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I love this idea, so I've taken it to the next level:

Hanger, paper clips, dental floss, tupperware, pencil, ruler, and lamp. If we're trying to be concrete about this, no need to do it only part way.

Ooo! Seldom do I get to hear someone else voice my version of idealism. I still have a lot of thinking to do on this, but so far it seems to me perfectly legitimate. An idealism isomorphic to mechanical interactions dissolves the Hard Problem of consciousness by denying a premise. It also does so with more elegance than reductionism since it doesn't force us through that series of flaming hoops that orbits and (maybe) eventually collapses into dualism.

This seems more likely to me so far than all the alternatives, so I guess that means I believe it, but not with a great deal of certainty. So far every objection I've heard or been able to imagine has amounted to something like, "But but but the world's just got to be made out of STUFF!!!" But I'm certainly not operating under the assumption that these are the best possible objections. I'd love to see what happens with whatever you've got to throw at my position.

I do use Redshift, actually. Color change at sunset, computer off by 11. The first part's about melatonin, the second is about getting out of my head. Very interested in the results of your experiment.

Oh, I didn't mean I shut my laptop off for the duration of 9 to 11. I meant "I shut it off not after 11, and closer to 9 if possible". This actually ends up taking up about half an hour. It nets me lots of time, really, because it makes it easier for me to go to sleep, which makes it easier for me to get up at a regular time, which makes me far more productive while I'm awake. So less of the time in my day is wasted on being inefficient.

Yes, this is what I meant by "physiological manipulation". The dropping of body temperature as you cool down from a bath may also induce sleepiness. I try to make my rituals as efficient as possible.

Love this.

How do you feel about using rituals to reinforce habits and create momentum for new policies? It's basically outsourcing willpower to past selves.

For instance, I've always had a hard time regulating my sleep schedule. It's not always that I can't sleep, but that I seldom want to go to sleep and lack the willpower to not do whatever I want to do instead, no matter how sleepy I am. What finally worked was a ritual that served as both positive reinforcement and physiological manipulation. I love bubble baths, and they put me in a relaxed mindspace where much less willpower is required to go to sleep. Bubble baths are now my bedtime ritual. Between 9 and 11PM, I shut off my laptop, don my robe, light scented candles, and draw a bath. Exactly like that, every single time.

It's not difficult, in part because a ritual doesn't really feel like my decision. It feels more like an external way the world is, something it would take effort to change, like the lunch meeting scheduled for Wednesday. Taking a bath is the last thing I'm allowed to do before sleeping, and it's something I always look forward to. Sleeping is simply the conclusion of the ritual.

Obviously, rituals are dangerous, especially in group contexts. But they're dangerous because they really are powerful. We can delude ourselves with rituals, but we can also use them as cheat codes for winning. We just have to use them judiciously.

There are so many comments here about what does and doesn't count as a "cult", and whether Lesswrong is cultish. People, it doesn't matter. The point is that that's not the point.

Why are we wary of cults? Because they're harmful in various ways. There are particular ways in which they're harmful, and particular things that cause them to be harmful in those ways.

Suppose that the inclusion criteria for "cult" had nothing to do with the harmful parts and consisted entirely of beneficial features. Suppose, for instance, that a cult is merely "any social thing that tends to make participants happy". Then it would be a good thing to be in a cult, and any harm done by the activities of the cult would be due entirely to the harmful activities and not to its status as cult.

When we try to pin down how our real notions of cult differ from that scenario, we end up with a list of features. Some of those features are harmful, and some are beneficial. Moreover, some of the features are both harmful and beneficial. We can circle those features. Then, regardless of what we call ourselves, we can avoid the items on the list that are merely harmful, mitigate or eliminate the potential damage done by the items that are also beneficial, and thereby create a kick-ass thing that helps us win. Whether it's rightly called a cult is irrelevant to whether it's a good thing.

The point is not to avoid being a cult. The point is to avoid causing the damage cults tend to cause, especially while borrowing their most useful strategies. Remember: "Do not lose reasonably. Win."

My position is that we need a plan. A long-term, comprehensive strategy to maximize the utility of our individual efforts toward making the world a more rational place. We need not only to study the best ways of teaching rationality on the level of personal interactions and small classes, but to plot a path from the current state of society to a world in which people are trained from childhood in the methods of rationality. I'm giving a talk on this very topic to my university's secular student alliance. My main message is simply that "we need a plan", but here's the specific proposal I'm going to toss out there for consideration.

  • Use the grassroots movement(s) in secularism, humanism, science advocacy, etc. to prepare the memetic landscape for education renovation.

--Broaden conceptions of science.

~~Let "science" include the analysis, interpretation, and implementation of information gained through empirical inquiry.

-The positivists have a narrower conception, but it's not very historically accurate anyway.

-The broader conception lets us teach parts of rationality in science classes as science that the one infected by positivism doesn't.

~~Get the paradigmatic "scientist" out of a lab coat and into the Real World so that everyone's a scientist and the people who design space ships are simply professionals.

--Get involved in math education reform. See Hemant's efforts. Mathematical methods are methods of rationality. Math is not graphing parabolas. Math is creative rigorous problem solving.

--Learn about and promote cognitive science. Popularize the term "cognitive psychology". I know it kinda hurts to drag down cog sci like that, but the plan is to sneak the study of heuristics and biases into high school psychology classes.

  • Insert rationality into math and science classes. Focus psychology classes toward cognitive science. (It may prove more feasible to add cog sci to the options for science classes along side chemistry, physics, etc., but I think this will be easier at least early on.)
  • Slowly increase the number of schools with philosophy so that extra-empirical methods get their own spotlight.
  • Get states to adopt curricula that focus on higher order information.
  • Implement such a curriculum on the national level.