Group Rationality Diary, April 5-14

post by therufs · 2013-04-05T15:21:16.601Z · score: 4 (5 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 63 comments

This is the public group instrumental rationality diary for April 5-14.  

It's a place to record and chat about it if you have done, or are actively doing, things like:

  • Established a useful new habit
  • Obtained new evidence that made you change your mind about some belief
  • Decided to behave in a different way in some set of situations
  • Optimized some part of a common routine or cached behavior
  • Consciously changed your emotions or affect with respect to something
  • Consciously pursued new valuable information about something that could make a big difference in your life
  • Learned something new about your beliefs, behavior, or life that surprised you
  • Tried doing any of the above and failed

Or anything else interesting which you want to share, so that other people can think about it, and perhaps be inspired to take action themselves.  Try to include enough details so that everyone can use each other's experiences to learn about what tends to work out, and what doesn't tend to work out.

Thanks to cata for starting the Group Rationality Diary posts, and to commenters for participating!

Rationality Diaries archive 

Next post:  4/15-29

63 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-04-06T09:23:30.293Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Humans are not automatically strategic."

Today I realized I had a meme in my head which said the opposite of this. It was like: "If you really want something, then you will do it (without any strategy). And if you didn't do it, that means it wasn't really so important for you." In other words, relax, turn off all your strategic thinking, and believe that everything will be 100% okay. -- In reality this approach often fails. In which case you are supposed to rationalize that you actually didn't want that thing too much. Of course sometimes you are lucky and succeed despite the lack of strategy; and then you are supposed to take this as an evidence that the strategy really is not necessary.

I already professed the belief that humans are not automatically strategic, but I didn't realize I had a meme deeper in my head which said the opposite, and that in real life I probably followed that meme most of the time.

(I find it horrifying how easy it is to spread irrational memes, without any... consequences. I mean, if someone distributed poison to people, they would get arrested. But distribute poisonous memes and the only consequence is that the people who refuse to drink are sometimes called closed-minded and intolerant.)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-04-06T18:48:30.717Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As I was skimming recent comments, I was struck by the tension between this comment:

(I find it horrifying how easy it is to spread irrational memes, without any... consequences. I mean, if someone distributed poison to people, they would get arrested. But distribute poisonous memes and the only consequence is that the people who refuse to drink are sometimes called closed-minded and intolerant.)

...and this comment:

Is still feels strange to me that people who participate in terrorist groups, rob banks, etc. are welcome at universities; while people who suggest that maybe women have less mathematical geniuses than men are unwelcome.

I was doubly struck when I went back to compare the two comments and realized they shared the same author.

Of course, one way to reconcile them is if I assume that the strangeness you experience in the second example derives from academics being made unwelcome by spreading what you class as harmless or valuable ideas, like gender differences in math genius frequency, rather than (as I'd originally inferred) deriving from academics being made more unwelcome due to their seen-as-antisocial ideas rather than their seen-as-antisocial behaviors.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-04-06T19:29:56.171Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To me there is a big difference between saying "X is an interesting hypothesis, let's check it experimentally" and saying "X is a deep wisdom, if you disagree, you are simply not wise enough". I generally don't get angry at people for suggesting a hypothesis, as long as they admit it is just a hypothesis. I get angry at people for presenting something as an absolute truth, if I later discover it was a bullshit.

In the first case, the meme "if you didn't do something, it only means it wasn't really important for you" was presented to me by multiple people as an absolute truth that only a person in deep denial could not accept as self-evident.

If someone presented the second case in the same way, insisting that they know with absolute certainty what even science does not know, I would be similarly outraged by their overconfidence.

So it seems it's not the ideas per se, but the extreme overconfidence (and suggesting that people who don't share this overconfidence are somehow inferior), which makes me angry. How am I supposed to update on information in an environment which communicates this way?

(With regards to gender differences in math genius frequency, it seems to me that there is a lot of overconfidence, but in the opposite direction. I mean, I personally don't know. As far as I know, there is no scientific research proving either way -- and if I am wrong about this, please send me a hyperlink and I will be happy to update. But some people already know, with 100% certainty, and are ready to judge those who disagree with their certainty as morally inferior.)

comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2013-04-07T00:26:29.419Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by math geniuses -- do you just mean e.g. high-performing university level math students, or math professors doing groundbreaking research? I'm also not sure if the argument you're making is biological. I believe that, while there may be biological differences in the average mathematical aptitude between genders, the biological effects are negligible compared to the social aspects.

First of all, stereotype threat. Stereotype threat is the phenomenon that being reminded of a negative stereotype will inhibit your performance because part of your working memory becomes preoccupied with trying to reject the stereotype. This research is fairly well-established, and interventions performed by one of the researchers, Spencer, have indicated that the gender discrepancy in mathematical performance among first-year engineering students can be basically eliminated by following through on this theory. I actually took a Psych course from Spencer and had several conversations on the subject with him, so that's how I know about the interventions, which were done at University of Waterloo. There appears to be a lot of Googleable stuff on it though: Google results for spencer engineering stereotype threat intervention

So, stereotype threat accounts for low-performing students. What about professors? Well, there are tons of factors:

  1. Stereotypes & teacher/parent expectations cause fewer girls to care about math & science at young ages.
  2. These same factors cause fewer high school girls to apply to STEM (Science, Technology, Math & Engineering) degree programs.
  3. Stereotype threat causes fewer undergraduate women to perform highly in STEM, thereby reducing the odds that they make it to grad school.
  4. Due to points 1-3, the gender ratios in STEM graduate programs are hugely slanted. I don't know about research on the effects of this, but Spencer commented at one point that he's heard of men leaving the English departments of universities because they didn't feel comfortable there, being the only man. Similarly, women often find it unpleasant to be working in a predominantly male environment.

In addition to the mere ratio being detrimental, there's also this factor: People treat male and female professors differently. This bias, again, will affect their perceived intelligence and performance, and therefore factors like funding, etc. See this article from a transgender professor who was treated profoundly differently before and after his sex change: Transgender Experience led Stanford Scientist to Critique Gender Difference

“Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but his work is much better than his sister’s work.”

and

In his commentary Barres points to data from a range of studies showing bias in science.

So sure, there are more male mathematical geniuses than female. And maybe there's a biological difference that causes men to be more mathematical. But no significant innate difference has been found, and there is plenty of harm being done by assuming that it's there, or even drawing attention to it, in most situations.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-04-06T19:42:02.401Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But some people already know, with 100% certainty, and are ready to judge those who disagree with their certainty as morally inferior

(nods) I suspect that many people consider the primary value of acquiring knowledge to be feeling certain and being able to judge people who disagree with their certainty as morally inferior.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-04-07T00:11:27.458Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In the first case, the meme "if you didn't do something, it only means it wasn't really important for you" was presented to me by multiple people as an absolute truth that only a person in deep denial could not accept as self-evident.

Mmm. Agreed that the "only" in this sentence makes it unjustifiably strong, but I still think revealed preferences has a lot going for it, and the defenses I've seen of it is "this is the best of bad options" rather than "this is a good option."

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-04-07T08:38:19.876Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The meme is dangerous because it is similar to something true, which is why one gets a lot of what seems to be an evidence for the meme. Yes, humans often do express desires which are not their true desires, or at least not the strongest ones. It is useful to know that, about others and about yourself. I am absolutely not denying this.

The danger is in assuming that all differences between the expressed preferences and achieved results can be explained by this kind of hypocrisy; that everything that happened to me reflects the desires of a hidden homunculus in my head, and that this homunculus is my true self, and I am just too hypocritical to admit it. (Taken ad absurdum, if I slip on a sidewalk and break my arm, it could also be explained that my "true wish" was to break my arm, because .) While in reality other factors influence the result too:

Luck -- let's assume that I want something, and I make a plan to achieve it. Because of my uncertaintly and external factors, the plan has a chance to succeed and a chance to fail. So in one Everett branch my plan succeeds, which means that I "truly wanted" the thing; in another Everett branch my plan fails, which means that I was only hypocritical about the thing a never "truly wanted" it.

Internal conflict -- so one part of me wants to enjoy some habit with harmful side-effects, other part of me wants to get rid of the habit. Which of these parts is supposed to be my "true self"? According to the folk wisdom it would be the pro-habit part, because it is less rational and because it usually wins. But does that mean that the other part is completely fake, or is it also a part of myself? Maybe in one Everett branch the pro-habit part wins, and in another Everett branch someone introduces me to e.g. Beeminder, which helps me to overcome the habit. Does it mean that in the former branch I "truly wanted" to keep the habit, while in the latter I "truly wanted" to overcome it?

In other words, this meme pretends to have even higher predictive power by redefining its predictions to match the observed outcome. If someone talks for ten years about a desire to do something, does many partial steps towards the goal but never achieves it, it is a proof that he never really wanted it; but if on the eleventh year he finally succeeds, suddenly it becomes a proof that he always wanted it, which made him work diligently for those eleven years. (Alternatively, it could be explained that in the very last moment his "true wish" switched from not wanting it to wanting it.)

The harm of the meme is that when you find yourself in an internal conflict and try to prepare a strategy to overcome your impulses and reach a better outcome, it tells you to stop planning, because either you "truly want" to do it, and then you don't need a strategy, or you don't "truly want" to do it, in which case the strategy will not help. (So you stop planning, you most likely fail, and then you rationalize it into evidence that you didn't "truly want" the thing. At the moment you already have some "ugh fields" associated with the topic, which makes the explanation feel more likely.)

comment by Vaniver · 2013-04-07T19:17:12.699Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The danger is in assuming that all differences between the expressed preferences and achieved results can be explained by this kind of hypocrisy; that everything that happened to me reflects the desires of a hidden homunculus in my head, and that this homunculus is my true self, and I am just too hypocritical to admit it.

Agreed; this is what I mean when I object to the 'only.'

comment by jetm · 2013-04-09T01:59:03.526Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • I actually thought about something for the first time in years
  • While thinking about it, I jotted down "Find an article to back this up." I quickly noticed my error and replaced it with "See what science has to say on the subject."
  • I recognized that there is a problem with how I think about social interactions.
comment by Vaniver · 2013-04-08T13:23:24.477Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was talking with someone about how I ran out of normal food and decided it was easier to bake and eat brownie mix than go to the grocery store, and they suggested paleo to me.

I responded with "I've had paleo recommended many times, but the convenience costs are too high compared to bread and pasta," when I realized that I had recently learned a cooking method that took only slightly more effort and time than boiling pasta. So I followed it up with "Or, I suppose I could just steam chicken every day." They responded with "yeah, also consider pressure cookers- I eat a tasty stew every other day."

Looking backwards, I'm glad that I actively checked the thing I said, noticed that my cache was out of date, and updated accordingly. Looking forward, I'm going to only buy meat and vegetables on my next two grocery trips, and then reevaluate.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-04-17T16:27:24.640Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Update: the convenience cost of cooking meat remains significant, and the cost of preparing kale remains even more significant. Continuing to not follow paleo for now.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-04-05T18:35:40.710Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I read up on a bunch of theory about Alexander Technique. It's something that feels a lot like physical rationality - that is to say, how you do the things you do involves choices, and you may not be making the choice you want to make out of force of habit. Some highlights:

  • I noticed that I spend a lot of my time walking around with my head down. I've been spending time re-focusing my attention on the horizon. Still notice myself looking down by force of habit, but it's not a permanent state.

  • My monitor needs to get raised by about six inches

  • I've had lots of issues with neck/back tension and tension headaches. I'm trying to let myself relax those muscles more.

  • Nobody had ever told me that, functionally speaking, the shoulder blade and collarbone are part of doing arm motions. My first instinct is to do everything past the shoulder. I've been retraining myself, and I've been sore around my shoulder blade. Similarly, you really want to use muscles above the buttocks as a "leg muscle".

  • How you act and how you feel has some "backwards" causality. I've noticed myself feeling more confident while walking around with my head up (as opposed to pointed towards ground).

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-04-05T21:49:42.181Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My monitor needs to get raised by about six inches

stack some extra textbooks! You'll notice the effect immediately.

How you act and how you feel has some "backwards" causality. I've noticed myself feeling more confident while walking around with my head up (as opposed to pointed towards ground).

try walking around smiling and see how difficult it is to be irritated with people.

comment by VCavallo · 2013-04-05T17:05:20.985Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll kick it off:

I've begun to seriously consider the anti-natalist views of philosophers like David Benatar. My two sisters recently each had their first child and while I've given thought to the idea of having my own children in the past, closely seeing the process play out from beginning to end has somehow updated my thoughts on the topic. I haven't read much yet (I'm about a quarter through Better To Have Never Been and would relish some suggestions from LWers on the matter.

Currently my thinking is that as much as I would like the experience of raising a child who shares my own DNA, I am becoming more and more convinced that I can't feel like I am making a morally-correct decision by bringing a new human into existence. If I had never been born I necessarily wouldn't have been harmed in any way by not existing - and now that I am here I can enjoy life as much as possible (which is a lot, don't get me wrong), but I still must endure some measure of suffering and I also must face mortality.

I was never interested in the idea of adopting children before, but in light of my updated viewpoint on conception I can see the benefit of adopting an already-born person.

Another part of it I think about: As far as utility to society goes, I already know that I have certain inclinations or aspirations towards rationality and a general motivation to attempt to better society in some small way if I can. There's no guarantee that a new person I create will match or exceed the possible positive impacts on society that I make. That uncertainty-for-positive-change along with the fact that a new person will necessarily impose some negatives on society also makes me wonder how I could justify the decision to make a new person.

As I'm sure it is clear, I'm in the early stages of considering these topics and haven't done much research at all into writings and analysis of the issues I'm raising. I am open to any and all suggestions of avenues of research.

comment by Nisan · 2013-04-05T18:57:45.299Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A point that might be overlooked in discussions of adoption is that paternal/maternal love might be partially mediated by biological signals (pheromones? hormones? knowing that your partner is pregnant?) that are not present when you adopt. I don't know what research has been done in this field, but it's worth looking in to.

comment by VCavallo · 2013-04-05T19:56:06.805Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a sort of terrible analogy, but I'm going for it anyway: I recently adopted a cat and feel extremely powerful positive emotional feelings for him just by virtue of being around him and caring for him all the time, not to mention that he is incredibly cute and loving. But I don't feel for him the way I would expect to feel for a biological child of mine. I imagine one's feelings about an adopted child might be similar at first.

more: I'm not sure if you are saying parental love is a good thing or not, or merely factually stating that it could potentially be absent in an adoption scenario, but for the sake of conversation let's say you (or some imaginary interlocutor) are suggesting there would be some net detriment to child-rearing if parental love is removed: I wonder if one couldn't make more rational and intelligent decisions in the absence of the potentially-clouding fog of parental love. Is it necessarily a good thing for an established adult to want to die so that a 1-month-old infant could survive (insert imaginary scenario here)? Is it a good thing that parents see their children, the object of their overwhelming parental love, less objectively and with profound biases due to that love? Etc. - there are many examples of the biasing effects of biological love.

It's an interesting topic I think... non-biased (or at least less-biased) child-rearing as a result of reduced instinctual biological parental love.

comment by Nisan · 2013-04-05T22:14:22.487Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nah, it's not my place to tell you whether paternal/maternal love is good or not. People may find it intrinsically valuable, but maybe you don't value it terminally.

Another reason to consider paternal/maternal love is that you're probably more motivated to care for someone you love, other things being equal. Personally, I'd be willing to be responsible for a cat that I don't love, but I wouldn't want to have parental responsibility for a human I didn't love.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-04-05T21:55:04.706Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

which is a lot, don't get me wrong

that everyone feels the need to add this caveat when discussing topics like this, regardless of whether they are actually doing okay, always bothers me a lot. What if you're not okay? To be cliche, why is it not okay for someone to not be okay? To paraphrase Bostrom: many people are walking around quietly leading desperately unhappy lives, and much of the improvements they could make don't get talked about because it is low status to admit you are unhappy.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-04-06T05:08:39.426Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To paraphrase Bostrom: many people are walking around quietly leading desperately unhappy lives, and much of the improvements they could make don't get talked about because it is low status to admit you are unhappy.

On the other hand, there do exist people with depression diagnoses who try to do something about it. Some folks are willing to ① admit that they are markedly unhappy, ② seek independent verification in the form of a depression diagnosis, and ③ attempt to stop being depressed through various forms of therapy, drugs, etc.

So even if it were "low status to admit you are unhappy," that doesn't stop some people.

Moreover, as regards status: "it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied" (J. S. Mill); having high standards but being unhappy may be higher-status than having low standards and being happy.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-04-08T03:30:29.528Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Moreover, as regards status: "it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied" (J. S. Mill); having high standards but being unhappy may be higher-status than having low standards and being happy.

Mill was talking about utility, not status.

comment by VCavallo · 2013-04-05T23:07:09.623Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My reasoning for adding the caveat in this particular instance was to fully disclose my stance. I'm inviting questions, and discussion is only aided when people have a better understanding of each other. If I had said that I am completely miserable and the negatives of being alive once already alive don't outweigh the positives, I'd be of a completely different stance and I'd be understood completely differently.

I don't think it lowers someone's status to say they are not ok and I'm sorry that adding the above caveat bothered you. Clearly my comment was innocent and by more fully explaining my feelings I am I'm no way intentionally reinforcing anyone else's lack of confidence.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-04-06T01:31:03.771Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think it lowers someone's status to say they are not ok

Are you saying you don't personally believe this or that it is a general rule that it does not?

comment by VCavallo · 2013-04-06T22:56:05.280Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sorry - personally.

And it's a shame that as a general rule it does.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2013-04-05T17:46:09.345Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If not having children is rational, and rationality is dependent upon genetics, rationality won't survive very long.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-04-05T17:52:04.714Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Rationality seems more like an idea that can spread from person-to-person than an innate property you are born with. Rationality would be more like a communicable disease in this model (ignore the negative connotations of disease for a moment, and just consider the "doesn't help the host reproduce, but spreads itself well enough that it doesn't have to" part).

comment by OrphanWilde · 2013-04-05T18:50:19.628Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Rationality isn't an innate property you're born with, but it does -depend- upon innate properties you're born with. If the meme is successful, which is precisely the goal we have in raising the sanity waterline, and is deleterious to those genes which enable it, it is doomed to destroy itself.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-04-06T05:14:47.250Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not necessarily. There have been celibate monks for a long time.

comment by Dorikka · 2013-04-06T20:57:41.624Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

if the meme is successful, which is precisely the goal we have in raising the sanity waterline, and is deleterious to those genes which enable it, it is doomed to destroy itself.

On a significant time scale?

comment by VCavallo · 2013-04-05T18:21:27.301Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with you that rationality can be spread independent of genetics. In that sense, rationalists don't have to fear their "kind" being wiped out by anti-natalism.

And: I'm not sure, but I think maybe the implied idea in OrphanWilde's comment is that rationality is not dependent on genetics. If I am right though, then I don't see the point he/she is making. Maybe OrphanWilde can clarify.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2013-04-05T18:53:20.539Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Clarified; the dependency isn't upon a "rationality" gene, but rather on those genes which make rationality possible. To whit, if every human is rational, and it isn't rational to reproduce, there will rapidly cease to be humans, and there will rapidly cease to be rationality.

That's not "winning" by any definition I'd choose to use. It makes rationality dependent upon irrational people choosing to reproduce in spite of its irrationality.

comment by VCavallo · 2013-04-05T19:44:48.671Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

there will rapidly cease to be humans

What is the problem with that?

comment by OrphanWilde · 2013-04-05T20:02:30.858Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To paraphrase Robin Hanson, rationality should exist.

Personally, in terms of utility functions, I'm inclined to give my own suffering positive utility (it's just, y'know, substantially lower than the utility of pleasure). But then, I write poetry on the beauty of the meaningfulness of pain. It's curious what a few years of systematically killing emotion will do to you when it reawakens with a vengeance.

comment by VCavallo · 2013-04-05T20:34:32.409Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure, if humans exist then rationality should exist.

But my question stands, why should humans exist? If I'm reading correctly your post assumes that a rapid cessation of humans would be somehow a bad thing.

Stop me if you feel this is entering into uselessly nihilistic territory and we can call it quits here.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2013-04-05T20:57:39.952Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Objectively, without reference to human perspective? No reason whatsoever, unless you count the fact that humans would generally prefer to exist than to not exist as an objective reason.

Subjectively? Because we, generally, prefer to exist, and more than that, prefer that other human beings continue to exist. Should we count the preferences of people who don't exist yet? Doesn't really matter. The preferences of people today are, cumulatively, that people exist tomorrow. We can of course ignore the general preference of people tomorrow to exist (as they're functionally counterfactual in consideration of antinatalism) but then we don't get to then selectively -fail to ignore- their potential suffering. Otherwise you're just selecting what counterfactuals you include based on what conclusion you want to reach.

If their suffering doesn't matter (ignoring counterfactuals) then their potential preference not to exist doesn't matter. OR if their suffering DOES matter (accepting counterfactuals), then we have to also include the general preference of people to exist.

Or we could say preferences don't matter whatsoever (full objectivity) inwhichcase there's no argument -against- reproducing, even if there's likely no argument for it.

[Edited some grammatical mistakes.]

comment by Error · 2013-04-08T15:05:57.232Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I went out of my way to read something insane (and mindkilling, so I won't link it), and noticed that it felt progressively less insane the longer I kept at it.

I think I'm a little more wary of what I feed my information-processor now. I was aware that the brain provisionally accepts ideas by default, but hadn't really internalized that fact.

comment by erratio · 2013-04-07T23:26:38.413Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Last month I started using HabitRPG, and Boomeranged myself to post about it again in a month's time. So here are my experiences so far:

The positive: At 2nd or 3rd level you get to form a party with other people, so now my best friend and I can see each other's health, XP and gear. Being in a party doesn't do anything else, but it does add a little extra accountability/competitiveness/gear envy. The gear you can buy with your rewards looks pretty cool. The system gently encourages you via the XP mechanic to break stuff up into subtasks so you can get more xp and regularly review habits that you're not getting done (since not doing them makes you lose health).

The negative: A few showstopping bugs: when I have it open it regularly disconnects from the server until I reload the page, which often results in me losing task completions/new tasks that I'd added. On my (Android) tablet browser, trying to complete a task causes the browser to crash, every time. Leaving the tab open in the browser often slows my netbook down due to some kind of memory leak. Also, customising tasks so that they only trigger on certain days or give more or less xp or whatever is kind of fiddly and not really worth doing most of the time IMO.

Overall: The fact that I can't use my tablet to complete tasks anymore is kind of a dealbreaker for me. I'm still using it at the moment but unless the tablet issue gets fixed I'll probably try to find some other method of tracking and forming habits. It's a pity because the main part of the app is very effective.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-04-07T23:52:31.073Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Last month I started using ,

Crap, did you just use one of those words that I've been brainwashed into not being able to see or what?

comment by erratio · 2013-04-08T12:15:12.101Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fixed my broken link, thanks for pointing it out :)

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-04-06T02:40:58.175Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I learned some scary stuff about sugar recently (see e.g. Lustig's Sugar: The Bitter Truth and this Mother Jones piece). I got the same feeling as when I read about the history of de Beers: like something that felt like just a background fact about reality (sugar is okay for you, diamonds are how you show someone you love them) was actually carefully constructed by a corporation to make money. Seems like I should trust everything else that feels like a background fact about reality slightly less in response.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-04-06T14:39:00.531Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm wondering about the Mother Jones piece. The increase in sugar consumption is 10%-- from 120 pounds/year to 132 pounds/year. I grant that not everything in biology (or the rest of science) is linear, but does it seem likely that there are such huge effects from a relatively small change in sugar consumption, or might something else be going on?

Still, increasing your doubt about background facts seems reasonable.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-04-05T21:47:16.217Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've established the habit of using a checklist for the things I would like to turn into habits. I have had medium to good success so far.

comment by falenas108 · 2013-04-05T22:25:06.192Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How long have you been doing this?

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-04-05T22:49:25.077Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

2 weeks. Established 2 new habits.

comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2013-04-13T08:32:26.067Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm two weeks in to a polyphasic sleep adaptation. I wrote a fairly lengthy blog post about it, but some details that might interest LWers:

1) I'm using a Zeo which is proving to be extremely valuable even just for my own sanity, because adaptation is hard enough without objective data that it's working. I've started informally trying to guess what my chart will look like after each nap (e.g. Wake, REM, REM, Wake (the bars represent 5 minutes)) and I plan to start doing so formally tomorrow. I expect to get to the stage where these predictions are quite accurate. Then again, I also expect that as I adapt, my naps will become more consistent.

2) I've been running myself through a battery of tests on Quantified Mind. No conclusions yet.

Unfortunately, with both the Zeo and QM, I didn't do much/any data-gathering before adaptation, because I only acquired / started using the technologies in the week prior to adaptation, and for logistical reasons I didn't feel like I could delay my adaptation for the month it would have required to get enough Zeo data and eliminate all of the practice effects on QM.

It's possible that at some point I'll be forced to return to monophasic. At this stage, the data I'm gathering may become more valuable, especially if I later return to polyphasic.

3) Moments of extreme tiredness have been an interesting exercise in Systems 1 and 2 fighting each other. My body / limbic system wants nothing more than sleep, but my neocortex is driven to succeed. I can watch them battle if I pay close enough attention.

If anyone has experiments etc. they'd like me to attempt, I'm open to suggestion, although they may not be feasible.

comment by gwern · 2013-04-13T17:32:28.346Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If anyone has experiments etc. they'd like me to attempt, I'm open to suggestion, although they may not be feasible.

If you revert to monophasic and plan to try polyphasic again, I suggest taking up spaced repetition. Long-term memory is one of the most likely places for polyphasic to be wreaking havoc.

comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2013-04-14T03:27:24.271Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Roger. In fact, I plan to take it up while polyphasic anyway, for the object-level benefits. I've used Anki before, just not lately (I was mostly using it for my university classes, and I'm presently on a coop work term).

Oh, and I don't have to set anything up, i.e. Anki automatically tracks performance, right?

comment by gwern · 2013-04-14T03:36:36.263Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, and I don't have to set anything up, i.e. Anki automatically tracks performance, right?

I believe so. (Mnemosyne 1.x doesn't track anything, Mnemosyne 2.x does but I'm not sure how much.) There was actually a previous LWer who tried polyphasic while doing Anki, I was excited, and then it turned out he had lost his data. Hopefully you'll do better.

comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2013-04-14T05:50:54.377Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Right, I saw that post. I don't have deletionist tendencies (the contrary, in fact) so odds are good.

Then you use Mnemosyne? What pitch would you make me for that as opposed to Anki? I don't currently have a serious investment in any solution. Oh, it occurs to me you may not actually have a strong preference or reasons for Mnemosyne aside from the cost of switching.

comment by gwern · 2013-04-14T20:12:49.264Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, it occurs to me you may not actually have a strong preference or reasons for Mnemosyne aside from the cost of switching.

Yes.

comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2013-06-07T23:16:32.177Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been using Anki for a few months now. All polyphasic, so we don't have anything to compare it to until I'm forced back to monophasic for whatever reason. The other thing that might make it hard to compare is that I historically have not been well-rested while monophasic (part of my impetus for switching: I figure if I'm going to be sleep deprived anyway I might as well be efficiently sleep-deprived).

Anyway, in addition to adding course notes and points from books I've read, I'm also adding poems and definitions. I want to add quotations, but I'm not sure how to format them. What do you do? I feel like cloze deletion might make sense for long quotations, but not for short? I checked your SRS page on your site but didn't find any examples there.

My main goal is to have the quotation come to mind at a moment it feels relevant, with a secondary goal of knowing who said the quotation if it's brought up. (the latter is a hash function that's easy to flashcard). This suggests an approach like:

Front: Dorothy Parker quote on boredom.
Back: "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."

Thanks :)

comment by gwern · 2014-02-08T02:24:21.453Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been using Anki for a few months now. All polyphasic, so we don't have anything to compare it to until I'm forced back to monophasic for whatever reason

Have you been yet?

Anyway, in addition to adding course notes and points from books I've read, I'm also adding poems and definitions. I want to add quotations, but I'm not sure how to format them. What do you do? I feel like cloze deletion might make sense for long quotations, but not for short? I checked your SRS page on your site but didn't find any examples there. My main goal is to have the quotation come to mind at a moment it feels relevant

I just go quote/source. I'm not really sure if this is optimal but at least my own subjective experience is that it seems to work pretty well for remembering quotes.

comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2014-02-10T07:11:34.562Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes! Well, mostly biphasic, sleeping around 6h/night and a 20min nap in the day. I will dig into my data to see if anything lies in there, but the kinds of cards I've had in my deck have changed substantially over that time, so I don't put much weight behind this.

I just go quote/source.

Can you give an example? What would be the front/back of the card? Or what would cue you to think of the quotation in the first place, especially if you have several from the same source?

comment by gwern · 2014-02-10T20:12:17.902Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

but the kinds of cards I've had in my deck have changed substantially over that time, so I don't put much weight behind this.

The easiness settings in theory would help adjust for changes in card difficulties, I think.

Can you give an example? What would be the front/back of the card?

There's hundreds in http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/182368464/gwern.cards.7z but it's literally what I said.

Or what would cue you to think of the quotation in the first place, especially if you have several from the same source?

Why does anyone think of a quote? It comes to mind as a convenient way to express some sentiment or situation. An example from a few minutes ago on IRC:

14:56:31 < X> how are you doing today?
14:57:28 <@gwern> X: feeling a bit put out that I sort want to go for a walk but I sort don't
                     and I no longer have the dog which would have pushed me over 
                     the edge in favor of taking a walk
14:57:44 <@gwern> 'those barbarians were a solution, of sorts'

A paraphrased quote from Cavafy's "Waiting for the Barbarians" encapsulates my vague frustration at the moment over losing my dog (died Thursday) as a commitment device for getting some minimal exercise.

What is there about my dog or daily walks that relates to Cavafy? Nothing, but it's a favorite poem of mine and there are quotes in my Mnemosyne and so it comes to mind.

comment by apophenia · 2013-04-11T01:51:44.711Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just launched the alpha of forget.io, a service for developing habits and recording data in self-experimentation. It texts you on your phone; you text it back. My stereotypical question (and the one I invented it for) is "How happy are you on a scale of 1-10?" Free to minicamp participants; costs a small fee for everyone else (although only enough to pay for the text messages).

comment by Document · 2013-04-11T02:21:22.448Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Almost makes me annoyed that with T-Mobile I don't get a good enough signal to send text messages from home.

comment by Manfred · 2013-04-05T18:26:40.898Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've gotten a lot better at managing my emotional response to things, possibly because of a certain online game that generates endless rivers of burning rage in many of its players. From the outside view, however, I can't recommend this as a way to increase your emotional awareness, because most people don't get this ending.

An entirely possible alternate explanation is just that I've gotten better at this self-awareness stuff at the same rate as normal, but only noticed it because of the game.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-04-06T14:34:44.628Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What's the game?

comment by Manfred · 2013-04-06T15:17:12.928Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A secret. :3

comment by [deleted] · 2013-04-05T17:36:20.591Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2013-04-07T10:38:33.220Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What benefits were you hoping for?

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-04-06T01:38:25.368Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I continue to use curiosity to lessen the effects of the fundamental attribution error, which is what I was attempting to give up. Instead of making judgement about why a person would do something (probably because of some glaring personal failure!) I try to actively wonder what circumstances led them to doing it.

comment by VCavallo · 2013-04-05T20:47:14.187Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did you have a stroke mid-post?

.. I see the "40" in there, which is relevant to lent, along with letter patterns that sort of like like encoded words. Maybe this is a puzzle?

comment by Vaniver · 2013-04-05T22:23:14.090Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

rot13 is a common form of encryption caused by rotating every character by 13 spaces in the alphabet, which is convenient because the encryption and decryption actions are the same. Sites like rot13 will allow you to easily cipher and decipher text that way.