All of abstractwhiz's Comments + Replies

Hammers and Nails

Related to #10, I've found that building up understanding of complex topics (e.g., physics, mathematics, machine learning, etc.) is unusually enhanced by following the history of their development. Especially in mathematical topics, where the drive for elegant proofs leads to presentations that strip away the messy history of all the cognitive efforts that went into solving the problem in the first place.

I suppose this is really just an unconventional application of the general principle of learning from history.

I think there's a lot of the intuitions and thought processes that let you come up with new discoveries in mathematics and machine learning that aren't generally taught in classes or covered in textbooks. People are also quite bad at conveying their intuitions behind topics directly when asked to in Q&As and speeches. I think that at least in machine learning, hanging out with good ML researchers teaches me a lot about how to think about problems, in a way that I haven't been able to get even after reading their course notes and listening to their presentations. Similarly, I suspect that autobiographies may help convey the experience of solving problems in a way that actually lets you learn the intuitions or thought processes used by the author.

This same concept brought up by Ray Dalio in Principles. He's fond of saying that we should view all sorts of things in life as machines and optimize their processing and output, and he suggests extending this to people and to oneself as well. His angle on it is as a path to addressing weaknesses, since people mostly go "I'm bad at X", make a few tries to fix it, fail, and then resign themselves to being bad at this forever. But you can expand the definition of the machine you're optimizing beyond yourself, and compensate for personal weaknesses via setting up some kind of system, or partnering with someone who is good at X, etc.

EDIT: This belongs on a different post, looks like there's some kind of commenting bug. (I've seen Qiaochu complaining about the same thing here.)

The bug is specific to navigating through this sequence, I think; the comment will end up where you started navigating and not where you are. Apparently it will be fixed soon. For now I think refreshing before commenting will fix it?

This seems to be the underlying model for a techniquelet I've used with varying degrees of success. Basically after being extremely productive, I try to memorize the way it felt when I was doing it. That way when I need to be productive in a similar situation, I can try to become that version of me again. I've found this often gets me better results than trying to duplicate the environment that led to the original burst of productivity, since ultimately the only point of that is to invoke this state anyway.

Caveat: The base rate of success in thi... (read more)

Ability to react

I had a similar experience after getting hit by a car while crossing the street. A friend who saw me and came running over actually thought I was in shock or something, because he couldn't believe that I was taking it so calmly. The adrenalin also helped, of course - I didn't feel any pain at all until nearly half an hour later. The only emotional reaction I can remember was extreme annoyance at the breaking of my glasses.

Oddly enough, I fall into the same category as the post author. I don't think I'm very good at reacting swiftly, and I absorb informati... (read more)

I'm familiar with the source he's quoting,

Harun Yahya has written a ton of books and has a massive following in the Islamic world. As someone raised in a liberal Muslim family, I've suffered through a few of them. They're mostly bald assertions meant to reinforce belief in those who already have it. Persuasive content is practically nonexistent, and the science is usually so terrible as to leave one wondering whether he isn't trolling his entire readership. His Atlas of Creation was famously taken apart by Richard Dawkins in a talk somewhere (quite humoro... (read more)