All of mortal's Comments + Replies

Open thread, August 7 - August 13, 2017


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Recovering from Failure

Thanks for writing something useful, at least for others. Here is my take.

I may not know as much as you do, but I can tell you this -

You are trying too hard to follow Nate Soares' style of writing.

Keep a combination of cold resolve and self-compassion. Remember that your goal is to keep surging on, but burning out this early helps no one. Instead, keep a cold flame that you can consistently draw on. Give yourself space to look at yourself as a human, trying to achieve a higher standard.

This makes sense only in context of the whole Nate Soares' sequence... (read more)

Hey, thanks for giving some ways to make the essay better! Your points are good; I definitely could reduce the amount of implied/assumed knowledge I'm working with. I know about this, and I'm actively trying to do better on this front. As for the bit about breaking promises, might it be a semantic issue / your situation being more unique? EX: I've talked to 2-3 friends about the moment of breaking promises happening, and they concurred that it seemed to be a good fit to their internal activities.
Recovering from Failure

even if you manage to jam some other shape into that hole, you are in fact jamming something else into it.

So... It is still masturbation no matter how you put it, huh?

Introducing the Instrumental Rationality Sequence

I Ankified Influence - Cialdini.

How wrong am I now?

Also, check out Keith Stanovich's book How to think straight about Psychology. I am a rationality noob and find it amazing, but maybe it will help you because Keith talks about how to properly interpret scientific results in the later section of the book, AFAIK.

Gwern wrote a post about how the replication crisis means that the kind of methods that produced a lot of what's in Cialdini's books likely shoudn't be trusted. The post wasn't about specific arguments that indicated that Cialdini's claims have been shown to be wrong. If you follow Gwern's view than it's unknown how wrong you are. I'm not sure to what extent I follow that argument. A principle like scarcity is strongly reduced by many sleasy online marketers who do a lot of multivariate testing. If it wouldn't work, they wouldn't use it.
Open thread, May 8 - May 14, 2017

Can we make a list of all the best (maybe not the best, but the ones people use) implementation intentions/TAPs for rationality? That would be instantly useful to anyone who encounters it.

Also, making a list for general TAPs/implementation intentions LWers find useful in their life would also be very helpful to everyone.

I don't have enough karma to even make a post in discussion, so can someone take up my quest?

My impression is that this wouldn't as useful as the outside view might suggest because TAP's tend to be pretty individualized. Also, I think that you'd get more value out of learning the general schema of rationality techniques (EX: what TAPs are vs what TAPs people use). That said, I have a few of them in this post here [] that you may like to check out.
Stupid Questions May 2017

First off, thank you for taking the time to reply to my message. I understand that not many people are helpful, even on LW, so I appreciate what you are doing.

Thank you for your suggestions.

I don't think the classics are helpful for me because I cannot afford to take the time to understand them right now.

I read most of the Sequences. I planned to convert them to Anki cards but am unable to summarize most concepts. So I have given up on that.

I try to keep a buffer of Anki cards to learn always and a book from which I read and. Convert to Anki cards.

I r... (read more)

No such thing. Reading is thinking. I'll assume you mean that it doesn't take too much effort, but effort is relative to your ability. Reading some enjoyable fiction to help you unwind would be a terrible chore for most kindergartners, for example. This is true even for your past self. What will your future self consider easy? That might depend on what kind of books you read. Since you're interested in CS and algorithms, and aren't looking for anything too difficult, I recommend Petzold's Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software []. This is a pop book, not a textbook. I found it to be a pretty easy read, though there were small parts in the middle that you may gloss over. That's fine. One of my better computer science classes in college was Computer Architecture. Code does an excellent job of covering most the same ground. You'll feel like you could engineer a computer from scratch (if only you had a multimillion-dollar chip factory). There are a number of other CS book I'd recommend, but they take more effort.
Stupid Questions May 2017

Any useful book recommendations (or just dump your recommendations here)? I have a lot of nonfiction books (John Keegan for example), , but none of them seem worth reading - nothing in them is worth remembering 10 years from now.

That's too vague to answer directly, so I'll start by going meta. Books vary a great deal in quality. Some are so deceptive that reading them is probably a net negative. Most of the rest are probably not worth your time compared to what else you could be reading, but don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Take some risks. The more knowledge you have, the better judge you are. People don't usually regret reading too many books. Don't be too afraid to start and don't be too afraid to stop reading a book. Remember the sunk-cost fallacy. It's okay to stop reading a book if you judge that it's not worth your time. This should make you more inclined to start reading any book that looks interesting. You can limit your risk. It's okay to judge a book based on incomplete information, because you can't just read them all. Reviews and recommendations are a good starting place. There are plenty of these online. Then you can read the table of contents and skim the start of each chapter, just to see if it's worth reading for real. And even once you start in earnest, you can still quit if it's not worth your time. Now for the recommendations. It's hard to recommend something to someone I know almost nothing about, but CFAR [] and MIRI [] have reading lists. These books have a high probability of being interesting for the kind of people who hang out on LW. (I'm gradually working through them myself.) You're here for some reason. How did you find LessWrong? Why are you asking us for books? Can you ask a more specific question? Note that Rationality: From AI to Zombies is on both lists. It's probably a good starting point if you haven't read the Sequences already. Many of us here (myself included) consider the Sequences life changing. It reached that point for me long before I finished. I think some parts were better than others. There were boring parts and parts I couldn't follow, but
Open thread, Mar. 20 - Mar. 26, 2017

What do you think of the idea of 'learning all the major mental models' - as promoted by Charlie Munger and FarnamStreet? These mental models also include cognitive fallacies, one of the major foci of Lesswrong.

I personally think it is a good idea, but it doesn't hurt to check.

Learning different mental models is quite useful. On the other hand I'm not sure that it makes sense to think that there's one list with "the major mental models". Many fields have their own mental models.
Open thread, Nov. 21 - Nov. 27 - 2016

How do I remove the effect of cognitive biases on my decision making? My current idea is to - one, train myself to recognize the points when biases may affect me; two, when making an important decision with a high cost or influence on my future, make the decision the 'academic' way.

Is this optimal? Do you have any better solutions?

Also, which book is better to use as a starting point - 'Judgement in Managerial decision Making', or 'Judgement under Uncertainty'? Is 'Thinking Fast and Slow' worth spending time on compared to actively practicing the skill of recognizing biases that influenced your thinking during the day?

Thank you.

Open thread, Nov. 14 - Nov. 20, 2016

To readers -

Is it worth reading any historical narrative or biographical account if my aim is to improve my life in specific ways using that knowledge, if luck/survivor bias/outcome bias plays a huge part in whose life is memorialised this way?

I'll provide an example to make it clear - will reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln actually improve me in a specific way, like providing me a model for leadership, or way to handle people, or is his success based on his principles just context dependent, or the result of luck?

What I have observed: I have read the... (read more)

Well, this probably won't help much, but my preferred source is a totally fictional narrative - Dumas's Twenty years after. I find comfort in how it treats personal ambition, rivalry, motivation nuances ("for old times' sake"/"for honour"/"for fame"/"for money"/"for family"...) without explicit judgement; I re-read it in early 2014, to ease myself into the thought that the political situation [in Kyiv] would likely get worse (and you probably can't imagine how we wished that there would be no lives lost); and last but not least, I have, for personal reasons, largely fallen out of touch with some of my dear friends, and this novel gives me hope that I might be able to love them just as truly even decades later. I think it is worth reading. I would also recommend Daniel Granin's "Bison" [], which is a biography of N. Timofeyev-Resovsky, or in the author's words, "a book on honour and dishonour".
Standard followup to all such "is it worth X" questions: compared to what? What's your opportunity cost of reading such books? More valuable than Call of Duty? than Harry Potter? Than watching football? I'd say probably so, if you need to ask the question. More valuable than learning a new language, bonding with friends/family, or conquering an enemy? Probably not. I've read a fair few, and I think the primary rationality benefit I get is temporal perspective. Really incorporating the belief that real people made real decisions decades, centuries, and millenia ago into my life has been a change (note: not clear that it's a beneficial change, as I'm a lot less inclined to think that very much of my experience will actually matter in 1000 years). I also get some status and interpersonal interaction benefits by being known as "well read" and able to cite some of the statements and events in such books. If I'm honest, though, I wouldn't read them if they weren't entertaining and enjoyable.
I don't really see how this could be helpful. The biographer would have to be able to discern which qualities made the person successful and translate them into actionable specifics. In practice, it's pretty hard for highly successful people to explain their own success in an actionable way even when they seem to be sincerely trying (e.g. Warren Buffet.)