Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to comment on this thread explaining the most awesome thing you've done this month. You may be as blatantly proud of yourself as you feel. You may unabashedly consider yourself the coolest freaking person ever because of that awesome thing you're dying to tell everyone about. This is the place to do just that.

Remember, however, that this isn't any kind of progress thread. Nor is it any kind of proposal thread. This thread is solely for people to talk about the awesome things they have done. Not "will do". Not "are working on"Have already done. This is to cultivate an environment of object level productivity rather than meta-productivity methods.

So, what's the coolest thing you've done this month?

(Previous Bragging Thread)

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I found a lost Dutch passport and restored it to its rightful owner, whom I'd never met and who hadn't included contact info, in less than an hour thanks to proactivity on my part and the magic of Google.

It's a small thing, but I feel like I've done something for niceness, community, and civilization nonetheless.

My impressive work in a free-lance employment as very senior software developer attracted the attention of the CTO. So secure my knowhow and positive influence long-term I was hired last week on a system architect position that was specially created to match my salary requirements (basically my Happy Price). The team applauded when the decision was made official.

Strictly the salary is less than the free-lance rate (after adjusting for insurance, tax and misc risk padding) but the created position is basically exactly what I'd always wished for.

There are some risks that I might fail to live up to expectations (my own included) - but one reason I took the risk is that I didn't fail in anything larger for quite some time and apparently I'm not trying hard enough (see also What have you recently tried, and failed at?).

I'm grateful for LessWrong teaching me (mostly by providing just the right references) lots of social skills without which this just wouldn't have been possible.

What I find interesting is that my development which feels so genuinely an improvement and change from my earlier self is that nonetheless this transition from mostly development work in a team to a position with more supervision and political aspects appears to be normal for my age (41) and in a way even neccessary to avoid dead ends in coding.

The risks of the position are to a large part related to company politics of which I have just recently got a taste of. I have seen Political Skills which Increase Income but I'm not sure that this really helps me solving politics games that might wreak havoc on my still largely technical plans. I'd appreciate input on how to deal with politics impact on technical plans. One source I have already used is Driving Technical Change by Terrence Ryan.

Congratulations! What are the "right references" that have helped?

Thanks to Anki - which I was pointed toward repeatedly by LW and after some time got around to use regularly - I can provide some answers quickly just by looking thru the cards with URLs in my Charisma and Appearance deck:

There were lots of other references that did improve my life in the last two years. Some of those:

But to a large degree LW also helped by providing a place to think clearly about these topics.

What breathing techniques do you use?

  • Square breathing. see e.g. here. I did read about it first in On Combat and it works well to reduce pulse levels. 
  • Breathing meditation from Vipassana, see e.g. here.
  • Consciously breathing thru the nose and diaphragmatic breathing   

PS. How did you find this old post?


Got 10 experts to agree to contribute to a new free course I'm working on, created all the wireframes for the course, and posted up a job description for the freelancer to create the course, which got 18 applicants.

I proposed to my awesome girlfriend and now she is my awesome fiancee.

  • Got a job in the field that I took a master's degree to enter (computer programming) at a company which appears to have a good culture and extremely good opportunities for progression. In particular, they expressed that they liked the fact that I'm not originally from a computer science background but still had good technical knowledge, and suggested that there might be potential for someone with my skill set to eventually move into the management/business side of the company, should that someone wish it. I start Monday. Going to set up a standing order to the Against Malaria Foundation as soon as I know when my paycheque comes.
  • Booked the first gig for an electronic music set/act/project on which I've been working for nearly five years. I bypassed promoters etc. by getting in touch with a venue myself directly and booking it for myself and two musicians I know to play, and promoting the night myself. (Hey, if something's worth doing, it's worth doing yourself, right?) The show is still a couple of weeks away, so I don't know how it will go, but the project is really important to me so I'm excited about it.

A Man of Letters, my new podcast, got 100 listens by the first four weeks. Free fifteen minute readings from world literature.

I just sent in what is (I hope) to be the last draft of my first paper on counting Artin representations to the journal in question. The referee had relatively minor comments so I strongly suspect there won't be any other major changes in the next iteration.

I rewrote the LW Wiki article on Acausal Trade. I had originally written this article, but it was too heavily based on multiverse concepts, which are not essential to acausal trade. Also, it made too much use of quasimathematical variables.

I rewrote it in the style I'd use to explain the concept face-to-face to a LessWronger. I will appreciate edits and improvements on the Wiki. Actually, it would be good to see a number of articles, including one in academic style.

This is, as far as I know, the only article explaining the concept. Considering that this term is in common use in LW circles and was even used in Bostrom's recent academic article, I am surprised that no one else has written one.

The link to A Kruel's blog has 404ed. What did it say? My bets on "something superficially respectable under the transhumanist aesthetic but irredeemably incorrect" because I've never seen a Kruel post that wasn't like that.

Thank you. I have removed the link from the Wiki. The item is available in It's a short description of acausal trade with a focus on simulation as the way that one agent predicts the other's behavior.

Truly doing god's work, insofar as we can infer what that would be.

I don't think objections should be listed in the article. We have a much better medium for reading, browsing and forwarding living debates than a wiki. In the case of the second objection, I don't believe that's either a common objection or a compelling one. Superrationality does not mandate that we care about universes we can't affect, which will never affect us. If you define "us" in such a way as to include our extrauniversal counterparts, you get something which resembles that, but by definition it is not what it resembles.

As a freelance artist, I've illustrated a published book by age 21, and have been hired again to illustrate the sequel.

I'm working on chapter 17 of my ongoing web serial after a fairly long intermission. Currently, I've written 872 words out of an estimated 4000 for that chapter, and plan to release it by the end of February.

I'm graduating college in May with a B.S. in biological sciences, and for my senior thesis project I've been identifying orphan peptides on the genomes of arthrobacter bacteriophages. I'm hoping my work with genomics and proteomics will help me get a job doing something with life extension research.

I went to another country to meet my long-distance boyfriend for the first time. We spent an awesome weekend together affirming our relationship and making plans for the next time we're together


ETA: I notice that the quote I linked is getting karma now even though it hasn't in a few days, yet this post isn't. That makes me think that I have gotten something wrong. I'd love to know how I've messed up.

In a response to someone being depressed about reductionism on Quora, I think that I independently derived several posts from the Reductionism sequence, and simultaneously showed how an otherwise very knowledgeable Quora user (in fact, the author of that fairly popular rationality quote that I just shared!) was wrong about whether or not 'the point at which aliveness becomes non-aliveness and vice versa exists physically,' even though I'm only (I think) like a quarter of the way through the core sequences (read in chronological order). I should say that I have no explicit idea of what a 'category' is, I think I've just seen it in conversations where people seem to be talking about philosophy. I assume that it's what we call a property that a set of objects all possess, or alternatively, the set of all objects that possess that property. I would appreciate verification on that.

I feel obliged to say that until a couple of weeks ago I was depressed by reductionism, and had been for years. Even then, it was more 'complex things are at least as cool as or cooler than/are indistinguishable from 'magical' things,' than any real understanding. (Haven't read any Heinlein, just know the quote.) This totally 'formalized' it for me.

Hi Audun. If you re-read your comment, you'll notice that you use the word 'meaning' a bunch of times, specifically wondering if 'things' 'lose it,' but you never clearly define it. Joshua, I would think of it this way, maybe our views are equivalent and I don't realize it.

'Artifacts of your perception,' like all qualia, are reducible to the neural impulses in your brain. Conversely, 'artifacts of your perception' are represented by the neural impulses in your brain. You said yourself: "Things are the way they are because of their relations to other things, not because of any inherent properties." 'Non-physical categories' exist in brains and are therefore reducible to the physical category.

I don't think that anyone is born a reductionist. Remember the time before you knew about reductionism. When you looked at something complex (in this case, 'alive'), and didn't know that it was reducible to simple parts, you felt like it was 'meaningful.' That concept and that feeling (quale) exist physically because they are reducible to neural impulses in your brain.

Now return to the present and remember what it's like for you to be a reductionist. When you look at something complex, and you know that it's reducible to simple parts, you feel like it's 'not meaningful.' That concept and that feeling also exist in your brain.

Intelligent design folks talk about 'irreducible complexity.' I'm actually not gonna talk about that at all, but I'm gonna steal and mutate their term for my own purposes because I like the words.

You were not born a reductionist. There was a time when a representation of complex things as reduced to simple parts didn't exist in your brain.

The three of us are reductionists now, so we all know that all complex things are reducible to simple parts. So there is no such thing as 'irreducible complexity.' But there is such a thing as irreduced complexity. When you learned about reductionism and started to believe it, you 'reduced' living organisms to complex systems with simple parts; that is, a new representation was created in your brain. Before that, living organisms were irreducedly complex. They could be reduced, but they had yet to be.

So, 'meaning' apparently is your word for what I have termed irreduced complexity, and it exists, like all mental things, because it exists in your brain. And you can remember what it felt like, so it still exists in your brain. You have representations for reduced complexity and irreduced complexity in your brain. Therefore, complex things are reducible to simple parts, and 'meaning' exists.

The short, sweet, simple, feel-good answer to your question is: The fact that 'magical processes' are really natural processes that are so complex that they feel like magic does not make them any less 'magical' (fucking amazing). Many reductionists use words like 'just,' and 'nothing but,' a whole lot when they talk about complex systems. Drop those words and the meanings of their sentences don't change. Reductionism doesn't make people depressed. People make reductionism depressing. They don't have to.

As it relates to the answer, 'aliveness' exists physically, but not 'somewhere in cells.' 'Aliveness' exists physically in brains. If you want to see where (when) life and non-life end and begin, then you should have someone record your brain activity when you zoom in on an arbitrary living tissue through a microscope and reach the magnification that makes you stop believing that what you see is alive.

Joshua, can you explain why the Sorites paradox is any more meaningful than the ship of Theseus?

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There's that metaphor that life is a game.

So you have to find out what the rules are.

Then you have to take your strengths and weaknesses into account: I'm a mere mortal primate born in a weird party country in a universe made of a snowball of math.

Then you learn the shortcuts and how to play: one should beat death, finiteness, boredom and sadness, and/or help others do the same, while financially surviving, one must glimpse into the unthinkable and make the awesome real.

You now have goals then you seek instrumental goals that can aid you: moving to Berkeley.

Obstacles come your way. Dodge them, learn them, beat them.

And then you Win!

So this month I felt I Won the game of life.

... for the second time.

May many more times come!