All of pan's Comments + Replies

The problem I've had with using physical notebooks is that I never close the loop of actually reviewing them and converting the information into a more useable format (anki, connecting related information, etc).

What I've settled on for the last few years is just emailing myself notes throughout the day from my phone. I empty my inbox each day so every note is moved into its appropriate location (calendar for events, files by topic for general thoughts, or to do lists for tasks).

The "sexy" factor is something I've noticed though. I'm regular... (read more)

A good step between physical and digital are Livescribe pens. With them you can take physcial notes that get automatically synced into Evernote.

Whenever I have free time (which is unfortunately becoming more and more rare) I have tremendous difficulty in deciding what to do with it.

This seems to be the result of a few problems:

1) I have too many goals, and so I don't know how to properly prioritize them, making it difficult to choose a next task. 2) Once I try to prioritize goals I end up going down a black hole of trying to figure out what my values really are, what I should actually be doing with my life, what I actually care about, if moral philosophy has implications on my goals, etc etc etc... (read more)

Oh yes, I certainly do. I do not, for the most part. On the other side, it's a matter of understanding that ultimately, nothing has an absolute value, so you can as well do entertaining things. Or creative things. The universe won't care anyway. Of course, since the system needs to compress so much information that updating it is a momentous and futile task. More so if its purpose is to guide your actions. Better to start with a very imperfect value system and update it slowly on the run.

Is there usually a LW meetup at UMBC?

Seems this is the first. You planning on going?

I seem to remember Roger Craig used a very systematic and rational approach to winning Jeopardy.

This idea of 'attempted telekenesis' is a good label for most peoples reactions to frustrating events I think. One type of frustration seems to occur when the result of an action is not as expected and yet we try to repeat the action but with more anger and expect things to change but predictably they don't.

I've had great success over the last decade or so by really reminding myself in times of frustration that it's my actions causing the events, and that if I want events to change, I need to alter my actions accordingly.

How did you learn to read so fast?

I read a lot. (I wish I could give you some actionable advice here, but there's nothing I can point to. I suspect it may be innate?) I think I'm semi-skimming, subconsciously. I've noticed myself missing descriptions of characters before when something relevant comes up later on. That said, I'm still quite fast with reading things like internet essays, where missing words does hurt your comprehension badly, so I don't think that's all of it.

That's what I was trying to explain in the last paragraph: before I started using images I would get lazy and either not add cards or the ones I did add were of low quality because I was trying to do them so quickly. In the end instead of deleting large swaths of poorly made cards I just started over.

I have about 300 cards in my deck right now, and I've had this deck for about 6 months. I try to do a few cards each morning without forcing myself to complete all cards that are due (although often I do). This is because I'm trying to build the habit into my work flow and I find if I give myself the option to quit after 3 cards if I'm really busy that it's better than losing the habit altogether for a month.

I want to warn you that I don't think this number (300 in a 6 month time span) very accurately represents how many cards I add when I find someth... (read more)

I'm surprised that I've added about twice as many cards as you have (621) in the past 6 months. I too am working on a PhD, but to be fair, I've set aside time especially for Anki. At the risk of other-optimizing, I might suggest adding a small number of quality cards daily. I used to add cards in bursts, but I've found adding a small number daily to be much easier. I also would recommend revising cards later, rather than starting over.
If the problem is only in adding new cards why did you abandon old decks? Reviewing them doesn't need you to add new cards.

These are good points I'm glad you posted it, it's interesting to see the work flow of someone else.

We apparently have very different philosophies when it comes to SRS, you seem to be more of a 'quality over quantity' person. Where as I find that the biggest barrier to me using SRS at all is entry, and so all of the disadvantages you've mentioned still don't outweigh the advantage of speed for me of using images. I prefer to err on the side of adding too many cards too quickly and just deleting as I go if I find they're trivial.

Just as a side note: notational changes have never been a problem for me as long as I ask the question in the notation of the answer.

How many cards do you have in your deck and for how long do you use it?

I figured I would throw this out even though it seems exceedingly obvious in retrospect, but took me a while to figure out:

If you use Anki (or other SRS software) you can save a lot of time adding new cards by using screen shots. Not whole screen shots but selecting only important paragraphs/pictures/equations from an ebook or website. On a Mac this is command-control-shift-4 and then drag the part of the screen you want to copy to the clip board. Just paste it into Anki.

This saves me so much time when making cards out of books/papers that I almost exclusively read on my computer now.

I disrecommend this practice for text and equations. It will save you a small amount of time up front, but may cost you more overall. First, your ability to search is compromised depending on how much is a graphic. I search fairly frequently, especially when I want to update a card. That's the second disadvantage: you can't update a card so easily now. There's a third disadvantage: Typing up a paragraph from a book (in your own words) has additional learning benefits.

A fourth disadvantage is that different sources may have different notation. I've struggle... (read more)

1) You haven't learned from a mistake until your behavior actually changes in a measurable way. For too long I would think rationally about my life but was missing the important next step: action. (Meta: after this realization a while back I've been tracking 'mistakes' I make and the conclusions I can make from them and have found the exercise very useful).

2) Something more directly LW related: For most of my life I had thought we were beyond the reach of God, but not until I read Eliezer's thoughts on the matter did it really 'click' with me how far reac... (read more)

I'd be happy to work in Silicon valley or finance, and I've applied to the big ones like Google and Microsoft but it's kind of tough to find companies to apply to. Another commenter recommended the HN monthly hiring post, which is a good resource but very focused on programming.

I'm not at all wedded to doing physics in my next job, I'd be happy to switch to something more engineering/computer based or even (slightly less so) financial.

Skills wise I try to stress that I have multiple first authored publications (so I'm decent at writing) and several presentations at conferences and to funding agencies (good at speaking). Outside of that though I am very proficient at Mathematica and have what I'd call 'hobbyist' knowledge of python (I can write small scripts and programs, use libraries like SciPy).

This leaves me in a spot whe... (read more)

Okay. Sounds like you should consider finance/quant positions (distinguish the ones that expect C++ knowledge from those that are looking for the math background), technical writing, data science, and maybe McKinsey style consulting/analyst positions (lots of companies have internal positions like this, as do VC firms). You have a while, so you could easily give yourself a crash course in SQL and bolster your python, which would put you into the "good at programming for a non-programmer" field in most people's estimation. I mention consulting, because it does involve a lot of writing and presenting, you'll learn a lot about business and open up tremendous career opportunities. If you have kind of a workaholic personality, it could be a good decision (but if travel and stress and unbreakable deadlines aren't your thing, maybe steer clear). Similar positions internal to companies are lower-stress but lower-opportunity. Your degree is definitely an asset in applying too. If you're a citizen and don't mind it, the department of defense consulting complex (MITRE is an interesting company) might be interesting to look at.

The problem with many of the government labs is that they want post docs and not employees, and I'd rather just skip that and start as an actual employee somewhere.

In addition many of the places I've applied (many of which you listed) have very long application processes (months) which means I'm in the dark as to whether I'll get zero offers or an offer from every place which I applied. Therefore I'd like to be cautious and cultivate as many options as possible.

Lastly, I tend to get into situations like these (ones with big decisions and many unclear ... (read more)

Have you thought about big bucks in Si-valley or finance? I kind of envy physicists because I feel like they have the kind of math skills that lets them figure out anything from first principles.

I'm going to be graduating with my PhD in physics (theory) this coming spring and am beginning to look for jobs.

Any tips? Any mistakes you made when looking for jobs that you can tell me about? For those already with jobs in the technology industry: if you could go back in time what would you change about the way you searched for jobs?

Less likely but still worth asking: if you happen to know of a job in either the Baltimore/Washington/Virginia area or in the Bay area that I might be qualified for don't hesitate to tell me about it.

First of all, don't neglect your university's resources. Network like hell. Find out where other recent graduates ended up. Ask all professors who will give you the time of day if they have industry connections they would refer you to. Go to the career center. Go to career fairs. Print out tons and tons of resumes. Speaking of resumes, what are your skills other than theoretical physics? And how wedded to doing physics in your job are you? If you can reasonably put R or MATLAB or even SQL on your resume, let alone proper programming languages or projects, you'll be opening up worlds of opportunities as an analyst or data scientist. Learn about how to use LinkedIn. Optimize your resume for visibility to keyword-based recruiters. I strongly recommend a job search approach where you try to get as many responses as you can, THEN prune down. You'll get interviewing experience and you'll get to see some options you might not have considered.
My experience is that the salary for your first job is more important than you think, because future salaries are always anchored off your previous one. So for the first job in particular it's worth going for a less nice but higher paying job (also, hedonic treadmill). Keep your applications targeted. I'll normally apply to less than 10 places, but each will be one where I've read about the company and tailored my cover letter. I've found this more effective than spamming out my CV to a lot of places. I've had success with and without recruiters, so I can't really say one way or the other there. That said, the best return on effort when looking for tech industry jobs is definitely Hacker News' monthly "who's hiring" thread. Some companies will be shockingly unreasonable. Just be prepared for that to happen, and respond appropriately; don't assume there's some kind of EMH in play where anything a company does has to be sensible. Get two offers. Don't stop looking just because you have an offer or two. You have a lot more leverage when you have multiple offers. Trust your gut. If a place feels unpleasant, it probably is unpleasant. If the person who interviews you rubs you the wrong way, the company culture probably will (this is not true for initial phone screens, which tend to be done by someone unrelated to anything). Make sure you speak to the person who's going to be your direct manager - how you get on with them is probably going to have a much bigger impact on your workplace happiness than anything else.
There's problems getting a physics job around the Washington area? I'd think with NASA, NSA, DoD, several large research universities (including the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab), and all the large government contractors (Lockheed Martin in Bethesda MD, etc.) it would be relatively easy to find something.

In an old article by Eliezer we're asked what we would tell Archimedes through a chronophone. I've found this idea to actually be pretty instructive if I instead ask what I would tell myself through a chronophone if I could call back only a few years.

The reason the chronophone idea is useful is because it forces you to speak in terms of 'cognitive policies' since if you use anything relevant to your own time period it will be translated into something relevant to the time period you're calling. In this way if I think about what I would tell my former s... (read more)

If you did this as a case study or thought experiment, and published this as a discussion post, that would be swell. Similar articles are written by other users of Less Wrong, and they're usually well-appreciated efforts, as far as I can tell. Your three questions are a good starting point, so I might write this as a post myself. Alternatively, if it's not worthy of it's own post, anyone doing this exercise on/for themselves should definitely share it in the (group) rationality diary.

I think that when you start reasoning about quantum foundations it should be remembered that you're leaving the boundary of testable physics. This is to say that even if you've concluded that many-worlds is most likely to be correct with your current information, that there should remain a pretty high degree of uncertainty in your conclusion.

It has been shown experimentally long ago that MWI requires full Quantum Gravity, not just Quantum Mechanics (plus Newtonian gravity or General Relativity, or even semi-classical gravity). EDIT: provided an alternate link (paywalled, sorry).

Can you link me to the blog post?

Here's the post, blog has since been deleted so had to find it on the wayback machine: You'll notice that steps 2 and 3 have been reversed above. This is because i found the process to be easier if I first focus, then take action, rather than vice versa.

I take notes in text files that I have named by topic and all in one big folder. This allows me to search all of the files easily at once and gives me ease of mind that text files will never become obsolete and I should still be able to read them in 30 years. I've been doing this for quite sometime and have files going back at least 10 years.

An important step however is that I occasionally copy the entire directory as a backup into a new folder and name it by the date of the backup. I then never alter that archived version. The purpose of this is that ... (read more)

I've seen the topic of flow discussed in a wide range of circles from the popular media to very specialized forums. It seems like people are in general agreement that a flow state would be ideal when working, and is generally easy to induce when doing something like coding since it meets most of the requirements for a flow inducing activity.

I'm curious if anyone has made substantial effort to reach a 'flow' state in tasks outside of coding, like reading or doing math etc etc., and what they learned. Are there easy tricks? Is it possible? Is flow just a buzzword that doesn't really mean anything?

An important part of "flow" is temporarily forgetting about the rest of the world. Not sure if you can reach this state artificially, but you certainly can be artificially removed from it. For me, being alone and in silence seems to be an important factor.
Everything I've read about it says that flow results from working at a challenge that's not too hard and not too easy, and that you enjoy (not so sure about that last one though). Seems to work for me.
Awhile ago on my blog I broke the process down into three steps that seem to work for me: 1. Empty your head -Write down distracting thoughts, make important decisions, etc. 2. Focus your thoughts -Minimize distractions, relaxation techniques, etc. 3. Engage Your Action Mind -Use triggers, exercise, or a shock to your system. Seems to work well for me but YMMV. On an unrelated note it se,ems flow is actually the great state for peak performance, but it turns out to be a poor ideal for learning because it's antithetical to interleaved practice.
I find reading is just about the easiest activity to get into that state with. I routinely get so absorbed in a book that I forget to move. And I think that's the experience of most readers. It's a little harder with programming actually, since there are all these pauses while I wait for things to compile or run, and all these times when I have to switch to a web browser to look something up. With reading, you can just keep turning pages.

If you're at all interested in this story then the full novel is definitely worth reading, it's not very long. One of my all time favorite books.

Just commenting to say that I have also noticed the effect you've mentioned of too much sugar negatively impacting motivation. I recently gave up all food/drinks that have sugar/sweetener in the first three ingredients and it's made a noticeable difference.

Since a lot of recent discussion has been about lowering the bar to posting links, this post about mini-tasks reminds me of this series of posts about using ultra short time boxes.

Basically the idea is to continually use a timer to do tasks that fit into roughly 60-90 seconds. The idea is developed over something like ten posts. (the blog in general is about language learning)

I've been wondering a lot about whether or not I'm acting rationally with regards to the fact that I will never again be as young as I am now.

So I've been trying to make a list of things I can only do while I'm young, so that I do not regret missing the opportunity later (or at least rationally decided to skip it). I'm 27 so I've already missed a lot of the cliche advice aimed at high school students about to enter college, and I'm already happily engaged so that cuts out some other things.

Any thoughts on opportunities only available at a certain age?

One point, just a nitpick: I would suggest not to aim to act "rationally." Aim to win. I may be assuming overmuch about your intended meaning, but remember, if your goal is to do what is rational rather than to do what is best/right/winning, you'll be confused. That said, I understand what you mean. There are activities I know can done now, in youth, that, while maybe not impossible in my 40s, 50s, or 60s, would be more difficult. First, your health. Work out, eat right, stay clean. Do everything that can maximize your health NOW and do it to the utmost that you can. If you start working on your health now, the long term payoffs will be exponential rather than linear. The longer you wait to maximize your health, the greater your disadvantage, the less your payoff. EDIT: (As I have no citation to back this claim up, it'd be best not to take my word on this. I would still suggest not delaying improving your health because doing so will result in benefits now, regardless of whether health improvements are exponential or linear with age.) Second, try everything. We have a whole article on this that spells it out better than I can. And I'll be the first to admit I haven't dove into its methods full force so I can't vouch for them. But, basically, expose yourself to the world. Not in any mean or gross sense, but as a human being, gathering experience. Go to art classes, go to yoga classes, go to MIRI classes, take karate, learn to dance, learn to sing, play an instrument, learn maths, learn history, go to LW meetups. Of course, you will be limited, and should be limited, by circumstances. You aren't a brain with infinite capacity yet, so you can't literally do everything. So, focus on a few things at a time. Set a schedule to try out new activities while continuing old, beneficial ones. For example, you might have three days for working out, two days for programming learning (as a hobby), one for online studying, one for social networking. Replace with whatever activi

I've been reading critiques of MIRI, and I was wondering if anyone has responded to this particular critique that basically asks for a detailed analysis of all probabilities someone took into account when deciding that the singularity is going to happen.

(I'd also be interested in responses aimed at Alexander Kruel in general, as he seems to have a lot to say about Lesswrong/Miri.)

Perhaps his server is underspecced? It's currently slowed to an absolute c r a w l. What little I have seen certainly looks worthwhile, though.
Personal opinion: * MIRI are doing very interesting research regardless of the reality of AGI existential risk and feasibility of the FAI problem * AGI existential risk is sufficiently founded to worry about, so even if it is not the most important thing, someone should be on it
I actually lost my faith in MIRI because of Kruel's criticism, so I too would be glad if someone adressed it. I think his criticism is far more comprehensive that most of the other criticism on this page (well, this post has little bit of the same).

This is probably a stupid question:

How is rounding error not a fatal flaw in brain simulation? Meaning, even if you could copy the workings of someones brain perfectly, it's presumably still a calculation done on some computer in some way. So even if you store the first X digits of every number in the calculation, it would at some point diverge from what the real brain did, even if it took a very long time.

Therefore is it fair to call that copy that 'person' or rather do you have to switch to speaking in terms of fidelities: that copy is Y percent the original person and diverges at a rate of Z percent every so many steps?

Even an actually person diverges from who they are at 20 years of age to who they are at 40 years of age. Calling the person over that timeframe the same person means that you do allow some changes. As far as I understand proponent of uploading think that the brain will be simulated enough that the changes in the person will be as trivial as a few years of learning.
Since humans have a finite lifespan, if the point of divergence takes long enough, then it doesn't matter. And even if one wishes to simulate an immortal being, if one has unlimited resources, one can perform a sequence of simulations, each one twice as long as the previous.

Yes, the two will diverge. But then, so they would even without rounding error, on account of quantum mechanics.

Neither of them is "the original person" (you are not, now, quite the same person as you were a year ago). Both are, so to speak, descendants of the original person. There are many (apparently) possible descendants -- you never know what might happen to you, after all. A good enough simulation would be as much like one of those as they are like one another. (I suppose that's a definition of "good enough".)

Along these lines, if we pretend there is actually a zero percent chance of curing death in our lifetime, how should we rationally act differently? Often people use the cliche 'if you were going to die tomorrow what would you do differently today?' as a thought experiment, seemingly implying (to me at least) that we're already living rationally for an ~80 year lifetime and that only changes in behavior should come from learning you have a very short time to live left.

I often wonder if I too easily approximate ~80 years as infinity in my reasoning about ... (read more)

Imagine a large paper divided into 100 x 100 squares. One of those squares, most likely at the bottom part of the paper, contains an invisible mark. Every day you remove a square. When you remove the one with the invisible mark, you die. (If you are a student, you have more expected days remaining, but you should be aware that they will be on average less useful than the ones you have now, because generally, as you grow older, you have gradually more duties and worse health. So you probably should imagine 100 x 100 days, even if you have more, to compensate for this bias.) Too much or too little? Think about the activities and plans you were doing recently, to calibrate yourself how many squares would each of them cost. (Include the days when you were too tired or too busy to do anything useful, because those days passed too.) This gives you an idea about how much can you do. Now think about the things you did 10 years ago; how happy you are you did them; how many of them do you even remember. This gives you an idea about how you will feel 20 or 30 years later about how you spend your time now.
Your intuitive notion of how long a year is already takes into account time lost from sleep, so you shouldn't explicitly subtract that off.

Luke wrote a detailed description of his approach to beating procrastination (here if you missed it).

Does anyone know if he's ever given an update anywhere as to whether or not this same algorithm works for him to this day? He seems to be very prolific and I'm curious about whether his view on procrastination has changed at all.

This is really great, do you know if the sources are compiled anywhere?

Is there a reasonably well researched list of behaviors that correlate positively with lifespan? I'm interested in seeing if there are any low hanging fruit I'm missing.

I found this previously posted, and a series of posts by gwern, but was wondering if there is anything else?

A quick google will give you a lot of lists but most of them are from news sources that I don't trust.

Romeo Stevens made this comprehensive doc.
Eating a handful of nuts a day.
I found this list of causes of death by age and gender enlightening (it doesn't necessarily tell you that a particular action will increase your lifespan, but then again neither do correlations). For example, I was surprised by how often people around my age or a bit older die of suicide and "poisoning" (not sure exactly what this covers but I think it covers stuff like alcohol poisoning and accidentally overdosing on medicine?).
Depends on what you'd call "well-researched" but, unfortunately, most of it is fuzzy platitudes. For example: * Do physical exercise. But not too much. * Be happy, avoid stress. * Get happily married. * Don't get obese. and most importantly * Choose your parents well, their genes matter :-P

I see from time to time people mention a 'rationalist house' as though it is somewhere they live, and everyone else seems to know what they're talking about. What are are they talking about? Are there many of these? Are these in some way actually planned places or just an inside joke of some kind?

Expanding on Ben's comment: local lesswrong meetup groups often grow into a communities of people who enjoy spending time together, at which point some of the people might decide to rent a house together.
These are group houses where a bunch of rationalists live together. Sometimes they hold events for the wider community or host visiting rationalists from out of town. I know of several that exist in the Bay Area, one in Boston, and one in New York. There are probably others.

I'm in a very similar position to the poster (same field of study, same time line) and am very interested in the answer, just posting to signal that (at least) two people are looking for this advice.

I really don't know. The release date now depends almost entirely on how much volunteer effort gets put in.

75% introvert, living alone was much better for productivity and happiness because I was better able to regulate "interruptions" like hanging out with friends etc., by planning when I went out and when I came back.

I lived for a while with 4 roommates and that was terrible for productivity, as there was a constant background noise of talking or music (I need silence for concentration, so maybe not applicable if you don't), which sometimes went very late into the night. It was a positive for happiness however, as we lived in a "hip" part... (read more)

From posts like this one I got the impression that they were being edited and released together in a possibly new order. Maybe I am mistaken?

There was a plan to release two books. That was scrapped in favor of other uses of MIRI's time/resources.
I can't speak for anything else, but I've read up to the Meta-ethics sequence without encountering any gaps. I can't vouch for anything after that, but the pdf seems complete. Maybe someone else can shed a light on your question.

I've seen a few posts about the sequences being released as an ebook, is there a time frame on this?

I'd really like to get the ebook printed out by some online service so I can underline/write on them as I read through them.

Doesn't this already exist? Or is this not what you meant? I'm reading that pdf version on my phone and it looks fine.

I agree that there are concerns, and you would lose a lot of the depth, but my real concern is with how this makes me perceive CFAR. When I am told that there are things I can't see/hear until I pay money, it makes me feel like it's all some sort of money making scheme, and question whether the goal is actually just to teach as many people as much as possible, or just to maximize revenue. Again, let me clarify that I'm not trying to attack CFAR, I believe that they probably are an honest and good thing, but I'm trying to convey how I initially feel when ... (read more)

We do offer some free classes in the Bay Area. As we beta-test tweaks or work on developing new material, we invite people in to give us feedback on classes in development. We don't charge for these test sessions, and, if you're local, you can sign up here. Obviously, this is unfortunately geographically limited. We do have a sample workshop schedule up, so you can get a sense of what we teach. If the written material online isn't enough, you can try to chat with one of us if we're in town (I dropped in on a NYC group at the beginning of August). Or you can drop in an application, and you'll automatically be chatting with one of us and can ask as many questions as you like in a one-on-one interview. Applying doesn't create any obligation to buy; the skype interview is meant to help both parties learn more about each other.
I feel your concerns, but tbh I think the main disconnect is the research/development vs teaching dichotomy, not (primarily) the considerations I mentioned. The volunteers at the workshop (who were previous attendees) were really quite emphatic about how much they had improved, including content and coherency as well as organization. (Relevant)
Yeah, I feel these objections, and I don't think your heuristic is bad. I would say, though, and I hold no brief for CFAR, never having donated or attended a workshop, that there is another heuristic possibly worth considering: generally more valuable products are not free. There are many exceptions to this, and it is possible for sellers to counterhack this common heuristic by using higher prices to falsely signal higher quality to consumers. But the heuristic is not worthless, it just has to be applied carefully.
While you have good points, I would like to say that making money is not unaligned with the goal of teaching as many people as possible. It seems like a good strategy is to develop high-quality material by starting off teaching only those able to pay. This lets some subsidize the development of more open course material. If they haven't gotten to the point where they have released the subsidized material, then I'd give them some more time and judge them again in some years. It's a young organization trying to create material from scratch in many areas.

I guess I don't see why the two are mutually exclusive, I doubt everyone would stop attending workshops if the material was freely available, and I don't understand why something can't be published if it's open sourced first?

Why doesn't CFAR just tape record one of the workshops and throw it on youtube? Or at least put the notes online and update them each time they change for the next workshop? It seems like these two things would take very little effort, and while not perfect, would be a good middle ground for those unable to attend a workshop.

I can definitely appreciate the idea that person to person learning can't be matched with these, but it seems to me if the goal is to help the world through rationality, and not to make money by forcing people to attend workshops, then something like tape recording would make sense. (not an attack on CFAR, just a question from someone not overly familiar with it).

5Ben Pace10y
Is a CFAR workshop like a lecture? I thought it would be closer to a group discussion, and perhaps subgroups within. This would make a recording highly unfocused and difficult to follow.

I'm a keen swing dancer. Over the past year or so, a pair of internationally reputable swing dance teachers have been running something called "Swing 90X", (riffing off P90X). The idea is that you establish a local practice group, film your progress, submit your recordings to them, and they give you exercises and feedback over the course of 90 days. By the end of it, you're a significantly more badass dancer.

It would obviously be better if everything happened in person, (and a lot does happen in person; there's a massive international swing da... (read more)

(April 2013 Workshop Attendee) (The argument is that) A lot of the CFAR workshop material is very context dependent, and would lose significant value if distilled into text or video. Personally speaking, a lot of what I got out of the workshop was only achievable in the intensive environment - the casual discussion about the material, the reasons behind why you might want to do something, etc - a lot of it can't be conveyed in a one hour video. Now, maybe CFAR could go ahead and try to get at least some of the content value into videos, etc, but that has two concerns. One is the reputational problem with 'publishing' lesser-quality material, and the other is sorta-almost akin to the 'valley of bad rationality'. If you teach someone, say, the mechanics of aversion therapy, but not when to use it, or they learn a superficial version of the principle, that can be worse than never having learned it at all, and it seems plausible that this is true of some of the CFAR material also.

One of the core ideas of CFAR is to develop tools to teach rationality. For that purpose it's useful to avoid making the course material completely open at this point in time. CFAR wants to publish scientific papers that validate their ideas about teaching rationality.

Doing things in person helps with running experiments and those experiments might be less clear when some people already viewed the lectures online.

I searched and it doesn't look like anyone has discussed this criticism of LW yet. It's rather condescending but might still be of interest to some:

It's written by a mindkilled idiot whose only purpose in life seems to be finding the least charitable interpretation of people he hates, which probably means everyone except his friends, assuming he has any. There are millions of such idiots out there, and the only difference is that this one mentioned LW in one of his articles. We shouldn't feed the trolls just because they decided to pay attention to us. Starting with the very first paragraph... uhm, strawmanning mixed with plain lies... why exactly should anyone spend their limited time reading this?
Worthless ranting. His footnote 3 is particularly telling: In other words, this is soup of the soup. Looking at the other articles on his site, they're all like that. I would say that this is someone who does not know how to learn.

I searched and it doesn't look like anyone has discussed this criticism of LW yet. It's rather condescending but might still be of interest to some:

I'd more go with "incoherent ranting" than "condescending".

I don't think "condescending" touches accurately upon what is going on here. This seems to be politics being the mindkiller pretty heavily (ironically one of the things they apparently think is stupid or hypocritical). They've apparently taken some of the lack of a better term "right-wing" posts and used that as a general portrayal of LW. Heck, I'm in many ways on the same political/tribal group as this author and think most of what they said is junk.. Examples include:

Members of Lesswrong are adept at rationalising away any threats

... (read more)

I read a lot of technical material for my job (physicist) and find that trying to make it as 'active' as possible is key to making it enjoyable. I made a list of actions that make it active, things like 'visualize the material' or 'draw a concept map' or 'make a prediction about the material, keep reading, and correct the prediction' or 'what do you already know about this material' etc etc., and find that going down the list in a random fashion has helped make it more interesting and engaging.

I like the idea but fear that almost any subject worth learning would, when put in this format, have two major flaws:

1) Could deeply mislead people and corrupt their understandings of the actual material in difficult to understand (meaning difficult to detect and correct later) ways because of unintentional cultural relations. For example in your fantasy novel idea, whatever thoughts someone might attach to the relations between kings and knights might be deeply ingrained from childhood and quite a bit different than what is intended by the author of the ... (read more)

I live in Baltimore City, send me a message if you want any tips or to possibly meet up.

Is there a name for the bias of choosing the action which is easiest (either physically or mentally), or takes the least effort, when given multiple options? Lazy bias? Bias of convenience?

I've found lately that being aware of this in myself has been very useful in stopping myself from procrastinating on all sorts of things, realizing that I'm often choosing the easier, but less effective of potential options out of convenience.

Generally "bias" implies that you're talking more about beliefs than an actions. If think one thing and do another because it's easier, that's referred to as "akrasia" around here. If you're saying you believe the easier action is better, but then believe something else after putting more thought/effort/research into it, that does fall into the bias category. I don't think that's exactly cognitive laziness, more action-laziness affecting cognition. I don't have a good name, but it's some sort of causal fallacy, where the outcome (chosen action) is determining the belief (reason for choice) rather than the reverse.
Laziness can sometimes be a form of decision paralysis - when you're facing a new and difficult problem and not sure how to approach it, your brain sometimes freaks out and goes to default behavior, which is to do nothing. That's why it's important to make plans and pre-commitments.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman

A general “law of least effort” applies to cognitive as well as physical exertion. The law asserts that if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action. In the economy of action, effort is a cost, and the acquisition of skill is driven by the balance of benefits and costs. Laziness is built deep into our nature.

the bias of choosing the action which is easiest


"I'm not lazy, I have a least-effort bias!"

I realized that I have a myriad of interests, and that I put a lot of effort into pursuing and studying them, but ostensibly make very little progress in any of them.

I realized this is mostly due to how I will try to do too much at once, and learn too many things at once, changing which interest I want to pursue daily or hourly etc.

To combat this two months ago I began forcing myself to choose one interest or goal at a time, and only allow myself to use my free time on that particular goal or interest for a minimum of two weeks. So far the results have be... (read more)

I agree that aiming to eat less meat rather than none is a worthy goal for many reasons, I just want to add (anecdotally) from the perspective of someone who was a strict veg for 10 years and recently started eating some meat again, that you have to be very strict and planned if you want it to be effective. During the decade I didn't eat meat I didn't think about it or miss it because in my mind it wasn't an option. Now that I have the goal of just eating small amounts of it, it's much more mentally taxing to actually make the decision at each meal as to... (read more)

My research is in quantum optics and information, more specifically macroscopic tests of Bell's inequality and applications to quantum cryptography through things like the Ekert protocol.

I didn't realize that the quantum mechanics sequence here made such conclusions, thanks for pointing that out, maybe I'll check it out to see what he says. I've given some thought to many worlds, but not enough to be an expert, as my work doesn't necessitate it. From what I know, I'm not so convinced that many worlds is the correct interpretation, I think answers to the meaning of the wave function collapse will come more form decoherence mechanisms giving the appearance of a collapse.

Forgive my ignorance, but isn't that the official many-world's position - that decoherence provides each "you" with the appearance of collapse?

Hey everyone, I'm 26, and a PhD candidate in theoretical physics (four years in, maybe two left). I've been reading LessWrong for years on and off but I put off participating for a long time, mainly because at first there was a lot of rationality specific lingo I didn't understand, and I didn't want to waste anyones time until I understood more of it.

I had always felt that things in life are just systems, and for most systems there are more and less efficient ways to do the same things. Which to me that is what rationality is, first seeing the system f... (read more)

Just wondering what your area of research is. Eliezer's point is that his QM sequence, resulting in proclaiming MWI the one true Bayesian interpretation, is an essential part of epistemic rationality (or something like that), and that physicists are irrational at ignoring this. Not surprisingly, trained physicists, including yours truly, tend to be highly skeptical of this sweeping assertion. So I wonder if you ever give any thought to Many Worlds or stick with the usual "shut up and calculate"?
CFAR is holding a workshop in New York on November 1-4 (Friday through Monday).

To what degree does everyone here literally calculate numerical outcomes and make decisions based on those outcomes for everyday decisions using Bayesian probability? Sometimes I can't tell if when people say they are 'updating priors' they are literally doing a calculation and literally have a new number stored somewhere in their head that they keep track of constantly.

If anyone does this could you elaborate more on how you do this? Do you have a book/spreadsheet full of different beliefs with different probabilities? Can you just keep track of it all ... (read more)

I had the same worry/question when I first found LW. After meeting with all the "important" people (Anna, Luke, Eliezer...) in person, I can confidently say: no, nobody is carrying around a sheet of paper and doing actual Bayesian updating. However, most people in these circles notice when they are surprised/confused, act on that feeling, and if they were wrong, then they update their believes, followed soon by their actions. This could happen from one big surprise or many small ones. So there is a very intuitive sort of Bayesian updating going on.
I suspect very little, but this does remind me of Warren Buffett speaking on Discounted Cash Flow calculations. For quick background, an investment is a purchase of a future cash flow. Cash in the future is worth less to you than cash right now, and it is worth less and less as you go further into the future. Most treatments pretend that the proper way to discount the value of cash in the future is to have a discount rate (like 5% or 10% per year) and apply it as an exponential function to future cash. Warren Buffett, a plausible candidate for the most effective investor ever (or at least so far), speaks highly of DCF (discounted cash flow) as the way to choose between investments. However, he also says he never actually does one other than roughly in his head. Given his excellent abilities at calculating in his head, I think it would translate to something like he never does a DCF calculation that would take up more than about 20 lines in an excel spreadsheet. There are a broad range of policies that I have that are based on math: not gambling in Las Vegas because it's expectation value is negative (although mostly I trust the casinos to have set the odds so payouts are negative, I don't check their math). Not driving too far for small discounts (expense of getting discount should not exceed value of discount). Not ignoring a few thousand dollar difference in a multi-hundred thousand dollar transaction because "it is a fraction of a percent." I do often in considering hiring a personal service compare paying for it to how long it would take me to do the job vs how long I would need to work at my current job to hire the other person. I am pretty well paid so this does generally lead to me hiring a lot of things done. A similar calcuation does lead me to systematically ignore costs below about $100 for a lot of things which still "feels" wrong, but which I have not yet been able to do a calculation that shows me it is wrong. I am actually discouraging my wife an
Your brain does most of this at lightning speed unconsciously. Often, trying to make the process unto a deliberative, conscious one slows it down so much that the results are of little practical use.
I'd be alarmed if anyone claimed to accurately numerically update their priors. Non-parametric Bayesian statistics is HARD and not the kind of thing I can do in my head.
I never do this. See this essay by gwern for an example of someone doing this.
I only literally do an expected outcome calculation when I care more about having numbers than I do about their validity, or when I have unusually good data and need rigor. Most of the time the uncertainties in your problem formulation will dominate any advantage you might get from doing actual Bayesian updates. The advantage of the Bayesian mindset is that it gives you a rough idea of how evidence should affect your subjective probability estimate for a scenario, and how pieces of evidence of different strengths interact with each other. You do need to work through a reasonable number of examples to get a feel for how that works, but once you have that intuition you rarely need to do the math.

Nope, not for everyday decisions. For me "remember to update" is more of a mantra to remember to change your mind at all - especially based on several pieces of weak evidence, which normal procedure would be to individually disregard and thus never change your mind.

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