This is the public group instrumental rationality diary for April 16-30.

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.

Thanks to cata for starting the Group Rationality Diary posts, and to commenters for participating.

Previous diary: April 1-15 

Next diary:  May 1-15

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14 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 3:48 AM

Good habits:

+Have adopted a well structured, balanced exercise schedule that, even with my hectic work schedule, is easy to maintain and still beneficial. And I'm jogging again, which I'm quite proud of.

-Dropped my writing habit from a combination of stresses.

Bad habits:

-Backslid on a big time sink habit I thought I had gotten over.

+Then, after reviewing some resources from other LWers, made new efforts to push it aside again. I've adopted a new system of behaviors to counter the habit, mainly substituting in useful behavior (such as studying with Khanacademy or simply enjoying a silly video that has no danger of becoming a time sink) and avoiding taking on too many new behaviors at once (which tends to burn me out and weaken my ability to think in the long term about the habit).

New evidence:

I have been attempting to learn Spanish and piano. I believed I could learn both subjects my own, textual resources. That I was a mostly textual learner in regards to both behaviors. I've found my progress is slower than I anticipated and sticking less than I expected. However, when I engaged in more hands-on, creative practice with a friend, I found learning much more enjoyable and efficient. So, I am seeking teachers and partners in both.

In an uncategorized note, I became burned out reading through the Quantum Physics sequence and began to question whether I was learning anything from it or not. I realized I was treating my time reading the sequences like school (which meant treating Yudkowsky and others as authority figures) and not personal enjoyment. I reminded myself that I didn't have to come here, to LW specifically, to learn these things. The world is right here. The reality all this math maps is in front of me. So long as my ability to gather evidence, understand evidence, and use evidence is sufficient, I could learn these things from the math up (or down) on my own. Treating the whole thing like school only made seeing reality freshly less enjoyable than it should be.

While doing my daily routine of locking up my bicycle at a train stop prior to getting on the train, I consciously noticed an inefficiency,analyzed the reason for it, found it wanting, and corrected it. Previously I have only done this after "sitting down and thinking for five minutes" i.e. setting a timer and writing out logical conclusions in pursuit of a pre-stated goal. I have two U-locks which look different, and two keys which look the same. For a while I marked one of them a different color in order to distinguish them, but the marking wears off within weeks and I've abandoned this approach, instead I just try one key at a time, for a usual maximum of two tries per key (three if I used the wrong angle with the first key). This happens every weekday and most weekends, twice or more per day. I noticed myself doing this and asked "why?". The answer is that so that when I need to lend someone my lock set, it is easy to hand them both over at once because both keys are on the same keyring. But this is an infrequent occurrence. I was optimizing for the wrong thing. So now the keys are on different keyrings of my pocket keyring chain, because while markings wear off, position will stay static unless the metal breaks.

Kudos for your reoptimization!

I wonder if there's something like that which I have optimized for a low-value convenience. I have a backpack and a purse which serve almost equivalent purposes and I keep moving things between them when I have a need that requires the other bag. It happens about 2-3 times a week. I'll often need the first bag again right after, and I won't have it. I was optimizing for not having to carry multiple things, but perhaps I should keep the purse as a consistent subset even if it will take up more space in the backpack.

When Eliezer posted about the emotion of dislikes-when-people-claim-too-much-status, I couldn't think of examples of me feeling it, but didn't think that was strong evidence that I don't feel it, in general. Recently I noticed that I feel it when someone gets published who doesn't "deserve" to. The example that clued me off was this HN thread about "Practical Cryptography With Go". That's not a great example, because crypto is dangerous, but for example I also felt it about "Eragon" and about a musical that the Singaporean society at my university put on.

But I don't seem to feel it so much about "Twilight". I suspect contributing factors are that Stephanie Meyer, as far as I'm aware, was published by a Real Publisher and not by a company set up by her parents to avoid quality control; and that everyone else exhibiting this emotion towards Twilight/Meyer gave me a contrarian desire not to dislike them.

  • I finally registered on LessWrong and have slowly begun posting. I recognized that my reluctance to post was based on a feeling of intimidation. I have been overcoming the reluctance by consciously thinking, "I foresee long-term benefits to participating, and the potential disapproval of a bunch of [admittedly interesting] people on the internet hardly seems to counterbalance that benefit."

  • I registered an account with HabitRPG and began using it to combat (a) my tendency toward akrasia and (b) my tendency to simply forget about tasks that need to be accomplished. I am somewhat embarrassed to use the site because I think it is silly that acquiring virtual rewards would help and have an image of myself as someone who "should" just be able to do what I want to do. Nevertheless, I have noticed that the silly virtual rewards do provide a real positive reinforcement.

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

As a plan D for my current employment situation (A already failed, B has 10% failure risk, C is slow-going) I looked up information on welfare aid and contacted the local job center. I didn't file anything yet but I got the valuable information that I welfare aid can be applied to for the running month and which kind of requirements are needed.

This did nothing to my situation by itself but together with considering all the options and consequences gave me feeling that the overall situation was much less depressing than I had pictured it in some lonesome moments.

++ arbitrary internet points for putting an estimate on one of your plans. Quantifying is better than vague worrying or endless flipflopping between intense fear and hope, don't you think?

Murphy-proofing does seem to have that effect of making a bad situation seem much less depressing. It's a bit surprising for an activity that is so heavily based on putting detail to everything that could possibly go wrong. I suppose I have an implicit expectation that the scary fog of uncertainty is always obscuring even worse monsters, and this expectation is getting proven wrong. It turns out that most monsters are easier to hit or hide from when you can see them coming.

Did Schelling day with local LW group today, work on consciously changing emotions towards the community. I left feeling ubergrateful to people and pumped. Analysis to come.

I affirmed a mental split between my eating breakfast habit from my meditation/stretching habit, and reflected this split in my to-do Apps. The incompleteness of the sequence itched at me if one part was delayed, e.g. I had to wait to eat breakfast with the family. It was a bit of a non-natural sequence, taking mental effort to think of in a batch while not really having a strong effect on the likelihood that I'd complete all the individual items.

I've lately been getting really into more structured meditations than I've done previously. I started out meditation habits by listening to music for a few minutes and concentrating on the rhythms, relaxation, or creating baseline happiness. Now I'm doing more mindfulness-aimed ones, and for longer periods of time. I notice myself falling into that mode at random periods of the day. Most noticable when I fall into it while driving, because the calm, moment-by-moment processing feels dangerous when I might need to to be preserving reactions times, and thinking ahead about what other drivers are about to do.

I also used timeless decision making last Wednesday to get myself out of bed to finish my nightly tasks after too long an afternoon nap.

I also used timeless decision making last Wednesday to get myself out of bed to finish my nightly tasks after too long an afternoon nap.

By "timeless decision making" do you mean "I better not screw over my future self", or something else?

Less not screwing over my future self, more "Am I the kind of person who gives up in this situation?"

The aim is eventually be that person who doesn't let silly things stop them, if I can't be that person today then when can I?

Consciously changed your emotions or affect with respect to something

This is really too strong but it's close. I did use short meditation breaks a few times the last week to question and balance my uneasyness (which I know to be adequate to my current situation but nonetheless). I did this after being exposed to meditation the second time by LessWrong (the first one was this post and the other was the mediation session on the European Community Weekend in Berlin).

So I noticed the following:

  • Meditation does calm me

  • Meditation does not give me more clarity of my emotions (yet?)

  • Meditation allows me to perceive sound (environmental noises), taste (this surprised me) and my heartbeat more intensely/clearly

In fact the presentation on meditation and my successive tries let me update significantly toward meditation being beneficial.

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

After my sister attended our Hamburg LW meetups two times I couldn't any longer turn down her invitation to attend her christian home group - at least not without feeling unfair. This is a short account of what came out of that.

One topic of that home group meeting was "belief and science - conflict or not?" so there was lots of opportunities to tie in rational arguments (actually I had prepared by printing out this; I didn't use it as is but I did cite Eliahs 'experiment' as an example - for funny effect).
I didn't conceal my agnostizism (for details see ref below) and this became the latent topic of the circle. There were two key points:

1) The other members found my presence an inspiration and the critical points I made were taken as a challenge stimulating discussion above the (usual?) conformity. Actually I often see doubting as a part of spiritual experience. I didn't see clear updating on my input. But it might have made their model more complex.

2) I did actually update a bit toward theism by considering the following evidence: I argued that my view of reality (see ref) is consistent with a God (but doesn't need one by Occams razor) but doesn't really admit miracles (instead assuming unusal or unlikely phenomena). They 'argued' that if God is powerful enough to 'abuse' physics (to 'simulate' miracles) than what is the difference to God just using special miracle physics i.e. locally altering gravity? (they didn't use this terminology). This was new evidence and I have to agree that it might not make much difference in the complexity penalty (razor-wise; though this might need to be looked at in detail). But it could explain mircales much better. Thus I updated on this making theism less implausible than before.

Beside these points I was mindful of the whole home group experience. It felt friendly and benign.

For reference: Baseline of my opinion (esp. the last section)

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