All of ricketybridge's Comments + Replies

Open Thread for February 11 - 17

CFAR style rationality training might sound less impressive then changing around peoples neurology but it might be an approach with a lot less ugly side effects.

It's a start, and potentially fewer side effects is always good, but think of it this way: who's going to gravitate towards rationality training? I would bet people who are already more rational than not (because it's irrational not to want to be more rational). Since participants are self-selected, a massive part of the population isn't going to bother with that stuff. There are similar issues ... (read more)

A few remarks about mass-downvoting

Completely agreed. That's why some subs only do +, no -. I cannot defend the current system. ;-)

Open Thread for February 11 - 17

I think you underrate the existential risks that come along with substantial genetic or neurological enhancements.

It's true, I absolutely do. It irritates me. I guess this is because the ethics seem obvious to me: of course we should prevent people from developing a "supervirus" or whatever, just as we try to prevent people from developing nuclear arms or chemical weapons. But steering towards a possibly better humanity (or other sentient species) just seems worth the risk to me when the alternative is remaining the violent apes we are. (I kn... (read more)

Of course the ethics are obvious. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. 200 years ago burning all those fossil fuels to power steam engines sounded like a really great idea. If you simply try to solve problems created by people adopting technology by throwing more technology at it, that's dangerous. The wise way is to understand the problem you are facing and do specific intervention that you believe to help. CFAR style rationality training might sound less impressive then changing around peoples neurology but it might be an approach with a lot less ugly side effects. CFAR style rationality training might seem less technological to you. That's actually a good thing because it makes it easier to understand the effects. It depends on what issue you want to address. Given how things are going technology involves in a way where I don't think we have to fear that we will have no energy when coal runs out. There plenty of coal around and green energy evolves fast enough for that task. On the other hand we don't want to turn that coal. I want to eat tuna that's not full of mercury and there already a recommendation from the European Food Safety Authority against eating tuna every day because there so much mercury in it. I want less people getting killed via fossil fuel emissions. I also want to have less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If you want to do policy that pays off in 50 years looking at how things are at the moment narrows your field of vision too much. If solar continues it's price development and is 1/8 as cheap in 21 years you won't need government subsidies to get people to prefer solar over coal. With another 30 years of deployment we might not burn any coal in 50 years. If you think lack of government will or utility companies are the core problem, why focus on changing human neurology? Addressing politics directly is more straightforward. When it comes to solar power it might also be that nobody will use any solar panels in 50 yea
Open Thread for February 11 - 17

The core question is: "What kind of impact do you expect to make if you work on either issue?"

Do you think there work to be done in the space of solar power development that other people than yourself aren't effectively doing? Do you think there work to be done in terms of better judgment and decision-making that other people aren't already doing?

I'm familiar with questions like these (specifically, from 80000 hours), and I think it's fair to say that I probably wouldn't make a substantive contribution to any field, those included. Given that ... (read more)

A few remarks about mass-downvoting

I agree. Getting downvoted feels bad man, no matter the reason.

This along with the semi-regular accounts of downvote abuse makes me question what advantages a +/- system has over a strictly + system. The ego threat of being downvoted seems more like a contribution deterrent than a learning signal. Is there anyone who could explain to me why the current system is better?
Open Thread for February 11 - 17

Since people were pretty encouraging about the quest to do one's part to help humanity, I have a follow-up question. (Hope it's okay to post twice on the same open thread...)

Perhaps this is a false dichotomy. If so, just let me know. I'm basically wondering if it's more worthwhile to work on transitioning to alternative/renewable energy sources (i.e. we need to develop solar power or whatever else before all the oil and coal run out, and to avoid any potential disastrous climate change effects) or to work on changing human nature itself to better address ... (read more)

The economy is quite capable of dealing with finite resources. If you have land with oil on it, you will only drill if the price of oil is increasing more slowly than interest. If this is the case, then drilling for oil and using the value generated by it for some kind of investment is more helpful than just saving the oil. Climate change is still an issue of course. The economy will only work that out if we tax energy in proportion to its externalities. We should still keep in mind that climate change is a problem that will happen in the future, and we need to look at the much lower present value of the cost. If we have to spend 10% of our economy on making it twice as good a hundred years from now, it's most likely not worth it.
The core question is: "What kind of impact do you expect to make if you work on either issue?" Do you think there work to be done in the space of solar power development that other people than yourself aren't effectively doing? Do you think there work to be done in terms of better judgment and decision-making that other people aren't already doing? The problem with coal isn't that it's going to run out but that it kills hundred of thousands of people via pollution and that it creates climate change. Why? To me it seems much more effective to focus on more cognitive issues when you want to improve human judgment. Developing training to help people calibrate themselves against uncertainty seems to have a much higher return than trying to do fMRI studies or brain implants.
Open Thread for February 3 - 10

Yeah, that accurately describes their effect on me.

I used to be on Buproprion, but it had unpleasant physical effects on me (i.e. heart racing/pounding, which makes sense, given that it's stimulant-like) without any noticeable mood effects. I was quite disappointed, since a friend of mine said he practically had a manic episode on it. However, I took it conjunction with an SNRI, so maybe that wouldn't have happened if I'd just taken it on its own.... Idk.

I'm actually surprised my psychiatrist hasn't recommended an MAOI to me in that case, since she freaks the hell out when I say I'm suicidal, and I've done so twice. I'll put MAOIs at the bottom of my aforementioned new to-do list. :)

Open Thread for February 3 - 10

Huh, interesting. Up-managing one's doctor seems frowned upon in our society -- since it usually comes in the form of asking one's doctor for medications mentioned in commercials -- but obviously your approach seems much more valid. Kind of irritating, though, that doctors don't appear to really be doing their job. :P

The exchange here has made me realize that I've actually been skipping my meds too often. Heh.... :\ So if I simply tighten that up, I will effectively increase my dosage. But if that doesn't prove to be enough, I'll go the route you've suggested. Thanks! :)

SSRIs, for example, aren't supposed to do anything more than make you feel not completely miserable and/or freaked-out all the time. They are generally known to not actually make you happy and to not increase one's capability for enjoyment. If you are on one, and if that's a problem, you might actually want to look at something more stimulant-like, i.e. Bupropion. (There isn't really another antidepressant that does this, and it seems unlikely you'll manage to convince your psychiatrist to prescribe e.g. amphetamines for depression, even though they can work.) And then there is, of course, all sorts of older and "dirtier" stuff, with MAOI's probably being something of a last resort.
Open Thread for February 11 - 17

EA? (Sorry to ask, but it's not in the Less Wrong jargon glossary and I haven't been here in a while.)

Parasite removal refers to removing literal parasites from people in the third world

Oh. Yes. I think that's important too, and it actually pulls on my heart strings much more than existential risks that are potentially far in the future, but I would like to try to avoid hyperbolic discounting and try to focus on the most important issue facing humanity sans cognitive bias. But since human motivation isn't flawless, I may end up focusing on something more immediate. Not sure yet.

EA is Effective Altruism.
Open Thread for February 11 - 17

How cool, I've never heard of CFAR before. It looks awesome. I don't think I'm capable of making a lot of money, but I'll certainly look into CFAR.

Edit: I just realized that CFAR's logo is at the top of the site. Just never looked into it. I am not a smart man.

Open Thread for February 11 - 17

people basing morality on fiction.

Yes, and that seems truly damaging. I get the need to create conflict in fiction, but it seems to come always at the expense of technological progress, in a way I've never really understood. When I read Brave New World, I genuinely thought it truly was a "brave new world." So what if some guy was conceived naturally?? Why is that inherently superior? Sounds like status quo bias, if you ask me. Buncha Luddite propraganda.

I've actually been working on a pro-technology, anti-Luddite text-based game. Maybe working on it is in fact a good idea towards balancing out the propaganda and changing public opinion...

Open Thread for February 11 - 17

True, true. But it's still hard for me (and most people?) to circumvent that effect, even while I'm aware of it. I know Mother Theresa actually had a technique for it (to just think of one child rather than the millions in need). I guess I can try that. Any other suggestions?

Also, would you still want to save a drowning dog even if it might bite you out of fear and misunderstanding? (let's say it is a small dog and a bite would not be drastically injurious)

I'll pretend it's a cat since I don't ... (read more)

No problem. I have an intuition that IMing might be more productive than structured posts if you're exploring this space and want to cover a bunch of ground quickly. Feel free to ping me on gtalk if you're interested. romeostevensit is my google.
Open Thread for February 11 - 17

Well, true. All things shall pass.

Open Thread for February 11 - 17

Serious, non-rhetorical question: what's the basis of your preference? Anything more than just affinity for your species?

I'm not 100% sure what you mean by parasite removal... I guess you're referring to bad decision-makers, or bad decision-making processes? If so, I think existential risks are interlinked with parasite removal: the latter causes or at least hastens the former. Therefore, to truly address existential risks, you need to address parasite removal.

If I live forever, through cryonics or a positive intelligence explosion before my death, I'd like to have a lot of people to hang around with. Additionally, the people you'd be helping through EA aren't the people who are fucking up the world at the moment. Plus there isn't really anything directly important to me outside of humanity. Parasite removal refers to removing literal parasites from people in the third world, as an example of one of the effective charitable causes you could donate to.
Open Thread for February 11 - 17

You're of course correct. I'm tempted to question the use of "better" (i.e. it's a matter of values and opinion as to whether its "better" if humanity wipes itself out or not), but I think it's pretty fair to assume (as I believe utilitarians do) that less suffering is better, and theoretically less suffering would result from better decision-making and possibly from less climate change.

Thanks for this.

Open Thread for February 11 - 17

I assume you're talking about the facepalm-inducing decision-making? If so, that's a pretty morbid fascination. ;-)

Open Thread for February 11 - 17

Oh yeah, I'm not saying Spivak's Calculus doesn't provide good training in proofs. I really didn't even get far enough to tell whether it did or not, in which case, feel free to disregard my comment as uninformed. But to be more specific about my "not liking", I just found the part I did read to be more opaque than engaging or intriguing, as I've found other texts (like Strang's Linear Algebra, for instance).

Edit: Also, I'm specifically responding to statements that I thought referring to liking the book in the enjoyment sense (expressed on this... (read more)

Open Thread for February 11 - 17

lol yeah, I know what you're talking about.

Okay okay, fine. ;-)

Open Thread for February 3 - 10

Yes. :)



You should check out my response to one of the other comments--I think it's even more "yes, but"! I kind of see what you mean, but it sounds to me like just a way of saying "believe x or else" instead of giving an actual argument.

However, the ultimate conclusion is, I guess, just getting back on the horse and doing whatever I can to treat the dysthymia. I'm just like... ugh. :P But that's not very rational.

Thanks for the feedback.

Open Thread for February 11 - 17

For what it's worth, I'm doing roughly the same thing, though starting with linear algebra. At first I started with multivariable calc, but when I found it too confusing, people advised me to skip to linear algebra first and then return to MVC, and so far I've found that that's absolutely the right way to go. I'm not sure why they're usually taught the other way around; LA definitely seems more like a prereq of MVC.

I tried to read Spivak's Calc once and didn't really like it much; I'm not sure why everyone loves it. Maybe it gets better as you go along, id... (read more)

"Not liking" is not very specific. It's good all else equal to "like" a book, but all else is often not equal, so alternatives should be compared from other points of view as well. It's very good for training in rigorous proofs at introductory undergraduate level, if you do the exercises. It's not necessarily enjoyable. It's a much more advanced book, more suitable for a deeper review somewhere at the intermediate or advanced undergraduate level. I think Axler's "Linear Algebra Done Right" is better as a second linear algebra book (though it's less comprehensive), after a more serious real analysis course (i.e. not just Spivak) and an intro complex analysis course.
Open Thread for February 11 - 17

Sometimes I feel like looking into how I can help humanity (e.g. 80000 hours stuff), but other times I feel like humanity is just irredeemable and may as well wipe itself off the planet (via climate change, nuclear war, whatever).

For instance, humans are so facepalmingly bad at making decisions for the long term (viz. climate change, running out of fossil fuels) that it seems clear that genetic or neurological enhancements would be highly beneficial in changing this (and other deficiencies, of course). Yet discourse about such things is overwhelmingly neg... (read more)

If you're looking for ways to eliminate existential risk, then knowing that humanity is about to kill itself no matter what you do and you're just putting it off a few years instead of a few billion matters. If you're just looking for ways to help individuals, it's pretty irrelevant. I guess it means that what matters is what happens now, instead of the flow through effects after a billion years, but it's still a big effect. If you're suggesting that the life of the average human isn't worth living, then saving lives might not be a good idea, but there are still ways to help keep the population low. Besides, if humanity was great at helping itself, then why would we need you? It is precisely the fact that we allow extreme inequality to exist that means that you can make a big difference.
I think you underrate the existential risks that come along with substantial genetic or neurological enhancements. I'm not saying we shouldn't go there but it's no easy subject matter. It requires a lot of thought to address it in a way that doesn't produce more problems than it solves. For example the toolkit that you need for genetic engineering can also be used to create artificial pandemics which happen to be the existential risk most feared by people in the last LW surveys. When it comes to running out of fossil fuels we seem to do quite well. Solar energy halves costs every 7 years. The sun doesn't shine the whole day so there's still further work to be done, but it doesn't seem like an insurmountable challenge.
Pretty sure you just feel like bragging about how much smarter you are than the rest of the world. If you think people have to be as smart as you think you are to be worth protecting, you are a bad person.
I think it is amazingly myopic to look at the only species that has ever started a fire or crafted a wheel and conclude that The idea that climate change is an existential risk seems wacky to me. It is not difficult to walk away from an ocean which is rising at even 1 m a year and no one hypothesizes anything close to that rate. We are adapted to a broad range of climates and able to move north south east and west as the winds might blow us. Running out of fossil fuels, thinking we are doing something wildly stupid with our use of fossil fuels seems to me to be about as sensible as thinking a centrally planned economy will work better. It is not intuitive that a centrally planned economy will be a piece of crap compared to what we have, but it turns out to be true. Thinking you or even a bunch of people like you with no track record doing ANYTHING can second guess the markets in fossil fuels, well it seems intuitively right but if you ever get involved in testing your intuitions I don't think you'll find out it holds up. And if you think even doubling the price of fossil fuels really changes the calculus by much, I think Europe and Japan have lived that life for decades compared to the US, and yet the US is the home to the wackiest and ill-thought-out alternatives to fossil fuels in the world. Can anybody explain to me why creating a wildly popular luxury car which effectively runs on burning coal is such a boon to the environment that it should be subsidized at $7500 by the US federal government and an additional $2500 by states such as California which has been so close to bankruptcy recently? Well that is what a Tesla is, if you drive one in a country with coal on the grid, and most of Europe, China, and the US are in that category, The Tesla S Performance puts out the same amount of carbon as a car getting (WRONG14WRONG) 25 mpg of gasoline.
Well, there has not been a nuclear war yet (excluding WWII where deaths from nuclear weapons were tiny in proportion), climate change has only been a known risk for a few decades, and progress is being made with electric cars and solar power. Things could be worse. Instead of moaning, propose solutions : what would you do to stop global warming when so much depends on fossil fuels? On a separate note, I agree with the kneejerk reactions, but its a temporary cultural thing, caused partially by people basing morality on fiction. Get one group of people to watch GATTACA and another to watch Ghost in the shell, and they would have very different attitudes towards transhumanism. More interestingly, cybergoths (people who like to dress as cyborgs as a fashion statement) seem to be pretty open to discussions of actual brain-computer interfaces and there is music with H+ lyrics being realeased on actual record lables and brought by people who like the music and are not transhumanists... yet. In conclusion, once enhancement become possible I think there will be a sizeable minority of people who back it - in fact this has allready happend with modafinil and students.
If you think helping humanity is (in long term) a futile effort, because humans are so stupid they will destroy themselves anyway... I'd say the organization you are looking for is CFAR. So, how would you feel about making a lot of money and donating to CFAR? (Or other organization with a similar mission.)
8RomeoStevens8y [] Also, would you still want to save a drowning dog even if it might bite you out of fear and misunderstanding? (let's say it is a small dog and a bite would not be drastically injurious)
Taboo humanity.

You know how when you see a kid about to fall off a cliff, you shrug and don't do anything because the standards of discourse aren't as high as they could be?

Me neither.


A task with a better expected outcome is still better (in expected outcome), even if it's hopeless, silly, not as funny as some of the failure modes, not your responsibility or in some way emotionally less comfortable.

I can't speak for you, but I would hugely prefer for humanity to not wipe itself out, and even if it seems relatively likely at times, I still think it's worth the effort to prevent it. If you think existential risks are a higher priority than parasite removal, maybe you should focus your efforts on those instead.
I find it fascinating to observe.
Open Thread for February 3 - 10

I am thoroughly familiar with Feeling Good and feel that I can argue circles around it. My original statement (that I'll fail at everything) is an example of "overgeneralization" and "fortune telling." But this sounds to me like just a way of stating the problem of induction: nothing can ever be certain or generalized because we don't know what we don't know etc. etc. However, science itself basically rests on induction. If I drop a steel ball (from the surface of this planet), will it float, even if I think positively really hard? No. ... (read more)

Open Thread for February 3 - 10

consider that your depression likely is making you pessimistic about your prognosis.

Yes, I've heard this before, but I don't see why any reasonable, non-depressed person would be pessimistic about it. As I've said, it's not like this is the first time I've ever been depressed in my life and I'm irrationally predicting that I can't be cured. And I've heard stories like yours before: people who were depressed until they found the right combination of medications. But in my situation, my psychiatrists have gone back and forth between different combinations... (read more)

As far as depression goes curetogether has a list of things that it's users found helpful []. I don't think gyms are ideal. Going to the gym feels like work. On the other hand playing a team sport or dancing doesn't. At best a weekly course that happens at a specific time where you attend regularly.
Wikipedia lists many []. I count 21 categories alone. I would suggest reading at least a bit about how these drugs work to get some indication of what could work better. Then, you can go to your psychiatrist and discuss what you've learned. Something outside of their standard line of treatment may be unfamiliar to them, but it may suit you better. For my last antifungal treatment, I specifically asked for something different from what I had used before and I provided a list of antifungal meds I tried, all of which were fairly standard. My doctor spent a few minutes doing some searches on their computer and came back with what ultimately worked.
It seems you're playing a "Yes, but" game. I am sure you can win it, do you really want to?
Open Thread for February 3 - 10

I asked that of someone else when they made the same statement about ECT. The most common side effect is memory loss. You prompted me to look into the details, and I guess I wouldn't mind losing a couple months of memory (usually the only permanent effect). However, the jury appears to be out on ECT as well, so it may not even be worth it.

I actually looked at that exact website you linked to about ketamine. I'm all for it! However, all those studies are also across the country from me. Although you could say that quitting my job and staying across the cou... (read more)

Open Thread for February 3 - 10

If my depression does explain my failures, then I really am pretty much destined to fail in the future since this appears to be treatment-resistant depression and as I described, I've run out of treatment options. Thanks anyway.

I agree with Lumifer that your priority should be treating your depression. Also, consider that your depression likely is making you pessimistic about your prognosis. For about 5 or 6 years I had a treatment resistant fungal infection. I had to try 6 different antifungals until I found one that had some effect, and I tweaked the dosage and duration for most of those to try to make them work better. The last medication I tried didn't work completely the first time, so I increased the dosage and duration. That totally wiped out the fungus. If you asked me if I ever thought I'd get rid of the fungal infection 6 months before I finished treatment, I'd have said no. Knowing which antifungal medications didn't work actually was the key to figuring out what did work. My doctor selected an antifungal medication which used a mechanism different from that of any other treatment I tried. I suggest that you look at which mechanisms the drugs that you have tried use and see what other options exist. There are many more depression treating drugs than antifungal drugs, and many more mechanisms. You mentioned a few other non-pharmaceutical options you've considered. If you haven't already considered it, I might suggest exercise. There seems to be reasonable evidence that exercise helps in depression. Anecdotally, I've read of several people who have claimed that running in particular cured their depression when nothing else provided much help. (I've suggested this to others before, and they generally think "That'll make me feel worse!" People generally seem to discount the idea that as they get into better shape, exercise will become easier, enjoyable even.)
Open Thread for February 3 - 10

Sigh, well, I've been trying to fix it for about ten years (so as long as I've been failing. Coincidence?? Probably not). I'm on 2 anti-depressants right this minute (the fourth or fifth cocktail of which I've tried). I've gone through years of therapy. And the result? Still depressed, often suicidally.

So what else am I supposed to do? I refuse to go to therapy again. I'm sick of telling my whole life story over and over, and looking back on my past therapists, I think they were unhelpful at best and harmful at worst (for encouraging me to pursue my ludic... (read more)

Many of the things that you have said are characteristic of the sort of disordered thinking that goes hand-in-hand with depression. The book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy covers some of them. You may want to try reading it (if you have not already) so that you will be able to recognize thoughts typical among the depressed. (I find some measure of comfort from realizing that certain thoughts are depressive delusions and will pass with changes in mood.) As a concrete example, you said: These are basically the harshest reasons one could give for failing at something. They are innate and permanent. An equally valid frame would be to think that some outside circumstance was responsible (bad economy, say) or that you had not yet mastered the right skill set.
What side effects make ECT worse for you than depression and the risk of death? Have you looked into ketamine trials? []
That's really irrelevant at this point. If you are clinically depressed, this is sufficient to explain both your failures and your lack of belief in your ability to succeed. I am not a doctor and don't want to give medical advice, but it seems to me that getting your depression under control must be the very first step you need to take -- before you start thinking about new careers.
Open Thread for February 3 - 10

lol I almost added a sort of disclaimer addressing that. Yes, I am definitely clinically depressed -- partly due to my having failed so epically, imo, but of course I'd say that. ::eyeroll:: However, I don't see the benefit in just discounting everything I say with the statement "you're depressed." Not that you did, but that's the usual response people usually seem to give.

No one succeeds constantly. Success generally follows a string of failures.

Yeah, so they say. But you have to admit that the degree of success and the length of strings o... (read more)

So, um, don't you want to try to fix that? Until you do your judgement of your own capabilities is obviously suspect, not to mention that your chances to succeed are much diminished.
Open Thread for February 3 - 10

There's no point in getting specific if I think I'll fail at anything I try to do.

Have you considered that you might be clinically depressed? No one succeeds constantly. Success generally follows a string of failures.
Open Thread for February 3 - 10

Purely financially speaking, the costs of a career transition could range from opportunity costs to hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt if I decide to get a masters or something. Opportunity costs would be in the form of, say, foregoing income I would get from more intently pursuing my current field (e.g. becoming a paralegal, which is probably the most obvious next step) instead of studying another field and starting all over again with an entry-level position or even an unpaid internship.

Although less pay might sound rather benign, the idea of maki... (read more)

We're not speaking generally. You will have to make a decision about your life so you need to estimate your costs for a specific career move that you have in mind. You need to focus and get specific.
Open Thread for February 3 - 10

I'm dealing with a bout of what I assume is basically superstition. Over the last 10 years, I've failed disastrously at two careers, and so I've generalized this over everything: I assume I'll fail at any other career I want to pursue, too.

To me, this isn't wholly illogical: these experiences prove to me that I'm just not smart or hard-working enough to do anything more interesting than pushing paper (my current job). Moreover, desirable careers are competitive practically by definition, so failing at every other career I try is an actual possibility.

Theo... (read more)

In the context of a costs-benefits analysis, what are your costs in trying another career?
Rationalist Fiction

I loved Mathnet! ^_^ 1 1 2 3 5 -- eureka!

Rationalist Fiction

The geth in Mass Effect had a huge effect on me in this regard. I know that might sound crazy, but for me, they definitely meet your criteria of "a powerful experience of using rationality." Now, of course I can point out a few instances where I don't feel the geth don't exactly act very rationally, but the mere suggestion of such an existence blew my mind. I started wondering, in a way I had never done before, "what, really, IS the purpose of existence? If I were a geth, why would I bother to exist, let alone fight for my survival? Is the i... (read more)

Group rationality diary, 1/9/13

Right, yes, those factors definitely do affect people's odds in my field. The facts that my parents aren't major players and that I didn't go to the right schools definitely hurts my chances. However, those aren't the only determining factors. Many people who did go to the "right" schools have not succeeded and many people who did not, have.

One major factor, however, is my age. Some say that it doesn't matter, that I'm still young, but the majority of people who succeed in this business get their first significant job in their 20s. Having just t... (read more)

Group rationality diary, 1/9/13

The short answer is that I'm fairly confident about it and I'm fairly confident in the calibration of my confidence levels.

The long answer relies on my clarifying, I think, what I mean by "would rather do." I'll define it as "interesting enough to me to want to spend a significant number of years of my life on." I actually started getting really burned out on my current pursuit, so if you'd asked me this question about a week ago, I would have answered that I'd rather just get some dumb job and play video games in my free time for the ... (read more)

Group rationality diary, 1/9/13

I posted my current conundrum on the mentoring thread (, but since that's a pretty old thread, I figured I'd post a shortened version here, if you don't mind...

Here's my preliminary conclusion: I've been pursuing a profession that has (from what I've been able to tell) about a 1% chance of making a living at it. These are horrible odds, but since there's nothing I'd really rather do, it's like choosing between $5 and a 1% chance of getting $500, except that even if I don't get the $... (read more)

I'd like you to drill down a bit on what you mean when you talk about these probabilities, because I think you may be glossing over the information that really answers your question. It seems that there are at least three different reasons why people would say following a given career path leads to a low probability of a desired outcome. The first is that the supplied probability information is giving an incomplete picture of the situation. If 0.001% of people attempting this path succeed and it just so happens that this 0.001% happen to be the only ones whose parents run multinational corporations, then the problem isn't that "the probability of success is low," the problem is that "the probability of success for you is zero ." If this is the case, just lose hope already. The second possibility is that success only happens to 0.001% of the participants because there are only a discrete number of pots of gold and way too many people chasing rainbows. This only implies that the probability of a randomly selected individual, with no prior information, would be 0.001%. This does not imply that the probability of you finding a pot of gold is 0.001%, if you happen to know that you have some advantage or disadvantage relative to your peers. If you know what types of things you could be doing to increase your odds of finding a pot of gold, then do those things and ignore the naysayers. However, it sounds like the problem is that your field of choice involves either a lot of inherent uncertainty about what qualities lead to success, or a total glut of maximally-qualified peers, so this may not help or may not apply The third possibility is that there really is a dominant effectively-random aspect to the situation, something which you literally cannot usefully engage with. I am honestly having a hard time thinking of things in the real world other than actual lotteries where this is strictly the case. My point, in sum, is that talking about the probability of success ca
How confident are you about this? (And how well-calibrated do you think your confidence levels are?) Seems like it would be worth your time to verify this.
New Post version 1 (please read this ONLY if your last name beings with a–k)

This is hysterical. :) Very entertainingly told, with excellent self-awareness.

Less Wrong mentoring thread

Hitting the 1% outcome would of course be the most awesome (or heck, even better, the 0.000001% jackpot), but the most realistic two possible choices are (effectively) more dead children or fewer dead children, in which case I'm gonna have to go with fewer dead children as being more awesome.

Thinking of that as the chosen course of action immediately made me feel a bit bitter or resentful--the feeling I get from, for instance, pondering living in a worse apartment so I can have more money to give to charity (a decision I was faced with a few months ago)--b... (read more)

Less Wrong mentoring thread

TL;DR: Should I give up my highly risky and possibly even immoral career pursuit and go into charity work or not?

I've spent the last 6 years (from ages 24-30) trying to get into a career that’s incredibly competitive, with little to show for it (I’m purposefully not revealing what it is, so as not to conjure up any biases people may have about it). From what I've read, this is par for the course, and it could easily take a few more years to break in, but the base rate of success is about 1%. Of course, strategizing and training smarter than I have been sh... (read more)

Which of the outlined outcomes would you consider "awesome" (as opposed to good, ethical, right, or virtuous)?
Knowing About Biases Can Hurt People

Given the unbelievable difficulty in overcoming cognitive bias (mentioned in this article and many others), is it even realistic to expect that it's possible? Maybe there are a lucky few who may have that capacity, but what about a majority of even those with above-average intelligence, even after years of work at it? Would most of them not just sort of drill themselves into a deeper hole of irrationality? Even discussing their thoughts with others would be of no help, given the fact that most others will be afflicted with cognitive biases as well. Since t... (read more)

My main takeaway from this is that "I know about this bias, therefore I'm more immune to it" is wrong. To be less susceptible to a bias, you need to practice habits that help (like the premortem [] as a counter to the planning fallacy), not just know a lot of cognitive science.