Michelle

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How I Ended Up Non-Ambitious

I am a PhD chemist (currently post-doc); my partner is a Physics professor. He has often said that the most selfless thing we could do would be to teach high school science. It is a super important job capable of changing lives, where talented people can really shine, but at the same time can be exhausting, soul-sucking, and tedious.

I think nursing is similar in a way.

My mom is a nurse, and my two younger sisters are nurses (the youngest still finishing school). When my youngest sister decided to start nursing school (she was undecided for a long time), I thought that really, it was an extremely practical choice. Unlike many jobs, nursing is unlikely to become obsolete. Also, there are jobs everywhere, the pay is good, the work brings new challenges every day, etc, etc. It makes sense.

I guess one of the big reasons I wanted to comment (I haven't commented on Less Wrong in two years or so), in addition to wanting to make the comparison with teaching at the high school level, is to offer a word of caution.

From my experience living in a family of nurses, I would say: "beware the administration trap." If you are really good at your job, you will likely be offered a promotion to administration. Administration is nothing like actual nursing. You don't deal with patients anymore -- now you deal with the nurses, and generally the more incompetent ones. I think this is true of many professions -- where "doing" the job and being an administrator are completely different, but it's definitely an issue you'll likely come up against here. Nursing, like teaching K-12, is a tough job because -- even if you're extremely bright and good at what you do -- you are surrounded by co-workers who may be less bright and less good at what they do. Nursing, at least based on my impressions, is like being in high school again with a bunch of gossipy school girls or being at the neighborhood barbecue with gossipy women. It just doesn't offer the same bubble of intellect that say, academia, would... or the same sort of environment that being in a tech company or being an entrepreneur or whatever would. So, I hope that aspect doesn't crush your soul, and that you can take the positive parts of the profession and run with them. The thing about the medical field is that there are infinite avenues for self-improvement, and you can continue to challenge yourself and become better at your work -- especially if you make sure to choose your promotions wisely and not go the administration route (assuming you don't want that) but rather go the route of various sorts of specialization. My sister has only been nursing for 4 years or so and was kicking butt and so was quickly promoted to some sort of administrative role. She quit that within a matter of months, and has now started taking a bunch of courses to increase her skill set. My mom has been director of a nursing home, making really good money, for 8 or so years now, and it has just slowly crushed her. She finally decided she had to quit, even though her and my dad are not completely financially stable, and put in her resignation a few months ago. She has already found a position in an independent specialist/consultant type role. Even after nursing for years and being a VERY GOOD administrator - she still prefers working directly with patients.

Of Gender and Rationality

A few thoughts:

(1) I agree with Nanani, and think it would be awful to actively try to "recruit" females, or even really do anything to entice them to come/stay. Though I appreciate the spirit of the post nonetheless because I think it's a very interesting and important issue, and I think it's okay to acknowledge it and question it. If anything, efforts to even out the male/female imbalance would have to be made on a much greater scale to start to see change.

(2) Do people really think that it's an issue of females frequenting Less Wrong and then LEAVING? I doubt it. I suspect that a much lower proportion of females even happen upon the blog in the first place. This would eliminate a number of the explanations.

(3) This is an issue that deeply intrigues me. I have some fairly simple theories. Unfortunately, I am not well-versed enough in evol. psych., gender studies, history, sociology, etc. to feel like I have enough background to really get at the heart of the matter. So most of my ideas are purely anecdotal.

I believe that females on a whole are less interested in intellectual pursuits. Particularly intellectual pursuits that are HARD and take a higher amount of mental horsepower to grasp. Period. The question is: Why?

From my own experience, I've found myself to be less INNATELY CURIOUS than many of my male counterparts. Once I get onto a topic, I can puzzle over it for hours at a high level, but if the topic is not in front of me, my brain can be content to space out and think trivial things. Once I realized this was the case, I started to actively work to be more curious and to think more. When I'm sitting around spacing out, I will actually tell myself that I should start thinking about a problem. My brain does not do this automatically.

Now, I don't know if this is purely a messed up issue that I have to deal with, or if it extends across the female gender. From observing other females, it doesn't seem unreasonable that others would face the same lack of intellectual curiosity.

My big question is where does this come from? It's either biological or social. I used to think it was biological (this helped me reconcile the fact that I had to work overtime and be more aware so that I could become more interested in things in the first place). Now I think it's entirely possible that the explanation is social and that females, through media/peer groups/etc. simply are not encouraged to be as curious about intellectual issues and by the time they are older, they've simply stopped thinking. (This is all pertaining to females as a group, not particular individuals).

(4) I don't think the atmosphere (meanness) of this site is the problem. Enough females are thick-skinned. I think it's simply the subject matter. Though I agree that it's possible that the ratio of females is slightly higher than what is apparent because of their relative silence. I personally have a much higher fear of rejection to comments, etc. This extends to in-person interactions, and upon the slightest rejection, I will quickly shut up.

The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet

Crisis of belief? Definitely maybe. I don't know EY's full situation, but I'm still having a hard time digesting the idea that he just can't do it.

I believe you're just describing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) above. When I started learning about diet and fitness, that was a big one.

I agree with the poster who said to ask the bodybuilders. I got into reading bodybuilding information sites and they really do have it down to a fine art. There are many subtleties beyond "good diet and exercise." Screw up a few little things and you won't lose weight.

Diet: low carb, and only unrefined, high good fats, high protein ("low carb" here just means not the 80% carbs people normally consume - it doesn't have to be ridiculous like Atkins). Tons of vegetables and fruit (slightly more controversial). Lots of small meals. Eat less calories than you burn [Edit: though obviously this is wishy-washy. Still, count calories in general. Sometimes you have to eat more to boost your metabolism, etc]. There are degrees of strictness, and much more specific ratios and timing and cycles, but those are the basics.

Exercise: Do heavy weightlifting. Do full-body lifts like chin ups, push ups/bench press, squats, deadlifts, military press, etc. And do HIIT. And continuously switch your routine around in some way.

If this is exactly what you've done, then I underestimate the severity of a slow metabolism.

And of course, this doesn't address the willpower issue at all.

I just have to say it anyway though, because if you're eating well and exercising regularly and not losing weight, just missing a few things like:

-eating 5-6 meals a day, not 3

-pounding a spoonful of fish oil a day

-doing 15 min. HIIT 3-4 times a week and not slow cardio

-doing squats and deadlifts

can make the difference between losing a pound or two a week and actually gaining weight.

Deliberate and spontaneous creativity

"More productive people are less creative."

Is this fact?

I have no idea, but I think could be a lot more to it than that.

I can agree from my experience in the sense that the more I find myself working on tasks, the less time I have for "thinking," particularly more "out-of-the-box thinking."

But I don't know if this is true in general, or at least how many people this would apply to.

I also think it depends how you define "productivity." If you give more productivity weight to creative ideas, even though they be less tangible and more sparse, then the statement's not necessarily true.

Mind Control and Me

This is mostly agreeing to the same point, but I'm going to say it anyway because I think it's important.

I stumbled on Eliezer's writing fairly randomly (link to OB as an interesting blog). I was immediately sucked in. In fact, I was discussing the subject of modern-day genius with a friend, and after having read two or three of his posts, I sent my friend a link saying something like "this Eliezer guy seems like a pretty legit modern genius." [He replied with "psshhh... he's just working in a hyped-up field." (I don' t think he really read the posts)]. I had absolutely no idea of the depth of his ideas nor any of the broader social context at the time. I just knew it was making sense.

Same with Paul Graham. I stumbled on his website even more randomly. I did a google search for "procrastination" while procrastinating one night. And I was hooked. Again, I had no idea about his accomplishments or social status or associations, I just knew that his writing resonated with me.

What it is for me is a deep connection with the ideas in the writing. It's not just a matter of "hmm... interesting idea," but rather "WOW. That's EXACTLY how I feel. But explained so much more clearly."

I could lump Ayn Rand into the same group to an extent.

I agree that the "cultishness" is somewhat disconcerting. But I think there's much more to it than that. I think the fact that the names of three of the writers whose writing has deeply resonated with me philosophically, writers who I have come across through completely different means, have been mentioned in the comments in this post, is very telling. I suspect that people are predisposed to a certain way of understanding the world, and when they find ideas that resonate with that understanding, they latch on. It's just that some people are much better at communicating, or make the effort to communicate, these ideas.

(This comment opens a can of worms as it could imply that there are various correct ways or understanding the world, and that rationalism is not necessarily THE way. But perhaps certain people are more predisposed to the idea of rationalism? And perhaps it is THE way, but certain people can just never come close to overcoming their views of the world imposed from their upbringing to have the ideas resonate with them?)

Either way, my main point is that it's not just a matter of blind worship.

Rational Me or We?

I think an important issue in this generalist/specialist debate and this attempt to create a list of the most important figures is that the historical time frame may be very relevant.

As the world becomes increasingly complex and fields of study, old and new, become increasingly specialized, would this not affect the ability of a generalist/specialist to produce a significant insight or make a significant contribution?

Perhaps it makes more sense to consider much more recent people as examples if we want to apply this to society as it stands now.