Why startup founders have mood swings (and why they may have uses)

This doesn't really ring true to me (as a model of my personal subjective experience).

The model in this post says despair is "a sign that important evidence has been building up in your buffer, unacknowledged, and that it’s time now to integrate it into your plans."

But most of the times that I've cycled intermittently into despair over some project (or relationship), it's been because of facts I already knew, consciously, about the project. I'm just becoming re-focused on them. And I wouldn't be surprised if things like low blood sugar or anxiety spilling over from other areas of my life are major causes of some Fact X seeming far more gloomy on one particular day than it did just the day before.

And similarly, most of the times I cycle back out of despair, it's not because of some new information I learned or an update I made to my plans. It's because, e.g., I went to sleep and woke up the next morning and things seemed okay again. Or because my best friend reminded me of optimistic Facts Y and Z which I already knew about, but hadn't been thinking about.

Speculative rationality skills and appropriable research or anecdote

Hey, I'm one of the founders of CFAR (and used to teach the Reference Class Hopping session you mentioned).

You seem to be misinformed about what CFAR is claiming about our material. Just to use Reference Class Hopping as an example: It's not the same as reference class forecasting. It involves doing reference class forecasting (in the first half of the session), then finding ways to put yourself in a different reference class so that your forecast will be more encouraging. We're very explicit about the difference.

I've emailed experts in reference class forecasting, described our "hopping" extension to the basic forecasting technique, and asked: "Is anyone doing research on this?" Their response: "No, but what you're doing sounds useful." [If I get permission to quote the source here I will do so.]

This is pretty standard for most of our classes that are based on existing techniques. We cite the literature, then explain how we're extending it and why.

16 types of useful predictions

I usually try to mix it up. A quick count shows 6 male examples and 2 female examples, which was not a deliberate choice, but I guess I can be more intentional about a more even split in future?

Harper's Magazine article on LW/MIRI/CFAR and Ethereum

Thanks for showing up and clarifying, Sam!

I'd be curious to hear more about the ways in which you think CFAR is over-(epistemically) hygienic. Feel free to email me if you prefer, but I bet a lot of people here would also be interested to hear your critique.

Harper's Magazine article on LW/MIRI/CFAR and Ethereum

Sure, here's a CDC overview: http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html They seem to be imperfect but better than nothing, and since people are surely not going to be washing their hands every time they cough, sneeze, or touch communal surfaces, supplementing normal handwashing practices with hand sanitizer seems like a probably-helpful precaution.

But note that this has turned out to be an accidental tangent since the "overhygienic" criticism was actually meant to refer to epistemic hygiene! (I am potentially also indignant about the newly clarified criticism, but would need more detail from Sam to find out what, exactly, about our epistemic hygiene he objects to.)

Harper's Magazine article on LW/MIRI/CFAR and Ethereum

Edited to reflect the fact that, no, we certainly don't insist. We just warn people that it's common to get sick during the workshop because you're probably getting less sleep and in close contact with so many other people (many of whom have recently been in airports, etc.). And that it's good practice to use hand sanitizers regularly, not just for your own sake but for others'.

Harper's Magazine article on LW/MIRI/CFAR and Ethereum

Perhaps this is silly of me, but the single word in the article that made me indignantly exclaim "What!?" was when he called CFAR "overhygienic."

I mean... you can call us nerdy, weird in some ways, obsessed with productivity, with some justification! But how can you take issue with our insistence [Edit: more like strong encouragement!] that people use hand sanitizer at a 4-day retreat with 40 people sharing food and close quarters?

[Edit: The author has clarified above that "overhygienic" was meant to refer to epistemic hygiene, not literal hygiene.]

Tell Culture

"I'm beginning to find this conversation aversive, and I'm not sure why. I propose we hold off until I've figured that out."

I read this suggested line and felt a little worried. I hope rationalist culture doesn't head in that direction.

There are plenty of times when I agree a policy of frankness can be useful, but one of the risks of such a policy is that it can become an excuse to abdicate responsibility for your effect on other people.

If you tell me that you're having an aversive reaction to our conversation, but can't tell me why, it's going to stress me out, and I'm going to feel compelled to go back over our conversation to see if I can figure out what I did to cause that reaction in you. That's a non-negligible burden to dump on someone.

If, instead, you found an excuse to leave the conversation gracefully (no need for annoyed body language), you can reflect on the conversation later and decide if there is anything in particular I did to cause your aversive reaction. Maybe so, and you want to bring it up with me later. Or maybe you decide you overreacted to a comment I made, which you now believe you misinterpreted. Or maybe you decide you were just anxious about something unrelated. Overall, chances are good that you can save me a lot of stress and self-consciousness by dealing with your emotions yourself as a first pass, and making them my problem only if (upon reflection) you decide that it would be helpful to do so.


Yes, that makes a lot of sense!

Since we don't have any programmers on staff at the moment, we went with the less-than-ideal solution of a manual thermometer, which we update about once a day -- but it certainly would be better to have it happen automatically.

For now, I've gone with the kluge-y solution of an "Updated January XXth" note directly above the menu bar. Thanks for the comment.


several mainstream media articles about CFAR on their way, including one forthcoming shortly in the Wall Street Journal

That article's up now -- it was on the cover of the Personal Journal section of the WSJ, on December 31st. Here's the online version: More Rational Resolutions

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