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Son, you’re a body, son. That quick little scientific-prodigy’s mind she’s so proud of and won’t quit twittering about: son, it’s just neural spasms, those thoughts in your mind are just the sound of your head revving, and head is still just body, Jim. Commit this to memory. Head is body. Jim, brace yourself against my shoulders here for this hard news, at ten: you’re a machine a body an object, Jim, no less than this rutilant Montclair, this coil of hose here or that rake there for the front yard’s gravel or sweet Jesus this nasty fat spider flexing in its web over there up next to the rake-handle, see it?

Infinite Jest, page 159

Follow-up to the meeting tonight.

Here is the event that I will be at next week that everyone is welcome to attend.

Manufacturing Belief - Cult Recruitment, Retention and Persuasion

The general public assumes that cult members must be either incredibly stupid, or incredibly weak of mind, or both. In fact, cult members are completely normal. The methods that cults use to recruit and retain members are based on exploiting vulnerabilities in normal human psychology. The only thing distinguishing a cult from any other form of True Believerism is the incredible efficiency and ruthlessness with which cults exploit these vulnerabilities. Our speaker will discuss the techniques that cults employ to recruit, retain, and persuade...

WHEN: 7:30PM, Monday, April 11, 2011 (Talk starts at 8PM sharp)

WHERE: Downstairs at Kells Irish Pub, 530 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

I've been putting off joining a Toastmasters group for a while, but if anyone wants to get together to go to one I'd be up for that.

I'm excited to see what you have planned, and would like to help in any way I can.

Along the lines of moshez's reply to you, I'd be super excited to run a San Francisco satellite.

I made a conceptual jump that I'm not sure this post (or its author) intended, but that left me with a better impression of it than most people seem to be expressing.

I agree that things actions like writing a letter to the editor may have a low rate of return in bringing new persons to the cause, but I believe that they serve very well at making people who are already pro-rational in name more likely to take greater actions at a later date. E.g., I didn't get involved in running the skeptic group at my university until well after I publicly supported skepticism and atheism in letters to the editor of my campus newspaper. That is, I think maybe the point of this post is encouraging the sort of person who is now just reading LessWrong because it is shiny to go out and start doing things instead. The world changing will come later.

See chapter 3, "Commitment and Consistency" from Influence by Robert B. Cialdini or this post on the same by Anna Salamon and Steve Rayhawk.

Hey, I remember you mentioning this tonight, but I didn't get a chance to find out the details. I'm definitely interested though.

I commit to responding at length to this thread tomorrow when I have more time, but here is a little bit of my background and what I'm into now in case anyone wants to ask specific questions.

I ran my university's skeptic/atheist group for two years and ended up getting involved at the national level with the Center for Inquiry this past summer as an outreach intern at their headquarters. I moved out to the Bay Area specifically to get involved with pro-reason causes.

Here is a group that just started that I'm involved with: Reason for Reason.

Here are some of my recollections about the costs associated with transitioning to a paperless office.

I was recently employed for a month and paid $13 an hour archiving documents for a medium-sized (~40 fulltime employees) office in a much larger company. The office was transitioning to paperless records, and the entire previous year's worth of printouts had to be scanned. There were three other people on my team. We each had a commercial scanner that the company had purchased new. The scanned documents were stored on multiply redundant company servers that had to be purchased for this transition. Every person in the office received a second monitor. The internal IT staff spent months on the transition, and a number of highly paid executives had to spend a not-insignificant amount of time deciding on the configuration of the final system. Additionally, another IT firm was contracted to set up some large portions of the system. While I was still there, the servers crashed and went down for a day and the office mostly halted, being unable to continue much of their work without access to their digital files. I witnessed frustrated staff vent some anger about the new system occasionally and support for it was mild at best.

Going paperless requires a very large commitment of resources up front and can significantly negatively impact productivity if everything doesn't go exactly as planned. And even if things do go well, at that.

I tried to justify some of my hobbies to see if I could come up with anything that couldn't be called a "rationalist hobby" to determine if it's a useful designation or not.

  • Knitting - Trains your attention to fine detail. After you knit a pair of socks, whenever you wear knitted clothes you'll instinctively think, "I could make this. There are no great unknowable secrets in manufacturing, only time and labor."

  • Music Radio DJing - You learn how to speak fluently and without pause, and put together an entertaining set of music, which are both useful for signalling in social situations.

  • Reddit - Its up/downvoting system teaches how to quickly decide whether or not something is interesting to you, and the ability to submit content to be judged by the crowds can train your ability to write short copy that will appeal to large audiences.

I feel like I'm stretching, but also like science fiction, video games, chess and poker are probably also stretches.

  • Start a physical retail store. Michael Vassar thinks this is a great option in the Bay area.

Living in the Bay Area now, I was also mightily intrigued by that comment. I've taken some entrepreneurship courses and have some experience running organizations of relatable (I imagine) complexity, but no real idea where to begin, nor the resources to start a venture on my own. I'd love to talk more about this and possibly decide on a plan to do some intensive research though.

As an aside, if you're optimizing for free time and mobility I'm not sure starting any sort of business is the right way to go about that.

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