SonnieBailey

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Book Recommendations for social skill development?

Patrick King has published a lot of short, accessible books that are available on Kindle. They might seem a bit lightweight but they're generally well-written and I've taken quite a bit from the books I've written.

(One tip that has stayed with me: avoid asking people what their "favorite" book/band/movie/whatever is... instead, ask them about a good book/band/movie/whatever they've read/listened to/watched/whatever recently, or a favorite - it gives people more wiggle room and doesn't push them to make a definitive statement. Little things like this are valuable to know.)

Who's an unusual thinker that you recommend following?

I'm not sure if he's an unusual thinker by the standards of people on LessWrong, but I really like journalist Richard Meadow and his writing on The Deep Dish blog - https://thedeepdish.org. He does a good job of making a lot of the topics that are discussed in this forum (and other areas, including finance and optionality) accessible and fun to read.

I'd characterise him as an unusual thinker by the standards of the general population, and very good at packaging these unusual ideas in a palatable way for the general population.

Request for stories of when quantitative reasoning was practically useful for you.

I'll springboard off this. I currently work as a financial planner (in New Zealand) and one of the exercises I go through with clients is to "flawcast" their financial future - ie, look not just at their current financial situation but at their financial trajectory, making various assumptions. There's enormous sampling bias (as only wealthier people tend to receive advice) but for a lot of these people they realise that they're on track to achieving their financial goals -- and they have a lot more options in life than they thought. For example, spending more, working less, retiring earlier, trying something different in their professional life, providing more assistance to loved ones and/or causes they care about, continuing to work but with the knowledge they're doing it because they want to and not because they have to. Independent of any substantive advice I give, this is usually what gives them the most confidence and comfort and value out of the entire process - even though it's a pretty basic mathematical exercise. (FWIW these are usually clever, switched on people but they haven't looked at their finances in this future-focused way.)

If you had to pick one thing you've read that changed the course of your life, what would it be?

"On being a happy, healthy, and ethical member of an unhappy, unhealthy, and unethical profession" by Patrick J. Schiltz - http://faculty.law.miami.edu/mcoombs/Schlitz.htm

The article has helped change the course of my professional life. It's specific to law, but has been relevant to how I look at other industries as well.

Do you use twitter for intellectual engagement? Do you like it?

Something that changed my mind about Twitter (in a positive sense) was the following set of slides titled "Why Twitter is dope and how to use it": https://speakerdeck.com/nikhilkrishnan/why-twitter-is-dope-and-how-to-use-it

I personally haven't adopted Twitter as extensively as I'd like, but setting up several groups and engaging more in conversations rather than tweeting into the ether has been quite rewarding. Even at my limited level, I get a sense of being part of a community (or more specifically: communities, plural) via Twitter.

Has "politics is the mind-killer" been a mind-killer?

I agree with everything you say. I'm reminded of Dan Gardner's terrific book Future Babble on how and why people respond to pundits even though their predictions/calibrations are often woeful.

The thing is, in the same way that there are people who can get away with clearly being in bad faith and not being truthful, I think there are probably some people who can get away with being relatively well-calibrated and up-front about not treating everything in black and white terms, and still be effective communicators, and effective in politics in general.

I wouldn't be surprised if there are some other factors (something to do with the conveyed social status of the person in question?) that relate to their effectiveness that are in some ways independent of the positions they actually take. Taking the "Is God real?" example, it's true that the vast majority of people couldn't get away with that. But there are probably some people who could get away with it.

I'm speculating. And to my mind this is an empirical question. The fact that no one comes to mind probably indicates I'm wrong. But I can always be hopeful!

I'm also writing this in a rush, so apologies if I haven't been very clear. Thanks for the comments!

Has "politics is the mind-killer" been a mind-killer?

I'm not sure if this relates to my article or the comment. But I initially took this comment to mean that you can't talk about politics rationally unless the people you're talking to are rational. Given that no one is perfectly rational (even those of us who aspire to it), it lead me to the conclusion - what's the point?

In other words, avoid discussion of politics in all situations, because no one can be rational about it. I'll admit, I overstepped the mark, and this is largely my misreading of the initial article.

Has "politics is the mind-killer" been a mind-killer?

I agree that the evidence currently suggests that being transparent about your beliefs isn't a winning strategy.

I'm not 100% convinced that we can conclusively say that it can't be a winning strategy. Perhaps if norms change, and someone who was sufficiently well-calibrated to this way of thinking and was effective at communicating (and probably came across as high-status enough) it could be very effective.

Could someone be completely honest and still be effective? I'd love to see someone who could pull this off, and I haven't written this off as a possibility. But maybe I'm being naive :-)

Has "politics is the mind-killer" been a mind-killer?

Great points.

I hope I don't come across as saying that this is a forum for talking about politics in the specific.

The article is more a reflection of how the "politics is the mind-killer" perspective impacted me and my broader relationship to politics and policy, probably for the worst.

Just because it's not a great topic to discuss in this particular context ,and in some other situations, this doesn't make it a valuable or important topic to discuss in other contexts. (And to be clear, I haven't taken your comments as suggesting as such!)

I'd go as far as arguing that if rationalists can better discuss politics effectively with people who are less rationally-inclined, this might go some way towards raising the sanity waterline in a really important domain.

Has "politics is the mind-killer" been a mind-killer?

I'm not sure I see the contradiction.

I see it as the difference between a one-off prisoner's dilemma situation and an iterated version of the prisoner's dilemma.

War is arguably a one-off situation, where competition is king and you want to win at all costs. Politics and policy-making is more of an ongoing endeavour and in the scheme of things, requires cooperation.

Where there are good intentions involved (and that is the case much of the time - it's just not publicised nearly as much), both sides of a debate will often want to come to a solution that is something that the other side can live with - and there is at least the potential for changing perspectives and positions. So having high stakes doesn't necessarily mean that it's all-out competition and war between arguments.

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