All of MarkL's Comments + Replies

Meditation: My blog is a terse, cryptic, rambling, ungrammatical rabbit hole, but it's highly opinionated and absolutely packed with links and resources:

Here are two practical posts:

Shinzen Young, Daniel Ingram, Kenneth Folk, and Culadasa have systems that can get you very far depending on how well they fit you.

Your blog is awesome! I link to it!

If you stopped flow by binding all your energy to your chakra's that would be an explanation for the negative side effects you are describing.

I think we're just having a terminology issue. Spontaneously or deliberately, I can experience what could be described as undulation and movement throughout my body at any time, continuous "traveling" fluctuations. But, I would describe this more as "spreading activation" than "flow." Like, I don't think something is moving but, yes, sensation can move or spread in a seemingly non-discon... (read more)

I would very likely label what you describe as energy flow and I think most people who do energy work would do so as well. That said there's a variety of different experiences of energy flow. Even with sight and sound there a lot happening in the brain. It's possible to have hallucinations in those channels. Energy perception seems to be more frickle and easier to mislead. The problem with the "it's all in the brain's map" explanation is that it doesn't account well for effects one person causes in another person. "Energy signatures" of removed organs on the other hand seem to remain from what I heard (not something I verified myself). That suggests that there a lot happening in the brain. If there an interaction with the intention of healing, then there are certainly suggestions in place but that's not true for every experience. I have plenty of experiences where something surprising happened that I didn't expect. The first result I clicked on that list says: A bit further we get a meta-analysis concluding []: There also a huge difference between an effect being there and the effect being clinically useful. Kirsch et al (2008) might have found that anti-depressives on average don't provide clinically significant results, but that doesn't mean that the drug has no effects. Relaxing a muscle for ten minutes and solving the problem in a way that the muscle stays relaxed two weeks later are two different problems. Experiments with shorter timeframes are likely better if you ask a question like: "Does this do something?" as opposed to "What clinical relevance has the effect?"

Fascia vibration and mechanotransduction could be a thing. I would think that can be coincident with autonomic interoception (what I write about) but doesn't have to be. I hadn't heard of Danis Bois. His framework looks like it could be life-changing for some people.

I'm not really sure if there's an effective way to respond to your comments about my experience. I've been doing meditation, bodywork, "energy" work, phenomenology, and much more for over a decade, via many different systems, from many different perspectives (neuro, psych, evo psych..... (read more)

I don't think reading books gives you real access to a system. I started meditating a decade ago after reading Koichi Tohei's book about Ki. Around three and a half years ago I switched actual in person training and it was a remarkable difference. Yes I could sit in full lotus beforehand. It wasn't difficult to figure out on my own because it's easy to get a good description in a book, but I missed a lot. Phenomenology is part of what Danis Bois teaches. Speaking directly after a meditation about what you experience and hearing what the other people experience is an essential part of building concepts. Not wanting to use the word "energy" for a long time Danis simply speaks about "inner movement" and ignores the subject of the medium that moves. In that context there are people who need a year with guidance till they develop the relevant perception. To me it's not at all surprising that you can spend a decade with books and trying to do what you think the book tells you, without developing those qualities. I don't want to get to deep into the subject on LW, but chakra's are in my conception places where energy is bound. If all of you intention is on having energy concentrated in those chakra's, then there's no movement. An orgasm is something where energy flow happens. If you stopped flow by binding all your energy to your chakra's that would be an explanation for the negative side effects you are describing. I certainly frequently discover something new in my inner experience, but the fact that energy movement happens is very basic. I might be that my perception is numb for a few days, but that doesn't mean that there's nothing there. It's like my heart beat. There are times when I can feel my heart beat. there are times when I don't. I think most people don't perceive their heart beat on a daily basis. Certainly in school when we tracked our pulse the teacher told us to feel our arteries with our fingers to track. I would guess from your experience that you

What systems do you work with? What do you think "energy" is?

I developed most of my perception in the framework of Danis Bois perceptive pedagogy (PP). I however played with many different systems. I don't know. It's a word I consider useful to label certain things I experience, even through it's not standard PP-vocabulary. Especially when talking to people without a PP-background who do have "energy perception" it's a useful word to communicate. On the other hand it's not useful when talking to someone who cares about understanding but who doesn't have a reference experience for the term. Having that term makes things for me easier. When looking at a more biological explanation, fascia vibrations seem to me an unexplored and potentially worthwhile field to investigate. A healing hand that's over a part of the body could interact with it via some form of resonance like a tuning fork. But I would also say there's nothing wrong with using a term without been clear about the underlying mechanism. When studying bioinformatics I had a professor who said that it takes "energy" for the heart to switch from 80 bpm to 110 bpm and back to 80 bpm and it's not quite clear that what he was talking about can be measured in watt. At least he couldn't point to a biochemical source of the "energy". System biology doesn't have to limit itself to what's easily explainable via biochemistry but can be it's own framework and label effects it's finds on it's own terms. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In general the term "energy" allows good orientation to order experiences I have in my life. On the other hand there's a lot I'm not clear about and where it would be useful to make controlled trials. Unfortunately the scientific research done by Danis Bois and his PHD students is published in French and I don't know French :( In general the amount of people who both care about doing scientific work and who do have the perceptive abilities is quite small.
To me energy flow is a word that describes a phenomena that I actually experience. You likely lack the relevant experience. Given that you lack it's also not surprising that you didn't get much benefit from your exploration. Which is also not surprising if you just take a book, and try to follow along.

I've been using a personal wiki to develop my rationality skills, and I've recently written about it, here:

Not a book, but a blog post and a paper:

PRISMs, Gom Jabbars, and Consciousness

The point is that these speed runs presumably involve backtracking. They can rewind time and explore different paths until they find one they like.

So do regular playthroughs, though; it's a video game. The first paragraph still remarks on "how different optimal play can be from normal play."

Meditation and metacognitive training in general.

Self link:

I have made some unsubstantiated claims in the "I’ve given you some reasons to meditate:" bullet in the link above. More generally, there is plenty of evidence that meditation does good things to you.

Psychotherapy wouldn't work if working with the psychotherapist didn't elicit a workable solution. I've intermittently found psychotherapy to be very helpful, but it doesn't always solve the problem for which I went to psychotherapy for.

Buteyko breathing [1] and high-intensity interval training [2]. YMMV, etc.


[2] e.g. "sprinting" on an elliptical

Sleep apnea is caused by low CO2 tolerance which causes you to breath off too much CO2, and low CO2 levels relax smooth muscle, including the smooth muscle of your throat (which otherwise should actively maintains your airway at all times). The above two practices increase CO2 tolerance.

(Low CO2 tolerance can be caused by many things (e.g. too much m... (read more)

Anything remotely like this for EU countries?

It is not a lottery as the green card lottery but if you are of European descent there is the chance you can apply for citizenship. Look out for Italian, Spanish, Hungarian and Irish ancestors in particular. Edit: This scheme is ridiculously complicated in the EU and I know of no coherent source. If anyone is specifically interested in having the right of abode to work in the EU, contact me with a hint to family history and we can work something out. In the interest of the community I urge you to do this publicly.

Anyone do "mechanism design" in their day job? What are jobs that have aspects of this? (Besides implicitly, like every web startup ever, which is still interesting to think about.)

Management, especially high-level management. This basically what CEOs of large companies are supposed to do. Politicians (and, by implications, lobbyists, consultants, think tanks, etc.).
Aside from academic economists and computer scientists? :D Auction design has been a big success story, enough so that microeconomic theorists like Hal Varian and Preston McAfee now work at Google full time. Microsoft and other tech companies also have research staff working specifically on mechanism design. As far as people that should have some awareness (whether they do or not): anyone implementing an online reputation system, anyone allocating resources (like a university allocating courses to students or the US Army allocating ROTC graduates to its branches), or anyone designing government regulation.

As encouragement to OP, I haven't read The Things They Carried either, but OP totally makes sense, and it's interesting and helpful, and I'm glad ze posted it. (... But now I realize OP has been edited before I got to it, so maybe parent applied more beforehand. :-)

Before I edited it, it was like the current one with the second paragraph removed, the last two sentences of the third paragraph removed, and the third and fourth paragraph combined into one, roughly. I'm glad gwern posted his comment, though, because I think the post is much better now.

I look at it as an empowering concept, apologetic, or an explanation of how "rationality" can go awry. I think Mitchell Porter says it best:

But the really hard questions are characterized by the fact that we don't know how to think rigorously about them - we don't have a method, ready at hand, which allows us to mechanically compute the answer.

Rather, grasping at easily available ontologies and attempting to reason with them will not get you very far whe... (read more)

I just mean, in the beginning, I made more of an effort to simulate an LW-rationalist perspective and write accessibly or intriguingly to people who knew that memeplex. I've gotten lazier in later posts, just writing about what interests me, from my perspective. I don't really consider myself a rationalist. A "transrationalist" maybe. But maybe it's all semantics--non-straw-vulcan, Keith Stanovich's reflective rationality, etc.. I am fascinated by phenomenology, metacognition, and evolutionary psychology, and "rationality" is only one i... (read more)

My feeling is that the valley of bad rationality is mostly using it as a tool to identify poor reasoning in others instead of in oneself.

How strong is the evidence in favor of psychological treatment really?

Existent. But psychological treatment is in it's infancy. I am not a licensed mental health professional, but watch this:

Now, go find a therapist who's at least 45 years old, preferably 50-plus, is not burned out, and loves what they do. It doesn't really matter what the therapeutic modality is. Don't go to a thirty-something CBT-weenie.

Edit: A bunch of recent posts on my blog are about therapy. May or may not be useful:

http://meditationstuff... (read more)

Do you mind my asking how your identity interacts with rationality memes? You say that your earlier posts are often from a rationalist perspective. How has your perspective changed over time?

transcendental meditation

Robert Forman has done TM for many, many years, and he writes about his experience in this book:

His perspective is balanced and thoughtful.

You might also be interested in my meditation blog which is often (particularly in earlier posts) but not always from a rationalist perspective:

Oh hey! You run that blog. Just want to say I really enjoy the content you post.

Perfectly beautiful nude people, on demand, with infinite rapid novelty is a superstimulus.

Even the plausible, heavily watered down version of your statement is sufficient: Attractive nude people, easily accessed, with a large amount of variety, is a super-stimulus.

Here is a self-link to my meditation blog; this post has links to other posts:

The blog is a mixture of personal experience, unscientific references, and cherry-picked peer-reviewed research. I specifically talk about the dangers of meditation, with included citations, but unfortunately it's all mixed in with other stuff. Here is one place to start:

On the Cruelty of Really Teaching Computer Science by prof. dr. Edsger W. Dijkstra:

I think the issue is that driving is a process of tiny course corrections, where if you're slightly off course you don't die. But, programs are fragile. One bit wrong and you die.

I'm coming at this from ten years of brain fog, unrefreshing sleep, "feeling sick all the time," etc. Mostly better now; I did a lot of stuff highly specific to my situation. The below mostly helped with enduring it. Remember, I'm just some random idiot on the internet, hope this is helpful, and in no particular order:

... (read more)

My meditation blog from a (somewhat) rationalist perspective is now past 40 posts:

Do you have any material for dealing with chronic pain? Or material that could conceivably be leveraged to apply to chronic pain management?

This is all stuff that I use:

... (read more)

See also: Warnock's Dilemma

The problem with no response is that there are five possible interpretations:

  • The post is correct, well-written information that needs no follow-up commentary. There's nothing more to say except "Yeah, what he said."
  • The post is complete and utter nonsense, and no one wants to waste the energy or bandwidth to even point this out.
  • No one read the post, for whatever reason.
  • No one understood the post, but won't ask for clarification, for whatever reason.
  • No one cares about
... (read more)
And Wei Dai's Agree, Retort, or Ignore? []

Another possible interpretation:

Disagree with the post; can't personally refute it, but believe that someone who shares my views (and is more knowledgeable) could.

The existing karma system does a good job of addressing the first two possibilities, but the last three cases are still pretty hard to distinguish. Kaj_Sotala seems to be talking about cases 4 and 5, more or less.

As long as we're talking about a technical solution, it seems like the relevant dimension that Kaj is talking about is difficulty/understandability as opposed to agreement or general quality, and I can imagine a few different solutions to this[1]. That said, I'm not convinced that this would tell you the information you're after, since readers who... (read more)

Point one is addressed with "like" "favorite" "star" or any number of "upvote" mechanisms; it should be a relatively solved problem in our present context. This applies to point two with the equivalent downvote button. The third point is the one that seems most relevant to our present context, as discussed in [] The fourth point seems largely relevant to the comment directly preceding yours chronologically: [] I am unsure about the fifth point. Reviewing this comment as I draft it, I realize that it can form a sort of branching point for discussion within this comment section, and I wonder if I should or ought to be allowed to ask you to edit your post to serve as the main branching point so the I might delete mine and tidy up the discussion, or else edit out redundant parts and leave certain parts, this paragraph in particular, for later discussion analysis. I feel as though it is then proper to encourage the upvoting of your post aloud so as to make it appear at the top of the thread for having outlined the best known catalog and being a branching point for discussion.

Read the table of contents, read the index, read through the citations, read the preface/forward/intro, possibly read the concluding chapter. Then and only then do I dip into the book in a few targeted places, and then and only then do I (sometimes) read the entire book.

For math courses, I always took the "honors" version. This was not because I was an over-achiever but because the honors versions were taught by professors whereas the normal versions were taught be TAs. The instruction was soooooooooooo much better, which made up for the extra work and/or extra difficulty. My annoyance level was kept low, which was worth it.

The idea is to start a thread for people to discuss 50 Shades, or something else perceived as trashy, and try to find what's likable in it.

The links in this MetaFilter post will make it harder:

Or maybe it won't.

But, seriously, I genuinely enjoy trashy, extremely problematic stuff like 50 Shades. I am curious to see a poll, too, to get a sampling of things that provoke, "I DO NOT GET WHY SO MANY PEOPLE LIKE THIS THE CONTEMPTIBLE FOOLS."

I cannot partici... (read more)

Off the top of my head, the "Transformers" cartoon series. I know a bunch of adults who actually like it, and it's won many of the major awards for writing for animated series. I have tried to watch it. To me it seems much worse than I'd imagined, not even sophisticated enough for kids younger than its target audience, with characters I might've been able to stomach at age three but not at six. Nice graphics, if you like hyper-realistic overly-dramatic CGI more than style, character, or integration of visual presentation with story. Wil Eisner's comics. He's known as the grand old man at whose altar all comic artists and writers kneel. I've read many of his comics, old (The Spirit) and new (A Contract With God), and they all had bad stories with bad characters, badly told. "The Spirit" had bad artwork besides, and made superhero comics look like great literature by comparison--and it came out around the same time as EC Comics, which were not great literature, but still a hell of a lot better.

This book looks very interesting, as does the author's other work. Sort of tangentially related: empathic accuracy. Right now, humans can infer the emotions and actual thought contents of complete strangers, way above chance. This guy has done many, many years of research:

Ickes, William. Everyday mind reading: Understanding what other people think and feel. Prometheus Books, 2003.

It's my pleasure. Feedback greatly appreciated--I have over a decade of thinking and doing on this; Help me expand on the parts that people most care about.

I started a meditation blog from a rationalist perspective. 10 posts so far.

Really interesting looking stuff here. Thanks for this.

Somewhere I think there's a quote about Eliezer writing faster with a writing partner. Could someone point me to this quote?

Might have been this []

I'm sure some people find some of these ideas distressing or depressing, whether or not they actually accept them as true in whole or in part. I would say I do, in a qualified way. But I have decent perspective on the whole singularity/LessWrong/FAI/etc/etc memeplex.

Try reading Hoffer's "The True Believer" to gain insight into how elements of singularity thinking can be really poisonous to your mental wellbeing. There's more and less healthy ways to think about and approach the future.

I was wondering if it's a problem for anyone. It's not for me.


I don't have any references that I can reach for, and I'm not sure how good the studies actually are, or what they actually say, but my mild belief is that meditation does generally accelerate cognitive development at all stages.

Also, the "unitive" stage isn't just found in advanced meditators: "enlightenment is an accident, meditation makes you accident prone," as the saying goes. Not that I want to get into a discussion about classical Buddhist enlightenment. Also, Wilber does say that that meditative attainment and cognitive... (read more)

I don't/didn't have time to assemble a coherent section on this, but I also want to point people towards Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Related buzzphrases: Experiential avoidance, rule-governed behavior, environmentally contingent behavior, repertoire narrowing, relational frame theory... (Stephen C Hayes and colleagues) There's a developmental line or skillset in there that relates to ugh fields, original seeing, cached thoughts, and more, in LessWrong jargon. See also "Compassion Focused Therapy: Distinctive Features" for more references and exercises for influencing "socioemotional" brain systems.

I had a specific reason for giving the book a shot, while simultaneously I had strong evidence that I was wasting my time. I wanted to nudge people who didn't have a specific reason to read it to consider reading it, anyway. Overkill? Doth protest too much? Maybe!

A bit too much, yeah. Over half the post is defensiveness and reasons why you might object, without refuting those objections.

Learn how to safely fight. Like, really, truly, ugly-ly fight:

After the Fight; amazon

You'll get more out of your relationships and have better relationships. (John Gottman who writes all the pop relationship books (and does peer-reviewed, quantitative research) loves this guy's stuff.)

Oh yeah, so here's how I actually log these 2-4 hours: If a) I'm only doing X (e.g. not also eating or listening to music), and b) I truly expect not to be distracted (I'm in an isolated location and email and phone are off), then I log that time. Otherwise, it goes into the "everything else" bucket. From my log, it looks like I average only 15 hours/wk under these criteria.

Just more anecdata, but this jives with me. I keep time logs. I have "maximal mental effort" (MME) and "everything else." For me it's about scope and depth: MME is about how much I can integrate and bring to bear on what I'm doing, like my capacity to coherently integrate citations into my writing. So perhaps it's how large and long you can subconsciously sustain "useful potential inputs" to conscious working memory. Monkey coding I can do, for sure, many hours a day. But coding at my maximum ability is, again, 2-4 hours per day.

Ok. That's compatible with what I meant, even if it's not what I said. :)

This reads like a recipe for locking-in into your own randomly generated dogma.

I'm coming back to this years later, but, wait, what? How does one learn, then? How does one separate true stuff from false stuff without engaging with it, without wrestling with it, without trying to disprove it, without applying it?

When you don't know, you don't know what you don't know. How can you know, except by doing something intelligently accidental? Even if it's just doing the exercises at the end of the chapter?

You move in small reliable steps, making yourself stronger, so that eventually you can take bigger steps that you couldn't judge reliable before.

Something to add: allocating attention in the correct order:

  1. emotions
  2. felt meaning
  3. verbal thoughts

Otherwise you have the failure mode of avoiding painful emotions (even if they're being triggered erroneously) and then all sorts of bad things happen. So check in with (1) before (2) and (3). And check in with (2) before applying (3), because otherwise you're using cached thoughts.

Jealousy/envy of people that have money. It's worth a simmering frustration and, more importantly, short bursts of action, for me.

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