Murphy's Quest
Babble and Prune


Babble & Prune Thoughts

In in-person discussions, a good way to lessen this problem is to preface statements with qualifiers like "This is a dumb question, but..." or "Here's a crazy idea:" or "I don't endorse this, but I was thinking..." and so on. This creates a kind of protection for the speaker. They still get credit for good ideas; but if the idea really was bad, they take less of a hit.

This doesn't work as well for longform text discussions, because readers know you had time to think things through. But [epistemic status:] flags can play a similar role. If you don't feel like an idea is good enough, you preface it with [epistemic status: super dumb] or whatever, and take some comfort in the fact that if the reader doesn't like what you wrote, they were warned.

I think having this norm is much better than attempting to sustain a norm that everything is "epistemic status: raw thoughts" by default.

I mostly agree with this angle, my mind is definitely changed. This disagreement reminds me of the culture war between "take personal responsibility even though society sucks" and "society is to blame for putting us in shitty situations."

My main point here is that improving babble doesn't mean reducing prune. Alkjash sometimes speaks as if it's just a matter of opening the floodgates. Sometimes people do need to just relax, turn off their prune, and open the floodgates. But if you try to do this in general, you might have initial success but then experience backlash, since you may have failed to address the underlying reasons why you had closed the gates to begin with.

I do agree with this in general, although at that time of writing I think my prune was particularly pathological, and simply opening the floodgates led to uniformly positive outcomes. Independently, one thing I tried to emphasize is that improving babble is often about trying on different prune, hence the anecdotes about poetry and weirdly constrained writing. 

[epistemic status: raw thoughts]

The Pit

If I had to say (and this is only a slice of the story), I am the boy and the scientists (or whatever they are) are the rationality community. Rationality showed me light, taught me how to seek truth, saved me from destructive biases. Many others in my position dropped their "conventional" lives and moved to Berkeley/started working on EA or AI Risk. But me - after my interaction with rationality - I turned away from the community to continue grad school and pursue my pure mathematics with renewed vigor.

[Hammertime Final Exam] Quantum Walk, Oracles and Sunk Meaning

I just stumbled back into LessWrong after many months, very pleased to see that you completed this journey with such seriousness! Looking forward to your thoughts and comments in the postmortem post.

Re: Sunk Meaning, immediately after reading this, my brain sent strong signals that *something else is going on here* with regards to making the cow's death mean something and there's some Chesterton's fence that you shouldn't break. I think the error you're making is basically the same error that causal decision theorists make two-boxing in Newcomb's problem. You do not get to choose whether or not to honor a dead cow in this specific instance. You only get to choose (for all time) whether or not your source code implements an algorithm which honors the dead. Being able to do this is really really useful for all sorts of Newcomblike situations that occur in real life.

[Hammertime Final Exam] Accommodate Yourself; Kindness Is An Epistemic Virtue; Privileging the Future

I identify strongly with the "Accommodate Yourself" - a substantial fraction of things I figured out with rationality boiled down to realizations of the form "You didn't have to live like this!" I set up a Schelling point for my glasses so I didn't have to scramble around looking for them every morning. I got over the inherent virtuousness of cooking my own meals and tried Mealsquares. I got a monitor and mouse for my laptop. The list goes on...

Kierkegaard wrote "So only one lack remains [in our time], even though not yet felt, the lack of difficulty. Out of love of humankind, out of despair over my awkward predicament of having achieved nothing and of being unable to make anything easier than it had already been made, out of genuine interest in those who make everything easy, I comprehended that it was my task: to make difficulties everywhere." It seems to me, however, that despite all our progress, life is sufficiently hard as it is. We don't need to make it any harder than it has to be.

With regards to the thoughts on delayed gratifications, it seems like a valuable reminder that pendulums usually swing a little too far in the other direction. Most people most of the time would benefit from a reminder that the future exists, but some smaller fraction of them also need the reminder that the present exists too.

Thanks for following Hammertime, and I'd love to see more of your writing on here in the future. =)


Just book a slot and leave a message for how long you want it to be.


Guvf vf evtug, avpr! Gunaxf nyfb sbe gur pbeerpgvba.

Gur bayl pbzzrag V unir vf: sbe gur ynfg ceboyrz, lbh fubhyq or noyr gb jevgr qbja n pybfrq sbez, be ng yrnfg na rfgvzngr. Jung xvaq bs tebjgu engr qbrf guvf fhzzngvba unir? Cebonoyl Fgveyvat jvyy gnxr lbh pybfr gb gur evtug nafjre.

Urer'f nabgure jnl gb trg fbzrguvat: tebhc hc gur pbbeqvangrf va frgf bs guerr naq gnxr gur frg bs nyy irpgbef juvpu unir (1,1,1),(0,1,1),(1,0,1),(1,1,0) va rnpu gevcyr bs pbbeqvangrf. Guvf rknzcyr tvirf lbh 2^{(2/3)a} irpgbef.

Unyielding Yoda Timers: Taking the Hammertime Final Exam

I like (2) a lot, I find writing up talk/lecture notes on a topic extremely productive. It's surprising how many details I'm always missing that take work to produce.

Would you mind commenting a link to this on the original final exam post?

Harry Potter and the Method of Entropy

Gur svefg unys vf evtug, gur xrl vqrn vf gb pbzcner r gb o, naq purpx gung guvf oernxf n havirefr bs 15 cbffvovyvgvrf vagb 7 naq 8. Nsgre gung lbh unir gb or n ovg zber pnershy nobhg znxvat gur evtug pbzcnevfbaf, sbe rknzcyr vg ybbxf yvxr lbh'er nffhzvat n<r<o whfg orpnhfr r<o, jura vg pbhyq nyfb ybbx yvxr r<n<o.

April Fools: Announcing: Karma 2.0

Smart and thoughtful change, what a wonderful Easter surprise!

Harry Potter and the Method of Entropy

1.2.3 Gurer rkvfgf n fgenvtug naq aneebj cngu gb fbegvat 5 ryrzragf va rknpgyl 7 zbirf. Xrrc ybbxvat sbe pbzcnevfbaf gung qvivqr gur ahzore bs cbffvoyr jbeyqf nf pybfr gb rirayl nf cbffvoyr.

2.2 Gung'f ebhtuyl evtug, tbbq wbo! Sbe shegure qrgnvyf ba guvf ceboyrz, frr gur "Yvne Tnzr" va Nyba&Fcrapre Pu 14.

3.2.2 Rknpgyl! V'yy fnl zber nobhg guvf arkg gvzr ohg lbh'ir ebhtuyl erperngrq gur vqrn bs Uhsszna pbqrf.

Load More