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Depending on where you live, mold can become a problem.

Group rationality diary, 5/21/12

I've been getting up at 7:30 every day and exercising since I got back, which is essentially unheard of for me. It's very exciting.

Unfortunately, there is a lot non-rationality related stuff that needs to be done in the next three weeks, so I've had very little time to synthesize and go through the rest of it. I'm hoping that in a month when things are less crazy I'll be able to commit half an hour a day as was suggested, but am worried that by then momentum will be lost. Any suggestions?

6ghf10yRather than thinking of it as spending 30 minutes a day on rationality when you should be doing other things, it might be more accurate to think of it as 30 minutes a day spent optimizing the other 23.5 hours. At least in my experience, taking that time yields far greater total productivity than when I claim to be too busy.
Learn A New Language!

I'd also recommend an introductory paragraph, where you explain what the post is going to be about, your basis for believing your information is correct, etc. Something like "this is a post describing a specific strategy for learning a new language. I've used it to learn Mandarin, French, Urdu, and Hindi." First because the opening is rather abrupt, and second because (as you can see) without citations everyone assumes you're working only from anecdotal evidence. If you aren't, you should definitely give your sources. And if you are, you sho... (read more)

Hold Off On Proposing Solutions

This is one of the techniques I've always thought sounded really useful, but never had a clear enough picture of to implement for myself. Does anyone have an example (a transcript, or something of the like) of groups and/or individuals successfully discussing a problem for 5 or 10 minutes without proposing any solutions? I have trouble imagining what that would look like.

No transcript. But I do this professionally all the time. Clients frequently come to me with a design in mind for a solution, and it's often important to back them up and get them to tell me what the problem actually is.

Usually, I start with the question "How would you be able to tell that this problem had been solved?" and repeat it two or twenty times in different words until someone actually tries to answer it.

On one occasion I handed a client my pen and asked whether it was a solution to their problem. They looked at me funny and said it was... (read more)

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 11

I'm not sure that's at all clear. Harry is going to extremely desperate measures to save Hermione - that he is willing to sacrifice any possible piece on the board, possibly including his own better nature, for one single person (no matter how special) certainly strikes me as a taboo tradeoff.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 10

The ministry was clearly not actually trying to catch Death Eaters during the first war. Even simpler than this (as a first pass to catch spies) would be to make all ministry employees roll up their left sleeve on a regular basis.

1Sheaman377310yWas I truly the only person who read that and thought that it would make a hell of a lot more sense for the Death Eaters to control whether or not the Mark was visible? Why does everyone persist in assuming that it is permanently visible, rather considering the possibility that Voldemort wasn't quite that stupid, especially in MoR?
[SEQ RERUN] "I don't know."

If you haven't already seen it, this might interest you, it's a pretty cool story. Also, this.

0glunkthunker11yThanks! Much appreciated. I sometimes wish there was more parenting stuff on LW (and I suspect there will be in 10 years or so). But, then I think it's just as well there isn't as parenting forums are often more contentious than political ones.
SIAI Fundraising

The rule of thumb I've heard is that an employee's cost to their employer is between two and three times their salary. Even if the employer is not paying benefits, they still have to carry worker's comp insurance, for example, as well as administrative overhead on managing payroll, etc.

Where are we?

I'm in central Oregon

6handoflixue11y(Hopefully you don't mind an example from someone else; I seem to do similar, but can't speak for the original poster :)) As a random recent example, the probability that anything goes wrong with my equipment while SCUBA diving is fairly low to begin with, since I get the gear from a trusted source and know they do good maintenance on it. Even if something goes wrong, I know techniques for handling everything but a catastrophic failure by myself. Even if my gear fails catastrophically, I still have a buddy, who I know personally has been trained to handle that situation. Even if the gear both of us has fails catastrophically, or my buddy panics, or isn't nearby, there are emergency techniques that risk injury but will avoid death. I actually used similar logic to get myself to learn in the first place - "right now, this seems dangerous, because I do not know how likely the risks are, nor how to mitigate them, nor how to handle emergencies. Between taking classes and doing some research, I can alleviate both of those. The cost of these actions is acceptable even if I decide part-way through that this is too risky for me. Therefore, I will go ahead, sign up for a class, and make a serious commitment to drop the class if I ever feel that SCUBA diving, or the way the class is being taught, places me at serious risk."
Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions

FYI, I just tried to click through to your food blog from the link on your wiki userpage, and it is broken, I think.

0Alicorn11yFixed, thanks.
Join the Special Relocation Task Force!

I am volunteering to be considered. I don't know anything about engineering jobs, and I've moved a few times, but not a ton. I'm good at organizey stuff, and I know a little about low-cost living strategies which make "getting a proper job" less urgent when you move. I have had several positive tribe experiences, as well as some negative ones. I don't currently live near a LW meetup.

I'd expect that there are other people better qualified than I to help, but I am willing, and so I wanted to give you the option in case for whatever reason no one better volunteers.

In any case, I wish Andrew the best of luck in finding a tribe!

0jsalvatier11yHooray!
Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions

Fair enough. If a change in the karma system was worth doing, this issue is unlikely to tip things back in the other direction: it would have to be really borderline.

Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions

It would also skew total karma scores to users who posted heavily before the change.

0CharlesR11yTrue.
1Alicorn11yThere's precedent for making changes with this effect. It used to be that you could vote on (and would automatically vote up) your own comments, and those points did not evaporate when new comments started to appear at 0 karma without the option for the poster to vote on them.
Reading Nonfiction Selectively

What did you end up deciding about Dawkins? Incidentally, I agree with one of your commenters that The Ancestor's Tale (provided you're already aware of the basic issues presented in The Selfish Gene).

Reading Nonfiction Selectively

I found it to be both! Cheers.

Epistle to the New York Less Wrongians

Upvoted for this:

...just want to win (and so min-max the @#%$ out of life).

Epistle to the New York Less Wrongians

There are a lot of things that are counter-productive to the exercise of sound judgment. Getting rid of such things largely the point of rationality.

It may be that you are incapable of functioning well around women right now, but don't you want to do better? By arguing for a "rationalist" group which explicitly cateres to this irrationality, you are already conceding the fight against it.

4brazil8411ySure, if I didn't have to give up something else. But perhaps it's a matter of picking and choosing one's battles.
2curiousepic11yI usually dislike when other people say this, but "I wish I could upvote this multiple times".
No, Seriously. Just Try It.

I think I may have been using the word "hardwired" a bit flippantly. I didn't mean something that is literally ROM, but something more like a deeply-worn river bed. I think it is possible to overcome many of our (collective and individual) irrational emotional responses, but it's not a trivial task. Steven's comment is right on the mark.

As to evidence, I don't have any that would distinguish between it being a result of evolution, and, say, something that many of our parents condition into us (which, of course, presumes a pre-existing response... (read more)

Evangelical Rationality

I was discussing an error I had made in a calculus problem becaues I tried to integrate a function of x with respect to z. I pointed out I made the error largely because my calculus skills are rusty, and I was just remembering a password ("velocity is the integral of acceleration!") and pushing on a magic button (INTEGRATE!) without remembering exactly what I was doing (calculating the area under the curve of a function of x, which doesn't make when you try to do it by adding up tiny pieces of z). At the end of my post-mortem, I linked the article and said it talked about some of the issues I was trying to articulate.

[SEQ RERUN] The Martial Art of Rationality

The knowledge is basically muscle memory: we didn't spend a lot of time learning the formal breakfall techniques, so much as every class involved falling or being knocked over from a variety of awkward positions, on the order of 100 times per class. So although it might be possible to teach the elderly the techniques (Cyan sounds like ey knows more about this than I do), the way I learned them probably wouldn't be a good way to do it.

I have found the experience transferrable, though, to situations like skiing, slipping on icy ground, crashing my bike, etc.

[SEQ RERUN] The Martial Art of Rationality

The most valuable lesson I ever learned from martial arts was how to fall down without hurting myself, and I'd say this is a skill that would help most people significantly reduce the number and severity of physical injuries they experience over their lifetime.

1Cyan11yTangential point: breakfall is the exact wrong thing to do if you've lost your balance while jumping on a trampoline -- found that one out the hard way. But really this comment should be filed under Cached Thoughts [http://lesswrong.com/lw/k5/cached_thoughts/].
1[anonymous]11yThat's interesting. Is that a consequence of your holistic knowledge of martial arts or a single technique that could be taught on its own? Can the technique be taught e.g. to elderly people who are not in good shape?
1AdeleneDawner11yIt depends on your browser, but probably. It's a popular enough extension that I'd be pretty surprised if any browser that can do extensions at all doesn't have something equivalent. (Also possibly notable: If you're using Firefox, pressing 'esc' will stop all animated gifs on the page until the page is reloaded.)
Evangelical Rationality

A few weeks ago, I put a link to "Guessing the Teacher's Password" into one of my physics class lab reports. My professor followed the link, read several articles, and has shared at least that first one with several other science faculty at the community college I attend.

Doesn't quite count as non-geeky, but I am nonetheless well pleased.

2kpreid11yI am curious what the context for the link was.
[SEQ RERUN] The Martial Art of Rationality

I think it's a rare individual who would actually be in less physical danger if they were better at martial arts.

Do you think that because you believe most people don't experience physical danger? Or because you think that martial arts is ineffective in dealing with the most common types of danger? Or some other reason?

2[anonymous]11yI think martial arts are unnecessary for dealing with the most common types of danger.
1Alicorn11yAdblock ftw.
Offense versus harm minimization

I think this is very nicely put, and is sort of what I was thinking when I commented, but couldn't articulate. Thanks!

No, Seriously. Just Try It.

I would love to see this post! Although I suspect it might end up being highly individual, since the dilemna of which hypotheses to test is closely related to which questions you want to answer.

Singularity FAQ

Thanks for writing this!

Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions

Perhaps a collapsible "karma details" section, so that users still have the option to see a single number for each comment?

Might be easier to add "show upvotes/downvotes" & "show total score only" radio buttons to user configurations. That way those of us who want to see upvotes & downvotes in general don't have to click a collapsible link for lots of comments.

No, Seriously. Just Try It.

Thanks, that was well put (as was the original post). I don't disagree with any of this, but wanted to point out that the hardwired results of evolution often can't be counteracted simply by explaining to the meat-brain that they are no longer adaptive.

I think that Luke's post would have been better served by an example in which the barrier to experimentation was, in fact, an irrational fear of something what won't really happen, rather than a rational fear of an irrational (but hardwired) negative emotional experience.

0sfb11yDo you have any evidence of this? Or, since that is a bit tautological, do you have any evidence that the things we want to change (social interaction fears, for instance) are the unchangable "hardwired results of evolution", and not the malleable program running on top (for want of a better description)?
No, Seriously. Just Try It.

Fair point! I've certainly used it that way, although not in a very deliberate manner. It would be interesting to pay a bit more attention to that and try and nail how much intoxication, how quickly, etc for optimal social results.

Which is pretty much what lukeprog was talking about in his post anyway. :)

4MatthewBaker11yMDMA works better ^^(and can fetched from the darknet) but alcohol can be useful as well once you find the perfect balance like you said.
0[anonymous]11yYes. I used alcohol to get over my social anxiety years ago. Specifically, E&J brandy.
No, Seriously. Just Try It.

It occurs to me that when I'm reluctant to chat up a stranger, it's not "actual" external consequences that I fear, so much as my own feelings of embarrassment, shame, etc (note: I've no idea if this is true for others). Feeling embarrassed is a (not insignificant) negative in my utility function. And it happens to be a fact about me that if the conversation goes badly, I will feel embarrassed!

Now, this is just a chimp-brain reflex. I'd willingly take a pill that made me less unhappy about failed social interactions, and it's on my to-hack... (read more)

8Sniffnoy11yLet's not forget the converse: Fear that the other person will be creeped out. No, you'll never see them again, but you still don't want to make a random person's day more creepy. (This I have recently learned seems to be actually largely unjustified, but it was a big thing stopping me from doing this until then...)

It occurs to me that when I'm reluctant to chat up a stranger, it's not "actual" external consequences that I fear, so much as my own feelings of embarrassment, shame, etc (note: I've no idea if this is true for others).

This is true for others as well, and it's a great example of the way that organisms are adaptation-executors and not fitness-maximizers. Instead of evolving organisms that calculated the actual social costs of rejection and feared rejection to that degree, it was easier to evolve organisms that experienced pain when they were r... (read more)

I'd willingly take a pill that made me less unhappy about failed social interactions, and it's on my to-hack list.

People have long taken it in liquid form, called "beer". A pill form, MDMA, has also had popularity in some circles. Both of these require thought about how they will interact with most of daily life, however.

Put it this way: find a new one, and you will become rich. Until it's banned.

7[anonymous]11y.
Offense versus harm minimization

Would you be willing to support/expand on that claim further? I have low confidence since I haven't spent a whole lot of time thinking about it, but this runs counter to my intuition.

[SEQ RERUN] The Martial Art of Rationality

I would say that the analogous objective of rationality is to protect oneself from mental threats: dark arts, misleading questions, tempting but wrong arguments... where specific biases would constitute specific types of attacks.

A couple interesting corellaries from that line of thought: 1) like in a physical situation, mere awareness of the form an attack may take doesn't always help; 2) like martial arts, in mental defense you have the option of developing a large number of highly specific defenses, or a smaller number of more generic ones

It does seem ... (read more)

Insufficiently Awesome

Yes, for each of the three courses: each course is 1 hour per week, with the 3 courses being taught back to back on Tuesday nights. To take all 3 courses would be $135.

Introduction to the Sequence Reruns

Blagh, you just revolutionized my sequences reading experience. Amazing! I've had the exact same problem. Many thanks!

Insufficiently Awesome

Agree, agree, a thousand times agree.

Insufficiently Awesome

I'm not exactly sure what sort of dancing you mean, but you mention it twice and I happen to have some background in dancing in a variety of styles. And since you seem to be somewhere in the SF Bay Area, I strongly recommend the social dancing lessons taught by Richard Powers at Stanford and in Palo Alto as a venue to learn/practice both social and dancing skills. I found it to be an extremely welcoming community and low-pressure environment to learn. Friday Night Waltz which occurs in both Palo Alto and East Bay is also a great community.

"Social d... (read more)

0Cayenne11yAm I reading the prices correctly as $45 for the whole course for a non-student? Edit - please disregard this post
On Debates with Trolls

they were the arguments one sees time and again from people who aren't (consciously) trolling.

I think this is quite a large part of it. I have several times on Less Wrong followed discussions that seemed to be headed towards trollishness, and then all of a sudden someone changes their mind, updates, and everyone moves on. It is one of the things I love about this website, and I would be sad if an anti-trolling sentiment led to these sort of discussions being abandoned before they concluded. Sometimes persistence is a waste of time, but sometimes it makes a difference.

0HollyIrene8yYes, I'd love to get together. I'm near Eugene, Where are you?
0goatherd8yI would be interested in a meetup. I live near Eugene.
Just Try It: Quantity Trumps Quality

I'm not sure that's true once you limit it to adult classes (far more likely to be taking the occasional class for fun), and particularly in the case of an art class.

0Mark_Neznansky11yA "class for fun" implies that grade shouldn't matter to the participants, so, allegedly, the two different grading schemes wouldn't affect the participants' behavior. But things (such as motivation) change as a person who did pottery for fun at home, goes to do pottery for fun in a class, don't they?
Advice in fighting depression?

Over the past decade+ I've also found that an ability to monitor and hack your own mood is an incredibly valuable skill. Know what things trigger depression and either avoid them or work out a contingency plan to weather the storm... Have a mind-killer available for when a spiral is coming and force yourself to use it.

This is basically exactly what I've been working on to overcome my own depression.
Reading Less Wrong and working on the basic techniques of the sequences has made a huge difference. And note that the "mind-killer" doesn't have t... (read more)

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