I’m a mathematician with an interest in programming language theory and type theory in particular. I'm currently doing a postdoc in the Programming Logic group in Göteborg, where I work on Agda, a programming language and proof assistant based on Martin-Löf type theory.


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Shoulder Advisors 101

Thank you for writing this, it really got me thinking. I'm one of those people who don't really have a firm cast of shoulder advisors. In fact, when I saw this appear in fiction (and in particular in HPMOR), I kind of assumed it was just a convenient narrative device and not something real people actually do. I suppose I should read HPMOR again and try to figure out what other blatantly obvious advice I've missed.

This does seem like a extremely useful skill to have, so I'd like to practice it if possible. I just tried to imagine one of these shoulder advisors and I do get an image, but it is very blurry and seems to be "shifting" between different states. I wonder if this is something other people have also experienced, and whether there are any tricks to get a more stable image? Perhaps a fictional person would be easier to simulate since they tend to be not as complex as real human beings. Either way I will continue to try in the coming week and report back here if I get any results.

Critch on career advice for junior AI-x-risk-concerned researchers

Thank you for posting this here, I mostly agree with the statement that acquiring skills early on is more important than producing anything directly. There's one thing that bugs me, however.

Early in your research career, you need to be in "consume" mode more than "produce" mode [...]

Counterpoint: if you spend most of your early research career in "consume" mode, you won't get any practice at producing valuable research or even know whether producing science is a good fit for you personally. I've personally seen people who are extremely good at processing large amounts of content during their studies, but got completely lost when tasked with finding and studying a novel problem that no-one had written on before. This seems like some kind of trap that many PhD student run into. Sometimes there's just no good way to learn how to do research other than, y'know, by doing research.