↑ comment by Eli Tyre (elityre) ·
2019-12-25T03:12:20.807Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I'm going to make a general point first, and then respond to some of your specific objections.
One of the things that I do, and that CFAR does, is trawl through the existing bodies of knowledge (or purported existing bodies of knowledge), that are relevant to problems that we care about.
But there's a lot of that in the world, and most of it is not very reliable. My response is only point at a heuristic that I use in assessing those bodies of knowledge, and weighing which ones to prioritize and engage with further. I agree that this heuristic on its own is insufficient for certifying a tradition or a body of knowledge as correct, or reliable, or anything.
And yes, you need to do further evaluation work before adopting a procedure. In general, I would recommend against adopting a new procedure as a habit, unless it is concretely and obviously providing value. (There are obviously some exceptions to this general rule.)
Why would you expect this feedback to be reliable…? It seems to me that the opposite would be the case.
On the face of it, I wouldn't assume that it is reliable, but I don't have that strong a reason to assume that it isn't a priori.
Post priori, my experience being in Circles is that there is sometime incentive to obscure what's happening for you, in a circle, but that, at least with skilled facilitation, there is usually enough trust in the process that that doesn't happen. This is helped by the fact that there are many degrees of freedom in terms of one's response: I might say, "I don't want to share what's happening for me" or "I notice that I don't want to engage with that."
I could be typical minding, but I don't expect most people to lie outright in this context.
(This is aside from the fact that even if the feedback were reliable, the most you could expect to be training is your ability to determine what someone is feeling in the specific context of a Circling, or Circling-esque, exercise. I would not expect that this ability—even were it trainable in such a manner—would transfer to other situations.)
That seems like a reasonable hypothesis.
Not sure if it's a crux, in so far as if something works well in circling, you can intentionally import the circling context. That is, if you find that you can in fact transfer intuitions, process fears, track what's motivating a person, etc., effectively in the circling context, an obvious next step might be to try and and do this on topics that you care about, in the circling context. e.g. Circles on X-risk.
In practice it seems to be a little bit of both: I've observed people build skills in circling, that they apply in other contexts, and also their other contexts do become more circling-y.
Finally, and speaking of feedback loops, note that my question had two parts—and the second part (asking for relevant examples of these purported experts’ output) is one which you did not address.
Sorry, I wasn't really trying to give a full response to your question, just dropping in with a little "here's how I do things."
You're referring to this question?
What are some examples of their output, that is relevant to … research intuitions? (Or anything related?)
I expect there's some talking past eachother going on, because this question seems surprising to me.
Um. I don't think there are examples of their output with regard to research or research intuitions. The Circlers aren't trying to do that, even a little. They're a funny subculture that engages a lot with an interpersonal practice, with the goals of fuller understanding of self and deeper connections with others (roughly. I'm not sure that they would agree that those are the goals.)
But they do pass some of my heuristic checks for "something interesting might be happening here." So I might go investigate and see what skill there is over in there, and how I might be able to re-purpose that skill for other goals that I care about.
Sort of like (I don't know) if I was a biologist in an alternative world, and I had an inkling that I could do population simulations on a computer, but I don't know anything about computers. So I go look around and I see who does seem to know about computers. And I find a bunch of hobbyists who are playing with circuits and making very simple video games, and have never had a thought about biology in their lives. I might hang out with these hobbyist and learn about circuits and making simple computer games, so that I can learn skills for making population simulations.
This analogy doesn't quite hold up, because its easier to verify that the hobbyists are actually successfully making computer games, and to verify that their understanding of circuits reflects standard physics. The case of the Circlers is less clean cut, because it is less obvious that they are doing anything real, and because their own models of what they are doing and how are a lot less grounded.
But I think the basic relationship holds up, noting that figuring out which groups of hobbyists are doing real things is much trickier.
Maybe to say it clearly: I don't think it is obvious, or a slam dunk, or definitely the case (and if you don't think so then you must be stupid or misinformed) that "Circling is doing something real." But also, I have heuristics that suggest that Circling is more interesting than a lot of woo.
In terms of evidence that make me think Circling is interesting (which again, I don't expect to be compelling to everyone):
- Having decent feedback loops.
- Social evidence: A lot of people around me, including Anna, think it is really good.
- Something like "universality". (This is hand-wavy) Circling is about "what's true", and has enough reach to express or to absorb any way of being or any way the world might be. This is in contrast to many forms of woo, which have an ideology baked into them that reject ways the world could be a priori, for instance that "everything happens for a reason". (This is not to say that Circling doesn't have an ideology, or a metaphysics, but it is capable of holding more than just that ideology.)
- Circling is concerned with truth, and getting to the truth. It doesn't reject what's actually happening in favor of a nicer story.
- I can point to places where some people seem much more socially skilled, in ways that relate to circling skill.
- Pete is supposedly able to be good at detecting lying.
- The thing I said about picking out people who "seemed to be doing something", and turned out to be circlers.
- Somehow people do seem to cut past their own bullshit in circles, in a way that seems relevant to human rationality.
- I've personally had some (few) meaningful realizations in Circles
I think all of the above are much weaker evidence than...
- "I did x procedure, and got y, large, externally verifiable result",
- "I did v procedure, and got u, specific, good (but hard to verify externally) result."
These days, I generally tend to stick to doing things that are concretely and fairly obviously (if only to me) having good immediate effects. If there aren't pretty immediate obvious, effects, then I won't bother much with it. And I don't think circling passes that bar (for me at least). But I do think there are plenty of reasons to be interested in circling, for someone who isn't following that heuristic strongly.
I also want to say, while I'm giving a sort-of-defense of being interested in circling, that I'm, personally, only a little interested.
I've done some ~1000 hours of Circling retreats, for personal reasons rather than research reasons (though admittedly the two are often entangled). I think I learned a few skills, which I could have learned faster, if I knew what I was aiming for. My ability to connect / be present with (some) others, improved a lot. I think I also damaged something psychologically, which took 6 months to repair.
Overall, I concluded it was fine, but I would have done better to train more specific and goal-directed skills like NVC. Personally, I'm more interested in other topics, and other sources of knowledge.
Replies from: elityre, howie-lempel
↑ comment by Eli Tyre (elityre) ·
2019-12-25T03:26:36.702Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Some sampling of things that I'm currently investigating / interested in (mostly not for CFAR), and sources that I'm using:
- Power and propaganda
- reading the Dictator's Handbook and some of the authors' other work.
- reading Kissinger's books
- rereading Samo's draft
- some "evil literature" (an example of which is "things Brent wrote")
- thinking and writing
- Disagreement resolution and conversational mediation
- I'm currently looking into some NVC materials
- lots and lots of experimentation and iteration
- Focusing, articulation, and aversion processing
- Mostly iteration with lots of notes.
- Things like PJ EBY's excellent ebook.
- Reading other materials from the Focusing institute, etc.
- Ego and what to do about it
- Byron Katie's The Work (I'm familiar with this from years ago, it has an epistemic core (one key question is "Is this true?"), and PJ EBY mentioned using this process with clients.)
- I might check out Eckhart Tolle's work again (which I read as a teenager)
- Mostly iteration as I learn things on the object level, right now, but I've read a lot on deliberate practice, and study methodology, as well as learned general learning methods from mentors, in the past.
- Talking with Brienne.
- Part of this project will probably include a lit review on spacing effects and consolidation.
- General rationality and stuff:
- reading Artificial Intelligence: a Modern Approach
- reading David Deutsch's the Beginning of Infinity
- rereading IQ and Human Intelligence
- The Act of Creation
- Old Micheal Vassar talks on youtube
- Thinking about the different kinds of knowledge creation, and how rigorous argument (mathematical proof, engineering schematics) work.
I mostly read a lot of stuff, without a strong expectation that it will be right. Replies from: howie-lempel
↑ comment by Howie Lempel (howie-lempel) ·
2019-12-25T16:06:19.471Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I think I also damaged something psychologically, which took 6 months to repair.
I've been pretty curious about the extent to which circling has harmful side effects for some people. If you felt like sharing what this was, the mechanism that caused it, and/or how it could be avoided I'd be interested.
I expect, though, that this is too sensitive/personal so please feel free to ignore.Replies from: elityre
↑ comment by Eli Tyre (elityre) ·
2019-12-26T00:58:24.359Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
It's not sensitive so much has context-heavy, and I don't think I can easily go into it in brief. I do think it would be good if we had a way to propagate different people's experiences of things like Circling better.