They say a clean house is a sign of a wasted life, and I have a very clean house.

mingyuan's Comments

AIRCS Workshop: How I failed to be recruited at MIRI.

I think that they were mentioning that they loved recruiting because it leads them to work with extremely interesting people, but that it's hard to find them. Given that my goal was explicitly to be recruited, and that I didn't have any answers yet, it was extremely awkward for me. I can't state explicitly why, after all I didn't have to add anything to their remark.

Reading this, it sounds to me like the bad thing here might have been the unintentional implication that people who are not hired by MIRI are not extremely interesting people. I'm sure that's not what they meant, but it's understandable that that might be awkward!

Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay

The thing is, you don't have to actually be particularly good at software development in order to get a high-paying programming job. Even mediocre or very junior programmers can easily break six figures, something that's much harder even in other intellectual labor positions in the Bay Area (e.g. technical writing, which is what I do). So, while I don't disagree that being a good software developer is very difficult, I definitely don't think that explains away the issue discussed in the OP, and I definitely disagree that "very few can become good enough to be paid for" software development.

(Source: I work for a software recruiting company where I have access to information on both the skill level and the salary of thousands of software developers.)


The Towel Census: A Methodology for Identifying Orphaned Objects in Your Home

You know, that's an excellent point. I just bought my boyfriend a new towel and washed all the towels in the house (serendipitously, everyone's out of town for the holidays). I also want to note that we no longer really have this problem, and that the smell - at least the ambient smell - has never been very bad. Although, yeah, when I stick my face in some of the towels and smell them I... wish I hadn't. I'm also a female with good hygiene, moderate OCD, and an unusually good sense of smell, so. Yeah, I hear you. 

Also, re: the two months thing - the guest towels would generally just remain hanging up after one or two uses, while housemates generally would each wash their own towels regularly like normal adults. So it's not quite as bad as it sounds, though it's still not exactly ideal. 

Time to clean everything! Thank you for your input.

The Towel Census: A Methodology for Identifying Orphaned Objects in Your Home

This doesn't solve the problem of knowing which ones are guest towels and which are in use by housemates. Also, assuming that it takes at least a couple hours to wash and dry all the towels (realistically more like seven hours, given the large number of towels), and that each housemate only has one towel, this strategy would mean someone can basically just unilaterally decide that no one gets to shower for the better part of a day.

Annual review and daily tracker template files (in google doc/sheets)

Awesome, thank you so much for this! I was just gearing up to do Alex Vermeer's annual review and this is super helpful. Note: the last link (to the Google doc) isn't publicly accessible; unless that was intentional, you probably want to change the sharing permissions :)

We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA

I've heard a lot of people say things along the lines that CFAR "no longer does original research into human rationality." Does that seem like an accurate characterization? If so, why is it the case that you've moved away from rationality research?

We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA

What does Dan actually do? What's his output and who decides what he looks into?

Give praise

Yeah, good point, I don't have a citation handy for that so I just deleted it. Doesn't really change anything about my argument.

Give praise

I have several problems with including this in the 2018 review. The first is that it's community-navel-gaze-y - if it's not the kind of thing we allow on the frontpage because of concerns about newcomers seeing a bunch of in-group discussion, then it seems like we definitely wouldn't want it to be in a semi-public-facing book, either. 

The second is that I've found that most discussion of the concept of 'status' in rationalist circles to be pretty uniformly unproductive, and maybe even counterproductive. People generally only discuss 'status' when they're feeling a lack of it, which means that discussions around the subject are often fraught and can be a bit of an echo chamber. I have not personally found any post about status to be enlightening or to have changed the way I think.

My other concerns have to do with specific parts of the post:

How is worth generated? Quite simply, by giving praise.

This is unsubstantiated and confusing in a whole host of ways. First, what is 'worth' supposed to mean? Toon seems to say it means something along the lines of "we will grant you personhood and take you seriously and allow you onto the ark when the world comes crumbling." If I had to sum this idea up into one word I would call it 'acceptance'. 

Second, "worth is generated by praise" doesn't square with my experience at all. I tend to think I'm fairly well-calibrated when it comes to my own abilities, so when someone gives me praise that I don't think I deserve, that doesn't generate any value for me (I just think the person is wrong/miscalibrated). Praise is also not what I need when I'm burned out or upset - I need people to help me solve my problems, not give me vacuous words of encouragement.

Also, to be more general about it, giving children too much praise can harm them just as much as giving them too little. 

I'm having trouble putting my finger on exactly what else about this claim feels wrong to me, but the two points I covered are definitely not all of it. It just really rubs me the wrong way.

I'd like to suggest we try for Giving Praise as a rationalist virtue.

I see lots of rationalists shying away from calls to action nowadays, and I think this one is particularly dicey. Related to my point about being calibrated about your own abilities, if we unthinkingly adopted this 'rationalist virtue', it seems like it would encourage people to say nice things to others even when it wasn't warranted.

In this post, Toon specifically mentions not being appreciated for his work on RAISE, which he recently revealed shut down partially due to potential funders having concerns about the organization. While I know from (less intense) experience that it can be really emotionally draining to work for no pay on something that gets no recognition, I don't think the problem there is that we're refusing to give recognition. The problem is usually with the project. When I've worked on projects that fizzled and died, and while the negative feedback at the time hurt my feelings, I'm glad that people didn't lie to me and tell me that the projects were a good idea. The failure and lack of recognition were usually eye-opening signals that my idea was bad or that I was going about the thing incorrectly. I don't have context on RAISE beyond what's in Toon's post, but (not to be a huge jerk) my sense is that it was likely a flawed project, and while the impact the whole thing had on Toon's well-being was definitely unfortunate, I see no evidence that just giving him more praise for the effort he was putting into it would have been helpful. 


If I were to reformulate the entire idea of this post into something more palatable to me, I would say something like, "If you appreciate someone's actions, you can often provide them with a lot of value by giving them specific and genuine feedback about what it is you appreciate about them," and, "In general, showing people love and acceptance is a good way to help them avoid burnout, and once you have that established backdrop of trust and mutual respect, you can be honest with them about the ways in which they're going about things wrong." 

These takeaways are very different from the original "give praise", and I continue to be uncomfortable with this post.

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