether you thought about good things you hadn’t considered before. 


  • 50 answers or nothing. Shoot for 1 hour. 

Any answer must contain 50 ideas to count. That’s the babble challenge. 

However, the 1 hour limit is a stretch goal. It’s fine if it takes longer to get to 50. 

  • Post your answers inside of spoiler tags. (How do I do that?)
  • Celebrate other’s answers. 

This is really important. Sharing babble in public is a scary experience. I don’t want people to leave this having back-chained the experience “If I am creative, people will look down on me”. So be generous with those upvotes. 

If you comment on someone else’s post, focus on making exciting, novel ideas work — instead of tearing apart worse ideas. 

Reward people for babbling — don’t punish them for not pruning. 

I might remove comments that break this rule. 

  • Not all your ideas have to work. 

The prompt is very underspecified. If your chair is uncomfortable, consider sitting on a sofa, on the ground, in a pool, or on a trampoline. I've often found that 1 great idea can hide among 10 bad ones. You just need to push through the worse ones. Keep talking. To adapt Wayne Gretzky's great quote: "You miss 100% of the ideas you never generate." 

  • My main tip: when you’re stuck, say something stupid. 

If you spend 5 min agonising over not having anything to say, you’re doing it wrong. You’re being too critical. Just lower your standards and say something, anything. Soon enough you’ll be back on track. 

This is really, really important. It’s the only way I’m able to complete these exercises.

Now, go forth and babble! 50 ways of solving a problem in your life!

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16 Answers sorted by

Problem: I'm depressed and bored. Covid took away dance/bjj and I need physical touch/play. I at least need something to be fixated on.  Single with no roommates and not close to family. All my friends have disappeared into their relationships. My job isn't fulfilling and I'm not even sure if I need any more money to make it the rest of my life so idk why I'm still in it.

  1. Join an MMO, I was happy when I had a good community in a guild
  2. Ignore covid, find a bjj gym that's already open
  3. Move to NZ where covid is over
  4. Host secret dance nights. Though I don't have enough floor space
  5. Treat online dating like a full time job till I find something fulfilling
  6. Move back to FL, set up mat room for bjj, train with old friend
  7. Try and reconnect with family
  8. Road trip. I'd really prefer to do this after covid so I can see what places are normally like to pick my next city to live in
  9. Take up outdoor rock climbing. Why is it so cold here
  10. Take up rock hounding. Why is it so cold here
  11. Dedicate myself to the side project idea L said he'd buy if I made
  12. Dedicate myself to babbling side project ideas every day until I find something I like even better
  13. Go back and get a ML PhD
  14. Dedicate myself to finding a really big signing bonus that doesn't require much vesting to finish up the last of the money I need
  15. Quit, let myself be really bored for a while so I find inspiration
  16. Find some sort of online community outside of an MMO
  17. End it all
  18. Become a monk
  19. Donate everything to light a fire under my ass to earn it back
  20. Come up with some cool series to write for LW, live off the validation in the comments
  21. Become a game dev
  22. Become an indie game dev
  23. Start learning a solo dance, replace swing dancing with zoom dances
  24. Learn parkour
  25. Write a book
  26. Survey everyone I can access both in person and online how they're staying social to get more ideas
  27. Dedicate myself to wood working
  28. Dedicate myself to fixing my house up to increase the sale value
  29. Hang out at parks and try and start as many conversations as possible
  30. Find some sort of social game that involves talking to strangers at the park
  31. Bike through the parks, trying to start at least one conversation a day but mostly just bike
  32. Learn an instrument. Busk in the park
  33. Set up Bob ross painting stations in the park. Let strangers join
  34. Start dating my ex who would probably still date me, even though I don't think enough issues have fixed for it to work and it would cause drama
  35. Bike through the whole city and note the areas with the most people who look receptive to conversations
  36. Switch careers to psychotherapy. Get my social needs fulfilled from comforting my clients. Yes I know it doesn't work like that, but no pruning
  37. Become twitch streamer
  38. Try and obtain monk like contentment without becoming a monk
  39. Switch to using kink based online dating sites, possibly find better matches?
  40. Learn tarot cards, give readings in the park
  41. Read in the park
  42. Get a cat
  43. Get a bonded pair of cats
  44. Start a life project to gamify everything I can
  45. Play a lot of video games to numb the pain
  46. Start an only fans
  47. Restart competitive programming
  48. Hand out baked goods at the park
  49. Really try and push for wings & liftin' nights to happen as often as possible
  50. Try and really optimize my health to see if that affects my mental health
  51. Antidepressants
  52. Antianxieties
  53. Prune this list, because boy does it need it

Retrospective: More useful than I thought it would be. Partially because it increased my resolve for the things I had kinda sorta considered now that I feel like I've finished considering my alternative options

I love so many of your ideas. Kink based dating apps. For me, 50 works okay but cant make up for too little social contact. 41 is great. 2 is good. I tried 1 but it took over my life.

I intentionally chose a pretty thorny problem because I think a lot of the blockage around it is just a lack of self-efficacy. I left it sort of loosely defined, but the general thrust was 'lessen the impact fibromyalgia has on my everyday functioning':


  1. Start seeing a rheumatologist
  2. Go to medical school and become the leading expert researcher on this topic
  3. Break up with my boyfriend so that I have more control over my sleep schedule
  4. Join a stress management group like my therapist told me to
  5. Hire Sarah Constantin to do a MetaMed thing for me
  6. Pretend it's not happening so it goes away (Sarno method)
  7. Join a sports team
  8. Solve mind uploading so physical illness ceases to exist
  9. Replace all my limbs with prosthetics
  10. Smoke a lot of weed
  11. Lobotomy
  12. Run 2 miles every day so I get dem endorphin highs
  13. Take strong sleeping pills that promote deep sleep
  14. Hire someone to plan and cook all my meals so that I get the right balance of nutrients and none of the allergens
  15. Hire a live-in masseuse
  16. Try CBT specifically for chronic pain
  17. Do 30 minutes of yoga twice every day
  18. Live alone and adopt a cat so I have no social stressors but also don't get so lonely that it's harmful to my health
  19. Full body compression suit (more dakka for compression socks and arm braces!)
  20. Sleep (and work?) in a float tank
  21. Spend a whole frickin ton of effort and money on an ergonomic desk setup that I'd actually use
  22. Invent suspensors (like in Dune) to support part of my body weight and thus put less strain on my joints and muscles
  23. Take tricyclic antidepressants (which also mitigate chronic pain)
  24. Hire someone to give me piggy back rides everywhere
  25. Become a politician so that I have to be on all the time and don't have time to pay attention my symptoms (seems like it worked for JFK)
  26. Meditate a bunch
  27. Invent a salve that get rids of pain
  28. Find a form of caffeine or some other stimulant that doesn't put me to sleep, then take that every single day to make me be awake
  29. Join daily house exercise
  30. Eat pig thyroid
  31. Human touch is supposed to be healing, so just cuddle with people all day every day
  32. Move somewhere where it's always sunny and I can just bask in the sun all day and get that sweet sweet vitamin D
  33. Just try eating every plant I see and see if that ends up being a cure for fibromyalgia
  34. Marry a billionaire because it's probably fixable if you just throw enough money at it
  35. Go on the all meat diet
  36. Go keto
  37. Find something I enjoy doing so much that I just forget about everything else; preferably some cool artistic thing, like painting
  38. Ask everyone around me to stop giving me any sympathy or cutting me slack when I have symptoms (maybe instead just yelling at me to try harder, like a sports coach) so that if the Hansonian signaling theory of chronic pain is right my brain will learn to stop pulling that shit
  39. Implant electrodes in whichever gland that is that's implicated (the hypothalamus?)
  40. Retrain my pain sensors by delivering really strong electric shocks to my skin every once in a while, so that the daily level of pain stops registering
  41. Replace all my bones with titanium and get soft tissue transplants from someone who doesn't have loose tendons
  42. Live in a forest, because being nature is good for mental and physical health
  43. Have someone I trust become dictator of the world so that I don't have to worry about political instability 
  44. Move back home to help raise my friend's baby, because babies are warm and soft and squish, and as the fourth parent I won't have to be sleep deprived but will also probably still be busy enough to not dwell on my own problems that much
  45. Go on a true elimination diet in case the cause is a food of some sort
  46. Go on HRT to transition to male, because men are less likely to suffer from fibromyalgia
  47. Actually analyze my Oura ring and life-tracking data so that I can see if there are any correlates to flare-ups
  48. Read those crackpot books that claim to have found the cure for fibromyalgia and then try out their non-FDA-approved drugs
  49. Catch COVID, since it seems like that has a bunch of non-obvious effects on the body, so maybe it'd fix my problems
  50. Invent a time machine and make my younger self sleep more and stop eating gluten and dairy sooner

I ended up posting my "solstice speech" babble, but last night I also tried "fix my sleep problems" babble, and am amused that I, too, considered

 hire Sarah Constantin to fix it for me

Ha, yeah, I noticed that one of my overlaps with someone else was 'lobotomy'.

Problem: I'm often having trouble falling asleep.

  1. Experiment with different doses Melatonin and document results
  2. Experiment with taking Melatonin at times other than 30 minutes before going to bed
  3. Establish a rule not to stare into a screen for some time before going to bed
  4. Reinstall the app that makes the screen look all red and sleepy
  5. Remove the blue lights from the exterior of my PC
  6. Practice some kind of meditation technique
  7. Actually try counting seriously
  8. Take regular walks through the city before falling asleep
  9. As above but use the bike
  10. Research for other supplements
  11. Visit a doctor
  12. Ask on LessWrong
  13. Ask everyone I know IRL
  14. Ask on r/sleep if that's a thing
  15. After completing the list, see if I can reverse any recommendation
  16. Get drunk before falling asleep
  17. Choose an earlier point to wake up every day to make myself more tired
  18. Track my yawns throughout the day and try to notice patterns
  19. Start a diary to find useful information
  20. Do a babble challenge every time I'm in bed
  21. Find new complicated music to listen to when in bed before trying to sleep
  22. Get lots of plants into my room even though I have no evidence for lack of oxygen
  23. Leave window wide open to make it really cold
  24. Always work out directly before going to bed
  25. Be more strict about the go-to-bed timing
  26. Find a difficult problem and implement rule that I can't think about anything but that when trying to sleep
  27. Hypnotize myself into being tired
  28. Donate 10$ to a terrible cause every time I fail to go to sleep or stand up on time
  29. Same idea but use Beeminder instead
  30. Experiment with using different pillows or blankets
  31. Change sheets more often
  32. Try listening to podcasts instead of music to fall asleep
  33. Try watching soothing movies instead
  34. Force myself to read sth whenever I go to sleep, until I'm tired
  35. Go back to a polyphasic sleep rythm
  36. Read a book about sleep
  37. Do other research on sleep
  38. Find a list of all TED talks relating to sleep and listen to all of them in one sitting
  39. Screw all research and personally crack the code and find the one true solution
  40. Try the drumming technique I've once heard about more seriously
  41. Pick a fictional setting and intently visualize the setting every time when trying to fall asleep
  42. Pick the worst book on sleep out there and try to invert every advice
  43. Try not eating anything for a long time before going to bed
  44. Try eating a lot directly before going to bed, but have it be low-fat
  45. Try not drinking anything for several hours before going to bed
  46. See what the guy who wrote the Minihabit book has to say on mini habits about sleep
  47. Abandon the regular schedule and stay awake until I'm dead tired every day like I used to do
  48. Change my nutrition in general, somehow
  49. Implement a rule that avoids important news up to 2 hours before going to bed
  50. Implement a rule that says I have to do one undivided activity in the 2 hours before going to bed

Nice list! Some other ideas: on 10: Consider Magnesium. (Citrate as opposed to Oxide. Avoid supplements that also have vitamin D) I've found it to relax me before bed. I take it in addition to some melatonin. re 7, 20, 41, the general idea of having a mental routine in bed: A mental habit I have before bed is to go over my day. Usually twice, once at a high level and then again trying to remember all the details (instead of thinking, "then I read some things on lw" try to remember all the posts in detail). I also highly recommend blue blight blocking glass... (read more)

problem: I don't do enough focused work in a day.

  1. set aside set times for focused work via calendar
  2. put "do focused work" on my todo list (actually already did this and worked surprisingly well for a week - why doesn't it work as well anymore?)
  3. block various chatting apps
  4. block lesswrong?
  5. do pomodoros
  6. use some coworking space to encourage focus
  7. take more breaks
  8. eat healthier food (possibly no carbs) to have more energy
  9. get a better sleep schedule to have more energy
  10. meditate more for better meta-cognition and focus
  11. try to do deliberate practice on doing focused work
  12. install a number of TAPs related to suppressing desires for distraction, e.g. "impulse to stop working -> check pomodoro timer"
  13. I'm told complice is useful
  14. daily reviews might be helpful?
  15. be more specific when doing weekly review
  16. make more commitments to other people about the amount of output I'm going to have, creating social pressure to actually produce that amount of output
  17. be more careful when scheduling calls with people so i have long series of uninterrupted hours
  18. take more naps when I notice I'm losing focus
  19. be more realistic about the amount of focused work I can do in a day (does "realize this isn't actually a problem" count as solving it? seems like yes)
  20. vary the length of pomodoros
  21. do resolve cycles for solutions to the problem, implementing some of them
  22. read various productivity books, like the procrastination equation, GTD, tiny habits, etc.
  23. exercise more for more energy (unfortunately, the mind is currently still embodied)
  24. make sure I'm focusing on the right things - better to spend half the time focusing on the most important thing than double the time on the 2nd most important thing
  25. spend more time working with people
  26. stop filling non-work time with activities that cause mental fatigue, like reading, podcasts, etc.
  27. stop doing miscellaneous things from my todolist during "breaks", e.g. don't do laundry between pomodoros, just lie on the floor and rest
  28. get into a better rhythm of work/break cycles, e.g. treat every hour as a contiguous block by default, scheduling calls on hour demarcations only
  29. use laptop instead of large monitor - large screens might make it easier to get distracted
  30. block the internet on my computer during certain periods of time so I can focus on writing
  31. take various drugs that give me more energy, e.g. caffeine, nicotine, and other substances
  32. stop drinking things like tea - the caffeine might give more energy, but make focusing harder
  33. wear noise-canceling headphones to block out distractions from noise
  34. listen to music designed to encourage focus, like cool rhythms or video game music
  35. work on things that are exciting - focus isn't a problem if they're intrinsically enjoyable
  36. Ben Kuhn has some good tips - check those out again
  37. RescueTime says most of my distracting time is on messenger and signal. I think quarantine is messing with my desire for social interaction. Figure out how to replace that somehow?
  38. communicate via email/google doc instead of instant messaging
  39. make sure to have snacks to keep up blood sugar
  40. alternate between standing desk and sitting desk to add novelty
  41. reduce cost for starting to do focused work by having a clear list of focused work that needs to be done, leaving computer in state ready to start immediately upon coming back to it
  42. nudge myself into doing focused work by doing tasks that require micro-focus first, like make metaculus predictions, then move on to more important focused work
  43. ask a LW question about how to do more focused work and read the answers
  44. work on more physical substrates, e.g. paper+pen, whiteboard
  45. use a non-linux operating system to get access to better tools for focusing, like cold turkey, freedom, etc.
  46. switch mouse to left hand which will cause more effort to be needed to mindlessly use computer, potentially decreasing mindlessness
  47. acquire more desktoys to serve as non-computer distractions that might preserve focus better
  48. practice focusing on non-work thing, e.g. by studying a random subject, playing a game I don't like, being more mindful in everyday life, etc.
  49. do more yoga to feel more present in body
  50. TAP common idle activity I do with "focus on work", e.g. crack knuckles, stretch arms, adjust seat.

Time taken: 20 minutes

More things I thought of after reading Rafael Harth's response:

  1. use something like beeminder to do more focused work
  2. do research directly into what causes some people to be better at focusing than others
  3. ask people that seem to be good at doing focused work for tips
  4. reread Deep Work and take it more seriously

As an excercise in meta-babble, I first babbled for 5 mins to find problems I could solve in my life:

Problems I could think about:

  1. I often go to bed later than I would like
  2. I’m insufficiently coupled with the economy
  3. I don’t have people in my life who both A) I trust to think straight, and B) will have my back in any situation
  4. My eyesight is getting worse
  5. Improving my skills at creativity takes more time than I can often justify spending
  6. I often don’t feel like doing things that I know I need to do
  7. I don’t have enough time in my life to do all the things I want to do
  8. I don’t always know what the negative side effects of all of my actions / inactions will be
  9. I consistently get lower karma scores / engagement on LW than I would like ; I feel like if I was A) as smart as my ego says I am and B) as good of a communicator as my ego says I am, then I would have more status on LW

Of these problems, I chose to think about becoming better coupled with the economy (in other words, have an income stream), due to the importance of the problem, because I think I can come up with some interesting solutions, and because I’ve been thinking about this problem for a while.

50 Ways to Become Sufficiently Coupled with the Economy:

  1. I can sell music on bandcamp
  2. I can call someone who works at Tesla, and ask them if they can hire me
  3. I can use the contact form on Tesla’s website, and ask them to hire me
  4. I can ask people in my *extended* family if they know of any jobs that might suit me well
  5. I can apply to jobs in grocery stores or cafés or bars etc. nearby
  6. I can search for firms that are hiring in another country, and call them / email them, and ask if they can hire me
  7. I can physically visit firms in my current city, and ask them if they need any workers (probably a bad idea during the pandemic)
  8. I can advertise on craigslist (or reddit? or youtube?) that I can tutor people via the internet
  9. I can try to get a tutoring job
  10. I can offer martial arts lessons to people over the internet (I used to teach martial arts as my job)
  11. I can do bounties on Bounty Source
  12. I can do random jobs on Fiver?
  13. I can do freelance music work on Upwork
  14. I can ask my friends if they know of any jobs that would suit me well
  15. I can make little gadgets, and try to sell them on the internet (note: I have no experience with making objects, but I want to learn this skill)
  16. I can do chess hustling somewhere (can a mediocre chess player profitably hustle?)
  17. I can do writing, and people who donate money to my writing can vote on which topics I write about
  18. I can do paid calls with people, where they tell me about things that they’re confused about, then I try to learn about the thing, then help them be less confused
  19. I can contribute to the LW source code, and impress the LW team so much (I have no idea why they would be impressed by my coding) that they offer me a job working on LW
  20. I can edit Wikipedia for money (in ethical ways. There’s many ways selling edits on WP would be very unethical, and I would never want to do anything that would fall in that category)
  21. I can do daily Youtube videos, and set up a patreon for the videos
  22. I could write and then sell a mini-book about habits that I’ve found helpful
  23. I could knock on people’s doors, and ask them if there’s anything that they would be willing to pay me for (Pandemic though!)
  24. I can buy tech that is broken, figure out how to fix it / make it work again, and sell it for a profit
  25. Amazon mechanical turk?
  26. I can become mayor of my city (???)
  27. I could sell drawings
  28. I could sell abstract art / doodles in my style of doodling
  29. I can ask Y combinator give me a job as an assesor (?)
  30. I can write a book of poetry, then sell it
  31. I can sell things I no longer have a use for? (won’t make me sufficiently coupled, but can make me less uncoupled)
  32. I can look on craigslist for random gigs, then do them
  33. I can become an Uber driver (But I don’t want to worry about my car becoming a liability. Is it possible to uber-drive other people’s cars?)
  34. I can sell pieces of paper that I have taken notes on / have doodled on, specifically ones I think may be aesthetically interesting
  35. I can try to find everything I’ve ever written, and compile it into a book (or different volumes), and try to sell it
  36. I can look up companies in Denmark (which I have ties to, but don’t currently live in), and ask them if they are willing to hire me + pay for me to fly to Denmark
  37. I can post this in the comments on a thread on LW, and hope someone gets the message that I’m a smart + creative person who needs a job
  38. Do a “hostage writing” thing, where I write something, but only publish it if I receive a certain amount of money (As Vitalek Buterin has suggested)
  39. Do face paintings (or whatever the equivalent of my abstract art style is… or both) at a festival
  40. Introduce myself to some indie game developers, preferably with enough success that they can pay me, but not so big / established that I’m just some random guy, and offer to write music / code for their game (since I have experience doing both)
  41. Introduce myself to different bands (similar criteria as above), and offer to play for their band (I could probably do a decent enough job on bass, guitar, vocals (maybe), or keyboards given a little bit of practice, and the part not being too hard)
  42. Email researchers at the university in my city (or even other universities), and ask them to pay me to help them with their research
  43. Challenge myself to create a new video game every day for a month, and sell my favorite games from the project
  44. Do a one-on-one call thingy, where people tell me about their problems, and I try to come up with ways to solve their problems (like a therapist or coach, but with a different skill set than a therapist or coach, and not as over-qualified)
  45. Contact different musicians, and offer to write music for them / workshop their musical ideas with them
  46. Chat with my cousin who’s an entrepreneur, and hopefully come up with some cool idea that I can help him with
  47. Create Doordash, but it’s for shopping at stores + interacting with customer service (both IRL and on phone / online) (Probably already exists in the Bay Area, but do it for my locality instead of the Bay)
  48. Do a thing where I chat with people about their Anki decks, and try to figure out ways they can use Anki more effectively
  49. Work as a translator (I used to be good enough with Danish that doing DK -> ENG would be feasible, but I’d need to practice to get back to that point… Plus, DK -> ENG probably has a good bit more supply than demand)
  50. Become a freelance voice artist

This challenge was a good bit faster for me than my previous babble challenge - it took me 38 mins +  4 seconds to do all 50, and I think it took just over 15 mins to do the first 30. I challenged myself to see how many I could come up with in 5 minute “chunks”, the first 3 chunks I came up with ~10 ideas (plus or minus one) in each 5 minute chunk, the last few chunks were slightly slower, but were still a good pace. For the fourth chunk, I probably would have gotten to 10, but I started laughing quite a bit after writing idea #37 (it was a little too on the nose…), so I only got 7 ideas in that round, and then it took me 2 more chunks (plus a little extra time after the second chunk) to finish it up

Problem I am trying to fix: I feel like I don't really succeed at doing deep work and having time to properly think about what I want LessWrong todo, and what I want to do in my life. Here are some ideas on how to fix that: 

  1. Just respond to all emails that want to schedule meetings with "sorry, I don't take meetings anymore, if you want me to talk to you send me a Google Doc that I can comment on"
  2. Set up a calendly that has exactly four slots per week, and just send that whenever someone wants to schedule a meeting with me
  3. Move to Europe and change my name
  4. Adopt polyphasic sleep and use the additional time for deep work
  5. Adopt a daily meditation habit and use the resulting clarity to think better about my life
  6. Go to an OAK retreat and use that to gain more mental clarity
  7. Move out of my group house so that I am less distracted
  8. Become a nomad that doesn't have any responsibilities and have impact on the world by writing a pseudonymous blog
  9. Quit all my grantmaking commitments so I have time to focus on LW 
  10. Make a list of everything that is distracting me, then magically fix them
  11. Style my hair into spikes so I look menacing and people don't want to talk to me anymore
  12. Block all websites and video games
  13. Track all of my time, then do weekly reviews in which I debug what wasted most of my time, and take appropriate action
  14. Order food in bulk so I don't have to spend time ordering food or cooking
  15. Turn off my computer automatically at 8PM so that I have to use pencil & paper and other dumb media to reflect more
  16. Go on frequent walks.
  17. Commute to an office that is a 30 minute walk away so I can reflect on the way there and back
  18. Uninstall Slack and other instant messaging apps
  19. Invest in the stock market so I can become really rich and then just buy out lots of personal time for myself
  20. Buy an even faster computer so I can be faster at programming so I have more time to think
  21. Hire someone to be my personal assistant so they can do all of my gruntwork
  22. Hire someone to impersonate me in meetings, so I don't have to go to them
  23. Lobby for the addition of an additional 8th day to the week, so I can use that day to do deep work
  24. Just sleep less
  25. Keep track of all the external commitments that take up all of my time and figure out which ones are dispensable, then not do them
  26. Move to the east coast, which magically will make my life less distracting and make it easier to get things done, because of something something cultural osmosis?
  27. Move into manufacturing physical goods, which are less likely to give rise to ongoing maintenance problems and sudden crises
  28. Write a blogpost every day about what I am thinking
  29. Only eat soylent so I can spend less time distracted with preparing/cooking food
  30. Do lots of art-projects as a form of meditation that will allow me to express my thoughts on what I should do with LW and my life
  31. Ask other people to meet with me to think about strategy and my life.
  32. Reread Getting Things Done and maintain a healthy GTD system
  33. Set up an auto-responder that I won't be very responsive to emails, so I don't feel bad about not responding to emails
  34. Build my own note-taking system that is distraction-free and that I can tweak so I can build an environment that I can iterate on so that I can think more clearly
  35. Start using Roam again
  36. Keep a centralized record of all the projects that I am working on, and review it every week or month
  37. Escape to the moon and build a moonbase with a more functional civilization that can grow into something much more productive than current humanity, then retire and have time to think
  38. Go on lots of long hikes with different people
  39. Move to some location where COVID isn't happening and hang out lots on cafes where I can usually get a lot of work done
  40. Fake my own death, then come back when everyone will have dealt with me not following up on all of my commitments
  41. Only work in pomodoros
  42. Use Twitter a lot, build a large following, then use the threat of the mob to attack anyone who wastes my time (this is obviously a really bad idea)
  43. Recruit my brother to work with me, then sometimes have him attend my meetings instead, since our voices sound kind of similar
  44. Take lots of nootropics
  45. Clean my room and all other rooms I work in so I have a less distracting work environment
  46. Imitate Richard Stallman and just use software that is usable under an Open Source license. Then nothing can send me notifications because basically nothing on computer will work anymore.
  47. Take a class on management and/or operations and use that to spend my time much more effectively
  48. Ask Geoff Anders whether I can have more courses on strategy with him, then use those techniques to think about my life
  49. Attend more babble challenge events so I can come up with more ideas on how to solve my problems
  50. Build friendly AI, then solve all the problems, including this one

Problem: I have parts operating at different time scales. I want them to be able to work together.

check how orgs help people with different time horizons work together

spend 5 minutes befre a task investigating the short term rewards that doing it will get you, qualitative and quantitative

during a work sprint you can sit quietly or work, but nothing else

notice and slowly disentangle the violence inherent in doing the task

get an accountability buddy

make lists of things you'll be able to do once the thing is done

investigate the things you are held back from doing because the thing isn't done

notice the frustration of all the scaffolding and Just Do It instead

set a time box for work periods and stick to it religiously

treat an urge to work the same as an urge to sleep, something people who don't take seriously wind up with worse outcomes

investigate the work play distinction and dissolve it

see work as getting one over on others

make lists of mental moves involved, mental talk, mental image, sensory feeling. Bring in the elements that aren't present.

treat it as stuck energy and an integral part of spiritual advancement

notice the union of goals

get clearer on goals by figuring out where you want to be and why the different aspects of this feel at odds with each other

notice the hedonic saturation and unsatisfactoriness of most short term joys

notice the malaise of undone to do list items that hangs over and reduces the enjoyment of other things

sit with avoidance

treat any focused work as practice for all focused work. so doing taxes really does help you do more deep research work.

deliberate practice frame, noticing the micro movements that make deep work less engaging or frictional and practicing them until smooth

rewire core metaphors like motorcycle racing slow is smooth, smooth is fast

set mini time limits on things so that parts don't spin in forever feelings

figure out what blocks schedules/alarms you can respect

create a facebook pomodoro group or similar

treat things more like cultivation, changing tasks being just as good as 'taking a break' "a change is as good as a rest"

deity yoga for spiral power

notice the CT skill of including anything as an objection

experiment more with methylphenidate

track what happened directly before you feel strong motivation and do more of those things

reward yourself with good food

notice what bad things you are tolerating in order to ignore things you don't like

try more intermediate solutions without worry that they aren't permanent

clean your workspace and kon marie the relevant items

set a big reward for big project goals, spend up to a significant fraction of the value of the goal, like 10%

assume that despite the fact that everyone else does something a certain way that that way just isn't working for you and find a new way. Taboo actions. i.e. if you magically couldn't do it that way, how else would it get done?

'I wanna be the very best'

See my current health project as a sign of my commitment to investigating and improving energy as an upstream input into motivation. This babbling too. Look for other things to see as integrated with this.

Start collecting things you find motivating in a note and investigate why you find them motivating, then turn up the volume on those underlying factors

Print out a picture of the thing you want

Ask someone to be taught by you about a project in chunks as you complete those chunks yourself

Write a post on the structure of akrasia using what you learn by taking notes on distractions

Deity yoga for slowness, japanese art forms

Figure out who you admire and imagine them being proud. Figure out who you dislike and imagine them being angry that you are succeeding.

Notice negative motivations and invert them. Spend more time on this than you think you should.

Investigate conscientiousness in the academic literature and try on the mental moves of various sub compenents.

Notice what feels off about good mental moves (like using your left hand for things) and get past the initial activation a la exposure therapy.

Do actor training on someone with grit

Treat yourself like you've been imprisoned in this simulation by someone who would be shocked if you escaped quickly.

Bring your whole self to the table.

Clear a space and create a one page plan


spend more time with people who have more regular work schedules

join a coworking space and then feel dumb for wasting money if I don't work

investigate the part that feels like certain time boxes are too short to get anything done in

(The problem I have selected is not necessarily the most important one in my life; I confess I tried to pick one that would let me produce lots of answers, be reasonably relatable for others, and not leak more personal information than I am comfortable with.)

Problem: I don't have so much money that I feel able to retire with confidence that I won't run out. (I am still rather younger than the age at which most people retire, but I would like to be able to do it early, although I might choose to retire only partially in various ways.)

Solutions (I am including partial solutions that definitely don't solve the problem completely, and unlikely solutions that probably don't help at all but could, and stupid solutions that might solve the problem or at least help with it, but at other unacceptable costs):

  1. Adjust my level of paranoia about future adversity. (Before I am comfortable retiring, I need to be confident that even in quite improbably bad possible futures I will not run out.) [4]
    1. Take up Buddhist-style meditation or Stoicism or something of the sort, cultivating an inner conviction that even the worst that can happen (whatever it is) is survivable.
    2. Persuade my wife to take up with someone else and bring our child with her, so that I no longer have to worry about the wellbeing of other people besides myself. (This has obvious adverse consequences of its own. On the other hand, it is also an answer in category 2 below as well as in this category 1.)
    3. Do extensive modelling of plausible financial futures; the how-much-do-I-need heuristics I use are fairly conservative, and perhaps looking at it more closely will show that I don't need to be so careful.
    4. Change my current policy of assuming (almost certainly very counterfactually) that my parents will be immortal, squander all their money, choose to leave it to a dogs' home rather than to me, etc. (I currently make that assumption because (a) I think it's healthier psychologically not to see one's parents' deaths as an opportunity, (b) I think it's healthier psychologically to take responsibility for one's own financial security, and (c) I don't like relying on things that are outside my control. I don't actually think changing this would be good overall.)
  2. Reduce how much money I feel I need in retirement. (Most of these, if implemented immediately, also increase how much I can save, which also helps.) [11]
    1. Get out of the habit of eating fancy food. Buy the cheapest of everything and get used to it, find a repertoire of frugal but edible meals, stop cooking unnecessary things like cakes, etc.
    2. Stop buying books.
    3. Stop upgrading computer hardware; progress has slowed a lot, after all.
    4. Move to a smaller house, thus reducing utility bills and certain local taxes.
    5. Don't have a house at all; live in a caravan or car, or a tent, or become a squatter. (This may also be a way of making 1.2 happen.)
    6. Move to an area where things are cheaper.
    7. Move to a completely different country where things are much cheaper.
    8. Completely give up driving; walk, cycle and use public transport.
    9. Tell my child not to expect any more than the barest minimum assistance from me -- no paying of university fees, no help buying a house, etc. (This may also be a way of making 1.2 happen.)
    10. Abandon hobbies that cost money, replacing them with ones that are free or nearly so.
    11. Contract a disease that greatly shortens my likely lifespan but doesn't require expensive care before my tragically premature death.
  3. Acquire more money. [19]
    1. Just keep on working and saving for a while.
    2. Negotiate aggressively with my employer for a higher salary.
    3. Shop around actively for jobs that might pay more.
    4. Identify changes in my skills, behaviour, etc., that would make me more likely to be promoted, and implement them.
    5. Switch from tech R&D (which is pretty well paid and mostly fun) to finance (which is better paid but I would probably find much less fun).
    6. Move to a city where salaries are higher. (In the UK, currently working in Cambridge, that probably means London. Note that cost of living there is really high so it would not obviously be a win overall.)
    7. Move to a completely different country where salaries are much higher. (That would mean the US. Not the same completely different country as in 2.7 above.)
    8. Wait for my parents to die.
    9. Turn to crime. If sufficiently unprincipled, I could probably find several ways of getting hold of quite a lot of money.
    10. Return to my long-ago-abandoned career in pure mathematics and somehow solve one of the "Milennium Problems". (Not a strategy with a very high probability of success.)
    11. Gamble (e.g., lottery tickets). Negative expectation, of course, but it could solve this problem. Probably more likely to than trying to prove the Riemann Hypothesis.
    12. Start a company and lead it to a successful exit.
    13. Sell some organs.
    14. Sell a lot of my existing possessions. (Most things sell second-hand for much less than they were bought for new; this isn't a great way to raise money.)
    15. Get divorced and marry someone very rich.
    16. Become an artist and persuade the art world that my creations are (or, almost as good, soon will be) super-valuable.
    17. Persuade my wife to take a higher-paid job.
    18. Persuade my child to take a job and hand the income over to me. (Difficult to make much money this way at her current age, even aside from ethical issues and the like.)
    19. Stop donating to charities.
  4. Get other sources of money besides salary and investment earnings/growth. [8]
    1. Write a computer or phone app that people are willing to pay for and remain so for the next several years.
    2. Buy a house (or apartments, or commercial property) and rent it out. Obviously only any use if the rental income plus appreciation minus expenses is more than I currently get in appreciation of other investments.
    3. Invent and patent some wondrous new invention, and collect royalties. (Another low-probability strategy.)
    4. Write books. (Not too difficult to make very small amounts of money this way. More is unfortunately much harder.)
    5. Found a religious cult and let it be known that donations are pleasing to the gods.
    6. Start a pyramid scheme, and watch the suckers' money pour in.
    7. Get elected to high political office. Let it be known that I take bribes.
    8. Get elected to high political office. Let it be known that I might be willing to arrange for regulations to favour certain companies. Just happen to take nicely paid non-exec directorships, advisory posts, etc., with them after leaving office. Of course this is not at all the same as 4.7 above, dear me no.
  5. Change the world in such a way as to invalidate (pessimistic) assumptions implicit above. [5]
    1. Persuade the government of the country where I live to implement a robust universal basic income scheme.
    2. Develop a superintelligent AI, sufficiently well aligned with humanity's interests that the near-magical technologies it develops usher in a new post-scarcity age.
    3. Develop a superintelligent AI, which doesn't give a damn about humanity's interests but is sufficiently well aligned with mine that the near-magical technologies it develops, or the near-magical criminal schemes it thinks up, or whatever, give me everything I need for the rest of my life.
    4. Lead a communist revolution, after which private property is an irrelevance and the glorious all-benevolent state will ensure that everyone has everything they need.
    5. Create a new cryptocurrency and persuade everyone to start using it instead of dollars, RMB, bitcoin, etc.
  6. Other. [3]
    1. Die. My financial needs for retirement are then zero. (This is another one that has a few downsides.)
    2. Abandon my preference for not needing to work. I still won't feel comfortably able to retire, but I won't care any more.
    3. Once such a thing is possible, get uploaded. Virtual-me is probably cheaper to run than real-me.

Improving programming / machine learning skills

I have been working on this on and off for a couple of years as a potential career switch but akrasia is a big barrier so most of my suggestions are to combat this.

I found this a lot harder but I do think the practice with the previous exercises helped me on this one to search wider for solutions, especially as I got nearer the end. Some are things I've already done/started but could do more/better.

  1. Schedule fixed times each week
  2. Reminder on phone
  3. Get someone to ask me how it’s going every week
  4. Join learning group
  5. Join and do Kaggle projects
  6. Look for alternatives to Kaggle
  7. Find a mentor
  8. Sign up for a course
  9. Sign up for more expensive courses to motivate me
  10. Beeminder or something
  11. Ask for suggestions on courses
  12. Read up about Akrasia in general
  13. Look up jobs and requirements
  14. Internship
  15. Find low effort content to combine with high effort
  16. Programming camp
  17. Combine with current job
  18. Look to get reassigned to move more towards field
  19. Look for opportunities within current job to use skills
  20. Break down into smaller tasks
  21. Make full list of everything I want to learn, break it into manageable chunks
  22. Delete games / other distractions from phone
  23. Turn off all push notifications
  24. Timelock phone for times I should be learning
  25. Stop being lazy
  26. Just give up (cut my losses)
  27. Choose something else to learn
  28. Be more direct in what I actually need to learn instead of what is suggested in courses
  29. Focus on the bits I actually enjoy
  30. Take a couple of weeks break guilt-free, come back refreshed
  31. Play music whilst working
  32. Look if anyone has made Anki Decks
  33. Read data science blogs
  34. Watch data science youtube stuff
  35. Don’t do too much at once (avoid burnout)
  36. Do lots all at once (Do it when I have the motivation)
  37. Take more regular breaks whilst doing it
  38. Just start and see if I feel like it once I’ve been doing it for 10 minutes
  39. Get more comfy work chair
  40. Get better equipment
  41. Focus on the goal
  42. Get more sleep for better energy
  43. Reward myself after I’ve done something
  44. Talk about my successes with people
  45. Write up what I’ve learnt

Create a fun exercise:

  1. Ex1: Robot raspberry pi
  2. Ex2: Checkers learner
  3. Ex3: Minecraft mod
  4. Ex4: Look up fun projects online
  5. Ex5: Write bot for Darwin game (and then fail to submit it…)

I want to spend time with more meaningful things, therefore: 

50 ways to simplify life/save time (some of these things solve the problem indirectly. For example going out of my comfort zone and making communicating routine results having it easier in future social situations etc.):

  1. Delete unnecessary accounts
  2. Use password manager
  3. Delete unnecessary apps/programs
  4. Unsubscribe from newsletters, instead read in-depth literature on things I want to learn
  5. Delete screenshots of e-book pages (after I noted the relevant part down)
  6. Do stuff from the doing later list now
  7. Keep only the most important bookmarks
  8. Use mind palace for daily chores, as a calendar, to memorize recipes etc.
  9. Learn shortcuts
  10. Less light information sources
  11. Spend more time with people I love or find interesting (less with others)
  12. Create a capsule wardrobe
  13. Start onetime projects and finish them fast if they bring joy/are useful
  14. Otherwise discard them
  15. Get another plant within next five days or gift the pot (reminds me otherwise of my old one ;-;)
  16. No mindless browsing allowed
  17. Search for feedback (so I do less unnecessary work)
  18. Raise my hand in class every time I think of an answer
  19. Try things from my try-things-list
  20. Write regularly on LessWrong
  21. Become a Toastmaster and regularly attend events
  22. Participate in competitions
  23. Learn another memory technique (forgot the name)
  24. Find out what others think of me
  25. Start to think more realistic about myself
  26. Donate and gift a lot of my stuff
  27. Break big things into smaller and easier things
  28. Spending 10 min fully focused on a thing I want to learn everyday (increase to more things/more time)
  29. Write down things I want to do, learn etc. Assign numbers from 1 to 10 according to how important they are. Discard the things on the end of the list.
  30. Assign to the rest of the list numbers according to how easy they are and start doing  them
  31. Read books about how to efficiently interact with other people, mental math and other mind tools etc.
  32. (After I read through most of the books I have) Create an account on goodreads
  33. Establish rules for when buying things (for example a certain price, certain colours, only necessary things etc.)
  34. Delegate tasks
  35. Learn how to focus better (reading about it, experimenting)
  36. Set timers when working on tasks
  37. Remove everything which could distract me
  38. Own only a few things so that cleaning will never be a problem again, cause any arrangement out of all the things I own looks cool and creative
  39. Tell others to gift me only non-consumer things
  40. Meditate lots and become enlightend
  41. Figure out how to become more effective and rational
  42. Live from now on like a cave woman
  43. Act like crazy and get into a psychiatry
  44. Commit a serious crime and get caught
  45. Die
  46. Marry somebody rich who is completely okay with... well, me
  47. Almost die and as a result stop being able to care for myself
  48. Program the ultimate AI companion
  49. Help humanity so that humanity owes me and I never have to do a thing myself ever again muhahahahaha
  50. Define existing as meaningful

Time it took: When I remove the time I spend on writing something down, getting up and doing it and than coming back to delete the thing I wrote (sometimes, sometimes not) .... It took me less than... forty/fifty minutes?

2 and 4 are both things I implemented with great results.

Do you have a good link about mind palaces?

I have read two books which cover the memory palace. One of them was written by Dominic O'Brien and I am pretty sure it was 'How to Develop a Perfect Memory'. It covers awesome memory techniques. Than the other one: It was written by Barbara Oakley. It does not goes far into memory palaces I believe (I read them years ago), but it changed the way I think about my memory, therefore it has been a very valuable book. I have not read much more about those topics though (therefore recommendations are always appreciated). The way I build my own palace is quite different though than what I have read:  My palace is made out of places I liked a lot (from real life, video games, ones I came up with etc.). You could say it is made out of two parts: The main memory palace, (for everyday tasks like chores, grocery list etc.) I use it, 'reset' and than I use it again. I had a vague idea on how it should look like and than I quickly sketched it out (just for aiding, it was lots of fun). Than it branches off in many smaller memory palaces, which are only used for a certain thing. There is a place for physics, life plans, Alicorn's techniques from the luminosity sequence, how to write a good essay, rationality tools, reminders, words I want to learn etc. etc. I create those rooms spontaneously and I only rarely throw something out of there: For example if I have found a better mind tool than the previous one.  This works really well for me. Now I just need way more rooms for the calendar project (this and the one with the language learning is from O'Brien's book) -> for every month one road and 'rooms' for every single day (it should be an open place so you can easily look back on how the month went) and I need to use it more for dailies and recipes instead of the old way I memorized things, but

Problem: What speeches should Ray give or cause to happen at Solstice this year?

  • Epistemic horror at 2020
  • We traumatized each other a bit. Alas.
  • We've been lonely awhile. Geez.
  • Meditation on Winter (mostly classic)
  • Person A is right.
  • Person A is wrong.
  • Person B was right? Wrong? Person B just wants a regular solstice, dunno.
  • Beyond the Reach of God
  • We did a lot of good things re Covid this year.
  • We wasted our time this year.
  • Clock of the Long Now. Big Future.
  • Redo of Siderea's Spanish Flu thing.
  • 500 million
  • Person C's grandma / Year
  • Person D's Year
  • Montage of imaginary people's year
  • The remote first community hypothesis
  • Friends are people who grew up together.
  • Sorry to the people who were left adrift
  • Gratitude for the people who tried
  • What did the sacrifice mean?
  • Virtues of rationality for the year
  • Who are we trying to become?
  • There are no growups
  • History of plagues
  • Epistemic horror at politics
  • Regular horror at politics
  • While we were fretting about covid, GPT3 happened.
  • Get GPT3 to write a speech by Eliezer
  • What was it like, for Ray in particular (honest version)
  • What was it like, for Ray in particular (censored version)
  • The Virtue of Darkness
  • The Virtue of Fire
  • What does the virtue of Ash mean to Ray?
  • The Black Death may have been responsible for industrial progress. Epistemic horror / awkwardness
  • Inside history, you don't get to know whether you're in a downswing or not.
  • Good things happen slowly. Bad things happen fast
  • Reason isn't magic (i.e. we did 'okay' this year, but there were limits to how well we could have done)
  • Meditation on the present (who are we, today, right now?)
  • Meditation on the past (previous generations of plague)
  • Governor of Georgia
  • Decentralization (optimistic spin on "I can't take care of all of you")
  • Remember to have friends
  • Meditation on the Future - What's the 25th, 75th and 50th percentile future look like?
  • Growing up together - Friends are people you grew up with. I wish we were better coordinated this year, but I'm not sure you get to get good at coordination without having something like 2020 happen to you.
  • Keeping on just doing what needed to be done, without getting overly distracted by covid
  • Our intellectual lineage
  • Questions worth asking about how we handled this year
  • Narrative Gravity
  • Getting curious

 50 Ways of improving my financial situation:


1) Look for a higher paying job

2) Look for a bank account that pays a higher rate of interest

3) Put money in an ISA

4) Research undervalued shares, and then buy some

5) Search for treasure

6) Buy cheaper food

7) Go on fewer holidays

8) Buy a lottery ticket

9) Cancel the TV license

10) Move to a property where you have to pay less council tax

11) Be more careful at turning off electrical appliances when you aren't using them to reduce the electricity bill.

12) Wash less often to reduce the water bill.

13) Stop using my smart phone.

14) Sign up to a site that pays you for doing surveys

15) Join Amazons Mechanical Turk

16) Sell things I no longer need on an online website

17) Find somewhere to live with a lower rent

18) Turn the heating down

19) Try and find an electricity provider with lower prices

20) Try and find and internet service provider with lower charges

21) Buy more things second hand

22) Look for a part time job in the weekends/evenings

23) Put more money into the pension

24) Wait for sales before buying things, if there purchase can be delayed

25) Found a company, and hope it is a big success

26) Look for a self help book on getting rich

27) Do training for a profession where the salaries are higher

28) Take any overtime opportunities if they are offered at work

29) Go on fewer day trips

30) Try and get more done during the working day in the hope of getting a bigger bonus

31) Be careful to use any vouchers you get at the supermarket

32) Hunt around for any discount codes you can use with on line retailers

33) Move the bank account to one that pays you an incentive for switching

34) Do more research to find the lowest possible price before buying something

35) Move to a country with a lower tax rate

36) Recycle old ink cartridges for cash

37) Ask for a pay rise

38) Take advantage of refer a friend offers

39) Use split ticketing more often to cut the amount spent on rail tickets

40) Write a book and try to get it published

41) Enter competitions to win things instead of buying them

42) Take part in medical drug trials for money

43) Make a horrible piece of modern art and enter it for the Turner prize to win a lot of money

44) Don't visit the family as often

45) Invest in companies via brokers that charge lower fees

46) Ensure my savings accounts that pay the highest amount of interest always have the maximum amount of money in them

47) Take advantage of zero percent credit card deals to delay paying them off. I will gain a bit more money by keeping it in the bank for longer.

48) Try and find a company that will insure my possessions for less.

49) Learn how to repair clothes instead of buying new ones.

50) Create a website and get money from hosting adverts

The intutive way of reading the question as (trying to) solve an actual problem seems very hard for me. (Challenge factor real) (Challenge factor personal). I get to essentially pick what I would try to solve and I feel overwhelmed by that (Challenge factor choice paralysis).

I still feel like sticking to a timelimit is helpful and actually working your brain is helpful. However I am going to massively chicken on this one. I don't f grow stronger if after putting shoes on and then practising trying shoelaces I am suddenly thrust into a marathon.

Faced with the sandbox of the universe, what one should do? (This problem is still somewhat relevant as depression and meaninglessness are actual rather than hypothetical issues)

(The facing the question phase seems to have already practised the babble skill as I have circumnavigated areas that feel suppressive into an area where I geniunely feel I can accomplish something (yes,but... rather than no))

  1. Discover the laws of nature
  2. Build a great house and culture around it
  3. Find the most scenic views in the universe
  4. Find the most compelling dramas, fact or fiction
  5. Discover what kinds of life can exist
  6. Make for the most extended experience (outlive everything)
  7. Make the most complex thought and presence with the most extended brain and mediation
  8. You probably spawn into the world midway. Cataloque all the stars, all the past events.
  9. Discover what kind of life is the most optimal at profileration. Solve the game theory of the universe.
  10. Make the most connected universe by encompassing everything in a communication network
  11. Question what is existence and deduce what kind of superdimensional existence leaves a hydrogen-dust shadow universe
  12. Explore and find the most rich structure. Marvel at the map of all of computation.
  13. Max out affordances and puppetmaster the world at your whim.
  14. Max-out wireheading by building the most tranquil solipsistic trap with the most pleasing simulation (instead of transcending, descend)
  15. Max out the most spontaneouity by having the greatest and wildest adventure
  16. Form the most deepest connections by learning about all of the sentience of the universe, every detail of every occupants life
  17. Map out phenomology and study what kind of artistic expereiences are possible. Find all the styles and all the art forms
  18. Find the most energy efficient way for dust to collapse into a galaxyfaring civilization
  19.  Find the most nurturing way of achieving the most numerous amounts of most autonomous other agents that maxime their own expression.
  20. Locate yourself in the multiverse possibility space
  21. Figure out the possible techtree variations
  22. Map out madness
  23. Find the most effortless way of existing by having the least amount thoughts
  24. Make the most dense energy packing (why, but I guess it is an achievement, it means the biggest black hole, right?)
  25. Find the most painless way to stave off ennui
  26. Figure out the longest possible trajectory of possiblities to keep the universe the most unique as long as possible (max out snowflake)
  27. Solve all the puzzles of the world with all the starting resource combinations
  28. Make the most hard to predict circumstances possible and experience greatest surprise
  29. Figure out the minial set of assumtions to ascend to world mastery
  30. Find out the minimal brain to answer every question poseable
  31. Find out the optimal code to max out artistic expereince for the widest variety of psychologies (the ultimate game)
  32. Fix chair
  33. Fix sleep rythm
  34. Learn to be in connection to other people
  35. Master all the sports
  36. Master all the professions
  37. Master a profession
  38. Be okay with your limitations
  39. Write a game
  40. Actually research in preparation to writing a game
  41. Actually discuss hard things
  42. Find people that would help me write a game with
  43. Identify what makes me hold back
  44. Finish projects that I start
  45. Start projects that I think
  46. Think about actually burning problems
  47. Be okay to say when a problem seem frivolous
  48. Problemsolve when the solution is not in sight
  49. Experience own life even when it doesn't match expectations
  50. Be in the moment even if it seems to turn into a problem I might fail to solve

~ 50 minutes

Question too nebolous to do safeties.

I felt that I got around limitations in thinking. The problem framing started to shift a lot around 32. It didn't seem that I actually shifted question. I feel like getting the first stuff out of the way was helping in the process. There seems to be some meta-blockage that was in fact cleared by "just doing it" and what the "it" was seemed nebolous but it also seemed helpful it was allowed to be nebolous. It allowed me to stay true also to the minority thoughts.

The problem I have and wish to solve is, of course, the accurséd Akrasia that stops me from working on AI safety.

Let's begin with the easy ones:

1 Stop doing this babble challenge early and go try to solve AI safety.

2 Stop doing this babble challenge early; at 11 pm, specifically, and immediately sleep, in order to be better able to solve AI safety tomorrow.

In fact generally sleep seems to be a problem, I spend 10 hours doing it every day (could be spent solving AI safety) and if I fall short I am tired. No good! So working on this instrumental goal.

3 Get blackout curtains to improve sleep quality

4 Get sleep mask to improve sleep quality

5 Get better mattress to improve sleep quality

6 Find a beverage with more caffeine to reduce the need for sleep

7 Order modafinil online to reduce the need for sleep

And heck while we're on the topic of stimulants

8 Order adderall online or from a friend to increase ability to focus

9 Look up good nootropics stacks to improve cognitive ability and hence ability to do AI safety

Now another constraint when doing AI safety is that I don't have a good shovel-ready list of things to try, and it's easy for me to get distracted if I can't just pick something from the task list

10 Check if complice solves this problem

11 Check if some ordinary getting-things-done (that I can stick into roam) solves this problem

12 Make a giant checklist and go down this list

13 Make a personal kanban board of things that would be nice for solving AI safety

And instrumentally useful for creating these task lists?

14 Ask friends who know about AI safety for things to do

15 Apophatically ask for suggestions for things to do via an entry on a list of 50 items for a lesswrong babble challenge

Anyway, I digress. I'm here to solve akrasia, not make a checklist. Unless I need more items on this list, in which case I will go back to checklist construction. Is this pruning? Never mind. Back to the point:

16 Set up some desktop shortcut macro thing in order to automatically start pomodoros when I open my laptop

17 Track time spent doing things useful to AI safety on a spreadsheet

18 Hey, I said "laptop"! Get a better mouse to make using the laptop more fun so I'm more likely to do hard things when using it

19 Get a better desk for more space for notes and to require less expensive shifting into/out of AI safety mode

20 On notes, use the index cards I have to make a proper zettelkasten as a cognitive aid

(Does this solve akrasia? Well, if I have better cognitive aids, then doing cognitively expensive things is easier, so I'm less likely to fail even with my current levels of willpower)

21 Start doing accountability things like promising to review a paper every X time period

22 I said levels of willpower - Google for interventions that increase conscientiousness (there's gotta be some dodgy big-5 based things) and do those?

Back to the top of the tree

23 Quit my job because it's using up energy that I could be using to do AI safety

24 Instead of doing my job, pretend to do my job while actually doing AI safety

25 Set up an AI safety screen on work laptop so it's easy to switch over to doing AI safety during breaks or lunches

Hey, I said lunch

26 Use nutritionally complete meal replacements to save time/willpower that would be spent on food preparation

27 Use nutritionally complete meal replacements to ensure that nutrient intake keeps me in top physical form

28 Exercise (this improves everything, apparently) by running on a treadmill

29 By lifting weights

30 By jogging in a large circle

31 Become a monk and live an austere lifestyle without the distractions of rich food, wine, and lust

32 Become an anti-monk and live a rich lifestyle to ensure that no willpower is wasted on distractions

33 Specifically in vice use nicotine as a performance enhancing stimulant by smoking. Back to stimulants again I guess

34 ... or by using nicotine patches or gum or something

35 By using nicotine only if I do AI safety things, in order to develop an addiction to AI safety

Hey, develop an addiction to doing AI safety! People go to serious lengths for addictions, so why not gate it on math?

36 Do so with something very addictive, like opioids

37 Use electric shocks to do classical conditioning

etc. there was a short sci-fi story about this kind of thing let me see if I can find it. Hey, actually, since I said sci-fi, adn this is a babble challenge:

38 Promise very hard to time travel back to this exact point in time, meet future self, recieve advice

(They're not here :( Oh well) Back on that akrasia-solving:

39 Make up a far-future person who I am specifically working to save (they're called Dub See Wun). Get invested in their internal life (they want to make their own star!). Feel an emotional connection to them. I'm doing it for them!

40 Specifically put up a "do it for them" poster modelled off the one in the Simpsons

41 DuckDuckGo "how to beat akrasia" and do the top suggestion

42 Adopt strategic probably false beliefs (the world will end in 1 year!! :0) in order to encourage a more aggressive search for strategies

"Aggressive search for strategies" is the virtue that the Sequences call "actually trying", so in the Sequences-sphere

43 Go to a CFAR workshop, which I heard might be kind of useful towards this sort of thing

44 Or just read the CFAR booklet and apply the wisdom found in there

45 Or some sequence on Lesswrong with exercises that applies some CFARy wisdom

Of course all this willpower boosting and efficiency and stuff wouldn't help if I was just doing the wrong thing faster (like that one Shen comic, you know the one). So:

46 Consider how much of what I think is working on AI safety is actually just self-actualisy math/CS stuff, throw that out, and actually try to solve the problem

47 Deliberately create and encourage a subagent in my mind that wants to do AI safety (call em Dub See Wun)

48 Adopt strategic infohazards in order to encourage a more focused and aggressive search for strategies

49 Post a lot about AI safety in public forums like Lesswrong so that I feel compelled to do AI safety in my private life in order to maintain the illusion that I'm some kind of AI-safety-doing-person

50 Stop doing this babble challenge at the correct time, and continue to do AI safety or sleep as in 1) or 2). Hey, this one seems good. Think I might try it now!

Problem: I have few friends and am becoming depressed. I have a few roommates but they already have full social lives to fulfil them. The zoom calls at work are not sending my brain signals that I am an accepted member of the clan. Having been isolated like this before, I know I will become increasingly depressed until all my outputs suffer.

  1. Write "Talk to me about anything" on a whiteboard and sit in a public park. Wait for people to approach and talk to me.

  2. Join a crossfit group. People are always talking about it so it must be fulfillling. It's expensive but worth.

  3. Join an ultimate frisbee team. They are dormant atm but some people play pickup on weekends.

  4. Talk to EVERY PERSON at the frisbee pickup. Invite them out for dinner on a Monday night. Someone must be lonely too.

  5. Text my roommates all the time asking how their days were. Try and add enough value to be let in.

  6. Download grindr. Say on my profile "not gay but I need friends, invite me out with your crew"

  7. Download coffee meets donut

  8. Borrow a fancy camera and talk Bokeh effect pictures for my bumble, so I go on more dates -> more social contact

  9. Start running every saturday morning. Crisscross the city. If I see a pack of runners, seemlessly integrate with them.

  10. Adopt a dog.

  11. Try to network into other programs at my university. Maybe make friends in the economics deparment.

  12. Hang out in bookstores and look busy. Start conversations with people about books.

  13. Every evening do my studies in a random outdoor cafe. Bring the "talk to me" sign.

  14. Make a friend with a dog. Over to walk their dog for them. Use the dog to make friends with other dog owners. Walk their dogs. Repeat.

  15. Join the local radical libertarians. Maybe they hang out in person???

  16. There are no volunteer opportunities in my city, but in other cities that would be a great way to make friends.

  17. Go kayaking alone. Wait around on rocks and try to make friends on them like a mermaid.

  18. Go on a long distance bike trip. Try and track down other bikers and befriend them.

  19. Make way more eye contact in other interactions.

  20. On the weekends groups of young men stand around outside a pizza place. Every weekend night try to make friends with at least one of them.

  21. Print out signs that say "friends wanted" and have my phone number around town.

  22. Get in stupid arguments on the internet so I feel some interaction.

  23. Move to China.

  24. Move to a different city that is more open.

  25. Spend my weekends across the state lines in a more open area.

  26. Sit on the benches in my university with the "talk to me about anything" sign.

  27. Run around and look for stairs that people run up and down. Become one of the stairs running people. Friends. Profit.

  28. Bring brownies to the frisbee games. People feel indebted to me. They become my friend.

  29. Hang out in front of the White House and give directions to tourists for the social interaction.

  30. Sign up for any and all events I can find. Show up alone. Talk to at least one person per venue.

  31. Try never mentioning to other people that I'm lonely for a week. If they don't know, they might hang out with me.

  32. Learn a street performance skill like breakdancing. Perform in parks.

  33. Do all of my reading in public parks, so that I have a chance to meet someone.

  34. Give up and become depressed.

  35. Move to a rural area where people don't social distance.

  36. Spend an entire day outside, more time = more opportunities for friendmaking. Stay out of my room 12 hours a day.

  37. Go to popular brunch places. Sit outside with a sign that says "new in town, want to get brunch?"

  38. Go to parks with my frisbee every day before dark. Throw the frisbee for myself. Invite local parkgoers to join.

  39. Go to the local basketball court. I'm terrible but could make friends.

  40. Call all the local churches. Ask if they have in person services. Make friends there.

  41. Call all the local mosques. Go to the post-mosque tea-drinking sessions (I speak Arabic).

  42. Become a sex worker.

  43. Buy a car and drive uber.

  44. Figure out which TV shows are popular right now. Watch them all. Bring up in conversation.

  45. Start a bookclub. Put up signs about my bookclub all over the neighbourhood. Pick fun books to read.

  46. Get a lobotomy.

  47. Buy a cat. Take the cat on walks???

  48. Build a boat out of driftwood on the shore of the potomac.

  49. Start a serious drug habit. Move into a house with other drug users. Make friends.

  50. Learn to unicycle. Become that guy who unicycles around town (or pogo stick or skateboard).

  51. Take up rock climbing.

Wow that does feel better.

Problem: I want to keep learning, growing and levelling up in various skills. Become a better musician, coder, designer, leader, and so forth. I want to avoid plateauing in domains I care about. 

  • 1. Find side projects that are fun and small, such that they're easy to do and I want to do them.
  • 2. Take away the schleps from levelling up, which is often the overhead of figuring out exactly *how* to go about it, e.g. by:
  • 3 Hire tutors/personal trainers.
  • 4 Work with colleagues who keep levelling up and thereby putting implicit pressure on me to do so.
  • 5 Curate a list of tutorials that I'd be really excited to try. A tutorial is just a effort in --> learning out machine!
  • 6 Pay deliberate metacognition to where I make mistakes, and have a routine of doing this at a fixed interval, so I know where my growth edges are.
  • 7 Have a video repeatedly playing on a screen in the corner of someone learning something. Social pressure!
  • 8 Choose work projects with an eye to one I don't yet know how to do, which will force me to learn.
  • 9 Meditate and do visualisation on myself as an agent capable of learning and growth, such that I don't flinch away from things I don't know how to do, and at a deep level become more inclined to reach towards them.
  • 10 Have a regular time interval habit (e.g. once a quarter) of showing my work to people with mastery or a high skill level, and asking them how to improve. In particular doing this with the same person over time so they can have a sense of whether I'm growing or not
  • 11 Keep finding quantitative metrics of the skills I care about. Track them, and check that they're growing over time.
  • 12 Challenge a friend to who can achieve the highest skill in a domain. The competition will motivate me to try harder.
  • 13 Pick domains of learning where it's easy to make progress but highly unlikely to ever reach the end. (I wonder what this would be??)
  • 14 Post about my intentions publicly, thereby committing me to them more strongly.
  • 15 Go around to a bunch of people who seem like they achieved mastery and didn't plateau, ask for their secrets.
  • 16 Make a Bountied Rationality post for someone to review the literature on this for me.
  • 17 Create a community of people dedicated to continual improvement, and have everyone try things and figure out the best strategies
  • 18 Manipulate an evil person into blackmail me into doing something terrible to me unless I keep improving.
  • 19 Get a powerful and inspiring tattoo about continual progress.
  • 20 Watch a motivation video each morning.
  • 21 Go to 5 friends. Ask each to check in with me at a particular point in the future (can be as short as 1 week and as long as 2 years), to ask a particular set of questions to see if I'm still levelling up, and, if not, commit to sit down *right there and then* to find ways of solving that problem
  • 22 Same as 21, but using the postal service that sends a letter to yourself at a particular point in the future.
  • 23 Come up with a set of potential strategies, then design mechanical turk studies to see which ones actually work.
  • 24 Become a motivation speaker about continual improvement, to the point where I would feel like a total hypocrite if I didn't actually practice what I preached myself.
  • 25 Figure out the neurology of learning, and what supplements to eat to learn more.
  • 26 Figure out if there's some trauma etc. that's holding me back from learning and particular domain, and, if so, do therapy for that.
  • 27 Have a slack channel where I keep posting little messages when I've learnt something new/expanded a growth edge, and where give praise and motivation (and where others can also post about their learnings)
  • 28 Have a monthly "challenge", where I pick some goal that seems like I can't really do it, but give myself a month to accomplish it.
  • 29 Same as 28, but have someone else pick my goal -- just like a wise master, they can push further than I thought was possible.
  • 30 Do regular metacognition to maintain a sense of where I can have the highest returns to skill growth (e.g. instead of trying to move from 99.9th to 99.99th percentile guitarist, moving from 50th to 99th percentile coder)
  • 31 Fill my social media feeds with people who keep growing and learning, get rid of people who plateau
  • 32 Become an artist and create art that's hyper-optimised to inspire me in particular to keep learning
  • 33 Go through some instances when I was really excited to learn something, and actually wen through with it; and try to meditate on why I was excited and what value I derive, so that I can do more of that.
  • 34 Read account of great figures from history and their learning protocols
  • 35 If I feel like I can't grow more, make things harder for myself. If push-ups are too easy, use a weight vest. If coding some app is too easy, see if I can do it twice as fast. If designing a thing in photoshop is too easy, see if I can do it using only the keyboard and not the mouse.
  • 36 Set myself exciting goals and rewards that'll only be paid out if I manage to reach a certain level in some skill.
  • 37 Actually just list down all the skills I care about growing in. Just reifying them into an external list might make me more likely to start noticing and analysing when I am and am not growing.
  • 38 Just have an open-ended, meandering conversation about skill growth with a friend.
  • 39 Do a babble challenge on skill growth.
  • 40 Design my life to have a bunch of "equilibirum popping mechanisms" -- things that make it such that I can't really get locked into an equilibirum. My ask some clever friend to make plots to make my life absurd once a year, have weekly reviews/check-ins with a coach, etc., in ways where I shake things up and reevaluate.
  • 41 Move city, move house, move team, change furniture. Shake things up and see if it has good effects.
  • 42 Set aside some time daily or weekly to actually practice new skills. Even if in a less relevant domain (say, knitting). Just having the habits and culture around me of learning a skill in one domain, will keep those muscles alert and have positive overflow effects into other domains.
  • 43 Make big spectacles of my monthly challenges (mentioned above), e.g. using Twitch streams and FB events, such that I feel really motivated to do something great.
  • 44 Treat it like an interesting science problem: how can I figure out the optimal way for me to learn? Solve that science problem.
  • 45 Keep exploring and trying random new things. Have a day a month to say, sample a Wikipedia list of "list of activities (filtering for things I've never done), and then do those things.
  • 46 Try to learn a skill backwards and with only one hand, see if I discover more surface area on how it works.
  • 47 Apply for jobs requiring skills I don't have, or announce events requiring skills I don't have, forcing me to learn in order to pull those things off.
  • 48 Figure out how to make progress in a domain where I am among the experts, and there are no tutorials or obvious next steps. Otherwise this seems like a strong failure mode for where I would plateau.
  • 49 Instead of thinking of it as "learning"; think of it as "trying" different "styles". E.g. if I've always only done object-oriented programming, then do functional programming. If I've been designing things Tufte-style, look for a different way of making graphs. Try to build up a mental library of models or styles, such that I can compare and triage as needed. The term "horizontal learning instead of vertical learning" comes to mind. I've never heard it before, so if it already means something else, that's an accident.
  • 50 Invest in things like sleep, exercise and nutrition. Lack of energy is probably a key failure mode preventing from learning and growing.
7 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 1:26 AM

I'm afraid I find the challenge statement inconsistent and confusing.

First you say "hurled into existence, facing an empty universe". Then you talk about things like uncomfortable chairs and math olympiad scores. And then you say "in your life". Are you looking for each participant to identify a specific problem they actually face? Or one a hypothetical person might face? Or one someone in an otherwise empty universe might face?

I think you intend the first of those. But the rhetorical flourishes around the challenge all seem to point in other directions, so I want to check.

I intend the first one. I'll edit the flourishes to clarify!

Thanks. (I see that once again I have made an answer where I intended to make a comment. LW devs, if any are reading this: maybe consider whether there's a way to make this mistake harder to make? Though it's possible that I'm just uniquely careless and no one else has the same problem.)

I found it confusing as well (but decided it had to be the first since it wouldn't otherwise be called 'applied babble').

This week we’re trying something new: applied babble. I haven’t tried it before, so am very curious to see what will happen.

By my count, this is the second applied babble challenge jacobjacob has given us. But I guess not all of us yearn for the stars to the same degree I do.