All of Swerve's Comments + Replies

The first paragraphs of the "Backwards Chaining" section of the post is exactly the place where abstract instructions can be helpful, but concrete step-by-step instructions of the technique are arguably even more important for learning to do the thing in the first place. You appear to attempt to ameliorate this by including examples of things you could apply this to. However I think [93%] this isn't as helpful as walkthroughs of the technique imo.

For example, you could include examples of problems you had to solve, and used this technique o... (read more)

Thanks, I think that's a totally-valid critique. Let me mull over how to better dissect this.

I'm the reader who wrote the quoted piece under the "STORIES" tab on TYMC. I've been tuning every day for about a month and a half. I didn't get a huge amount object level value (tension and stress reduction) from TYMC, probably because I already maintained a pretty low baseline stress and tension levels. But nonetheless I got a lot of meta-value from learning, and found the instructions pretty straightforward to do. I'm wondering what you think needs more clarification or detail, and I'd love to help you figure the skill... (read more)

Thanks for the offer! I think last time I checked that page relax all your muscles [] hadn't been written yet and I was getting sort of lost navigating all the links around the subskills / prerequisites I needed. Next time I have time I'll start there and we'll see what happens. Also:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams, so I spread them beneath your feet. [] Why do you trample on my dreams? The Art God demands poetry!

These essays had a pretty large impact on how I go about learning mathematics, I always had an easier time when formulas or arguments could be mapped onto visual structure. In-fact, before writing this comment (and in general when constructing arguments) I imagined a mind map containing all the relevant ideas and relations I wanted to portray. I am now (somewhat poorly) attempting to translate my 3-D visual argument into a linear verbal one.

Something else to be noted is visual reasoning and complementary cognitive artifacts seem to go hand in hand. Consid... (read more)

I'm a math/econ undergrad, I've found that using geometry and imagery to contextualize all my classes is the easiest way for me to really understand a subject.

To use a small example: Learning things like the chain rule or the product rule in calculus became trivial once I learned via this method. However, that is not a way of teaching that is present where I'm learning. I've had little (but not zero) success in finding resources on my own that choose to communicate ideas in this way. Or help me hone my visual-math reasoning skills (1 2... (read more)

Most important idea huh?

Here goes nothin'..

I think that while the community in general has a large amount of declarative information. A very small amount of it is actually put into procedural format. We have repertoires of information and expertise, we can do some really cool things with our minds when we properly use them. However, we are missing a curriculum. We are missing a centralized place where a repository of literally all the most useful information lies. We have no textbook. We have pieces like Hammertime which try to amend some of this wi... (read more)

I think despite your disclaimers it was a great idea well worth expressing (although it's essentially applause lights in the comments section of Hammertime). Hopefully this updates you towards pushing out your ideas first and asking questions later. =)

Before anything else, thank you for the small piece about "adjusting your seat". It's taken a considerable amount of pressure/dread off of doing Hammertime.


It seems like the heart of the bug hunting skill, is having enough gears in your understanding of a certain domain. Such that you can find specific faults, inefficiencies, and leverage points to address. The inclination to go meta with the domain is also very helpful.

For example, in my own practice of bug hunt, I initially found myself selecting things I was explicitly doing wrong... (read more)

I second the thank you for the "adjust your seat" thing! Sometimes when a technique doesn't seem to quite fit I'm not sure whether I'm missing a skill that would actually be useful to me, or whether I would actually do better to change the technique for my benefit; probably the answer is sometimes the first thing and sometimes the second.
Thanks for the feedback. After your Intermission comment I've updated towards continuing to add "meta-motivation" blurbs like adjust your seat at the beginning of each post. CFAR had a bunch of these which were if anything more helpful than the actual class content.

After thinking about your reply for a while, you've made me update strongly towards believing that I had overestimated my own efficacy. In particular:

I've been reading LW for about five years and "knew" about most of these tools abstractly without ever getting anything practical out of it. You can check the comments to Hammers and Nailsand extrapolate that even longtime LWers have each only practiced only 5% of all the techniques we have, and that 5% varies wildly from person to person. It's not clear if what I've written so
... (read more)
At the beginning of this project I said to myself that I would be happy if it moved one other person in a signficant way. Right now, I'm very happy =). I'll try to inject more of this moral fire into the coming cycles. One thing that I've come to understand is that people really don't aim high enough. There's a mindset where you try to self-improve until you reach a satisfactory level, something like 90th percentile among the peer group, and relax there. There's an alternative mindset [] where you believe that the better you are, the quicker you will improve by learning new tools, since each of them is a force multiplier. If you follow this mindset far enough, it's almost dizzying.

My gut reaction told me that I hadn't gone through the experience of the uncanny valley. After a minute of thought, I realized that there was a period of four months last year where I divebombed in grades and class engagement. It was contextually because I had just learned about the diaspora and was rabbit-holing everything related to the disparate rationality blog. I was also rereading HPMoR. I think the historic reason for my failure was two-fold. The realization that the community wasn't dead and I wasn't alone; and the overemphasis the s... (read more)

A bunch of helpful comments on this thread already, I'll collect my all my thoughts so far here, in no particular order: I know people have done/thought about writing such a thing in the past, but I approached this sequence in a completely different way. It was my New Year's Resolution to write productively every day for a year, as this seemed like the single most easily achievable and powerful mind level up I could attain. I made a bunch of progress in January but felt my thoughts going all over the place. Hammertime was the product of me sitting down for half an hour and figuring out a simple outline for writing with some system and regularity. Because I was already writing every day, the actual writing part was completely cost-free to me, whereas it sounds like possibly the major roadblocks in previous attempts. My reasons for writing this sequence were, in clear order of importance: (a) to practice writing, (b) to review CFAR techniques for my own benefit, (c) to entertain, and (d) to teach instrumental rationality. With regards to (c), I have a belief that once you have decided on a thought to write about, the primary focus of the writing process is to make it as entertaining to read as possible, and this should come before making it useful. I strongly disagree with this statement. I've been reading LW for about five years and "knew" about most of these tools abstractly without ever getting anything practical out of it. You can check the comments to Hammers and Nails [] and extrapolate that even longtime LWers have each only practiced only 5% of all the techniques we have, and that 5% varies wildly from person to person. It's not clear if what I've written so far actually helps in this direction, but I think a properly written sequence will actually inject readers with the moral fire to do the thing that they've known about for years. This is part of the reason (the other reason being lazi

Considering the amount of engagement and positive anecdotes people are putting into this; It appears to me to be evidence that writing things down (in some format) is really helpful. As in, helpful enough that if you are not already writing down your thoughts and ideas you should at the very least take five and come up with an easy way to try it out. This is one of those things that's extremely low cost, with a lot of benefit. Please take the low-hanging fruit.

One more anecdote for the pile: I found carrying and using paper very unwieldy for a long ti... (read more)

"four differently colored pens"

Fantastic post Qiaochu, and let me strongly recommend Swerve's point about four colors of pen.

I regularly carry black, blue, red, and green pens, and they make paper much more useful.

I use blue and black for ephemeral items, green for things that should merit reviewing, and red for urgency/emphasis.

Typically, I write to-do type items in blue and cross them out as they complete. I use black pen for "working memory" / "scratchpaper" type tasks... things that I typically won't need to revi... (read more)

Putting all of my TAPS on post it notes on my wall so I see them when I wake up. This should make a good trigger for keeping them in mind during the day. It also gives some potentially free utility over time in the form of "see that wall? All those notes are different habits I was able to cultivate".

I'm generally pretty wary of this sort of thing. When I've tried things like this in the past I generally end up ignoring what I've written over time, like TurnTrout says.
One thing to be aware of is you probably need to make the reading of the notes intentional, as once they stop being new, you’ll stop noticing them. meta-TAP: wake up and read post-its

Uh oh. My first run-through yielded only 11 bugs. Considering I'm not hilariously successful at everything means I'm missing a ton of information. My second search yielded a total of 50 bugs. This is still only half of what you minimally requested. I'm glad this was brought to my attention as it's a really glaring deficiency, however I'm not sure how to go about remedying this, as it feels like I wrote down everything I could reasonably come up with (and I still ended up scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas).

Also something ... (read more)

I wouldn't worry about it, 50 is plenty for now. My hope is that the first cycle will cultivate stronger lateral thinking and expand your comfort zone enough that you'll be able to come up with plenty more on the next cycle.

There's a larger point I want to make which is that the reason one wants to be a rationalist is to win in general. If there were a particular one or two domains you care about, then applying force on those domains will get you more for your dollar than working on rationality as such (unless the particular domain has somet... (read more)

Going for quantity is a nice way to brainstorm and make sure you've covered a lot of bases but I wouldn't stress out too much about it. In my experience people only have a small number of "real" bugs and if they solve those then their other bugs sort of go away automatically or don't feel like they matter. (The "real" bugs are less like "thing X is going wrong in my life" and more like "I am the sort of person for whom things X, Y, Z, W... go wrong in my life.")

The simple explaination makes sense. However I'm sure there's a lot more to this than the is conveyed in one-sentence. I'd really like to get my hands on a more in-depth explaination if it's possible. A google search of the term "Fermi Modeling" as well as searching your LW post history has not yielded anything. Is there a post somewhere I can read?

Wow this was a lot harder than I expected. I thought about my favorite technique for a solid fifteen minutes before deciding on this. Mostly because I realized that I don't have explicit techniques that I usually use. I definitely use certain things like Immunity to Change Mapping, the Ideological Turing Test, and Neutral Hours. However I think (78%) the majority of the benefit I've gained from rationality lies in a single hammer, or the ability to update from evidence and think about the best option in a scenario. This mostly happens on the 5-se... (read more)

You are my hero. I gave up on my own exercise after 2 examples.

+1 for actually doing the exercise!

Lo and behold my pleasure at seeing something that's been swimming around in the back of my head for at least a month put out in excellent writing. I found this post valuable for several reasons:

1.) This describes what may be an extremely worthwhile meta-skill. The whole sentiment of "take an idea seriously" seems to have a lot of recursive power. As one takes the singularity mindset seriously, they are in-fact practicing the singularity mindset. This not only gives itself a positive feedback loop, but allows other potentially helpful concep... (read more)

I've found that doing postmortems on all my projects is extremely helpful for keeping the long term perspective in mind. I think this is probably because it forces me to make all my projects discrete entities over time, forcing me to step back, reflect, and adjust my course instead of clustering them all together as "work" in my mind.

This carries the added benefit of giving me lots of information about my workflow and how it fluctuates under various conditions. For example, I'll usually record the costs of the project (Money, Neutral H

... (read more)

It seems that applying the concepts in the first post (IE generating examples, translating declarative knowledge into procedural knowledge) works really well for making sure I understand this second post. In particular I found that pausing after each new concept and running through examples + writing in my own words, made the material sink in a lot more thoroughly.
If your intention was to make the posts in this sequence chain together in this way, then hats off to you for a well designed informative series.

Thanks! Yeah, I definitely put some thought into trying to answer the question of "What prerequisite concepts would be good to apply throughout the sequence?", and I'm glad to hear that it seems like it paid off for you!