This is the public group rationality diary for July 12th - August 1st, 2015. It's a place to record and chat about it if you have done, or are actively doing, things like:

  • Established a useful new habit

  • Obtained new evidence that made you change your mind about some belief

  • Decided to behave in a different way in some set of situations

  • Optimized some part of a common routine or cached behavior

  • Consciously changed your emotions or affect with respect to something

  • Consciously pursued new valuable information about something that could make a big difference in your life

  • Learned something new about your beliefs, behavior, or life that surprised you

  • Tried doing any of the above and failed

Or anything else interesting which you want to share, so that other people can think about it, and perhaps be inspired to take action themselves. Try to include enough details so that everyone can use each other's experiences to learn about what tends to work out, and what doesn't tend to work out.

Archive of previous rationality diaries

Note to future posters: no one is in charge of posting these threads. If it's time for a new thread, and you want a new thread, just create it. It should run for about two weeks, finish on a Saturday, and have the 'group_rationality_diary' tag.

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9 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 9:48 AM

After writing a story-like object, in which my background research indicated that it's within the realm of reasonable possibility for the first em to be created as early as 2030, with all sorts of socioeconomic disruption ensuing therefrom...

... I've noticed myself explicitly asking myself, "What would the me of 15 years from now think about that?", or "What would the me of 15 years from now want me to have been doing now?". And in addition to consider the perspective of someone facing a widescale socioeconomic disruption, I'm also using, as a comparison, what I in the present think about my younger self of 2000 AD, and trying to think of what my 2000-AD-self would have thought about by 1985-AD-self.

It's such a simple little thing, and so obvious, that it seems likely that a lot of other people have been using it for quite some time, and I'm rather a ninny for only starting to apply it at this late date. However, it has been enough to help me nudge my behaviour in certain ways that my existing tricks haven't quite managed - avoiding a bit of junk food here, reconsidering how to publicly present myself there, and so on. And so, this comment, just in case someone else has been missing out on applying this bit of perspective as I'd been.


I've begun a concentrated effort to train in practical application for all the knowledge I gained from reading rationality!

It's a fairly simplistic system; I review the content I want to distill, and then organize/compact it into related modules. Since I've a good memory for reading, simplifying the techniques to sub-listing of a few words does not shed what it expands to internally. I then review the content regularly and forecast what it's application might look like, and think back on when I missed out on a chance to use it. Associative actions help me notice these in a meaningful way. (snapping fingers).

A given week's content will be reviewed at length during it's time, and previous week's content will be reviewed in a much more compact form so I don't lose the habits formed.

I'm starting the system off with Lesswrong's anti-akrasia content and Part A of EY's book, along with some other posts I think had useful concepts.

Do I count as a Level 1 Rationalist now?

I am not qualified to judge (hint: no one is but you); but I can ask the question as to whether reviews of reading is practical application? I have noticed a failure mode of myself to gather a lot of knowledge and not actually apply it.

What would be extra-awesome is if you notice yourself finding practical places to use rationality and then coming back and sharing the ones you find effective in your life with us.

[Meta] Discussion of the rationality diary goes here.


1. Became more optimistic

I've been listening to Givewell's audio recordings, including phone conversations and board meetings. I found they included some non-textual clues to the attitudes Givewell stakeholders have, that I didn't pick up on from other documents. An important downside is that the relevance of the audio, since it doesn't get updated and there aren't many of the files (and they're old!). Never-the-less, there are a number of hours of content that make a ready substitute for banal podcasts.

In one of them, the cofounder associated with the Open Philanthropy Project mentioned that he viewed Open Borders as a politically intractable problem. On another document elsewhere, there are mentions of an organisation that does policy work called the Center for Global Development. They identify that there are no international conventions to facilitate Governments to accept environmental refugees. I like the way they frame the issue as something Governments would want to do, if they could (presumably, they would be held to the status quo by the populace as things stand). Anyhow, I looked up whether my own Australian government has mechanisms to facilitate them based on domestic law, and we don't. This is concerning given our place in the pacific and climate change.

I just wanted to point out that climate change may precipitate greater support for environmental refugee migration. If the definition for environmental refugees overlaps with the existing definition of economic refugees, which are currently frowned upon unless they offer specific skills the host country wants, then there may be more a timely opportunity to advocate for open borders. I decided to post this because seeing opportunities (effective altruism) in threats (climate change) pushes my buttons on both strategy and optimism fronts, and hopefully does something for you too, reader.

2. Overcame some rationalisation over spatial-focalising (could someone word that better?)

Why does the EA forums post from Givewell about overseas giving > local giving quote a $10 figure for bednets, while the otherwise identical article on givewell [quote](] $5? In any case, I wanted to mention that this seemingly minor article has made EA about +3% more important to me, from a pie of 100% importance while in a my baseline mental state. I'd say EA is about 6% of my total interest in things in that state. I wanted to point out how much impact that article has on me cause I suspect it's undervalued how much local interests may dominate a person's concerns and be the underlying feature being protected in hesitation to be more EA.

3. Started thinking about an EA metaevaluator

80000 ought to give survey respondents gift vouchers for EA charities to get them started and so they didn't actually lose money on the process (they pay out more than the price of their advice). Far out. Maybe we need an EA organisation evaluation. Who will watch the watchmen?

4. Shifted health research priority setting paradigms

Many developing countries lack evidence-based processes to inform health spending allocations. For example, India subsidizes open heart surgery while child vaccination rates remain low; Egypt spent a fifth of its health budget to send a few fortunate people overseas for medical care while one-of-five children were stunted. CGD’s Priority-Setting Institutions for Global Health working group proposed in >a 2012 report the creation of a new institution to support developing countries and donors in making better-informed resource allocation decisions for healthcare. In March 2014, the UK's Department for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, drawing on technical support from CGD, announced their support for the creation of the newInternational Decision Support Initiative (iDSI) led by NICE International -The Centre for Global Development (CGDev)

The coming generation of priority setting institutions focus on cost-effectiveness research - econometrics.

We don't need more cost-effectiveness research, according to Givewel. I tell you, this hits me hard, personally. Sunk costs.

Then what do we need? Is it institutions that focus on outreach to the public enroute to policy-makers?

CGDev isn't stupid. They got a GiveWell grant, and they invented Advanced Market Commitments. For those who don't know:

Before CGD's Making Markets for Vaccines working group convened, pharmaceutical companies had little incentive to invest in the development of vaccines for diseases primarily affecting low-income countries. The working group, co-chaired by Ruth Levine, designed a new approach called Advance Market Commitments, under which donors promise to buy a vaccine against a specific disease when and if such a vaccine is developed.

I presume that it isn't the cost-effectiveness that's a problem, nor communication of the research. I mean, in terms of that they lay it right out for American political candidates. It's a shame no organisation does anything similar for Australia, or makes a government neutral guide.

So, I suspect it's the very fact that evaluation of development isn't conducted at all many times. Not enough data collection, more than enough data analysts! What a funny thing when people forsee a shortage in data analysts, but all that big data is about how to sell more packs of smokes and such.

CGDev is leading the charge in closing the gap and making replication in development science more prestigious.

it seems. I love the eloquent way they frame the problem. And here's a nice video to make it easy to understand. I wonder, then, why there is a shortage of places in international development for volunteers to go and do things. Perhaps an organisation could be created to recruit locals and foreigners to collect data as attaches to other organisations. I'll explore what already exists shortly. I suspect my recent productivity is due to a bit of hypomania and I ought to spend more time on padding myself for the coming depression, than doing all this EA stuff. I won't be able to have a big impact if I kill myself...

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