All of Jackercrack's Comments + Replies

I, like many people, have a father. After a long time of not really caring about the whole thing he's expressed an interest in philosophy this Christmas season. Now, as we know a lot of philosophy is rather confused and I don't see any big reasons for him to start thinking truth is irrelevant or other silly things. I don't think the man is considering reading anything particularly long or in-depth.

So, I'm asking for book recommendations for short-ish introductions to philosophy that don't get it all wrong. Solid, fundamental knowledge about how we know wh... (read more)

Try The Philosophy Book [] I like this series; it's fun, well-designed pop-social science surveys. Of course, this type of survey has a big historical element; you may not like that but I think it's fun to read.
I haven't read this book myself, but I've read other books in this series and would recommend them: [] I like the idea of directing him to the Less Wrong sequences as he would probably benefit more from that. It's available in pdf and other print-suitable forms here so you could print it out and put it in a fancy binder or something: []

You may be right about my lack of tools, and I can't honestly say I used the try harder in the proper manner seeing as I hadn't been introduced to it at the time. I played the role of the supportive boyfriend and tried (unsuccessfully) to convince her to go to a therapist who was actually qualified at that sort of thing. I am suspicious, however that you took pains to separate yourself into a new reference class before actually knowing that one way or the other. Unless of course you have a track record of taking massive psychological issues and successfull... (read more)

Yes well I wasn't a rationalist at the time, nor did I know enough about psychology to say what the right thing to do to help a person whose father... Well I cannot say the exact thing but suffice to say that If I ever meet the man at least one of us is going to the hospital. I'm rather non-violent at all other times. There wasn't exactly a how-to guide I could read on the subject.

I am also the kind of person that would be drawn out and try to help a person who breaks down crying. You use your energy to help their problems, and have less left for yourself.... (read more)

As far as I see it, you basically were faced with a situation without having any tools to deal with it. That makes your situation quite different. When sitting in front of the hospital bed of my father speaking confused stuff because of morphium, my instinctual response was to do a nonverbal trance induction to have him in a silent state in half a minute. Not because I read some how-to guide of how to deal with the situation but because NLP tools like that are instinctual behavior for me. I'm very far from normal and so a lot of lessons that might be drawn from your experience for people that might be similar as you are, aren't applicable to me. While reading a how-to guide doesn't give you any skills, there's is psychological literature on how to help people with most problems.

I've had a 3 year relationship with a woman I thought I could fix. She said she'd try hard to change, I said I'd help her, I tried to help her and was extremely supportive for a long time. It was emotionally draining because behind each new climbed mountain there was another problem, and another, and another. Every week a new thing that was bad or terrible about the world. I eventually grew tired of the constant stream of disasters, most stemming from normal situations interpreted weirdly then obsessed over until she broke down in tears. It became clear th... (read more)

Trying hard to change is not useful for changing. It keeps someone in place. Someone who has emotional issues because they obsess too much doesn't get a benefit from trying harder. Accepting such a frame is not the kind of mistake I would make. If a person breaks down crying I'm not disassociating and going into a low energy state. It rather draw me into a situation and makes me more present. But I'm not sure whether it brings me into a position where I consider the other person an agent rather than a rubics cube having to be solved.

On 6 of the past 7 days I've succeeded in doing 50 minutes of exercise and 2 hours of job searching a day. I'm now talking with 3 different recruitment agencies and it seems likely that I'll be having interviews shortly! I've been wanting to get into running for years so i'm spending half the exercise periods doing a couch to 5k program and the other half on bodyweight workouts. This may not seem like much but as a person who have been struggling to get anything done at all for the past 5 months it really is a big deal. Thanks to /u/peter_hurford for his guides on productivity which were brief enough that I couldn't procrastinate by reading them.

Thanks for the write up. I used these tips, and they've been effective for 5 days in a row so far which is great because I'm finally getting callbacks about job interviews now after putting off applying for so long and all my muscles hurt from working out. It was short enough that I couldn't do what I normally do and put off taking action till I'd finished reading the book/presentation/whatever. Ended up skipping step 2 due to having plenty of free time in the schedule, which probably doesn't apply to most employed people but hey, feedback.

I found it usefu... (read more)

I had the happiness of stupidity once. While younger I edged into the valley and recoiled. I believe I even made a conscious choice and enforced it through various means. It was a good time over about two years, and it was unsustainable. I made the mistake of continuing to gain knowledge about human nature, I kept my curiosity and my fascination with how things worked and thus was my ignorance doomed. I dipped deep into the valley and eventually found this place, where I (hopefully) hit critical mass of bootstrap.

If I had stayed in that bubble of wilful ig... (read more)

And neither of us have the evidence required to find this point (if indeed it is just one point instead of several optimal peaks). I'm tapping out. If you have any closing points I'll try to take them into account in my thinking. Regardless, it seems like we agree on more than we disagree on.

You misunderstand me. I am not saying that a large government is definitely better. I'm simply playing devils advocate. I find it worrying that you can't find any examples of good things in larger government though. Do socialised single payer healthcare, lower crime rates due to more police, better roads, better infrastructure, environmental protections and higher quality schools not count as benefit? These are all things that require taxes and can be improved with greater spending on them.

Edit: In retrospect maybe this is how a changed humanity looks already. That seems to fit the reality better.

Some of these things are, some aren't. Let's go through the list: In the countries I'm most familiar with the socialized health care system is something you want to avoid if you have an alternative. Ok, those are examples. Even if the the crime rates that make more police necessary are due to other stupid government policies. Well these days a lot of environmental protection laws are insane, as in we must divert water from the farms because if we don't the delta smelt population might be reduced (this is California's actual water policy). Other times they're just excuses for extreme NIMBYism. Well, in the US the rule of thumb is that the more control government exercises over schools the worse they are.
Of course I can. Recall me talking about the multidimensionality of government power and how most people (including me) would prefer more in one dimension but less in another. On the whole I would prefer a weaker government, but not necessarily in every single aspect. However I would stress once again the cost-benefit balance. More is only better is you're below the optimal point, go above it and more will be worse.

Achieved almost entirely by fighting through normal means, guns and such so I hardly see the relevant. Suicide bombing kills a vanishing small number of people. IED's are an actual threat.

Their original goal as rebels was to remove a central government and now they're fighting a war of genocide against other rebel factions. I wonder how they would have responded if you'd told them at the start that a short while later they'd be slaughtering fellow muslims in direct opposition to their holy book.

Really? I was not aware of that trend in the field, maybe I should look into it.

Well, at least I understand you now.

It finally makes sense, you're looking at it from a personal point of view. Consider it from the view of the average wellbeing of the entire populace. Zoom out to consider the entire country, the full system of which the government is just a small part. A larger government has more probable failure modes, but a small one simply outsources its failure modes to companies and extremely rich individuals. Power abhors a vacuum.

You and I are not large enough or typical enough for considerations about our optimality to enter into the running of a country. People ... (read more)

Sure. A larger government takes more of their money, limits them in areas where they would prefer to be not limited, and has scarier and more probable failure modes. No, I don't think so, not the really scary failure modes. Things like Pol Pot's Kampuchea cannot be outsourced. The second half of that sentence contradicts the first half. I don't know of anyone who proposes random chance as a guiding political principle. As to the market forces, well, they provide the best economy human societies have ever seen. A lot of people thought they could do better -- they all turned out to be wrong. You're still missing a minor part -- showing that a large government does indeed do that better compared to a smaller one. By the way, are you saying that the current government size and power (say, typical for EU countries) are optimal? too small?

That large government is worse than small government.

Because a larger government takes more of my money, because it limits me in certain areas where I would prefer not to be limited, and because it has scarier and more probable failure modes.

A theory of government is not an terminal value, it is an instrumental one. You believe that that particular way of government will make people happy/autonomous/free/healthy/whatever your value system is. What is lacking is evidence that this particular government actually achieves those aims. It's a reasonable a priori argument, but so are dozens of other arguments for other governments. We need to distinguish which reality we are actually living in. By what metric can your goals be measured and where would you expect them to be highest? Are there countri... (read more)

Which "this particular government"? I don't think I'm advocating any specific government. May I point you here []? My preferences neither are nor need to be falsifiable. Why do I believe what?

Right, well would you please continue? I believe the question that started all this off was how do you know said theory corresponds to reality.

Which particular theory? You asked why do I want the reduce the power of the government and what does that mean. I tried to answer to the best of my ability, but there is no falsifiable theory about my values. They are what they are.

Not yours specifically, but the general average across humanity. lukeprog wrote up a good summary of the factors correlated with happiness which you've probably read as well as an attempt to discern the causes. Not that happiness is the be-all and end-all of terminal values, but it certainly shows how little the average person knows about what they would actually happy with vs what they think they'd be happy with. I believe that small sub-sequence on the science of winning at life is far more than the average person knows on the subject, or else people wouldn't give such terrible advice.

Aren't you making the assumption that the average applies to everyone? It does not. There is a rather wide spread and pretending that a single average value represents it well enough is unwarranted. There are certainly things biologically hardwired into human brains but not all of them are terminal values and for things that are (e.g. survival) you don't need a neurobiologist to point that out. Frankly, I am at loss to see what neurobiologists can say about terminal values. It's like asking Intel chip engineers about what a piece of software really does. I don't know about that. Do you have evidence? If a person's ideas about her happiness diverge from the average ones, I would by default assume that she's different from the average, not that she is wrong.

Right, it's time we got back on track. Now that we using the same definition of power and we've come to the conclusion that a reduction in tax revenues can reduce physical projection of power but is unlikely to remove the laws that determine what maximum level of power is legally allowed to be projected.

I believe you were talking about optimal levels of power when compared to growth?

Not at all. I was talking about optimal levels of power from the point of view of my system of values.

It's a statement of fact, not a political agenda. Neuroscientists know more about people's brains than normal people do, as a result of spending years and decades studying the subject.

Huh? Neuroscientists know my terminal values better than I do because they studied brains? Sorry, that's nonsense.

Ah, I think you may have gotten the wrong idea when I said truth was incidental, that a thing is incidental does not stop it from being useful and a good idea, it is just not a goal in and of itself. Fortunately, no-one here is actually suggesting active self-deception as a viable strategy. I would suggest reading Terminal values and Instrumental Values. Truth seeking is an instrumental value, in that it is useful to reach the terminal values of whatever your actual goals are. So far as I can tell, we actually agree on the subject for all relevant purposes... (read more)

Thanks for the group selection link. Unfortunately I'd have to say, to the best of my non-expert judgement, that the current trends in the field disagrees somewhat with Eliezer in this regard. The 60s group selection was definitely overstated and problematic, but quite a few biologists feel that this resulted in the idea being ruled out entirely in a kind of overreaction to the original mistakes. Even Dawkins, who's traditionally dismissed group selection, acknowledged it may play more of a role than he previously thought. So its been refined and is making a bit of a come-back, despite opposition. Of course, only a few point to it as the central explanation for altruism, but the result of my own investigation makes me think that the biological component of altruism is best explained by a mixed model of group selection, kin selection and reciprocation. We additionally haven't really got a reliable map as to nature/nuture of altruism either, so I suspect the field will "evolve" further. I've read the values argument. I acknowledge that no one is claiming the truth is BAD exactly, but my suggestion here is that unless we deliberately and explicitly weigh it into our thought process, even when it has no apparent utlity, we run into unforeseeable errors that compound upon eachother without our awareness of them doing so. Crudely put, lazy approaches to the truth come unstuck, but we never realise it. I take it my post has failed to communicate that aspect of the argument clearly? :-( Oh I add that I agree we agree in most regards on the topic.

Statements can still be used for calibration even if you don't know the answer, but it's always more fun if you have at least an inkling of the answer. It's always good to add more fun to things like this, so any chance I could convince you to bring along some of the type of questions you think would be good?

Ahh, this completely slipped my mind on the day. As it turned out, I thought the problems we tackled on the day were more interesting than I had previously assumed they would be. I had thought that questions like, I dunno, "which got better reviews, Indiana Jones and the temple or doom or Return of the Jedi" or "who had more number 1 records, the beatles or elvis" (I think its elvis, but with only 60% confidance) could be fun, perhaps intersperced with the questions about the mass of pluto. Not sure about the equivalent for Fermi estimates.

Agreed, a general rule of truthiness is definitely a very effective approach and probably the most effective approach, especially once you've started down the path. So far as I can tell stopping halfway through is... risky in a way that never having started is not. I only recently finished the sequences myself (apart from the last half of QM). At the time of starting I thought it was essentially the age old trade off between knowledge and happy ignorance, but it appears at some point of reading the stuff I hit critical mass and now I'm starting to see how ... (read more)

Well I've done Map & Territory and have skimmed through random selections of other things. Pretty early days I know! So far I've not run into anything particularly objectionable for me or conflicting with any of the decent philosophy I've read. My main concern is this truth as incidental thing. I just posted on this topic: []

Persistence is a good word for it, plus a sense of making it work even if the world is unfair, the odds are stacked against you. No sense of having fought the good fight and lost, if you failed and there were things you possibly could done beforehand, general strategies that would have been effective even if you did not know what was coming, then that is your own responsibility. It is not, I think, a particularly healthy way of looking at most things. It can only really be useful as a mindset for things that really matter.

can you be more explicit?

Ah, s... (read more)

Is there an implication that someone or something does know? That strikes me as awfully paternalistic.

Then what was all that stuff on the news about cutting government jobs, trying desperately to ensure frontline services weren't effected and so on about?

Edit: I knew it! No wonder I felt so confused. It would seem the reduction in spending just took a while to come into effect. Take a look at the years after 2011 that your chart is missing. Unfortunately it's not adjusted for inflation but you still get the idea. If you change category to protection and the subcategory to 'police', 'prisons' or 'law courts', you can see the reduction in police funding over the course of the recession.

So, my trap backfired? Ouch. :-( I guess I should be more careful about where I dig them :-) But I shall persevere anyway! :-D First, let me point out that the UK public spending contracted for a single year (2013) and 2014 is already projected to top all previous years. That's not a meaningful contraction. Second, we are talking about the power of the government. Did you feel this power lessened is some way around 2013? Sure, some programs were cut or didn't grow as fast as some people wanted, but is there any discernible way in which the government was weaker in 2013 than it was in 2012?

There does come a point when the bill must be paid though, even if it is over a long time. Even if it's over 40 years as you pay back the interest on the debt.

Before we go further, I think we need to be sure we're talking about the same thing when we say power. See, when you said a reduction in government power, what I heard was essentially less money, smaller government. I'm getting the feeling that that is not entirely what you meant, could you clarify?

That too, but not only that. There is nothing tricky here, I'm using the word "power" in its straightforward meaning. Power includes money, but it also includes things like the monopoly on (legal) violence, the ability to create and enforce laws and regulations, give or withhold permission to do something (e.g. occupational licensing), etc. etc.

Well, yes, it was all over the news. This feels like a trick question. Are you about to tell me that spending went up during the recession or something?

You have good instincts :-) Yes, this was a trap: behold [].

They don't necessarily have to, but generally do. For instance during austerity measures spending is generally reduced in most areas. Police forces have less funding and thus lose the ability to have as great an effect on an area, that is they have less power. Unless you're talking about power as a state of laws instead of a state of what is physically done to people?

Do you think UK had an austerity period recently?

Yes, I was going to comment on how a clever politician could spend during their own term to intentionally screw over the next party to take power, but I wanted to avoid the possible political argument that could ensue.

All of it looks reasonable to me apart from the last paragraph. I can see times when governments do willingly contract. There are often candidates who campaign on a platform of tax cuts, the UK had one in power from 1979-1990 and the US had one in power from 2001-2009.

Tax cuts necessarily require eventual reductions in government spending and thus the power of government, agreed?

Even if the tax cut are funded by reduction in government spending why would that imply a reduction of government power?
If they're sustained long enough, yeah. But a state has more extensive borrowing powers than an individual does, and an administration so inclined can use those powers to spend beyond its means for rather a long time -- certainly longer than the term in office of a politician who came to power on a promise of tax cuts. The US federal budget has been growing for a long time [], including over the 2001-2009 period, and the growth under low-tax regimes has been paid for by deficit spending. (Though you'd really want to be looking at federal spending as a percentage of GDP. There seems to be some [] disagreement [] over the secular trend there, but the sources I've found agree that the trend 2001-2009 was positive.)
So, how much did the government actually contract under Maggie or under Ronnie? :-) Did that contraction stick? Oh, not at all. You just borrow more. Besides, spending is only part of the power of the government. Consider e.g. extending the reach of the laws which does not necessarily require any budgetary increases.

I'll put this in a separate post because it is not to do with heroic responsibility and it has been bugging me. What evidence do you have that your favoured idea of reducing political power does what you want it to do? Are there states which have switched to this method and benefited? Are there countries that have done this and what happened to them? Why do you believe what you believe?

Well, before we wade into mindkilling territory, let me set the stage and we'll see if you find the framework reasonable. Government power is multidimensional. It's very common to wish for more government power in one area but less in another area. Therefore government power in aggregate is a very crude metric. However if you try to imagine government power as an n-dimensional body in a high-dimensional space, you can think of the volume of that n-dimensional body as total government power and that gives you a handle on what that means. Government power, generally speaking, has costs and benefits. Few people prefer either of the two endpoints -- complete totalitarianism or stateless anarchy. Most arguments are about which trade-offs are advantageous and about where the optimal point on the axis is located. To talk about optimality you need a yardstick. That yardstick is people's value system. Since people have different value systems, different people will prefer different optimal points. If you consider the whole population you can (theoretically) build a preference distribution and interpret one of its centrality measures (e.g. mean, median, or mode) as the "optimal" optimal point, but that needs additional assumptions and gets rather convoluted rather fast. There are multiple complicating factors in play here. Let me briefly list two. First, the population's preferences do not arise spontaneously in a pure and sincere manner. They are a function of local culture and the current memeplex, for example (see the Overton window []), and are rather easily manipulated. Manipulating the political sentiments of the population is a time-honored and commonplace activity, you can assume by default that it is happening. There are multiple forces attempting the manipulation, of course, with different goals, so the balance is fluid and uncertain. Consider the ideas of "manufacturing consent" or the concept of "engines of consent" -

Okay, my definition of sane is essentially: rational enough to take actions that generally work towards your goals and to create goals that are effective ways to satisfy your terminal values. It's a rather high bar. Suicide bombers do not achieve their goals, cultists have had their cognitive machinery hijacked to serve someone else's goals instead of their own. The reason I think this would be okay in aggregate is the psychological unity of mankind: we're mostly pretty similar and there are remarkably low numbers of evil mutants. Being pretty similar, mos... (read more)

Really, last time I checked there is now a Caliphate [] in what is still nominal Iraq and Syria.
The definition you give sounds like a pretty low bar to me. The fact that you're calling the bar high means that there are implied but unstated things around this definition -- can you be more explicit? "Generally work towards your goals" looks to me like what 90% of the population is doing... Is it basically persistence/stubborness/bloodymindedness, then?

See, you're ignoring the qualifier 'sane' again. I do not consider suicide bombers sane. Suicide bombers are extreme outliers, and they kill negligible numbers of people. Last time I checked they kill less people per year on average than diseases I had never heard of. Quite frankly, they are a non-issue when you actually look at the numbers.

It is not obvious to me that heroic responsibility implies that a thing should be done without cost/benefit analysis or at any cost.

Of course it depends on the values systems involved, I just happen to be fine with mos... (read more)

Well, would you like to define it, then? I am not sure I understand your use of this word. In particular, does it involve any specific set of values? Things done on the basis of cost-benefit analysis are just rational things to do. The "heroic" part must stand for something, no? Ahem. Most out of which set? Are there temporal or geographical limits? That's a complicated discussion that should start with what is meant by "good" (we're back to value systems again), maybe we should take it up another time...

I think we're using a different meaning of the word sane. See, I hold sanity to a rather high standard which excludes a huge breadth of people, probably myself as well until I've progressed somewhat.

I am imagining enough sane people taking heroic responsibility, the world looks rather different than this and it seems to be better run. We already have people in charge with value systems unacceptable to me, making them at least competent and getting them to use evidence-based strategies seems like a step forwards. People will have a normal range of value sys... (read more)

Why is it a step forward? If these people have value systems unacceptable to you, presumably you want them stopped or at least slowed. You do NOT want them to become more efficient. That, um, is entirely non-obvious to me. Not to mention that I have no idea what do you mean by "normal". Oh, I do, I do. Usually, the first thing I want to do is reduce its power, though :-D But here I'm basically pointing out that both rationality and willingness to do something at any cost (which is what heroic responsibility is) are orthogonal to values. There are two consequences. First, heroic responsibility throws overboard the cost-benefit analysis. That's not really a good thing for people who run the world to do. "At any cost" is rarely justified. Second, I very much do NOT want people with values incompatible with mine to become more efficient, more effective, and more active. Muslim suicide bombers, for example, take heroic responsibility and I don't want more of them. True-believer cultists often take heroic responsibility, and no, I don't think it's a good thing either. It really does depend on the values involved.

See you on sunday! I've had a look at some cool exercises to do and Fermi Calculations, 5 minute debiasing and Zendo all look fun and useful. We'll talk it over it at the rock climbing place in a few hours

You say he's not-mad, but isn't he the spitting image of the revolutionary that power corrupts? Wasn't Communism the archetype of the affective death spiral?It would appear he was likely suffering from syphilis, a disease that can cause confusion, dementia and memory problems. Anyway, isn't that an ad hominem argument?

Lenin in the 1920s is not relevant to this argument, I would say he "took heroic responsibility" around, say, 1915-1918, and It looks to me that it would be hard to make the argument that he was already corrupted by power at this point. But if you don't like this example I'm sure I can find others. The underlying point is rather simple -- imagine "enough sane people taking heroic responsibility" with these people having a value system you find unacceptable...
No. It is an argument which happens to use the perceived negative consequences of an individual's actions as a premise. Use of 'ad hominem!' to reject a claim only (legitimately) applies when there is a fallacy of relevance that happens to be a personal attack that doesn't support the conclusion. It does not apply whenever an argument happens to contain content that reflects badly on an individual.

Any idea how long that will be (months, years, decades)?

I think heroic responsibility is essentially a response to being in a situation where not enough people are both competent at and willing to make changes to improve things. The authority figures are mad or untrustworthy, so a person has to figure out their own way to make the right things happen and put effective methods in place. It is particularly true of HPMOR where Harry plays the role of Only Sane Man. So far as I can tell, we're in a similar situation in real life at the minute: we have insufficient highly sane people taking heroic responsibility. If... (read more)

To me Snowden is one of the best examples of taking heroic responsibility. All the way to potentially breaking the laws and getting into the harms way to make the world a better place.
I don't know about that. Let me offer you an example of a not-mad person who took heroic responsibility: Lenin. Generally speaking, it's all very tightly tied to values. If you share the values, the person "takes heroic responsibility", if you don't share the values, the person is just a fanatic.

I'm not sure they're wrong to be honest (assuming an average cross section of people). Rationality is an extremely long term approach and payoff, I am not sure it would even work for the majority of people and if it does I'm not sure if it reaches diminishing returns compared to other strategies. The introductory text (sequences) is 9,000 pages long and the supplementary texts (kahneman, ariely ect) take it up to 11,000. I'm considered a very fast reader and it took me 3 unemployed months of constant reading to get through. For a good period of that time I... (read more)

Thanks for the interesting comments. I've not been on LW for wrong and so far I'm being selective about which sequences I'm reading. I'll see how that works out (or will I? lol). I think my concern on the truthiness part of what you say is that there is an assumption that we can accurately predict the consequences of a non-truth belief decision. I think that's rarely the case. We are rarely given personal corrective evidence though, because its the nature of a self-deception that we're oblivious that we've screwed up. Applying a general rule of truthiness is a far more effective approach imo.

I rather think there may be demand for a cheaper, less time dependent method of attending. It may be several seasons before they end up back in my country for example. Streaming/recording the whole thing and selling the video package seems like it could still get a lot of the benefits across. Their current strategy only really makes sense to me if they're still in the testing and refining stage.

You can always shoot someone an email and ask about the financial aid thing, and plan a trip stateside around a workshop if, with financial aid, it looks doable, and if after talking to someone, it looks like the workshop would predictably have enough value that you should do it now rather than when you have more time and money.
I think they are. If everything goes well they will have published papers that proves that their stuff works by the time they move out of the testing and refining stage.

Well that's a bit dispiriting, though I suppose looking back my view of CFAR was a bit unrealistic. Downregulating chance that CFAR is some kind of panacea.

Fantastic guide, a small note: the various status cues on page 28 is a dead link

Edit: Note to future readers: dead links can generally be traversed using the internet archive to find the cached site from when it was up.

Do you think it was unhelpful because you already had a high level of knowledge on the topics they were teaching and thus didn't have much to learn or because the actual techniques were not effective? Do you think your experience was typical? How useful do you think it would be to an average person? An average rationalist?

Do you think it was unhelpful because you already had a high level of knowledge on the topics they were teaching and thus didn't have much to learn or because the actual techniques were not effective?

I don't believe I had a high level of knowledge on the specific topics they were teaching (behavior change, and the like). I did study some cognitive science in my undergraduate years, and I take issue with the 'science'.

Do you think your experience was typical?

I believe that the majority of people don't get much, if anything, from CFAR's rationality... (read more)

Fair point, done. On a related note, I wonder how I can practice convincing my brain that failure does not mean death like it did in the old ancestral environment.

CFAR suggests doing exercises to extend your comfort zone for that purpose.
Even in the ancestral environment, not all failures (I suspect a fairly small proportion of them) meant death.

Exposure therapy: Fail on small things, then larger ones, where it is obvious that failiure doesn't mean death. First remember past experiences where you failed and did not die, then go into new situations.

Any chance you could relate the details for how the scholarship works and how much it is for? I am considering applying for something similar and thought I'd ask

Since I am not willing to publish details of my finances and I am not sure about CFARs policy regarding scholarships and information about them, I will not tell. To make this post helpful though I tell you that applying to a CFAR workshop is a very pleasant experience and takes less than an hour total. The worst that can happen is that you have one hour less in your life, so take the risk.

Somehow I doubt the financial aid will stretch to the full amount, and my student debt is already somewhat fearsome.

I'm on the LW meetups already as it happens. I'm currently attempting to have my local one include more instrumental rationality but I lack a decent guide of what methods work, what techniques to try or what games are fun and useful. For that matter I don't know what games there are at all beyond a post or two I stumbled upon.

You could ask Metus [] how much they covered for them, or someone at CFAR how much they'd be willing to cover. The costs for asking are small, and you won't get anything you don't ask for.

I'd like to ask LessWrong's advice. I want to benefit from CFAR's knowledge on improving ones instrumental rationality, but being a poor graduate I do not have several thousand in disposable income nor a quick way to acquire it. I've read >90% of the sequences but despite having read lukeprog's and Alicorn's sequences I am aware that I do not know what I do not know about motivation and akrasia. How can I best improve my instrumental rationality on the cheap?

Edit: I should clarify, I am asking for information sources: blogs, book recommendations, partic... (read more)

(Apologies for the slight thread hijack here.) It occurs to me that CFAR's model of expensive workshops and generous grants to the impoverished (note: I am guessing about the generosity) is likely to produce rather odd demographics: there's probably a really big gap between (1) the level of wealth/income at which you could afford to go, and (2) the level of wealth/income at which you would feel comfortable going, especially as -- see e.g. cursed's comments in this thread -- it's reasonable to have a lot of doubt about whether they're worth the cost. (The offer of a refund mitigates that a bit.) Super-handwavy quantification of the above: I would be really surprised if a typical person whose annual income is $30k or more were eligible for CFAR financial aid. I would be really surprised if a typical person whose income is $150k or less were willing to blow $4k on a CFAR workshop. (NB: "typical". It's easy to imagine exceptions.) Accordingly, I would guess that a typical CFAR workshop is attended mostly by people in three categories: impoverished grad students, etc., who are getting big discounts; people on six-figure salaries, many of them quite substantial six-figure salaries; and True Believers who are exceptionally convinced of the value of CFAR-style rationality, and willing to make a hefty sacrifice to attend. I'm not suggesting that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, it strikes me as a pretty good recipe for getting an interesting mix of people. But it does mean there's something of a demographic "hole".

I've been to several of CFAR's classes throughout the last 2 years (some test classes and some more 'official' ones) and I feel like it wasn't a good use of my time. Spend your money elsewhere.

CFAR has financial aid []. Also, attending LW meetups and asking about organizing meetups based on instrumental rationality material is cheap and fun.

Let's see how basic I can go with an argument for rationality without using anything that needs rationality to explain. First the basic form:

Rationality is an effective way of figuring out what is and isn't true. Therefore rational people end up knowing the truth more often. Knowing the truth more often helps you make plans that work. Plans that work allow you to acquire money/status/power/men/women/happiness.

Now to dress it up in some rhetoric:

My friend, have you ever wished you could be the best you? The one who knows the best way to do everything, cuts ... (read more)

I think I'm broadly supportive of your approach. The only problem I can see is that most people think its better to try to do stuff, as opposed to getting better at doing stuff. Rationality is a very generalised and very long-term approach and payoff. Still I'd not reject your approach at this point. Another issue I find interesting is that several people have commented recently on LW that (instrumental) rationality isn't about knowing the truth but simply achieving goals most effectively. They claim this is the focus of most LWers too. As if "Truthiness" is only a tool that can be even be discarded when neccessary. I find that view curious.

optimize diet for low cost with an at-least-superior-to-the-average-American level of nutrition

Well there's the Soylent idea, thought I don't think it was from LW. Soylent being 100% of all required daily nutrients stored in powder format then used to make shakes. In theory after a number of iterations it should be the healthiest food possible for humans to consume as well as being fairly cheap.

Depends on what specific information are you waiting for before you can decide. If it's something that won't happen soon or indeed ever it's more likely to be delusion. If it's something you can figure out in a week or just ask then it's more likely to be legitimate. Best of luck

How did it go? Were your family okay with it? Was the technique effective?

Before I brought it up, I saw some signs of possible agreement with my viewpoint from my wife. I put off pressing the issue until I can determine what these signs I saw were are all about. Hopefully, I'm not just deluding myself to avoid the hard decision.

Completed. I'll be fascinated to see how digit length correlates to gender default. It would imply some very interesting things about sexuality.

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