The sad truth of life is that there is a difference between knowing how to do something and actually being able to do it. Knowledge about how various instrumental rationality techniques work is not a substitute for actually being able to use them in practice. As the story goes, even Kahneman committed the planning fallacy when writing a textbook about the planning fallacy.

The Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR) holds workshops where they teach people rationality. I've been to one of these workshops and think that they do it quite well. Part of this is the content, which is a collection of rationality techniques that have been extensively iterated into strong thinking tools. Part of this is the teaching, which has likely been honed many hours. In addition to these two things, I claim that a large part of people actually learning how to do applied rationality at a CFAR workshop is because the environment is such that people actually practice applied rationality.

It's an obvious truth that practicing something makes you better at it. Unfortunately, it's also an obvious truth that most people never commit themselves to practicing things that they want to get better at. Especially if those things are hard-to-practice thinking tools.

CFAR recommends that workshop participants spend a fair amount of time figuring out applied rationality training regimes, ways to practice the skills that they've learned in day-to-day life. The obvious training regime is to actually do the thing. Sometimes this works. Most of the time it doesn't.

An easier training regime is reading a single blog post every day and doing a ~15 minute rationality technique exercise. This is what I hope to provide for you. This sequence might be thought of as an updated version of the hammertime sequence, with a slightly broader scope.

(In the process, I am also executing one of my own training regimes, which is something like "write 30 blog posts about my take on CFAR content.")


Disclaimer: this is not CFAR's take on applied rationality. This is my take on CFAR's take on applied rationality.

By my own estimate, CFAR contains approximately 30 hours of content. I will produce one blog post for each hour, for a total of 30 blog posts. The contents will be as follows (subject to change):

(It's like a 30 day juice cleanse but with rationality instead of juice.)

  1. What is applied rationality?
  2. Searching for bugs
  3. Tips and tricks
  4. Murphyjitsu
  5. TAPs
  6. Seeking Sense
  7. Goal Factoring
  8. Noticing
  9. Double Crux
  10. Systemization
  11. Socratic Ducking
  12. Focusing
  13. Resolve Cycles
  14. Traffic Jams
  15. CoZE
  16. Hamming Questions
  17. Deflinching and Lines of Retreat
  18. Negative Visualization
  19. Hamming Questions for Potted Plants
  20. OODA Loop
  21. Executing Intentions
  22. Murphyjitsu 2
  23. TAPs 2
  24. Resolve Cycles 2
  25. Recursive Self-Improvement
  26. TAPs for Tutoring
  27. CoZE 2
  28. Training Regimes
  29. Final Exam
  30. Postmortem


Describe some of the training regimes that you engage in, both intentional and unintentional. Consider whether or not the unintentional training regimes practice skills that you want. Consider whether or not you have good training regimes in place for skills you wish to acquire; if you do not, speculate on how to create some.


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[-][anonymous]2y 5
It's an obvious truth that practicing something makes you better at it.

As any musician will tell you, this isn't actually true. Practice something makes you more consistent and automatic, not necessarily better. Practice makes permanent, not perfect. To get better, you need both practice *and* useful corrective feedback. In some cases it's possible to provide yourself with that feedback, and in others it's not (thus why even professional musicians still take lessons).

This sequence might be thought of as an updated version of the hammertime sequence, with a slightly broader scope.

Could you please briefly explain the differences between these sequences?

I went to a CFAR workshop more recently, so there might be some content that is slightly newer. Additionally, my sequence is not yet completed and I am worse at writing.

The most important thing about reading any such sequence is to actually practice the techniques. I suggest reading the sequence that is most likely to get you to do that. If you think both are equally likely, I would recommend the Hammertime sequence.

For me the clearest example of the distinction of knowing something, even profoundly but not being able to practice it is writing with the "other hand" (with the left, if you're right-handed, etc). One absolutely knows how writing works, the shape of the letters -- it's the same "brain" ... but with the other hand, with the same knowledge, it doesn't work. Same with other similar things, playing a left-handed guitar: you know the shapes of chords, the sounds of scales, you can keep time. But the pick falls to the ground, the strings buzz, and you can't keep up.