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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When I say "qualia" I mean individual instances of subjective, conscious experience full stop. These three extensions are not what I mean when I say "qualia".


Qualia are private entities which occur to us and can't be inspected via third person science.

Not convinced of this. There are known neural correlates of consciousness. That our current brain scanners lack the required resolution to make them inspectable does not prove that they are not inspectable in principle.

Qualia are ineffable; you can't explain them using a sufficiently complex English or

... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post
1Matthew Barnett2d Thanks for engaging with me on this thing. :) I know I'm not being as clear as I could possibly be, and at some points I sort of feel like just throwing "Quining Qualia" or Keith Frankish's articles or a whole bunch of other blog posts at people and say, "Please just read this and re-read it until you have a very distinct intuition about what I am saying." But I know that that type of debate is not helpful. I think I have a OK-to-good understanding of what you are saying. My model of your reply is something like this, "Your claim is that qualia don't exist because nothing with these three properties exists (ineffability/private/intrinsic), but it's not clear to me that these three properties are universally identified with qualia. When I go to Wikipedia or other sources, they usually identify qualia with 'what it's like' rather than these three very specific things that Daniel Dennett happened to list once. So, I still think that I am pointing to something real when I talk about 'what it's like' and you are only disputing a perhaps-strawman version of qualia." Please correct me if this model of you is inaccurate. I recognize what you are saying, and I agree with the place you are coming from. I really do. And furthermore, I really really agree with the idea that we should go further than skepticism and we should always ask more questions even after we have concluded that something doesn't exist. However, the place I get off the boat is where you keep talking about how this 'what it's like' thing is actually referring to something coherent in the real world that has a crisp, natural boundary around it. That's the disagreement. I don't think it's an accident of history either that those properties are identified with qualia. The whole reason Daniel Dennett identified them was because he showed that they were the necessary conclusion of the sort of thought experiments people use for qualia. He spends the whole first several paragraphs justifying them using var
3Raemon2d It does seem to me something like "I expect the sort of mind that is capable of viewing qualia of other people would be sufficiently different from a human mind that it may still be fair to call them 'private/ineffable among humans.'"

"Immortality is cool and all, but our universe is going to run down from entropy eventually"

I consider this argument wrong for two reasons. The first is the obvious reason, which is that even if immortality is impossible, it's still better to live for a long time.

The second reason why I think this argument is wrong is because I'm currently convinced that literal physical immortality is possible in our universe. Usually when I say this out loud I get an audible "what" or something to that effect, but I'm not kidding.

It&#x... (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 have a previous high impliciation uncertainty about this (that would be a crux?). " you can't accelerate enough to turn around " seems false to me. The mathematical rotation seems like it ought to exist. The prevoius reasons I thought such a mathematical rotation would be impossible I have signficantly less faith in. If I draw a unit sphere analog in spacetime having a visual observation from the space-time diagram drawn on euclid paper is not sufficient to conclude that the future cone is far from past cone. And thinking that a sphere is ... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

1Matthew Barnett4h I agree I would not be able to actually accomplish time travel. The point is whether we could construct some object in Minkowski space (or whatever General Relativity uses, I'm not a physicist) that we considered to be loop-like. I don't think it's worth my time to figure out whether this is really possible, but I suspect that something like it may be. Edit: I want to say that I do not have an intuition for physics or spacetime at all. My main reason for thinking this is possible is mainly that I think my idea is fairly minimal: I think you might be able to do this even in R^3.
1Matthew Barnett5h I agree with the objection. :) Personally I'm not sure whether I'd want to be stuck in a loop of experiences repeating over and over forever. However, even if we considered "true" immortality, repeat experiences are inevitable simply because there's a finite number of possible experiences. So, we'd have to start repeating things eventually.

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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2Davis_Kingsley2d Interestingly that's actually quite disputed [http://magic.tcgplayer.com/db/article.asp?ID=7146] -- you linked to a reprint of the card that displays as being rated 5/5, but the original printing of the card [https://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?printed=true&multiverseid=36038] is actually rated 3.455 out of 5. (That said, it's certainly better than Book Burning!)

I wasn't linking to that for the 5/5 star rating - there are zero votes.

3pupeno3d 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.

Imagine two prediction markets, both with shares that give you $1 if they pay out and $0 otherwise.

One is predicting some event in the real world (and pays out if this event occurs within some timeframe) and has shares currently priced at $X.

The other is predicting the behaviour of the first prediction market. Specifically, it pays out if the price of the first prediction market exceeds an upper threshhold $T before it goes below a lower threshhold $R.

Is there anything that can be said in general about the price of the second prediction market? For example... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

A frequent failure mode that I have as a leader:

  • Someone comes on to a new project, and makes a few suggestions.
  • All of those suggestions are things we/I have thought about and discussed in detail, and we have detailed reasons why we've made the decisions we have.
  • I tell the person those reasons.
  • The person comes away feeling like the project isn't really open to criticism feedback, and their ideas won't be heard.

I think a good policy is to just say yes to WHATEVER experiment someone who is new to the project proposes, and let them take their ow... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

6mr-hire10h Some concrete updates I had around this idea, based on discussion on Facebook. * One really relevant factor is the criticism coming from a person in authority, and leaders should be extra careful of critizing ideas. By steering them towards other, less authorative figures that you think will give valid critiques, you can avoid this failure. * Another potential obvious pitfall here is people feeling like they were set up to fail by not having all the relevant information. The idea here is to make people feel like they have agency, obviously not to hide information. * Even if you do the above, people can feel patronized if it seems like you're doing this as a tactic because you think they can't take criticism. This can be true even if giving them criticism would indeed be harmful for the team dynamic. Thus, the emphasizing ways to increase agency over avoiding criticism is key here.

This combination of failure modes seems pretty dicey.

I think I've encountered something similar in relationships, where my naive thought was "they're doing something wrong/harmful and I should help them avoid it" but I eventually realized "them having an internal locus of control and not feeling like I'm out to micromanage them is way more important than any given suboptimal thing they're doing."

4An1lam2d I've rarely seen teams do this well and agree that your proposed approach is much better than the alternative in many cases. I've definitely seen cases where insiders thought something was impossible and then a new person went and did it. (I've been the insider, the new person who ignored the advice and succeeded, and the new person who ignored the advice and failed.) That said, I think there's a middle ground where you convey why you chose not to do something but also leave it open for the person to try anyway. The downside of just letting them do it without giving context is they may fail for a silly rather than genuine reason. What I'm suggesting could look something like the following. That's an awesome idea! This is something some of us explored a bit previously and decided not to pursue at the time for X, Y, and Z reasons. However, as insiders, we are probably biased towards viewing things as hard, so it's important for team health to have new people re-try and re-explore things we may have already thought about. You should definitely not take our reasons as final and feel free to try The Thing if you still feel like it might work or you'll learn something by doing so.

https://arbital.com/p/cev/ : "If any hypothetical extrapolated person worries about being checked, delete that concern and extrapolate them as though they didn't have it. This is necessary to prevent the check itself from having a UDT influence on the extrapolation and the actual future."

Our altruism (and many other emotions) are evolutionarily just an acausal reaction to the worry that we're being simulated by other humans.

It seems like a jerk move to punish someone for being self-aware enough to replace their emotions by the decision-theoretic considerat

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I think (given my extremely limited understanding of this stuff) this is to prevent UDT agents from fooling the people simulating them by recognizing that they're in a simulation.


IE, you want to ignore the following code:


If (inOmegasHead){

oneBox;

} else{

twoBox}

The Kitty Genovese Equation

Someone's in trouble. You can hear them from your apartment, but you can't tell if any of your neighbors are already rushing down, or already calling the police. It's time sensitive, and you've got to decide now: is it worth spending those precious minutes, or not?

Let's define our variables:

Cost to victim of nobody helping:

cost to each bystander of intervening:

Number of bystanders: (Since , for it's always right to intervene.)


Analysis:

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

Consider a singleton overseeing ten simpletons. Its ontology is that each particle has a position. Each prefers all their body's particles being in it to the alternative. It aggregates their preferences by letting each of them rule out 10% of the space of possibilities. This does not let them gurantee their integrity. What if it considered changes to a single position instead of states? Each would rule out any change that removes a particle from their body, which fits fine in their 10%. Iterating non-ruled-out changes would end up in an optimal state ... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

Old post: RAND needed the "say oops" skill

[Epistemic status: a middling argument]

A few months ago, I wrote about how RAND, and the “Defense Intellectuals” of the cold war represent another precious datapoint of “very smart people, trying to prevent the destruction of the world, in a civilization that they acknowledge to be inadequate to dealing sanely with x-risk.”

Since then I spent some time doing additional research into what cognitive errors and mistakes  those consultants, military officials, and politicians made that endangered the world. Th... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

15habryka21h This was quite valuable to me, and I think I would be excited about seeing it as a top-level post.

Can you say more about what you got from it?

The fact that Amazon rainforest produces 20% atmospheric oxygen (I read this somewhere, hope this isn't fiction) should be a bigger political piece than it seems to be. Seems like brazil could be leveraging this further on a global stage (have other countries subsidize the cost of maintaining the rainforests, preventing deforestation as we all benefit from/need the CO2 to oxygen conversion)? Also, would other countries have a tree-planting supply race to eliminate dependence on such a large source of oxygen from any one agent?

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

How I managed to stop craving sweets in 3 weeks

For me at least, it is possible to eliminate/drastically reduce my sugar cravings.

Typically I feel cravings for something sweet whenever I’m hungry, bored, have just finished a meal, am feeling sad, or am feeling happy. In short, I eat a lot of sweets and also spend a lot of time and effort trying to resist them.

LAST TIME

A few years ago I managed to cold-turkey sweets while I was following a Keto diet. I noticed that in week 3 of keto, my cravings had vanished. No longer did the desire to finish a meal with... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

Congrats!

Is the sweets the primary thing here, or was it just the hardest part of an overall keto diet?

I've had several friends try keto, and on the 2-3rd day say "woah this feels so amazing I'm so energetic life is great!" and then a week or two later go "oh god this sucks everything is terrible."

I haven't made an attempt to control my diet so far. For the past few years I've been incrementally doing more exercise, but if that's had any effect it's been (har har?) outweighed by the effect of, dunno, gettin... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

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.

Can confirm. I don't post on normal lesswrong because the discourse is brutal.

8Raemon3d I pushed a bit for the name 'scratchpad' [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/9FNHsvcqQjxcCoJMJ/shortform-vs-scratchpad-or-other-names] 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)
4Benito3d “I’m sorry, I didn’t have the time to write you a short email, so I wrote you a long one instead.”

As I said before, I'll be posting book reviews. Please let me know if you have any questions and I'll answer them to the best of my ability.

Book Review: The AI does not hate you by Tom Chivers

The title of this book comes from a quote by Elizier Yudkowsky which reads in full: "The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made of atoms which it can use of something else". This book covers not only potential risks from AI, but the rationalist community from which this evolved and also touches on the effective altruism movement.

This book fills s

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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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2magfrump5d 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.
3Antonius Westerbrok4d 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.)

I certainly have the moral instinct to.

I don't have a lot of experience with people within my friend group hooking up, or necessarily a lot of experience hearing about the details of hookups enough to have explicitly put me in that situation.

I have had several personal experiences where I reciprocated advances from women, then later been hit by the fallout of the lack of explicit verbal negotiation of what was going to happen. And I certainly reprimand friends (including women) for failing to communicate in their relationships at a broader level when ... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

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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Go after polyamory all you want -- if there is data about problems that are statistically likely to show up, I'd like to know about that, so that I can try minimizing the odds that we will experience them -- and we do experience some of the standard poly jealousy problems -- but if you are going to shoot a sacred cow, bring a high powered rifle, not a squirt gun.

I'll fully admit that I don't have formal statistical data, but I think the point is worth making anyway as a potential warning. My intent is mostly to warn newcomers about patterns... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

10Davis_Kingsley2d Link?The original site that the post was on has been taken down, but here's a pastebin of the relevant text [https://pastebin.com/KJu1PUH2] (posted with the consent of the original author, one paragraph removed to preserve the author's privacy). I should add that my own view of poly is considerably more negative than that of this author, but even the linked post is significantly more negative than the Bay Area rationalist community norms tend to be. Also, I slightly worry that what you're seeing is skewed because the kind of people who are willing to try polyamory are unusually open about their personal lives. That is, I think there's a lot of drama going on with monogamy, too, and it just happens that people who choose to be monogamous also have a culture that better keeps drama secret until it is too big to keep secret anymore, so it simply looks more common in polyamory because it is less hidden. I think that there is certainly a lot of drama with monogamy as well, and I agree that some aspects of this can be under the surface. That being said, I think there are some aspects of poly that tend to exacerbate/lead to drama while there are some aspects of monogamy that tend to mitigate/avoid it. I'll give a basic example. Let's say that there is a couple in a committed relationship, and one member of the couple starts getting closer to a third party. They become more and more emotionally close until eventually this bond seems stronger than the original relationship and the original couple splits up. Now, this could easily happen either in monogamy or in polyamory -- you could say that it's the story of an "emotional affair" that turns into a real affair and splits up a monogamous couple; you could also say that it's the story of a secondary relationship in a polyamorous situation that turns into a primary relationship and splits up an old primary relationship. In point of fact I have seen cases that seem to fit this description in both monogamous and polyamorous s
3habryka3d 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.

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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I see a few problems with this heuristic, however, and I'm not sure quite how to resolve them. More specifically, I tend to float freely between different projects because I am quick to abandon things if I feel like they aren't working out (compare this to the mindset that some game developers have when they realize their latest game idea isn't very good).

There are two big issues with the "living in the mainline" strategy:

1. Most of the highest EV activities are those that have low chance of success but big rewards. I suspect m... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

7Raemon3d 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 reasonably confident you sorta know what you're doing. (Relatedly, relationships: early on it makes sense to date a lot to get some sense of who/what you're looking for in a romantic partner. But eventually, a lot of the good stuff comes when you actually commit to longterm relationships that are capable of weathering periods of strife and doubt) * Alternately: Givewell (or maybe OpenPhil?) did mixtures of shallow dives, deep dives and medium dives into cause areas because they learned different sorts of things from each kind of research. * Commitment mindset. Sort of how Nate Soares recommends separating the feeling of conviction from the epistemic belief of high-success [http://mindingourway.com/conviction-without-s/]... you can separate "I'm going to stick with this project for a year or two because it's likely to work" from "I'm going to stick to this project for a year or two because sticking to projects for a year or two is how you learn how projects work on the 1-2 year timescale, including the part where you shift gears and learn from mistakes and become more robust about them.

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

4Viliam3d 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 III3d 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.

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.

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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