Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

post by D_Malik · 2013-05-15T22:27:19.072Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 1250 comments

Thus spake Eliezer:

A Munchkin is the sort of person who, faced with a role-playing game, reads through the rulebooks over and over until he finds a way to combine three innocuous-seeming magical items into a cycle of infinite wish spells.  Or who, in real life, composes a surprisingly effective diet out of drinking a quarter-cup of extra-light olive oil at least one hour before and after tasting anything else.  Or combines liquid nitrogen and antifreeze and life-insurance policies into a ridiculously cheap method of defeating the invincible specter of unavoidable Death.  Or figures out how to build the real-life version of the cycle of infinite wish spells.

It seems that many here might have outlandish ideas for ways of improving our lives. For instance, a recent post advocated installing really bright lights as a way to boost alertness and productivity. We should not adopt such hacks into our dogma until we're pretty sure they work; however, one way of knowing whether a crazy idea works is to try implementing it, and you may have more ideas than you're planning to implement.

So: please post all such lifehack ideas! Even if you haven't tried them, even if they seem unlikely to work. Post them separately, unless some other way would be more appropriate. If you've tried some idea and it hasn't worked, it would be useful to post that too.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by ModusPonies · 2013-05-10T19:41:03.116Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you are a human, then the biggest influence on your personality is your peer group. Choose your peers.

If you want to be better at math, surround yourself with mathematicians. If you want to be more productive, hang out with productive people. If you want to be outgoing or artistic or altruistic or polite or proactive or smart or just about anything else, find people who are better than you at that thing and become friends with them. The status-seeking conformity-loving parts of your mind will push you to become like them. (The incorrect but pithy version: "You are an average of the five people you spend the most time with.")

I've had a lot of success with this technique by going to the Less Wrong meetups in Boston, and by making a habit of attending any event where I'll be the stupidest person in the room (such as the average Less Wrong meetup).

Replies from: lukeprog, Viliam_Bur, CCC, jamesf, DanArmak, John_Maxwell_IV, Daniel_Burfoot, Estarlio, Yosarian2, DanielLC
comment by lukeprog · 2013-05-10T22:26:45.992Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you are a human, then the biggest influence on your personality is your peer group. Choose your peers.

See The Good News of Situationist Psychology.

Replies from: diegocaleiro
comment by diegocaleiro · 2013-05-12T16:07:47.478Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is exactly how I felt that day too my friend.

Now look at us, you kept surrounded by awesomeness, while I came back into trying to cause awesomeness from scratch, and pull it up. It's not that I failed. By any metric, I have succeeded. But my energy has been drained through the process, while I expect yours to have tripled.

As far as I've been told, you haven't had an existential crisis, and you didn't have to worry about calibrating for how frequently your goals change (though from 20-24 your rate of change was much higher than mine, you stabilized much more than I did)

For these reasons I want to go to Berkeley in August, and surround once again with the MIRI, Leverage, CFAR people. This time not for recalibrating and returning. This time to find out how to stay in the Berkeley-Oxford hub.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-05-12T09:22:10.065Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I decide to seek company of some people, because according to some metric M they are better than me, I am helping myself, because I am exposing myself to people better than me, but at the same time I am hurting them, because I expose them to a person that is worse than them, according to the same metric. OK, one possible way out of this problem is to say that different people use different metrics. But if we assume there is one shared metric, or at least that metrics used by smart enough people are similar, is there a way to help some people without harming others?

Possible solution would be to make the relationships between people asymetrical, so they would be stronger in the "better person to worse person" direction, but weaker in the opposite direction. -- This is not a new idea, because this is what actually happens when you read someone's book, or if you attend someone's lecture. The question is, how much is the influence reduced this way. (What is the ratio between influence I get from the books and from the people I meet in person? What strategies can I use to change this ratio? E.g. I could spend more time reading, but that would have some social costs; but perhaps I could make my friends read the same book and then discuss it, which would multiply the effect of the book without reducing my time spent with my friends.)

Sometimes I think internet made these things worse, because now many people expect the communication to be bi-directional. Reading smart people's texts is not enough; we require comment sections, where those people have to spend their precious time fighting spammers and trolls. Or even without spammers and trolls, just the fact that the productive people spend more time with procrastinators like me is probably harmful for them (and indirectly even for me, because then I have less high-quality content to read). -- This could be improved somehow, by installing some filters in the way, e.g. the discussion moderator should not be the same person as the blogger.

From the other side: isolating yourself from stupid people is good for you. I am more picky about internet discussions now than I was years ago, and avoiding discussions infested with stupidity improved my mood. The problem is: if all the smart people choose to not interact with stupid people, how will it work for the society as a whole? I mean, the stupid people would benefit from being exposed to information from the smart people, so some of them get a chance to learn. But the smart person should avoid making the stupid people their peer group. Again, we need one-direction communication channels here. So despite the fact that internet makes symmetrical communication easy, we should sometimes consciously avoid that.

Replies from: twanvl, Qiaochu_Yuan, None
comment by twanvl · 2013-05-15T23:31:36.865Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I decide to seek company of some people, because according to some metric M they are better than me, I am helping myself, because I am exposing myself to people better than me, but at the same time I am hurting them, because I expose them to a person that is worse than them, according to the same metric.

I am not convinced that being around people slightly worse than yourself is bad for you. Especially when you get into a mentor role. When you actively try to help others understand and improve, this forces you to think about what you are actually doing, which probably improves your behavior.

Disclaimer: purely anecdotal, and does not apply to all metrics.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-05-12T19:03:40.378Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Again, we need one-direction communication channels here.

I'm just spitballing here, but... blogs with the comments turned off.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-03-25T11:19:24.548Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder, if the whole theory is true, what are loners training themselves towards? I.e. those who don't surround themselves with people at all.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-03-25T15:54:53.012Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Depends on why they do that. I can imagine a person going to isolation because they care about a project they started and want to finish it as soon as possible. I can also imagine a person isolating themselves as a result of depression.

comment by CCC · 2013-05-12T20:06:37.516Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wish I could remember where I originally saw this quote:

"If you hang out with smart people, you will get smarter. If you hang out with dumb people, you will get dumber. If you hang out with rich people, they'll leave you with the bill and you will get poorer."

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-05-13T06:04:23.243Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is probably most useful if you hang out with people who are just a little higher than you on a given metric. You get the pull upwards, and the inferential (and other) distances are still small.

It probably wouldn't be very useful for a dumb person trying to hang out with Nobel Price winners. Most likely, the dumb person would completely misunderstand them and get overconfident. A company of average people would be more useful for the dumb person, as they could empathise more, and give better practical advice.

Similarly, hanging out with richer people will cost you more. They can also give you some good advice and contacts, but if the inferential distances are too large, you will not be able to use them.

Replies from: CCC
comment by CCC · 2013-05-14T11:46:40.763Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, that's all true. The other point in the quote is that it's not a good idea to hang out with the sort of people who prey on other people, because then you will get preyed on.

comment by jamesf · 2013-05-11T04:01:37.706Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm going to Hacker School this summer. It has a lot of praise for making people good at programming in a very short amount of time, and it works on exactly this principle; students are selected almost exclusively for desire+ability to get better at programming, and so everyone pursues their pre-existing goal much more effectively than if they weren't all reinforcing/teaching each other.

comment by DanArmak · 2013-05-11T21:05:59.562Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That seems to imply loners tend to be more unusual in all respects, because of regression to the mean. If they weren't loners, they would regress to the mean of the people they associated with, which as the number of associates rises, tends towards the mean of the population.

So this theory explains the (anecdotally) observed fact that loners tend to be unusual people in other respects too.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-05-11T07:32:09.530Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the same might work with online forums. E.g. an interesting way to motivate oneself to learn programming might be to spend a lot of time hanging out on the IRC channels for the tools you want to learn.

Replies from: ModusPonies
comment by ModusPonies · 2013-05-11T14:35:41.673Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anecdotally, this seems to work. I've become a much better writer while spending a lot of time in a writers' irc channel.

Replies from: marchdown
comment by marchdown · 2013-05-17T19:49:40.687Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Could you name some actual writer's IRC channels? I've never seen any.

Replies from: ModusPonies
comment by ModusPonies · 2013-05-17T20:50:42.634Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've seen exactly one, and it's a private channel for the editorial staff of a blog that curates My Little Pony fanfiction. (Yes, this is actually a thing.)

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2013-05-10T23:14:36.807Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is the corollary to this that if you want to become an outlier, i.e. not a linear combination of your peers but a point on the convex hull, you should spend less time hanging around with other people?

Replies from: Decius
comment by Decius · 2013-05-11T03:20:20.189Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or cluster with outliers. The population is large enough that you should expect to find enough outliers to form a peer group.

comment by Estarlio · 2013-05-12T19:17:36.682Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does anyone know off-hand whether this effect remains or is as strong with introverts?

Replies from: Tem42
comment by Tem42 · 2016-07-15T03:21:14.660Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am an introvert and this effect is strong for me. But the best way to see if it works for you is to try it.

comment by Yosarian2 · 2013-05-17T04:07:15.187Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps, but don't forget that a lot of research has shown that social interaction in general is key to health, long life, and social and mental well being. Having close social connections itself may be the most important thing, more significant then other peer effects.

comment by DanielLC · 2013-05-15T22:52:14.880Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you want to be more productive, hang out with productive people.

I would expect they'd only influence you about how they act at the time. If you hang out with someone who is usually productive, but at this moment is hanging out with a friend, it doesn't seem like it would help much.


Also, this seems like a zero-sum game. You are less productive than people who are more productive than you, and they might not want that to rub off on them. Is there a good way to get around that?

comment by B_For_Bandana · 2013-05-17T22:09:46.010Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have discovered a way to carry a credit card balance indefinitely, interest-free, without making payments, using only an Amazon Kindle.

How my card works is, any purchases made during Month N get applied to the balance due in the middle of Month N+1. So if I make a purchase now, in May 2013, it goes on the balance due June 15th. If I don't pay the full May balance by June 15th, then and only then do they start charging interest. This is pretty typical of credit cards, I think.

Now the key loophole is that refunds are counted as payments, and are applied immediately, but purchases are applied to the balance due next month. So if I buy something on June 5th, and return it on June 6th, the purchase goes toward the balance due on July 15th, but the refund is applied as a payment on the balance due on June 15th! So you can pay your entire June balance with nothing but refunds, and you won't have to worry about paying for those purchases until July, at which time you can do the whole thing again. The debt is still there, of course, because all you've done is add and then subtract say $100 from your balance, but absolutely no interest is charged. This process is limited only by your credit line (which you cannot exceed at any time) and by the ease with which you can buy and return stuff each month.

Here's where the Kindle comes in. Repeatedly buying and returning items from a brick-and-mortar store is incredibly time-consuming and risky. You have to buy stuff, keep it in good shape, and then return it, interacting with human clerks each time, without raising suspicion. Not efficient. But if you have a Kindle, you know that when you buy a book, after you hit "Purchase" a screen comes up that asks if you have bought the item by accident, and if so, would you like to cancel the purchase. If you hit the button to cancel the purchase, what happens is that the purchase is still applied to your card, but it is refunded a couple of days later. Bingo. Automatic refunds, obtained at home at no risk, with no human oversight.

But e-books on Amazon are like $10, so you'd have to sit there all day hitting "buy" and "return" to shift a significant amount of debt, right? Wrong. If you know where to look, the Amazon kindle store has lots of handbooks, technical manuals, and textbooks that cost hundreds of dollars. Start out searching for "neurology handbook" and just surf the "similar books" list from there. Buy and return a few of those, and you're set for another month.

Obviously you have to pay off the debt at some point. This is not free money. But if you're in a tight spot for a few months, it's incredibly useful. And hey, if the inflation-adjusted prime rate is 0%, why should you have to pay interest? You're good for it.

This is by far the most munchkin-like idea I've ever had, and I'm pretty happy about it. I've been using it since January, making real payments toward my card as I can, and covering the rest with Amazon buy-and-returns. I know I'll pay down the debt when I have a better job, but in the meantime it is really nice not to have to pay any interest on it.

Replies from: Bugmaster, skepsci, None, AndrewH, marchdown
comment by Bugmaster · 2013-05-17T22:13:43.847Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoted for the fact that the author actually implemented the idea into practice. Too many other posts on this thread are just theorycrafting.

Replies from: B_For_Bandana
comment by B_For_Bandana · 2013-05-17T22:30:54.996Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That was what impressed you? Not my creation of a real-life financial perpetual motion machine?

Replies from: Bugmaster
comment by Bugmaster · 2013-05-17T22:57:23.413Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As far as I understand (and I could be wrong), your machine does not actually generate money, but merely defers payment until some future date. It does so by essentially exploiting a bug in the Kindle + Credit Card system, and it has an upper limit of whatever your max credit line is. My guess is that if this trick becomes popular, someone will patch the bug (probably Amazon, credit card companies are pretty slow).

So, don't get me wrong, it's a nice hack, but it's hardly perpetual or earth-shattering. One similar trick I know of is to have several credit cards, and use them to keep transferring the balance between them before interest accumulates; but this is less efficient, since the "free balance transfer" special offers occur relatively rarely.

Replies from: B_For_Bandana, Roxolan, wedrifid, None
comment by B_For_Bandana · 2013-05-17T23:02:47.466Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, "perpetual motion machine" might have been hyperbolic -- the comparison I had in mind was to what we might call a "weak" perpetual motion machine, which doesn't generate energy but is exactly frictionless, so it twirls forever without energy input.

So, don't get me wrong, it's a nice hack, but it's hardly perpetual or earth-shattering. One similar trick I know of is to have several credit cards, and use them to keep transferring the balance between them before interest accumulates; but this is less efficient, since the "free balance transfer" special offers occur relatively rarely.

Interesting! Didn't know about that variant.

Replies from: caleborp
comment by caleborp · 2013-08-07T04:23:48.959Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do it for long enough and inflation will eventually reduce the debt to a negligible amount. In twenty years, at three percent rate of inflation, your debt will only be worth 54% of what it initially was!

comment by Roxolan · 2013-05-22T23:04:33.749Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The hack generates money if you invest the "loan" into something that pays interests in less than a month. Not enough money to be worth your time, of course; but it's still infinite free money for a given value of "infinite".

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-23T04:06:19.786Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The hack generates money if you invest the "loan" into something that pays interests in less than a month.

The hack generates money if you invest the loan into anything that pays interest. It requires fiddling to be done monthly but the investment can be anything and can be ongoing.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-18T08:38:13.178Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As far as I understand (and I could be wrong), your machine does not actually generate money, but merely defers payment until some future date. It does so by essentially exploiting a bug in the Kindle + Credit Card system, and it has an upper limit of whatever your max credit line is.

We could perhaps consider it a time value generator limited by max credit. This could be reasonably analogized to a perpetual motion machine with an ongoing finite output.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-18T08:03:12.821Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

someone will patch the bug (probably Amazon

What does Amazon have to gain from patching it?

Replies from: Bugmaster, wedrifid
comment by Bugmaster · 2013-05-18T09:19:10.957Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm assuming that the constant churn of purchases and returns costs them money. For example:

  • Some credit cards charge vendors (not consumers) a non-refundable per-transaction fee
  • The returned books may mess up their analytics (including royalty calculations)
  • Returning a book is usually a rare event, and may thus be computationally expensive
comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-18T08:07:39.456Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What does Amazon have to gain from patching it?

Amount of money lent out via bug * rate of return of capital at their current margins.

comment by skepsci · 2013-05-19T05:43:28.668Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would worry the effect this may have on your credit rating if anyone catches you at it, together with possibly more serious effects. This could potentially be considered fraud. Altogether it seems much more sensible to simply live within your means and pay off your credit balance each month.

Replies from: khafra
comment by khafra · 2013-05-23T17:32:37.649Z · LW(p) · GW(p) seems much more sensible...

This is the "ridiculous munchkin ideas" thread, not the "sensible advice you've already heard" thread.

This could potentially be considered fraud.

A more pertinent worry. Especially with cards that give a percentage of each purchase as "reward points" or something, I'd be worried about this.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-08-21T05:11:59.111Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Excessive returns will possibly get you banned from Amazon for life, with no warning, as many have discovered.

Replies from: Gunnar_Zarncke
comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-06-16T10:19:58.026Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But probably not for e-books as there is no recognizable loss for Amazon controlling.

comment by AndrewH · 2013-05-22T02:00:14.822Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Better to think of ways to not spend money than think of ways to keep on living relying on other peoples' money.

Replies from: ialdabaoth
comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-22T03:09:10.462Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Better to think of ways to not spend money than think of ways to keep on living relying on other peoples' money.

You don't get rich that way, though. Sure, you can accumulate a comfortable amount of low-grade wealth, but all the real games are played with other people's money. The only difference between B_For_Bandana's trick and the typical externalities exploited by your average high roller is the number of zeros involved in the figures.

Replies from: Multiheaded
comment by Multiheaded · 2013-05-22T03:31:30.692Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The only difference between BForBandana's trick and the typical externalities exploited by your average high roller is the number of zeros involved in the figures.

No way! Our noble masters got their rightful place on top of the Holy Free Market due to their hard work, brilliance, laudable ambition and - as much ressentiment as it might cause in the weak and envious - their overall innate superiority that separates them from the lower orders!

...And even if they do use tricks like that on occasion, lazy and worthless commoners like you shouldn't dare imitate them. In the hands of the good and the great they do no harm, but just any unwashed pleb exploiting loopholes like those is dangerously subversive of the natural hierarchy.

Replies from: Nornagest
comment by Nornagest · 2013-05-22T05:20:45.123Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It may no longer be fashionable to point people to "Politics is the Mind-Killer", but that was the best example of a good, solid, and avoidable dig at the other side that I've seen for quite some time. Mockery contributes nothing, especially in a thread where as far as I can tell no one's advocated the positions you're mocking. Downvoted.

Replies from: Multiheaded
comment by Multiheaded · 2013-05-22T07:34:15.784Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fair enough. Yeah, I ought to at least stick to using those with some more context.

comment by marchdown · 2013-05-19T04:29:07.013Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's even a special page on the Amazon website for the express purpose of cancelling ebook purchases within the last 7 days:

comment by pscheyer · 2013-05-18T04:44:33.565Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Learn some basic voice production for stage techniques. How your voice sounds is an absurdly strongly weighted component of a first impression, particularly over a phone or prior to direct introduction, and being able to project your voice in a commanding fashion has an overpowered influence on how much people listen to you and consider you a 'natural leader.' In particular, learn what it means to speak from the diaphragm, and learn some basic exercises for strengthening your subsidiary vocal chords like Khargyraa and basic tuvan throat singing, and you'll be surprised at how much it makes people sit up and listen. You might coincidentally have your voice drop into a lower register after about a month of such exercises, it (anecdatally) happened to me and several people in my voice production for stage class in college. (class of 25, 6 people had their voices drop within the first 4 months, teacher said those numbers were normal.)

Most people just assume you're born with a voice and have to deal with it, which is demonstrably untrue, and so they consider your voice to reflect your character.

Replies from: elharo, John_Maxwell_IV, Zaine, None, arundelo, ThrustVectoring
comment by elharo · 2013-05-18T16:34:12.667Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That sounds like very useful advice. Do you have some suggestions for where to start learning this? E.g. particular books, classes, or Youtube videos?

Replies from: pscheyer
comment by pscheyer · 2013-06-01T14:31:18.003Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I do have particular books, classes, youtube videos, lectures, exercises, and other resources. It is highly dependent on your particular vocal tendencies, so your mileage will vary for all of them.

But just as i don't feel comfortable posting physical fitness advice due to the above issues, i don't feel inclined to share the techniques which worked well for me or have worked for my students without providing the support to ensure you gain maximum benefit from them. So I will simply state some intriguing names of techniques and remain available to answer questions from your own journey, instead of listing techniques which will be mostly useless and are easily disproven in the majority of circumstances.

Replies from: pscheyer
comment by pscheyer · 2013-06-01T14:48:57.002Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That being said, here are a couple of links.

Diaphragm Breathing/Speaking:

Khargyraa Techniques:

The best tip for the Khargyraa stuff is just to watch that video and maybe this one and then wing it for a while, trying to get the sound right. If you manage it, try just saying some stuff in a normal voice and note the difference. It is immediate and surprising.

This link is nice because the guy is such an amateur! He clearly learned, like, one technique (probably from youtube) and then posted his immediate results on youtube, so it's a good starting point.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-05-18T19:49:55.696Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do you guys feel about sharing hacks to increase your status, given that status can be a bit of a zero-sum game? I think I may have identified a nootropic that has the effect of making one feel and act higher status, but I'm not sure I want to just tell the entire world about it, given the positional nature of status.

Edit: see here for more.

Replies from: iconreforged, Qiaochu_Yuan, ChristianKl, Estarlio, wedrifid, beriukay, None, pscheyer
comment by iconreforged · 2013-05-19T17:29:22.153Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A very small number of people read LW, and a fraction of those people are going to apply any status hacks. Only a small number of people are going to apply status hacks, and they are the people who are diligent enough to research and implement them.

Posting such hacks is not going to push everyone to universally adopt them and return everyone to the previous status quo.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-20T16:49:03.411Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Posting such hacks is not going to push everyone to universally adopt them and return everyone to the previous status quo.

And even if it did, some of the actions that would increase one's positional status also have positive-sum effects (though in this specific case of voice training, they don't seem to be overwhelmingly large to me).

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-05-19T05:55:58.338Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just tell people in such a way that only the kind of people you'd want to have higher status will pay attention.

Replies from: wedrifid, John_Maxwell_IV
comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-19T14:58:41.083Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just tell people in such a way that only the kind of people you'd want to have higher status will pay attention.

For example, by posting it on lesswrong!

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-05-19T06:18:40.095Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, the more people who know about it, the greater the chance that one of them will tell someone about it who I'd prefer not to have high status. I guess there are decently big taboos against taking drugs in our culture, so it probably wouldn't spread like wildfire. Actually, right now I have the opposite problem: I have friends who I'd like to be higher status and I'm trying to persuade them to try it but they won't.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-05-20T22:42:22.560Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There no reason why we should give more status to tall people or who are otherwise physically strong. It's much better to give status to those people who are smart enough to apply hacks.

Replies from: ialdabaoth, ialdabaoth
comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-20T22:55:30.112Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There no reason why we should give more status to tall people

Actually, like skin color and facial structure, height is a pretty good indicator of intelligence. (This isn't genetic or even A->B causative; it's simply a fact that height and IQ are both highly dependent on childhood nutrition).

I don't say this to advocate heightism any more than I would advocate racism; I'm merely pointing out that in our current environment, they happen to correlate pretty well, and anyone under 6'2" should pause and contemplate the implications of that.

Replies from: John_Maxwell_IV, Vaniver, Prismattic
comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-05-21T06:15:02.879Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had the impression that the height/intelligence correlation was actually quite weak:

the correlation between height and intelligence is not that high. This association is probably not going to be intuitively visible to anyone, but rather only shows up in large data sets.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-05-21T03:20:06.279Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

anyone under 6'2" should pause and contemplate the implications of that.

Um, I don't think you're using this correlation correctly. Because we have a model where nutritional deficiencies lead to both short height and low IQ, the amount of information we get is dependent on where we are in the height and IQ spectrum. Basically, if you're uncharacteristically short, say -2 sigma or lower, then you should be worried; if -1 sigma or lower, a slight suspicion; 0 or higher, little information, rather than the "if you aren't more than +1.3 sigma, contemplate."

Except that this correlation is much less informative than, say, IQ tests.

comment by Prismattic · 2013-05-21T01:25:07.339Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tesla was just under 6'2", I'll spot you him.

Einstein was 5'9". Christopher Langan is 5'11".

Wolfram Alpha couldn't give me a height for Feynman, Hofstadter, or Darwin.

Nutrition is not the only derterminant of height.

Replies from: ialdabaoth
comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-21T01:39:10.262Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nutrition is not the only derterminant of height.

Certainly; nor is it the only determinant of intelligence. "Highly dependent" != "solely dependent". But someone who wanted to maximize the chance of interacting intelligent and successful people would do well to pay attention to height, for multiple reasons - not the least of which is that everyone ELSE who wants to maximize the chance of interacting with intelligent and successful people tends to pay attention to height (even if they themselves are not tall).

Also, note that your "name X highly intelligent people who were not at optimal height" strategy is primarily anecdotal, and also that 6'2" to 6'4" is the optimal height for maximizing your height-based status gain, not the baseline height.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-25T12:32:51.534Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But someone who wanted to maximize the chance of interacting intelligent and successful people would do well to pay attention to height, for multiple reasons

There probably are lots of things you could pay attention to instead that would give you more information.

(I'm 6'2", just in case anyone suspects this is sour grapes.)

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-21T00:58:46.415Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There no reason why we should give more status to tall people or who are otherwise physically strong.

I'm very curious why someone would vote this down.

comment by Estarlio · 2013-05-19T17:59:27.990Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure that someone can just feel higher status - I don't think status is a single, persistent variable. Like my karate teacher is high-status when it comes to karate, but when it comes to the associated history I think he's about as useful as tits on a bull.

The upshot of which is that while I think there are probably things that relate to multiple domains, confidence for instance, the questions to do with increasing those individual things seem less loaded to answer in terms of whether you should post a hack.

Replies from: MugaSofer
comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-23T10:39:31.249Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Being high status is difficult. Acting high status is probably easier, and likely to increase your actual status somewhat simply because people mistake you for high status and so treat you as high status and it's all self-referential.

Disclaimer: it's also possible you would be seen as having ideas above your station and promptly quashed.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-19T12:15:46.680Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do you guys feel about sharing hacks to increase your status, given that status can be a bit of a zero-sum game?

If you have a reason to wish to favour non-munchkins over munchkins in regards to status then it would follow that censoring such things is appropriate.

I think I may have identified a nootropic that has the effect of making one feel and act higher status, but I'm not sure I want to just tell the entire world about it, given the positional nature of status.

Which one? There are plenty of substances that have the effect of making one feel and act higher status. I am somewhat curious which one you are referring to.

Replies from: John_Maxwell_IV
comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-07-06T18:39:43.017Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Which one? There are plenty of substances that have the effect of making one feel and act higher status. I am somewhat curious which one you are referring to.

comment by beriukay · 2013-05-19T10:25:17.083Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm curious as to how you went about identifying such a nootropic.

Replies from: John_Maxwell_IV
comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-05-19T11:26:38.699Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I didn't deliberately set out to find it, really. I'm also not quite sure how well it works yet. The effects are supposed to be cumulative, meaning the longer you have been taking it, the more of a confident jerk you become, and you continue being a confident jerk even after coming off of it (maybe). I doubt it's that much of a game changer really, it's a pretty commonly used nootropic and not many people list improved confidence as one of the effects--perhaps because the effects are subtle and only come with continued usage, or perhaps because they simply aren't very strong effects to begin with. It might be useful for people who have chronic social awkwardness though.

(if anyone reading this ever sees me act like a confident jerk, please tell me)

Replies from: Bugmaster, Baughn
comment by Bugmaster · 2013-05-19T12:11:07.801Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do you know it works better than a placebo ?

comment by Baughn · 2013-05-31T17:02:16.406Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This description doesn't really make me want to use it. At all.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-14T10:37:18.777Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Late to your question, but the issue is IMHO that status-hacks are fairly obvious, just expensive / time-consuming / hard, and actually they are supposed to be. The whole reason they work is that they are fairly exclusive, they convey status by putting you into a club most people cannot belong to, and this cannot really work as a cheat code that is protected only by secrecy. It must be, by necessity, something hard enough to do even if you know how. One obvious example is hiring a stylist, using his advice to replace your whole wardrobe, probably with DKNY level of designers stuff and even getting them fitted by a tailor afterward. Perfectly well know except it costs about a car and thus most people won't / can't do it.

comment by pscheyer · 2013-06-01T14:26:06.748Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I feel great about it. Let the users decide for themselves.

comment by Zaine · 2013-05-23T19:10:19.349Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You seem to have knowledge about how to do this effectively - please share that knowledge or the sources for it.

Replies from: CAE_Jones, pscheyer
comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-05-23T20:50:23.444Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've read some basics on this, around 2006, but it's hard to think of more to say than "let most of the force in your breath come from lower." I do find that sitting up straight or standing is much better for this than slouching or lying down, etc. I generally do voicework standing (I only do the minimum for my own projects; I'm not much of an actor). It's the same breathing principals for playing a wind instrument, a lot of martial arts, meditation, etc. (The latter just focuses on breathing without the forceful projection, but the principal of controlling the breath with muscles lower than your throat and upper chest remains the same.)

Replies from: pscheyer, TheOtherDave
comment by pscheyer · 2013-06-01T14:24:17.072Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

@cae_jones, the technique you are referring to here is technically known as 'Diaphragm Breathing.' It is very effective and good both actively and passively, and used in voice training for stage, singing, and a variety of martial arts and meditative schools. It will also become second nature very quickly when practiced, and is the single best technique to know the existence of, which is why I taught it at the first rationality minicamp and the first boot camp.

Here is the technique, in brief form. YMMV.

Take a deep breath, placing one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Note which hand moves. If your upper chest hand moves, you have much to gain. If your stomach hand moves, you will have an easy time making progress. If both move, you are partway along already.

To improve your diaphragm breathing, keep one hand on your stomach and fake a yawn. Your stomach hand should move, a lot. Not a little bit, but noticeably. It should feel like you just got fat :).

continue fake yawning in this fashion until you can separate the breathing from your stomach from the concept of a 'fake yawn,' and whenever you have a moment include either fake yawns (at the beginning), or diaphragm breathing (same thing, without the ostentatious yawn) in your quick meditations.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-05-23T21:24:20.521Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For voicework, I also find that "open your mouth more" and "keep your voice pitched as low as you comfortably can" are often helpful suggestions. Depending on who I'm working with, exercises to open up the chest are helpful too (that is, bring the shoulders down and back, straighten the spine, let the skull "fit" on the end of the spine, etc.). Of course, posture work is useful for actors for other reasons as well.

I have often thought that pranayama work ought to help, also, though I don't know much of anything about it and haven't seen much benefit from what little I do know.

Replies from: pscheyer
comment by pscheyer · 2013-06-01T14:19:03.155Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

@the other dave, those are excellent for singing and, when actively used, social situations, but there are other techniques which are more passive. The Khargyraa, Tuvan, Diaphragm Breathing, Nasal Passage Opening, and some more general speech techniques including speaking slowly, pausing often, knowing when to gesture, all of these contribute more effectively to your impression than the techniques you mention, which fade as soon as you get caught in the moment.

comment by pscheyer · 2013-06-01T14:17:12.846Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

@Zaine, I considered a lesswrong post on it, but it is very difficult to give general advice on the topic due to interactions between identity and voice, the fact that many people already use many techniques and so could get bored with a list, etc etc. How would you advise structuring such a sharing post?

Replies from: Zaine
comment by Zaine · 2013-06-01T18:18:39.162Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would identify a representative set of specific circumstances which would benefit from 'vocal training techniques', then go into detailed explanation of the physiological changes that effect a benefit in each specific circumstance. Now that the generally applicable part has been covered, you can detail various techniques designed to achieve the effects. As each person will have differing degrees of success with different exercises, list many, but at the outset state the ultimate goal for the technique the set of exercises are designed to develop, exempli gratia "You will feel X once it has worked" (I don't know if this is possible).

If you are clear that one is only learning how to use their body more effectively, I should not think considerations of identity will prove problematic - if it does, abandoning the exercises undoes the effects, correct? I would also mention that incorrect use of one's voice over long periods of time damages it; increasing one's ability to use it correctly will help preserve their ability to produce voice into the future.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-18T08:05:47.843Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know how to project voice, and I do it when singing all the time, but I always forget to do that in normal conversations.

Replies from: pscheyer
comment by pscheyer · 2013-06-01T14:28:33.580Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

@army 1987, it is the difference between knowing how to do push ups well, and run well, and do situps, and being strong in the sense that a blacksmith is strong. One is a sort of ability to perform a bounded activity, the other comes from constant use of the muscles in question over time. When you've done the right exercises, you don't have to remember, you're just strong and you have a life which makes you stronger every day.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T08:44:12.777Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Makes sense to me -- I've noticed the same difference between improving my posture by telling myself not to slouch vs improving my posture by exercising so that I won't even feel the need to slouch in the first place.

comment by arundelo · 2013-05-24T04:29:57.638Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is cool! -- but how does being able to do it make a difference when you're speaking normally? (Other than the voice-lowering thing you mentioned.)

While I'm asking questions: Did you or any of your classmates find it did long-term harm to the high singing voice? (I'm specifically interested in the male voice just below the break.)

Replies from: pscheyer
comment by pscheyer · 2013-06-01T14:13:15.454Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

'How does being able to do it make a difference when you're speaking normally?' The vocal exercises drop your register immediately, particularly even a moment or two of Khargyraa will sort of... remind you that you have a lower register under your normal voice for no extra work, and sticks with you for about an hour if stressless or fifteen mins if stressed (public speaking, etc.). Also after extended use you develop the additional vocal muscles- it's like working on your core to increase your run times, by improving a range of seldom-used muscles you gain capabilities in your mains.

'Did you or any of your classmates find it did long-term harm to the high singing voice?' We weren't singing students. It was a Voice Projection for Stage class, followed by Diction and Dialects. Personally i've found that my high singing voice is more accurately pitched, but that may be due to an entirely different suite of exercises i've been pursuing simultaneously.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-05-24T03:16:06.240Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You might coincidentally have your voice drop into a lower register after about a month of such exercises

That would be rather surprising for me, considering that I already have a deep bass singing voice. Or are you talking about your speaking voice and not your vocal range? Because I often speak at a much higher pitch, especially when I'm trying to sound friendly.

Replies from: pscheyer
comment by pscheyer · 2013-06-01T14:15:51.462Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, i am referring to your normal speaking voice. Khargyraa and Tuvan techniques in particular add undertones to your normal speaking voice, making it seem deeper and more resonant when the exercises are performed regularly. It is not that your 'normal voice' becomes more resonant, but that the concept of 'normal voice' is actually based on a combination of vocal chords and you simply add to the mix, increasing the apparent depth and resonance of the timbre which the brain sums the voice into. In short, yes, I am referring to normal speaking voice, though it also allows some fun things when singing. Like metal screams without injuring vocal chords, at any register.

comment by Tuxedage · 2013-05-11T16:33:53.506Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So I've recently decided to change my real name from an oriental one to John Adams. I am not white.

There’s a significant amount of evidence that shows that

(1) Common names have better reception in many areas, especially publication and job interviews.

(2) White names do significantly better than non-white names

(3) Last names that begin with the early letters of the alphabet have a significant advantage over last names beginning with the latter letters of the alphabet.

Source :

Therefore if I were to use "John", one of the most common 'white' first names, along with Adams, a 'white' surname that also begins with the letter A, it should stand that I would be conferred a number of advantages.

Furthermore, I have very little attachment to my family heritage. Switching names doesn’t cost me anything beyond a minor inconvenience of having to do paperwork. For some people, changing your name may be extremely worthwhile, depending on your current name, and how attached you are to it. At least, it may be worthwhile to consider it, and depending on the person, may be a very cheap optimization with significant benefits.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky, Qiaochu_Yuan, Jiro, ChristianKl, syllogism, komponisto, DanArmak, Desrtopa, Wrongnesslessness, RichardKennaway, TheShrike, baiter, beberly37, Nisan, Gunnar_Zarncke, diegocaleiro, Jonathan_Graehl, shminux
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-05-11T19:11:37.318Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I once considered changing my name to Ben Abard but decided that the original Eliezer Yudkowsky sounded more like a scientist.

Replies from: Jack, Qiaochu_Yuan, JoshuaFox, scav
comment by Jack · 2013-05-11T22:30:40.383Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder how Jewish names perform relative to gentile names.

Replies from: BerryPick6
comment by BerryPick6 · 2013-05-12T20:50:10.113Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reminds me of all the Jewish actors who've changed their names to make it in Hollywood, and all the executives who've done the exact opposite.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-05-12T08:04:08.825Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've always been mildly annoyed that I don't have an eastern European last name. All the cool mathematicians seem to have eastern European last names.

Replies from: Darmani
comment by Darmani · 2013-05-12T09:43:26.807Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You mean, a lot of cool mathematicians are eastern European. But Terry Tao and Shinichi Mochizuki are not.

Replies from: Qiaochu_Yuan
comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-05-12T18:57:48.036Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Man, this is that thing I was talking about earlier when someone takes a colloquial phrase that sounds like a universal quantifier and interprets it as literally a universal quantifier.

Replies from: ciphergoth
comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2013-05-14T16:19:11.243Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, people do that all the time.

Replies from: RichardKennaway
comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-05-16T10:30:23.011Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In ordinary language, all universal quantifiers are implicitly bounded.

Replies from: Creutzer
comment by Creutzer · 2013-05-27T15:55:28.026Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, what's at play here is not the implicit domain restriction of natural language quantifiers, because he obviously didn't restrict the domain of the quantifier to just those mathematicians that have an Eastern European last name; that'd make the statement trivial. Rather, the phenomenon we see here is what's self-explanatorily called "loose talk", where you can say things that are strictly true when they are close enough to being true, i.e. when the exceptions don't matter for current purposes.

Replies from: Kawoomba
comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-27T16:00:12.360Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A typical failure mode for computer scientists, who typically are trained to check statements against boundary cases / extreme values, to make sure an exception isn't thrown / that the result isn't out of bounds.

comment by JoshuaFox · 2013-05-16T06:03:12.351Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

original Eliezer Yudkowsky sounded more like a scientist.

OK, there are disproportionately many Jewish scientists, but how else does "Eliezer Yudkowsky" sound like a scientist's name?

Now, if you really want a name that sounds like a scientist, how about renaming yourself Isaac Feynmann, Galileo Crick, or Rosalind Newton?

Replies from: ialdabaoth
comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-16T06:14:04.119Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, most people will identify with a scientist's last name more than a first name - so pick a scientist's last name that sounds like a first name for your own first name, and then another last name that sounds like a last name for your last name.

I'll be Maxwell Tesla.

Replies from: dreeves, satt
comment by dreeves · 2013-05-20T16:43:36.326Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Too funny; those are the middle names of my kids! :)

comment by satt · 2013-05-20T21:34:47.739Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll be Maxwell Tesla.

Maxwell Edison's probably better known....

Replies from: ialdabaoth, wedrifid
comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-20T22:52:13.055Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but my internal inference-checker refuses to be associated with it.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-21T03:10:57.187Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maxwell Edison's probably better known....

I expect ialdabaoth wants to be thought of as a scientist, not a sociopath.

comment by scav · 2013-05-17T16:20:27.703Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It reads like a pretty good scientist name. I have no idea how it sounds ;)

Replies from: ESRogs
comment by ESRogs · 2013-08-13T10:49:28.300Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Because you don't do subvocalization when you read? Or you're deaf? Or some other reason...

Replies from: scav
comment by scav · 2013-08-13T12:27:20.197Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some other reason: I just don't know how EY pronounces "Yudkowsky" -- [jʊd'kaʊski] or [ju:d'kɔvski] or otherwise.

But there is a significant overlap between great names for scientists and words that would be worth a lot in Scrabble if proper nouns were allowed.

Replies from: komponisto, None
comment by komponisto · 2013-08-13T13:10:04.602Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some other reason: I just don't know how EY pronounces "Yudkowsky" -- [jʊd'kaʊski] or [ju:d'kɔvski] or otherwise

EY pronounces it the first way, but his father pronounces it the second(!).

comment by [deleted] · 2013-08-13T13:03:17.113Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some other reason: I just don't know how EY pronounces "Yudkowsky" -- [jʊd'kaʊski] or [ju:d'kɔvski] or otherwise.

Usually that kind of names are pronounced the former way in America and the latter way in Britain, so I'd guess the former.

Replies from: komponisto
comment by komponisto · 2013-08-13T13:17:38.570Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Usually that kind of names are

(--> those kinds of names are / that kind of name is ;-))

pronounced the former way in America and the latter way in Britain

I would dispute that, insofar as the real truth is that the latter is used by people trying to imitate the pronunciation in the original language (a good thing to do to the extent possible, IMO), and I don't know the distribution of such people in America vs. Britain.

so I'd guess the former

...but this guess happens to be correct in the case of EY himself.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-05-11T18:59:26.320Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a Caribbean-American friend who's grateful his parents gave him a fairly white name for exactly this reason. I think having the same name as a famous historical figure would be bad for your google search results, though.

Replies from: DanArmak, CronoDAS
comment by DanArmak · 2013-05-11T20:28:17.585Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Being hard to Google can also be a plus.

Or he could adopt a middle name that would distinguish him when people really wanted to search for him.

Replies from: None, ciphergoth
comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2013-05-14T16:20:12.813Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not "Quincy" then.

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-05-16T04:18:34.172Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My father once heard a story about this. An Asian immigrant family decided to give their son an American-sounding first name, "Peter". Unfortunately, their family name was "Pan"...

Probably an urban legend, but kind of funny...

Replies from: tut
comment by tut · 2013-05-16T11:46:01.090Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did he then proceed to change his last name to Bannings and become a lawyer?

comment by Jiro · 2013-05-22T21:30:46.719Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The biggest flaw in this idea is that almost nothing in your references applies to you! They pretty much cover only black and white names, not Oriental ones. You can't conclude that a white name benefits you because it would benefit a black person. Even in the Swedish study, a quick trip to Wikipedia shows that the number of foreign-born residents from east Asia in Sweden is a tiny percentage.

Furthermore, none of the studies you quote account for switching costs since they just compare people who already have the names, except for the Swedish one, but I would expect that the switching cost as a new immigrant is much less than for someone who has been living with his name for a while.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-05-22T21:43:48.248Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In addition, 'John Adams' seems common enough a name that it should be possible to verify whether that specific combination has any correlated benefits.

Replies from: Jiro
comment by Jiro · 2013-05-22T21:51:15.068Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would also expect that an extremely common name, like John Adams, might have negative consequences that wouldn't be picked up by a study, if the study doesn't distinguish somewhat common names and names that are common enough to sound like cliches.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-05-23T03:02:35.913Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wouldn't. A golden-mean effect where names which are too rare hurt and names which are too common also hurt is one of the first and most obvious hypotheses which come to mind, and I would be extremely surprised if no researcher had checked for this and this suggestion either debunked or embraced with qualifications.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-05-12T11:26:44.614Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(2) White names do significantly better than non-white names

Not all white names are made equal. You want a name that's associated with high status in the country in which you live.

In Germany being named Kevin is a low status signal. The same is true for most US names. Lower class people in Germany are more likely to give their children the name of US celebrities than German high class people.

Replies from: Friendly-HI, None
comment by Friendly-HI · 2013-05-22T14:15:00.464Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm German and would agree. Kevin not only sounds low Status but is also a name for kids, so it's even handicapped in more than one respect.

I've thought about adopting "Aaron Alexander Grey", the middle name being my father's first name and Grey being an adaptation of my current last name that probably no one except Germans could really hope to pronounce correctly. Also I don't want to stay in Germany so Aaron Alexander Grey is more of an attempt at a name that I imagine may be overall an internationally well recieved name. Thoughts?

By the way if you're a German citizen you can't just change your name unless you provide a good reason... like having idiot parents who decided Adolf is a proper first name for their child (way after WW2 mind you). If ever, I'll probably change my name once I become a Swedish citizen where you can do that kind of thing. Being Swedish (at least by citizenship) is probably also a very good signal internationally speaking. Better than German for sure.

Replies from: Desrtopa, None, Dahlen
comment by Desrtopa · 2013-05-23T23:30:03.042Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm German and would agree. Kevin not only sounds low Status but is also a name for kids

What do people named Kevin get called when they grow up then?

Replies from: fubarobfusco, RichardKennaway, Juno_Watt
comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-05-24T01:29:25.079Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Names trend over time in rather smooth curves of popularity.

In the U.S., there aren't any laws about what you can call your kids, but the Social Security Administration tracks popularity of names. For instance, the second most popular girl's name this year is Emma, which was also the third most popular in 1880 ... and the 451st most popular at its low point in 1978. The most popular name today, Sophia, tracks a similar curve with a low point in the '40s.

The most popular girl's name in my age cohort was Jennifer — the #1 girl's name from 1970 to 1984! — but Jennifer has been on the way down ever since. Today's American girls are more likely to have an Aunt Jenny than a classmate Jenny. To me, Jennifer (or Jessica, Melissa, Amy, or Heather) sounds like someone my age, not a little kid. Young girls are named Ashley, Hannah, Madison, Alexis ... and baby girls are Isabella, Sophia, Emma.

Male names are stabler than female names, but mostly because some names (Michael, Matthew, Daniel, William ...) are persistently popular.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-03-30T22:07:23.422Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What do people named Kevin get called when they grow up then?

Bacon. Spacey. Sorbo. Costner. Kline.

comment by Juno_Watt · 2013-05-24T01:03:52.206Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suppose he means its a newly introduced name.

Replies from: Desrtopa
comment by Desrtopa · 2013-05-24T01:10:20.902Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's one interpretation, but I certainly wouldn't have used the phrasing he did if I meant to convey that meaning.

When think "A name for children," I think of variations on ordinary names which people usually grow out of, like "Timmy."

Replies from: Friendly-HI
comment by Friendly-HI · 2013-05-24T13:03:10.402Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No I meant it like you interpreted it, "Timmy" and "Benny" are names that you would clearly associate with children rather than adults. And my impression is that Kevin is also in that category, though perhaps it's not as extreme a case as those two names. I never understood why parents would call their son Benny, why not officially call him Ben and use Benny in the family as long as he's a kid and doesn't mind?

No one ever heard of Benny the mighty conquerer or Benny the badass CEO. Benny is a cute name, not a serious name for a grown man. Kevin may be perceived differently in America, perhaps because the name is older there while in Germany it's indeed a rather new name...

...and oddly enough all the Kevins I remember from my old school years were always the class clown.

Replies from: Desrtopa
comment by Desrtopa · 2013-05-24T16:25:42.654Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No one ever heard of Benny the mighty conquerer or Benny the badass CEO.

On the other hand, there is Benny the Jet.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-03-25T10:53:00.890Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Being Swedish (at least by citizenship) is probably also a very good signal internationally speaking. Better than German for sure.

If you go to the ex-Eastern Block, you find German usually has the signal "awesome rich industrial powerhouse, want to imitate, the kind of capitalist overlord I would want to be become, bossing over everybody" and Swedish has the signal "pretty people with funny ideas like non-gendered kindergartens, lacking courage or else they would beat the shit out of immigrant rapists".

Basically in Eastern Europe German is the second most powerful signal after American, and since people tend to worship power it works...

Replies from: Friendly-HI
comment by Friendly-HI · 2015-03-29T15:52:03.240Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Could very well be true. But it leaves open the curious question what on earth I would be looking for in the ex-eastern block ;)

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-03-30T07:17:44.370Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cheap talent mainly.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-03-30T16:03:10.499Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By the way if you're a German citizen you can't just change your name unless you provide a good reason...

Same in my country. And my reason is pretty similar -- I've had people from my own country who constantly mispronounce my name, and I don't even want to think how badly foreign people would distort it, as I plan to emigrate. (Also I don't find it in the least bit euphonic, but that's not a reason I would ever admit to on a state form.)

But I gather from your comment that compatibility with foreign languages / pronunciations is not considered an acceptable reason in countries that have stricter laws concerning name change?

Also, that if you have dual citizenship and one of your countries allows you a name change, the other country is obliged to recognize the name change? Is that right?

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2015-03-30T17:27:41.793Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, that if you have dual citizenship and one of your countries allows you a name change, the other country is obliged to recognize the name change? Is that right?

What's supposed to oblige the country?

In general it probably gives you a decent reason to request a name change in the other country as well. If you however search an unreasonable name you might still get denied.

Replies from: Dahlen
comment by Dahlen · 2015-03-30T17:42:43.056Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know, I was asking whether I had understood the parent comment right. I don't know much about name change legislation, and would like to find out more.

I was thinking along the lines of, well, it's not as if any given country "owns" somebody's name -- it's a property of the person, right? As in, you can't have one legal name in one country and another in some other country. That's what common sense tells me at least. But then again I've been surprised by law on several occasions in the past, to say the least...

Replies from: TheOtherDave, ErikM, Dahlen, Lumifer, ChristianKl
comment by ErikM · 2015-03-30T21:14:43.787Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know it's at least possible to have variant names; I am legally registered in different countries by parallell names analogous to "Venice" and "Venezia".

comment by Dahlen · 2015-03-30T20:47:56.652Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gee. Law's weirder than I thought. But these facts open up some promising possibilities, now that I think about it... after all it's the munchkin ideas thread. Thanks to everybody for clearing this up for me, and thanks to whatever higher power is least astronomically unlikely to exist for not giving me the suicidal idea to pursue law as a profession.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-03-30T18:45:32.756Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

it's a property of the person, right?

Nope. Your relationship to your name doesn't fit most of the bundle of rights that the word "property" implies.

you can't have one legal name in one country and another in some other country

Of course you can. Why not? Consider immigrants who acquired a new citizenship but did not renounce their old one -- the names on their two sets of papers do not have to be identical.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-03-30T18:18:08.980Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was thinking along the lines of, well, it's not as if any given country "owns" somebody's name -- it's a property of the person, right?

That's a bad train of thought. You have to think about the institutions involved. There are certain things that international law guarantees to you, that your country is obliged to provide to you.

Things like "Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law." "Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him."

In this case also important: "(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality."

You don't really have an inane right for two nationalities. If a country allows you dual citizenship it's a nice thing to do. As such I wouldn't expect naming right to arise as a consequence.

As in, you can't have one legal name in one country and another in some other country.

That's certainly not the case.

If I remember right you can't have the same legal name in South Korea as in Germany or New York.

In South Korea your name needs to be written in Hangul and the legal documents about you are addressed to the name in Hangul. In Germany your name has to be in the standard Latin alphabet (I don't know how much accents it allows). Quick Googling suggests that the case for China is similar. You get to choose between Simplified characters or Traditional Chinese ones.

Replies from: Jiro
comment by Jiro · 2015-03-30T22:03:43.979Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are certain things that international law guarantees to you, that your country is obliged to provide to you.

No, there are certain things that international law says are guaranteed to you, that international law says your country is obliged to provide to you.

You need the additional premise "if international law says a country is obliged to provide something, then that country is obliged to provide it". I see no reason to believe that premise. It doesn't seem to be true either as a statement about how countries should behave or about how countries actually behave.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-03-25T10:49:34.550Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A double twist: there are German names that look like English names but are actually German names. Michael, Paul.

Just wondering: what would Germans associate with the name Helga for women? To me it sounds Viking-awesome (heiligr).

If you want to name your kids in a way that is compatible without pronounciation issues in the larger Central European area, from Denmark to Hungary or Serbia, there are unfortunately not so many choices. For boys, Robert, Norbert, Henrik and of course the ubiquitous Peter. For girls, Helga, maybe Judit, Eva, Anna, For example something like Catherine is not a very good idea because it is written different in every language, from Katalin to Yekaterina. Anna has only one mutant forms, Anne in English, otherwise quite stable. For boys the stablest name is Norbert it either doesn't exist in a language or if it does it is written and pronounce exactly the same.

However I think people are becoming more "creative" and less compatibility-oriented with names... I know a German couple living in London who have a son called Yuriy. Reason? Gagarin. "We wanted someone who goes up". Okay...

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2015-03-25T13:33:20.745Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

However I think people are becoming more "creative" and less compatibility-oriented with names.

In general people in the creative class do so. It's not the names the average banker, doctor or judge gives their child.

comment by syllogism · 2013-05-12T19:38:51.023Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Definitely agree that changing your name is a good option to have on the table.

I'd note though that in some industries having a Google-unique name is king. It really depends what your "personal brand strategy" is. I remember reading an interview with a marketer who recommended people consider name changes. Her name was "Faith Popcorn". I read that single interview probably 5-10 years ago. It wasn't even a particularly interesting interview. I still remember her name, though.

comment by komponisto · 2013-05-11T19:00:44.452Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A disadvantage of that particular name is that it's the name of no fewer than two famous people).

(Or is that an advantage?)

Replies from: Tuxedage
comment by Tuxedage · 2013-05-11T19:38:40.115Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's an advantage! My name will thus be subconsciously associated with high-status people.

Replies from: Desrtopa
comment by Desrtopa · 2013-05-11T23:48:34.541Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's probably advantageous to have one's name be subconsciously associated with high status people, but not to have it be consciously associated.

For instance, a name like "James" may have higher class associations than "Antwon," but naming a kid "Jimmy Carter Washington" is liable to raise the associations to a conscious level and provoke speculation about the motives of the parents (or other namer.)

comment by DanArmak · 2013-05-11T20:32:59.348Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This sounds like an excellent idea. I'm going to take the liberty of discussing my own name and I hope to get some opinions.

My surname, 'Armak', is a misspeling of Ermak, sometimes written Yermak. I have no love lost for this name. Its main effect on my life is that when I introduce myself, people respond with "Daniel What?". And people who see it written in Hebrew always pronounce it wrong (because Hebrew normally has no written vowels, it's very bad at transliteration of foreign names). It would be an ordinary name in Russia or Ukraine, but I'm unlikely to even visit those countries.

So I want to choose a common name that is "at home" in Hebrew and English and, preferably, Russian. Something short and simple that can be pronounced by speakers of pretty much any language, in case I associate with Chinese in the future, or something similarly unexpected.

But I'm very much afraid of bureaucratic hassle. It's easy to change a name, but records with the old name will follow me all my life. And I'm afraid that many organizations deal poorly with people who try to prove that their name changed and they should have access to their accounts or records opened under their old names.

On the other hand, most Western women and a few men change their names when they marry (and sometimes when they divorce). And this presumably doesn't create big difficulties, because it's socially expected. So maybe the infrastructure for name-changing already exists and my fears are unfounded.

Has this been quantified? Like surveying people who changed their legal names (other than when marrying or divorcing) after a few years.

Disclaimer: I haven't been serious enough to invest the time to research this myself.

Replies from: BerryPick6, Jolly, Kainsin
comment by BerryPick6 · 2013-05-12T20:56:33.789Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You don't find that surnames in Hebrew just get mispronounced a ton, in general? Other than ones which have standard pronunciation, I encounter constant errors with people trying to figure out which vowels to put where when it comes to last names, although that may be biased because my last name, despite being very straightforward in English, is a puzzle for Israelis.

Also, from anecdotal data and a bit of personal knowledge, changing your last name here in Israel doesn't seem like much of a hassle, other than having to do it in person.

Replies from: DanArmak
comment by DanArmak · 2013-05-12T22:00:51.646Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You don't find that surnames in Hebrew just get mispronounced a ton, in general?

Foreign ones do, certainly. That's why I'd be looking for one that's familiar to speakers of both Hebrew and English.

comment by Jolly · 2013-05-14T18:28:07.226Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My dad changed his name when he became a citizen...and got sufficiently annoyed at the hassle that he changed his name back. Note - this wasn't a major name change, he changed it from "Amarjit Singh Jolly" to "Jolly Amarjit Singh"

comment by Kainsin · 2013-05-13T11:23:59.258Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To give you one anecdotal account in the U.S., my mother changed her last name after my parent's divorce (not to her maiden name) and hasn't seemed to have any problems purchasing a house, dealing with her bank accounts, medical bills and (recently) applying for social security.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-05-11T23:39:30.109Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This sounds like a reasonable motivation to change one's name, but personally, I would have picked something not already attached to a rather famous person. I think it's probably more advantageous to have a name which is "generic" in that it doesn't immediately call up a single immediate association.

comment by Wrongnesslessness · 2013-05-13T10:30:26.203Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've always wanted a name like that!

But I'm worried that with such a generic English name people will expect me to speak perfect English, which means they'll be negatively surprised when they hear my noticeable accent.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-05-30T07:33:49.364Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You will be impossible to google for with the name "John Adams". Whether that matters to you is up to you, but a Google check is a good idea anyway. As it happens, the real John Adams is a very illustrious figure (in America), but you want to avoid calling yourself Charles Manson.

comment by TheShrike · 2013-05-27T11:00:47.238Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've considered changing my name since the first day I understood that names could be relatively normal. You see my kind parents thought it would be endearing to name me Dusty. Suffice to say, I've had a hard time projecting a certain sort of image for myself with a name like that. The only merit I've ever noted in my birthname is recognition. For better or worse, no one forgets a Dusty. I try to diffuse some of the negative image by shoehorning in humor, "hello I'm Dusty, like the adjective," but eventually I'm going to have to get it changed...

comment by baiter · 2013-05-16T14:40:55.621Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are you sure White names do better than ALL non-White names? The papers you sourced compare US White to Black names and Swedish to "immigrant" names -- both kind of hyperbolic examples. Nothing about White names vs Asian names, which I would expect to get different results. Also, in some industries or cases having a foreign/ethnic/unique name could be a positive.

FWIW, if I met an Asian guy with a WASPy name like John Adams I would think either he is adopted or changed his name/identity, which might send me negative signals such as duplicity, cunning, and cowardice.

Replies from: Vaniver
comment by Vaniver · 2013-05-16T16:39:34.974Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

FWIW, if I met an Asian guy with a WASPy name like John Adams I would think either he is adopted or changed his name/identity, which might send me negative signals such as duplicity, cunning, and cowardice.

Lots of Asian Americans are adopted, or are mixed European/Asians. European male / Asian female pairings (which would lead to a European last name) are about three times as common as European female / Asian male pairings.

In general, first name assimilation is seen positively by most Americans I know, and has been very common in the Asian American community, both for first-generation immigrants and their descendants. (Last name assimilation is less common, but I think still seen positively.)

Of the Eastern Asian grad students I know, it is common to adopt a Western first name (especially if they're Chinese; the transliteration from Chinese to English was clearly not designed by an English-speaker, as Chowchew can attest).

comment by beberly37 · 2013-05-23T19:34:12.946Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Consider Jon Adams, as name length increases, average income decreases.

Replies from: Vaniver
comment by Vaniver · 2013-05-23T20:52:39.665Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Consider Jon Adams

Names whose spelling is ambiguous are generally a bad idea.

Replies from: MarkusRamikin
comment by MarkusRamikin · 2014-11-04T10:24:49.150Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Jay Lee?

comment by Nisan · 2013-05-11T23:30:34.478Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In California changing your name costs two or three hundred dollars.

Replies from: Desrtopa, TobyBartels
comment by Desrtopa · 2013-05-11T23:36:23.333Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In New Jersey, it's a bit over one hundred.

comment by TobyBartels · 2013-05-30T04:40:44.920Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cheaper to get married and then divorced, maybe.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-06-16T10:10:15.847Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When naming you children consider giving them multiple names from different cultures. You don't have to use the names actively, just add them and use the first one. This simplifies 'changing' the name later much - as you already have the name.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2013-05-25T05:32:53.846Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Quick question. If I told you my name is Gee Kalero 1) is the pronounciation of Gee equal to that of the letter "G", or the beggining of the word "djibouti" or "jeez"? Do you see a difference between the three sounds? 2)Kalero is easier to pronounce than caleiro right?

What connotations does Kalero give?

Replies from: Eugine_Nier
comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-05-26T00:35:51.686Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

1) is the pronounciation of Gee equal to that of the letter "G", or the beggining of the word "djibouti" or "jeez"? Do you see a difference between the three sounds?

I'm not a native English speaker, but I believe the three examples you gave are pronounced the same.

2)Kalero is easier to pronounce than caleiro right?

Their about the same.

What connotations does Kalero give?

Kalero simply looks weird since unlike Caleiro it's not recognizably from any linguistic tradition. Also for names people haven't seen before C's give off more positive connotations than K's, this is a well known trick among fantasy authors.

Replies from: diegocaleiro
comment by diegocaleiro · 2013-05-26T16:06:02.103Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you

Calero > Kalero (you are the third person to tell me that. so that is decided)

When people pronounce Caleiro, it looks like they are having big troubles. Calero still feels latin, but I thought it would be easier to say.

I'm mostly concerned about academic recognizability. Some people manage to be on top while being called Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Lyubuomirsky, or Vilayanur Ramachandran. But it is very hard, and I made mistakes recalling all three. Compare with Hilary Putnam, Steve Pinker, or Daniel Craig.

Gee (G) is my nickname anyway. Calero is easier to recall.

But my friend in Law said I'd have to buy the Judge, you can only switch legally here when 18.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2013-05-11T17:14:28.349Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

good idea.

comment by shminux · 2013-05-11T19:05:11.060Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Next: change your LW nick to vaguely female to get more attention, and possibly lower other members' expectations about your rationality level.

Replies from: MugaSofer, Tuxedage, David_Gerard
comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-12T19:47:52.594Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My instinct is that this is stupid, but I have a feeling I may be mindkilled on this. Someone should test this; create sockpuppets with male and female names to see how common and critical replies are.

Would normally have downvoted, incidentally, but not going to in case I'm just siezing upon excuses to lower the status of perceived political opponents.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-13T02:58:06.207Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Someone should test this; create sockpuppets with male and female names to see how common and critical replies are.

My prediction (based on prior expectations and observation of behaviours directed at existing lesswrong members) is that a female username will tend to be the target of less rivalry motivated aggression than a male username but can anticipate far more challenges and status attacks from female usernames that identify themselves strongly as high status.

Replies from: Passer-By
comment by Passer-By · 2013-05-14T07:27:01.937Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

challenges and status attacks from female usernames that identify themselves strongly as high status.

Alicorn? AnnaSalamon, Julia_Galef and NancyLebovitz have never given the impression that they identify themselves strongly as high status.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-15T05:02:45.753Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think of myself as having solid medium status at LW. I'm quite pleased with it, but don't feel a drive for more status.

Replies from: wedrifid, Desrtopa, None, TheOtherDave, ShardPhoenix
comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-15T08:14:31.370Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think of myself as having solid medium status at LW. I'm quite pleased with it, but don't feel a drive for more status.

I think you may be underestimating a little. It is easy to neglect just how many lower status people there are... because low status people just don't seem as salient and visible.

Replies from: None, NancyLebovitz, NancyLebovitz
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-15T16:54:41.061Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

IIRC, people used to think that the Sun was about a median-luminosity star, but actually it's more like 85th percentile; but less bright stars are harder to see. (And my parents don't think of themselves as particularly wealthy people, because they tend to compare themselves to the people you see on TV, rather than the people you see in the streets.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-15T23:09:12.446Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm certainly looking up more than down when I assess my status. However, I think that I'd count my status as higher if I had the same karma but got a significant amount of it from major posts rather than from comments.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-17T12:45:42.073Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is karma the same thing as status?

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-17T14:46:14.260Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is karma the same thing as status?


I don't understand why you are asking that question. It does not seem to make much sense as a reply to the grandparent.

Replies from: TimS, NancyLebovitz
comment by TimS · 2013-05-17T15:09:07.186Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On LW, karma is a reasonable proxy for status on LW. They aren't the same, but I don't see how you think NancyLebovitz's question is non-responsive.

It very likely is that length of active membership on LW is highly correlated with karma (even last-30-days-karma). But isn't length of active membership a reasonable proxy for status in a community?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-17T15:07:39.377Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I may not have put the question in the best place, but I asked it because I said I thought I had mid-level status, and people disagreed by pointing out that I have high karma.

Replies from: TimS, wedrifid
comment by TimS · 2013-05-17T15:20:11.469Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the question is what we mean by mid-level. Brazil is a mid-level economy in the G20, but the G20 is the extreme tail of the distribution of country-economies. With a wider reference class, Brazil is a pretty big economy.

Hopefully to help you calibrate: I perceive you as Brazil -ish (wedrifid is more like UK, I'm more like New Zealand or Iran). And every lurker is Haiti. Because of the distribution of status on LW is probably Bell-curve shaped, there are a lot more Haitis than Brazils. (Because of lower bounds, status in a community is more like half a bell curve than the whole thing - someone who knows statistics probably could find a lot of errors in my terminology).

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-17T16:50:36.342Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess that makes me kind of like Pakistan.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-17T15:50:06.074Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I may not have put the question in the best place, but I asked it because I said I thought I had mid-level status, and people disagreed by pointing out that I have high karma.

There is certainly a strong correlation between karma and status. In no small part because simple time spent interacting on the site contributes to both rather significantly through raw accumulation and domain specific practice. However for my part when I questioned your mid-level status estimate your karma didn't occur to me and I wasn't aware you had as much as you had. I queried my intuitive impression of how the NancyLebovitz handle behaves and is received by people on the site. Your influence is not insignificant.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-17T16:43:03.418Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Natural language being what it is, "not insignificant" != "significant". What do you think my influence is?

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-17T17:11:32.319Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Natural language being what it is, "not insignificant" != "significant". What do you think my influence is?


Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-17T17:25:54.013Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, I meant to ask you what effect(s) you think I'm having.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-05-16T23:38:07.443Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In general, I think that if you're on the top all-time contributors sidebar, other people are going to see you as above medium status.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-15T17:01:43.656Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're the 13th all-time top contributor, and the... Hold on. There's something wrong with the “Top Contributors, 30 Days” rankings.

Replies from: Morendil
comment by Morendil · 2013-05-15T17:05:41.610Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a time lag (rather than something more sinister, e.g. something fundamentally flawed in the LW code base's understanding of integers); the rankings are not recomputed on a real-time basis, but the scores are.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-15T17:13:15.559Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had guessed it was the other way round, given that my 30-day karma is 379 according to the green bubbles at the top and 408 in the top contributors list, and it was higher yesterday, and I recently paid the toll to comment on a downvoted thread a couple of times.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-05-17T15:36:32.999Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What do you consider the most relevant status markers on LW? You've mentioned karma, and making major posts rather than comments. What else?

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, shminux
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-17T16:44:08.073Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

At least one aspect is getting quoted, and that happens very rarely for me.

comment by shminux · 2013-05-17T16:25:08.349Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not sure what Nancy thinks, but for me it's "when this person speaks, others listen, with respect and often with deference". I don't think Nancy qualifies there, but I am not sure how to check that.

The question is, how would one measure this? The obvious metrics available are the number of comments and upvotes vs those for a similar comment by a regular of average status. Furthermore, if the replies are more respectful than average even in a disagreement, it is also an indication of higher status. This is hard to measure, of course. In the next order one would look at the timeline of comments and votes: higher-status posters are likely to attract more immediate reaction and an initial spike of upvotes.

There are, of course, exceptions. When Eliezer posts in favor of censorship, he gets downvoted more than average. In general, the status does not need to be the same across all topics, different regulars are considered experts in different areas. There is, of course, some halo effect spill-over between topics.

If someone here is interested in studying social dynamics on internet forums, they might shed further light on the issue or at least do some research.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2013-05-17T12:33:49.296Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're the 3rd highest female poster on the all-time ranking.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-05-14T08:03:53.254Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't get that any of them identify themselves as higher status than they are. Certainly Anna, Alicorn, and Julia have very high community status.

Replies from: John_Maxwell_IV, Passer-By
comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-05-14T08:28:53.559Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On a related topic, see my comments on whether status differences serve useful community functions. My current guess is that status differences are counterproductive on net for achieving community goals, but I'd be interested to read counterpoint if anyone's got any (especially you, Mr. High Status Person).

Replies from: zslastman
comment by zslastman · 2013-05-14T10:32:18.512Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ideally status could be replaced by domain specific estimates of competence, reliability, trustworthiness etc. But in practice nobody has the time. We have to summarize.

Replies from: John_Maxwell_IV
comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-05-15T02:49:01.915Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For humans, social status is much more than just an aggregate estimate of competence/reliability/trustworthiness. It motivates us, distorts our thinking, plays a key role in our politics, etc. To take just one example, I suspect that the main reason it's so hard for most people to change their mind is because they don't know how to do it in a way that preserves their status. For many people and social groups, admitting you're wrong means losing face, and most people don't like to lose face, so they resist publicly changing their mind.

(This is another reason why status differences may be counterproductive for rational communities... they could create an incentive for high-status people to not change their mind about things, since they have something to lose. The evidence may very well justify thinking one thing one week, then something else the next week, then something else the third week. But if you're changing your mind about critical issues every week, it won't be long before typical humans take you less seriously. Which is unfortunate.)

Also, this doesn't sound like your true objection to me. It doesn't take very many more bits of information to transfer 3 estimates on each of competence, reliability, and trustworthiness than a single aggregate number. And people communicate specific info all the time ("how good is X at Y? do you trust Z?"). It's not obvious to me that a single aggregate quantity is frequently useful. Let's say I introduce a friend to you and say his status is 67/100; was that useful information? (And in practice, peoples' status is often determined by relatively silly things like how many friends they have, what status they're perceived to have, how confident they act, and how confidently they talk. Another reason status sucks: it gives people an incentive to make confident predictions; see Philip Tetlock's work on how confident experts are more likely to be wrong and more likely to be quoted in the media.)

(I don't think I've got a clear idea of how best to make use of humans' status wiring; I'm just kind of exploring different ideas at this point. But it seems like an important and neglected topic.)

Replies from: CronoDAS, ThrustVectoring, NancyLebovitz
comment by CronoDAS · 2013-05-16T04:35:20.727Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Eliminating status differences has been tried and failed. If a hiring manager ever tells you "There are no office politics here", then don't take the job. There WILL be politics, except that it will be taboo to publicly admit it - and nobody will help you if you have a problem.

Replies from: ialdabaoth, bbleeker
comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-16T04:54:11.848Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"X has been tried and faied" remains true until someone succeeds. If a thing with so many advantages has been tried and failed, then the solution is not to give up and make an equivalent utterance to "man was not meant to fly"; it is to examine why it failed, explore what the underlying rules and mechanics might be, construct a strategy based on those underlying rules and mechanics, and then try again.

Replies from: CronoDAS, John_Maxwell_IV
comment by CronoDAS · 2013-05-16T05:37:17.050Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Let me rephrase, then: declaring that you've eliminated status differences, when, in reality, you haven't, is a relatively common mistake that tends to cause problems.

See also.

Replies from: ialdabaoth, John_Maxwell_IV
comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-16T05:46:42.152Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

declaring that you've eliminated status differences, when, in reality, you haven't, is a relatively common mistake that tends to cause problems.

Aha, much more understandable. Thank you.

In that case: what would you surmise from a hiring manager that said "there's office politics everywhere, of course, but we try to take an active role in minimizing their impact, and part of you being a good fit here will depend on your ability to help us with that goal."?

(I regretfully confess that my own reaction to that statement would depend on that hiring manager's gender, and (if male) how tall he was and how deep his voice was).

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-05-16T06:04:35.623Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps a good way to deal with the situation in that XKCD comic would be to try to pick a culture that seemed particularly effective and then copy all of its norms, attitudes, etc.? So you'd have something that was battle-tested, if you will.

Replies from: RomeoStevens
comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-05-16T21:31:29.611Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

...Mormons? I don't wanna. Even though it would probably work.

Replies from: John_Maxwell_IV, Vaniver
comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-05-17T02:00:43.012Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, Valve's profitability per employee is supposedly higher than Google or Apple's, and their employee handbook detailing their unconventional corporate culture is available for viewing online. shrug

comment by Vaniver · 2013-05-17T14:51:59.214Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

...Mormons? I don't wanna.

Eh, it seems worth investigating to me.

Replies from: Will_Newsome
comment by Will_Newsome · 2013-05-17T15:07:42.340Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(For what it's worth from what I can tell Mormons don't even formally make the sort of ontological commitments that are typical of (at-least-somewhat-reflective) mainstream Christianity (like, 'Jesus is my savior and I should have expected Him to show up in all logically possible worlds and all possible minds should be rounded-up-to-infinitely compelled by His story and the seemingly contingent features of Jesus [Jesus's teachings] are actually universal features of Logos and so it would be an obvious epistemic sin to disregard Him [them]') and so it's more plausible that it would be possible to go along with Mormonism in something like good faith, even if only jokingly or subtly-ironically or something.)

Replies from: Leonhart, None
comment by Leonhart · 2013-05-17T15:16:50.265Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Will, out of curiosity; do you enclose your comments in parentheses to give them the quality of a "whispered aside", as if the camera had cut to a couple of conversants sitting in the back stalls? Because that's what it does in my brain.

Replies from: Will_Newsome
comment by Will_Newsome · 2013-05-17T15:22:38.157Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

More or less, yeah. Vladimir Nesov has a similar but distinct habit.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-17T15:25:02.595Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hmmm, I hadn't thought of that before.

I give a 70% chance that Mormon doctrine holds that Jesus is accidental (in the sense of not existing in all possible worlds). He has a physical body, after all. For that matter, so does God.

Mormon theology is too weird for me to fully grok, though.

Replies from: Will_Newsome
comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-05-16T05:54:16.543Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"so many advantages" is optimistic in my opinion; I actually think it's an at least somewhat close call. There are also upsides to status differences, like better group coordination (as I mentioned earlier). If people know there are methods for them to attain high status, and pursuing high status using these methods can have positive side effects (e.g. starting companies that make products people want and generate consumer surplus, or writing blog posts that lots of people benefit from reading), that can be a good thing. Another thing: when you're having a conversation, you'd probably prefer for the most knowledgeable/intelligent/rational people to talk more than those who are less knowledgeable/intelligent/rational, and status differences often seem to have the side effect of accomplishing this. (But you can also get a suits/geeks type thing where some people are smooth talkers and some people know lots of math.)

(These are just my thoughts, I'm sure there's more stuff that hasn't occurred to me.)

Replies from: ialdabaoth
comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-16T06:01:35.087Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If people know there are methods for them to attain high status, and pursuing high status using these methods can have positive side effects (e.g. starting companies that make products people want and generate consumer surplus, or writing blog posts that lots of people benefit from reading), that can be a good thing.

Only in situations where the cost of failure is low. One of the larger failure modes I've experienced in status games is that the difference between success and failure is a narrow and often random margin, and yet the status payoffs are insanely amplified and tend towards a positive feedback loop (the Matthew Effect again). So often times, you don't actually get a proper selection pressure that leads to the more intelligent/knowledgable/rational people acquiring more status; what you get is the people who know how to leverage their current status get more status. And once you have that, you're "locked in" to an oligarchy for good or ill.

comment by bbleeker · 2013-05-16T07:58:10.469Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have an idea for eliminating status on LW, if that's what people want. My own status is 'glad I'm allowed in here at all', so it wouldn't make a difference for me personally. ;-)
What if your posts didn't show your username, but just a post ID, and you yourself could see your karma, but no-one else could? There might be problems with PMs, but I'm sure there are programmers here who could find a solution to that.

Replies from: katydee, wedrifid, RichardKennaway, Estarlio, CCC, CronoDAS
comment by katydee · 2013-05-16T08:08:26.006Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, there is the LW anti-kibitzer, which can be enabled via the Preferences page.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-16T09:31:29.595Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What if your posts didn't show your username, but just a post ID, and you yourself could see your karma, but no-one else could? There might be problems with PMs, but I'm sure there are programmers here who could find a solution to that.

Your suggestion would indeed eliminate most status and reputation influences from the site. And this would be a bad thing.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-05-16T10:21:22.373Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I prefer to know who I am reading, even if, as in the case of many usernames here, the knowledge is no more than "this is the same person who wrote these other things". It gives context to the words: what they mean can depend very much on who is saying them. And one can hardly have a coherent conversation if there is no way to join up separate comments into a single identity.

comment by Estarlio · 2013-05-16T09:48:54.312Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not a bad idea if that werewhatttt people wanted, but there are people I definitely want to ignore on here, and people who I think worth spending more time on than others.

Geh, got to update in favour of some behaviors being more common than I thought now.

comment by CCC · 2013-05-16T09:35:01.057Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure that removing usernames is necessarily a good idea; they have a valid and important benefit.

Let us assume that a person says X. I suspect that X is most likely incorrect. I then look at that person's username. If:

a) The username is one that I recognise, and belongs to a person who I have found is right far more often than wrong; then I take a closer look at X, and ask the person to explain, and generally put some effort into investigating X. It is likely that X is not as wrong as I thought, and I would learn something. b) The username is one that I recognise, and belongs to a person who often posts things that are incorrect. I don't bother to waste time trying to research X, since I am now even more confident that X is wrong. c) The username is not one that I recognise, or it is one that I recognise but have not formed an opinion on yet. I may spend a small amount of effort thinking about X; but I am likely to nudge the username a little closer to category b.

In this way, I can optimise the amount of effort I put into trying to see which statements are correct, by putting the most effort into statements from which I am most likely to learn something new.

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-05-16T08:15:00.409Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sometimes you need to do things like ban a troll...

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-05-15T03:10:04.053Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On the contrary, high-status people can countersignal by publicly changing their mind on things in light of new evidence. You just have to show the evidence as well as the changing of your mind. I mean, if someone's right, that's one thing - but publicly changing your mind distinguishes you from people who are merely right by demonstrating the process behind getting things correct.

Replies from: wedrifid, John_Maxwell_IV
comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-15T03:42:42.727Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On the contrary, high-status people can countersignal by publicly changing their mind on things in light of new evidence.

Sometimes. In particular circumstances. With difficulty. Even in circumstances that are abnormally in favour of sanity the status signal is still arguable. But note that effectively gaining social power isn't about just signalling high status a lot. It's about navigating social interactions with whichever signals are most effective. Someone who only signals high status comes across as 'rigid' or 'brittle'. I suggest that much of the signalling benefit for mind changing is actually signalling competence and increasing likeability rather than by directly signalling high status in the moment.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-05-15T03:49:14.556Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On the contrary, high-status people can countersignal by publicly changing their mind on things in light of new evidence.

I agree. And there's a trick to it, which you described pretty well. I'm just giving that as an example of how big a deal status is: if you don't know the trick for changing your mind and staying high status, then it can be hard to change your mind, and difficulty changing one's mind may be the #1 rationality failure mode in the general population.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-16T16:25:54.098Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Another risk of status differences is that good ideas from low status people may get ignored.

My impression is that LW is fairly good about taking people's behavior one item at a time.

comment by Passer-By · 2013-05-14T19:11:18.746Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What I meant was that, among these high-status users, only Alicorn strikes me as being vain enough to launch such challenges and status attacks.

Replies from: shminux, Desrtopa
comment by shminux · 2013-05-15T05:19:38.966Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not my impression of her. Feel free to link to these attacks.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-05-16T23:41:37.068Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Even if she were vain enough to launch status attacks on other members to elevate her own status, which I don't think she is, attacking other female members to lower their relative status sounds like the opposite of her track record.

comment by Tuxedage · 2013-05-12T00:09:33.124Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But what if I want expectations about my rationality level to be artificially high?

Replies from: Kai_Sotala
comment by Kai_Sotala · 2013-05-12T00:36:02.013Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Then change your nick to be very similar to that of a top contributor.

Replies from: Kaj_Sotala, Skeeve
comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-05-12T17:38:08.382Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was really confused there for a moment.

Replies from: BerryPick6
comment by BerryPick6 · 2013-05-12T20:57:28.264Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hadn't noticed that until you pointed it out. That is genius.

comment by Skeeve · 2013-05-12T13:53:17.092Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or do both!

And thus, Aliza_Ludshowski was born.

Replies from: Luke_A_Somers
comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2013-05-13T22:46:26.762Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Rule 63 meets LW.

At least it wasn't also rule 34.

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2013-05-16T04:22:13.521Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is a distinct absence of Eliezer Yudkowsky/Michael Vassar slashfic on the internet. Let's keep it that way.

Replies from: Luke_A_Somers, AndekN
comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2013-05-16T15:03:43.573Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By mentioning it, you have only made it more likely. Are you sure you want what you're saying, or do you only wish to denote it while connoting the opposite?

comment by AndekN · 2014-01-03T22:48:18.019Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Hanson/Yudkowsky AI-Foom Debate".

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-05-12T17:37:51.408Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How does katydee find it?

comment by JoshuaFox · 2013-05-13T09:55:29.335Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I learned how to crank out patents. My thinking, over the years, shifted from "Wow, I can really be an inventor," to "Wow, I can Munchkin a ridiculously misconfigured system" and beyond that to "This is really awful."

My blog post: "The evil engineer's guide to patents".

Since Munchkining means following the letter of the rules, while bypassing the unspoken rules, we should consider how often it is accompanied by moral dissonance.

Replies from: shminux, CronoDAS, ArthurRainbow
comment by shminux · 2013-05-13T17:58:48.647Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Getting a patent through is far from cheap. While the filing fee is not much, the rest is prohibitively expensive if it's not paid for by your employer, about $10k or so per simple patent, all told. Probably not worth it for a line on your resume in most cases. I wonder if there is a way to munchkin this cost.

Replies from: JoshuaFox
comment by JoshuaFox · 2013-05-13T19:35:55.256Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The article is aimed mostly at salaried employees, and so the cost is not relevant, so long as the employer wants to pay it, which they generally do.

I wonder if there is a way to munchkin this cost

There sure is. As described in the blog:

... but if you're doing patents on your own, here's how to start off cheap. File a provisional patent in the US (the only country that counts) for $110, with a brief description in ordinary language. It lasts for a year, and you can file up to a year after you release your “invention” in a software product (if you even intend to do that). So, you have two years to find funding for the real patent, or just to abandon the provisional patent once your company is either stable and successful or stable and dead.

(I did the provisional patent thing myself once.)

At worse, even if you abandon it because of cost, no problem: As mentioned in the blog post

You don’t care much if the patent office accepts your patent. What's important to you... is that it gets filed. You can honestly list "patent applications” on your CV ... It takes five to eight years for the patent to get finally approved [which is so long that no one much cares about the difference when reading a CV].

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2013-05-13T19:44:02.727Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I meant getting the actual patent, even if you are not successful at funding it.

Replies from: JoshuaFox
comment by JoshuaFox · 2013-05-13T19:59:35.140Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not that I know of. But why would you care about getting an issued patent (particularly in software) if you do not want to be a patent troll?

Considering this from the perspective of how an employer would see my CV, take a look at my list of patents.

Can you even tell the difference: Which are (1) under review at the USPTO; (2) abandoned by a bankrupt startup (two or three, but there is no public record of that, so even I don't officially know); (3) rejected (none, that almost never happens); (4) issued and approved as patents?

But I will grant that listing the $100 provisional patent application in your CV as a "patent application" is beyond the bounds of good taste. I do not list my (long-gone) provisional patent anywhere.

Thus, patents in your resume do provide a real signal (though weaker than many people think): They show that someone (an employer) thought it was worth investing some money in filing it.

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-06-06T07:17:58.955Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Darn it. I was just about to suggest "be a patent troll" as a Munchkin-y thing to do.

Apparently, it's really, really easy to get patents accepted, even on things that are very broad, that have been done before, are blindingly obvious, or are even things you don't actually know how to make! The way things stand, you could probably get a patent for a Star Trek style teleporter with a few block diagrams and some fancy-sounding bullshit, and I'm dead serious about that. You know what one guy managed to patent? "Machine vision" - connecting a camera, any camera, to a computer. He first applied for the patent in 1954, but years later enforced variations of it against people who used bar code scanners. You can't make a submarine patent any more, so patenting a Star Trek teleporter probably won't make you any money, but people have indeed made money patenting things that were impractical when they were patented. For example, someone patented remote online backup services, then someone else bought the patent and started suing people trying to offer those services.

In general, because defending a lawsuit in the U.S. is expensive, there are people who manage to make quite a bit of money by threatening to sue people on shaky grounds and offering to settle for less than the cost to defend the case. (Many other countries discourage this kind of extortion by forcing a losing plaintiff to pay the defendant's court costs, but that has a chilling effect on valid lawsuits as well as bogus ones.)

comment by ArthurRainbow · 2016-07-14T08:17:50.777Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Broken link and no copy on

Replies from: ignoranceprior
comment by ignoranceprior · 2016-07-14T13:09:55.612Z · LW(p) · GW(p) copy (takes a few seconds to load) copy

comment by maia · 2013-05-10T23:25:51.570Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you want to increase your pulling strength without much effort, get a pullup bar and put it in a doorway in your home. Then just make a habit of doing pullups every time you walk by. This is remarkably effective. I've been doing this for two weeks and have seen significant improvement.

It's important to actually have it on a doorway at all times. Ours was sitting in a closet for several months, and during that time, I used it maybe twice. In the past two weeks, with it actually on a doorway and requiring no effort for me to set up and start using it, I've been doing ~5 chinups every day. (The number has been going up as I've gotten better at it; I'm looking forward to when I can actually do dead-hang pullups.)

$20 on Amazon.

I think a general policy of decreasing the startup cost of doing things you want to do is a useful one. Rewarding yourself helps too, but sometimes you just need to lower the activation energy.

Replies from: Zaine, shminux, CronoDAS, baiter, aelephant, John_D, RomeoStevens
comment by Zaine · 2013-05-11T02:59:41.402Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've done, recommended, and been recommended this before and am in wholehearted agreement. I would be remiss however if I did not share a word of caution: that model of pull up bar leaves black marks, and after extended use, will probably dent a wooden door frame. I do not know of a model of that type that does not share this design flaw.

comment by shminux · 2013-05-11T00:01:21.804Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recall doing exactly that in junior high, and increasing my chin-up count from 0 to 12 or so within 3-4 months, without consciously worrying about it. My P.E. teacher was impressed. In retrospect, going through puberty must have helped, too.

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-05-12T02:08:36.389Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What if you're not capable of doing a pullup? (I've never been able to do one.)

Replies from: maia, Prismattic, Qiaochu_Yuan, heiga
comment by maia · 2013-05-12T02:49:04.541Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can't do a full pullup either. A couple of weeks ago I couldn't even really do a chin-up (though I used to be able to). I just did assisted / negatives, which for me means... Jump! Then lower yourself down as slowly as you can. And jump a little bit less every time until you can do it without using your legs at all.

And then once you can do it from standing level, you work up to doing it from a dead hang somehow. I'm hazy on the details there because I've never gotten that far myself.

comment by Prismattic · 2013-05-12T02:37:23.507Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Assuming you don't have access to a gym, one thing to try is to obtain a strong theraband. Hold the band with both arms out in front of you, elbows slightly bent, and extend your arms out to your sides. You should feel this in the upper back muscles. If this gets easy, double up the band. Eventually that should provide enough upper back strength to try a pull-up. (You'll also need to do some biceps training, which you could also do with an anchored theraband, or with household objects, if you don't want to obtain dumbbells.)

If you have access to gym equipment, then pull-downs with a lat bar and bent over rowing train most of the muscles you will need.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-05-12T19:01:23.045Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you have easy access to a gym with machines (e.g. if you are a student), one of those machines is hopefully an assisted pull-up machine which will let you add counter-weight as necessary.

comment by heiga · 2013-05-17T22:59:21.013Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wide push-ups will get you partway there, which the same tool is actually pretty good for (flip it over on the floor).

comment by baiter · 2013-05-16T08:44:20.158Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For those that don't have a convenient place to hang a pullup bar, or as a general alternative/addon, I recommend dumbbells. I bought a nice set (2 x 20kg, 0.5, 1.25, 2, 5kg increments) for around $100 and cancelled my gym membership. They paid for themselves in 2 months time. Now I'm saving money and more fit then ever because I actually workout, instead of making excuses why not to go to the gym (it's too cooold, it's raaaining, I don't have tiiiime, etc.)

Replies from: Friendly-HI, maia
comment by Friendly-HI · 2013-05-22T15:25:17.170Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not sure if I can recommend this suggestion, because for me exactly the opposite worked out fine.

I never used fitness crap lying around my home regularly but once I started paying for a gym membership there was no way I would just stay at home and pay for nothing.

In other words I used the sunken cost fallacy for my benefit.

Once I was more advanced it wasn't the money I spent on my membership that kept me going but knowing that I'll actually get weaker if I started to only go 2 times a week instead of keeping up my 3 times a week routine. So every time I didn't visit my full 3 days a week it felt like I essentially wasted a few of my last trips to the gym because I wouldn't see any progress and at the very best just keep my performance at a plateau.

I trained quite hard for 1,5 years and missed maybe 4 training sessions, until a knee injury from squatting with too much weight coupled with moving to a new location put a stop to my training days.

comment by maia · 2013-05-16T20:24:22.518Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What do you do with the dumbbells? I'm curious because I only know a few things to do with them, and they're all mostly upper-body.

Replies from: baiter, Barry_Cotter
comment by baiter · 2013-05-17T15:47:16.036Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So far not too much; I've been adapting some exercise routines from The 4-Hour Body which has a strongly minimalist approach. Shoulder Press (seated), Bench Press, Kneeling Rows, and Squats. Doing just the basics seems to be working!

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2013-05-17T03:54:03.688Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hold them and do squats, hold them and jump, do either of those on one foot rather than two. Thosr are passable lower body barbell exercises.

comment by aelephant · 2014-01-12T08:44:30.795Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nick Winter used a similar scheme (albeit with a towel) & found that not only did he get better at pullups, his 1 mile time & bench press improved as well!

comment by John_D · 2013-05-11T20:52:23.998Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For someone who is overweight, and a lot of people are, losing weight is also a great way to increase your pullup quantity. (not to mention a host of other health benefits) Though, some would argue that it is easier to just gradually build your strength to do pullups than to drop 20-30 lbs.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-05-11T04:07:55.679Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

you can get rings to hang from the pullup bar and be able to do dips. Or just do dips between two chairs if you have sturdy chairs. Between the two you have a pretty good upper body workout if you can't get to a gym.

Replies from: Prismattic
comment by Prismattic · 2013-05-11T19:53:32.947Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you don't have access to a gym, a playground may also suffice. Although I suspect steroids mays also be involved in this case (it gets particularly insane around the 3 minute mark).

Replies from: RomeoStevens, maia
comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-05-11T20:10:57.692Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Learning to not compare yourself to roided to the gills gentlemen for men is similar to learning to not compare yourself to pornstars for women.

Replies from: bogdanb, Prismattic
comment by bogdanb · 2013-05-12T08:33:09.122Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know about you, Romeo, as far as I can tell comparison to pornstars are also problematic for men, even discounting the roided to the gills gentlemen of the pornstar persuasion.

Replies from: RomeoStevens
comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-05-12T21:27:31.214Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well sure, porn is problematic for both genders in that it causes weird ideas about what constitutes good sex.

comment by Prismattic · 2013-05-11T20:18:40.138Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I completely agree with that. I like looking at the exercises for possible inspiration; I'm not interested in comparing my body to his body. (Also, FWIW, I've been asked if I'm on steroids before, despite never having used them. Appearances can be deceiving, though that seems highly unlikely in his case.)

comment by maia · 2013-05-12T00:23:26.786Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is that a normal playground? I've seen pullup bars at a few, but I've only ever seen those walk-across-on-your-hands bars at fitness-oriented playground-type things.

Replies from: Nornagest, Desrtopa, Prismattic
comment by Nornagest · 2013-05-12T00:56:37.490Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, that looks to me like an outdoor fitness installation, not a playground. Those aren't too hard to find, though, at least around where I live; most high schools or colleges of any size have one, and I've also seen a few near practice fields or parks popular with runners.

Back in the Seventies there was a fad for public fitness trails with a lot of the same equipment, which might do in a pinch. Those will be a lot more spread out, though, and a lot of them are in pretty bad shape four decades on.

Replies from: maia
comment by maia · 2013-05-12T02:47:22.252Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, there is one of those trails (somewhat) near where I live! That was what I was thinking of when I saw the video.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-05-12T01:28:01.231Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Edit; misread this. Even regular playgrounds are good for workouts though, plenty don't have pullup bars, but monkeybars can perform the same function. I use a playground for my own workouts.

comment by Prismattic · 2013-05-12T00:31:59.828Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Couldn't say; I haven't been there. (If you see videos more recent than that one, since H4K became sort-of-famous, he actually outfitted his playground with all sorts of interesting stuff that wasn't originally there.)

But a pull up bar (or a swing set) and parallel bars (or any two parallel objects you can hold onto) are enough to do a variety of interesting exercises. (BTW, I assume you know that if you take the Iron Gym you already have and put it on the floor, you can actually use it to do triceps dips as well.)

comment by jtolds · 2013-05-11T06:59:07.251Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's kind of a growing movement around Rob Rhinehart's Soylent thing, dunno if you folks have heard of this.

Basically, he got tired of making food all the time and tried to figure out the absolute minimum required chemical compounds required for a healthy diet, and then posted the overall list, and has now been roughly food free for three months, along with a bunch of other people.

It seems awesome to me and I'm hoping this sort of idea becomes more prevalent. My favorite quote from him I can't now find, but it's something along the lines of "I enjoy going to the movie theater, but I don't particularly feel the need to go three times a day."

There's small reddit community/discourse groups around getting your own mixture.

Replies from: Tuxedage, 4554CC6D, ekramer, RomeoStevens, Estarlio, Vaniver, gwern, EpsilonRose, Mass_Driver, mare-of-night, Qiaochu_Yuan, MugaSofer
comment by Tuxedage · 2013-05-11T16:30:33.478Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find this incredibly fascinating. Especially the ability to save hours every day from not needing to eat. If the guy doesn't die after a year or so, I'm definitely trying this out.

Replies from: Jonathan_Graehl
comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2013-05-11T17:10:41.760Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When I looked at his blog last, he was eating out socially (understandable). So we onlookers won't get to enjoy his discovery of any new micro-nutrient deficiency syndromes.

I wasn't especially impressed by his approach. Maybe he'll get some good advice from others, but I didn't think he was anyone to listen to.

Replies from: None, jtolds, SilasBarta
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-12T16:43:50.953Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not impressive as a medical experiment, but it's pretty impressive for actually-getting-something-done.

If it turns out that he can survive comfortably on his concoction plus highly irregular meals at restaurants, that's useful information. Just not as useful as the results of a more thorough experiment.

comment by jtolds · 2013-05-11T20:27:08.549Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He actually spent the first two months on a Soylent-only diet, and only recently added social eating. I think he said something in his three month blog post about a week he spent eating normal food, and he ended up feeling way crappier.

Replies from: Jonathan_Graehl, DysgraphicProgrammer
comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2013-05-14T19:58:25.968Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure. But 2 months is not long enough. Some unaccounted-for vitamin with a long half-life or a low requirement could give deficiency symptoms after 4 months but not 2.

Also, people on restrictive diets post all the time about how crappy they feel when they reintroduce something. For him to slide comfortably into the explanation "thus my product makes me feel better than restaurant food" is typical of such dieters' enthusiasm.

Although bad restaurant food does exist, much of the digestive upset people experience when going out to eat is simply down to overeating, late eating, or alcohol.

comment by DysgraphicProgrammer · 2013-05-14T14:27:40.623Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That was also a week he spent travelling. Sleeping away from home, long plane/car rides, irregular schedule, and all the other attendant discomforts are quite enough to throw me off my game, even without dietary shifts.

Replies from: nigerweiss
comment by nigerweiss · 2013-05-18T19:52:58.193Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Could also be a temporary effect. Your gut flora adjusts to what you're eating, and a sudden shift in composition can cause digestive distress.

comment by SilasBarta · 2013-05-16T04:28:11.935Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would be more surprised if, by only eating when you're socially required to, you happened to get the exact essential nutrients the diet would otherwise leave you without.

Replies from: Jonathan_Graehl
comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2013-05-19T21:48:55.339Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

here's what i was thinking:

  1. "real food" has plenty of vitamins and stuff

  2. some of that stuff might have a long half-life in the body

  3. and be needed only in small (catalytic?) amounts.

so that

  1. you wouldn't know about them if you just studied basic nutrition textbooks (or perhaps nobody knows about them)

  2. if your social eating is frequent enough, you'd never lack them.

so, ideally, people following some soylent-type practice strictly will develop some interesting symptoms, and we'll discover some new stuff. but if they cheat, we don't learn as much.

i admit there's a good possibility that we already know about all the vitamin-like stuff there is. after soylenters start showing better 10-year mortality, i'll gladly join them.

comment by 4554CC6D · 2013-05-12T21:14:39.398Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is interesting. For years I've blended together various ingredients (mostly stuff like broccoli, lentils, sweet pepper, ricotta, canned tuna, olive oil, various grains and nuts such as flax, sesame, hazelnut, sunflower), balanced these for macro and micro-nutrients using cron-o-meter, further optimized along various axes such as cost, taste, ease of use, ease of preparation, packaging, cleaning up etc. Food is primarily something I do to feed myself in the end, and I dislike it when there's too much fluff.

I'd be more wary of mixing together purified/refined nutrients though. Just as licking iron bars won't provide you with your daily needs for iron (elemental iron isn't very soluble and your body wouldn't be able to assimilate it well), there's more and more evidence that whole plants and animal parts contain more than just the usual nutrients, and that this particular mix may be needed to stay in good health - and conversely that substituting multivitamins and refined macronutrients for normal food may run the risk of missing some essential, complex interactions/packaging that occurs in it and which changes the way your body assimilates it.

Now of course, many people eat junk food and still live to be 60-70 so there's some leeway. We'll only really know whether Soylent is healthy enough (like, for someone interested in life extension, and not just satisfied with a classical life span) if this experiment goes for decades, and if it's done using more people, controlled conditions, etc (in short, using Science).

comment by ekramer · 2013-05-26T10:59:17.497Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some people thrive for decades (including Stephen Hawking) tube fed with nutritionally complete enteral formulas. Semi-annual blood tests pick up any deficiencies, and supplements are added if needed. Several companies make "Soylent", the one I am familiar with is Abbott Nutrition.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky, JacekLach
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-05-26T22:06:19.429Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If there's something there that isn't priced for sale to hospitals, or restricted in sale to hospitals, and has been formulated so as to be edible by people who are tired of real food, go ahead and post it. My understanding is that tube-feeding is not the same use-case as Soylent at all, with tube-fed material needing to be essentially predigested and correspondingly expensive or something along those lines, and no concern for edible taste for obvious reasons.

I've done some looking, but I haven't seen anything out there that looks like it's meant to be eaten, meant to replace food, and priced at an affordable level for sole consumption.

Replies from: Kawoomba
comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-27T14:14:07.443Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Baby formula. Duh.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-27T15:39:32.168Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

IIRC, the nutritional needs of adults aren't those of babies scaled up by a constant.

Replies from: Kawoomba
comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-27T15:54:20.619Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll let you know that I researched the matter ("Could an adult live entirely on baby food?"), and found this answer on

i have heard on tv that victoria beckham eats nothing else, in order to stay well nourished but stick thin

That settles it, then. And as every doctor knows, children are just small adults ... small Victoria Beckhams specifically.

In seriousness though, you'd be fine. Here's the nutrient data for an infant formula from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. You can compare what you'd get from the formula with the RDA and check that you wouldn't overshoot the tolerable upper intake levels (UL), but without having done any of those comparisons, I'd place a large bet that you'd be fine.

Your daily nutritional intake based on various Ramen, Pizza, some salad and/or Fast Food doesn't adhere to some "perfect" mix of ingredients either. You'll be just fine.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-27T16:04:01.076Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your daily nutritional intake based on various Ramen, Pizza, some salad and/or Fast Food doesn't adhere to some "perfect" mix of ingredients either. You'll be just fine.

Good point -- it possibly wouldn't be as good as a formula designed specifically for adults, but it probably would be a vast improvement on what a sizeable fraction of the population are eating.

Replies from: Kawoomba
comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-27T16:19:40.974Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well it's not clear there is one optimal level for most nutrients. You should hit all the Recommended Dietary Allowances and stay under the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (links to both given in the grandparent), but in between that large range (often a factor of ten), who knows, it doesn't seem to make any difference (which is why the ULs are so high).

Given most usual Western diets, the problem isn't malnourishment (although it does exist, Vitamin D deficiencies in general, and problems with low SES populations subsisting on soda and chips come to mind). The problem is simply too many calories (and salts) consumed. Fast food is actually quite healthy ... if consumed in the appropriate amounts.

In other words, as long as you stay in the range, there's probably little difference between a formula designed specifically for adults, and a formula designed for kids which when scaled up is also in the correct ranges.

comment by JacekLach · 2013-05-26T16:48:06.451Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But there is a significant difference between taking a medical formula under doctors supervision and mixing up the most common nutrition ingredients and claiming it to be a cure-all-be-all food. Didn't the guy forget to include iron in his first mixture?

Another 'Soylent' equivalent I know of is Sustagen Hospital Formula.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-05-11T20:13:34.388Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Soylent Orange (with new and improved recipe. Okay, I just added marmite, but it's significantly more nutritionally complete than before)

This is a less radical version of the idea using store bought ingredients to achieve roughly the same ends.

Replies from: Unreal
comment by Unreal · 2013-06-15T09:03:12.338Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm curious about how you make your Soylent. Do you just take all those ingredients and mix them in a blender? Do you have another page with more information?

Replies from: RomeoStevens
comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-06-15T09:14:26.399Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's a cell with directions on the spreadsheet. But essentially yes. Part of the appeal is that it takes less than 5 minutes.

This is also a reminder for me that I should really turn it into an infographic or at least make a more complete blogpost.

Replies from: Unreal
comment by Unreal · 2013-06-15T10:35:07.221Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh I see the directions now. Yes, it would help if you included all of this into a detailed blogpost and explained what other meals you consume (and how often) to get a complete picture of how to adopt the diet oneself. I would like to experiment.

comment by Estarlio · 2013-05-12T19:00:57.602Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does anyone know what the time-line is on vitamin deficiencies? I mean might this be like cigarettes - increases your risk of something going wrong massively but only becomes apparent years down the line when you're already screwed.

Replies from: magfrump
comment by magfrump · 2013-05-13T01:49:55.756Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That wouldn't be consistent with studies showing very strong and consistent effects on children. Source: the section in this blog post from Yvain, the section on Multivitamins.

Direct link to study.

Replies from: Estarlio
comment by Estarlio · 2013-05-14T15:44:09.807Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not sure you can take repair time as damage time. Study was 3 months. Onset of vit c def I believe to be > 60 & < 90 days. Upper bound isn't necessarily consistent with study.

Replies from: magfrump
comment by magfrump · 2013-05-15T05:29:47.458Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Definitely true, but if the vitamin deficiencies hadn't shown up yet in children the repair couldn't have an affect. So it caps the onset time at the age of the children involved, and shows that repairs can occur after some significant effect of deficiency occurs.

Replies from: sclamons
comment by sclamons · 2013-05-18T14:25:20.716Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, vitamins deficiency might set in at different times for adults and children. Children grow a lot, so their nutritional needs are probably different from adults.

No source, just speculation.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-05-11T21:02:35.656Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm also trying making a total food replacement this summer. Recommendation for people trying to make their own: start by buying just the macronutrients (oil / carbs / protein), and finding a blend you'll be okay with consuming. It's unlikely that the micronutrients will make it appreciably tastier, so if you can't find one you like without putting the micronutrients in it then you should abort. (The micronutrients represent a far more significant capital outlay, if you buy the ingredients separately rather than going with a multivitamin.)

comment by EpsilonRose · 2013-05-16T23:58:29.700Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That sounds particularly appealing to someone like me who outright forgets to be hungry. It seems I shall now be looking into this.

comment by Mass_Driver · 2013-05-13T04:20:23.043Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there more to the Soylent thing than mixing off-the-shelf protein shake powder, olive oil, multivitamin pills, and mineral supplement pills and then eating it?

Replies from: RomeoStevens
comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-05-24T08:37:27.743Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not really. In fact I'm beginning to think that the Soylent guy is obfuscating his source of supplies in order to obfuscate how simple it is. I found a powder that is 100% of everything for $1 a scoop at costco.

Replies from: MugaSofer
comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-24T10:19:23.550Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I found a powder that is 100% of everything for $1 a scoop at costco.

... you sure that stuff actually contains everything you need?

EDIT: sorry, not sure if I understood you correctly; you're claiming that a similar, cheaper product exists, right?

Replies from: RomeoStevens
comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-05-24T16:04:58.733Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is 100% of the RDA of all micronutrients according to the label. I'm not at all sure that the soylent guy hasn't found something similar and is just adding it to an oil/whey/oats concoction.

Replies from: MugaSofer
comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-27T10:31:24.668Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, there's a thing. These people need better PR.

Replies from: Articulator
comment by Articulator · 2013-06-14T22:01:32.554Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

They sell themselves short as just an anti-aging formula.

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-05-11T17:17:47.932Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This looks like it might solve several food problems I've been having. (Not wanting to interrupt work to get food, being hungry but not wanting any particular food, and needing to eat every 2-3 hours to keep my blood sugar under control. That last one is mainly a problem because eating in the middle of class or a meeting looks weird, and I could probably get away with a drink more easily.) I might try something like it this summer, probably while eating normal food once or twice a day to reduce the risk.

Replies from: Jolly, TobyBartels
comment by Jolly · 2013-05-14T18:30:56.833Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Intermittent fasting solves a number of these issues...

Replies from: mare-of-night
comment by mare-of-night · 2013-05-14T18:52:57.305Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've thought about it, but I feel sick enough just from waiting too long between meals that I'm sort of scared to.

Replies from: Jolly
comment by Jolly · 2013-05-14T19:10:19.126Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It'll take time to adapt, and is generally much easier if you are eating a low carb diet.

comment by TobyBartels · 2013-05-30T02:23:37.178Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

needing to eat every 2-3 hours to keep my blood sugar under control

This makes me want to ask if any of the people on the soylent diet are diabetic and how that's going.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-05-11T19:00:12.652Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes! There will be a Kickstarter soon and I can't wait.

Replies from: jtolds
comment by jtolds · 2013-05-11T20:28:27.646Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Kickstarter actually rejected them. :(

More here

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-12T19:52:13.649Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As a vegetarian, I'm also excited at this.

And as, y'know, a LW-type-person, obviously.

comment by Omid · 2013-05-10T19:28:47.871Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How to find a mate when you have really specific tastes:

  1. Think about the kind of fiction your ideal mate would want to read.
  2. Write that kind of fiction.
  3. Start a website compiling your fiction. Hire someone off DeviantArt to illustrate it.
  4. Once you've got a decent fanbase, post a message on your website saying that you are looking for a mate.
  5. Read emails from fans who say they want to be your mate.

Why I think this will work: A while ago I posted a romantic/erotic story to Reddit (which is 3/4 male). I hadn't seen the fantasy represented in any romance/erotica I'd ever read, so I figured I was alone in desiring it. Imagine my surprise when two women sent me unsolicited PM's asking me to role-play.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky, gwern, shminux, alex_zag_al, CronoDAS, None, None
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-05-10T21:24:09.116Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This works better when some of the MOTAS who read the fiction have also met you in the flesh (N=2). Also, having at least one protagonist who shares some of the more prominent features of your personality (i.e., your warped sense of humor if you're liable to inflict that on your mate) might be more effective at selecting on the audience (if they like the protagonist, they may be able to tolerate your own twisted humor) but here I haven't tried it your way for comparison.

comment by gwern · 2013-05-10T21:32:46.736Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why I think this will work: A while ago I posted a romantic/erotic story to Reddit (which is 3/4 male). I hadn't seen the fantasy represented in any romance/erotica I'd ever read, so I figured I was alone in desiring it. Imagine my surprise when two women sent me unsolicited PM's asking me to role-play.

But on the other hand, writers are routinely surprised by the audiences their material finds - and don't find. So you need some way of evaluating your current audience to see if your ideal mate is actually likely to be in it, or if your cute pony show turned out to have many nerdy male fans instead...

Replies from: Omid
comment by Omid · 2013-05-10T21:47:05.817Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think most MLP fans are in the intended demographic. Teenage male fans are simply more salient than grade-school female fans.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-05-11T00:54:07.475Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If nothing else, the 'unexpected' fans are reducing your yield and may be driving out potential matches.

(If you were into little girls, would you be happy or unhappy about bronies? If you wanted money, maybe happy, if chicks maybe unhappy because on the margin, little girls may be skeeved out by bronies and not become regular readers. You know what, I should've chosen a better example for this topic than MLP.)

comment by shminux · 2013-05-13T20:22:08.344Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Once you've got a decent fanbase

What is the fanbase of a median fiction or fanfiction? Probably somewhere between 0 and 1, including the author and their mother?

Replies from: Omid
comment by Omid · 2013-05-14T00:29:36.173Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Any fiction writers want to chime in? The fact that I accidentally successfully used this strategy is one data point. And then you look at amateur fiction websites, and see a lot of poorly written work that nonetheless has fans is another.

Replies from: Identity
comment by Identity · 2013-05-16T00:24:35.950Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I write fanfiction set in the Mass Effect universe. My work is probably "amateur" as I make no claims of being a writer. It's all just for fun for me.

I wouldn't try this technique personally, as I'm not interested in meeting people who I'm compatible with, but geographically isolated from. The odds that one of the people responding would be from the same city as me seem pretty slim.

What I can tell you about my traffic stats is that I get about a thousand unique views every time I post a new chapter. Of the people who add my story to their favorites or set an author alert for my work (so that they are emailed every time I post new content), the majority seem to be people identifying as women on their own profile pages. (My fanfiction includes a popular "ship" meaning that romance is an important focus in it.) I get anywhere from two to around six written replies to each chapter I post. The majority of people who write to me identify as men, however, while less women write to me, I would rank the average quality of correspondence higher among the women who do choose to write than the men. I've actually become very good friends with a woman who I met through fanfiction, but I've never met her in person as she lives in Germany and I in the States.

My mom has never read my story.

Replies from: Omid
comment by Omid · 2013-05-16T02:47:58.051Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for your input! It's interesting that most of the people who favorite your work are women, but most of the people who write to you are men.

comment by alex_zag_al · 2013-05-13T20:05:58.381Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think Yudkowsky has said that HPMoR was a factor in getting together with most of his girlfriends, though he did not actually meet them because of it.

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-05-10T21:33:10.564Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Beware of these.

Replies from: Omid
comment by Omid · 2013-05-10T21:49:04.547Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

They've sent me photos, their comment history checks out and one of them showed me her Facebook page. I'm pretty sure they're legit.

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2013-05-10T21:52:59.213Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, that's good. Back in the day, I followed a USENET newsgroup that was trolled by a guy pretending to be a girl...

comment by [deleted] · 2015-03-25T11:31:09.074Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, and the chance that any of the two live near you?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-11T17:01:49.586Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My ideal mate would hardly read any fiction at all; and I don't write fiction. So I'm already two steps ahead! ;-)

comment by Caspian · 2013-05-11T01:56:20.474Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When I was having a lot of trouble getting out of bed reasonably promptly in the mornings: practice getting out of bed - but not after just having woken up, that's what I was having trouble with in the first place. No, during the day, having been up for a while, go lie in bed for a couple of minutes with the alarm set, then get up when it goes off. Also, make this a pleasant routine with stretching, smiling and deep breathing.

I found this idea on the net here, which may have more details:

I tried it and it seemed to help a lot for a while, and I feel more in control of my weekend mornings.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini, pscheyer, Oklord, Tem42
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2013-05-11T15:04:09.353Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

An alternative, courtesy of Anders Sandberg (via Kaj Sotala), is to set your alarm to ring two hours before your desired wake-up time, take one or two 50mg caffeine pills when it rings, and go back to sleep immediately thereafter. When you wake two hours later, getting out of bed shouldn't be a problem. Details here.

Replies from: Gunnar_Zarncke, gwern, amitpamin
comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-06-16T09:38:10.814Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Coffeine doesn't work for ~10% of the population (like me).


I don't know exactly what's different and to what extent the effect exists but caffein doesn't have significant waking or alerting effects on me. At least not a 200mg pill (corresp. 2 liter coke or 2-5 cups of coffee). These I take to treat migraine where the caffeine does have a very notable effect on me.

"Caffeine has a tremendously wide variation in action," Regestein admits. "The people who say 'I can drink a cup of coffee right before I go to bed and go right to sleep' aren't lying." Hard biochemical research confirms the fact. Carney describes "one common strain of laboratory mouse, Jackson's Lab's SWR strain, inbred since the 1920s, who is just totally immune to the effect of caffeine: there's no dose that will excite him--not 100 milligrams per kilogram, which would be equivalent to 100 cups of coffee in a human.

And the opposite:

Carney points out that if some individuals are not much affected by caffeine, others--some 5 to 10 percent of the population--are hypersensitive to its effects. These individuals are the most likely to succumb to a serious coffee habit, exhibit the greatest physical and personality effects from it, and have the greatest difficulty in finally kicking the habit.

From Health: Does Coffee Make You Sleepy? Researchers now understand how caffeine works on the nervous system. For some, it may cause the opposite of its intended effect. By Roger Downey

See also for migraine and caffeine.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-06-16T10:37:06.259Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What do you mean with "doesn't work". Your A1 receptors are formed in a way where caffeine doesn't connect to them?

Replies from: Gunnar_Zarncke
comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-06-16T11:42:55.518Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Answered above

comment by gwern · 2013-12-22T21:00:07.463Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does that work for you?

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2014-01-02T17:36:24.521Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I tried it only a few times and didn't notice any clear effects. So as far as I can tell, no, it doesn't work for me.

Have you tested this intervention on yourself more systematically?

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2014-01-02T21:58:20.124Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm currently trying it out on a loose alternating-day basis; if it seems to be working, I may upgrade to blinding & randomization.

EDIT: it does correlate with earlier wake up, so I've upgraded to randomization; the blinding didn't work out because the caffeine pills have too detectible a flavor.

comment by amitpamin · 2013-05-12T20:07:31.898Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I set my alarm 5 minutes before I actually want to wake up. When it rings the first time, I consume a large glass of fake lemonade (the kind with lots and lots of sugar). Perhaps not healthy, but it works - among other things, the presence of sugar in the mouth immediately releases dopamine. On the few occasions the energy isn't enough, the urge to use the bathroom is ;)

I tried the coffee thing, for me, sugar works more reliably.

comment by pscheyer · 2013-05-16T12:29:41.401Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

FYI, this training is part of USAF basic training. With more yelling. I wouldn't call it a pleasant routine, but it's certainly effective when you do it for six hours straight and start to get an adrenaline surge when your alarm goes off.

That still persists 1.5 years later, so it may be a munchkin hack in itself.

Replies from: XFrequentist
comment by XFrequentist · 2013-05-29T19:38:09.741Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd be interested in hearing more about your training experience; I'm sure the USAF and the like have discovered more than a few interesting behavioral hacks!

comment by Oklord · 2013-05-19T13:03:43.242Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree absolutely - however the effect wanes. I found the behavior would go extinct maybe a week or so after a 20 minute session of doing this. Reading this has inspired me to do the straightforward thing and just practice weekly.

comment by Tem42 · 2016-07-15T01:51:02.375Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have found that I wake much more effectively when the alarm is very quiet; rather than waking suddenly and having my brain rebel, I wake over the course of 30 second to 2 minutes. This works much better than it has any reason to.

The downside is that a very quiet alarm is easy to miss, and if there is environmental noise at the same time as the alarm goes off (from the air coming on to trash pickup), it's much too easy to sleep through. The solution that worked best for me was to run a white noise generator (actually an air filter) all night; this raised the noise threshold so that a louder alarm was needed to still be a quiet-but-audible alarm; the louder alarm is loud enough to be heard over the white noise, and thus loud enough to be heard over any environmental noise that is not also loud enough to wake me.

Another useful trick, albeit slightly more painful, is to get up at the same time every morning. This means also on weekends. It really does help, but requires that you are willing to actually wake up enough to get out of bed. Once you are 'up', you may decide to just read Facebook for 5 minutes before going back to bed (I usually just went to the bathroom and then read in bed for 15 minutes before falling back to sleep). I only use this when I have a significant change in schedule, and only for a couple of weeks.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-05-10T18:59:46.953Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Obvious idea is obvious: Save and invest a very large percentage of your income - I'm at 25%, but I'm not very ambitious. At 75% you can retire for three years for every year you work, even without assuming any gains from investment income or any other sources of income. If you are 30 and reasonably established in your career, this means you can work for ten years and then retire.

Replies from: DanArmak, None, Dentin, Vladimir_Nesov, sagittarian
comment by DanArmak · 2013-05-11T21:47:36.099Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That rather assumes you can live on 25% of your income.

For me 25% of my income would be far below the poverty line and the legal minimum wage. I couldn't live on that even if I moved back in with my parents.

Are most people here really so rich that they can follow this advice and take it in stride?

Replies from: daenerys, cody-bryce, Viliam_Bur, RomeoStevens, RolfAndreassen, blashimov, RyanCarey
comment by daenerys · 2013-05-14T03:48:02.720Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I disagree with your assumption that you need to be rich/making lots of money in order to save. It's not necesarily about being rich, it's also about spending less. People get very used to spending whatever it is they make. Lots of people live off $15k and manage to survive. Lots of people live of $100k and manage to wind up bankrupt. The trick is to not adjust your standard of living and expectations to be what you think you "deserve".

After getting a divorce a couple years ago, I got very used to living off of significantly less than the poverty line. After getting a "real" job, I've been making a concerted effort to not raise my standard of living TOO much. Despite making less than you (50% of my income would be below the poverty line), I still manage to only live off about half of what I make. Right now, the rest is going into paying off debts and student loans, but in about a year and a half those will be taken care of, and the rest can go into savings. (I may rebudget at that time and save less, if I feel like it would be a good idea to raise my standard of living again, then. However, I wouldn't have to.)

comment by cody-bryce · 2013-05-14T21:49:26.668Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's fascinating to read about people like who choose frugality over work

Replies from: Petruchio, D_Malik, Qiaochu_Yuan
comment by Petruchio · 2013-05-15T17:05:12.300Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here is a second resource, the successor of Jacob, creator of ERE, Mr. Money Mustache. This website has the same concept, taken to the same extremes, though he has a more colloquial style. He proclaims to live a luxurious life on 8,000 a year a person (family of three). This includes taking multiple road trips with his family, eating organic foods and other such "luxuries".

comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-14T23:08:49.180Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wow, I think that link is the most useful thing I've gotten from this thread; thanks. I've had similar ideas for a while but never knew there was this much info online about it. Their techniques look like they could be very useful for people interested in hardcore professional philanthropy.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-05-14T23:29:24.956Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for posting this! Looks quite interesting.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-05-12T09:38:00.261Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What part of your current income do you need to live on?


Note: The idea about the last two options is that high-school and university students are not socially expected to live on their own income. So the last option is for those who are not expected to live on their own income, and the previous option is for those who are socially expected to live on their own income, but they can't.

By "current income" let's assume the average for a few months, not some exceptional income or a temporary loss of income that happened yesterday.

Replies from: PrometheanFaun, None, DanArmak
comment by PrometheanFaun · 2013-06-02T04:44:11.866Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's worth noting that the results of this poll could be skewed by the fact that it's much easier to for students to give an answer.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-15T16:36:10.138Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am a PhD student, and I live on about 60% or 70% of my scholarship (though my parents do still pay for e.g. my car insurance; if I also counted all the money my parents spend on me, it'd be higher, but probably still not close to 100% unless I'm forgetting lots of stuff). I picked “about 75%”.

(EDIT: Just noticed that the poll said “need to” -- well, I could in principle reduce my expenditures, but it wouldn't be anywhere near trivially easy for me to do so by a substantial amount.)

comment by DanArmak · 2013-05-12T17:05:31.104Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I voted 50%, which is correct +/- 10%.

I should note that I could save money by moving back in with my parents and not paying rent, municipal taxes, food, etc., but it's socially expected that I won't do this.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-05-12T17:37:08.915Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Probably most of us could spend less or earn more, if we did some changes in our lives.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-05-11T22:32:11.101Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

after tax pay of 75k a year isn't crazy unusual for software devs living in major cities. Living on 15k in these places is very doable, though some might consider it crazy depending on their habits.

After 6 years one could then live fairly well in a relatively poor country on 15k.

Replies from: diegocaleiro, eurg
comment by diegocaleiro · 2013-05-12T15:41:52.271Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't mean to cut the party short, but living for years in a poor country is not as awesome as it sounds. What seems awesome instead is to go for poor countries for 6 to 8 months per year, and live with your parents or someone who loves you a lot in the other 4 months every year. I've met a Slovenian programmer who did that, knew 10 languages, worked in London for 4 months per year and seemed to have pretty much nailed the "maxing out on hedons" lifestyle.

Replies from: None, Tem42
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-14T09:56:25.609Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I moved out of my parent's house as soon as I was able, finding the cost in raw hedons and effects on my disposition and behavior to be way too high to justify the money saved. And I have a fine family, not abusive or otherwise terrible - just not a place where I was ever able to be happy or productive.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-15T04:06:50.116Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What went wrong when you were with your family?

Zl ulcbgurfvf vf gung gurer jrer gbb znal vagreehcgvbaf naq/be gbb zhpu abvfr sbe lbh gb or ng lbhe orfg.

Replies from: Blueberry
comment by Blueberry · 2014-06-29T12:29:09.421Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd guess it was more likely to be emotional stuff relating to living with people who once had such control over you. I can't stand living at my parents' for very long either... it's just stressful and emotionally draining.

comment by Tem42 · 2016-07-15T02:06:05.469Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

After 6 years one could then live fairly well in a relatively poor country on 15k.

Additionally, there are ways to get people to pay for your living costs in very poor countries. If you live in the US and are looking for a fun but not too easy early retirement, spending two years in the Peace Corps is not a bad way to go -- if you do want to spend a few extra thousand on living expenses it will go a lot further than it would in America, and if you just want to let your retirement funds gather a few years of additional interest you can do that. The PC does take married couples and loves people with college degrees and work experience. No kids, though.

comment by eurg · 2013-05-12T15:44:22.371Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

after tax pay of 75k a year isn't crazy unusual [...] in major cities

Less than half of that isn't crazy unusual everywhere else. Of course, anybody can just move there, and is qualified and lucky enough to find such a job.

Still doesn't change the OPs point, though; living on 15k/year is still a very convenient life.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-05-12T13:23:47.136Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

75% is only an example. Adjust according to what you can actually manage to save. If you are paid $100k, as is by no means impossible for this demographic (and in fact is rather easy if you're a two-income household)m then 75% is easily doable. At $25k, which is also by no means impossible for our demographic, then yes, the 75% savings rate becomes difficult.

comment by blashimov · 2013-05-11T22:25:26.641Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am not, but apparently there is at least one person who could.

comment by RyanCarey · 2013-05-12T03:15:01.552Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The absolute poverty line is US$2/day, purchasing power parity adjusted. You don't earn less than $8/day.

Replies from: SaidAchmiz
comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2013-05-12T04:07:03.883Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

$2 a day is "extreme poverty".

The poverty line in 2013 for a single person (one-person household) living in the continental 48 states is $11,490 per year. (Source:

For DanArmak's statement to be true (assuming he lives in the continental U.S.), he would have to be earning less than $47,960 per year. That's not even remotely unlikely. I earn less than that, for instance.

Replies from: None, RyanCarey, None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-15T16:46:11.586Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The poverty line in 2013 for a single person (one-person household) living in the continental 48 states is $11,490 per year.

That's about the world GDP (PPP) per capita!

comment by RyanCarey · 2013-05-12T15:46:46.555Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Relative poverty is not having enough money to maintain the standard of living that is customary in that society.

The absolute poverty line is found by finding the total cost of all the essential resources that an average human adult consumes in one year. Determined by the world bank. This is adjusted for purchasing power parity. In other words, it applies internationally. The absolute american poverty line is just the international absolute poverty. And there's no need for a relative poverty line, it's rather a nonsense concept.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-15T16:57:15.094Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

assuming he lives in the continental U.S.

According to his profile, he lives in Kfar Saba, Israel.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-11T07:03:29.436Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

At 75% you can retire for three years for every year you work, even without assuming any gains from investment income or any other sources of income.

Not necessarily. There is inflation.

Replies from: RolfAndreassen, hwc
comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-05-12T12:31:55.544Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please read "without assuming any real gains from..."

comment by hwc · 2013-05-11T20:07:06.332Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

invest in inflation-indexed bonds.

comment by Dentin · 2013-05-10T19:12:22.091Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Even at 55-60%, which is what I did, it still builds up REALLY fast. Realistically though, you'll have to work more than ten years unless you're getting pretty good return on your investments.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2013-05-11T14:30:52.347Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Following the rule of thumb that one can spend about 4% of investment a year for it to remain sustainable, it's sufficient to accumulate about 25 times more than you spend in a year, which at 80% saving rate can be achieved in 6 years (more to reduce risk and/or accommodate possible future increase in spending (above inflation)).

Replies from: Wei_Dai
comment by Wei_Dai · 2013-05-17T07:52:40.612Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There happens to be an article in the New York Times today about the 4% rule, based on a new paper titled The 4 Percent Rule is Not Safe in a Low-Yield World. It also seems worth noting that the 4% rule assumes a payout period of 30 years, so it's not entirely applicable for the purposes of this thread.

Replies from: Vladimir_Nesov
comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2013-05-17T10:27:45.419Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wasn't suggesting that it was safe ("more to reduce risk"). For example in Russia, there is additionally the issue of high inflation (in USD) while the prices catch up with US/UK levels, so even a 3% rule should only apply to cost of living that's about 2 times higher (adjusted for US inflation) than at present, which turns it into a 1.5% rule, or up to 15 years at 80% saving rate. Of course, if optimizing primarily for smaller working time, one should earn at a high-costs place, like Silicon Valley, and then move to a low-cost place, with possibly moving again if that place catches up.

comment by sagittarian · 2013-05-27T08:58:31.703Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Combine this with the idea that the most worthwhile investment by far is investing in yourself. Take whatever percentage of your income and use that to help you learn skills that will increase your income. (This includes not just technical skills, but self-marketing skills, self-confidence, anything. You will probably have more and more ideas the further you progress.) Most likely, you will have a much greater return than if you simply invested the same money in more traditional investments like the stock market.

Replies from: RolfAndreassen
comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-05-27T10:23:05.462Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are two problems with self-investment. First, there's coupling or frictional losses, by which I mean that X amount of money invested in yourself does not directly translate to X*(1+epsilon) money next year, even probabilistically. You have to put in work. Money invested in the stock market doesn't go through a stage in which you use your new skill; it remains, as it were, money all through the period, so there's no loss from transforming from one form of capital to another. Second, the proposed purpose was to free yourself from having to work, through accumulating capital. Although we call the result of self-investment "human capital", it doesn't have the fire-and-forget property of traditional capital; you can't use it with other people's labour.

Replies from: sagittarian
comment by sagittarian · 2013-05-27T11:17:24.327Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree that this is a significantly different proposal than the original idea. It's a combination of the original idea with another idea in a munchkin-like fashion with a different result, but one that is potentially better/more powerful/has higher XP (though it's not guaranteed, of course). I wouldn't call your points problems though, just differences.

By the way, there are ways of getting yourself to put in the necessary work (i.e., overcoming akrasia), and this community is great at coming up with a lot of them. Do you think that if you had $10,000 (to throw out a number) to spend on improving yourself and you decided that akrasia was your weakest link, you could come up with some ideas/systems which would make a significant difference? Is that likely to be worth $10,000?

Replies from: RolfAndreassen
comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-05-27T12:03:06.400Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is that likely to be worth $10,000?

Is it likely to be worth more than the other possible uses for $10k? Your phrase "to spend on improving yourself" already assumes that this is the best use of the money.

Additionally, I think you missed the point of my objection "You have to put in work". If you successfully spend $X on reducing akrasia, then your work for the rest of your life will be more efficient; great. But you still have to work for the rest of your life. If you invest $X in income-generating capital, then you have income for the rest of your life without lifting a finger.

A separate point is that traditional capital is perhaps more likely to survive the Singularity without being drastically reduced in value than is human capital, on the grounds that atoms are still going to be in finite supply while akrasia-reducing brainware patches will be downloadable from the Internet.

Replies from: sagittarian
comment by sagittarian · 2013-05-27T13:39:30.996Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Additionally, I think you missed the point of my objection "You have to put in work". If you successfully spend $X on reducing akrasia, then your work for the rest of your life will be more efficient; great. But you still have to work for the rest of your life. If you invest $X in income-generating capital, then you have income for the rest of your life without lifting a finger.

Yes, if your goal is specifically to do as little work as possible and don't care about either your standard of living or what your ultimate net worth is (as long as it's enough to stop working), then you maybe should invest in as much income generating capital as possible, depending on your exact circumstances. If you are interested in increasing your income or increasing your standard of living (or have a number of other goals, such as making a greater impact on things you value, having more satisfaction from achieving more, etc.), then it is quite conceivable that self-investment would beat traditional investment in fairly short order. Let me make up some numbers that I think are reasonably plausible: Let's say you make $20,000 per year and have decided to invest half of it somehow, and that you can double your yearly income if you spent $10,000 on the problem, and that you could get a 10% return on traditional investments. [Justification: $20,000 is a very low salary in developed countries, and $40,000 is still a fairly low salary, so it's not unlikely that a relatively small improvement could take you from one to the other.]

If you then invested in yourself for one year before you started saving and investing traditionally, after ten years you would have saved about $185,000 vs. about $320,000 from the one year of self-investment. After 40 years it would be a bit less than $5 million vs. a bit less than $9 million. If you could keep getting returns on self investment after the first year, the difference would be more pronounced. If you got less than 10% return on traditional investment, the difference would be more likely to be greater.

There are a lot of people who make minimum wage, and some people who make thousands of times minimum wage. If it's possible to teach yourself the skills that the people who make thousands of times minimum wage have by spending money on it, it's likely to be worth much more than a standard 5% or 10% per year, since the income that some people make would take you many decades or centuries of saving and investing just to equal what they earn now. If you can increase your income by much more than the standard return rate of 5% or 10% per year, then compounded interest will quickly dwarf what you could make by investing in the stock market. So I think it hinges on the question of how likely it is that you can increase your earning potential faster than standard investment returns. It seems to me likely that this is possible, given some people have achieved it, and that most skills are learnable.

A separate point is that traditional capital is perhaps more likely to survive the Singularity without being drastically reduced in value than is human capital, on the grounds that atoms are still going to be in finite supply while akrasia-reducing brainware patches will be downloadable from the Internet.

This is difficult to estimate, but I tend to think that the Singularity is probably far enough off that significant self-investment in things that are helpful now is still likely to pay off.

Replies from: RolfAndreassen
comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-05-27T14:15:27.183Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure, if you're making minimum wage, by all means prioritise getting a better job over investing what you can spare. I suspect, however, that this is rather an unusual case for LW readers who are out of their teens. If you're making a more typical 30 or 40 thousand (and especially if you already have a college degree), the returns to self-improvement drop rather drastically.

comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-10T19:09:58.990Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My neck is asymmetrical because some years back I used to often lie in bed while using a laptop, and would prop my head up on my left elbow, but not my right because there was a wall in the way. In general, using a laptop while lying in bed is an ergonomics nightmare. The ideal would be to lie on your back with the laptop suspended in the air above you, except that that would make typing inconvenient.

So a friend recently blew my mind by informing me that prism glasses are a thing. These rotate your field of vision 90 degrees downwards, so that you can lie on your back and look straight up while still seeing your laptop. I have tried these and highly recommend them.

That said: You should probably not do non-sleep/sex things in bed because that can contribute to insomnia. I recommend trying a standing desk, by putting a box or a chair on top of your desk and putting your laptop on top of that, then just standing permanently; it will be painful at first. Also currently experimenting with only allowing myself to sit down with my laptop if I'm at the same time doing the highest-value thing I could be doing (which is usually ugh-fielded and unpleasant because otherwise I'd have already done it).

Another thing: I have a crankish theory that looking downwards lowers your unconscious estimation of your own social status (which seems to be partly what is meant by "confidence"/"self-esteem"). If that's true, prism glasses and standing desks could increase confidence.

Replies from: D_Malik, bcoburn, None, Daniel_Burfoot, dspeyer, AntonioAdan, Dr_Manhattan
comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-11T12:29:16.148Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Relatedly, you can buy goggles that make you see the world inverted up/down or left/right, or rotated. These look incredibly cool but I haven't yet thought of any actual use for them.

You can get 30-degree goggles here ($15) or 180-degree goggles here ($25), or make your own, or get an adjustable thing ($80).

comment by bcoburn · 2013-05-11T03:30:20.890Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Obligatory note re: standing desk ergonomics:

The lesson seems to be to mostly sit, but stand and walk around every 30-45 minutes or so.

Replies from: D_Malik
comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-15T02:32:49.983Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the link! The page's arguments don't seem to strongly support its recommendation to spend most of the day sitting, though; my takeaway is that you should look at ergonomics, and you shouldn't stand all day.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-03-25T11:00:55.492Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a crankish theory that looking downwards lowers your unconscious estimation of your own social status

Crankish? This is bog-standard body language / NLP thing. It is the opposite of power posing.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2013-05-10T23:16:06.572Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a crankish theory that looking downwards lowers your unconscious estimation of your own social status

Why is this crankish? I consider this totally plausible.

Replies from: sixes_and_sevens, CAE_Jones, None
comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-05-11T00:19:26.710Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Related: I have a messy selection of anecdotal and apocryphal evidence that exacerbating relative height differences between men and women has an immediate effect on how attractive they find each other, (i.e. if a [hetero] man is standing on a chair and looking down at a [hetero] woman, he will find her instantly more attractive than if he were standing at ground level, and vice versa).

Replies from: D_Malik
comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-11T10:42:36.167Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This study is relevant:

Abstract: Human faces show marked sexual shape dimorphism, and this affects their attractiveness. Humans also show marked height dimorphism, which means that men typically view women’s faces from slightly above and women typically view men’s faces from slightly below. We tested the idea that this perspective difference may be the evolutionary origin of the face shape dimorphism by having males and females rate the masculinity/femininity and attractiveness of male and female faces that had been manipulated in pitch (forward or backward tilt), simulating viewing the face from slightly above or below. As predicted, tilting female faces upwards decreased their perceived femininity and attractiveness, whereas tilting them downwards increased their perceived femininity and attractiveness. Male faces tilted up were judged to be more masculine, and tilted down judged to be less masculine. This suggests that sexual selection may have embodied this viewpoint difference into the actual facial proportions of men and women.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-05-12T12:26:16.456Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm strongly tempted to provide anecdotes related to this, and was halfway to the reply box before I caught myself and remembered how tied up this is in my personal brand of weird.

Suffice it to say, I totally believe that standing erect and facing forward is better for mood/confidence overall. (And that believing this is not sufficient reason for me to do so all that often.)

Replies from: D_Malik
comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-15T02:43:05.398Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This sounds interesting. Could you say why this isn't enough reason for you to stand erect and forward-facing more often?

Replies from: CAE_Jones
comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-05-16T09:09:56.513Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For personal reasons I generally don't expect people to take seriously. The short version is I fail at keeping my identity small.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-12T10:10:45.920Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To the extent that height correlates with status and status is positional, I'd naively expect it to be the other way round (you look upwards when you're surrounded by taller people and downwards when you're surrounded by shorter people).

comment by dspeyer · 2013-05-13T05:09:10.946Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For my main home display, I have a data projecter pointed at the far bedroom wall. I often lie in bed, on my back, with the display "floating" above me. Also, it's far enough away that my eyes stay relaxed (focused at infinity).

comment by AntonioAdan · 2013-05-23T19:36:41.064Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Treadmill desk. Set between one and two miles per hour.

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2013-05-12T17:46:20.781Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Been using them for 4 month, love em

comment by shminux · 2013-05-10T20:29:22.418Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Another historical case, Smokey Yunick, the car racer and mechanic:

As with most successful racers, Yunick was a master of the grey area straddling the rules. Perhaps his most famous exploit was his #13 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle, driven by Curtis Turner. The car was so much faster than the competition during testing that they were certain that cheating was involved; some sort of aerodynamic enhancement was strongly suspected, but the car's profile seemed to be entirely stock, as the rules required. It was eventually discovered that Yunick had lowered and modified the roof and windows and raised the floor (to lower the body) of the production car. Since then, NASCAR required each race car's roof, hood, and trunk to fit templates representing the production car's exact profile. Another Yunick improvisation was getting around the regulations specifying a maximum size for the fuel tank, by using 11-foot (3 meter) coils of 2-inch (5-centimeter) diameter tubing for the fuel line to add about 5 gallons (19 liters) to the car's fuel capacity. Once, NASCAR officials came up with a list of nine items for Yunick to fix before the car would be allowed on the track. The suspicious NASCAR officials had removed the tank for inspection. Yunick started the car with no gas tank and said "Better make it ten," and drove it back to the pits. He used a basketball in the fuel tank which could be inflated when the car's fuel capacity was checked and deflated for the race.

comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-10T13:27:19.408Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A tulpa is an "imaginary friend" (a vivid hallucination of an external consciousness) created through intense prolonged visualization/practice (about an hour a day for two months). People who claim to have created tulpas say that the hallucination looks and sounds realistic. Some claim that the tulpa can remember things they've consciously forgotten or is better than them at mental math.

Here's an FAQ, a list of guides and a subreddit.

Not sure whether this is actually possible (I'd guess it would be basically impossible for the 3% of people who are incapable of mental imagery, for instance); many people on the subreddit are unreliable, such as occult enthusiasts (who believe in magick and think that tulpas are more than just hallucinations) and 13-year-old boys.

If this is real, there's probably some way of using this to develop skills faster or become more productive.

Replies from: hylleddin, FiftyTwo, ChristianKl, Tuxedage, Mario, Plasmon, klkblake, bramflakes, Kindly, mare-of-night, D_Malik, pure-awesome, John_Maxwell_IV
comment by hylleddin · 2013-05-12T04:57:59.875Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As someone with a tulpa, I figure I should probably share my experiences. Vigil has been around since I was 11 or 12, so I can't effectively compare my abilities before and after he showed up.

He has dedicated himself to improving our rationality, and has been a substantial help in pointing out fallacies in my thinking. However, we're skeptical that this is anything a more traditional inner monologue wouldn't figure out. The biggest apparent benefit is that being a tulpa allows him a greater degree of mental flexibility than me, making it easier for him to point out and avoid motivated thinking. Unfortunately, we haven't found a way to test this.

I'm afraid he doesn't know any "tricks" like accessing subconscious thoughts or super math skills.

While Vigil has been around for over a decade, I only found out about the tulpa community very recently, so I know very little about it. I also don't know anything about creating them intentionally, he just showed up one day.

If you have any questions for me or him, we're happy to answer.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky, shminux, Friendly-HI, Strange7
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-05-12T05:55:19.234Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

...just to be clear on this, you have a persistent hallucination who follows you around and offers you rationality advice and points out fallacies in your thinking?

If I ever go insane, I hope it's like this.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, Jayson_Virissimo, hylleddin, komponisto, Armok_GoB, ialdabaoth
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-12T12:14:01.932Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would what's considered a normal sense of self count as a persistent hallucination?

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2013-05-13T22:09:29.446Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

See "free will".

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2013-05-15T23:19:37.358Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

...just to be clear on this, you have a persistent hallucination who follows you around and offers you rationality advice and points out fallacies in your thinking?

This is strikingly similar to Epictetus' version of Stoic meditation whereby you imagine a sage to be following you around throughout the day and critiquing your thought patterns and motives while encouraging you towards greater virtue.

Replies from: SaidAchmiz, hylleddin
comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2013-05-15T23:46:05.125Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


I mean, if 10 years from now, when you are doing something quick and dirty, you suddenly visualize that I am looking over your shoulders and say to yourself "Dijkstra would not have liked this", well, that would be enough immortality for me.

Edsger W. Dijkstra

comment by hylleddin · 2013-05-25T22:10:53.418Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That sounds similar. Though I'm afraid I've had difficulty finding anything about this while researching Epictetus.

comment by hylleddin · 2013-05-13T19:37:42.398Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The hallucination doesn't have auditory or visual components, but does have a sense of presence component that varies in strength.

comment by komponisto · 2013-05-12T07:04:39.390Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Indeed, this style of insanity might beat sanity.

Replies from: SaidAchmiz, SilasBarta
comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2013-05-13T22:20:42.308Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tulpas, especially as construed in this subthread, remind me of daimones in Walter Jon Williams' Aristoi. I've always thought that having / being able to create such mental entities would be super-cool; but I do worry about detrimental effects on mental health of following the methods described in the tulpa community.

comment by SilasBarta · 2013-05-16T04:31:39.181Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are obligated by law to phrase those insights in the form "If X is Y, I don't want to be not-Y."

comment by Armok_GoB · 2013-05-12T15:17:54.045Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From the sound of it it'd seem you can make that happen deliberately, and without the need for going insane. no need for hope.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-05-12T18:30:04.194Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We also have internet self-reports from people who tried it that they are not insane.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-12T23:38:46.640Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One rarely reads self-reports of insanity.

Replies from: TobyBartels
comment by TobyBartels · 2013-05-29T19:11:06.778Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, their attorney usually reports this on their behalf.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-16T04:57:57.383Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you're interested in experimenting...

Well, wait. Is there some way of flagging "potentially damaging information that people who do not understand risk-analysis should NOT have access to" on this site? Because I'd rather not start posting ways to hack your wetware without validating whether my audience can recover from the mental equivalent of a SEGFAULT.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky, RichardKennaway
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-05-16T05:47:41.352Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In my position, I should experiment with very few things that might be unsafe over the course of my total lifetime. This will probably not be one of them, unless I see very impressive results from elsewhere.

Replies from: ialdabaoth
comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-16T05:57:29.611Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

nod that's probably the most sensible response.

To help others understand the potential risks, the creation of a 'tulpa' appears to involve hacking the way your sense-of-self (what current neuroscience identifies as a function of the right inferior parietal cortex) interacts with your ability to empathize and emulate other people (the so-called mirror neuron / "put yourself in others' shoes" modules). Failure modes involve symptoms that mimic dissociative identity disorder, social anxiety disorder, and schizophrenia.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-05-16T10:38:44.032Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you're interested in experimenting...

I am absolutely fascinated, although given the lack of effect that any sort of meditation, guided visualisation, or community ritual has ever had on me, I doubt I would get anywhere. On the other hand, not being engaged in saving the world and its future, I don't have quite as much at risk as Eliezer.

A MEMETIC HAZARD warning at the top might be appropriate, as is requested for basilisk discussion.

comment by shminux · 2013-05-13T22:11:48.142Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would Vigil want to post under his own nick? If so, better register it while still available.

Replies from: Vigil
comment by Vigil · 2013-05-14T20:31:31.898Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a good idea, thanks. Note that my host's posting has significant input from me, so this account is only likely to be used for disagreements and things addressed specifically to me.

comment by Friendly-HI · 2013-05-24T22:58:31.226Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

...many people argue for (their) god by pointing out that they are often "feeling his presence" and since many claim to speak with him as well, maybe that's really just one form of tupla without the insight that it is actually a hallucination.

Surely that's not how most people experience belief, but I never really considered that some of them might actually carry around a vivid invisible (or visible for all I know) hallucination quite like that. Could explain why some of the really batshit crazy ones going on about how god constantly speaks to them manage to be quite so convincing.

From now on my two tulpa buddies will be Eliezer and an artificial intelligence engaged in constant conversation while I make toast, love, and take a shower. Too bad they'll never be smarter than me though.

comment by Strange7 · 2013-05-13T15:30:21.530Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there a headspace, as well?

Replies from: hylleddin
comment by hylleddin · 2013-05-13T18:37:25.741Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've had paracosms since before he was around, and we go to those sometimes. I've also got a "peaceful place" that I use to collect myself, but I use it much more than he does.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2013-05-10T22:17:38.589Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would think there should be a general warning against deliberately promoting the effects of dissociative identity disorder etc, without adequate medical supervision.

Replies from: Kaj_Sotala, ialdabaoth, D_Malik, kerin
comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-05-12T18:04:45.370Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I really doubt that tulpas have much to do with DID, or with anything dangerous for that matter. Based on my admittedly anecdotal experience, a milder version of having them is at least somewhat common among writers and role-players, who say that they're able to talk to the fictional characters they've created. The people in question seem... well, as sane as you get when talking about strongly creative people. An even milder version, where the character you're writing or role-playing just takes a life of their own and acts in a completely unanticipated manner, but one that's consistent with their personality, is even more common, and I've personally experienced it many times. Once the character is well-formed enough, it just feels "wrong" to make them act in some particular manner that goes against their personality, and if you force them to do it anyway you'll feel bad and guilty afterwards.

I would presume that tulpas are nothing but our normal person-emulation circuitry acting somewhat more strongly than usual. You know those situations where you can guess what your friend would say in response to some comment, or when you feel guilty about doing something that somebody important to you would disapprove of? Same principle, quite probably.

Replies from: klkblake, hylleddin
comment by klkblake · 2013-05-22T13:10:41.082Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This article seems relevant (if someone can find a less terrible pdf, I would appreciate it). Abstract:

The illusion of independent agency (IIS) occurs when a fictional character is experienced by the person who created it as having independent thoughts, words, and/or actions. Children often report this sort of independence in their descriptions of imaginary companions. This study investigated the extent to which adult writers experience IIA with the characters they create for their works of fiction. Fifty fiction writers were interviewed about the development of their characters and their memories for childhood imaginary companions. Ninety-two percent of the writers reported at least some experience of IIA. The writers who had published their work had more frequent and detailed reports of IIA, suggesting that the illusion could be related to expertise. As a group, the writers scored higher than population norms in empathy, dissociation, and memories for childhood imaginary companions.

The range of intensities reported by the writers seems to match up with the reports in r/Tulpas, so I think it's safe to say that it is the same phenomena, albeit achieved via slightly different means.

Some interesting parts from the paper regarding dissociative disorder:

The subjects completed the Dissociative Experiences Scale, which yields an overall score, as well as scores on three subscales:

  • Absorption and changeability: people's tendency to become highly engrossed in activities (items such as "Some people find that they become so involved in a fantasy or daydream that it feels as though it were really happening to them).
  • Amnestic experiences: the degree to which dissociation causes gaps in episodic memory ("Some people have the experience of finding things among their belongings that they do not remember buying").
  • Derealisation and depersonalisation: things like "Some people sometimes have the experience of feeling that their body does not belong to them".

The subjects scored an overall mean score of 18.52 (SD 16.07), whereas the general population score a mean of 7.8, and a group of schizophrenics scored 17.7. Scores of 30 are a commonly used cutoff for "normal" scores. Seven subjects exceeded this threshold. The mean scores for the subscales were:

  • Absorption and changeability: 26.22 (SD 14.65).
  • Amnestic experiences: 6.80 (SD 8.30).
  • Derealisation and depersonalisation: 7.84 (SD 7.39).

The latter two subscales are considered particularly diagnostic of dissociative disorders, and the subjects did not differ from the population norms on these. They each had only one subject score over 30 (not the same subject).

What I draw from this: Tulpas are the same phenomenon as writers interacting with their characters. Creating tulpas doesn't cause other symptoms associated with dissociative disorders. There shouldn't be any harmful long-term effects (if there were, we should have noticed them in writers). That said, there are some interactions that some people have with their tulpas that are outside the range (to my knowledge) of what writers do:

  • Possession
  • Switching
  • Merging

The tulpa community generally endorses the first two as being safe, and claims the last to be horribly dangerous and reliably ending in insanity and/or death. I suspect the first one would be safe, but would not recommend trying any of them without more information.

(Note: This is not my field, and I have little experience with interpreting research results. Grains of salt, etc.)

Replies from: kerin, Kaj_Sotala
comment by kerin · 2013-05-25T12:42:11.003Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very few people have actually managed switching, from what I have read. I personally do not recommend it, but I am somewhat biased on that topic.

Merging is a term I've rarely heard. Perhaps it is favored by the more metaphysically minded? I've not heard good reports of this, and all I have heard of "merging" was a very few individuals well known to be internet trolls on 4chan.

Replies from: klkblake
comment by klkblake · 2013-05-25T13:09:22.771Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Really? I had the impression that switching was relatively common among people who had their tulpas for a while. But then, I have drawn this impression from a lot of browsing of r/Tulpa, and only a glance at, so there may be some selection bias there.

I heard about merging here. On the other hand, this commenter seems to think the danger comes from weird expectations about personal continuity.

Replies from: kerin
comment by kerin · 2013-08-02T07:46:54.681Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for the references. Whilst switching may indeed be relatively common among people who have had their tulpas for a long while, the actual numbers are still small - 44 according to a recent census .

Ah, so merging is some sort of forming a gestalt personality? I've no evidence to offer, only stuff I've read that I find the authors somewhat questionable sources.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-05-22T14:47:01.082Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Great find!

comment by hylleddin · 2013-05-12T22:21:07.489Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is my current best theory as to what my tulpa is.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-14T05:19:28.044Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As someone who both successfully experimented with tulpa creation in his youth, and who has since developed various mental disorders (mostly neuroticisms involving power- and status-mediated social realities), I would strongly second this warning. Correlation isn't causation, of course, but at the very least I've learned to adjust my priors upwards regarding the idea that Crowley-style magickal experimentation can be psychologically damaging.

comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-11T12:07:20.803Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think tulpas are more like schizophrenia than dissociative identity disorder. But now that you mention it, dissociative identity disorder does look like fertile ground for finding more munchkinly ideas.

For instance, at least one person I know has admitted to mentally pretending to be another person I know in order to be more extroverted. Maybe this could be combined with tulpas, say by visualizing/hallucinating that you're being possessed by a tulpa.

Replies from: daenerys
comment by daenerys · 2013-05-14T04:00:06.443Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've always pretended to be in order to get whatever skill I've needed. I just call it "putting on hats". I learned to dance by pretending to be a dancer, I learned to sing by pretending to be a singer. When I teach, I pretend to be a teacher, and when I lead I pretend to be a leader (these last two actually came a lot easier to me when I was teaching hooping than now when I'm teaching rationality stuffs, and I haven't really sat down to figure out why. I probably should though, because I am significantly better at when I can pretend to be it. And I highly value being better at these specific skills right now.)

I had always thought everyone did this, but now I see I might be generalizing from one example.

Replies from: TobyBartels, Insert_Idionym_Here
comment by TobyBartels · 2013-05-29T18:58:15.710Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I learnt skills in high-school acting class that I use daily in my job as a teacher. It would be a little much to say that I'm method acting when I teach —I am a teacher in real life, after all—, but my personality is noticeably different (more extroverted, for one thing). It's draining, however; that's the downside.

comment by Insert_Idionym_Here · 2013-05-20T03:17:13.296Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I used to do exactly this, but I created whole backstories and personalities for my "hats" so that they would be more realistic to other people.

comment by kerin · 2013-05-15T11:09:15.748Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Technically, making tulpa would be considered DDNOS, except that the new definition exempts shamanistic practices. Making tulpa is a shamanistic meditation technique practiced in Tibet for the purposes of self-discovery. It takes years of focused practice and concentration, but self-hypnosis can help some.

This modern resurgence of tulpas seems to be trying to find faster ways to make them, with less then years of effort. The evidence for success in this is so far anecdotal. I would advise caution - this is not something that would suit everyone.

I have made tulpas in the past. I've some that are decades old. I will say that seems to be rare so far. Also, in my observation, tulpas become odd after decades, acquiring just as many quirks as most humans have. I personally don't think that there is as much risk of insanity as people think, but I would err on the side of caution myself.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-05-10T17:36:54.526Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's interesting that demons in computer science are called that way. They have exactly the same functionality as the demons that occult enthusiasts proclaim to use.

Even if you don't believe in the occult, be aware that out culture has a lot of stories about how summoning demons might be a bad idea.

You are moving in territory where you don't have mainstream psychology knowledge that guides you and shows you where the dangers lie. You are left with a mental framework of occult defense against evil forces. It's the only knowledge that you can access to guide that way. Having to learn to protect yourself against evil spirits when you don't believe in spirits is a quite messed up.

I had an experience where my arm moved around if I didn't try to control it consciously after doing "spirit healing". I didn't believe in spirits and was fairly confident that it's just my brain doing weird stuff. On the other hand I had to face the fact that the brain doing weird stuff might not be harmless. Fortunately the thing went away after a few month with the help of a person who called it a specter without me saying anything specific about it.

You can always say: "Well, it's just my mind doing something strange." At the same time it's a hard confrontation.

Replies from: someonewrongonthenet, J_Taylor
comment by someonewrongonthenet · 2013-05-13T00:35:11.888Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Even if you don't believe in the occult, be aware that out culture has a lot of stories about how summoning demons might be a bad idea.

Isn't this more like, our (human) culture has a ton of instances when "summoning" "demons" is encouraged, and Christianity didn't like it and so

Replies from: Identity, ChristianKl
comment by Identity · 2013-05-16T00:29:44.312Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't forget that some denominations practice the summoning of the "holy spirit," which seems to result in some interesting antics.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-05-14T18:20:37.172Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A lot of New Age folk put quite a lot of emphasis on respect and love instead of forcing entities to do something. Asking a God for a favor isn't the same thing as ordering an entity to do a particular task. Daemon's get ordered to fulfill tasks.

If you look at those tulpa creation guides they basically say, treat your tulpa nicely and it will help you to the extend that it wants. They advocate against manpulating the tulpa into doing what you want.

Replies from: someonewrongonthenet
comment by someonewrongonthenet · 2013-05-14T19:33:25.445Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Really? From what I've read, The folks who claim that this "tulpa" stuff is possible to do also say that you can create "servitors", which are not conscious and are basically portions of your mind that can perform mental tasks without distracting you.

I dunno...I really don't understand why no one in this community has bothered to test this sort of thing. It's fairly easy to make a test of divided attention to see if someone has successfully created a partially separate entity which can operate autonomously.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2014-11-07T14:32:21.210Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There seem to be a number of such tests, but no data collected from them.

Mental Arithmetic test

Parallel Processing Test

I don't have a tulpa, and I tried the second test and was unable to keep track of both lines of dots; at best I could get one side perfectly and guess at the other side. If I create a tulpa at any point, I'll check if that result changes.

ETA: I tried the second test again, but counted the red ones as 1,2,3,... and the blue ones as A,B,C,... then I calculated what number the letter corresponded to. I got an almost perfect score; so a tulpa is not necessary to do well on this test. I'm not sure what sort of test could rule out this method; I have seen a auditory test which was two simultaneous dual-n-back tests.

Replies from: someonewrongonthenet
comment by someonewrongonthenet · 2014-11-19T23:01:04.467Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yup - since posting that comment I actually checked with the tulpa community and they referred me to those very links. No data formally collected, but anecdotally people with tulpas aren't reporting getting perfect scores.

I'm going with "use imagination, simulate personality" here, and am guessing any benefits relating to the tulpa are emotional and/or influencing what a person thinks about, rather than a separated neural network like what you'd get with a split brain or something.

The perceived inability to read the tulpa's mind and the seemingly spontaneously complex nature of the tulpa's voice is, I think, an artifact of our own inability to know what we think before we think it, similar to dream characters. As such, I don't think there is any major distinction between a tulpa and a dream character, an imaginary friend, a character an author puts into a book, a deity being prayed too, and so on. That's not to say tulpas are bs or uninteresting or anything - I'm sure they really can have personalities - it's just that they aren't distinct from various commonly experienced phenomenon that goes by other names. I don't think I'd accord them moral status, beyond the psychological health of the "host". (Although, I suspect to get a truly complex tulpa you have to believe it is a separate individual at some level - that's how neurotypical people believe they can hear god's voice and so on.)

I've got much respect to the community for empirically testing that hypotheses!

comment by J_Taylor · 2013-05-11T00:35:20.299Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is incredibly pedantic. (Also rather unjustified, due to my own lack of knowledge regarding occult enthusiasts.) However:

It's interesting that demons in computer science are called that way. They have exactly the same functionality as the demons that occult enthusiasts proclaim to use.

Although daemons in computer science are rather akin to daemons in classical mythology (sort of, kind of, close enough), they really don't particularly resemble our modern conception of demons. I mean, they can totally get a programmer into "Sorcerer's Apprentice"-style shenanigans, but I've never heard of a daemon tempting anyone.

You can always say: "Well, it's just my mind doing something strange." At the same time it's a hard confrontation.

I have previously recommend to friends that alcohol is a moderately good way to develop empathy for those less intelligent than oneself. (That is, it is a good way for those who really cannot comprehend the way other people get confused by certain ideas). I wager that there are a wide array of methods to gain knowledge of some of the stranger confusions the human mind is a capable of. Ignoring chemical means, sleep deprivation is probably the simplest.

Also, congratulations for going through these experiences and retaining (what I assume is) a coherent and rational belief-system. A lot of people would not.

Replies from: Armok_GoB, ChristianKl
comment by Armok_GoB · 2013-05-11T02:20:44.794Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

but I've never heard of a daemon tempting anyone.

RSS reader/other notification of new procrastination available.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-05-11T11:40:52.752Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I mean, they can totally get a programmer into "Sorcerer's Apprentice"-style shenanigans, but I've never heard of a daemon tempting anyone.

Computer daemons don't tempt people. There's little danger is using them. At least as long they aren't AGI's. Tulpa's are something like AGI's that don't run on computer but on your own brain.

D_Malik read a proposal for creating tulpas with specifically tell the reader that they aren't supposed to created for "practical purposes". After reading it he thinks: "Hey, if tulpa can do those things, we can probably create them for a lot of practical purposes."

That looks like a textbook example of temptation to me. I don't want to advocate that you never give in to such temptations but just taking there Tulpa creation manual and changing a bit to make the Tulpa more "practical" doesn't sound like a good strategy to me.

The best framework for doing something like this might be hypnosis. It's practioners are more "reasonable" than magick people.

Also, congratulations for going through these experiences and retaining (what I assume is) a coherent and rational belief-system.

This and related experiences caused me to become more agnostic over a bunch of things.

comment by Tuxedage · 2013-05-11T01:53:54.854Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Since we're talking about Tulpas, I feel obligated to mention that I have one. In case anyone wants anecdata.

Replies from: Armok_GoB, Decius, Zaine
comment by Armok_GoB · 2013-05-11T15:39:36.953Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a bunch of LW relevant question I'd like to ask a tulpa, especially one of a LWer that's likely to be familiar with the concepts already:

Do you see yourself as non human?

Would you want to be more or less humanlike than you currently are?

What do you think about the possibility that your values might differ enough from human ones that many here might refer to you as Unfriendly?

Does being already bodiless and created give you different views of things like uploading and copies than your host?

I'll probably have more questions after getting the answer to these and/or in realtime conversation not in a public place. Also, getting thee answers from as many different tulpae as possible would be the best.

Edit: I also have some private questions for someone who's decently knowledgeable about them in general (have several, has been in the community for a long time).

Replies from: hylleddin, Tuxedage
comment by hylleddin · 2013-05-12T05:15:28.478Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Vigil speaking.

Do you see yourself as non human?

Not exactly. I consider myself a part of a human.

Would you want to be more or less humanlike than you currently are?

My host and I would both like to get rid of several cognitive biases that plague humans, as I'm sure many people here would. Beyond that, I like myself as I am now.

What do you think about the possibility that your values might differ enough from human ones that many here might refer to you as Unfriendly?

My values are the same as my hosts in most situations. I am sure there are a few people who would consider our values Unfriendly, but I don't think the majority of people would.

Does being already bodiless and created give you different views of things like uploading and copies than your host?


I'll probably have more questions after getting the answer to these and/or in realtime conversation not in a public place.

Feel free to contact us.

Replies from: Kawoomba
comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-12T05:43:37.625Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not sure if serious. If serious: "You could think of them as hallucinations that can think and act on their own." (from the subreddit) seems very close to teaching your brain to become schizophrenic.

Replies from: kalium
comment by kalium · 2013-05-13T02:25:57.995Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hallucinations are a highly salient symptom of schizophrenia, but are neither necessary nor sufficient. I am confident that, like a lot of religious beliefs, this kind of deliberate self-deception would be unlikely to contribute to psychosis.

comment by Tuxedage · 2013-05-18T14:30:59.303Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure. pm me those private questions.

  1. No. I'm a human.

  2. I don't see the need to be any more or less human like, since I already am human. (My Tulpa, unlike myself, does not see being 'human-like' as a spectrum, but rather as a binary.)

  3. I don't see it that way. I'm dependent on my host, and my values align more with my host than the average person does. Calling me unfriendly would be wrong.

  4. Not really - I don't think much about uploading and copying, only my host does. I trust his opinions.

comment by Decius · 2013-05-11T02:28:19.092Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What would you estimate the cost/benefit ratio to be, and what variables do you think are most relevant?

Replies from: Tuxedage
comment by Tuxedage · 2013-05-11T02:44:55.076Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Without going into detail, overall my usage of Tulpas have benefited me more than it has hurt me, although it has somewhat hurt me in my early childhood when I would accidentally create Tulpas and not realize that they were a part of my imagination (And imagine them to come from an external source.) It's very difficult to say if the same would apply for anyone else, since Your Mileage May Vary.

I also suspect creating Tulpas may come significantly easier for some people than others, and this may affect the cost-benefit analysis. Tulpas come very naturally for me, and as I've mentioned, my first Tulpa was completely accidental and I did not even realize it was a Tulpa until a year or two later. On the other hand, I've read posts about people on /r/Tulpa that have spend hours daily trying to force Tulpas without actually managing to create them. If I had to spend an hour every day in order to obtain a Tulpa, I wouldn't even bother -- also because there's no way I'm willing to sacrifice that much time for a Tulpa. But the fact that I can will a Tulpa into existence relatively easily helps.

A different variable that may affect whether having a Tulpa is worth it is if you have social desires that are nearly impossible to satisfy through non-tulpa outlets such as meatspace friends. In this case, I do, and I satisfy these desires through Tulpas rather than forcing another human being to conform to my expectations. This also improves my ability to relate to others in real life, since I more easily accept imperfections from them. I suspect that if you're cognitively similar, you may benefit from Tulpas. I can't think of anything else right now, and if you have anything more specific, it may trigger more thoughts on the matter.

Replies from: Decius, Petruchio
comment by Decius · 2013-05-11T21:52:14.243Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Has your Tulpa ever won an argument with you that you didn't already know you wanted to lose?

Replies from: RomeoStevens
comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-05-12T22:48:47.616Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tulpas no, dream characters yes.

Replies from: Decius
comment by Decius · 2013-05-12T23:41:40.644Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not certain I understand the distinction. How did a dream character convince you that you used to be wrong?

Replies from: RomeoStevens
comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-05-13T02:55:28.168Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Through conversation.

comment by Petruchio · 2013-05-11T05:45:49.473Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What types of social desires do you satisfy through your tulpa which you have not been able to with your online or meatspace friends?

Replies from: Tuxedage
comment by Tuxedage · 2013-05-11T16:20:57.975Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've written a blog post some time ago that doesn't directly refer to Tulpas, but does somewhat answer this question of the social desires that I fulfill through this method. I think this sufficiently answers your question, although if you feel like it doesn't, let me know, and I'll write something for Tulpas directly.

comment by Zaine · 2013-05-11T03:19:01.938Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Say you want to write a story - can you offload the idea to your tulpa, entertain yourself for a few hours, then ask them to dictate to you the story, now fully fleshed-out? Can you give them control of your body so they can write it themselves?

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, Tuxedage, Tuxedage
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-11T04:20:59.969Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A lot of writers seem to have characters who are pretty much like tulpas.

Replies from: RomeoStevens
comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-05-12T22:50:19.314Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This, to the extent that the character can veto a proposed plot point. "I wouldn't do that."

comment by Tuxedage · 2013-05-18T14:26:08.667Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So I tried experimenting. I couldn't do it to a degree of sufficiently high fidelity to be able to say "A Tulpa wrote a story on my behalf." I'll be trying again soon.

comment by Tuxedage · 2013-05-11T16:25:38.302Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The latter is not possible. My Tulpa does not have control of my body, although I've heard anecdotes of people who manage to do that. As for the first question, I've never tried. I'll attempt it and report back to you on whether it's possible.

comment by Mario · 2013-05-16T02:17:30.353Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can't believe that this is something people talk about. I've had a group of people in my head for years, complete with the mindscape the reddit FAQ talks about. I just thought I was a little bit crazy; it's nice to see that there's a name for it.

I can't imagine having to deal with just one though. I started with four, which seemed like a good idea when I was eleven, and I found that distracting enough. Having only one sounds like being locked in a small room with only one companion -- I'd rather be in solitary. I kept creating more regardless, and I finally ended up with sixteen (many of those only half-formed, to be fair), before I figured out how to get them to talk amongst themselves and leave me alone. Most are still there (a few seem to have disappeared), I just stay out of that room.

My advice would be to avoid doing this at all, but if you do, create at least two, and give them a nice room (or set of rooms) to stay in with a defined exit. You'll thank me later.

Replies from: atorm, hylleddin
comment by atorm · 2013-05-16T21:50:21.458Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can't tell if this is a joke or not.

comment by hylleddin · 2013-06-03T01:09:12.683Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you may be generalizing from one example here. We're quite happy with just the two of us.Any more would be too crowded for us. I imagine the optimum size depends on the personalities of those involved. I'm not sure I agree about suggesting people avoid this entirely, but I certainly would advise caution.

comment by Plasmon · 2013-05-10T13:35:12.844Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This reminds me of the Abramelin operation, a ritual that supposedly summons guardian angels.

Replies from: RomeoStevens
comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-05-10T20:05:20.219Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That sounds like some serious dedication to internal family systems for someone who is very superstitious.

comment by klkblake · 2013-05-12T13:54:53.489Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is fascinating. I'm rather surprised that people seem to be able to actually see their tulpa after a while. I do worry about the ethical implications though -- with what we see with split brain patients, it seems plausible that a tulpa may actually be a separate person. Indeed, if this is true, and the tulpa's memories aren't being confabulated on the spot, it would suggest that the host would lose the use of the part of their brain that is running the tulpa, decreasing their intelligence. Which is a pity, because I really want to try this, but I don't want to risk permanently decreasing my intelligence.

Replies from: drnickbone, mare-of-night, MugaSofer, Kawoomba
comment by drnickbone · 2013-05-16T13:47:50.016Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I do worry about the ethical implications though -- with what we see with split brain patients, it seems plausible that a tulpa may actually be a separate person.

So, "Votes for tulpas" then! How many of them can you create inside one head?

The next stage would be "Vote for tulpas!".

Getting a tulpa elected as president using the votes of other tulpas would be a real munchkin coup...

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-05-12T15:06:09.224Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been wondering if the headaches people report while forming a tulpa are caused by spending more mental energy than normal.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-13T11:37:12.975Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You should get one of the occult enthusiasts to check if Tulpas leave ghosts ;)

More seriously, I suspect the brain is already capable of this sort of thing - dreams, for example - even if it's usually running in the background being your model of the world or somesuch.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-12T14:09:43.236Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a waste of time at best, and inducing psychosis at worst. (Waste of time because the "tulpa" - your hallucination - has access to the same data repository you use, and doesn't run on a different frontal cortex. You can teach yourself the right habits without also teaching yourself to become mentally ill.)

You know what it's called when you hear voices giving you "advice"? Paranoid schizophrenia. Outright visual hallucinations?

What's next, using magic mushrooms to speed the process? Yes, you can probably teach yourself to become actually insane, but why would you?

Replies from: mare-of-night, Qiaochu_Yuan, MugaSofer
comment by mare-of-night · 2013-05-12T18:51:07.402Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You know what it's called when you hear voices giving you "advice"? Paranoid schizophrenia. Outright visual hallucinations?

Sounds like the noncentral fallacy. That you are somewhat in control, and that the tulpa will leave you alone (at least temporarily) if asked, seem like relevant differences from the more central cases of mental illness.

Replies from: David_Gerard, Kawoomba
comment by David_Gerard · 2013-05-13T10:36:55.487Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your reply sounds like special pleading using the fallacy fallacy. Of course you can induce mental illness in yourself if you try hard enough.

Replies from: mare-of-night
comment by mare-of-night · 2013-05-13T14:43:52.428Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It would be if I was saying we should ignore the similarity to mental illness altogether. I'm just saying it's different enough from typical cases to warrant closer examination.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-12T18:58:07.389Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, "getting advice from / interacting with a hallucinated person with his own personality" certainly fits the "I hallucinate voices telling me to do something" template much better than "not getting advice from / not interacting with a hallucinated person with his own personality", no?

There is no way that hallucinated persons talking to you are classified other than as part of a mental illness, other than if brought on by e.g. drug use. The DSM IV offers no exceptions for the "tulpa" community ...

Replies from: mare-of-night, Qiaochu_Yuan
comment by mare-of-night · 2013-05-12T19:16:55.103Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but the operative question here isn't whether it's mental illness, it's whether it's beneficial. Similarity to harmful mental illnesses is a reason to be really careful (having a very low prior probability of anything that fits the "mental illness" category being a good thing), but it's not a knockdown argument.

If we accept psychology's rule that a mental trait is only an illness if it interferes with your life (meaning moderate to large negative effect on a person's life, as I understand it), then something being a mental illness is a knockdown argument that it is not beneficial. But in that case, you have to prove that the thing has a negative affect on the person's life before you can know that is a mental illness. (See also

Replies from: private_messaging, David_Gerard, Kawoomba
comment by private_messaging · 2013-05-13T10:16:17.937Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's only that much brain to go around with, the brain, being for the most part a larger version of australopithecus brain, as it is can have trouble seeing itself as a whole (just look at that "akrasia" posts where you can see people's talkative parts of the brain disown the decisions made by the decision-making parts). Why do you expect anything but detrimental effects from deepening the failure of the brain to work as a whole?

Replies from: MugaSofer
comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-13T11:32:40.732Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Could you expand on this, please? I'm not sure I'm familiar with the failure mode you seem to be pattern-matching to.

Replies from: private_messaging
comment by private_messaging · 2013-05-17T16:54:15.478Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The point is that when someone "hears voices" - which do not respond to the will in the same way in which internal monologues do, there's no demons, there's no new brain added. It is existing brain regions involved in the internal monologue failing to integrate properly with the rest. Less dramatically, when people claim they e.g. want to get on a diet but are mysteriously unable to - their actions do not respond to what they think is their will but instead respond to what they think is not their will - it's the regions which make decisions about food intake not integrating with the regions that do the talking (Proper integration either results in the diet or absence of the belief that one wants to be on a diet). The bottom line is, brain is not a single CPU of some kind. It is a distributed system parts of which are capable of being in conflict, to the detriment of the well being of the whole.

Replies from: MugaSofer
comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-20T21:33:40.773Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So ... you're worried this might increase akrasia? I guess I can see how they might be in the same category, but I don't think the same downsides apply. Do they?

Replies from: private_messaging
comment by private_messaging · 2013-05-21T04:54:16.402Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The point with akrasia was to illustrate that more than 1 volition inside 1 head isn't even rare here to begin with. The actual issue is that, of course, you aren't creating some demon out of nothing. You are re-purposing existing part of your brain, involved in the internal monologue or even mental visualization as well, making this part not integrate properly with the rest under one volition. There's literally less of your brain under your volition.

This topic is extremely retarded. This tulpa stuff resembles mental illness. Now, you wanna show off your "rationality" according to local rules of showing off your rationality, by rejecting the simple looking argument that it should be avoided like mental illness is. "Of course" it's pattern matching, "non central fallacy" and other labels that you were taught here to give to equally Bayesian reasoning when it arrives at conclusions you don't like. Here's the thing: Yeah, it is in some technical sense not mental illness. It most closely resembles one. And it is as likely to be worse as it is likely to be better*, and it's expected badness is equal to that of mental illness, and the standard line of reasoning is going to approximate utility maximization much better than this highly biased reasoning where if it is not like mental illness it must be better than mental illness, or worse, depending to which arguments pop into your head easier. In good ol caveman days, people with this reasoning fallacy, they would eat a mushroom, get awfully sick, and then eat another mushroom that looks quite similar to the first, but is a different mushroom of course, in the sense that it's not the exact same physical mushroom body, and get awfully sick, and then do it again, and die.

Let's suppose it was self inflicted involuntary convulsion fits, just to make an example where you'd not feel so much like demonstrating some sort of open mindness. Now the closest thing would have been real convulsion fits, and absent other reliable evidence either way expected badness of self inflicted convulsion fits would clearly be equal.

Also, by the way, what ever mental state you arrive at by creating a tulpa, is unlikely to be a mental state not achievable by one or the other illness.

  • if its self inflicted, for example standard treatments might not work.
Replies from: MugaSofer
comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-23T09:40:03.358Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's literally less of your brain under your volition.

Well, yeah. The primary worry among tulpa creators is that it might get pissed at you and follow you around the house making faces.

This tulpa stuff resembles mental illness.

And what, pray tell, is the salient feature of mental illness that causes us to avoid it? Because I don't think it's the fact that we refer to them with the collection of syllables "men-tal-il-nes".

Now, you wanna show off your "rationality" according to local rules of showing off your rationality, by rejecting the simple looking argument that it should be avoided like mental illness is. "Of course" it's pattern matching, "non central fallacy" and other labels that you were taught here to give to equally Bayesian reasoning when it arrives at conclusions you don't like. Here's the thing: Yeah, it is in some technical sense not mental illness. It most closely resembles one. And it is as likely to be worse as it is likely to be better*, and it's expected badness is equal to that of mental illness, and the standard line of reasoning is going to approximate utility maximization much better than this highly biased reasoning where if it is not like mental illness it must be better than mental illness, or worse, depending to which arguments pop into your head easier. In good ol caveman days, people with this reasoning fallacy, they would eat a mushroom, get awfully sick, and then eat another mushroom that looks quite similar to the first, but is a different mushroom of course, in the sense that it's not the exact same physical mushroom body, and get awfully sick, and then do it again, and die.


EDIT: OK, I should probably respond to that properly. Analogies are only useful when we don't have better information about something's effects. Bam, responded.

Let's suppose it was self inflicted involuntary convulsion fits, just to make an example where you'd not feel so much like demonstrating some sort of open mindness. Now the closest thing would have been real convulsion fits, and absent other reliable evidence either way expected badness of self inflicted convulsion fits would clearly be equal.

"Convulsion fits" are, I understand, painful and dangerous. Something like alien hand syndrome seems more analogous, but unfortunately I can't really think of any benefits it might have, so naturally the expected utility comes out negative.

Also, by the way, what ever mental state you arrive at by creating a tulpa, is unlikely to be a mental state not achievable by one or the other illness.

Could well be. Illnesses are capable of having beneficial side-effects, just by chance, although obviously it's easier to break things than improve them with random interference.

if its self inflicted, for example standard treatments might not work.

If you had looked into the topic, you would know the process is reversible.

Replies from: RichardKennaway, private_messaging
comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-05-23T11:51:51.684Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you had looked into the topic, you would know the process is reversible.

Are we sure there even is a process? The Reddit discussions are fascinating, but how credible are they? Likewise Alexandra David-Néel's account of creating one. All very interesting-if-true, but...

Replies from: ialdabaoth, MugaSofer
comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-23T12:16:21.207Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


I've kinda been avoiding this due to the potential correlation between my magickal experimentation in my teens/twenties and my later-life mental health difficulties, but I feel like people are wandering all over the place already, and I'd at least like to provide a few guideposts.

Yes, there are processes. Or at least, there are various things that are roughly like processes, although very few of them are formalized (if you want formalization, look to Crowley). Rather than provide yet another anecdotal account, let me lay out some of the observations I made during my own experimentation. My explicit goal when experimenting was to attempt to map various wacky "occult" or "pseudoscientific" theories to a modern understanding of neuroscience, and thus explain away as much of the Woo as possible. My hope was that what was left would provide a reasonable guide to "hacking my wetware".

  1. When you're doing occult procedures, what (I think, @p > 0.7) you're essentially doing is performing code injection attacks on your own brain. Note that while the brain is a neural network rather than a serial von Neumann-type (or Turing-type) machine, many neural networks tend to converge towards emulating finite state machines, which can be modeled as von Neumann-type machines - so it's not implausible (@p ~= 0.85) that processes analagous to code injection attacks might work.

  2. The specific area of the brain that seems to be targeted by the rituals that create a tulpa are the right inferior parietal lobe and the temporoparietal junction - which seem to play a key role in maintaining one's sense-of-self / sense-of-agency / sense-of-ownership (i.e., the illusion that there is an "I" and that that "I" is what is calling the shots when the mind makes a decision or the body performs an action), as well as the area of the inferior parietal cortex and postcentral gyrus that participate in so-called "mirror neuron" processes. You'll note that Crowley, for example, goes through at great length describing rather brutal initiatory ordeals designed specifically to degrade the practitioner's sense-of-self - Crowley's specific method was tabooing the word 'I', and slashing his own thumb with a razor whenever he slipped.

  3. NOTE: Tabooing "I" is a VERY POWERFUL technique, and unlocks a slew of potential mindhacks, but (to stretch our software metaphor to the breaking point) you're basically crashing one of your more important pieces of firewall software so you can do it. ARE YOU SURE THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT TO BE DOING? You literally have no idea how many little things constantly assault the ego / sense of self-worth every minute that you don't even register because your "I" protects you. A good deal of Crowley's (or any good initiatory Master's) training involves preparing you to protect yourself once you take that firewall down - older works will couch that as "warding you against evil spirits" or whatever, but ultimately what we're talking about is the terrifying and relentless psychological onslaught that is raw, unfiltered reality (or, to be more accurate, "rawer, less-filtered reality").


  1. Once your "I" crashes, you can start your injection attacks. Basically, while the "I" is rebooting, you want to slip stuff into your sensory stream that will disrupt the rebooting process enough to spawn two seperate "I" processes - essentially, you need to confuse your brain into thinking that it needs to spawn a second "I" while the first one is still running, confuse each "I" into not noticing that the other one is actually running on the same hardware, and then load a bunch of bogus metadata into one of the "I"s so that it develops a separate personality and set of motivations.

  2. Luckily, this is easier than it sounds, because your brain is already used to doing exactly this up in the prefrontal cortex - this is the origin of all that BS "right brain" / "left brain" talk that came from those fascinating epilepsy studies where they severed people's corpus colossa. See, you actually have two separate "awareness" processes running already; it's just that your corpus colossum normally keeps them sufficiently synchronized that you don't notice, and you only have a single "I" providing a consistent narrative, so you never notice that you're actually two separate conscious processes cooperating and competing for goal-satisfaction.

Anyway, hopefully this has been informative enough that dedicated psychonauts can use it as a launching point, while obfuscated enough that people won't be casually frying their brains. This ain't rocket science yet.

Replies from: Leonhart, MugaSofer
comment by Leonhart · 2013-05-24T16:45:19.363Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You linked to the local-jargon version of word-tabooing, but what you describe sounds more like the standard everyday version of "tabooing" something. Which was intended?

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-23T13:45:21.280Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

... huh. I don't know about hacking the "I", all I've seen suggested is regular meditation and visualization. Still, interesting stuff for occult buffs.

Also, I think I've seen accounts of people creating two or three tulpas (tulpae?), with no indication that this was any different to the fist; does this square with the left-brain/right-brain bit?

EDIT: I just realized I immediately read a comment with WARNING MEMETIC HAZARD at the top. Hum.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-23T13:22:32.174Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fair point. OK, the fact that it's reversible seems about as agreed on as any facet of this topic - more so than many of them. I'm inclined to believe this isn't a hoax or anything due to the sheer number of people claiming to have done it and (apparent?) lack of failed replications. None of this is accepted science or anything, there is a certain degree of risk from Side Effects No-one Saw Coming and hey, maybe it's magic and your soul will get nommed (although most online proponents are careful to disavow claims that it's anything but an induced hallucination.)

comment by private_messaging · 2013-05-25T03:46:38.319Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, yeah. The primary worry among tulpa creators is that it might get pissed at you and follow you around the house making faces.

They ought to be at least somewhat concerned that they have less brain for their own walking around the house.

And what, pray tell, is the salient feature of mental illness that causes us to avoid it? Because I don't think it's the fact that we refer to them with the collection of syllables "men-tal-il-nes".

You don't know? It's loss in "utility". When you have an unknown item which, out of the items that you know of, most closely resembles a mushroom consumption of which had very huge negative utility, the expected utility of consuming the unknown toxic mushroom like item is also negative (unless totally starving and there's literally nothing else one could seek for nourishment). Of course, in today's environment, people rarely face the need to make such inferences themselves - society warns you of all the common dangers, uncommon dangers are by definition uncommon, and language hides the inferential nature of categorization from the view.

If you had looked into the topic, you would know the process is reversible.

The cases I've heard which do not look like people attention seeking online, are associated with severe mental illness. Of course the direction of the causation is somewhat murky in any such issue, but necessity to see a doctor doesn't depend on direction of the causation here.

Replies from: MugaSofer
comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-27T10:28:52.959Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

They ought to be at least somewhat concerned that they have less brain for their own walking around the house.

Ah, right. I suppose that would depend on the exact mechanisms, involved, yeah.

Are children who have imaginary friends found to have subnormal cognitive development?

You don't know? It's loss in "utility". When you have an unknown item which, out of the items that you know of, most closely resembles a mushroom consumption of which had very huge negative utility, the expected utility of consuming the unknown toxic mushroom like item is also negative (unless totally starving and there's literally nothing else one could seek for nourishment).

So please provide evidence that this feature is shared by the thing under discussion, yeah?

The cases I've heard which do not look like people attention seeking online, are associated with severe mental illness.

Source? This doesn't match my experiences, unless you draw an extremely wide definition of "attention-seeking online" (I assume you meant to imply people who were probably making it up?)

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-05-13T10:37:50.128Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is the argument to adopt a religion even though you know it's epistemically irrational.

Replies from: MugaSofer, mare-of-night, TobyBartels
comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-13T11:31:37.623Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're confusing hallucinations with delusions, I think.

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-05-13T14:33:27.104Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm assuming that a rationalist who made tulpas would be aware that they weren't really separate people (since a lot of people in the tulpa community say they don't think they're separate people, being able to see them probably doesn't require thinking they're separate from yourself), so it wouldn't require having false beliefs or beliefs in beliefs in the way that religion would.

If adopting a religion really is the instrumentally best course of action... why not? But for a consequentialist who values truth for its own sake, or would be hindered by being confused about their beliefs, religion actually wouldn't be a net benefit.

comment by TobyBartels · 2013-05-29T19:38:02.626Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One can adopt a religion in many ways. My comment's siblings warn against adopting a religion's dogma, but my comment's parent suggests adopting a religion's practices. (There are other ways, too, like religious identity.) Traditionally, one adopts all of these as a package, but that's not necessary.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-12T19:40:35.287Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You don't classify each type of .e.g voice hallucinated with schizophrenia. You could for example apply your argument to say "well, is the voice threatening to kill you only if you don't study for your test? If so, isn't the net effect beneficial, and as such it's not really a mental illness? If you like being motivated by your voices, you don't suffer from schizophrenia, that's only for people who dislike their voices."

I certainly cannot prove that there are no situations in which hallucinating imaginary people giving you advice would not be net beneficial, in fact, there certainly are situations in which any given potential mental illness may be beneficial. There have been studies about certain potential mental illnesses being predominant (or at least overrepresented) in certain professions, sometimes to the professional's benefit (also: taking cocaine may be beneficial. Certain tulpas may be beneficial.).

Who knows, maybe an unknown grand-uncle will leave a fortune to you, predicated on you being a drug-addict. In which case being a drug-addict would have been beneficial.

People dabble in alcohol to get a social edge, they usually refrain from heroin. Which reference class is a tulpa most like?

You can put a "Your Mileage May Vary" disclaimer to any advice, but actually hallucinating persons who then interact with you seems like it should belong in the DSM (where it is) way more than it should belong in a self-help guide.

Maybe when plenty of people have used tulpas for decades, and a representative sample of them can be used to prove their safety, there will be enough evidence to switch the reference class, to introduce a special case in the form of "hallucinations are a common symptom of schizophrenia, except tulpas". Until then, the default case would be using the reference class of "effects of hallucinating people", which is presumed harmful unless shown to be otherwise.

Replies from: RichardKennaway, mare-of-night, kalium, MugaSofer
comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-05-13T09:58:42.055Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maybe when plenty of people have used tulpas for decades

Never happen if no-one tries. I agree that it looks dangerous, but this is the ridiculous munchkin ideas thread, not the boring advice or low-hanging fruit threads.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away...

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-05-12T21:16:32.468Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You could for example apply your argument to say "well, is the voice threatening to kill you only if you don't study for your test? If so, isn't the net effect beneficial, and as such it's not really a mental illness? If you like being motivated by your voices, you don't suffer from schizophrenia, that's only for people who dislike their voices."

If you're going to define schizophrenia as voices that are bad for the person, then that would mean that it's only for people who dislike their voices (and are not deluded about whether the voices are a net benefit).

Voices threatening to kill you if you don't achieve your goals also doesn't seem like a good example of a net benefit - that would cause a lot of stress, so it might not actually be beneficial. It's also not typical behavior for tulpas, based on the conversations in the tulpa subreddit. Voices that annoy you when you don't work or try to influence your behavior with (simulated?) social pressure would probably be more typical.

Anyway... I'm trying to figure out where exactly we disagree. After thinking about it, I think I "downvote" mental disorders for being in the "bad for you" category rather than the "abnormal mental things" category, and the "mental disorder" category is more like a big warning sign to check how bad it is for people. Tulpas look like something to be really, really careful about because they're in the "abnormal mental things" category (and also the "not well understood yet" category), but the people on the tulpa subreddit don't seem unhappy or frustrated, so I haven't added many "bad for you" downvotes.

I've also got some evidence indicating that they're at least not horrible:

  • People who have tulpas say they think it's a good thing
  • People who have tulpas aren't saying really worrying things (like suggesting they're a good replacement for having friends)
  • The process is somewhat under the control of the "host" - progressing from knowing what the tulpa would say to auditory hallucinations to visual ones seems to take a lot of effort for most people
  • No one is reporting having trouble telling the tulpa apart from a real person or non-mental voices (one of the problematic features of schizophrenia is that the hallucinations can't be differentiated from reality)
  • I've already experienced some phenomena similar to this, and they haven't really affected my wellbeing either way. (You know how writes talk about characters "taking off a life of their own", so writing dialog feels more like taking dictation and the characters might refuse to go along with a pre-planned plot? I've had some of this. I've also (very rarely) had characters spontaneously "comment" on what I'm doing or reading.)

This doesn't add up to enough to make me anywhere near certain - I'm still very suspicious about this being safe, and it seems like it would have to be taking up some of your cognitive resources. But it might be worth investigating (mainly the non-hallucination parts - being able to see the tulpa doesn't seem that useful), since human brains are better at thinking about people than most other things.

comment by kalium · 2013-05-13T02:38:20.634Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, the DSM does have an exception for "culturally accepted" or "non-bizarre" delusions. It's pretty subjective and I imagine in practice the exceptions granted are mostly religious in nature, but there's definitely a level of acceptance past which the DSM wouldn't consider having a tulpa to be a disorder at all.

Furthermore, hallucinations are neither necessary or sufficient for a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Disorganized thought, "word salad", and flat affect are just as important, and a major disruption to the patient's life must also be demonstrated.

Replies from: Kawoomba, David_Gerard
comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-13T06:05:23.260Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, if you insist, here goes:

(A non-bizarre delusion would be believing that your guru was raised from the dead, the exception for "culturally accepted response pattern" isn't for tulpa hallucinations, it is so that someone who feels the presence of god in the church, hopefully without actually seeing a god hallucination, isn't diagnosed.)

Here's the criteria for e.g. 295.40 Schizophreniform Disorder:

  • One of the following criteria, if delusions are judged to be bizarre, or hallucinations consist of hearing one voice participating in a running commentary of the patient's actions or of hearing two or more voices conversing with each other: Delusions, Hallucinations, (...)

  • Rule out of Schizoaffective or Mood Disorders

  • Disturbance not due to drugs, medication, or a general medical condition (e.g. delirium tremens)

  • Duration of an episode of the disorder (hallucinations) one to six months

Criteria for 298.80: Brief Psychotic Disorder

  • Presence of one (or more) of the following symptoms: hallucinations (...)

  • Duration between one day and one month

  • Hallucination not better accounted for by Schizoaffective Disorder, Mood Disorder With Psychotic Features, Schizophrenia

Criteria for 298.90: Psychotic Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified):

  • Psychotic symptomatology (e.g. hallucinations) that do not meet the criteria for any specific Psychotic Disorder, Examples include persistent auditory hallucinations in the absence of any other features.

  • Where are the additional criteria for that? Wait, there are none!

In summary: You tell a professional about that "friend" you're seeing and hearing, you either get 295.40 Schizophreniform Disorder or 298.80: Brief Psychotic Disorder depending on the time frame, or 298.90: Psychotic Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) in any case. Congratulations!

Replies from: kalium
comment by kalium · 2013-05-13T17:17:56.973Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fair enough, if I had an imaginary friend I wouldn't want to report it to a shrink. I got hung up on technicalities and the point I should have been focusing on is whether entertaining one specific delusion is likely to result in other symptoms of schizophrenia that are more directly harmful.

Replies from: Kawoomba
comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-13T20:47:29.916Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

See my take on that here.

Many people suffering from hearing voices etc. do realize those "aren't real", which doesn't in itself enable them to turn them off. If I were confident that you can untrain hallucinations (and strictly speaking thus get rid of a psychotic disorder NOS just by choosing to do so), switch them off with little effort, I would find tulpas to be harmless.

Not knowing much of anything about the tulpa community, a priori I would expect that a significant fraction of "imaginary friends" are more of a vivid imagination type of phenomenon, and not an actual visual and auditory hallucination, which may be more of an embellishment for group-identification purposes.

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-05-13T10:38:41.652Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's specifically the religion exemption, yes.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-13T11:33:54.280Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Which reference class is a tulpa most like?

Isn't this a failure mode with a catchy name?

Replies from: Luke_A_Somers, Kawoomba, klkblake
comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2013-05-13T22:15:14.907Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think implicit in that question was, 'and how does it differ?'

A friend of mine has a joke in which he describes any arbitrary magic card (and later, things that weren't magic cards) by explaining how it differed from an Ornithopter (Suq'Ata Lancer is just like an Ornithopter except it's red instead of an artifact, and it has haste and flanking instead of flying, and it costs 2 and a red instead of 0, and it has 2 power instead of 0. Yup, just like an Ornithopter). The humor lay in the anti-compression - the descriptions were technically accurate, but rather harder to follow than they needed to be.

Eradicating the humor, you could alternately describe a Suq'Ata Lancer as a Gray Ogre with haste and flanking. The class of 'cards better than Gray Ogre' is a reference class that many magic players would be familiar with.

Trying to get a handle on the idea of the tulpa, it's reasonable to ask where to start before you try comparing it to an ornithopter.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-13T21:06:26.842Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why would "which reference class is x most like" be a "failure mode"? Don't just word-match to the closest post including the phrase "reference class" which you remember.

When you're in a dark alley, and someone pulls a gun and approaches you, would it be a "failure mode" to ask yourself what reference class most closely matches the situation, then conclude you're probably getting mugged?

Saying "uFAI is like Terminator!" - "No, it's like Matrix!" would be reference class tennis, "which reference class is uFAI most like?" wouldn't be.

comment by klkblake · 2013-05-13T11:52:22.586Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the term is "reference class tennis".

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-05-12T19:28:00.335Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Have you read diseased thinking: dissolving questions about disease, by any chance?

Replies from: Kawoomba
comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-12T19:53:05.450Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, but skimming it the content seems common-sensical enough. It doesn't dissolve the correlation with "generally being harmful".

It's not a "fits the criteria of a psychological disease, case closed" kind of thing, but pattern matching to schizophrenia certainly seems to be evidence of being potentially harmful more than not, don't you agree?

Similar to if I sent you a "P=NP proof" titled document atrociously typeset in MS Word, you could use pattern matching to suspect there's something other than a valid P=NP proof contained even without seeing the actual contents of that specific proof.

Replies from: Qiaochu_Yuan
comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-05-12T19:59:47.835Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree it's sensible to be somewhat wary of inducing hallucinations, but you're talking with a level of confidence in the hypothesis that it will in fact harm you to induce hallucinations in this particular way that I don't think is merited by what you know about tulpas. Do you have an actual causal model that describes how this harm might come about?

Replies from: Kawoomba
comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-12T20:23:07.702Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(There often is no need for an actual causal model to strongly believe in an effect, correlation is sufficient. Some of the most commonly used pharmaceutical substances had/still have an unknown causal mechanism for their effect. Still, I do have one in this case:)

You are teaching your brain to create false sensory inputs, and to assign agency to those false inputs where non is there.

Once you've broken down those barriers and overcome your brain's inside-outside classifier - training which may be in part innate and in part established in your earliest infancy ("If I feel this, then there is something touching my left hand") - there is no reason the "advice" / interaction cannot turn harmful or malicious, that the voices cannot become threatening.

I find it plausible that the sort of people who can train themselves to actually see imaginary people (probably a minority even in the tulpa community) already had a predisposition towards schizophrenia, and have the bad fortune to trigger it themselves. Or that late-onset schizophrenia individuals mislabel themselves and enter the tulpa community. What's the harm:

Even if beneficial at first, there is no easy treatment or "reprogramming" to reestablish the mapping of what's "inside", part of yourself, and "outside", part of an external world. Many schizophrenics know the voices "aren't real". Doesn't help them in re-raising the walls. Indeed, there often is a progression with schizophrenics, of hearing one voice, to hearing more voices, to e.g. "others can read my thoughts".

As a tulpa-ist, you've already dissociated part of yourself and assigned it to the environment. Let me iterate I am not concerned with you having an "inner Kawoomba" you model, but with actually seeing / hearing such a person. Will you suddenly find yourself with more than one hallucinated person walking around with you? Maybe someone you start to argue with? You can't turn off?

Slippery slope arguments (even for short slopes) aren't perfectly convincing, but I just see the potential harm weighed against the potential benefit (in my estimation low, you can teach yourself to analytically shift your perspective without hacking your sensory input) as very one sided. If tulpas conferred a doubled life-span, my conclusion would be different ...

If you're familiar with the Sorceror's Apprentice:

Wrong I was in calling

Spirits, I avow,

For I find them galling,

Cannot rule them now.

Replies from: drethelin
comment by drethelin · 2013-05-13T21:42:39.028Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a lot stronger and better of an argument than trying to argue from DSM definitions. Be cautious about imposing mental states that can affect your decision-making is a good general rule, and yet tons of people happily drink, take drugs, and meditate. You can say each and all of these things have risks but people don't normally say you shouldn't drink because it makes you act like you have lower IQ or someone who's got a motor control problem in their brain.

Replies from: TobyBartels
comment by TobyBartels · 2013-05-29T19:42:25.735Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

people don't normally say you shouldn't drink because it makes you act like you have lower IQ or someone who's got a motor control problem in their brain

Well, that's why I don't take alcohol. (But agreed, people don't normally say that. And I also agree that Kawoomba seems to be overstating the danger of tulpas.)

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-05-12T18:54:17.582Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Waste of time because the "tulpa" - your hallucination - has access to the same data repository you use, and doesn't run on a different frontal cortex.

This also sounds like an argument against IFS. I don't think it holds water. Accessing the same data as you do but using a different algorithm to process it seems valuable. (This is under the assumption that tulpas work at all.)

Replies from: Kawoomba
comment by Kawoomba · 2013-05-12T19:06:46.382Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The benefits from analytically shifting your point of view, or from using different approaches in different situations certainly don't necessitate actually hallucinating people talking to you. (Hint: Only the latter finds its way to being a symptom for various psych disorders.)

"You need to hallucinate voices / people to get the benefit of viewing a situation from different angles" is not an accurate inference from my argument, nor a fair description of IFS, which as far as I know doesn't include sensory hallucinations.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-05-13T11:30:23.605Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(Waste of time because the "tulpa" - your hallucination - has access to the same data repository you use, and doesn't run on a different frontal cortex. You can teach yourself the right habits without also teaching yourself to become mentally ill.)


I mean, there are, as you say, obvious "right habits" analogs of this that get results - which would seem to invalidate the first quoted sentence - but I don't see why pushing it "further" couldn't possibly generate better results.

comment by bramflakes · 2013-05-10T13:32:50.077Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tulpas and other such experiences seem plausible given how prone we are to hallucinating things anyway (see intense religious experiences for example), and I wouldn't be surprised if some people would be able to create them consciously. However I doubt that most people can do this. The regulars of /r/tulpas are probably not very representative of the population at large, whether through their unusual proficiency with mental imagery or some deeper eccentricity.

Creating a tulpa in order to develop skills faster or become more productive might work, but the question is whether the gains weighted by probability of success are higher than other, more conventional (and indeed, mentally healthy) methods. I think not.

Replies from: CellBioGuy, Kaj_Sotala
comment by CellBioGuy · 2013-05-10T18:18:45.017Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am reminded of an occult practice I have heard of called evoking or assuming a godform, in which one temporarily assumes the role of a 'god' - a personification of some aspect of humanity which is conceived of as having infinite capability in some sphere of activity, often taken from an ancient pantheon to give it personality and depth. With your mind temporarily working in that framework, it 'rubs off' on your everyday activities and you sometimes stop limiting yourself and do things that you wouldnt do before in that sphere of endeavor.

It looks like people trying to intentionally produce personifications with similarities to all sorts of archetypes and minor deities that people have dealt with across history. People have been doing this as long as there have been people, just normally by invoking personifications and archetypes from their culture, not trying to create their own. The saner strands of modern neopagans and occultists acknowledge that these archetypes only exist in the mind but make the point that they have effects in the real world through human action, especially when they are in the minds of many people. You also don't need to hallucinate to use an archetype as a focus for thought about a matter (example: "what would Jesus do?"), and trying to actually get one strong enough to hallucinate during normal consciousness (as opposed to say, dreaming) seems unhealthy.

I can, though, relay an interesting experience I had in unintentionally constructing some kind of similar mental archetype while dreaming that kind of stuck around in my mind for a while. I didn't reach into any pantheon though, my mind reached to a mythology which has had its claws in my psyche since childhood - star trek. Q is always trolling the crew of the Enterprise for humanity's benefit, in attempts to get them to meet their potential and progress in understanding or test them. He was there, and let's just say I was thoroughly trolled in a dream, in ways that emphasized certain capabilities of mine that I was not using. And just before waking up he specifically told me that he would be watching me with my own eyes since he was actully part of me that normally didn't speak. That sense of part of me watching and making sure I actually did what I was capable of stuck around for over a week.

Replies from: QWho
comment by QWho · 2013-05-10T20:46:11.360Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And just before waking up he specifically told me that he would be watching me with my own eyes since he was actully part of me that normally didn't speak.

Of course, of course -- whatever helps you sleep at night.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-05-12T18:10:38.450Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On the topic of religious experiences, I found this bit from the linked tulpa FAQ very interesting:

By talking and fleshing out something to your own subconscious for so long, you start to receive answers from them. The answers will tend to align themselves with all the preconceived traits you give them. The answers you get may surprise you, and in doing so show independent sentience. This sentience can be thought of as the "core" of the tulpa. The rest is just building a form in your mind for them to take, allowing for deviation of that form, and finally trying to visualize the form and experience it in sensory detail in your own environment until it becomes natural and you do it without thinking about it.

That sounds quite strongly like some believers' experience of being able to talk to God and hearing Him answer back would be a manifestation of the same phenomenon. A while back, gwern was pasting excerpts from a book which talked about religious communities where the ability to talk with God was considered a skill that you needed to hone with regular practice. That sounds strongly reminiscent of this: talk to God long enough, and eventually you'll get back an answer - from an emulated mind that aligns itself with the preconceived traits you give it.

comment by Kindly · 2013-05-16T03:47:01.143Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some thoughts about how to munchkin tulpas:

  1. If domain experts say that the obvious ways to exploit having a tulpa fail, they are probably right. That means I'm skeptical about things such as "tulpa will remind you to do your homework ahead of time and do mental math for you".

  2. The most promising idea is to exploit your interpersonal instincts: trick your brain into thinking someone is there. This has benefits for social extraverts, for people who are more productive when working in groups, or for people susceptible to peer pressure (maybe you'd be uncomfortable picking your nose in front of your imaginary friend).

  3. But if this works, presumably there is a corresponding downside for people who enjoy being left alone to think.

  4. Probably the scariest objection I've seen here is that a tulpa might make you dumber due to diverting concentration. But I'm not sure this is obviously true, in the same way that always carrying a set of weights will not make you weaker. I'm not sure this is obviously false either, and I don't see a good way to find out.

Replies from: Vulture, wedrifid, Plasmon, D_Malik
comment by Vulture · 2013-11-08T03:48:49.310Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

According to an anonymous poster on 4chan:

Pretty much everyone that has them has reported that they do a lot of interesting things that are just plain impossible for a puppet, from memory access (can retrieve a lot of lost memories, or even remember entire books in perfect detail) to reported dream experiences to them joining you in your dreams and have their own experiences.

I proposed a simple experiment to test if the tulpa is its own being: have the tulpa work in parallel with you own some problem, for example, some advanced math. You would be focusing all your attention on something specific thus having no time to work on the problem, while the tulpa does just that. If the tulpa succeeds, you can conclude that it's its own independent mental process separate from your own.

One person who was asked to performed this experiment reported some success that's just not feasible for normal humans. Failure was reported for those that parroted (regular imaginary friend).

I plan on trying this stuff for myself and experimenting, then I will know for sure.

Even if the poster is straight-up lying, this is a clever munchkin use for tulpas and interesting idea for an experiment (although I admit I know practically nothing about the typical performance patterns with that kind of problem-solving).

also, a couple of other points:

  • Psychologist T. M. Luhrmann has suggested that tulpas are essentially the same phenomenon as evangelical Christians 'speaking to God'. I can't find any evidence that evangelicals have a higher rate of mental illness than the general population, so I consider that a good sign on the mental health-risks front.

  • If you are worried about mental health risks (EDIT: Or the ethics of simulating a consciousness!), then you should probably treat guides to tulpa creation ('forcing') as an information hazard. The techniques are purely psychological and fairly easy to implement; after reading such a guide, I had to struggle to prevent myself from immediately putting it into action.


Some prior art on the parallel problem-solving idea. I'd say it fairly well puts to rest that munchkin application. In terms of implications for the mechanics of tulpas, I'd be curious how teams of two physical people would do on those games.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-16T05:16:28.997Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If domain experts say that the obvious ways to exploit having a tulpa fail, they are probably right.

There are tulpa domain experts?

Replies from: Kindly
comment by Kindly · 2013-05-16T05:34:35.322Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The people writing the FAQs. Presumably they've at least thought about the issue much longer than I have, and have encountered more instances.

comment by Plasmon · 2013-05-16T05:39:05.928Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Domain experts saying that the obvious ways to exploit a phenomenon fail is usually evidence against the existence of said phenomenon.

Replies from: wedrifid, Kindly, Armok_GoB
comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-16T09:41:49.690Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Domain experts saying that the obvious ways to exploit a phenomenon fail is usually evidence against the existence of said phenomenon.

Your link advocates appeal to something more reliable than domain experts: Observed response to large market incentives.

comment by Kindly · 2013-05-16T13:58:37.868Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but we already know tulpas don't actually exist.

Replies from: Plasmon
comment by Plasmon · 2013-05-16T15:53:18.302Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Only in a very specific sense of "exist". Do hallucinations exist? That-which-is-being-hallucinated does not, but the mental phenomenon does exist.

One might in a similar vein interpret the question "do tulpas exist?" as "are there people who can deliberately run additional minds on their wetware and interact with these minds by means of a hallucinatory avatar?". I would argue that the tulpa's inability to do anything munchkiny is evidence against their existence even in this far weaker sense.

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2013-05-16T16:10:26.544Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would argue that the tulpa's inability to do anything munchkiny is evidence against their existence even in this far weaker sense.

What do you mean by munchkiny (having apparent free will separate from the host?) and how do you know they cannot?

Replies from: Plasmon
comment by Plasmon · 2013-05-16T16:36:45.654Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was taking a statement from this great-grandparent post and surrounding posts at face value

If domain experts say that the obvious ways to exploit having a tulpa fail, they are probably right.

By "do something munchkiny", I meant these "obvious ways to exploit having a tulpa", presumably including remembering things you don't and other cognitive enhancements.

Why do I think they can't? Because the (hypothetical?) domain experts say so.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2013-05-16T19:00:41.955Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tulpas don't seem to work for cognitive muchkining, which makes sense because the brain should be able to do those in a less indirect way using meditative or hypnosis techniques focused more on that instead. It's more like a specific piece of technology than a new law of nature. Tulpas don't improve cognitive efficiency for the same reason having humanoid robots carry around external harddrives don't improve internet bandwidth.

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2013-05-16T19:05:43.705Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are these "logical" assertions or have there been studies you can link to?

Replies from: Armok_GoB
comment by Armok_GoB · 2013-05-16T20:21:34.649Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

They are guesstimates/first impressions of what community consensus likely is, as well as my personal version of common sense. A random comment without modifiers on the internet generally implies something like that, not that there is mountains of rock hard evidence behind every vague assertion. I'd not put this in a top level post in main, which is closely related to why I'm likely never write any top level posts in main.

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2013-05-16T21:00:20.189Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sorry, I misinterpreted your assertion that "Tulpas don't seem to work for cognitive muchkining" as either speaking from experience or by reading about the subject. That surprised me, given that many mental techniques, direct or indirect, do indeed measurably improve "cognitive efficiency". In retrospect, I phrased my question poorly.

Replies from: Armok_GoB
comment by Armok_GoB · 2013-05-17T17:14:03.082Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well indirectly they might, if say loneliness is a limiting factor on your productivity. And as I implied apparently-to-subtly with the first post they probably do help in an absolute sense, it's just that there are more effective ways with less side effects to do the same thing with a subset of the resources needed for one. Again, this is just guesses based on an unreliable "common sense" more than anything.

comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-16T06:51:12.512Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The most promising idea is to exploit your interpersonal instincts: trick your brain into thinking someone is there. This has benefits for social extraverts

It may also have benefits for people who want to be more comfortable in social situations. For instance, if you used tulpa techniques to hallucinate that a crowd was watching everything you do, public speaking should become a lot easier (after some time). But it would probably be a lot easier to just do Toastmasters or something.

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-05-12T23:56:34.110Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I browsed around the tulpa community some more, and found some mentions of "servitors", which have the same mental recall abilities (and apparently better access to current information - some people there claim to have made "status bars" projected on top of their vision), but the community doesn't consider them sentient. This forum has had several conversations about them. The people there tend to (badly) apply AI ideas to servitors, but that might just be an aesthetic choice.

This would probably be a better munchkin option, since it has most of the same usefulness as a tulpa, but much less likely to be sentient. Supposedly they have a tendency to become able to pass the turing test by accident, which is a little worrying, but that could be the human tendency to personify everything.

In general, what I'm taking away from this is that intense visualizing can have really weird results, including hallucinations, and conscious access to information that's usually hidden from you. I don't have a high degree of certainty about that, though, because of the source.

comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-10T17:27:21.872Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I asked the subreddit about possible practical uses of tulpas, and was told that

A tulpa should be made for companionship, not for their practical abilities. They are sentient beings, not tools to be used for your benefit.

Replies from: gwern, Prismattic
comment by gwern · 2013-05-10T18:07:03.494Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That sounds like a very practical use to me. Many people are lonely. (I remember reading one thing where wasn't there a guy making a tulpa of MLP's Twilight Sparkle?)

Replies from: bramflakes
comment by bramflakes · 2013-05-10T18:28:49.043Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You may be thinking of this.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-05-10T18:33:31.297Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, it wasn't a video (I shun videos), but I'm reading through /r/Tulpas and apparently they acknowledge it's a really common thing for tulpa-enthusiasts ('tulpists'? is there a word for them yet?) to make ponies: So I guess it could have been any of a lot of people.

EDIT: I find the religious connection very interesting since it reminds me of the Christian practices I've read about before, so I've asked them about it:

comment by Prismattic · 2013-05-10T17:42:37.845Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ask them if they're utilitarians.

If they say yes, suggest that according to some versions of utilitarianism they may be ethically obligated to mass produce tulpas until they run out of space in their heads.

Replies from: DanielLC
comment by DanielLC · 2013-05-10T19:39:22.947Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By the same logic, you should mass produce children until you can no longer feed them all.

Replies from: Friendly-HI, FiftyTwo, Prismattic
comment by Friendly-HI · 2013-05-25T00:05:38.022Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Islam, Catholocism and others approve, though they're vague about what happens once you run out of space or can no longer feed them. Sharp tongues may claim that has already happened.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2013-05-10T22:12:24.880Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Except the Tulpa's apparently don't require additional food and resources, however children are notoriously demanding of food.

comment by Prismattic · 2013-05-10T19:43:29.407Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I didn't say I was a total utilitarian, though. But someone who accepts the repugnant conclusion probably should act this way.

Replies from: DanielLC
comment by DanielLC · 2013-05-10T20:58:25.371Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Raising children is expensive. There are cheaper ways to increase the population.

Replies from: Prismattic, Adele_L
comment by Prismattic · 2013-05-10T21:17:26.470Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok, but then it's no longer "the same logic." Tulpas are free!

Replies from: DanielLC
comment by DanielLC · 2013-05-10T23:22:18.142Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tulpas are free!

created through intense prolonged visualization/practice (about an hour a day for two months).

That is not free.

comment by Adele_L · 2013-05-10T21:17:17.781Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This seems like a non sequitur.

Anyway, creating tulpas is presumably much cheaper than raising an actual child, for anyone. So once the low hanging fruit in donating money to a charity that increases actual population or whatever, creating tulpas will be a much more efficient way of increasing the population, assuming they 'count' in the utility function separately and everything.

Replies from: gwern, DanielLC
comment by gwern · 2013-05-10T21:34:18.209Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anyway, creating tulpas is presumably much cheaper than raising an actual child, for anyone.

Or even better, do sperm donation. You're out maybe a few score hours at worst, for the chance of getting scores to hundreds (yes, really) of children. Compare that to a tulpa, where the guides on Reddit are estimating something like 100 hours to build up a reasonable tulpa, or raising a kid yourself (thousands of hours?).

Replies from: Adele_L
comment by Adele_L · 2013-05-10T22:02:01.007Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But someone still has to raise the kid at some point, and besides, not everyone can make sperm.

Replies from: gwern, shminux, DanielLC
comment by gwern · 2013-05-11T00:57:04.415Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure that sperm banks have an oversupply; apparently England has something of a shortage due to its questionable decision to ban anonymous donation, which is why our David Gerard reports back that it was very easy to do even though he's old enough he wouldn't even be considered in the USA as far as I can tell.

comment by shminux · 2013-05-10T22:26:37.414Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's possible to donate eggs, though it's not nearly as much fun.

Replies from: Adele_L
comment by Adele_L · 2013-05-10T22:41:02.517Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not everyone is fertile. I can't make either, currently.

But my point is that someone still has to take the cost of raising the child. So a utilitarian might try to convince more people to make tulpas instead of making more babies.

comment by DanielLC · 2013-05-10T23:24:56.468Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But someone still has to raise the kid at some point

They wouldn't otherwise be working to increase the population, so the cost is negligible.

and besides, not everyone can make sperm.

But someone can. Pay them to do it.

comment by DanielLC · 2013-05-10T23:25:56.569Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anyway, creating tulpas is presumably much cheaper than raising an actual child, for anyone.

I just said there are cheaper ways to increase the population. You have to compare it to them. How does it compare to sperm donation? Saving lives?

Replies from: juliawise
comment by juliawise · 2013-05-11T14:03:19.798Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think additional sperm donors will increase the population - I don't think lack of donors is the bottleneck.

Saving lives probably doesn't either, if the demographic transition model is true. At least, saving child lives probably results in lower birthrates - perhaps saving adults doesn't affect birthrate.

Replies from: jkaufman, DanielLC
comment by jefftk (jkaufman) · 2013-06-22T06:27:46.754Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think lack of donors is the bottleneck.

Depends on the country.

comment by DanielLC · 2013-05-11T16:33:42.985Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm told there are areas where it's illegal to get paid to "donate" sperm. I think it's a bottleneck there.

comment by pure-awesome · 2013-08-02T01:13:10.368Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Relevant to this topic: Keith Johnstone's 'Masks'. It would be better to read the relevant section in his book "Impro" for the whole story (I got it at my university library) but this collection of quotes followed by this video should give enough of an introduction.

The idea is that while the people wear these masks, they are able to become a character with a personality different from the actor's original. The actor doesn't feel as if they are controlling the character. That being said, it doesn't happen immediately: It can take a few sessions for the actor to get the feel for the thing. The other thing is that the Masks usually have to learn to talk (albeit at an advanced pace) eventually taking on the vocabulary of their host. It's very interesting reading, to say the least.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-05-11T07:34:31.173Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If this is real, there's probably some way of using this to develop skills faster or become more productive.

I can't imagine that your ROI would be positive though.

comment by elharo · 2013-05-15T22:19:20.117Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Boring munchkin technique #2: invest in tax advantaged index funds with low fees. Specifically, in the following order:

  1. Max out your employer's matching contribution, if available. It is near impossible to beat an immediate 50% or 100% return, even if you have to borrow money in order to take advantage of this.

  2. Pay off credit card debt. Do not keep any high interest loans. Do not keep a revolving balance on credit cards.

  3. Depending on circumstances (e.g. if you lose your job, is moving back in with your parents an option?) have a few months of living expenses available in ready cash.

  4. Put as much money as you can afford into tax advantaged retirement accounts. In the U.S. that means 401K, 403b, IRA, SEP, etc.

  5. Allocate all your investments except possibly your emergency fund into low cost index funds. 1% fees are way too high. Vanguard has some good funds with fees as low as 0.1%.

I could say more, but that's the basics. Do that and you'll probably be in the 90th percentile or higher of successful investors. If folks are interested in hearing more, let me know; and I'll whip up a post on rational financial planning. If there's a lot of interest, it might even be worth a sequence.

Replies from: sketerpot, diegocaleiro, Ford, Troshen, D_Malik, shminux
comment by sketerpot · 2013-05-19T20:58:49.098Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

1% fees are way too high. Vanguard has some good funds with fees as low as 0.1%.

That number is a bit out of date; they recently cut fees for many (most?) of their funds. Now I'm only paying 0.05% on my main index fund. I'm pretty cheerful about this.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2013-05-16T01:32:39.826Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I made a post replying to the retirement suggestion.

It makes me very confused. I just don't get why people care about retirement plans so much... Elharo, if you can respond to my inquiry, that would be awesome...

comment by Ford · 2013-05-21T18:02:44.361Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tax-deferred retirement accounts make sense if you expect your tax rate to be lower in retirement than now. I expect tax rates to increase, so would rather pay the tax now than when I take the money out. In US, Roth IRA allows that.

"Your Money or Your Life" is worth reading. Build up your savings and decrease your spending until earnings on savings equal spending. After that, you don't have to work for money. Worthwhile work still enhances health and happiness, though.

Robert Frank's books on economics make the point that relative income is more important than widely recognized. Two examples he may have missed: 1) it's not just how much education you have, but how it compares to the competition. So the best-educated get the best jobs, but that doesn't mean everyone would have a good job if everyone was better educated. 2) losing health insurance is a disaster if you are competing for health services with the insured. But if everyone loses health insurance (e.g., Medicare collapses), doctors will have to lower their fees.

comment by Troshen · 2013-07-03T21:54:30.063Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would also be interested in hearing more about your take on financial planning.

comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-16T07:37:38.330Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would be interested in hearing more about rational financial planning. :)

Replies from: CAE_Jones
comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-05-16T08:58:27.764Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know someone who studied Organic Chemestry and such in college, and comes from a family of doctors and nurses, who has decided to take a quick and rough track to early retirement with at least a million dollars. His plan as he described it to me involves working in managerial positions at various places (mostly restaurants), not spending money on expensive luxuries like new vehicles, fancy houses or vacations, and investing in long-term funds (he's looking at Vanguard as his primary investor, but is also researching others). He gets a lot of flack from his family, since working three restaurant jobs is low status compared to being a medical professional (My parents were also skeptical when I told them. Notice: my parents go to Florida every chance they get, in spite of all of their credit card debt and house/vehicle payments. And they just bought a freakin' Hummer and new cell phones and... Are not as rich as those would imply. -_- ).

But I can't do any of those things, and only have $1000 to work with at any given time (most of my money comes from disability benefits, which will end if I have more than $2000 in resources at the end of the month). My parents have implied that their assistance with student loans will end once I'm living on my own (Except that they know that my SSI payments are less than the total loan payments, and had better know that I'm stuck with them as gatekeepers and am not, in fact, going to learn Afghan languages to go work for the US government overseas).

All of which is to say that diverse investments and holding off on luxuries seems like a good idea, and is probably what I'd try if I actually had net positive income. Both of those require patience. Hopefully, not ten years type patience.

But this is just me and one guy I know. I'm sure there are cleverer strategies floating around here. I like that he's using low status work cleverly rather than aiming for higher status work and amassing debt in status signalling games, at least.

Replies from: HungryHippo
comment by HungryHippo · 2013-05-16T10:38:33.812Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you please elaborate on your friend's plan? It sound interesting, and I'd like to see the details: how much he works per week, earnings, expenditures, expected net worth over time, etc.

Replies from: CAE_Jones
comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-05-16T12:30:53.072Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't remember most of those details off hand, but I'll try to ask him and look for any that might be in some of our email correspondences (most of the details were in phone conversations, though). I know that his work schedule is pretty intense; I think one of the main reasons we don't communicate more is because it's hard to determine when opportunities will arise without us both knowing to look in advance. He still has time for recreation and exercise, from the sounds of it, but I can't get more specific at the moment.

I think he has an approximate timeline in mind, but I don't know off hand. I know he went with Vanguard because of the low risk and low commissions, and compared mutual funds to basic stock trading (stock being short term with high risk/pay off, mutual funds being lower risk, but longer term before a good payoff, on the order of years). I think he set a goal of having a million in about 5 years, and then did the math on the current rate of things and expects to meet or beat that, but I could be remembering wrong (that sounds absurdly high).

I know he isn't afraid to pirate most of his entertainment, though; he's paying relatively low rent, living with a middle-aged couple who has plenty of room in their house, and can afford food/gas/etc without difficulty. It's worth adding that he lives near Littlerock, AR; I'm not sure how the cost of living there compares to the rest of the state, but it seems to be generally lower than in Silicon Valley or NYC. I also expect he managed to avoid amassing too much debt with college, but we haven't discussed that in particular. The only real risk to his plan that came up in our conversations is that of car trouble (either mechanical or due to contract wackiness, since there's some confusion there involving who's paying what, since his primary vehicle came from his parents). I get the impression that he keeps his social circle small, but he's still good enough at dealing with people in authority to get better-than-minimum-wage jobs with relative ease. ... Come to think of it, I should probably try to harness his charisma for my own diabolical purposes at some point.

Replies from: CAE_Jones
comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-05-16T13:40:44.955Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I found the original message, and I got a couple of his goals mixed up. He planned to have a stable emergency fund and financial security in 5 years, and the math works out so that he can actually have this by the end of one year. By the time he told me this, he already had 6 months worth of money in his emergency fund, no consumer debt, and was working on getting up to 5 figures in assets completely under his control. His new years resolution was to finish the emergency fund and start investing in mutual funds by the end of the year, which seems pretty well accomplished already.

He also resigned from a general manager position for a shift job when he found out about the difference in pay, something which his older brother (a successful nurse) took as a sign of failure in spite of the fact that he's now making more than his bosses at a more satisfying job. Presumably, the advantage to staying at a lower-paying, higher-status higher-frustration job would be the opportunity for promotion (and the status benefits--except the status of the job actually interfered in him taking on another job, which he wanted to do to boost his short term earnings; considering that this would make it easier for him to make longer term investments sooner, I tend to think he made the better decision).

I don't know when he plans on attaining millionaire status and retiring, but he did say he wants to retire with dignity, which I assume means before serious senescence. Incidentally, my father set those same goals when he was younger, and failed at them horribly, which I mostly attribute to him talking about investments all the time and never actually investing and instead dumping all his money into new vehicles/electronics/vacations/construction projects/that one time my parents tried to start a retail chain and probably have yet to recover from the ensuing debt. I've gotten so burned out on Disney World at this point that you'd need to pay me before I felt like going back (I started skipping Disney trips nearly ten years ago, and don't plan on stopping soon). Well, and he aimed for higher status jobs--he worked for Delta at one point, then for an insurance company, etc--but the only job that wound up paying enough to support the lifestyle (and the ever-growing family) proved to be electrical work, and he recently took up occasional truck-driving to help pay off credit card debt. I think my dad did work in a factory and at restaurants even earlier, which I assume he left because he didn't like them/wanted to move up. Today, he talks about stocks all the time, but doesn't actually make any money with them (and plays the lottery and slot machines and talks about the Roulette wheel as low-status gambling). All of which is to say that I think he optimized for a high status lifestyle rather than financial success, and never quite managed to disentangle the two.

So I conclude that its difficult to optimize for both money and status. Successful software engineers might have an advantage on that front.

comment by shminux · 2013-05-15T22:22:04.883Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Missing attribution.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2013-05-13T08:39:59.903Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is for people interested in optimizing for academic fame (for a given level of talent and effort and other costs). Instead of trying to get a PhD and a job in academia (which is very costly and due to "publish or perish" forces you to work on topics that are currently popular in academia), get a job that leaves you with a lot of free time, or find a way to retire early. Use your free time to search for important problems that are being neglected by academia. When you find one, pick off some of the low-hanging fruit in that area and publish your results somewhere. Then, (A) if you're impatient for recognition, use your results to make an undeniable impact on the world (see Bitcoin for example), or (B) if you're patient, move on to another neglected topic and repeat, knowing that in a few years or decades, the neglected topic you found will likely become a hot topic and you'll be credited for being the first to investigate it.

Replies from: satt, TeMPOraL, Eliezer_Yudkowsky, Vladimir_Nesov, cousin_it, alex_zag_al, feanor1600
comment by satt · 2013-05-17T01:29:32.626Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Instead of trying to get a PhD and a job in academia (which is very costly and due to "publish or perish" forces you to work on topics that are currently popular in academia), get a job that leaves you with a lot of free time, or find a way to retire early.

On the bright side, if we forget the "job in academia" part and just focus on the "PhD" part, a PhD can fit these criteria reasonably well.

Before I justify that, I should acknowledge the many articles arguing, with some justice, that a PhD will ruin your life. These articles make fair points, although I notice they have a lot of overlap, mostly concluding that if you get a PhD you'll spend 6+ years running up masses of debt, with massive teaching loads and no health insurance, worked to death by an ogre as you try to spin literary criticism out of novels analyzed to death decades ago.

The obvious solution: don't do a PhD in a country where taking 7 years to finish is normal; don't do a PhD unless someone's paying you to do it; don't do a PhD in a department that assigns you endless teaching duties; don't do a PhD in a country without a universal healthcare system; don't choose a supervisor who exploits their students; and don't get a literature PhD.

A "don't" is less useful than a "do", so here are some possible "do"s I'd suggest as alternatives:

  • find PhD programmes where the successful students mostly finish within 4 years (in the UK, 3-4 years is a more typical PhD length than 6-7, but there is variation among universities)
  • explicitly say on your PhD applications that you can't afford to do the PhD unless the university waives the tuition fee and offers a stipend (this no doubt reduces your chances of getting a PhD place, but if you're allergic to debts you want to be selective here)
  • when you visit prospective departments, ask the professors and current PhD students how much teaching PhD students have to do (in some departments it's 100% optional, and pays you extra)
  • do a PhD in the UK, which has a health system where most medical services are free at the point of delivery
  • try to get an idea of how hard your potential PhD supervisors work their students (don't just talk to the supervisors themselves — try to talk to their current/former students one-on-one as well)
  • get a PhD in physics, statistics, accountancy, economics, or something else remunerative and popular with employers

With the usual worries about PhDs out of the way, I turn to Wei_Dai's concerns. The first is the publish or perish issue. If you're just doing a PhD, the publish or perish imperative is often weaker than for postdocs & professors. (This again varies with the field and the institution. For example, as I understand things, top-tier US economics PhD students normally publish 3 or 4 serious papers, and basically staple them together for their dissertation. On the other hand, some UK physics students get PhDs without publishing any journal papers at all.) The ultimate hurdle for your work is convincing your supervisor and the handful of external examiners reading your dissertation that it's worthwhile.

Along the same lines, you don't necessarily have to work on fashionable topics if you're getting a PhD. It's quite possible to work on something boring; it need only be just interesting enough to keep your supervisor on board and satisfy your other examiners. (You'll probably want a margin of safety, though, in case your work ends up more boring than expected.) A more objective (but still approximate) rule of thumb: your PhD should be interesting enough to be accepted by the same rank of journal as the papers it's citing. If your PhD doesn't need to serve as a step up into an academic job, it can be as boring as you like as long as it meets the baseline.

Lastly, what about free time? A lot of PhDs eat virtually all of your attention, but some offer ample free time in the first couple of years if the work involved isn't fiddly. For example, you might end up running lots of simulations with a computer program that's already been written. If so, you might well be able to go to your office in the morning, set a run going, and spend the afternoon doing something else.

One catch is that it's not trivial to tell which PhDs are low-effort before the fact. Even if your supervisor accurately tells you what they expect from you, and the other students accurately report that they don't spend much time poring over their work, you might still get unlucky and end up slaving over a computer or an experiment or some equations for 16 hours a day, because research is unpredictable. (Still, compare it to the main alternative: people routinely underestimate how long they'll spend at the workplace — and commuting! — for normal jobs, too. It's not obvious that PhDs are more unpredictable in this regard.)

Nonetheless, if you plan ahead to do straightforward work for an easy-going supervisor who's not in the office most days, you might well be able to spend most days off campus yourself, doing your own independent research instead. And while you're a student, there's nothing stopping you from visiting other departments at your university to pick the brains over there!

Use your free time to search for important problems that are being neglected by academia. When you find one, pick off some of the low-hanging fruit in that area

I don't have any tips for this, though.

Replies from: feanor1600
comment by feanor1600 · 2013-06-16T17:25:40.976Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"don't do a PhD in a country without a universal healthcare system" Funded PhD's in the US commonly include health insurance coverage as part of your stipend.

This is yet more support for your main point: the fact that getting a PhD in some programs/fields is a bad idea does not mean you should avoid a PhD from any program/field.

comment by TeMPOraL · 2013-05-13T11:34:32.979Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

FWIK, some universities allow you to get PhD in computer science by submitting PhD thesis for review and paying some amount of money (~$1200 on my university). This way, one can follow your advice and still get PhD.

Replies from: Barry_Cotter, dvasya, tondwalkar
comment by Barry_Cotter · 2013-05-13T14:09:41.098Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tell us more. Much more, in excruciating detail. I am reasonably sure I remember reading Eliezer write about the impossiblity of what you just described, i.e. getting a Ph.D. without necessarily having an advisor, funding or a Bachelor's degree.

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky
comment by dvasya · 2013-05-13T17:49:34.523Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A PhD is only as good as the reputation of your advisor. If everybody knows your advisor then you won't have a problem finding a job in academia. If your PhD is not backed by a prominent professor with a name, you're going to have a very difficult time finding a good position. It may be a bit easier in CS, where universities have to compete with industry, compared to my field (physics/chemistry/materials science), but generally this is how academia works.

An easily obtainable PhD is generally not the right kind of signal.

Replies from: EHeller
comment by EHeller · 2013-05-13T18:10:21.953Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A PhD is only as good as the reputation of your advisor. If everybody knows your advisor then you won't have a problem finding a job in academia.

I would amend this to be "if everybody knows your advisor you'll have FEWER problems finding a job in academia." Some fields are very, very crowded (theoretical physics, for instance). For a very brief time, I was in a small team at a consulting company where 3 out of the 4 of us had done a science phd under a Nobel winner, and still ended up making major career transitions after half a decade of postdocs. Science is crowded, the more basic the research the more crowded the field. To first order, no one gets a job. If you are under a famous advisor you might move your odds up to 1/10 or 1/5 or something like that.

Replies from: MichaelVassar
comment by MichaelVassar · 2013-05-16T23:00:37.391Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

email me with info about that company, OK?
Sounds like maybe MetaMed should inquire into working with them.

comment by tondwalkar · 2013-05-26T05:36:59.515Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Extraordinary claims....

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-05-13T22:51:10.791Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hanson has a post somewhere about how the first-movers often don't get credited, just the prestigious second-movers.

Replies from: ialdabaoth, Wei_Dai, Vaniver
comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-05-13T23:09:06.735Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sociology of science calls this the Matthew Effect

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-15T12:32:25.645Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sociology of science calls this the Matthew Effect

Ohh. "Kolmogorov Complexity" was actually invented by Solomonoff. Interesting.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2013-05-15T12:24:31.730Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It could be that prestigious second-movers deserve the credit if they are responsible for getting people to pay attention to the previously neglected topics, and possibly we already credit first-movers more than we should (which is why I said "optimize for academic fame" instead of "positive social impact"). Which brings up a question: what determines the topics that academia pays attention to? If we had a good model for that, maybe we could use it to generate some munchkin ideas for making it pay attention to important but neglected ideas?

comment by Vaniver · 2013-05-13T23:39:39.701Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hope the irony was intentional. (Here's the post, btw.)

Replies from: ciphergoth
comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2013-05-14T05:27:42.682Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He has another post about how if you say something outrageous that later becomes common wisdom, you won't be widely admired for having said it first; you will still be thought of as a crank.

Cognitive bias is now much more popular and fashionable than it was when I first started talking to my friends about it after reading Eliezer's posts. I predict that zero people will say "so it looks like this Eliezer guy you keep talking about was ahead of the curve on cognitive bias, maybe it's worth hearing some of his other ideas?"

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2013-05-13T23:17:40.323Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This setting seems more optimal for actually doing theoretical work of your own choosing without getting distracted by a need to compete or justify your interests. It seems less risky/way easier than trying to get the same benefits while working within academia, but you won't get the external motivation/guidance/sanity-checking and by default won't be as close to the professional community.

Replies from: Wei_Dai
comment by Wei_Dai · 2013-05-16T01:25:17.535Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems less risky/way easier than trying to get the same benefits while working within academia

Right, you can get the same benefits in academia by getting tenure, but how many people manage that, and even if you do, the most productive period of your life might already be over by then.

but you won't get the external motivation/guidance/sanity-checking

This is an important consideration. The external motivation/guidance/sanity-checking provided by the relevant online non-professional communities were enough for me to be productive and not become a crank, etc., but maybe (as cousin_it suggests) I'm very unusual in that regard.

comment by cousin_it · 2013-05-15T22:53:23.641Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That plan worked for you, but you're very unusual. You'd probably be an even bigger intellectual celebrity if you took the academic path.

Someone closer to average, like me, cannot do research alone, only in a group of like-minded people.

Replies from: Wei_Dai
comment by Wei_Dai · 2013-05-16T10:45:24.254Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That plan worked for you, but you're very unusual.

Weren't you essentially following my plan too, i.e., working in your free time on topics being neglected by academia? (Are you still doing this, BTW, after you quit from being an SI research associate?) Are you implying that the plan isn't working for you?

You'd probably be an even bigger intellectual celebrity if you took the academic path.

I'm not sure how you figured that. If I had gone into academia I most likely would have gone into computer science and specialized in something not particularly Earth-shattering like crypto optimization (i.e., making crypto algorithms faster), or if I was lucky maybe I could have pursued my b-money idea. But I never would have had the opportunity to pursue my interests in philosophy (which seems to have a chance of making me more famous in the future when academia or posthumans discover or reinvent UDT).

Even if I had somehow gotten a job in academic philosophical research, it took me 3-4 years exploring various dead ends before getting the idea that the solution to anthropic reasoning / indexical uncertainty is in the shape of a decision theory, and then even more years to formulate it into the form you saw in my LW post. I don't know how I would have survived in academia for those years without any publishable results. Instead what probably would have happened (and what apparently happened to every professional philosopher who actually worked on the topic) is that I would have been forced to quickly come up with some sort of wrong solution just to have something to publish.

comment by alex_zag_al · 2014-10-19T17:44:37.559Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This reminds me of the story of Robert Edgar, who created the DNA and protein sequence alignment program MUSCLE.

He got a PhD in physics, but considers that a mistake. He did his bioinformatics work after selling a company and having free time. The bioinformatics work was notable enough that it's how I know of him.

His blog post, from which I learned this story:

comment by feanor1600 · 2013-06-16T17:32:46.857Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Instead of trying to get a PhD and a job in academia (which is very costly and due to "publish or perish" forces you to work on topics that are currently popular in academia), get a job that leaves you with a lot of free time" Part of the attraction of academia to me is that it is exactly the job that leaves you with lots of free time. A professor only has to be in a certain place at a certain time 3-12 hours per week (depending on teaching load), 30 weeks per year. After tenure, you can research whatever you want, especially if you aren't in a lab-science field that leaves you dependent on grants. Even before tenure I can work on neglected problems, so long as they aren't neglected due to their low prestige.

Replies from: drethelin
comment by drethelin · 2013-08-21T07:33:41.002Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes but before you get tenure you've wasted your most productive and fun youthful years getting tenure.

comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-10T12:01:01.642Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To encourage yourself to do some massive, granular task:

  • Upon completion of each granule, give yourself a reward with some probability.

  • A reward is a small piece of food or a sip of a drink, etc.

  • Never eat or drink anything except as a reward for working on the task.

This really works extremely well for me; I have been doing this for about 2 months, at first only with anki reviews and more recently for several other things. The feeling is very similar to addictions like video games or entertaining websites; I often think "I should probably go do X, but let me instead do just one more anki card" and a half-hour later I realize I still haven't done X.

More things:

  • Make the rewards unlikely and small so that you stay constantly hungry. Bonus: caloric restriction.

  • Create a timed reminder, say half-hourly, to do just a few granules of the task. This encourages episodes of the "just one more" effect.

  • Put reinforcers within arm's reach, both temporally (make granules easy and quick, so that hunger feels like an urge to do the task rather than an urge to cheat the system) and spacially (so that you are constantly reminded of your hunger and tempted to do the task).

I repeat: this works extremely well for me and I strongly encourage other people to try it. More details here.

Here is a graph showing the number of Anki reviews I've done every month for the past year, as an example of the results this method can produce.

Replies from: amitpamin, NancyLebovitz, wiresnips, Xachariah, maia
comment by amitpamin · 2013-05-12T20:16:32.875Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have tried several variants of this process. As expected, the largest road-block has been part 3 - the self-control not to consume the reward despite lack of completion.

I will mention that on the few occasions I have gotten this to work, my excitement and enjoyment was much higher than average. The desire and excitement for food seemed to translate into the task at hand.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-11T13:08:40.528Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This seems like a recipe for letting yourself get dehydrated. Am I missing something?

Replies from: D_Malik
comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-15T22:18:53.999Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Right, maybe it would be best to let yourself have unlimited amounts of plain water. Or you could e.g. let yourself have as much water as you want for the first hour you're at work, to encourage yourself to go there earlier while still avoiding serious dehydration. Or have an optional sip of water with every non-water reward you take.

comment by wiresnips · 2013-05-19T20:01:46.014Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is transformative. Thank you.

comment by Xachariah · 2013-05-11T01:39:19.598Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This seems very interesting, and it's really cool that you've already been working on it. To clarify, you said you don't eat or drink anything unless it's a reward. Does this mean halting all meals?

How do you manage to eat healthily if all food has to stay within arm's reach? I suppose some fruits could stay out, but what about cooked meats or vegetables?

What do you do for recreation times: hanging out with others, visiting relatives, or just going to the beach or something, etc?

Replies from: D_Malik
comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-11T10:34:43.619Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, stop all meals. You can get something a bit like a meal if you do a very high-value highly-rewarded task. Also, I let myself eat whatever I want for a few hours after doing something sufficiently awesome (such as accumulating sufficiently many CoZE points, or when I spent 3 hours coding up a system to implement another lifehack thing).

My eating habits are a lot less healthy than they used to be - chips, fruit juice, candy, chocolate-chip cookies, etc., but also healthier things like nuts, popcorn, sandwiches and meat. If you do a high-value, highly-rewarded task, you can finish things quite quickly. At the moment I feel like health isn't as important as good reinforcement, but I'm planning to research that more.

I don't do much social interaction (I don't value it highly terminally, and most of it is instrumentally useless) but have broken the system twice to eat lunch with people, and put it on hold for 3 days while away at a college's admit weekend.

Replies from: Omegaile
comment by Omegaile · 2013-05-12T04:22:36.090Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

At the moment I feel like health isn't as important as good reinforcement

You traded HP for XP.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2013-05-12T05:11:07.837Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You traded HP for XP.

Alternately, he abused Toughness, trained Willpower, gained a piety boost and moved his alignment a few beads towards L+.

comment by maia · 2013-05-10T22:48:35.977Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From the comment you link to:

I also have a thing that periodically asks whether I'm in a correct posture, and standing instead of sitting, and not procrastinating sleep. If I'm in the right state, those give additional medium-sized rewards. I implemented this only 2 days ago, so I don't know if it works yet.

Any results from this part now? Also, what other things have you used this with?

Replies from: D_Malik
comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-10T23:33:27.032Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Still using this for posture, and my posture is improving (though it's confounded by the posture brace I bought a while back, which seems to actually work). Not using this for standing/sitting; instead I now stand most of the time, and only sit while doing the highest-value thing I could be doing (which is usually ugh-fielded and unpleasant). I've given up on regulating my sleep schedule.

Other things I currently use the food-reinforcements for:

  • CoZE. For those who haven't been to workshops: this is an awesome CFAR invention; rejection therapy is a subset of it. I walk around with a bag of chocolates while doing this and reward actions. After accumulating a certain number of CoZE points, I allow myself to eat whatever I want for the next couple hours.

  • Reality checks for inducing lucid dreams.

  • I have an hourly mental ritual that involves a bunch of visualizations that feel like they should increase agency and do other things.

  • Coming up with useful new ideas.

  • Taking supplements.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-05-10T18:31:23.624Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Instead of hoping to find the one Super Cool Trick that'll let you become a superhuman overnight, read five or so (scientifically minded) self-help books addressing the biggest problem area in your life, make a moderate to large amount of effort to implement the knowledge in your life, and then repeat for your other problem areas, until in a year or two you become a superhuman.

This worked for me for productivity and depression, next is social skills/social anxiety.

Also, let your body occupy a lot of space in order to feel more relaxed, feel confident, and signal status.

Replies from: Will_Newsome, baiter
comment by Will_Newsome · 2013-05-10T22:30:46.900Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Let your body occupy little space in order to feel less confident and signal lack of status, thus compensating for typical but unfortunate human tendencies to think much more highly of their opinions than is actually justifiable and to prop up ubiquitous and costly signaling games. Harness the power of negative thinking!

Replies from: MichaelVassar, Jubilee, Houshalter
comment by MichaelVassar · 2013-05-16T22:53:37.634Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not informative to send different signals than other people would send in your situation. You are proposing sending dishonest signals, which is uncooperative.

Replies from: Will_Newsome
comment by Will_Newsome · 2013-05-17T08:46:09.416Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(I've thought about that, but the consideration that seemed more salient to me at the time was: If you send different signals than expected then those who can notice subtlety will notice a discrepancy given, say, a few hours of interaction. Yes you'll be oft-discounted (and you will have incurred this cost yourself and I don't deny that this is indeed a cost worth considering), but the people who falsely present themselves as more important than they are so vastly outweigh the people who falsely present themselves as less important than they are that causing someone to update their estimate of your importance upwards is more likely to make a (justifiable) positive impression than the alternative case which involves someone having to eventually update their estimate of your importance downwards. It's like the inverse of "don't throw pearls before swine". (I'm drunk, I apologize if I'm stating the obvious.))

comment by Jubilee · 2013-05-15T04:41:27.131Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course, if you've gone through the trouble of thinking it through that far, you probably don't want to decrease your confidence too much, or you may wind up deferring to those expansive, confident fools who didn't think it through at all :P

comment by Houshalter · 2013-05-12T17:12:46.241Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well there has to be some advantage to these behaviors people say are bad for us. Like fearing rejection, being submissive, bad body language, not being confident, etc. Otherwise why do we naturally feel such strong instincts to do those things if there is such advantage to be had in doing otherwise?

Replies from: Viliam_Bur, D_Malik, Estarlio
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-05-12T18:34:20.831Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Behaving low-status has the advantage of avoiding status fights in your tribe... by giving up. At the proper moment in the ancient environment it could save your life.

That does not necessarily mean the cost-benefit analysis would have the same outcome today.

comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-12T17:29:40.939Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Right. This is the "evolutionary optimality challenge" of Bostrom and Sandberg, which is "If the proposed intervention would result in an enhancement, why have we not already evolved to be that way?"

Gwern's excellent article on that lists some ways to escape the challenge; I'm not sure which are at play here, but I think dominance is generally a good idea.

comment by Estarlio · 2013-05-16T10:18:49.212Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not everyone feels the need to submit, even in the same situations. I'm sceptical of the idea that the genetic component of the idea is the main thing at play here.

comment by baiter · 2013-05-16T08:57:27.009Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you share which books worked best for you regarding productivity and depression?

Replies from: gothgirl420666
comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-05-16T17:16:15.518Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would recommend for productivity Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Halverson and Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. The Procrastination by Piers Steel is also pretty good but lukeprog's summary of it on this site basically contains all the useful information.

For depression, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns. I can't recommend this book enough.

comment by brainoil · 2013-05-14T04:45:26.681Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oftentimes, when I'm not in a good mood, I simply decide to be in a good mood, and soon I am in a good mood. It's surprisingly effective. You just have to consciously tell yourself that you decide to be in a good mood and try to be in a good mood. Of course this doesn't work all the time. I'm generally a happy person, so it's perhaps easier for me.

Replies from: malcolmocean, Iydak, ancientcampus
comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2013-06-16T18:43:38.222Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was once in a horrible mood... I felt really guilty/regretful about something I'd done earlier, and felt terrible. Then I was distracted for about half an hour by math homework, and when I was walking outside a few minutes later I caught myself whistling. I was like "Whoa, self! You're supposed to be upset right now!" and almost descended back into the pit of despair, but then I stopped midstride and said "Wait a sec. Why would I want to be upset?" and so I didn't. I kept whistling and had a great day.

comment by Iydak · 2014-01-06T21:58:23.952Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of note: doing this does expend willpower, but I've found the more often I do it, the more "in a good mood" feels like my default state, and the less willpower it takes on average to get there.

comment by ancientcampus · 2013-05-29T19:26:24.822Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seconded; all the above statements are true for me too.

comment by D_Malik · 2013-05-11T18:33:26.498Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sprinkle an emetic (a vomit-inducing drug) into foods that you want to stop eating, such as chocolate. It is well-known that nause