Less Wrong is explicitly intended is to help people become more rational. Eliezer has posted that rationality means epistemic rationality (having & updating a correct model of the world), and instrumental rationality (the art of achieving your goals effectively). Both are fundamentally tied to the real world and our performance in it - they are about ability in practice, not theoretical knowledge (except inasmuch as that knowledge helps ability in practice). Unfortunately, I think Less Wrong is a failure at instilling abilities-in-practice, and designed in a way that detracts from people's real-world performance.
It will take some time, and it may be unpleasant to hear, but I'm going to try to explain what LW is, why that's bad, and sketch what a tool to actually help people become more rational would look like.
(This post was motivated by Anna Salomon's Humans are not automatically strategic and the response, more detailed background in footnote .)
Update / Clarification in response to some comments: This post is based on the assumption that a) the creators of Less Wrong wish Less Wrong to result in people becoming better at achieving their goals (instrumental rationality, aka "efficient productivity"), and b) Some (perhaps many) readers read it towards that goal. It is this I think is self-deception. I do not dispute that LW can be used in a positive way (read during fun time instead of the NYT or funny pictures on Digg), or that it has positive effects (exposing people to important ideas they might not see elsewhere). I merely dispute that reading fun things on the internet can help people become more instrumentally rational. Additionally, I think instrumental rationality is really important and could be a huge benefit to people's lives (in fact, is by definition!), and so a community value that "deliberate practice towards self-improvement" is more valuable and more important than "reading entertaining ideas on the internet" would be of immense value to LW as a community - while greatly decreasing the importance of LW as a website.
Why Less Wrong is not an effective route to increasing rationality.
Work: time spent acting in an instrumentally rational manner, ie forcing your attention towards the tasks you have consciously determined will be the most effective at achieving your consciously chosen goals, rather than allowing your mind to drift to what is shiny and fun.
By definition, Work is what (instrumental) rationalists wish to do more of. A corollary is that Work is also what is required in order to increase one's capacity to Work. This must be true by the definition of instrumental rationality - if it's the most efficient way to achieve one's goals, and if one's goal is to increase one's instrumental rationality, doing so is most efficiently done by being instrumentally rational about it. 
That was almost circular, so to add meat, you'll notice in the definition an embedded assumption that the "hard" part of Work is directing attention - forcing yourself to do what you know you ought to instead of what is fun & easy. (And to a lesser degree, determining your goals and the most effective tasks to achieve them). This assumption may not hold true for everyone, but with the amount of discussion of "Akrasia" on LW, the general drift of writing by smart people about productivity (Paul Graham: Addiction, Distraction, Merlin Mann: Time & Attention), and the common themes in the numerous productivity/self-help books I've read, I think it's fair to say that identifying the goals and tasks that matter and getting yourself to do them is what most humans fundamentally struggle with when it comes to instrumental rationality.
Figuring out goals is fairly personal, often subjective, and can be difficult. I definitely think the deep philosophical elements of Less Wrong and it's contributions to epistemic rationality  are useful to this, but (like psychedelics) the benefit comes from small occasional doses of the good stuff. Goals should be re-examined regularly, but occasionally (roughly yearly, and at major life forks). An annual retreat with a mix of close friends and distant-but-respected acquaintances (Burning Man, perhaps) will do the trick - reading a regularly updated blog is way overkill.
And figuring out tasks, once you turn your attention to it, is pretty easy. Once you have explicit goals, just consciously and continuously examining whether your actions have been effective at achieving those goals will get you way above the average smart human at correctly choosing the most effective tasks. The big deal here for many (most?) of us, is the conscious direction of our attention.
What is the enemy of consciously directed attention? It is shiny distraction. And what is Less Wrong? It is a blog, a succession of short fun posts with comments, most likely read when people wish to distract or entertain themselves, and tuned for producing shiny ideas which successfully distract and entertain people. As Merlin Mann says: "Joining a Facebook group about creative productivity is like buying a chair about jogging". Well, reading a blog to overcome akrasia IS joining a Facebook group about creative productivity. It's the opposite of this classic piece of advice.
Now, I freely admit that this argument is relatively brief and minimally supported compared to what a really good, solid argument about exactly how to become more rational would be. This laziness is deliberate, conscious, and a direct expression of my beliefs about the problem with LW. I believe that most people, particularly smart ones, do way too much thinking & talking and way too little action (me included), because that is what's easy for them .
What I see as a better route is to gather those who will quickly agree, do things differently, (hopefully) win and (definitely) learn. Note that this general technique has a double advantage: the small group gets to enjoy immediate results, and when the time comes to change minds, they have the powerful evidence of their experience. It also reduces the problem that the stated goal of many participants ("get more rational") may not be their actual goal ("enjoy the company of rationalists in a way which is shiny fun, not Work"), since the call to action will tend to select for those who actually desire self-improvement. My hope is that this post and the description below of what actual personal growth looks like inspire one or more small groups to form.
Less Wrong: Negative Value, Positive Potential
Unfortunately, in this framework, Less Wrong is probably of negative value to those who really want to become more rational. I see it as a low-ROI activity whose shininess is tuned to attract the rationality community, and thus serves as the perfect distraction (rationality porn, rationality opium). Many (most?) participants are allowing LW to grab their attention because it is fun and easy, and thus simultaneously distracting themselves from Work (reducing their overall Work time) while convincing themselves that this distraction is helping them to become more rational. This reduces the chance that they will consciously Work towards rationality, since they feel they are already working towards that goal with their LW reading time. (Adding [4.5] in response to comments).
(Note that from this perspective, HP&TMoR is a positive - people know reading fanfic is entertainment, and being good enough entertainment to displace people's less educational alternative entertainments while teaching a little rationality increases the overall level of rationality. The key is that HP&TMoR is read in "fun time", while I believe most people see LW time as "work towards self-improvement" time. Ironic, but true for me and the friends I've polled, at least)
That said, the property of shininess-to-rationalists has resulted in a large community of rationalists, which makes LW potentially a great resource for actual training of people's individual rationality. And while catalyzing Work is much harder than getting positive feedback, I do find it heart-warming and promising that I have consistently received positive feedback from the LW community by pointing out it's errors. This is a community that wants to self-correct - which is unfortunately rare and a necessary though not sufficient criteria for improvement.
This is taking too long to write , and we haven't even gotten to the constructive part, so I'm going to assume that if you are still with me you no longer need as detailed arguments and I can go faster.
Some Observations On What Makes Something Useful For Self-Improvement
My version: Growth activities are Work, and hence feel like work, not fun - they involves overriding your instincts, not following them. Any growth you can get from following your instincts, you have probably had already. And consciously directing your attention is not something that can be trained by being distracted (willpower is a muscle, you exercise it by using it). Finding the best tasks to achieve your goals is not practiced by doing whatever tasks come to mind. And so forth. You may experience flow states once your attention is focused where it should be, but unless you have the incredible and rare fortune to have what is shiny match up with what is useful, the act of starting and maintaining focus and improving your ability to do so will be hard work.
The academic version: The literature on skill development ("acquisition of expertise") says that it involves "deliberate practice". The same is very likely true of acquiring expertise in rationality. The 6 tenets of deliberate practice are that it:
- Is not inherently enjoyable.
- Is not play or paid practice.
- Is relevant to the skill being developed.
- Is not simply watching the skill being performed.
- Requires effort and attention from the learner.
- Often involves activities selected by a coach or teacher to facilitate learning.
One must stretch quite a bit to fit these to "reading Less Wrong" - it's just too shiny and fun to be useful. One can (and must) enjoy the results of practice, but if the practice itself doesn't take effort, you are going to plateau fast. (I want to be clear, BTW, that I am not making a Puritan fallacy of equating effort and reward ). Meditation is a great example of an instrumental rationality practice: it is a boring, difficult isolation exercise for directing and noticing the direction of one's attention. It is Work.
What Would A Real Rationality Practice Look Like?
Eliezer has used the phrase "rationality dojo", which I think has many correct implications:
- It is a group of people who gather in person to train specific skills.
- While there are some theoreticians of the art, most people participate by learning it and doing it, not theorizing about it.
- Thus the main focus is on local practice groups, along with the global coordination to maximize their effectiveness (marketing, branding, integration of knowledge, common infrastructure). As a result, it is driven by the needs of the learners.
- You have to sweat, but the result is you get stronger.
- You improve by learning from those better than you, competing with those at your level, and teaching those below you.
- It is run by a professional, or at least someone getting paid for their hobby. The practicants receive personal benefit from their practice, in particular from the value-added of the coach, enough to pay for talented coaches.
In general, a real rationality practice should feel a lot more like going to the gym, and a lot less like hanging out with friends at a bar.
To explain the ones that I worry will be non-obvious:
1) I don't know why in-person group is important, but it seems to be - all the people who have replied to me so far saying they get useful rational practice out of the LW community said the growth came through attending local meetups (example). We can easily invent some evolutionary psychology story for this, but it doesn't matter why, at this point it's enough to just know.
6) There are people who can do high-quality productive work in their spare time, but in my experience they are very rare. It is very pleasant to think that "amateurs can change the world" because then we can fantasize about ourselves doing it in our spare time, and it even happens occasionally, which feeds that fantasy, but I don't find it very credible. I know we are really smart and there are memes in our community that rationalists are way better than everyone else at everything, but frankly I find the idea that people writing blog posts in their spare time will create a better system than trained professionals for improving one's ability to achieve one's goals to be ludicrous. I know some personal growth professionals, and they are smart too, and they have had years of practice and study to develop practical experience. Talk is cheap, as is time spent reading blogs: if people actually value becoming more rational, they will pay for it, and if there are good teachers, they will be worth being paid. Money is a unit of learning .
There are some other important aspects which such a practice would have that LW does not:
- The accumulation of knowledge. Blogs are inherently rewarding: people read what is recent, so you get quick feedback on posts and comments. However, they are inherently ephemeral for the same reason - people read what is recent, and posts are never substantially revised. The voting system helps a little, but it can't even close to fix the underlying structure. To be efficient, much less work should go into ephemeral posts, and much more into accumulating and revising a large, detailed, nuanced body of knowledge (this is exactly the sort of ""work not fun" activity that you can get by paying someone, but are unlikely to get when contributors are volunteers). In theory, this could happen on the Wiki, but in practice I have rarely seen Wikis succeed at this (with the obvious except of Le Wik).
- It would involve more literature review and pointers to existing work. The obvious highest-ROI way to start working on improving instrumental rationality is to research and summarize the best existing work for self-improvement in the directions that LW values, not to reinvent the wheel. Yes, over time LW should produce original work and perhaps eventually the best such work, but the existing work is not so bad that it should just be ignored. Far from it! In reference to (1), perhaps this should be done by creating a database of reviews and ratings by LWers of the top-rated self-improvement books, perhaps eventually with ratings taking into account the variety of skills people are seeking and ways in which they optimally learn.
- It would be practical - most units of information (posts, pages, whatever) would be about exercises or ideas that one could immediately apply in one's own life. It would look less like most LW posts (abstract, theoretical, focused on chains of logic), and more like Structured Procrastination, the Pmarca Guide To Personal Productivity, books like Eat That Frog!, Getting Things Done, and Switch . Most discussion would be about topics like those in Anna's post - how to act effectively, what things people have tried, what worked, what didn't, and why. More learning through empiricism, less through logic and analysis.
In forming such a practice, we could learn from other communities which have developed a new body of knowledge about a set of skills and disseminated it with rapid scaling within the last 15 years. Two I know about and have tangentially participated in are
- PUA (how to pick up women). In fact, a social skills community based on PUA was suggested on LW a few days ago - (glad to see that others are interested in practice and not just talk!)
- CrossFit (synthesis of the best techniques for time-efficient broad-applicability fitness)
Note that both involve most of my suggested features (PUA has some "reading not doing" issues, but it's far ahead of LW in having an explicit cultural value to the contrary - for example, almost every workshop features time spent "in the field"). One feature of PUA in particular I'd like to point out is the concept of the "PUA lair" - a group of people living together with the explicit intention of increasing their PUA skills. As the lair link says: "It is highly touted that the most proficient and fastest way to improve your skills is to hang out with others who are ahead of you, and those whose goals for improvement mirror your own." 
If LW is to accomplish it's goal of increasing participant's instrumental rationality, it must dramatically change form. One of the biggest, perhaps the biggest element of instrumental rationality is the ability to direct one's attention, and a rationality blog makes people worse at this by distracting their attention in a way accepted by their community and that they will feel is useful. From The War Of Art :
Often couples or close friends,even entire families, will enter into tacit compacts whereby each individual pledges (unconsciously) to remain mired in the same slough in which she and all her cronies have become so comfortable. The highest treason a crab can commit is to make a leap for the rim of the bucket.
To aid growth at rationality, Less Wrong would have to become a skill practice community, more like martial arts, PUA, and physical fitness, with an explicit focus of helping people grow in their ability to set and achieve goals, combining local chapters with global coordination, infrastructure, and knowledge accumulation. Most discussion should be among people working on a specific skill at a similar level about what is or isn't working for them as they attempt to progress, rather than obscure theories about the inner workings of the human mind.
Such a practice and community would look very different, but I believe it would have a far better chance to actually make people more rational . There would be danger of cultism and the religious fervor/"one true way" that self-help movements sometimes have (Landmark), and I wonder if it's a profound distaste for anything remotely smelling of cult that has led Eliezer & SIAI away from this path. But the opposite of cult is not growth, it is to continue being an opiate for rationalists, a pleasant way of making the time pass that feels like work towards growth and thus feeds people's desire for guiltless distraction.
To be growth, we must do work, people must get paid, we must gather in person, focus on action not words, put forth great effort over time to increase our capacity, use peak experiences to knock people loose from ingrained patterns, and copy these and much more from the skill practice communities of the world. Developed by non-rationalists, sure, but the ones that last are the ones that work  - let's learn from their embedded knowledge.
That was 5 hours of my semi-Work time, so I really hope it wasn't wasted, and that some of you not only listen but take action. I don't have much free time for new projects, but if people want to start a local rationality dojo in Mountain View/Sunnyvale, I'm in. And there is already talk, among some reviewers of this draft, of putting together an introductory workshop. Time will tell - and the next step is up to you.
 Anna Salomon posted Humans are not automatically strategic, a reply to the very practical A "Failure to Evaluate Return-on-Time" Fallacy. Anna's post laid out a nice rough map at what an instrumentally rational process for goal achievement would look like (consciously choosing goals, metrics, researching solutions, experimenting with implementing them, balancing exploration & exploitation - the basic recipe for success at anything), said she was keen to train this, and asked:
So, to second Lionhearted's questions: does this analysis seem right? Have some of you trained yourselves to be substantially more strategic, or goal-achieving, than you started out? How did you do it? Do you agree with (a)-(h) above? Do you have some good heuristics to add? Do you have some good ideas for how to train yourself in such heuristics?
After reading the comments, I made a comment which began:
I'm disappointed at how few of these comments, particularly the highly-voted ones, are about proposed solutions, or at least proposed areas for research. My general concern about the LW community is that it seems much more interested in the fun of debating and analyzing biases, rather than the boring repetitive trial-and-error of correcting them.
Anna's post was upvoted into the top 10 all-time on LW in a couple days, and my comment quickly became the top on the post by a large margin, so both her agenda and my concern seem to be widely shared. While I rarely take the time to write LW posts (as you would expect from someone who believes LW is not very useful), this feedback gave me hope that there might be enough untapped desire for something more effective that a post might help catalyze enough change to be worthwhile.
 There are many other other arguments as to why improving one's ability to do work is unlikely to be fun and easy, of course. With a large space of possible activities, and only a loose connection between "fun" and "helps you grow" (via evolutionary biology), it seems a priori unlikely that fun activities will overlap with growthful ones. And we know that a general recipe for getting better at X is to do X, so if one wants to get better at directing one's attention to the most important tasks and goals, it seems very likely that one must practice directing one's attention. Furthermore, there is evidence that, specifically, willpower is a muscle. So the case for growing one's instrumental rationality through being distracted by an entertaining rationality blog is...awfully weak.
 What are the most important problems in the world? Who is working most effectively to fix them and how can you help? Understanding existential risks is certainly not easy, and important to setting that portion of your goals that has to do with helping the world - which is a minor part of most people's goals, which are about their own lives and self-interest.
 I also believe the least effective form of debate is trying to get people to change their minds. Therefore, an extensive study and documentation to create a really good, solid argument trying to change the minds of LWers who don't quickly agree with my argument sketch would be a very low-return activity compared to getting together those who already agree and doing an experiment. And instrumental rationality is about maximizing the return on your activities, given your goals, so I try to avoid low-return activities.
[4.5] A number of commenters state that they consciously read LW during fun time, or read it to learn about biases and existential risk, not to become more rational, in which case it is likely of positive value. If you have successfully walled off your work from shiny distractions, then you are advanced in the ways of attention and may be able to use this particular drug without negative effects, and I congratulate you. If you are reading it to learn about topics of interest to rationalists and believe that you will stop there and not let it affect your productivity, just be warned that many an opiate addiction has begun with a legitimate use of painkillers.
Or to go back to Merlin's metaphor: If you buy a couch to sit on and watch TV, there's nothing wrong with that. You might even see a sports program on TV that motivates you to go jogging. Just don't buy the couch in order to further your goal of physical fitness. Or claim that couch-buyers are a community of people committed to becoming more fit, because they sometimes watch sports shows and sometimes get outside. Couch-buyers are a community of people who sit around - even if they watch sports programs. Real runners buy jogging shoes, sweat headbands, GPS route trackers, pedometers, stopwatches...
 1.5 hrs so far. Time tracking is an important part of attention management - if you don't know how your time is spent, it's probably being spent badly.
 Specifically, I am not saying that growth is never fun, or that growth is proportional to effort, only that there are a very limited number of fun ways to grow (taking psychedelics at Burning Man with people you like and respect) and you've probably done them all already. If you haven't, sure, of course you should do them, and yes, of course discovering & cataloging such things is useful, but there really aren't very many so if you want to continue to grow you need to stop fooling yourself that reading a blog will do it and get ready to make some effort.
 Referencing Eliezer's great Money: The Unit of Caring, of course. I find it ironic that he understand basic economics intellectually so well as to make one of the most eloquent arguments for donating money instead of time that I've ever seen, yet seems to be trying to create a rationality improvement movement without, as far as I can tell, involving any specialists in the art of human change or growth. That is, using the method that grownups use. What you do when you want something to actually get done. You use money to employ full-time specialists.
 I haven't actually read this one yet, but their other book, Made To Stick, was an outstanding study of memetic engineering so I think it very likely that their book on habit formation is good too.
 Indeed. I happen to have a background of living in and founding intentional communities (Tortuga!), and in fact currently rent rooms to LWers Divia and Nick Tarleton, so I can attest to the value of one's social environment and personal growth goals being synchronized. Benton House is likely an example as well. Groups of rationalists living together will automatically practice, and have that practice reinforced by their primate desire for status within the group, this is almost surely the fastest way to progress, although not required or suited to everyone.
 The next paragraph explains why I do my best not to spend much time here:
The awakening artist must be ruthless, not only with herself but with others. Once you make your break, you can’t turn around for your buddy who catches his trouser leg on the barbed wire. The best thing you can do for that friend (and he’d tell you this himself, if he really is your friend) is to get over the wall and keep motating.
Although I suppose I am violating the advice by turning around and giving a long speech about why everyone else should make a break too :). My theory is that by saying it right once, I can refrain from wasting any more time saying it again in the future, should this attempt not work. But that may just be rationalizing. On the other hand, doing things "well or not at all" is rational in situations where the return curve is steep. Given my low evaluation of LW's usefulness, I obviously think the early part of the return curve is basically flat zero. We will see if it is hubris to think the right post can really make a difference, and that I can make that post. Certainly plenty of opportunity for bias in both those statements.
 Note that helping people become personally more effective is a much easier meme to spread than helping people better understand how to contribute to public goods (ie how to better understand efficient charity and existential risk). They have every incentive to do the former and little incentive to do the latter. So training people in general goal achievement (instrumental rationality) is likely to have far broader appeal and reach far more people than training them in the aspects of epistemic rationality that SIAI is most interested in. This large community who have grown through the individually beneficial part of the philosophy is then a great target market for the societally beneficial part of the philosophy. (A classic one-two punch used by spiritual groups, of course: provide value then teach values. It works. If rationalists do what works...) I've been meaning to make a post on the importance of personal benefit to spreading memes for awhile, this paragraph will have to do for now...
 And the ones with good memetic engineering, including use of the Dark Arts. Many difficult decisions will need to be made about what techniques are and aren't Dark Arts and which are worth using anyway. The fact remains that just like a sports MVP is almost certainly both more skilled and more lucky than his peers, a successful self-help movement is almost certainly both more effective at helping people and better memetically engineered than its peers. So copy - but filter.
I had difficulty engaging with most of your article from this point on, because your premise seems to be that Work is hard and problematic and we must be forced to do it.
This premise is not just epistemically false: believing it has bad instrumental effects as well.
Ask anybody who's actually productive -- especially those who make a lot of money by being productive, and nearly all of them will tell you that they love their work. (The rest will probably say they love money, or prestige, or whatever other result their work gets for them.)
IOW, instrumental observation shows that the driving factor of high productivity is loving something more, not forcing yourself to do something you love less.
Paul Graham on "How to do what you love":... (read more)
Another quote from Paul Graham:
The emphasis is mine, and note that Graham knows a lot of extremely successful people.
Patri links to Paul Graham, but IIRC those links advise one to remove distractions and temptations from one's office and from one's life so that one does not have to exert willpower to resist the distractions and temptations. ADDED. The thinking behind that, which is supported by psychology experiments, is that simply successfully resisting a temptation (such as refraining from eating from a plate of fresh cookies left in a waiting room by a psychology researcher) depletes a person's daily reserve of willpower so that the reserve is unavailable for other things (such as keeping oneself at a tedious task).
In his essays, Graham probably never advised building willpower by forcing yourself to do things you do not like. (I've read most of his essays.)
Some people wil... (read more)
Sure, there are two ways to work on the problem. One is to increase willpower. The other is to learn tricks not to use it. I agree the second one is better. But let's take this back to the context of Less Wrong and its effects.
Paul Graham's tricks include turning off the internet. The "distractions and temptations" he wants you to remove from your office are things like Less Wrong. The existence of Less Wrong is the existence of a temptation tuned to those who wish to become more rational and more effective at achieving their goals. This makes it just as bad a thing in Graham's analysis as in mine!
"Working on stuff you like", and "rationalizing that stuff you like is work" are very different. The former is great when you can do it. The latter is the type of rationalization that Paul talked about in his recent essay Self-Indulgence, where the wost time-wasters are those that don't feel like time-wasters:... (read more)
I have noticed this pattern but have always been a little skeptical because there seem to be obvious signalling reasons to make this claim irrespective of its truth. I've also considered the possibility that there are personality types who are telling the truth when they basically claim to be happy and motivated all the time. The third possibility I've considered is that people mean something different by 'love my work' than I understand by it - not that they are literally full of enjoyment and motivation all the time while working.
I don't believe I've ever met anyone who I've had what felt like an honest conversation with about work who literally 'loved their work'. They may enjoy some parts of it but much of it is still effortful and not the most enjoyable thing they could think of doing at any given moment.
Could you clarify exactly what you think productive people mean when they say they 'love their work' and explain what leads you to believe that it is literally true?
As someone who loves his work, here is how I see it.
No one is happy and motivated at all times when working. For any substantial work, that work is divided into many different things. Some of those things are inevitably going to be things that you do not love, and some will be things that you actively dislike. Loving your work means loving the composite of the things you love and the things you don't love, and it means that the parts you love give you the motivation to do the things you don't.
In my job, there's a core task. I spend the bulk of my time actively engaged work time either on that task or trying to find ways to do that task better. I love both of these tasks, but I also spend a large amount of time waiting for these tasks to reach a point where they become engaging, and I have to deal with people many of whom I'd prefer not to deal with, and I have to do things like maintain all the computers and connections and programs necessary for this work.
But that's true of anything! I love eating, but there are subsets of this task I don't enjoy, and that's even more true of baking or cooking. It's true when I play a game, or write an article, or watch a television show (gotta skip those ads!), or anything else I can think of. There's nothing special about work.
But there are also equally obvious signaling reasons to make the opposite claim -- i.e., I Am Doing This Work That Is Really Hard Because It Is (And Therefore I Am) Important And Prestigious.
And some people do make that claim. They just usually don't have much to show for their efforts, by comparison to the people making the other claim.
The sensation of "effort" is the sensation of your mind trying to escape whatever you're actually experiencing in the present moment, whether it's because you dislike what's happening or you wish it were something else.
In the absence of that escape attempt, there is no "effort" felt, vs. what you might simply call "exertion" instead. Things just are, and doing happens.... (read more)
You are still not getting what "love" means. I am talking about being loving -- the emotional state of giving love to something. This is during the work, not after the work.
If I make breakfast in bed for my wife, I am feeling love as I work. Not love for the process of cooking, but love for my wife.
This is not the same thing as anticipating the result of my wife's smile.
You're operating under a false dichotomy between "pleasure now" vs. "pleasure later", as though these pleasures can only come from things that happen outside you. This is not the case.
The kind of thinking that produced this question is not the kind of thinking that can apply the answer. (Because the assumption behind the question is that motivation is something that happens to you to make you do things, and that is not the same kind of motivation that I'm talking about.)
I do work in the games industry.
This gets back to my original question of what people mean when they say they 'love their job'. I'm reasonably well paid and work on reasonably interesting problems and there are certainly worse jobs. I sometimes enjoy aspects of my work and / or get a sense of satisfaction from them. But 'love' seems like a completely inappropriate word for something I would walk away from and never look back if I won the lottery tomorrow.
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd start a small game company, keep programming on the interesting bits and hire people to do the boring stuff or the stuff I'm not as good at.
Considering I never even played the lottery, that seems pretty unlikely, but still - I wouldn't want to stop working on cool nifty stuff, unless it was to work on something cooler and niftier.
I love my job so much that if I won the lottery, I would keep doing it too, and I would hire people to do the boring stuff which doesn't uniquely require me.
Yet, not having won the lottery, it remains the case that, at this job I love SO MUCH that I would keep doing it if I won the lottery, there are many subgoals and tasks which are boring, which aren't shiny and interesting enough to draw my attention naturally, and which I must force myself to do. And if I don't do them, my organization will proceed more slowly or not at all.
So to be more effective at this job I love, I either need to win the lottery, or I need to strength my attention-directing muscle.
I'm productive, and I've been paid > $100/hr for my work (at Google, before moving to the non-profit sector), and could have multiple offers to do that again in multiple fields anytime I wanted.
I loved parts of my work, sure, but there were also large parts of it that I had to forcibly direct my attention to. The best tasks to be the most productive are rarely the most fun. And in a world of compelling entertainment, reading the latest blogs, books, watching TV, surfing the web, are always fighting for people's attention. Mine at least. To direct my attention to productive activities, to my consciously chosen goals and the best tasks to achieve them, is hard Work.
Yes, there are moments of flow, moments we love, moments that draw our attention. And the more of those, the better we've chosen our work. But I think you have a huge selection bias - it may be that the most productive people are the ones who enjoy a coincidence between what they do and what draws their attention, but I doubt that very many jobs offer that overlap or that we can employ very many people that way. Hence, for most people, the way to be more productive is to get better at directing their attention.
As... (read more)
You are indeed lucky to have such inspiring goals. For many people in modern workplaces, the trouble is that they not only have no such exalted motivating goals, but they don't even have any clear sense of what exactly their work is supposed to achieve -- or worse, they often clearly see that the tedious tasks they must perform are completely pointless and useless in the overall scheme of things. I mean the sort of thing which is the basic running theme of Dilbert.
This can have such soul-crushing effects that it's hard to find motivation even for living, let alone productivity. The real challenge is how to force yourself to be productive (or "productive"?) in ways necessary to prosper in such an environment if you're condemned to it, as increasing numbers of people are.
This could be a selection effect: the people who naturally like effective behaviours succeed, the rest of us will still have to work for it.
To get more meta, not only has Less Wrong not produced "results", but all the posts saying Less Wrong needs to produce more "results" (example: Instrumental Rationality Is A Chimera) haven't produced any results. Even though most people liked the idea in that recent PUA thread, I don't see any concrete moves in that direction either.
Most of these threads have been phrased along the lines of "Someone really ought to do something about this", and then everyone agrees that yeah, they should, and then nothing ever comes out of it. That's a natural phenomenon in an anarchy where no one is the Official Doer of Difficult Things That Need To Be Done. Our community has one leader, Eliezer, and he has much better things to do with his time. Absent a formal organization, no one is going to be able to move a few hundred people to do things differently.
But small interventions can have major changes on behavior (see the sentence beginning with "I was reminded of this recently..." here). For example, I think if there were socialskills.lesswrong.com and health.lesswrong.com subcommunities linked to the top of the page, they would auto-populate with a commun... (read more)
Upvote this if, out of the solution set [keep things they way they are, have subreddits, have bulletin board], you would prefer to have subreddits.
My only feasible solution to follow rapidly developing discussions is still to read the recent comments, rather than the thread (due to all the thread and which bleeds onto continued pages)... basically a full table scan of LessWrong. The flat view of comments is better for avoiding missing something, even with comments on other posts thrown in.
It would be nice to have a recent comments link for specific threads.
Seriously? That's a pretty quick judgement! I wrote most of a follow-up post, but I'm going to reevaluate it a bit in light of Patri's article.
I strongly support proposal 1, and I'd welcome some monitoring to make sure I don't violate this new norm.
If the subreddits idea wins, I will also chip in for the technical cost. Social.lesswrong.com seems like a decent way to do the thing-that-isn't-PUA.
Upvote this if, out of the solution set [keep things they way they are, have subreddits, have bulletin board], you like the way things are now.
I messaged Eliezer several times about this and he never got back to me. I talked to Tricycle, they said they were working on something, and what ended up happening was the split between Discussion and Main. This was not quite what I wanted, but given my inability to successfully contact Eliezer at the time I gave up.
One of the last posts on this sort of thing mentioned the phrase "'Good enough' is the enemy of 'at all'".
Yes, the best way to do this would have in-person groups with paid instructors. I interpreted you as saying we should go create these groups. If your point was that these groups already exist and we should get off Less Wrong and go to them, then I misunderstood, but I am still doubtful. The vast majority of people don't have access to them (live in smaller cities without such groups, don't have time for such groups, et cetera), those who do probably don't know it, and among those who do have access and know it but still haven't joined, saying "You ought to be going to these!" is unlikely to change many minds.
But I understood you to mean that Less Wrong should work to create such groups. If that's true, then they're unlikely to happen. Only a tiny handful of cities have enough Less Wrongers to form a group, and as far as I know only the Bay Area and NYC (possibly also Southern CA?) actually have one that meets consistently and with defined agendas. That immediately excludes a... (read more)
It’s critical to distinguish between ease/convenience and pleasure.
Absent conscious intervention, we don’t optimize for pleasure -- we optimize for a combination of pleasure and non-effort. For example, TV is for many people easy to choose, and work and exercise are hard to choose, despite TV having low-average enjoyment ratings, exercise having average ratings, and work having high-average ratings (see e.g. p. 243 of this book).
Patri’s concept of “shiny/fun”, insofar as it is correct, seems to be about low effort activities more than about high reward activities. To attain high personal growth, we need to learn to exert effort toward the highest-value learning and productivity tasks. As Patri emphasizes, this involves learning to direct our attention, learning to resist shiny, low-effort distractions, and to get through relatively boring local drudge work when needed. It does not, AFAICT, involve choosing less rewarding tasks on average; peak growth and productivity are often more rewarding (though also harder to choose) than clicking repeatedly on the “next comments” button.
(The ideas in this comment are stolen from Michael Vassar.)
As I've mentioned elsewhere I've rarely experienced high pleasure from work but the exercise phenomenon is one I've been aware of for a long time. Going back to when I was a kid I remember the realization that I really hated getting up early and going out in the cold to play rugby but I enjoyed it once I was there. The same is true for most of the physical activities I do now.
I've never been able to 'integrate' this knowledge for exercise / physical activity though. Some people seem to reach a stage of genuinely anticipating exercise with pleasure but for me it is always still a conscious effort of reminding myself that I will enjoy it once I get going in order to overcome the reluctance and lack of motivation. I still fail at this more often than I'd like.
This is a bit tangential to your point, but why should we consciously optimize for pleasure, instead of of a combination of pleasure and non-effort? If you think pleasure is likely to be part of our True Preferences (however defined, e.g., our consciously held preferences after sufficient reflection), why not non-effort also?
The fact that you will regret a choice does not imply that the choice is irrational, since the way our regret works is itself irrational.
If we accept Eliezer's position, we'd probably take all of these things - pleasure, non-effort, non-regret, happiness, etc. - and make them components of our utility functions. But I have no idea how we are supposed to weigh these things against each other. How do you know that your consciously chosen trade-off is the right one? How do you even know that it's an improvement over what your subconscious/instinct/intuition tends to choose?
I'm a relatively new lurker, still working through the Sequences. It strikes me that patrissimo's disaffection and resultant call to action are targeted at "the more advanced students", or where I hope to be at some point. To use a shop-class analogy, once you've finished Shop 101, sitting around reading back issues of Woodcrafts magazine wil be lower ROI than designing and building a Mission chest of drawers. But until you've been through the basics, "go build" is less productive and potentially dangerous. I 've discovered that reading LW has helped me notice a common thread in my haphazard intellectual explorations, and align my current ones. So a follow-up question I'll pose in 2 parts is: a) is it a fallacy to presume one must walk before learning to run?, and b) if not, how can one judge when it's time to "go build"?
If you are working through the sequences, how did you get to my post? :).
It seems that instead of paying attention to your lathe and table saw in Shop 101, you are leafing through the latest copies of "Advanced Carpentry". This can be motivation, it can add context to the class, or it can be a form of procrastination, focusing on the dream of producing great things in the future instead of the hard work of learning to produce small things in the present. Only you can decide, through conscious examination, which is.
Do you read my post (and presumably many other new LW posts, which slows your reading of the Sequences) because you truly, consciously believe that they enhance your learning of the Sequences? Or because of the dopamine hit you get by seeing something new, something timely, a post where your comments will get seen by others, rather than the sterile years-old Sequences with no feedback?
This is why I have left the LW community for a year. I think that there is a lot to be learned from LW, but I also think that LW is currently 95% distracting by volume of text and by time-you'll-actually-spend-on-it.
I'd like to make the additional point that LW is not only a time-wise distraction, but it is also motivationally toxic, or at least has been to me.
More specifically, I think that investing emotionally too much in big-picture issues like efficient charity or high-technology risks and futurism tends to remove healthy, positive motivations from one's everyday life. You, as a human being, have to care about what you're going to do tomorrow and in the next week, and you have to be in a frame where most of the time, things are looking good and you're "winning". I think that a lot of the frames that LW encourages people to adopt (e.g. the frame that the entire future of the human race is likely doomed) contribute strongly to psychological depression and motivational exhaustion. That these frames and memes are based upon careful analysis is beside the point: there are some life-frames that you simply cannot live with, truth be damned.
What to do? I think that Patri'... (read more)
Whoever came up with this list of tenets is wrong. The development of expertise in skills is something I have taken a particular interest in, both as part of my qualification as a teacher and as an independent passion.
A prominent introductory reference to the field as it is studied academically is of course The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology) although it is a field in which research has begun to accelerate. While the findings of the studies are completely in line with your overall contention they contradict some of the 'tenets' that you put forward here. Specifically:
To my great surprise, turned out my library had access to an e-copy of it. I took an hour and printed out all 47 entries to PDFs, and combined them to get this: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5317066/cambridge-expertise.pdf
(I would like to crop the margins, but
pdfcropresults in doubled file size; I'd also like to remove the headers & footers, but none of my PDF CLI tools seem to support that.)
LW! Never say I have done nothing for you!
I am not a major Less Wrong participant, but I suspect that there are many lurkers or mostly-lurkers in the same position as me, so I want to make this point:
I read Less Wrong on "fun time". And if it were less shiny, I would not read it at all. Yet reading has led me to reevaluate my goals and actions: it has led to a small amount of self improvement, not initially intended by me, as a side effect.
So by all means, make it more effective for you! But also keep in mind its effect on lurkers attracted by the shininess.
One simple improvement would be to add exercises at the end of articles whenever possible, and to encourage people to do them before or instead of reading the comments.
My list of daily self-improvement activities for while I'm in Tucson (on vacation):
As I build up my mind/body I'll probably spend less time there and more time on things like keeping up with my email and staying in contact with the Singularitarian community. I'm trying to make the transition from Hufferpuffer to Slytherclaw.
Hey, me too! I guess we all read this.
I've also been thinking about social checklists. One of Dale Carnegie's books is essentially four checklists already, so I just put them on a small card in my wallet for daily review.
I feel like it's had an impact, but it's tough to evaluate. I suppose you could assign yourself a grade and track your progress, but that seems fluffy.
Any thoughts on how to judge the effectiveness of something like this?
I didn't read the whole article (It's a school day; I'm busy), but in my case, I have to disagree with your premise. LW has definitely been a net positive for me.
First, it has introduced me to different "tricks" for increasing productivity/doing what I want. Melatonin, knowledge of heuristics/biases, PUA/Ev Psych inspired social skills, etc.
Second, reading LW has directly contributed to me constructing an identity for myself that makes me more rational. If I identify myself as a rationalist, then my brain will act accordingly. This has been crucial in fighting akrasia.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, I know where my priorities lie. I post on LW irregularly, don't read every article - let alone most of the comments, and realize that LW is primarily "fun time." It's rationalist porn to some degree, and I'm ok with that. It certainly beats normal porn.
Am I atypical here on LW?
I don't think you are very atypical.
I can easily imagine that some of the most "advanced" rationalists here might not be getting as much useful information out of LW, and so they might see it as a low-ROI site.
But the average LW reader probably isn't so "advanced" (might not have been familiar with a lot of the concepts taught here before reading LW), and so the ROI can be much higher.
Update: In fact, one of the main benefits of LW might be to transfer some of that knowledge from the more advanced rationalists to the beginners.
Phooey on you, I like having fun.
"Just because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?"
I do my work on my own time, and my attempts to be more productive are my own responsibility/own business. When I'm not working, I want to not work. It would be a more masochistic person than I who actually wanted her recreational websites to give her lectures about duty. I treat LW as an interesting discussion forum with smart people. What's wrong with that?
I think the original poster assumes--and, in fact, says, at one point--that the purpose of Less Wrong is for self-improvement. To him, it is supposed to be work, and it is something he alleges to participate in during work time, and he is operating under the assumption that other people do the same. You're not disagreeing about the conclusion, you're disagreeing about the premise. Judging from similar comments, you're not alone.
Reading LessWrong is primarily a willpower restorer for me. I use the "hit" of insight I get from reading a high quality post or comment to motivate me to start Working (and it's much easier to continue Working than to start). I save posts that I expect to be high quality (like Yvain's latest) for just before I'm about to start Working. Occasionally the insight itself is useful, of course.
Commenting on LessWrong has raised my standards of quality for my own ideas, understanding them clearly, and expressing them concisely.
I don't know if either of those are Work, but they're both definitely Win.
Why I read less wrong:
Item D is the most important to me, but LessWrong has not been very successful at it. EY rarely gives the posts that I think are important along those lines the coveted green button, nor does the LW readership vote them up highly.
I think that the most important purpose LW could serve would be to critically analyze the ideas EY has put forth, and discuss dif... (read more)
I work 40 hours each week. Reading LW is consciously part of my R&R time. Am I in the minority here?
Like HP:MoR though, I consider it to be beneficial R&R. My idea of "fun" consists of solving math problems, having philosophical discussions, etc. It's a shiny distraction like going for a hike, when you aspire to work in forestry. It doesn't detract from your ability to study forestry. Just don't confuse hiking and field work.
That said, I am in the wrong field of work, long-term. That I consider the ideas here so interesting makes them pointers toward future career directions. I really do think I've gained ideas here that will play out in my future career.
I should mention also that this site has made me see connections between my current line of work and future paths, and made developing those common skills more enjoyable. To get through the less fun parts of work, you have to connect it with the fun and the big picture, and this site does that for me. Perhaps not for most people. I couldn't say.
I agree though that this may not be an ideal tool for the express purpose of being more productive (and then more rational in doing your productive activities). Do people view the site as having that purpose?
Perhaps we should have a monthly 'show off your I-rationaility improvement' thread, the same way we have rationality quotes? So that people could get the warm glow of LW status from being able to boast about how productive they've been recently, while also providing peer pressure to others to be more productive.
There are many who do come to Lesswrong for fun, we shouldn't discourage them in that I think Lesswrong should not stop doing what its doing. While yes a thousand flowers should bloom, they shouldn't splinter off into oblivion. I propose we expand this community blog's de facto function. We should make Lesswrong a hub for self-improvement, study and even research groups all open to each other for rationality checking. All clearly and transparently stating their goals and methods.
Martial arts is a wonderful metaphor for what should be done. Why not really make the first steps towards something like Elizers fictional Bayesian conspiracy? A large fraction of Lesswrong posters is convinced that we have just a few more decades of cramming to do before humanity faces its final exam. There are perhaps good reasons to believe we need to become more rational quickly. To do this we need to start setting goals. Concrete ones, let me start with a few propositions:
Isn't the Social Arts (PUA-PU) proposal basically already a existing call to a project? Many posters have expressed regret at not understanding critical elements of game theory, compsci, physics, evolutionary biology, statistics ... (read more)
Willpower is a battery - you drain it by using it.
However, I'm not arguing against pushing ourselves to work when our innate motivation falls a little short.
I would exp... (read more)
Muscles are muscles, and you drain them by using them too- it's just that they come back stronger.
I think willpower is actually like this, but my only data for strengthening willpower is personal/anecdotal.
This seems to be similar to how people behave morally- there's the consistency effect that reinforces itself ("I am someone who gives to charity (clearly, since I gave to charity last week) so I'll give again"), but there's also the feeling that you've given enough so you become less charitable shortly afterwards (wasn't there a study that found that people coming straight from church tipped less?)
Lots of great points. If you can't make the full conversion to using the site for instrumental rationality and helping it accomplish that, there are some baby steps that should be easy to take:
Honestly, I can't help but see this as attacking a strawman. Does anybody actually think that they've done their good deed for the day just by reading and commenting on LW?
When I spend a couple hours on here, I don't treat it as having been productive even to the degree that I count reading a good book. Now I think I've had more good effects from reading LW (for one thing, seeing more areas of my life as things to be optimized) than from most books I've read, but it's just a matter of which mental account I assign my time here to.
I say keep Less Wrong fun ... (read more)
Continuing other comment:
To take patrissimo's arguments on what makes something useful for self-improvement:
I call foul. He tries to claim he's not being puritan, and not saying that growth is never fun, but then proceeds to dismiss fun in that "all use you could get out of it, you've probably already gotten." In essence stating that fun activities only helped you grow in the past, and to move towards the future, you have to be not-fun.
He also com... (read more)
This is wrong. Why do you think the ability to "play" evolved?
This calls for immediate discussion!
An alternative attitude would be that LW is just not for people whose lives aren't in working order. If you have pressing real-life problems to solve, log off and go solve them. And if you're after the secret to success in sex and business, there are other places you can get that.
It seems much easier to change the amount of effort someone expends on near-optimally-useful public goods from 1% to 2% than to double someone's productivity.
Re akrasia and GTD: I've long had the idea that LW users could pair off and watch each other with screen-capture software. Whenever the other guy starts procrastinating, you stop him, and he does the same to you. Maybe randomly change the pair assignment every day or week to avoid getting too used to each other. Sounds pretty drastic, huh? I'd be up for that. (With the caveat that I'm in Russia, so my day cycle is likely out of sync with yours.)
In Soviet Russia, cousin_it watches YOU.
That would be awesome! Why don't I have that today? I didn't know until you said that that I urgently need that.
Hey! Now I do! It's here.
I know 2 reasons why people suck at bringing theory to practice, neither of which completely validates your claim.
1) They suck at it. They are lost in a sea of confusion, and never get to a valuable deduction which can then be returned to the realm of practicality. But they are still intrigued and still get better a little bit at a time with each new revelation granted by internal thought or sites like Less Wrong.
2) They are too good at it. Before going to implement all the wonderful things they have learned, they figure out something new that would r... (read more)
Good day, ladies and gentlemen. I'm still new, still working through the sequences, which is taking me a while because the needs and requirements of accomplishing my goals in life has down-prioritized my reading through Less Wrong. A somewhat appropriate reason for this discussion.
I see an implied assumption in the article, and additionally outright stated in the comments, that Less Wrong needs to create results, that it needs to have more successes, or it should be accomplishing something in its existence.
I disagree. Less Wrong cannot create results, n... (read more)
I am a new reader of less wrong. I don't really understand all the articles that are put up here including this one, but I like the idea of sharpening instrumental rationality to achieve your goals.
I have the following question: 1)
i have the experience/insight that having the skills or the will [i] to choose the right goals [ii] should come before [iii] gaining the skills to achieving your goals effectively (aka instrumental rationality)
My question is can rationality help in this pursuit of choosing the right goals?
[i] i am not sure if the skills to ch... (read more)
It is instrumentally rational for me to spend ridiculous amounts of time on Less Wrong because it gives me pleasure, and most importantly increases my social status among the rationalists.
Nah just kidding. You make a very important point. Good post.
Sometimes the whole business about rationality can be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. And then Less Wrong is about how you can upgrade your sledgehammer into a pile driver, or build a machine that can slice the nut into atomically thin layers. Can't we just use a nutcracker like everyone else does?
I think I agree about this - part of the wisdom of rationality is knowing when to delegate. Rational thought is hard work, and it's dog slow compared with every other technique your brain is capable of. Feel free to use the nutcracker if it's good enoug... (read more)
One of the previous efforts somewhat in this vein would seem to be the Akrasia tactics review, a post dedicated to applying and testing suggested techniques for combating akrasia.
When the post first came up, it was new and shiny, and I tried out a couple of techniques from it and reported back to them. But now that it's not on the main page so I have to do one extra step, I never visit the page any more, and I can see that the data has not been updated significantly over the past few months.
One easy step to take would be to make this a monthly thread, lik... (read more)
What about TvTropes?
I already read LW mostly "for fun", so...
Alternatively, we could seek all seek lessons from DJ Khaled.
I'm made my previous comment halfway during reading and digesting your post patrissimo. I have to add to that long wall of text that I simply love the concept of Rationality lairs, but many Lesswrong members are geographically isolated, so I wouldn't disparage virtual groups too much. Open source projects show one can do real work that way. Perhaps strengthen them via obligatory webcam and skype contact?
I have a strong feeling at least some of the lairs will cut contact and turn into companies or perhaps what basically amounts to a cult. But ideally by then the community will grow enough so that it will survive this.
I think my weakest point as a rationalist is my ability to notice when I'm confused. Especially IRL, my desire to maintain composure overwhelms the part of me that says "something's wrong here." I don't fully notice my own confusion until hours later, usually after the conversation is over.
If someone developed an exercise book of faulty arguments to spot the flaws in, I'd love to read that. As far as I know, that doesn't exist. Reading the arguments in LW comments, even if it isn't explicitly about increasing instrumental rationality, still seems like a good path to covering the Achilles heel of my rationality.
A recommended use for the site as it currently is:
A major use of LessWrong is an introduction to many fields of knowledge. It's like a catalog, presenting summarized subjects in tasty bites, which can be used to direct your focus towards what you're really interested in, or create said interest. It's a nice representation of rationality, and gives you a sense of what it is and why you should desire it. Posts on scholarship and the like will teach you the best ways to learn. And sprinkled along this road, is lots of eyeopeners and quick updates to your thin... (read more)
No need for evopsych, it's a matter of bandwidth and lag. When you're meeting someone face-to-face, they can see your gestures, hear the inflection and emphasis in your voice... that's... (read more)
Increased focus on effortful exercises, on measuring usefulness, and on in-person meetups sounds fruitful. However, despite the desirability of those changes, many LW-ers seem to substantially improve their epistemic rationality through participating on LW even as it currently is, especially when they read Eliezer’s sequences. If people skip LW so as to focus exclusively on effortful exercises in other communities, or on increasing their earning power or doing other work, they may never obtain this level of thinking skill concerning their aims, their pot... (read more)
Alexander Grothendieck used the analogy of opening a nut to illuminate two different styles of doing mathematics. One way is to strike the nut repeatedly with a hammer and chisel.
Wow, fantastic post, thank you.
I had always assumed that the current primary purpose of the Lesswrong site is to spread the word - to increase awareness of the existing body of knowledge related to rationality, focusing on proof for the benefits of becoming more rational, and enumerate the techniques required to obtain it, only indirectly supporting the actual work required for becoming more rational. Similar in nature to the Harry Potter story.
For the actual practice, at least in an online setting, I imagine that something closer to the Lumosity site would be appropriate.
Thanks, this is a great post. I concur with a majority of the points raised.
Broadly, I indulge in four kinds of activities: a) high effort- high short-term reward, b) high effort - high long-term reward c) low effort - high short-term reward d) low-effort - high long-term reward.
The many individual tasks that constitute work fall into the second category. However, if I Practice hard enough at these individual tasks, I hope to push them into the low-effort high long-term reward category. This would leave me with additional Willpower Reserves that I would... (read more)
You're right. It seems everyone agrees LW is shiny and dull and unproductive, though some are fine with that. I'm not fine with that, which is why I'm not (yet?) a regular participant here. It cannot compare with exercise, working for money, reading textbooks, or practicing Dark Arts. But I'll be back to check on this frequently, in case it goes anywhere.
Now, anyone and everyone, instrumentally or epistemologically, make me more rational using your own rational capacities.
[Begin: Dojo Mode]
I'd also be in for the Mountain View/Sunnyvale thing.
In terms of epistemic and instrumental rationality, couldn't it be refining other people's rationality with respect to you, not just your own rationality? If I post information here, it will help others make decisions in regards to me. One vision and goal that I have is to finally take down my ugly, antiquated Angelist resume down and to advertise my Lesswrong content as who I am (might even chuck my CV into my Wiki page, if I ever figure out how to do it!). I feel it's a more honest and representation of me than the strategic self presentation elsewhere.
Awesome post. I think that lesswrong asks good questions to make you more rational. But in a complicated fashion. Although I am a newcomer, I think that there is a waste of time focusing on the rhetoric instead of practical problems. I have the feeling that lesswrong will be giving me some insights about the kinds of "algorithms" that my mind will need but, indeed I need to apply those "algorithms" in the real space in order to fully implement them...
I'm not saying less wrong is perfect, but after I first found it it fundamentally changed the wya I think and see things, and that is good enough for me. It's impossible to estimate the useful content density on less wrong, but it has to be higher then most other places on the internet. Even just reading wikipedia articles wouldn't be as productive, to me anyways, as checking up on less wrong. I wish there were more sites like it.
Thank you for this great post -- it matches my understanding perfectly. I recently joined the LW and after several weeks of reading I kind of felt that yeah all those essays are great and some of them just brilliant... but in general it does not get me anywhere, it does not change how I behave.
So I stopped reading it -- only maybe couple of articles a month.
Another thing I wanted to say is: thank you so much for those links for 'practical' stuff you put into the post!
And now I think: it would be very helpful to have a way to somehow filter 'teoretical' po... (read more)
For anyone interested, the SoCal LW Meetup will be getting together on the 25th and is soliciting activity suggestions.
If anyone swiftly come up with a brilliant, written intelligence amplification intervention protocol "if only they had N willing volunteers" you should write it up on the wiki and link to it as a suggestion from a comment in the appropriate place. You have 10 days. Act now because it would be cool :-P
I think my weakest point as a rationalist is my ability to notice when I'm confused. Especially IRL, my desire to maintain composure overwhelms the part of me that says "something's wrong here." I don't fully notice my own confusion until hours later, usually after the conversation is over.
If someone developed an exercise book of faulty arguments to spot the flaws in, I'd love to read that. As far as I know, that doesn't exist. Reading the arguments in LW comments, even if it isn't explicitly about increasing instrumental rationality, still seems like a good path to covering the Achilles heel of my rationality.
This is surprising.