All of Conor's Comments + Replies

Book Review: The Beginning of Infinity

Yes, but i'm not sure how that follows from your original question.

What can you do with a bad explanation that you can't do with no explanation?

Book Review: The Beginning of Infinity

Deutsch specifies good explanations (laws of nature, scientific theories), and claims the rapid increase of good explanations is because of the invention of the scientific method, and thus explanations are essential for progress.

A bad explanation allows me to make (bad) sense of the world, which makes it appear less chaotic and threatening. 

Ah yes, the spirits are causing the indigestion. Now I know that I need only do a specific dance to please them and the discomfort will resolve. 

The alternative is suffering for no apparent reason or recourse. At least until we find a good explanation for indigestion.

The lowest limit on bad explanation isnt even zero, it's negative. For instance, the use of leaching as a cure-all.
Book Review: The Beginning of Infinity

I think I wasn't clear. An explanation that isn't accurate is still an explanation to Deutsch, it just isn't a good one. Microbiology or bread-spirits are both explanations for rising bread.

That strengthens the case for explanation being ubiquitous at the expense of the case for explanation being important. What can you do with a bad explanation that you can't do with no explanation?
Book Review: The Beginning of Infinity

"Our ancestors followed many practices which work, but for which they had no explanation."

That would be very surprising for a species that reflexively attempts to explain things.

Also, in the book, he specifies that's he's explaining the unprecedented rate of consistent progress from the scientific revolution onward.

Edit: I was mistaken. He is trying to explain all progress.

Not really. Failing to do stuff that works will kill you. Doing stuff that works inexplicably won't.
Optimal Exercise

Seven years later, would you modify this scheme? 

Is there validity to the volume/consistency over intensity argument? Training 1/2 max reps every day vs going to failure 2-3 times week.

An illustration:

10 reps is your pull-up max. 

Volume/consistency: 5 reps every day for 35 a week vs Intensity: 2-3 workouts for 20-30 reps a week.

Over a year that's 1820 vs 1040-1560.

Firas Zahabi outlines it here: 

The 5-Second Level


  1. I am working on a hard problem and A. I notice a thought proposing a distraction from my current task, B. but I stop myself and continue my current activity.
    1. Perceptually recognize a thought proposing a distraction from my current task.
    2. Feel the need for explicit reasons why I would change tasks.
    3. Experience an aversion to changing tasks without explicit reasons.
    4. Ask why I want to change to that task, to what end, and why now.
  3. Exercise

Recognizing the distractions. I'm struggling to come up with an idea on how to do this other than a form of awareness or attention meditation.

Extreme Rationality: It's Not That Great

What are the other posts in your top five?

John_Maxwell's Shortform

Did you end up trying the microneedling? I'm curious about that route.

Yes, I tried it. It gave me a headache but I would guess that's not common. Think it's probably a decent place to start.
John_Maxwell's Shortform

How are things progressing?

I didn't end up sticking to this because of various life disruptions. I think it was a bit helpful but I'm planning to try something more intensive next time.
How do I improve at being strategic?

I suppose the next step after passing the desire test, would be to actually verify that the goal will, in reality, provide that thing I imagine makes me go mmmm by researching and testing. 

I imagine walking around dressed like a doctor and telling people I'm a doctor. Adding M.D. to my online dating profile, job shadowing, going to neighborhoods where doctors live, luring some doctors into my van, learning to sew, digging a pit in my cellar, and buying some night vision goggles and buying a bunch of lotion...

Luckily, I don't want to be a doctor.

How do I improve at being strategic?

If you are fearful of offending people go to an online or in person marketplace and start low-balling people...


That... is a great idea and I can see how to expand on it into other arenas.

Since I posted this question I've been working primarily on strategy and through that have realized improving my productivity would be a wise decision. Since they seem so intertwined (productivity is the strategic use of time and resources) I've split my time up into 40% strategy, 40% productivity, 20% execution of other goal-oriented tasks. 

I've drafted some wa... (read more)

I'm glad you appreciate the advice. It seems to me that you've developed a very effective, structured way to improve your productivity and I'm going to try to emulate your strategy here with a few upcoming projects I have to work on and see how efficient I'm being.
How to Measure Anything

For whomever reads this that is as innumerate as I am and is confused about the example simulation with the excel formula "=norminv(rand(), 15, (20–10)/3.29)", I hope my explanation below helps (and is correct!).

The standard error/deviation* of 3.29 is such because that's the correct value for the confidence interval of 90%. That number is determined by the confidence interval used. It is not the standard deviation of $10-$20. Don't ask me why, I don't know, yet. 

Additionally, you can't just paste that formula into excel. Remove the range (20-10) and ... (read more)

How do I improve at being strategic?

So far, I think of Strategy as a method for determining tactics to achieve a goal, and may include developing a step-by-step plan. I see a variety of techniques fitting this framework: 

  • focusing: to see if I'm conflicted about my goal.
  • theory of change: to formulate a plan tracing potential actions backward from my goal to my current state
  • murphyjitsu: to identify and prepare for threats to success for the strategy and the tactics.
  • goal factoring: to assess behaviors that compose the strategy and tactics and combine them to better achieve the end.
  • research
... (read more)
Humans are not automatically strategic

How has your strategy (a-h) changed since you wrote this? Are there resources you can share for learning to be more strategic? A method for finding quality resources? Methods for practicing and assessing strategic skill?

There will be plenty of accepters until after it ends. So I think what this changes is it reduces the favorable selection in vaccination, because you can't do as many vulnerable people, reducing death rate cut somewhat. Nursing home residents who don't vaccinate should still benefit a lot from local here immunity. From what I saw, the elderly refusal rate was relatively low but good data is lacking.
Welcome to LessWrong!

Could you expand on what makes the typography noteworthy? I'm completely unaware of this topic, but curious.

Training Regime Day 7: Goal Factoring

Jacob Fisker has a method called the reverse fishbone diagram.

You draw a horizontal line and that is the action.

Above the line you draw a diagonal forward slanted line for each positive first order effect of taking that action and below you do the same for negative effects.

On those initial branches, you branch off second order effects, up or down pointed depending on their valence until you have a sketch roughly resembling a fish skeleton with as many orders of effects as you can come up with.

You then count the upward and downward lines and compare how the... (read more)

Training Regime Day 1: What is applied rationality?

Applied rationality: Methods for fostering quick, efficient, and well-informed decision-making toward a goal.

Winter is nearly here and you need a door for your house to keep out the cold. In your workspace there is a large block of an unknown type of wood. Using only what you can assertain about it from your senses and experiences, you determine which tool to use for each circumstance you uncover as you reduce the block into the best door you can make given the time, tools, and knowledge available.

Edit: thanks for the post. It was very helpful.