Adam Scholl

Adam Scholl's Comments

We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA

Ben just to check, before I respond—would a fair summary of your position here be, "CFAR should write more in public, e.g. on LessWrong, so that A) it can have better feedback loops, and B) more people can benefit from its ideas?"

We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA

To be clear, others at CFAR have spent time looking into these things, I think; Anna might be able to chime in with details. I just meant that I haven't personally.

We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA

Thanks for spelling this out. My guess is that there are some semi-deep cruxes here, and that they would take more time to resolve than I have available to allocate at the moment. If Eli someday writes that post about the Nisbett and Wilson paper, that might be a good time to dive in further.

We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA

(Unsure, but I'm suspicious that the distinction between these two things might not be clear).

We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA

I just googled around for pictures of things I think are neat. I think ctenophores are neat, since they look like alien spaceships and maybe evolved neurons independently; I think it's neat that wind sometimes makes clouds do the vortex thing that canoe paddles make water do, etc.

We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA

Yeah, same; I think this term has experienced some semantic drift, which is confusing. I meant to refer to pre-verbal intuitions in general, not just ones accompanied by physical sensation.

We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA

I have an interest in making certain parts of philosophy more productive, and in turning some engineers into "people with more of some specific philosophical skills." I just meant that I'm not excited about most ways I can imagine of "making the average AIRCS participant's epistemics more like that of the average professional philosopher."

We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA

CFAR does spend substantially less time circling now than it did a couple years ago, yeah. I think this is partly because Pete (who spent time learning about circling when he was younger, and hence found it especially easy to notice the lack of circling-type skill among rationalists, much as I spent time learning about philosophy when I was younger and hence found it especially easy to notice the lack of philosophy-type skill among AIRCS participants) left, and partly I think because many staff felt like their marginal skill returns from circling practice were decreasing, so they started focusing more on other things.

We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA

Said I appreciate you pointing out that I used the term "extrospection" in a non-standard way—I actually didn't realize that. The way I've heard it used, which is probably idiosyncratic local jargon, it means something like the theory of mind analog of introspection: something like "feeling, yourself, something of what the person you're talking with is feeling." You obviously can't do this perfectly, but I think many people find that e.g. it's easier to gain information about why someone is sad, and about how it feels for them to be currently experiencing this sadness, if you use empathy/theory of mind/the thing I think people are often gesturing at when they talk about "mirror neurons," to try to emulate their sadness in your own brain. To feel a bit of it, albeit an imperfect approximation of it, yourself.

Similarly, I think it's often easier for one to gain information about why e.g. someone feels excited about pursuing a particular line of inquiry, if one tries to emulate their excitement in one's own brain. Personally, I've found this empathy/emulation skill quite helpful for research collaboration, because it makes it easier to trade information about people's vague, sub-verbal curiosities and intuitions about e.g. "which questions are most worth asking."

Circlers don't generally use this skill for research. But it is the primary skill, I think, that circling is designed to train, and my impression is that many circlers have become relatively excellent at it as a result.

We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA

(I want to be clear that the above is an account of why I personally feel excited about CFAR having investigated circling. I think this account also reasonably describes the motivations of many key staff, and of CFAR's behavior as an institution. But CFAR struggles with communicating research intuitions, too; I think in this case these intuitions did not propagate fully among our staff, and as a result that we did employ a few people for a while whose primary interest in circling was more like "for its own sake," who sometimes discussed it in ways which felt epistemically unhealthy to me. I think people correctly picked up on this as worrying, and I don't want to suggest that didn't happen; just that there is, I think, a sensible reason why CFAR as an institution tends to investigate local blindspots by searching for non-locals with a patch, thereby alarming locals about our epistemic allegiance).

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