All of stardust's Comments + Replies

No Really, Why Aren't Rationalists Winning?

What does winning look like to you? Lots of rationalists have pretty successful careers as programmers, which depending on what they are going for, could be considered winning. Is it that they aren't "winning" by your definition, or theirs?

Can you describe the thing you think rationalists are failing at, tabooing "winning"?

Not the author, but my guess would be this:

On various metrics, there can be differences in quantity, e.g. "a job that pays $10k" vs "a job that pays $20k", and differences in quality, e.g. "a job" vs "early retirement". Merely improving quantity does not make a good story. And perhaps it is foolish, but I imagine "winning" as a qualitative improvement, instead of merely 30% or 300% more of something.

And maybe this is wrong, because a qualitative improvement brings qualitative improvements as a side effect. ... (read more)

The Bizarre Behavior of Berkeley Rationalists

If you don't want to have the conversations yourself and don't know who to talk to about it, consider reaching out to one of the members of the REACH Panel

We can all be high status

I'd like to point out that high status does not automatically equate with happiness/high life satisfaction. Status comes with responsibility, including dealing with people nitpicking all of your public decisions and statements, and even some private aspects of your life.

If anyone is trying to get status in order to feel safe and comfortable, they are confused about how status works.

I'll note that I got significantly higher status after deciding to ignore what all the "high-status" people were telling me to do and instead did an ambitio... (read more)

Status works like OP describes, when going from "dregs" to "valued community member". Social safety is a very basic need, and EA membership undermines that for many people by getting them to compare themselves to famous EAs, rather than to a more realistic peer group. This is especially true in regions with a lower density of EAs, or where all the 'real' EAs pack up and move to higher density regions. I think the OP meant "high" as a relative term, compared to many people who feel like dregs.
Rationalist Community Hub in Moscow: 3 Years Retrospective

Whoops, I requested access to the slack then forgot about this. Haven't actually gone on the slack yet.

Berkeley REACH Supporters Update: September 2018

Just now saw the edit.

The regular meetups REACH hosts get ~50 people to attend at least four EA meetups a year when they wouldn't have attended any.

This seems plausibly already the case? There were no EA meetups in Berkeley before I started REACH.
Most of the EA meetups draw 8-25 people and it's not always the same people (there's a core set of 4 or so who are usually there).

As a result of the things they learned at those meetups, at least ten people change where they're donating to or what they're prioritizing in the next year.

T... (read more)

Berkeley REACH Supporters Update: September 2018

I am not very good at making up numbers in this way and have stopped trying. I am not a superforecaster :) So I'm not going to make any actual predictions, but I'll give some categories where I see potential for impact.

First, let me give an overview of what has been achieved so far based on the metrics I have access to:

  • number of visits (909 logged visits between 4/26 and 8/30, with about 300 unique visitors -- this is a lossy collection strategy, not everyone who comes in actually signs in, I'd guess at most 80% of visits get logged, but ag
... (read more)

FWIW, at least one person has gotten at least one short-term-contract from REACH.

Rationalist Community Hub in Moscow: 3 Years Retrospective

I haven't had a chance to read through this in detail yet, but I'm surprised I hadn't heard of this before! I'd be interested in chatting and comparing notes. I'll post a more detailed comment in a few days (I'm way overscheduled for the next few days).

Yes, it'd be interesting to compare our experiences. If you want to chat in a lower-latency channel, I'm @berekuk on Lesswrongers Slack (my preferred medium for chatting) or if you dislike Slack for some reason.
Last Chance to Fund the Berkeley REACH

Jan, I'm curious after seeing REACH again this month if you still have the same impression as before.

It seems to be moving in good direction! Things I noticed and like include * Seems a larger group of people is involved in the management of the place * It has a web separate from * The back rooms now look like more coworking space, no longer like thrift store * Various "suggested donation" things now really look like "suggested donation" less like "if you don't pay this price you should be ashamed" * You seem less stressed * It seems REAC will turn into REACH, & similar The impression I had before was more nuanced that how you possibly interpreted it at that time. I'm definitely pro "people need spaces"; I also believe how spaces feel have important and underappreciated influence on what people do in them. To somehow sum it, I like how things have changed.
Last Chance to Fund the Berkeley REACH
I disapprove the epistemics surrounding REACH. E.g. the "Reflections on Berkeley REACH" post does not represent reasonable criticism of REACH the author was aware of, and in contrast includes a call to discourage public negative comments

I actually had more of a response to your email in the original draft, and was advised to cut it for the final version by multiple people as being too personal/specific for a public post.

I admit that I am not perfectly rational, and have never tried to be. Harsh public criticism of me and my project hurts me, and... (read more)

Unfortunately this is not a positive sign. The core worries of my email were impersonal and quite generic. So the core of my email was this concern: This should be not much controversial facts 1) REACH put itself into the position of being one of the most public-facing things in Berkeley community. If non-Berkeley people come to Bay and look for events and places, they'll highly likely land up at REACHs page, or at the physical space. -- you have obvious incentives to be it that way 2) REACH got some support from SSC, so many people noticed, some of them are donating 3) This is actually happening: during my stay, few times some random person asked at the door that they heard about REACH and wanted to see it. 4) As Berkeley is one of the main hubs, people from other places will come to Berkeley and take inspiration the result is REACH is one of the "store-fronts" of the community These are my vague impressions 5) At the same time, it seems REACH is actually supported only by some part of the community, or the support is more like "donating stuff" 6) The ambition is more focused on the local community. On the object level 7) It is very expensive (...) 8) It is obviously cash-strapped 9) The lack of money is signaled in various ways (which together make it somewhat problematic store-front) So in short, my worry was that having REACH as one of the most public facing things with the external world could be harmful mainly from signalling/PR perspective. As it may be unclear what I have meant by 8) and 9): we have talked previously in person about, for example, "donated clothes exchange". While "donated clothes exchange" may be a typical activity of a "stock community center", it is surprising in a rationalist centre. From the signalling perspective, to an external visitor, it shows * implicitly very low valuation of your time * implicitly somewhat low valuation of the cost of your space The rest of the email were mainly constructive suggestions how to
Last Chance to Fund the Berkeley REACH

Further update: the lease has been signed! REACH is on for at least 14 more months!!! (The lease starts Aug 1 and goes til Aug 31 for some reason.)

Still figuring out how to fund management of the space, and still appreciate further contributions.

Last Chance to Fund the Berkeley REACH

Update: The bare minimum "making rent" goal of $5k/month on Patreon has been reached, along with around $1500 in one time donations today!

To really be sustainable, we need more like $6.6k/month, but the swell of support has been really great, thank you all! <3

Further update: the lease has been signed! REACH is on for at least 14 more months!!! (The lease starts Aug 1 and goes til Aug 31 for some reason.)

Still figuring out how to fund management of the space, and still appreciate further contributions.

Reflections on Berkeley REACH

This is the first time the space had been so full, and it coincided with me being quite busy volunteering for EAG. In retrospect, maybe I should not have done that :P

I like the idea of putting nametags/other marker of who is in what room, which would also help with the "is it ok to use this room for a private conversation or is someone staying in it?" question (often answerable by visual tells but still).

I do have sheets and towels available, but given how close we were to max capacity, I wasn't sure if I'd have enough and didn't want to promise that. I definitely could've been cleared about what to expect, though.

Thanks for the feedback!

Reflections on Berkeley REACH

I think it *could* be financed by room rentals, but that would require raising prices which kinda defeats the point of the guest rooms. I would then need to optimize harder in the AirBnB direction, which would mean less focus on being good for community events and hanging out.

It's also possible that it could be funded by people paying to cowork or host events there, but again, I want to keep the barriers to entry for using the space fairly low.

There are certainly options we could pursue that would take it in a more commercial direction that would probably make money, but then it wouldn't have the ethos I'm attempting to create, and I'd want to pass the project off to someone else.

The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo

Yeah. For me, events at REACH are a good way to get to know new people and decide if I trust them enough to invite them to more private events. I think a lot of folks in the community are already at capacity for how many social connections they can keep up and so don't end up wanting to get to know new people.

I think some of this stems from the fact that many people seem to prefer talking to folks one on one which makes it hard to parallelize social time. My personal preference is for groups of 5-10, sometimes within a larger social setting, and have been sorta trying to impose this preference on others through doing things at REACH :P

That's basically the dynamic I was referring to. You don't have that to the same extend with less people in a community.
Yuppers. I definitely with the addition of REACH has a good chance of reducing or eliminating this problem – having lots of public facing events solves a lot of the issues.

Thank you. I appreciate that.

The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo

Ah, yeah, it did happen at last summer's solstice, I had forgotten. I was not involved with the winter solstice and didn't know about similar problems there.

I do agree that house parties are often selective, but I have never seen an event with a topic (as opposed to a purely social party) have more interest than the space allowed, which was the category of thing that was in my head when I said "event" above. I consider house parties to be more about hanging out with friends than about "the community" or whatnot.

The winter solstice last year used the same venue it had used the previous year, but the venue imposed a new, lower restriction on the maximum number of attendees, due to some new interpretation of the fire code or something. As a result, tickets did sell out. (I wasn't close enough to organization last year to know how last-minute the change was, but my impression was that there was some scrambling in response.) This year a new venue is being sought that can better accommodate the number of people who want to attend.
Yeah, agreed that events that are "expecting effort" on the part of participants don't usually have this problem. The place where it seems most relevant are events that are sort of on the border between "hanging out with friends" and "hanging out with community" – house parties that play a large role in determining the overall social scene for Berkeley, where, say, 50-100 people get invited, but there 200 people in the area. (This is not me saying anyone is doing anything wrong, just, it's a thing to be aware of)
The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo

Perhaps? I am not sure if if there is even a coherent top-tier. If there is I am not part of or aware of it.

The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo

I think funding REACH before there was a track record would've been financially risky. I chose to take that risk personally because I didn't see how it would happen without someone doing something risky. It certainly would have been nice to have gotten support from CEA right away, but I don't think they were wrong to choose to focus resources on people who'd been working on community building for longer, and likely had fewer resources to spare.

I can appreciate that. If CEA is budget constrained, and used all its resources on proven community builders doing valuable projects, I can't really argue with that too hard. However...

If CEA did it because you had personal resources available to sacrifice in their place, knowing you would, that seems like a really bad principle to follow.

If CEA feels it can't take 'risk' on this scale, in the sense that they might fund something that isn't effective or doesn't work out, that implies curiously high risk aversion where there sh... (read more)

The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo

CEA turned down my proposal because there were other, more established groups than REACH with clearer track records of success and better thought out metrics for success/failure applying for the same round of grants. I am working on building up a track record and metrics/data capture so that I can reapply later.

I read this as "CEA cares more about procedures that appear objective and fair and that can be defended, and not making mistakes, than doing the right/best thing." That may or may not be fair to them.

I do know that someone recently claiming to be brought in to work for CEA (and raided by SF from NYC, and who proceeded to raid additional people from NYC), claimed that CEA is explicitly looking to do exactly this sort of thing, and was enthusiastic about supporting an NYC-based version of this (this was before either of knew about REACH, I believe)... (read more)

The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo

I'm working on building up a similar reproducible set of operating guidelines for REACH and would be very interested in comparing notes.

I've got a bunch of different ideas, some of which are about creating a local rationalist culture, which depending on how they pan out might be a sequence of blog posts. I also have some tips for what worked well in Vancouver, and they might work even better at a community center. * In Vancouver, having a Facebook group has helped. Not everyone is into FB for any number of reasons, so mailing lists or a Discord server also works. Keeping people in touch with online as well as offline keeps local people who can't make it out in person so often but are invested in the community in the loop, and it helps promote bonds between people. * The biggest thing might be posting housing opportunities, and even pinning a post in our Facebook group about requests for housemates/housing, which has helped several local community members find new roommates. It's helped contribute to increase the number of rationalist sharehouses in Vancouver from 1 to 3 in 8 months. Using an online group as a digital bulletin board for housing opportunities has helped local rationalists get more involved in the community, creates more rationalist spaces, and helps the houses in question retain a community culture over time. We haven't tried it for things like rationalists sharing employment opportunities with each other, but supposedly trying to create a virtual bulletin board could help create more opportunities for material mutual support/exchange between rationalists. Of course at REACH or another rationality community center (hi Seattle!), you can also do this with a literal bulletin board. * In the Vancouver rationality/LW FB group I made two polls: one for what periods of day and day of the weeks people we're most available for doing things; and another for what kinds of activities different people wanted to do with other people. This worked well with Facebook groups because visually FB group polls immediately tell you what th
I just ran my third open LessWrong meetup [] in Berlin about gratitude. Before I did run one in Hamburg a while ago and Christian Kamm was responsible for running the monthly LessWrong meetup in Berlin. After running the first meetup I wrote up the idea for the meetup under How do we change our minds? A meetup blueprint [] . I did organize Quantified Self meetups in Berlin from 2011 to 2013 and have a bit of other community leading experience. I'm happy to talk more.
The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo

I don't think I've ever seen an event with more people interested than able to attend in Berkeley. If anything, it's difficult to get people to come out for events.

I actually think this happens fairly frequently, although may be happening sort of invisibly:

  • I think it most concretely happened at the last Winter and Summer Solstice – in this case it was explicitly due to event insurance concerns and explicit attendee caps.
  • More often and more generally: I think, esp for medium-sized parties (basically any time it's a private FB event, and the room ends up pretty full), I think it's often the case that, before you got to the point where people notice and feel excluded, there's a pre-emptive pass where only a smaller subset of people get invited in the first place. The competition is happening quietly in the social network.
The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo
A couple friends of mine who were early attendees of a CFAR workshop lived in the Bay Area for several months in 2013, and returned home with stories of how wondrous the Bay Area was. They convinced several of us to attend CFAR workshops as well, and we too returned home with the sense of wonderment after our brief immersion in the Berkeley rationality community. But when my friends and I each returned, somehow our ambition transformed into depression. I tried rallying my friends to try carrying back or reigniting the spark that made the Berkeley rationali
... (read more)
This was the experience in Vancouver after CFAR workshops, and the atmosphere persisted for a long time. It wasn't only me who was conflating "[big event] atmosphere" with "Berkeley Rationalist Community". Not just me but a lot of other people in Vancouver, and also how a lot of rationalists from elsewhere talk about the Berkeley Rationalist Community (I'm going to call it the Bayesian Area), it's often depicted as super awesome. The first thing that comes to mind is a lot of rationalists from outside of Berkeley only visit town for events like CFAR workshops, CFAR alumni reunions, EA Global, Burning Man, etc. So if one rationalist visits Berkeley a few times a year and always returns to their home base talking about their experiences in Berkeley right after these exciting events, it makes the Berkeley community itself seem constantly exciting. I'm guessing the reality is Berkeley community isn't always buzzing with conferences and workshops, and organizing all those things is actually very stressful. There definitely is a halo around the Berkeley Rationalist Community for other reasons: * It's often touted 'leveling up' to the point one can get hired at an x-risk reduction organization or working on another important project like a startup in Berkeley is an important and desirable thing for rationalists to do. * There's often a perception resources are only invested in projects based in the Bay Area, so trying to start projects with rationalists elsewhere and expect to sustain them long-term is futile. * Moving to Berkeley is still inaccessible or impractical for a lot of rationalists scattered everywhere that (especially if their friends leave) it breeds a sense of alienation and being left behind/stranded as one watches everyone else talk about how they *can* flock to the Berkeley. Combined with the rest of the above, this can also unfortunately breed feelings of resentment. * Rationalists from outside Berkeley often report
it's a general issue with the way CFAR operates, building up intense social connections over the course of a weekend, then dropping them suddenly.

So, this is definitely a thing that happens, and I'm aware of and sad about it, but it's worth pointing out that this is a generic property of all sufficiently good workshops and things like workshops (e.g. summer camps) everywhere (the ones that aren't sufficiently good don't build the intense social connections in the first place), and to the extent that it's a problem CFAR runs in... (read more)

Is this suggesting that top-tier Berkeley is even eating the seed corn of Berkeley and making everyone but its own top-tier depressed in its wake?