Shortform Content [Beta]

In discussions about consciousness I find myself repeating the same basic argument against the existence of qualia constantly. I don't do this just to be annoying: It is just my experience that

1. People find consciousness really hard to think about and has been known to cause a lot of disagreements.

2. Personally I think that this particular argument dissolved perhaps 50% of all my confusion about the topic, and was one of the simplest, clearest arguments that I've ever seen.

I am not being original either. The argument is the same one that has b... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

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And we know that such an explanation requires only the components which make up the ANN, and not any conscious or phenomenal properties.

That's an argument against dualism not an argument against qualia. If mind brain identity is true, neural activity is causing reports, and qualia, along with the rest of consciousness are identical to neural activity, so qualia are also causing reports.

1Slider1d I find it important in philosophy to be on the clear what you mean. It is one thing to explain and another to define what you mean. You might point to a yellow object and say yellow and somebody that misunderstood might think that you mean "roundness" by yellow. The accuracy is most important when the views are radical and talk in very different worlds. And "disproving" yellow by not being able to pick it out from ostensive differentation is not an argumentative victory but a communicative failure. Even if we use some other term I think that meaning is important to have. "Plogiston" might sneak in claims but that is just the more reason to have terms that have as little room for smuggling as possible. And we still need good terms to talk about burning. "oxygen" literally means "black maker" but we nowadays understand it as a term to refer to a element which has definitionally very little to do with the color black. I think the starting point that generated the word refers to a genuine problem. Having qualia in category three would mean that you claim that I do not have experiences. And if qualia is a bad loaded word to refer to the thing to be explained it would be good to make up a new term that refers to that. But to me qualia was just that word. I word like "dark matter" might experience similar "highjack pressure" by having wild claims thrown around about it. And there having things like "warm dark matter", "wimpy dark matter" makes the classification more fine making the conceptual analysis proceed. But requirements of clear thinking are different from tradition preservance. If you say that "warm dark matter" can't be the answer the question of dark matter still stands. Even if you succesfully argue that "qualia" can't be a attractive concept the issue of me not being a p-zombie still remains and it would be expected that some theorethical bending over backwards would happen.
1Matthew Barnett2d I am not denying that humans take in sensory input and process it using their internal neural networks. I am denying that process has any of the properties associated with consciousness in the philosophical sense. And I am making an additional claim which is that if you merely redefine consciousness so that it lacks these philosophical properties, you have not actually explained anything or dissolved any confusion. The illusionist approach is the best approach because it simultaneously takes consciousness seriously and doesn't contradict physics. By taking this approach we also have an understood paradigm for solving the hard problem of consciousness: namely, the hard problem is reduced to the meta-problem (see Chalmers []).

Strategy mini-post:

One thing that tends to be weak in strategy games is "opponent's choice" effects, where an ability has multiple possible effects and an opponent chooses which is resolved. Usually, each effect is stronger than what you would normally get for a card with that price, but in practice these cards are often quite weak.

For instance, the Magic: the Gathering card "Book Burning" looks quite strong in theory, as it either does 6 damage or mills 6 cards (both strong effects that might well be worth more than the card'... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

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2mr-hire5h Do you think this is relevant to more real world strategy situations?

I remember seeing a deal from a bank where the bank got to chose whether to pay a fixed interest rate or a variable one and either path looked like a good deal but the fact that the bank would chose meant you would always end on the wrong side of the market. I wish I could remember the exact promotion.

1Antonius Westerbrok1d Now I want to play a game where every card has at least one weak option, or I can let my opponent choose which strong effect I get. This would probably work best where only one card (or other action, such as in a worker placement game) is played per turn.

I generally agree with the heuristic that we should "live on the mainline", meaning that we should mostly plan for events which capture the dominant share of our probability. This heuristic causes me to have a tendency to do some of the following things

  • Work on projects that I think have a medium-to-high chance of succeeding and quickly abandon things that seem like they are failing.
  • Plan my career trajectory based on where I think I can plausibly maximize my long term values.
  • Study subjects only if I think that I will need to understand them at som
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Some random thoughts:

  • Startups and pivots. Startups require lots of commitment even when things feel like they're collapsing – only by perservering through those times can you possibly make it. Still, startups are willing to pivot – take their existing infrastructure but change key strategic approaches.
  • Escalating commitment. Early on (in most domains), you should pick shorter term projects, because the focus is on learning. Code a website in a week. Code another website in 2 months. Don't stress too much on multi-year plans until you're reas
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Some thoughts on Buddhist epistemology.

This risks being threatening, upsetting, and heretical within a certain point of view I commonly see expressed on LW for reasons that will become clear if you keep reading. I don't know if that means you shouldn't read this if that sounds like the kind of thing you don't want to read, but I put it out there so you can make the choice without having to engage in the specifics if you don't want to. I don't think you will be missing out on anything if that warning gives you a tinge of "maybe... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

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I agree with KaJ Solata and Viliam that episteme is underweighted in Buddhism, but thanks for explicating that world view

4Viliam10h the most important thing in Buddhist thinking is seeing reality just as it is, unmediated by the "thinking" mind, by which we really mean the acts of discrimination, judgement, categorization, and ontology. To be sure, this "reality" is not external reality, which we never get to see directly, but rather our unmediated contact with it via the senses.The "unmediated contact via the senses" can only give you sensual inputs. Everything else contains interpretation. That means, you can only have "gnosis" about things like [red], [warm], etc. Including a lot of interesting stuff about your inner state, of course, but still fundamentally of the type [feeling this], [thinking that], and perhaps some usually-unknown-to-non-Buddhists [X-ing Y], etc. Poetically speaking, these are the "atoms of experience". (Some people would probably say "qualia".) But some interpretation needs to come to build molecules out of these atoms. Without interpretation, you could barely distinguish between a cat and a warm pillow... which IMHO is a bit insufficient for a supposedly supreme knowledge.
9G Gordon Worley III14h Hmm, I feel like there's multiple things going on here, but I think it hinges on this: Yes, the method requires temporarily suspending episteme-based reasoning and engaging with less conceptual forms of seeing. But it can still be justified and explained using episteme-based models; if it could not, there would be little reason to expect that it would be worth engaging with.Different traditions vary on how much to emphasize models and episteme. None of them completely ignore it, though, only seek to keep it within its proper place. It's not that episteme is useless, only that it is not primary. You of course should include it because it's part of the world, and to deny it would lead to confusion and suffering. As you note with your first example especially, some people learn to turn off the discriminating mind rather than hold it as object, and they are worse for it because then they can't engage with it anymore. Turning it off is only something you could safely do if you really had become so enlightened that you had no shadow and would never accumulate any additional shadow, and even then it seems strange from where I stand to do that although maybe it would make sense to me if I were in the position that it were a reasonable and safe option. So to me this reads like an objection to a position I didn't mean to take. I mean to say episteme has a place and is useful, it is not taken as primary to understanding, at some points Buddhist episteme will say contradictory things, that's fine and expected because dharma episteme is normally post hoc rather than ante hoc (though is still expected to be rational right up until it is forced to hit a contradiction), and ante hoc is okay so long as it is then later verified via gnosis or techne.

One thing I'm finding quite surprising about shortform is how long some of these posts are. It seems that many people are using this feature to indicate that they've just written up these ideas quickly in the hope that the feedback is less harsh. This seems valuable; the feedback here can be incredibly harsh at times and I don't doubt that this has discouraged many people from posting.

7Raemon12h I pushed a bit for the name 'scratchpad' [] so that this use case was a bit clearer (or at least not subtly implied as "wrong"). Shortform had enough momentum as a name that it was a bit hard to change tho. (Meanwhile, I settled for 'shortform means either the writing is short, or it took a (relatively) short amount of time to write)

“I’m sorry, I didn’t have the time to write you a short email, so I wrote you a long one instead.”

I'm going to start writing up short book reviews as I know from past experience that it's very easy to read a book and then come out a few years later with absolutely no knowledge of what was learned.

Book Review: Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope

To be honest, the main reason why I read this book was because I had enjoyed his first and second books (Models and The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck) and so I was willing to take a risk. There were definitely some interesting ideas here, but I'd already received many of these through other s... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

I often don't feel like I'm "doing that much", but find that when I list out all of the projects, activities, and thought streams going on, there's an amount that feels like "a lot". This has happened when reflecting on every semester in the past 2 years.

Hyp: Until I write down a list of everything I'm doing, I'm just probing my working memory for "how much stuff am I up to?" Working mem has a limit, and reliably I'm going to get only a handful of things. Anytime when I'm doing more things th... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

Relatedly, the KonMari cleaning method involves taking all items of a category "e.g. all books" and putting them in on big pile, before clearing them out. You often feel like you don't own "that much stuff" and are almost always surprised by the size of the pile.

There are a pair of things in the rationalist community which I like to call "The Two Bad Polys" -- polyphasic sleep and polyamory. Both seem appealing to many people and have been experimented with pretty widely in the community despite being quite harmful; I strongly advise against trying either. In practice they seem to lead to lots of problems for most people who try them.

(Attribution note: I'm not sure whether I was the first to come up with this term to describe the pair -- I think the two were first referred to as a dangerous pair by ... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

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3Elizabeth12h 1. I have the opposite observation on abuse in poly vs mono relationships. I'm interested in discussing further but I think that requires naming names and I don't want to do so in a public forum, so maybe we should discuss offline. 2. Davis said harmful and habryka said abusive, which aren't synonymous. It's entirely possible for poly to lead to a lower chance any particular relationship is abusive, and yet raise the total amount of harm-done-by-relationships in a person or community.

1. Sure, happy to chat

2. Yeah, I didn't mean to imply that it's in direct contradiction, just that I have the most data about actually abusive relationships, and some broad implication that I do think that's where most of the variance comes from, though definitely not all of it.

3mr-hire13h I think the "getting your needs met by one person" thing is more of a failure mode of bad monogamous relationships. As you mentioned, it's especially a problem if a person has varied sexual needs, as those are things you're only allowed to get from one partner in a monogamous context, however a common failure mode of monogamy is to also expect your partner to provide for all social needs. I think for different types of monogamous relationships this also varies. For instance there's a thing called "emotional cheating" in which partners don't have physical relationships with the opposite sex, but have a particular type of a emotional closeness that people are only expected to get from their partner. This can be an example of the failure mode.

Here are some of the common criticisms I get of myself. If you know me, either in person, through secondhand accounts feel free to comment with your thoughts on which ones feel correct to you and any nuance or comments you'd like to make. Full license for this particular thread to operate on Crocker's rules and not take my feelings into account. If you don't feel comfortable commenting publicly, also feel free to message with your thoughts.

  • I have too low epistemic rigor.
  • Too confident in myself
  • Not confident enough in myself.
  • Too focused on st
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There's been a lot of noise lately about affirmative consent, a standard of consent which requires explicit verbal confirmation for every escalation of romantic or sexual interaction. It has been adopted as a standard by many college campuses, and efforts have been made to turn it into actual law.

Most of the discussion has centered around the use of affirmative consent as a legal standard, and as such it is quite terrible: unfair, unjust, and impossible to interpret in a consistent way that stops bad behavior without criminalizing normal conduct. But,... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

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2magfrump2d In my experience I endorse affirmative consent as a *strongly* enforced social norm. Having sex or even kissing someone without explicitly asking first is something that I would reprimand friends if I knew they did. I am probably in some very strongly selected communities but I like living in a world where affirmative consent is the explicit norm and I would not want to go back outside that.

I'm curious if you'd reprimand both friends if two of your friends kissed, escalated, and then had sex, both enthusiastically, but without any verbal consent in either direction. (Obvious conclusion I'm jumping to: that we generally mean that men must get consent, even if we state that it goes both ways.)

4G Gordon Worley III4d Right. I often suspect attempts to change social equilibriums are not attempts at Pareto improvements but instead trade-offs along the existing frontier that better serve some people that are currently underserved by the existing equilibrium. They are, of course, often sold as Pareto improvements by their supporters because it's both not considered acceptable to argue for trade-offs that will make others worse (unless they are undesirable others) and because they may innocently but motivatedly confuse them for true Pareto improvements because they have blindspots that prevent them from noticing how the change would be bad for others when it's good for them, such as via the typical mind fallacy.

Crossposted from my Facebook timeline (and, in turn, crossposted there from vaguely secret, dank corners of the rationalsphere)

“So Ray, is LessLong ready to completely replace Facebook? Can I start posting my cat pictures and political rants there?”

Well, um, hmm....

So here’s the deal. I do hope someday someone builds an actual pure social platform that’s just actually good, that’s not out-to-get you, with reasonably good discourse. I even think the LessWrong architecture might be good for that (and if a team wanted to fork the codebase, they’d be welcome t... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

A couple weeks ago I spent an hour talking over video chat with Daniel Cantu, a UCLA neuroscience postdoc who I hired on to spend an hour answering a variety of questions about neuroscience I had. (Thanks Daniel for reviewing this blog post for me!)

The most interesting thing I learned is that I had quite substantially misunderstood the connection between convolutional neural nets and the human visual system. People claim that these are somewhat bio-inspired, and that if you look at early layers of the visual cortex you'll find that it operates k

... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

I think that an extremely effective way to get a better feel for a new subject is to pay an online tutor to answer your questions about it for an hour.

It turns that there are a bunch of grad students on Wyzant who mostly work tutoring high school math or whatever but who are very happy to spend an hour answering your weird questions.

For example, a few weeks ago I had a session with a first-year Harvard synthetic biology PhD. Before the session, I spent a ten-minute timer writing down things that I currently didn't get about biology. (This is an exercise wo

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I recommend looking on Wyzant.

10SoerenMind2d Hired an econ tutor based on this.
4habryka2d I posted on Facebook, and LW might actually also be a good place for some subset of topics.

Magic colors and errors

Reading Writers guild policy doc there was a principle of "the vase is already broken". The whole document is a lot how you make a red organization and most of the princples are anti-white.

The principle makes sense but I found it be foregin to my culture. Things are made to be replaced. And if something is done wrong today we will try to do right the next day.

In contrast the blue way is much more familiar with me. Accept only true things, set up things for perpetuity. In the contrast I noticed that the blue thing is focused... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

More on green errors, I think they do exists. There is a difference between an invasive species and a predator. Green probably allows for predators easier than white or black that would call them murderes. But being disruptive to the harmony is an actual violation green registers.

Imagine you have a snake problem in your houses yard. You could get angry and kill every snake you see (haphazard, random and laboursome the red way to address it). You could poison your yard (but then your flowers might die or your food supply gets fouled, the black way). For whe... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

2habryka8d Interesting. Do you have a link to the document that sparked this thought?
3Slider7d It was linked in a lesswrong norm thread. Couldn't relocate it easily as I don't remember which thread it was on.

Fiction writing ramble, #2: Worldbuilding.

This is an attempt to walk through the mental process I follow when writing fiction. [Goals: I'd like to better understand what my brain is doing, and put out ideas for other people who might be interested in writing fiction.]

Historically, worldbuilding (I'm talking mainly about fantasy settings here, but sci-fi as well; earthfic applies less) has been one of the planning steps that I most struggle to do alone; I've tended to do it via brainstorming with friends. Figuring out how magic systems and s... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

(don't write fiction, but have run and playtested a lot of RPGs, which share many of the worldbuilding elements).

Among the hard parts is figuring out how much suspension of disbelief your audience will willingly bring, on what topics. This _is_ fiction, so we're not generally trying to truly predict a hypothetical "possible" outcome, we're trying to highlight similarities and differences from our own. This VERY OFTEN implies assuming a similarity (where the point of departure has less effect that is likely) and then justifying it... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

6eigen2d I'm more directed towards figuring things out as I go. While directly writing what comes to mind, I think that I rarely put myself into a corner, like saying,"huh this doesn't quite work because of this and that" but rather I do that task when reading the first-draft and then clarifying and solving inconsistencies in the second draft. I've listened to an interview with J.K. Rowling (maybe one of the best world-builders of this generation) and she said that she had sort-of like an epiphany, like a dump into his consciousness of the world of Harry Potter; she wrote the ideas as it came to her mind, which is to say that I don't think she ever stopped in the tracks to start thinking what the world was capable of (at least not until later books maybe).

Old post: A mechanistic description of status

[This is an essay that I’ve had bopping around in my head for a long time. I’m not sure if this says anything usefully new-but it might click with some folks. If you haven’t read Social Status: Down the Rabbit Hole on Kevin Simler’s excellent blog, Melting Asphalt read that first. I think this is pretty bad and needs to be rewritten and maybe expanded substantially, but this blog is called “musings and rough drafts.”]

In this post, I’m going to outline how I think about status. In particular, I want to give a mec... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

Related: The red paperclip theory of status describes status as a form of optimization power, specifically one that can be used to influence a group.

The name of the game is to convert the temporary power gained from (say) a dominance behaviour into something further, bringing you closer to something you desire: reproduction, money, a particular social position...

5Raemon2d (it says "more stuff here" but links to your overall blog, not sure if that meant to be a link to a specific post)

Some of these seem likely to generalize and some seem likely to be more specific.

Curious about your thoughts "best experimental approaches to figuring out your own napping protocol."

Related to: Realism about rationality

I have talked to some people who say that they value ethical reflection, and would prefer that humanity reflected for a very long time before colonizing the stars. In a sense I agree, but at the same time I can't help but think that "reflection" is a vacuous feel-good word that has no shared common meaning.

Some forms of reflection are clearly good. Epistemic reflection is good if you are a consequentialist, since it can help you get what you want. I also agree that narrow forms of reflection can also be ... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

The vague reflections you are referring to are analogous to somebody saying "I should really exercise more" without ever doing it. I agree that the mere promise of reflection is useless.

But I do think that reflections about the vague topics are important and possible. Actively working through one's experiences, reading relevant books, discussing questions with intelligent people can lead to epiphanies (and eventually life choices), that wouldn't have occurred otherwise.

However, this is not done with a push of a button and these things don't happen randomly

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One of the major problem with getting marketing emails is that we lack good feedback mechanisms to incentivize companies whom we do give our emails because we do want to get some information not to spam us with other information that we don't want to receive.
At the moment we have two options to punish companies who abuse the relationship. We can click on “mark as spam" or we can unsubscribe. 
The first version is a punishment as it means that more emails of the company end up in spam folders. Unfortunately, the company usually doesn't know th... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

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In the end they do care about the fact that people buy, but the fact that marketers care about metrics like open rates suggest that it's useful for them to have more information.

A lot of emails are send out as a form of content marketing where the goal of the company is to create a trusted relationship which can be later monetized. In those cases it's not easy to measure the effects of an email on sales months down the road.

The fact that the marketing platforms have a spam score doesn't mean that the spam score accurately captures the spam... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

2ChristianKl3d I think because of marketing and branding reasons that's not a valid move for the companies that produce most email clients.
2mr-hire3d Whoops, edited.

Memex Thread:

I've taken copious notes in notebooks over the past 6 years, I've used evernote on and off as a capture tool for the past 4 years, and for the past 1.5 years I've been trying to organize my notes via a personal wiki. I'm in the process of switching and redesigning systems, so here's some thoughts.

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Concepts and Frames

Association, linking and graphs

A defining idea in this space is "Your memory works my association, get your note taking to mirror that." A simple version of this is what you have in a wiki. Every concept mentioned that has it's own page has a link to it. I'm a big fan of graph visualizations of information, and you could imagine looking at a graph of your personal wiki where edges are links. Roam embraces links with memory, all your notes know if they've been linked to and display this information. My idea for a ... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

4Hazard3d People Talking about Memex stuffTiago Forte: Build a Second Brain (here's an introduction []) He's been on my radar for a year, and I've just started reading more of his stuff. Suspicion that he might be me from the future. He's all about the process and design of the info flow and doesn't sell a memex tool. Big ideas: find what you need when the time is right, new organic connections, your second brain should surprise you, progressive summarization. Andrew Louis: I'm building a memex This guy takes the memex as a way of life. Self-proclaimed digital packrat, he's got every chat log since highschool saved, always has his gps on and records that location, and basically pours all of his digital data into a massive personal database. He's been developing an app for himself (partially for others) to manage and interact with this. This goes waaaaaaaay beyond note taking. I'd binge more of his stuff if I wanted to get a sense for the emergent revelations that could come from intense memexing. (check out his demo vid []) Conor: Roam [] Conor both has a beta-product, and many ideas about how to organize ideas. Inspired by zettlekasten (post [] about zettlekasten, was the name of a physical note card system used by Niklas Luhmann). Check out his white paper [] for the philosophy
4Hazard3d Products I've interacted withNuclino [] Very cool. Mixes wiki, trello board, and graph centric views. Has all the nice content embedding, slash commands, etc. DOESN'T WORK OFFLINE :( (would be great otherwise) Style/Inspiration: Wiki meets trello + extra. Roam [] Conor has been developing this with the Zettelkasten system as his inspiration. Biggest feature (in my mind) is "deep linking" things. You can link other notes to your note, and have them "expanded", and if you edit the deep linked note in a parent note, it actual edits the linked note. Also, notes keep track of every place there mentioned. Allows for powerful spiderwebby knowledge connection. I'm playing with the beta, still getting familiar and don't yet have much to say except that deep linking is exactly the feature I've always wanted and couldn't find. Zim Wiki [] Desktop wiki that works for linux. Nothing fancy, uses a simple markdown esque syntax, everything is text files. I used that for a year, now I'm moving away. 1 reason is I want more rich outlining powers like folding, but I'm also broadly moving away from framing my notes as a "personal wiki" for reasons I'll mention in another post. PB Wiki [] Just a wiki software. When I first decided to use a wiki to organize my school notes, I used this. It's an online tool which is --, but works okay as a wiki. Emacs Org Mode [] (what I'm currently using) Emacs is a magical extensible text editor, and org mode is a specific package for that editor. Org mode has great outlining capabilities, and unlimited possibilities for how you can customize stuff (coding required). The current thing that I'd really need for org mode to fit my needs is to be able to search my notes and see previews of them (think evernote search, you see the titles of notes, and a preview of the content). I think deft [] can get me
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