Andrew Nelson


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Great post, absolutely agree with the value of this approach.

Wanted to add a productive question with a social angle: Who would you not want to have a serious conversation with about your life? What part of your life would you not want them poking at, and why?

My guess is that many people avoid conversations with people who they know will confront them on issues they don’t want to face. And I wonder if we can use this to our advantage by asking the question above.

If anyone tries and feels comfortable doing so, please report. I’ll try myself too.

I like this approach of thinking adversarial about it. I’d done the same before signing up for my (eponymous) account here, but arrived at a different conclusion. Completely agree with all of your logic about combining public information to find private information.

I think my conclusion was different as 1) LessWrong is quite focused on long-term stuff, and while my interests or style change as time goes on, my name won’t so this future-proofs it; 2) I don’t expect to post anything particularly controversial (and could also make another account to do so as needed); and 3) I have a pretty common name (although I’d bet that if you searched my name on LinkedIn and played a game of “who would be most likely to be on LessWrong based on their jobs/interest/education”, your odds of picking me would be high :)

Curious to hear how others thought about the username thing?

Many people have much more cognitively demanding jobs these days, but our social life has atomized so significantly that we no longer rely so heavily on being woven into the larger social fabric of a community, where we'd need to devote many more of our mental resources to the task of keeping track of the moods, sensitivities and interactions of the members of our social networks.


Interesting viewpoint, is this personal experience, another source, or both? I ask as I find the lack of a clear social community is somewhat mentally (perhaps emotionally) taxing in some ways in that there is a searching cost to building and rebuilding connections as social networks ebb and flow. Then again, I did grow up in this time post/during atomisation, so perhaps I can’t really get the mental costs that you referenced.

Interesting, what have you noticed being shifted in your mental models while visiting cities?

Ah very interesting, and great build on it with the paragraph you’ve added.

Interesting perspective, I’m curious if you’re specifically referring to rationalist (and, more generally, truth-seeking) conversations and debates when you describe the high/low status descriptions for conversationalists. I ask as I have an alternative viewpoint to consider outside of rationalist circles.

I actually see what you’re describing, broadly summarised as I see it as changing topics and going off on tangents, as a highly valued social skill when the goal is to quickly find topics of mutual interest rather than to go deep on a subject to debate and find truth. I have seen this described as “conversation scaffolding” (can’t recall source) and “the sprinkler technique” (think this was Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people”). Given the prevalence of this tactical approach (for my circles in the US and UK), I wonder if an alternative read on what you’re seeing is that you are seeking truth but your conversation partner is seeking connection. Personally, I’m rarely operating in rationalist circles so I see more of this conversation style than truth seeking, and that’s why this different view was so salient to me. Curious to hear your thoughts.