All of amitpamin's Comments + Replies

Happiness interventions

If only everyone else had the same aesthetics as you. It's probably possible to make money in the space without being blatantly manipulative, but that's much much harder. I'm glad I'm not working in the space anymore.

0[anonymous]6yAlmost six months on from my original post, with some contemplating in a dark mood about when I've been happiest, I thought back to when I used to visit your website. I thought back to the changing of my attitude to the site based on the negative unfair comments here, I've reconsidered and realised that it's really had an incredible positive impact on me. I call bullshit on all ya'll calls of bullshit. Happier Human is amazing and Amit you're a top bloke. I was just about to call you out on pussying out when all these intimidating rationalists called you out on stuff. But now, as I write this, I suspect you conceded to being less well research and such not because you're work is bad, as people might infer, but because you're humble, non-confrontational, and lowering your expectations is all part of the recipe for happiness you taught me. Once again thank you so much for your content. You almost certainly saved my life. I owe you an apology and I'm very grateful.
Happiness interventions

John has the correct impression - I actually switched careers nine months ago. I now work as a programmer at a startup.

My most popular post, which brings in 20,000 to 40,000 pageviews a month, was written five months into my career (http://happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/). Everything after was less popular. Why? Because as my understanding of statistics and methodology improved, my writing possessed fewer bold and enthusiastic claims, which non-LW folk love.

I hold a medium degree of confidence in my latest posts, e.g. my one about meditation. Ever... (read more)

0[anonymous]6yAlmost six months on from my original post, with some contemplating in a dark mood about when I've been happiest, I thought back to when I used to visit your website. I thought back to the changing of my attitude to the site based on the negative unfair comments here, I've reconsidered and realised that it's really had an incredible positive impact on me. I call bullshit on all ya'll calls of bullshit. Happier Human is amazing and Amit you're a top bloke. I was just about to call you out on pussying out when all these intimidating rationalists called you out on stuff. But now, as I write this, I suspect you conceded to being less well research and such not because you're work is bad, as people might infer, but because you're humble, non-confrontational, and lowering your expectations is all part of the recipe for happiness you taught me. Once again thank you so much for your content. You almost certainly saved my life. I owe you an apology and I'm very grateful.
Happiness interventions

Author of the site here. Totally agree.

The evolutionary psychology may or may not be correct. I think there's some kernels of truth to it. But the mathematical model is crazy insanity, and I'm somewhat ashamed that I needed someone to point it out to me, especially considering that a brief look at the studies done which measured and correlated positivity ratios found 'dividing lines' all over the place, from 2 to 6 (http://happierhuman.com/losada-ratio).

-1eternal_neophyte7yThe mathematics-abuse aside, I don't think it's a completely ridiculous idea. It seems obviously true that somebody experiencing negative emotions in a ratio of 1000 against every positive emotion cannot be described as "flourishing", whereas someone experiencing the reverse is probably permanently high on what must be a supremely lucrative designer drug. But to be as precise as even a single order of magnitude in your range of flourishing ratios implies a degree of experimental rigour that I've never, ever heard of in psychology apart from arguably in IQ testing. There's also a causation/corellation issue which must be quite challenging to disentangle. In their pursuit of precision and the trappings of scienticity they've perhaps done at least as much to damage their idea as to nurture it. Think there's a lesson in there.
Questions on Theism

Most people are aware of the placebo effect, but greatly underestimate how large it's power truly can be.

I have fibromyalgia. At one time I couldn't write, needed a cane to walk, had constant diarrhea, and worse. I had already tried dozens of treatments. I had grown skeptical.

Then I was given a treatment which made lots of sense. It was based off of a theory which I had my doubts about, but after learning more about it, I was 100% convinced this was it. After trying the treatment, I was immediately much better. I could run. I could shave my own beard with... (read more)

Methods for treating depression

I wrote an article listing the evidence for 54 suggested strategies for increasing happiness.

http://happierhuman.com/how-to-be-happy/

In general, my writing is more enthusiastic than the evidence would call for, but alas I must excite my readers and get the pageviews. My interpretation is that although some of the studies (e.g. keeping a gratitude journal improves symptoms of depression) may be flawed, follow 10 of them at the same time, and you'll likely have included something that works. No smoking guns, of course.

3Creutzer8yThe majority of the things you name as most effective are basically impossible to implement for a seriously depressed person.
0tristanhaze8y'my writing is more enthusiastic than the evidence would call for, but alas I must excite my readers and get the pageviews' For my money, that's just contemptible. And there's no 'must' about it: you can, and probably should, stop doing that, even if it means you get less pageviews.
Rationality Quotes September 2013

Professor Zueblin is right when he says that thinking is the hardest work many people ever have to do, and they don't like to do any more of it than they can help. They look for a royal road through some short cut in the form of a clever scheme or stunt, which they call the obvious thing to do; but calling it doesn't make it so. They don't gather all the facts and then analyze them before deciding what really is the obvious thing.

From Obvious Adam, a business book published in 1916.

Common failure modes in habit formation

I agree with the challenging bit, but for a different reason. Quoting from Piers Steel, "We are motivational misers who constantly fine-tune our effort levels so that we strive just enough for success."

For low complexity goals, up to a point, there is a linear relationship between goal difficulty and goal performance, even when the reward is held constant. That is, more difficult goals require more motivation; provided that the goal is valuable, that motivation is provided.

The difficulty with choosing challenging goals is ensuring that you feel ... (read more)

The Mystery At The Heart of Central Banking

It's funny.

I went to business school, studied some economics, even did well enough in a monetary policy competition to meet Bernanke.

And I can't once recall having a conversation like the one you've just initiated. Even if your arguments end up invalid... I'm interested to see what you have to say.

1[anonymous]9yIt'll be an adventure.
Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

I've done this twice in my life. First, when I was in college, I took a semester to study abroad in china while continuing my old job for a SF startup remotely. I felt rich, yes. But it was a failure - first and foremost, I want to hang out with people whom I can communicate and enjoy my time with. I learned this lesson after trying this again, but this time, moving to India for 3 months. I am Indian, so I didn't expect the cultural barrier to be as much of a problem. It was.

3John_Maxwell9ySo the obvious thing to do is to establish some low-cost-of-living Schelling point for all the LWers who want to live cheaply abroad to converge on (and maybe get housing together). Perhaps [http://lesswrong.com/lw/f9o/teaching_english_in_shanghai/] Shanghai [http://lesswrong.com/meetups/l1]?
Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

I have tried several variants of this process. As expected, the largest road-block has been part 3 - the self-control not to consume the reward despite lack of completion.

I will mention that on the few occasions I have gotten this to work, my excitement and enjoyment was much higher than average. The desire and excitement for food seemed to translate into the task at hand.

Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

I set my alarm 5 minutes before I actually want to wake up. When it rings the first time, I consume a large glass of fake lemonade (the kind with lots and lots of sugar). Perhaps not healthy, but it works - among other things, the presence of sugar in the mouth immediately releases dopamine. On the few occasions the energy isn't enough, the urge to use the bathroom is ;)

I tried the coffee thing, for me, sugar works more reliably.

Reinforcement and Short-Term Rewards as Anti-Akratic

Be aware that there's significant research that extrinsic motivators crowd out intrinsic ones. Essentially, they increase total motivation at the cost of sometimes reducing intrinsic motivation, which in turn creates a reliance on the extrinsic motivators. A good book on the subject is Punished by Rewards: The Trouble With Gold Stars, but if you do decide to read the book, be aware that the author is biased towards self-determination theory.

Open Thread, October 16-31, 2012

Good question. I assume you ask because conscientiousness is highly correlated with a number of positive life outcomes?

  1. Conscientiousness is temporally stable, that is, in the average individual, it does not much change over time.
  2. Conscientiousness is linked to a number of other personality traits - e.g. self-regulation, perseverance, etc.... These traits can be trained; and according to a quick skim of the study below, training those traits in turn effects conscientiousness, at least in children.

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/publications... (read more)

The basic argument for the feasibility of transhumanism

As has been raised by others, just because the design space is large, does not imply that the possibilities have high probability of being actualized.

Your argument shows that there is possibility. And, I think, nothing more. But yes, exempting existential catastrophe, I don't see how transhumanism is avoidable.

11 Less Wrong Articles I Probably Will Never Have Time to Write

This is me making a public commitment to get #'s 6 or 8 done within the next 3 months, one of which will be my first post to LessWrong.

Raising the waterline

As a non-veteran Less Wronger, I found this book both enjoyable and valuable.

The value came from the same place as the enjoyment - despite knowing about our many flaws in thinking (I've read the sequences and a few rationality books), it's different when you see real-world examples. Specifically, this book partially motivated me to start re-learning the actual math (e.g. http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/economics/14-30-introduction-to-statistical-methods-in-economics-spring-2009/lecture-notes/).

1Morendil9yThe Udacity Statistics 101 course (that I started before summer but, hmm, am now on extended hiatus from) covers much the same ground, apparently. If you're into video courses with optional Python programming exercises.
Raising the waterline

50% untrue.

"In cases like these, it can require a lot of extra effort to beat the competition. You will find that you soon encounter diminishing returns."

Parenting and Happiness

I've looked at many of the actual studies, although not the recent one you mentioned. I agree with your overall analysis, but would add one addendum - there are different types of happiness. The delineation I find most applicable here would be Daniel Kahneman's. He suggests that there are two types of happiness - experiential and remembering.

Experiential is measured by his day reconstruction method, as well as the experience sampling method mentioned by benthamite. Call it hedonic, moment by moment happiness.

Remembering is as it suggests - how we feel wh... (read more)

3juliawise9yThe outside view is that parents put way more hours into parenting than non-parents put into any of their meaningful projects. If I have children, I will put in long hours because I will need to. In my current life as a non-parent I work a full-time job and put some effort into side projects, but not that much effort. If you're already using your time efficiently to accomplish cool things, you can expect that parenting will take away much of that time and cause you to accomplish less. But if you're like most of us, you'll just have less time for goofing on the internet, etc. Compared to whatever it is you currently do in your spare time, producing well-reared children might be quite a high-impact thing to do.
0jdinkum9yWhile reading the original post I thought of Kahneman's Ted Talk [http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_kahneman_the_riddle_of_experience_vs_memory.html] on happiness.
-3diegocaleiro9yUpvoted for using research to take personal decisions, a virtue absent even in some LWers, that must be praised wherever it is signalled.
Stupid Questions Open Thread Round 4

That interpretation is correct.

I've noticed that I don't even need to be knowledge to gain utility - there is a strong correlation between the signaling of my 'knowledgeableness' and the post popularity - the most popular had the largest number of references (38), and so on. When writing the post, I just hide the fact that I researched so much because of my uncertainty :)

Stupid Questions Open Thread Round 4

At the moment, LW has provided negative benefit to my life. I recently quit my job to start learning positive psychology. My initial goal was to blog about positive psychology, and eventually use my blog as a platform to sell a book.

LW has made me deeply uncertain of the accuracy of the research I read, the words I write on my blog, and the advice I am writing in the book I intend to sell. Long-term, the uncertainty will probably help me by making me more knowledgeable than my peers, but in the short-term, demotivates (e.g. if I was sure what I was learni... (read more)

7lukeprog9yThat's how I felt for the first few months after discovering [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7dy/a_rationalists_tale/] that Jesus wasn't magic after all. At that moment, all I could see was that (1) my life up to that point had largely been wasted on meaningless things, (2) my current life plans were pointless, (3) my closest relationships were now strained, and (4) much of my "expertise" was useless. Things got better after a while.

I also think that LW has provided negative benefit to my life. Since I decided that I wanted my beliefs to be true, rather than pleasing to me, I've felt less connected to my friendship group. I used to have certain politcal views that a lot of my friends approved of. Now, I think I was wrong about many things (not totally wrong, but I'm far less confident of the views that I continue to hold). Overall, I'd rather believe true things, but I think so far it's made me less happy.

1DaFranker9yI'm tempted to conclude that your current accumulated utility given LW is lower than given (counterfactual no-LW), but that in counterpart/compensation your future expected utility has risen considerably by unknown margins with a relatively high confidence. Is this an incorrect interpretation of the subtext? Am I reading too much into it?
How to get cryocrastinators to actually sign up for cryonics

Wouldn't it be great if cryonics was opt-out? It took me two years to overcome my cryocrastinating.

Timeless Identity

I realize this is an old post and no one will read this comment... but I just wanted to say thank you. I myself signed up for cyronics just a month ago, but did, for example, wonder - will I be the same person? I still wonder that, but with slightly more perspective.

Ekman Training - Reviews and/or Testing

Unfortunately I have no idea. My statistics knowledge is many years unused.... I have some brushing up to do.

But it seems you're right - if each person gave 50 statements, the sample size would just be 250 (the # of liers x the number of statements they give).

Ekman Training - Reviews and/or Testing

I have Ekman's training on my computer, and I quickly abandoned it. The low number of recommended training hours and low number of different training samples to me seemed an indication of poor quality. In addition, the only scientific study of efficacy I could find at the time was sponsored by a microexpressions company. Some other evidence I read elsewhere seemed to suggest that the lie-detection bump from microexpressions training was tiny, in the order of a few percentage points.

That said, it would be interesting to me to actually test the training.

We... (read more)

1Vaniver10yWhat is the smallest effect size you would be able to reliably detect with a test that small?
Can Humanism Match Religion's Output?

No need to invest a few thousand bucks - a few books and self-discipline is all that's needed (not that self-discipline is easy to arise & invest). re: zen meditation, I recommend reading Search Inside Yourself. It's a book about meditation written by a google employee. It contains a decent number of citations.

Tolerate Tolerance

I have a massively huge problem with this. Every time a non-fiction author or scientist I respect gives credit to a non-rational I cringe inside. I have to will myself to remember that just because they have a lower rationality threshold, does not automatically discredit their work.

Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate

Wow. I don't identify as a cynic or spock, but of the many articles I have read on Less Wrong since I discovered it yesterday, this one is perhaps the most perspective changing.