Software engineer, blogging and editing at /nickai/. PM me your fluid-g-increasing ideas.

Wiki Contributions


In response to / inspired by this SSC post:

I was originally going to comment something about "how do I balance this with the need to filter for niche nerds who are like me?", but then I remembered that the post is actually literally about dunks/insults on Twitter. o_0

This, in meta- and object-level ways, got to a core problem I have: I want to do smart and nice things with smart and nice people, yet these (especially the social stuff) requires me to be so careful + actually have anything like a self-filter. And even trying to practice/exercise that basic self-filtering skill feels physically draining. (ADHD + poor sleep btw, but just pointing these out doesn't do much!)

To expand on this (my initial comment): While I love being chill and being around chill people, I also (depending on my emotional state) can find it exhausting to do basic social things like "not saying every thought that you think" and "not framing every sentence I say as a joke".

I was once given the "personal social boundaries" talk by some family members. One of them said they were uncomfortable with a certain behavior/conversational-thing I did. (It was probably something between "fully conscious" and "a diagnosable tic".). And I told them flat-out that I would have trouble staying in their boundary (which was extremely basic and reasonable of them to set, mind you!), and that I literally preferred not-interacting-with-them to spending the energy to mask.

Posts like this remind me of how scared of myself I sometimes am, and maybe should be? I'm scared and of being either [ostracized by communities I deeply love] or [exhausting myself by "masking" all the time]. And I don't really know how to escape this, except by learned coping mechanisms that are either (to me) "slowly revealing more of myself and being more casual, in proportion to how long I spend around someone", or (to others) "doing a boiling-frog slow-burn to make it hard or awkward to point out or fix, in a way not dissimilar to abusive-type behavior".

Like, if you think a teacher is about to yell at you for a medium-sized bad thing you did, you might accidentally hit on the tactic of "yell at myself louder", which conveniently also looks a lot like "throwing a childish tantrum to deflect criticism", because maybe it is.

This isn't just idle anxiety, either! At least twice (to my knowledge), I have been told that my behavior in a social group that I loved was bad enough that I should not interact with those groups anymore / for a long "cooldown" period. Occasionally, my best friends really DID secretly hate me. And in hindsight, they were absolutely right to. I'm loud and overbearing and self-centered (and maybe worse?) in lots of social settings, and that's often when I feel most alive.

I need better sleep, and maybe also to take my meds everyday (even though those solutions conflict with each other somewhat, and they both conflict with my day job). I got some counselling, but nothing too deeply useful.

Not sure if this is just emotionally-stunted spoiled whining, but I felt I needed to say this for my own sake.

I don't have much energy. I have my prescribed medication for my ADHD, but it both relies on, and can cause problems with, me getting good sleep. (Also tolerance maybe? But that's confounded with the sleep thing.). I think I might do "best" with a >24-hour sleep-wake cycle.

I have a decent tech job, but it neither makes enough money to quickly save runway, nor leaves me with enough energy after work to do much of anything productive. Also, it starts with a required morning voice-call, and I'm on the US East Coast, so not even a state/timezone switch can help me with this unless I leave the country. (Plus I have to be online overlapping at least a few hours with some coworkers, in order to actually do my job.)

I want to do technical AI alignment work, but I'm right on the edge of energy/intelligence/working-memory/creativity/rationality, where I legitimately don't know if I'm "cut out" for this work or not. The field's incentive as a whole is to never discourage me from the work, while also not helping me much (grants, jobs, ongoing support) without me having to signal my abilities.

Doing anything to signal my abilities is hard, due to the energy thing. So I need slack to signal much of anything useful about myself, but I need these signals to already exist for me to "earn" this slack. (This also applies to getting a better tech job, with the signaling being things like at-home coding projects, night classes, certifications...)

Perhaps I could simply save money, get runway, and then that's my slack to do the other stuff? 4 problems with this:

  1. My AI timelines are mostly shorter than 15 years, and my wages don't make me enough money to save for runway at anything other than a glacially slow pace.
  2. I could maybe lower the required amount of money for runway by buying some cheap land and a shed... but I'm not sure where/how to do this in a way that meets the criteria of "cheap enough to save for in <1 year, is <30 min away from groceries, is actually legal to live in, and can accommodate decent Internet access". At minimum, I'd have to leave New York state, and also setting up a shed might involve lots of work (not sure how much).
  3. In any case, the runway would only work well if I do manage to get myself to a sustainable life-setup. Unless I'm in the fully-living-off-investments shed route described above, this requires me to be smart/talented/etc enough for AI alignment and/or some other "gig" that doesn't require me to wake up early. As noted above, I'm legitimately uncertain about this. One round of AISS video coaching (as well as talking to many people at EAG SF 2022) did not solve this.
  4. All this, and I'm 23. Math-heavy work (of the kind I think technical AI alignment requires) is notorious for requiring flexibility and energy of the kind associated with youth and possibly irrecoverable after age 25.
  5. The poor-sleep-energy cycle seems difficult to break, and it also impacts my real quality-of-life and mental health. So I really don't want to rely on a solution like "suck it up for 5 years and save money". The other reasons above tie into this "I want to get my life together quickly" desire, but I also just... desire it.

Lurking behind all this, is a suspicion: If I always have excuses for not getting my life together, then it's more likely that some of those excuses are fake in some way. But like... which ones?

My current methods of action are:

  • investigate cheap barely-livable land in other US states.
  • post my ramblings as LW shortforms, in the hopes that they both (output any of my good ideas to people who can execute them quicker) and (can eventually signal something good about me... when it's not just complaining or asking for help).
  • trying to sublimate my more bizarre personality traits (which don't help with most of the above problems!) into low-effort creative works in my spare time, mainly YouTube videos under pseudonyms. This is also a long-shot to make more money through such creative works, although this can't actually be relied on when planning for the long run, obviously.
  • trying to save money for the shed/land plan, which relies the least on my competence.
  • maybe occasionally entering AI-related contests with cash prizes. (I've done this three times, and won money twice, although I did poorly in the most technical/actually-useful-for-alignment one). This is hardest to do for the energy/time reasons noted above, so I'm not likely to do it often.

If anyone knows how to fix my life, for <$1,000 upfront and/or <$100/month ongoing, that'd be helpful. I mean anti-inductive advice (no "try losing weight" (too vague, even if true) or "try BetterHelp" (I already tried it)), that's personally tailored to my exact ouroboros of problems described above.

(If an idea seems risky, to you or to me, DM me about it instead of posting it publicly.)

Non-exhaustive, and a maybe non-representatively useful selection: I realized how easily I can change my state-of-mind, down to emotions and similar things. Not instant/fully at-will, but more "I can see the X, let it pass over/through me, and then switch to Y if I want".

I got a lot out of the post, including self-understanding from observing my reactions to and thoughts about the post.

Don't forget Orthogonal's mathematical alignment research, including QACI!

OpenAI should have an internal-only directory allowing employees and leadership to write up and see each other's beliefs about AI extinction risk and alignment approaches.

To expand on my option a bit more: OpenAI could make space for real in-depth dissent by doing something like "a legal binding commitment to not fire (or deny severance, even for quitting employees) anyone who shares their opinion, for the next 1-2 years.

This policy is obviously easy to exploit to get salary without working, but honestly that's a low impact given the stakes. (And unlikely, too: If you already work at OpenAI, but are corrupt, surely you could do something bigger than "collect 2 years of salary while doing nothing"?)

Anonymity, for at least one or more actions (voting on polls? Creating options?), should maybe be on the table. Then again, they ofc can send the wrong message and create their own incentives(?).

OpenAI should have an internal-only directory allowing employees and leadership to write up and see each other's beliefs about AI extinction risk and alignment approaches.

Some doctors (at least, good ones) tend to start you on one medication, and over time take your feedback/goals/other health info/etc into account, and may change to a different medication.

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