Instrumental Rationality Questions Thread
post by AspiringRationalist
Previous thread: http://lesswrong.com/lw/mnq/instrumental_rationality_questions_thread/
This thread is for asking the rationalist community for practical advice. It's inspired by the stupid questions series, but with an explicit focus on instrumental rationality.
Questions ranging from easy ("this is probably trivial for half the people on this site") to hard ("maybe someone here has a good answer, but probably not") are welcome. However, please stick to problems that you actually face or anticipate facing soon, not hypotheticals.
As with the stupid questions thread, don't be shy, everyone has holes in their knowledge, though the fewer and the smaller we can make them, the better, and please be respectful of other people's admitting ignorance and don't mock them for it, as they're doing a noble thing.
(See also the Boring Advice Repository)
Comments sorted by top scores.
comment by polymathwannabe ·
2015-10-07T22:26:16.257Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
How do I stop biting my nails? Willpower hasn't worked and smearing my fingers with hot sauce is impractical for keyboard reasons. What else can I do? I've thought of buying gloves, but I'm worried about diminished typing speed and a sensory issue where my fingernails and wool don't get along well. Options?
Replies from: OrphanWilde, tut
↑ comment by tut ·
2015-10-08T15:53:51.976Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Does it help if you just cut and file your nails really short?
Have you tried using nail polish instead of hot sauce?
Replies from: polymathwannabe
↑ comment by polymathwannabe ·
2015-10-08T17:13:58.007Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
My teeth already keep them really short, actually shorter than is aesthetically advisable.
Nail polish is an interesting counter-incentive to putting my nails in my mouth, no so much for the taste, but for the toxicity. I may try that.
Replies from: tut, Lumifer
↑ comment by tut ·
2015-10-09T07:26:27.924Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
The thing about filing is not that your nails are too long. For some people the trigger for biting their nails is that they notice a piece of a nail sticking up far enough to be bitten. If they file the nails as short as they bite them, but completely even, then that trigger never happens, so they stop biting their nails.
Pretty much substitute filing for biting, because that looks nicer and is easier to modulate into something that does make sense.
↑ comment by Lumifer ·
2015-10-08T17:15:56.920Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I believe there is a transparent nail polish explicitly made to teach people not to bite their nails -- it tastes horrible, by design.
comment by Elo ·
2015-09-29T23:17:14.393Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I am looking for any advice on staying focussed. I already published my table of contents but that seriously didn't help me. I just started writing other things instead of those things, as new ideas come up. part of me likes new shiny things; but part of me wants to get the value out of that post. I feel like this is either a really hard thing I have to work out; or I am missing something really simple to make it all click easier.
comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) ·
2015-09-28T13:15:43.243Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
How instrumentally rational is following Heartiste's advice?
Replies from: Dahlen, hg00, None, Crux, Dagon, polymathwannabe, Elo
↑ comment by Dahlen ·
2015-09-30T01:58:23.618Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
You're doing humanity, women, and your own immortal soul... ehh, moral character a disfavour by listening to that drivel. If you want to get laid, do what everybody else is doing – look good, have lots of friends of both genders, and go to parties where people get very drunk. Tried and trusted. Responsible for 100% of my sexual activity. Buy one today and get one free.
Replies from: Viliam
↑ comment by hg00 ·
2015-10-04T01:15:56.406Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
There's lots of less misogynist dating advice I would try first, e.g. Mark Manson's stuff or Good Looking Loser. Why learn to hate women if you don't need to? And it's not even clear to me that the misogynist advice works better. I'd guess that Heartiste stands out more for his ability to stir up controversy and attract attention than give good advice. Even if your goal is developing unshakable self-confidence, I doubt reading him is the best way and I think it's plausibly counterproductive. (Offhand maybe try doing toastmasters, lifting weights, learning martial arts, meditating, getting therapy, making more male friends, drinking beer, other stuff?)
Also just an FYI, although there are definitely women for whom acting hypermasculine is the best approach, I've noticed that geeky women seem to be at the opposite end of this personality dimension. So if your goal is a long term relationship with a fellow geek, I think you're better off honing a different set of skills. (Guesses: good looks, interestingness, geek status markers, ability to help women who are socially anxious feel calm & safe around you.)
Replies from: Dahlen, LessWrong1
↑ comment by Dahlen ·
2015-10-04T06:29:13.155Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Seconded. I've read some stuff from Mark Manson and a lot of the stuff sounded very reasonable and insightful, didn't give me bad vibes. It goes to show that seduction does not have to be an adversarial process.
The second paragraph as well – tastes vary, and a certain typology may embody the ideal of some kinds of people, but fail to resonate with others. In particular, among people and especially among women who like to think of themselves as intellectuals, the loud-mouthed hunk is a bit of a shorthand for low intelligence, whereas less aggressively masculine features like a mild-mannered demeanour, introversion, glasses, long hair, and unassuming clothing can function as signals of high intelligence. The same thing for, let's say, bimbo types is code for wimp. (That's the judgment people pass before even having their first conversation with you.) In a sense, by projecting a certain outward appearance (including demeanour) you self-select for the kinds of people you have chances with.
More generally, it might be worth remembering that men's ideal masculinity is a bit, well, more masculine than women's. We factor in the features that make us respect another guy, whereas the same features might cross the border into indicators of threat, for women. (Or at least that's my anally extracted explanation of it.) This image exemplifies this (there's a female analogue of it too). In short: know thy market.
↑ comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) ·
2015-10-05T13:29:25.197Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Actually I'll be honest and say I think I hit some sort of four part strange loop here, or maybe it's more like finite recursion. Let's start with "I want to improve my romantic success" and, in addition, I'd like to write a message I can't find that said "I read this classic, and it was good. Then I read the criticism, and I was amazed I never thought of that, then I read another criticism, and the cycle repeats".
Now, starting with the first quote we go to [romantic help site 1], that could be Heartiste or anyone else. Then you go to some other site that could be the "opposite" in their approach. Then you go to another site who presents another approach, and then another, and so you recurse until satisfied.
Basic wisdom seem to be distributed identically between these sites, like the whole self-confidence thing. Everything else is, at this point to me, experimental material.
I've reached some sort of nexus that I can take all kinds of wisdom - apply it, and see how it works. The conclusion is that "Try shit, there's too many variables and in the end nothing is predisposed to success and nothing is predisposed to failure." Maaybe some things are universally bad but once they're discovered they could be trivially dealt with.
In simplier terms:
Approach: possibility of something happening
No approach: nothing happens (for the majority of time. I've been approached by girls but only a few times, and I'm not particularly attractive nor unattractive)
Replies from: Crux, hg00
↑ comment by Crux ·
2015-10-05T16:38:55.388Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
That cycle happens to anyone with limited priors who's reading the writing of competent debaters who are consistently disagreeing with each other. That is, you need to gather more data. Eventually you will see through the fog and see who's right, for you will have seen it with your own eyes.
In the meantime, note that where rationality is lacking there will always be an inflated sense of disagreement. In rationalist communities, people tend to recognize a higher proportion of miscommunications. In instrumental-mode communities (e.g., PUA, paleo), talking past each other is generally taken as genuine difference in belief. There are plenty of memes that the original Heartiste spread throughout the community which have a positive effect on particular groups of men, but would be emotionally uncomfortable for the average woman to adopt. Who do you expect to argue for these memes, and who do you imagine would be likely to argue against them?
What should you do? Find the people who's lives seem most similar to yours, and try to apply their advice. If it produces the results you were looking for, then continue wading through their writings. Eventually you'll know what works for you.
↑ comment by hg00 ·
2015-10-06T00:59:17.584Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
One idea: have a system for meeting the kind of women you want to meet on a regular basis (ex: a particular dating site, a particular set of bars with a particular friend, going to dog parks with your dog, going to yoga classes, etc.) and try to meet lots of women through that system. Volume gets you two things: first you can habituate yourself to rejection because as it happens repeatedly it hurts less, and second your brain will start to notice & catch on to patterns in your interactions if they occur close to one another. By sticking to a particular way to meet women, you can ideally develop a system that works for that particular type of woman in that particular situation. (This is a generalized version of the common PUA advice to either concentrate on day game or night game at any given time. Choose a way to meet women that has a high density of the sort of woman you want to meet.) Read dating advice for ideas for things to try out. Discard the things that don't seem to work, continue using the things that do seem to work. Keep a log of all the women you meet. Try to notice patterns in your failures. Where is the weakest point in your "dating funnel"? Generate hypotheses for each failure and see if hypotheses appear consistently. Do you need to be more aggressive? Less aggressive? Which cues did you miss? Which cues did you misinterpret?
If you're not already comfortable making conversation with strangers, work on that first.
Another option is to try to read research related to relationship formation, e.g. this book.
↑ comment by [deleted] ·
2015-09-28T23:09:52.479Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Disclaimer: I'm happily committedly monogamous.
I'd have to say his advice is great for playing the poisoned game of mostly promiscuous pseudo-relationships as the mainstream low culture of certain countries sells them to people.
Now, the reason I say "poisoned game" is that, having played that game and developed a reputation for playing that game, I expect you to be miserable. The whole routine sounds inviting when you're basically an utter newb (fabled to be a creature called a "virgin") and don't know just how fucked-up and unhappy relationships can get yet. When you've seen a few relationships crash-and-burn because they didn't really respect each-other and each-other's agency, while you've seen relationships thrive when they do respect each-other, you start generalizing and noticing how the initial stages of the "dating process", as culturally pitched to people, seem carefully optimized to make most relationships get off on the wrong foot.
↑ comment by Crux ·
2015-09-28T22:12:56.840Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Note that the original writer who made the website popular may have stopped posting many years ago. For the core information, stick to the posts from 2007-2009. Everything else is potentially (and in most cases) a massive step down.
As for whether reading 2007-2009 era Heartiste would lead to instrumentally rational behavior, it would depend very much on your particular cognitive architecture, position in life, and so on. If you're a young, heterosexual male who values an extremely high level of intellectual and physical freedom, and you tend to have overly altruistic tendencies which harm you in the long term (thereby also decreasing your ability to help other people in the long term), then you may benefit very significantly from the content.
Keep in mind that he's more of an artist and wordsmith than an epistemic-mode thinker. Rather than pinpointing specific theories and arguments he makes, and then asking whether they're accurate descriptions of reality; instead read an expansive selection of his writing and notice the effects on your feelings, intuitions, etc.
↑ comment by polymathwannabe ·
2015-09-28T16:32:22.131Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
It reads like a spin-off series from The Dog Whisperer. With further reading, the advice on how to treat people like Pavlovian subjects only gets more disgusting.
↑ comment by Elo ·
2015-09-29T23:28:15.315Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
This is a very mixed bag of advice. As someone who actually understands the nature of this advice; the ability to pick out the right advice from the pile of shrivelling poop, is a skill I would credit very few people to have.
THERE IS GOOD ADVICE THERE. But good luck working out which sentence it is in.