Open Thread, May 26 - June 1, 2014

post by BarbaraB · 2014-05-26T07:42:06.547Z · score: 4 (7 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 249 comments

Previous Open Thread:  http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/k94/open_thread_may_19_25_2014/

 

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249 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Dirac_Delta · 2014-05-27T12:45:28.539Z · score: 21 (21 votes) · LW · GW

Hello. I've been a lurker here for quite some time now, but this is the first time I am making an appearance. I would like to consult everyone here regarding what I perceive to be irrationality on my part. I hope that you will be patient towards me and refrain from downvoting out of irritation, as I would prefer not to have my comment hidden, since that would greatly reduce my chances of getting feedback.

The issue is this: while I am fully aware that anecdotes do not constitute data, I have a very difficult time believing that test preparation only has a modest positive effect (if any) on SAT scores, even though this has been noted by several studies. Such a finding is completely incongruent with my personal experiences growing up in an East Asian country where most students (regardless of their socioeconomic status) attend cram schools or hire after-school private tutors -- many of these students have managed to perform much better than they otherwise would have, due to the extra lessons and revision. (They usually go through several iterations of testing themselves using old SAT papers before sitting for the actual test, and there are often very significant gains -- sometimes as high as several hundred points -- in their performances.)

So, my request to my fellow LW readers is this: Please help me reconcile this jarring chasm between research findings and my own personal experiences. There might be some information I am missing that is contributing to my inability to believe the findings. Is there anyone here who has done extensive reading on this topic?

comment by James_Miller · 2014-05-29T04:44:27.860Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I would bet that the gains from practicing the SATs are relatively high for people who have strong verbal abilities but are not proficient in English.

Also, since the SATs are optimized for U.S. students it might be the case that there are question types which U.S. students have seen thousands of times and so because of diminishing marginal returns would gain little by additional study, yet a Chinese student might never have encountered a similar problem and so would massively gain from practicing it.

comment by AlexSchell · 2014-05-27T16:49:42.466Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

SAT is very g-loaded, so it would be susceptible to the same practice effect that IQ tests in general are susceptible to. If you look at SAT/IQ tables, the 20-40 point increase Tyler cites corresponds to about 1.5-3 IQ points. This is consistent with the typical magnitude (< 5 points) of the practice effects on IQ test scores. Your "hundreds of points" are wildly inconsistent with this. The only way I could see that happen is if quite a bit of the SAT would test for skills that can be practiced but don't correlate with g. Not very likely.

The way to reconcile your experience with the evidence is to note that the score on a low-stakes practice test is just not comparable to the score on the real thing (with or without test prep). It's not that implausible to believe that, say, 10% of people (more than enough to account for your anecdotes) will score at least 100 points less on an early practice test than they could score on the real thing at the same level of preparation. It's hard to trick your brain into believing that something is high-stakes when it isn't.

ETA: On reflection, the low-stakes hypothesis probably doesn't account for too much of the puzzle. In particular, it doesn't explain any gain between consecutive low-stakes practice tests. I think James Miller's explanation takes the cake. The SAT-g correlation is likely a lot lower for a population not proficient in English.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-05-30T01:02:41.730Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The only way I could see that happen is if quite a bit of the SAT would test for skills that can be practiced but don't correlate with g. Not very likely.

Not likely?? It's certain!

If you know the scoring rules and their implications like when to guess and when to leave it blank, that can get you points you might miss from leaving it blank and reduce your penalty on things you'd have gotten wrong.

If you know better how to manage your time, then you won't end up rushed.

Simply having done it before reduces the stress of the situation and can enable better focus.

Being familiar with the style of questions asked will help a lot - you'll know to expect certain odd phrasings that can trip up a naive test-taker, and in some cases you will barely need to parse, simply pattern-match. 'Yup, this is that kind of question.'

And that's setting aside just studying the words they're likely to ask you about.

None of these have all that much to do with g, and I can see them producing a swing of 40 points easily, perhaps more at the lower end (you know, in the case where there are hundreds of points to gain).

This isn't to say that intense SAT prep is a huge difference on average - it could end up inducing more freakout instead of less, it could induce someone to stay up late and not be rested, it may primarily be used by those who would already do well, it may be used as a crutch by those wouldn't... all sorts of confounding things. But the idea that there is no significant component of the SAT that's practicable non-g is hard to believe.

comment by Dirac_Delta · 2014-05-30T11:42:28.708Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This comment is very insightful -- you managed to articulate a lot of non-g factors that would explain my own observations. Thank you.

comment by James_Miller · 2014-05-29T04:36:38.053Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You are right that a test being g-loaded is not inconsistent with test takers receiving significant gains from repeatedly taking this test. This is why formal IQ tests used by experts are not available to the general public because practicing them can significantly raise scores and so give an inaccurate estimate of IQ.

Edited because I misread the above comment.

comment by Dirac_Delta · 2014-05-28T08:43:19.166Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The way to reconcile your experience with the evidence is to note that the score on a low-stakes practice test is just not comparable to the score on the real thing (with or without test prep).

This is one possibility. Thanks for bringing it up.

comment by TylerJay · 2014-05-27T16:49:05.838Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This paper has some interesting information and proposes the idea that the tests are designed to be resistant to short-term test prep:

A principal justification for the use of the SAT I and ACT in the admissions process is that such tests are designed to be insensitive to the high school curriculum and to short- term test preparation. If short term preparatory activities prior to taking the SAT I or ACT can have the effect of significantly boosting the scores of students above those they would have received without the preparation, both the validity and reliability of the tests as indicators of college readiness might be called into question.

It also alludes to there being multiple studies that have failed to find large effect sizes from test-prep courses. However, I'm not sure I quite believe that test prep is that ineffective. I never did test-prep for the SAT because I got a good enough score my first time to get into the university I wanted, but I did use test-prep books for AP tests, a few times for classes that I didn't even take, and I got 5/5 on most of those. I'm sure those were intended to be "cram-resistant" too, but they clearly weren't.

It's possible that the confusion here on LW comes from the systemic bias of the majority of people here being of above-average intelligence, though I don't know what the mechanism for that would be. I'll just add that "I notice that I am confused" as well, so something that we believe must be false...

comment by therufs · 2014-05-27T18:54:25.351Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My vague recollection of the SAT and ACT was that they were designed to test your ability to perform certain cognitive tasks, but didn't test whether you had any particular knowledge. There may have been exceptions on grammar questions, but I think that in the math section, you were given any formulas you might need -- whereas AP tests test knowledge extensively.

There may be a point at which you've taken so many test SAT/ACTs that, for lack of a better analogy, you've strengthened those cognitive muscles enough for it to make a difference, but cramming seems like an obviously ineffective way to handle this. AP tests, on the other hand, have a limited scope of facts for you to produce on command.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-05-27T19:20:53.970Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There was definitely a vocabulary component to the version of the SAT that I took (in the late Nineties). I seem to recall hearing that a later version of the test had dropped that, though, probably over cultural bias concerns.

comment by Metus · 2014-05-27T15:12:39.131Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am just throwing out a few thoughts here though this example can serve as an excellent case study.

The first is availability and selection bias. It is only the students that actually get an apparent benefit that come to your mind as examples and it is only the students that actually get a benefit from learning that will continue to do so. Why learn even more when through testing you see that there is virtually no benefit?

Another effect is that repeatedly testing on the SAT may be the only part of the intervention actually having an effect. This might be through gaining confidence in test taking and/or reducing test anxiety. Also there might be some weird psychological effect going on where people subconsciously do worse until they receive tutoring to justify the expense.

And a last thing is status quo bias. For any piece of evidence that says that conventional wisdom is wrong, people will tend to disregard the evidence and this shows as an apparent chasm. That is why I personally tend to dislike the sentence "The burden of proof is on you.".

comment by tgb · 2014-05-27T15:53:00.403Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I like your points, but it does seem awfully surprising that there would not be an improvement on, for example, the reading section which has a number of questions that are little more than vocabulary tests. Vocabulary is easy to study and if you don't know it you have little chance of figuring it out.

Or for the math section, someone who hasn't taken geometry before will do very poorly on any geometry questions on the test. (I think this is an unobjectionable claim.) So it would be surprising if people who studied geometry at all suddenly get all the possible benefit of studying - studying doesn't seem like it should be a binary thing where you hop from no knowledge/poor performance to full knowledge/as-good-as-you-could-get performance.

Note that the two articles cited by the OP's link are not randomized controlled trials and are both actually based off the same survey data.

I, too, join the OP in confusion and mild skepticism of the research.

comment by Metus · 2014-05-27T16:44:36.931Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As I am not a citizen of the US, I have no idea what the exact makeup is of the SAT, so I have to keep guessing. I take the contrary position for the sake of argument.

As far as the SAT measures knowledge it would be very surprising to see no effect of learning. What we are examining though is the effect of additional test preparation beyond the usual curriculum. So I would argue that the marginal benefit of additional preparation is extremely low as all the necessary knowledge is conferred by the usual curriculum - especially by the students considering taking the SAT and taking additional care to ace them.

I seem to recall that SAT and g are highly correlated. Insofar as the SAT is a g-heavy IQ test I am not at all surprised that additional preparation confers virtually no advantage, just as we know of no way to reliably increase g. Insofar the SAT measures ability like geometry it would be surprising if learning those subjects gives no benefit as long as the required knowledge goes beyond what is already taught in high school.

comment by tgb · 2014-05-28T18:32:18.037Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

While a good point, the OP's link says that:

  • There is only a moderate correlation between income and taking of test prep
  • Under-performing minorities are more likely to take test prep than whites

In other words, quite a few people taking test prep are ones likely to be going to poor, under-performing school systems. Either test prep companies are incompetent or our school system is doing a lot better than I had expected, even on the low end!

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-05-28T05:09:45.793Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Where do they get the old test papers? In America, it is common for the cram schools to supply "old test papers" that are actually considerably more difficult.

comment by Dirac_Delta · 2014-05-28T08:58:33.100Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There are publishers here that publish collections of old test papers (along with the solutions) that were administered over the past 10 years, and many students practise by testing themselves using those.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-05-27T23:26:45.539Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Are the American methods of test preparation different from the methods you observed to be effective?

comment by Dirac_Delta · 2014-05-28T08:53:52.325Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is a good question -- unfortunately, I am unable to answer this as I have no exposure to American schools.

comment by Error · 2014-05-26T16:23:28.000Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Some random thoughts on Three Worlds Collide, which I was re-reading on a whim:

"Why have you not yet disabled the Babyeater ship? Your craft possesses the capability of doing so, and you must realize that your purpose now opposes theirs."

"Because," Akon said, "they did not disable our ship."

The Lady 3rd nodded. "You are symmetrists, then."

I feel like there's a better answer here: "Because it's hard to un-shoot them later if we decide it was a bad idea." When uncertain what to do, keep your options open.

That's also my answer to "Humankind, you did not likewise repair yourselves when you attained to technology," I think. Species-wide self-modification on that scale probably isn't something you should do unless you are certain that 1. it will work as intended, 2. you can reverse it if it doesn't, and 3. the change itself doesn't screw up your ability to determine whether it was a good idea. If you can't be that certain, better to wait. Not-modifying is easier to correct later if you were wrong than modifying.

comment by shminux · 2014-05-26T18:08:33.058Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

When uncertain what to do, keep your options open.

Right, I recall having the same thought, if fleeting. "Measure twice and cut once" and all that.

My main gripe with the story was actually the universal (across species) desire to impose one's morality on alien intelligences. This premise challenged my suspension of disbelief more than anything else in the story.

comment by Gav · 2014-05-27T11:53:34.880Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"desire to impose one's morality on alien intelligences." Actually it wasn't quite universal. The Baby Eaters (for all their obvious flaws) only tried to change other people's minds by debate and discussion. I was a bit disappointed that humanity didn't try and take the alien poetic argument and respond to it. As pointed out, it likely wouldn't have been fruitful given the Baby Eaters neurology is largely built on recycled baby-eating circuitry, but still.

Although of course it could be argued that the reason why we didn't see the Baby Eaters actually impose their morality was they were the least technologically sophisticated of all 3 species.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-05-28T21:36:13.324Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My main gripe with the story was actually the universal (across species) desire to impose one's morality on alien intelligences.

Well, do you think anyone wants to impose their morality on others? If so, why do they want this?

comment by shminux · 2014-05-28T22:42:45.468Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You are the philosopher, why are you asking me? But we certainly love telling others what they are doing wrong, whether it affects us or not. "Live and let live" attitude is there, but not very popular. And non-existent in 3WC.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-05-29T00:23:05.522Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, if I had to take a guess (at gunpoint, etc.) I suppose I would say that we try to impose our moral beliefs on other people because we think as a matter of fact that those others are already bound by those moral norms. And our imposition just consists in our trying to get them to acknowledge that fact.

But now that I put it that way, I've flipped myself around entirely and I wonder why anyone would wish to 'live and let live'? After all, if I am subject to a given moral norm, I'd certainly want to know about it.

comment by shminux · 2014-05-29T00:34:20.040Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

After all, if I am subject to a given moral norm, I'd certainly want to know about it.

With the caveat "but I already know about it, obviously, it's those savages who do not and need to be shown the light", just like in 3WC. Three repugnant (to me) species in one story, I've only now realized. Of course, it's likely that I'm simply pointing at the log in someone else's eye.

comment by blacktrance · 2014-05-29T01:06:01.658Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Two repugnant species, I'd say. The Superhappies were right.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-05-29T14:04:41.192Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Three repugnant (to me) species in one story, I've only now realized.

Hm! This may well be the problem with the story.

comment by somnicule · 2014-05-28T16:01:09.662Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is the desire to impose one's morality on alien intelligences surprising relative to the "Eliminate the alien species" option, or "Conduct trade with the alien species", or "Avoid the alien species as much as possible"?

comment by shminux · 2014-05-28T20:15:11.900Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

None of the above. Human cultures used to be pretty good at "let those other weirdos do what they want, as long as they don't bother us" until certain proselytizing religions came along.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-05-29T06:29:02.586Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I thought the more usual practice throughout history was "we don't care what those other weirdos want, we want their land".

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-05-29T03:10:08.774Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not convinced. Proselytization — and even forced conversion — seem to have been a less violent alternative to the previous human habit of killing all the adults and boys, taking the virgin girls as rape slaves, and eradicating the culture of "those other weirdos" when a military advantage can be had.

Moses was angry with the officers of the army [...] who returned from the battle. [...] "Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man."Numbers 31:14,17-18

comment by Lumifer · 2014-05-29T16:18:57.358Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Human cultures used to be pretty good at "let those other weirdos do what they want, as long as they don't bother us" until certain proselytizing religions came along.

That's just not true at all.

Look at studies of warfare in "stone-age" tribes, e.g. in the Amazon or New Guinea. It's low-intensity but pretty constant.

Or look at the Vikings. Or the Mongol horde. How do you think the Roman Empire got so big? Etc, etc.

comment by shminux · 2014-05-29T16:55:39.908Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Everyone replying seems to be misreading what I intended to express. Come on, give me some credit, I am not a complete idiot. Of course human tribes (and animal packs) fought for resources of various kinds. What the tribes cared little about is other tribes' treatment of their own members.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-05-29T17:04:23.807Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What the tribes cared little about is other tribes' treatment of their own members.

That did NOT change when "certain proselytizing religions came along." Tribes fought for power and resources; they still fight for power and resources, PR efforts notwithstanding.

comment by blacktrance · 2014-05-28T21:43:12.714Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Species-wide self-modification on that scale probably isn't something you should do unless you are certain that 1. it will work as intended, 2. you can reverse it if it doesn't, and 3. the change itself doesn't screw up your ability to determine whether it was a good idea.

I agree (at least with 1 and perhaps 2), but this answer seems like a cop-out. I think the point of that theme of Three Worlds Collide is about self-modification in principle, not just about it being safe and working as intended. The true rejection is not "We'd like to, we're just being cautious", it's "This modification repels us and we wouldn't do it even if we knew it would work as intended".

comment by DanielLC · 2014-05-26T21:07:34.892Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like there's a better answer here: "Because it's hard to un-shoot them later if we decide it was a bad idea." When uncertain what to do, keep your options open.

Superhappies don't act symmetrically with just anyone. Only with other symmetrists. If humans decided not to shoot them for the reason you gave, and the Superhappies found out, the human's interests would have been ignored.

comment by edanm · 2014-05-26T14:23:09.985Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Reading "The Selfish Gene" teaches enough evolutionary biology to understand what the field is about, to understand the basics of the field, and to be able to converse on it intelligently.

What book can I read that will do the same for me in:

  • Medicine/biology/physiology (e.g. able to understand the very basic concepts of what a doctor does)

  • Law (e.g. able to understand the very basic concepts of working as a lawyer).

Bonus points - if the book on Law explains the practical difference between common-law and civil-law.

Thanks!

comment by badger · 2014-05-27T21:43:10.657Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Metafilter has a classic thread on "What book is the best introduction to your field?". There are multiple recommendations there for both law and biology.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-05-26T19:56:27.553Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Law Comic -- not a book, but very easy to read.

comment by edanm · 2014-05-26T20:19:15.726Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Relatedly, The Law of Superheroes is a funny look at applying Law to pretend cases that could happen in a world with superheroes. Very recommended.

It works well for what I want, but isn't in-depth enough to really leave me feeling that I've learned law. But the law is tricky in that, afaict, it's a lot of details and unofficial know-how, so many it's not a field where a book like I describe could exist.

comment by DanielLC · 2014-05-26T21:02:23.366Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That description kinds of reminds me of How to Succeed in Evil, although I'm pretty sure the law in there isn't very accurate.

comment by Metus · 2014-05-26T17:03:09.727Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Can we extend this question to virtually any major field?

comment by iarwain1 · 2014-05-26T22:34:18.601Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For molecular biology, a really good, short, well-written introductory overview is The Machinery of Life.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-05-26T17:22:08.333Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A good introductory textbook.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-05-26T17:39:21.385Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It's not like it's trivially easy to tell whether a textbook is good ahead of time...

comment by [deleted] · 2014-05-26T23:12:35.852Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, it can be tricky. But this is true of all information sources to some degree, and the problem is usually solvable with simple heuristics and some search effort.

I've found Amazon (or other website) reviews to be a fairly helpful guide. It's important to read the reviews themselves, to see if you fit with the reviewing audience, before interpreting the numerical ratings.

I've also had success simply searching for "best X textbook", or "best X textbook for beginners". Look for discussions on specialist sites (like MathOverflow, or a physics forum), or recommendations from academics with proven communication skills.

One dilemma specific to academic textbooks is that beginners have only read one or two books, while experts have read so many books they have forgotten what it is like to be a beginner. Another problem with textbook recommendations is that people recommend really dense books to signal their intelligence.

Edit: If anything, the reviews of popular books are more likely to be hyped and biased for irrelevant reasons than reviews of textbooks, once you filter out the people who were assigned the book in a class they don't want to take. For example, popular books on psychology versus a Psych 101 textbook.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-27T08:48:56.378Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, it can be tricky. But this is true of all information sources to some degree, and the problem is usually solvable with simple heuristics and some search effort.

Asking people who you trust for recommendation might be a better heuristic than seeking a book yourself. In this case I think asking other LessWrongers is a good strategy.

comment by edanm · 2014-05-26T20:17:02.909Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that's the right approach.

A textbook is in many ways the opposite of what I want. In-depth look at a narrow part of the field. I want just the opposite. Also, something that's more about giving the story behind the field and making the field interesting.

Another good example - Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics taught me enough to understand the idea behind economics, the basic vocabulary, how an economist approaches things, etc. To learn more, I'm now looking at textbooks on Economics, but I definitely wouldn't have started there. And for the vast majority of people that I want to just know a bit of economics, Basic Economics is perfect. (Potentially even some lighter texts cold work, e.g. Naked Economics).

comment by [deleted] · 2014-05-26T23:53:43.103Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For most fields, there are textbooks designed to provide breadth and motivation, and to introduce arbitrary newcomers to the basic method and style of the subject. Sometimes a popular book will be better, but textbooks are often undervalued because reading a textbook is weird.

comment by edanm · 2014-05-27T08:39:00.299Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that textbooks are undervalued, but I'm still unsure that textbooks that meet my requirements exist.

Do you have any examples of textbooks that help a layperson understand economics in the way I envision that's better than a more "popularized" book?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-05-27T17:55:39.649Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I read Principles of Economics by Mankiw. This is the only economics textbook I've read, so I'm not a great source for a recommendation, but I think this book is likely to be lead to a better understanding than a non-academically marketed book.

The table of contents is fairly detailed. (I'm able to view this under "Search inside this book"). You can see this is not a narrow text, but that no topic is dwelled on to the point of tedium. Each chapter is only 20-30 pages of so, and that covers an introduction, results, and examples. The examples ("In the news"/"Case Studies") are clearly chosen to interest a layperson who has some interest in economics, including an introduction to some lesswrong staples like signaling and voting. There are introductory chapters that try to introduce the economic approach, but most of the meat is in inducting from the gazillion examples and topics presented. The headings for Chapter 23 (explaining GDP) are a good example of the background technical knowledge that this book assumes (almost none).

Remember also that textbooks are absolutely brimming with pictures and graphs, which seldom appear in large numbers in non-textbooks. This alone is a serious advantage of textbooks. In this case, there is also a little math involved, but the "Graphing: A Brief Review" section should give you an idea of the level required.

What are the weaknesses of the format? It's doesn't push the narrative-social-interest button. Meaning, it doesn't follow a particular person through a particular story, which we're hardwired to find interesting. Related to this, it's also weak on history of economics. If I remember right, there are some nods to foundational figures (Adam Smith), and then a little bit on the evolution of modern macroeconomics.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2014-05-27T07:10:08.474Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Lately I've noticed, both here and the wider LW-sphere, a trend towards rationalizing the status quo. For example, pointing out how seemingly irrational behavior might actually be rational when taking into account various factors. Has anyone else noticed the same?

At any rate I'm not sure if this represents an evolution (taking into account more subtleties) or regression (genuine change is too hard so let's rationalize) in the discourse.

comment by shware · 2014-05-27T17:25:18.120Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

"Again and again, I’ve undergone the humbling experience of first lamenting how badly something sucks, then only much later having the crucial insight that its not sucking wouldn’t have been a Nash equilibrium." --Scott Aaronson

comment by Metus · 2014-05-28T13:19:08.663Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Damn, that is a lession I forgot. Does anyone else experience this? Reading an article, agreeing with it being an interesting insight, forgetting it and then rediscovering it in a different context?

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2014-05-28T17:57:07.567Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This happened to me all the time before I started putting valuable insights into Anki. I find that 1 card per outstanding article or lecture and 1-3 cards per excellent book is about right. (This is the only thing I use Anki for.)

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2014-05-29T09:01:40.420Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I tried this but went about it wrong, I wrote a whole bunch of cards like I was making comprehensive notes (around the level of detail of the MineZone book notes), and ended up getting frustrated by the chaff of disordered small notes that the system threw back at me. One card per article / book section seems like a good rule of thumb.

Do you have any conventions for turning insights that don't necessarily go into a neat question/answer format into card halves? Just put the whole thing on the front of the card?

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2014-05-29T16:28:25.413Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've found that the process of creating the cards is helpful because it forces me to make the book's major insight explicit. I usually use cloze tests to run through a book's major points. For example, my card for The Lean Startup is:

"The Lean Startup process for continuous improvement is (1) {{c1::identify the hypothesis to test}}, (2) {{c2::determine metrics with which to evaluate the hypothesis}}, (3) {{c3::build a minimum viable product}}, (4) {{c4::use the product to get data and test the hypothesis}}."

This isn't especially helpful if you just remember what the four phrases are, so I use this as a cue to think briefly about each of those concepts.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2014-05-30T07:09:09.632Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"The Lean Startup process for continuous improvement is (1) {{c1::identify the hypothesis to test}}, (2) {{c2::determine metrics with which to evaluate the hypothesis}}, (3) {{c3::build a minimum viable product}}, (4) {{c4::use the product to get data and test the hypothesis}}."

Does this become a single card with four blanks to fill or four cards that have all but one blank visible?

comment by Metus · 2014-05-29T08:38:11.882Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'll have to try that.

Indeed I'll have to try to not forget that.

comment by ygert · 2014-05-27T09:41:14.363Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What you are observing is part of the phenomenon of meta-contrarianism. Like everything Yvain writes, the aforementioned post is well worth a read.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-05-27T14:37:16.911Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know. Metacontrarianism, as I understand it, involves taking specific positions solely for the sake of differentiating oneself from others, whereas many of the status quo explanations (e.g. Yvain's recent post on weak men) seem like they actually have definite intellectual merit as well.

My explanation would be more something like "LW was originally quite dominated by Eliezer's ideas, but over time and as people have had the time to think about them more, people have started going off in their own directions and producing new kinds of thoughts that are the kind of synthesis that you get when you've assimilated the LW canon deeply enough and then start combining it with all the other influences and ideas that you run into and think about in your life".

comment by blacktrance · 2014-05-28T15:55:46.169Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There does seem to be a pattern of (commonly accepted idea/pattern/behavior)/(LW-ish/sequence-related/rational (for some sense of the word) idea/pattern/behavior)/(LW-ish justification of something similar to the commonly accepted idea/pattern/behavior), though. It's similar to the metacontrarianism pattern even if it's not caused by actual metacontrarianism.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-05-28T16:44:34.854Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's also the general "thesis, antithesis, synthesis" pattern that intellectual ideas tend to take.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2014-05-27T12:23:42.676Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've read that one - what I was thinking of felt a little different, but maybe it's really the same thing.

comment by Dagon · 2014-05-27T09:21:39.502Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The status quo actually exists. The status quo is the result of the only experiment we've managed to observe.

Understanding this is far more important than any theoretical behaviors.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-05-27T19:07:06.671Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It reminded me of this article:

When a single experiment seems to show that subjects are guilty of some horrifying sinful bias (...) people may try to dismiss (not defy) the experimental data. Most commonly, by questioning whether the subjects interpreted the experimental instructions in some unexpected fashion (...) Experiments are not beyond questioning; on the other hand, there should always exist some mountain of evidence which suffices to convince you. It's not impossible for researchers to make mistakes. It's also not impossible for experimental subjects to be really genuinely and truly biased. It happens. On both sides, it happens. We're all only human here. If you think to extend a hand of charity toward experimental subjects, casting them in a better light, you should also consider thinking charitably of scientists. They're not stupid, you know. If you can see an alternative interpretation, they can see it too. This is especially important to keep in mind when you read about a bias and one or two illustrative experiments in a blog post. Yes, if the few experiments you saw were all the evidence, then indeed you might wonder. But you might also wonder if you're seeing all the evidence that supports the standard interpretation. Especially if the experiments have dates on them like "1982" and are prefaced with adjectives like "famous" or "classic".

The belief in correctness of status quo is very strong. Even if people don't literally believe in "just world", they still want to believe that at least some parts of the world are the way thay are for a reason. Maybe there is no god creating the balance, but couldn't evolution or economy have the same outcome?

There is also the "Chesterton's fence" concept, that if you don't understand how X makes sense, that may be a fact about you, not a fact about X.

Perhaps it would be better to solve each case separately. What is the evidence for rationality of the given behavior? What is the evidence for its irrationality?

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-27T07:53:36.294Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to change the status quo it's very important to understand the reasons for why the status quo exists. If you don't you are unlikely to be able to change anything.

comment by Punoxysm · 2014-05-27T17:16:37.825Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes, however, there is no big, deterministic reason for the status quo - it can be historical accident. A lot of intellectual effort can go into story-telling about why things are the way they are and be dead wrong.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-27T20:42:37.294Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If a status quo is stable then there are forces that keep it stable.

Of course that doesn't mean that you can't be wrong if you try to identify those forces.

comment by Punoxysm · 2014-05-27T21:26:58.417Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

They can be local minima, stable but arbitrary. People turn "for want of a nail" into "inconceivable it could have turned out otherwise".

comment by MathiasZaman · 2014-05-27T09:44:59.130Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Can you point to a specific example of this? Or maybe give an example from what you've seen personally?

comment by Username · 2014-05-27T17:18:26.459Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Scott Alexander's "Weak men are superweapons" comes to mind.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-05-27T02:35:14.496Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I am thinking about moving to the Bay Area, probably Berkeley. I want to do a reconaissance mission first. My plan would be:

  • Rent a place through AirBnb for a long weekend
  • Walk around, try out the public transportation system, maybe check out some apartments
  • Go to some LessWrong/MIRI/CFAR events

I assume some other LWers not currently in the Bay Area are also thinking about moving there - would any of you be interested in joining me on this mission? Renting a larger space would be cheaper on a per person basis, and it seems like it would be good to have other people to help weigh the pros and cons of different areas and lifestyles (e.g. commuting by car vs using the subway; sharing a house near the city center vs. living by oneself in the suburbs).

comment by falenas108 · 2014-05-27T19:46:38.247Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm thinking of applying to Berkley next year for grad school, and I'd be up for that!

comment by MathiasZaman · 2014-05-26T11:45:29.956Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

In a conversation on tumblr it recently came up that learning and doing a couple of exercises on the Sunk Cost Fallacy did not prevent people from committing it. Similarly, in Thinking: Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman describes students not adjusting their beliefs about humans after learning about the Bystander Effect.

Learning about biases obviously isn't enough, but are there known tricks for better dealing with them after learning about a specific bias?

comment by Metus · 2014-05-26T12:19:20.059Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As far as I know we can categorise known biases in three categories: Those that we don't know how to deal with, those where merely knowing them is enough and those where some exercise or action helps to deal with them.

I think lukeprog had a post on the two latter categories. Trying to find it.

Also you could contact CFAR, they do this kind of stuff. Though they might be unwilling to share their untested material.

Edit: This article by by crazy88 and this article by lukeprog should get you started.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2014-05-27T14:15:35.054Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks a lot!

comment by Metus · 2014-05-27T15:13:49.590Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Please keep me/us updated if you continue researching.

comment by TylerJay · 2014-05-29T20:00:32.447Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've experienced not being able to adjust for biases in real emotionally-charged situations, even after knowing about them. However, after reflecting on those real life situations and deciding what I should have done, I found that it became easier to notice them in the future. And after successfully noticing when biases are at play in emotionally charged circumstances and making the rational decision, I've gotten even better at it.

For example, I had the sunk costs fallacy bite me really hard in a situation with an ex-girlfriend. But after finally looking at it in those terms and making the rational decision, I was happier which gave me positive reinforcement.

I suspect that applying your knowledge of biases in high-stakes or emotionally-charged situations makes it easier to do so in the future. So maybe try starting with doing retrospectives or postmortems and then build up from there.

(Of course there's always the possibility that I'm no better at it at all and I just think I am because of the availability bias... but I don't think so)

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-05-28T04:17:06.138Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Transfer of learning is the more general keyword that's relevant here: getting knowledge that has been taught in one context to transfer to different contexts and actually become widely applicable is a difficult task in general.

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-05-27T10:04:35.954Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I want to draw an illustrative axis of how probabilities of events feel like. For isntance: 1% probability - lifetime chance of dying in a car crash, 10% probability - blue eyed person in Greece, 0.01 % - occurence of four clover leaf among three clover leaves. Can you give me more of similar specific examples ? I am most interested in 0.1%, 1%, 2 %, 3% and 4%, but I will appreciate any illustrative example, even for very rare events. More illustrations for already covered percentages are also appreciated.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-05-28T18:05:54.152Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

how probabilities of events feel like

Gut feelings have pretty bad resolution. In particular, I don't think gut feelings can differentiate between, say, 2% and 3%.

As a rough approximation (and, possibly, subject to the typical mind fallacy :-D), I think the gut thinks in these categories, assuming the probability is of something bad happening:

  • Too low-probability to even think about it.
  • Too low-probability to worry about it unless the consequences are really bad.
  • Not likely, but worrisome -- worth guarding against unless prevention is expensive/unpleasant.
  • Feels dangerous, there is motivation to do something about it.
  • It's coming my way, active measures are called for.
  • I'm fucked.

For fine resolution you can train your mind. I'm not sure how trainable your gut is.

comment by Tenoke · 2014-05-27T13:53:31.779Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'd advice you to avoid choosing examples, which might have a different perceived probability than the real one in most people - the usual example would be things which often get reported on the news (which leads to them being are perceived as more likely than they are). Alternatively, use those examples but only in conjunction with other [hopefully] less distorted ones.

I'd personally mostly use examples that relate to sports, games and so on - e.g. chance to draw 2 aces in a row from a pack of cards.

comment by Stefan_Schubert · 2014-05-27T12:30:47.994Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Nice idea, but I'm not sure the examples are that illustrative. People who haven't been to Greece have no idea of how common blue eyed people are there, for instance. What you want is something that people have a good grasp of so that they can develop their intuitions. I don't have an alternative suggestions (apart from things like dice throws, but I guess that's not what you want) off the top of my head, though.

comment by Joshua_Blaine · 2014-05-28T17:22:06.251Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think something that touches closely to what you're trying to do is Rational Poker, which is using poker to train your bias overcoming skill. Specifically the This is what 5% feels like. exercise. The idea is that you can combine your explicitly calculated chance of winning a hand with your gut feeling enough times that they begin matching up. You'll eventually understand what 5%, 10%, 50%, or 90% actually feel like from the inside. Unfortunately, Im uncertain how well this gut feeling generalizes, so using it to determine probabilities outside of areas you've trained it for may be less successful.

comment by ete · 2014-05-28T16:08:19.237Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Chance of a rolling a double six is ~2.8%, and something that comes up in quite a few games.

comment by gwern · 2014-05-28T17:34:39.056Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds like an xkcd comic. Maybe borrow from his charts?

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-06-03T14:03:40.925Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Which xkcd comic ?

comment by gwern · 2014-06-04T02:00:00.093Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One of his charts like http://blog.xkcd.com/2011/03/19/radiation-chart/ but perhaps using micromorts or another such risk unit.

comment by DataPacRat · 2014-05-26T13:51:24.241Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I've started writing again.

Over at GDocs I've started posting, as I write it, a likely terrible, possibly getting mildly better, self-insert, self-indulgent, post-Singularity RatFic. I started writing mainly to follow a certain piece of good advice I got at Reddit: "Just start writing".

I seem to have pulled off some mental trick that's letting me write a surprising amount per day, so I'm going to be primarily focusing on adding more story as long as that lasts. But constructive feedback can only improve things, and comments at GDocs are turned on. So - have at it.

comment by jaime2000 · 2014-05-27T02:57:29.034Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was hallucinating a pink-furred rabbit-woman puttering around at the head of my bed, and was barely able to pay enough attention to the fact that she was naked to try to remember the more aesthetic details when I could properly appreciate them...

So he's a furry. Also, I am now picturing your character's body as Babs Bunny.

I love Convoy. He's adorable.

There was still transport, and even communication, for a short time. We have records of a piece of news: the cryonics company headquartered there was attacked by survivors and burned to the ground. However, nearly all the... patients?... had already been moved to a private compound. More defensible, and manned by people who seemed intent on defending themselves, and their frozen associates.

Is this a reference to the Timeship?

Your writing has improved much since the early days of your rational cow fic. You've polished your minimalist, abrupt style to the point where it is easy to follow while still leaving only the fun and interesting parts of the story.

Is every protagonist you write based on you? I've noticed that Missy, Safe Guard, and Bunny are very similar. They all get turned into female animals at some point, as well.

comment by DataPacRat · 2014-05-27T03:53:03.758Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I love Convoy. He's adorable.

Not quite the word I expected, but one I'm happy enough to see. :) I was hoping to channel at least a bit of CelestAI through him, if she didn't have access to massive computing power.

Is this a reference to the Timeship?

Nope. I've heard a few "if only we had the money" speculations about building a cryo-focused ranch, group home, retirement-like community, or the like fairly close to Alcor's HQ, so members who get warning that they're going to de-animate soon can be as close to the facility as possible. I just assumed that sometime in the next three decades, something approaching that idea ends up being put together.

Your writing has improved much

I'm pleased to hear that - and a little surprised. On this side of the keyboard, I haven't really noticed how my writing has changed. (And f you have any specific suggestions for how to improve further, I'm all ears.)

Is every protagonist you write based on you?

Before Missy, most of my writing was in the form of play-by-email RPGs. Some of the protagonist characters I wrote were self-inserts, some took some aspect of personality and magnified it to a ridiculous degree, some were experiments (hiveminds are always fun), and some were just, well, characters. I do have to admit that when I consider any given setting, some of my first thoughts tend to be to try to figure out how I'd deal with matters therein, and I find self-inserts to be easier to write than other protagonists.

They all get turned into female animals at some point, as well.

In at least one draft of X-Risks, the protagonist ended up as a male dragon in a hard-to-reach mountaintop library-lair, before getting nudged by CelestAI into a lifestyle that's a little more friendship-oriented. More generally, I suspect that this is a combination of my enthusiasm for transformation-focused stories that try to explore some of the possible range of the parahuman condition, and that the three protagonists you mention were close enough to being self-inserts to start out as male humans.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-05-29T10:34:12.410Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

From "The Sin of Underconfidence":

to put yourself down, and others implicitly above, has a positive tinge of niceness about it, it's the sort of thing that Gandalf would do.

From "Things You Can't Countersignal":

if you are so obviously high-status that no one could possibly miss it, it may be both unnecessary and counterproductive to signal status, because this would let others conflate you with mid-status people (...) If you're personally acquainted with the people around whom you attempt countersignaling, your previous signals (or other evidence to the effect that you are awesome) will already have accumulated. It's not necessary to further prove yourself. (...) The trouble is that it's easy to think one's positive traits are so obvious that no one could miss them when really they aren't. You are not as well known as you think you should be.

Maybe it's just the not-so-much-socially-skilled me rediscovering the wheel here, but anyway, someone else may benefit from this little epiphany too: Humility is just another social tool, and if you are doing it wrong, you may hurt yourself. It is not as safe as it seems.

Here is when you should be humble:

(a) If your skills are measurable and low, so everyone else already knows you suck. If you admit it yourself, you save them the trouble of reminding you. You get a small bonus point for understanding your place in the ladder. Yeah, you will still be at the bottom of the ladder, but at least you will be kept alone, because you understand your place.

(b) If you skills are awesome, and everyone else around you already know this. (Make sure this is actually the case! Illusion of transparency, Dunning–Kruger effect, etc.) Then, being humble gets you a bonus point for demonstrating social skills by not hurting other people more than is necessary. But keep doing it only as long as other people demonstrate understanding that they are below you. When a potential competitor rises his head, don't stay quiet, but destroy him. When he sufficiently shows that he learned his lesson, you may show some mercy again.

Here is when you should not be humble:

(c) If your skills are good, but most people have no way to know it, other than you demonstrating it or telling you have it. (Which is more often than you think!) In that case, if you say "well, I am not perfect", and your equally- or less-skilled competitor says "luckily, I am", you lose. You might think that people would notice your superior skills later, but that has a few problems. First, people remember their first impressions and usually don't update. Also, there is the halo effect; if people believe that your competitor is great and you are mediocre, then everything he later does will seem better to them than when you do the same thing. Second, people often don't have a way to directly measure and compare your skills.

In other words, humility seems like a universally good strategy, because it works for losers, and it works for Gandalf, so what's the problem? The problem is, it does not work in the interval between being a loser and being a Gandalf, where most of you probably are.

Later, when you become Gandalf, you can again spread the meme that humility is a universally good strategy. It will hurt your less socially savvy competitors, which is a nice thing.

EDIT: Okay... after reading Christian's reply... I am no longer sure about this... and I also admit that this was a very half-baked comment. I just had an epiphany, and wanted to write about it before I forget. The topic deserves more thinking, but now I don't have the time to do it. I don't want to become completely defensive about it, but I also believe it has a point. Most likely, the point is exaggerated. Here is my quick attempt for a safe rewrite:

It depends, but in a civilized setting, humility is a social virtue. You can be safely humble about traits and skills that people see anyway. However, with traits and skills that are less visible, you face a trade-off -- the humble approach will give you social bonus, but in absence of evidence people may literally believe what you said, as long as it seems credible. To avoid false dilemma, you can provide positive information about yourself while using humble words, or make other people speak positively about you, etc. It also depends on whether the situation is unique or repeated, because with repetition the chance of people eventually seeing evidence of your skills increases.

comment by gjm · 2014-05-30T02:14:30.718Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This seems to assume that the only possible purpose of humility is as a means to improve one's status. That seems, to put it mildly, not obviously correct. For example, you might attempt to be humble because ...

  • ... you think humble people are nicer to be around, and you want to make other people's lives nicer.
  • ... you think most people overestimate their own merits, see no reason why you should be an exception, and want to correct for this.
  • ... you belong to a religion that commands (or at least commends) it.
  • ... you have psychological hangups that make you feel bad when others regard you "too" positively.

There are arguments to be made against each of those, but none of them looks much like "you probably think that being humble will make others think better of you, but actually it likely won't".

(Side note: I get from Viliam's comment the same impression as I do from some of Robin Hanson's posts: a wilful refusal to consider any but the most cynical interpretation of something, where of course everyone is simply acting (or attempting to act) in their own selfish interests, where anything that looks like kindness or generosity is really a self-regarding status manoeuvre, etc., and where all this cynicism is too obvious to merit any kind of justification, but simply assumed as if everyone worth paying attention to will already agree. My instinctive reaction to this kind of stuff is to see it as a self-regarding status manoeuvre in its own right ("see how independent-minded and fearless I am!") and move the author's credibility down a notch or two. That's probably not a fair reaction, but I suspect I'm not alone in having it.)

(One other pedantic note. It seems clear that "humility" here is being used to mean something like "self-deprecation". I have seen the word used in other ways -- e.g., to denote an attempt to have the exact same attitude to one's own merits and demerits as to those of other people. Perhaps some other term might be less ambiguous.)

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-05-30T07:26:10.896Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems clear that "humility" here is being used to mean something like "self-deprecation". I have seen the word used in other ways

Yeah. I would like to have some textbook on social skills, where one chapter would be e.g. about humility: many possible interpretations of the word; which ones are helpful, and which ones are harmful, and how it depends on context. Specific, specific, specific.

EDIT: What I mean by this is that people sometimes give you an advice that "it is better to be humble", but without the details about how specifically to be humble (and how specifically not to be humble), such advice can be even harmful. Also, the advice from other people usually comes with its own bias, namely that people are more likely to correct you on behavior that somehow harms or annoys them, but will be quiet about behavior that only harms you.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-29T13:27:18.856Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The value of humility depends very much on the culture in which you are operating.

A ghetto kid you behaves humble will have a hard time. On the other hand in Japan being humble is very important and there's social punishment from deviating from that standard.

Overconfidence in your hand is okay when you play poker. It costs you games when you play go.

First, people remember their first impressions and usually don't update.

I think you underrate the effect of broken promises and failing to deliver.

When a potential competitor rises his head, don't stay quiet, but destroy him. When he sufficiently shows that he learned his lesson, you may show some mercy again.

Outside of the ghetto where people value civilised society that's not a good strategy. You frequently do lose social status when you destroy another person. There the phrase of giving someone the ropes to hang themselves. Everyone likes the king's death but nobody likes the king's slayer.

In one review of the scientific evidence on LW there's the conclusion that modesty increases career success while efforts at self-promotion and being assertive rather diminish it. Especially if you see yourself as someone who's not good at navigating social interactions you should bring a better argument if you want to contradict the published papers.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-05-29T17:50:56.965Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The value of humility depends very much on the culture in which you are operating.

Yes. So, to be more specific, I am usually thinking about an IT company in Europe, where the bosses EDIT: don't care about the details of the development process, so they cannot judge an individual's contribution well, and they mostly see the team output, where the details are mostly in a "black box".

I think you underrate the effect of broken promises and failing to deliver.

If you are a member of a team, and the team delivers the product, how would the boss know whether it happened (a) because of your contribution, (b) regardless of your contribution, or even (c) despite your contribution?

You frequently do lose social status when you destroy another person. There the phrase of giving someone the ropes to hang themselves.

I agree completely here.

In one review of the scientific evidence on LW there's the conclusion that modesty increases career success while efforts at self-promotion and being assertive rather diminish it.

Does it depend of profession?

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-30T17:47:37.600Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It depends on the people skills of the boss. There are people you can impress by bragging, usually people with low self esteem. Other people simply get annoyed.

Social standing in software team is about more than technical skills. It's also about the quality of relationships you have with the other people in your company.

Software people generally don't play golf together, but in other areas that's how relationships get build.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-05-29T18:03:27.558Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you are a member of a team, and the team delivers the product, how would the boss know whether it happened (a) because of your contribution, (b) regardless of your contribution, or even (c) despite your contribution?

The boss would ask the team leader, aka the project manager.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-05-29T18:07:28.667Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Therefore, you should be the project manager.

EDIT: What I meant, is: if there are a few roughly equivalent programmers, and one of them must be selected as the project manager, just take this role. Even if the boss thinks it should be the one with most skills, and it isn't you. Because from that moment, you are the one who provides feedback about skills of members of your team.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-05-30T14:45:05.972Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

if there are a few roughly equivalent programmers, and one of them must be selected as the project manager, just take this role.

That's not how it works in real life.

In a corporate setting with a team that's not tiny, "project manager" is a separate position and moving from a programmer to a project manager is a big promotion. Moreover, it's a switch from a programmer career track to a manager career track and so is quite important. You don't "just take" it.

In freer settings (e.g. open source) or with teams of only a few programmers, project managers don't have that much power and, in particular, lack the capability to be the sole source of information about how the project is doing and who's contributing what. The boss may talk to you more, but he'll chat with everyone else, too.

Moreover, unless your co-workers are total muppets, they will detect your attempts to shove them aside and hog all the glory for yourself. This is likely to have dire reputational consequences, especially if you are also lying to the management about who contributed how much to the project. In severe cases you can make yourself unemployable in the industry.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-05-30T17:18:40.191Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's not how it works in real life.

No, this is how it shouldn't work in real life. But I think I know two specific examples where it did.

I guess in both situations it helped that no other programmer wanted the position. Also it seemed that the leadership of the company didn't have a clue about what the team leader should really do; they probably imagined something like a programmer who coordinates other programmers, not a separate career track -- but that is just my guess.

In both situations, these people were disliked by the rest of the team, but since no one wanted to replace them, their positions seemed safe.

In one situation, a few years later the company leadership realized that they need a separate management career track, and hired managers from outside (I don't know what happened with the specific person). In other situation, a few years later the company hired a new programmer who replaced the original team leader (he became an ordinary programmer again), but that was caused by some changes in the company, mostly unrelated to how the old team leader behaved. So yeah, this strategy doesn't work forever, but a few years are nice, and I don't think there would be consequences for these people after changing a job.

if you are also lying to the management about who contributed how much to the project

I think you can see after a while whether the leadership of the company is interested in the details of how the company works, or if they prefer to isolate themselves and see the programming department merely as a "black box" that produces the desired output (it was the latter in both cases). And of course, you should avoid big specific lies.

I still consider this path dangerous and wouldn't walk it myself. But I saw people who took the risk and seemed to win. It probably happened because the whole environment was ready to be abused this way.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-05-30T17:58:15.619Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I still consider this path dangerous and wouldn't walk it myself.

You recommended it to people on LW:

Therefore, you should be the project manager. ... if there are a few roughly equivalent programmers, and one of them must be selected as the project manager, just take this role.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-05-29T18:22:47.881Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Therefore, you should be the project manager

No, you should be the boss's boss :-P

comment by D_Malik · 2014-05-28T03:43:30.986Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Here is a bookmarklet for increasing the width of the main LW content region and hiding the sidebar. Create a new bookmark with the link:

javascript:(function(){document.getElementById('sidebar').style.display='none';document.getElementById('content').style.width='99.5%';document.getElementById('wrapper').style.width='100%';document.getElementById('content').style.paddingLeft='0';document.getElementById('main').style.paddingLeft='2px';document.getElementById('main').style.paddingRight='2px';})()

Put the bookmark somewhere accessible, e.g. a toolbar, then click it when you're on a LW page.

You can now zoom in or out as much as you want, and the content will still fill up the entire width of the screen without needing a horizontal scrollbar. This is probably better if you like to have big text or if your screen is narrow. Modify the code if you want a different layout.

comment by listic · 2014-05-30T00:01:12.657Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How do I put bookmark in a toolbar? I would like to, as I don't use Bookmarks Toolbar.

comment by D_Malik · 2014-06-02T15:08:53.056Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In Firefox, View -> Toolbars -> Bookmarks Toolbar. Not sure about other browsers, easiest would be to just google it.

comment by listic · 2014-06-06T22:03:35.938Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I may have not stated what I wanted clearly. You seem to instruct me how to turn on the Bookmarks toolbar. That's not what I wanted. I don't use a Bookmarks toolbar in my browsers, as I don't feel like its benefits outweigh the space occupied by it and added visual clutter. I thought you were offering a way to put a bookmarklet elsewhere than the Bookmarks toolbar and I was asking you how could I do it. I'm pretty sure I did put a bookmarklet in a menu in Firefox once (that thing that goes "File Edit View History Tools Help"), but I forgot how. Or, I could use an advice re: how to add a bookmarklet at all, even let's say to a Bookmarks toolbar, as I never did it.

Thanks!

comment by Lumifer · 2014-06-07T00:34:00.628Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The bookmarks toolbar is moveable. I typically drag it up top next to the menu bar so that my top bar is actually composed of two: it starts with Menu, but that one is short, so once it ends there is a separator and then bookmarks, on the same line.

comment by Tenoke · 2014-05-28T07:17:29.240Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not on topic, but the javascript code seems to go way outside the page. (fixed)

comment by listic · 2014-05-30T00:01:30.903Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
fixed

Not for me.

comment by Tenoke · 2014-05-30T09:05:32.671Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, it looked normal when I looked at it from work, but it was because I use Firefox there, as opposed to Chrome.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2014-05-30T18:28:28.200Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't fit on the page on Mobile Safari either.

comment by credibility · 2014-05-26T13:48:16.584Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

How do you optimize your credit score? I am getting my first credit card soon, and I want to do everything right so that in a few years when I might need a loan, everything is really good. I made a mistake by applying to too many cards, so now I have more inquiries than is good. Any other pitfalls to be aware of?

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2014-05-26T19:53:11.812Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

In my experience, people pay way too much attention to credit scores, relative to the underlying cash flows. Suggest you concentrate on building up savings, which you control to a much greater extent, instead of trying to optimise a mostly opaque system that has, in any case, at most a second-order effect on your prosperity.

comment by credibility · 2014-05-29T00:11:57.924Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I already do this, and credit scores have been an issue for me several times already. For example, when renting an apartment, lots of landowners want to see your credit score. It also doesn't take very much effort to use it well, it's mostly a matter of knowing what to do. And in absolute terms it still makes a large difference, even if it is only a second-order term.

comment by TylerJay · 2014-05-27T00:45:16.268Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't worry about having too many inquiries right now. That's just a temporary mark and it has a low impact on your credit score.

Here are some tips to help build a good credit score:

  1. Credit Cart Utilization: Keep your total % of credit used at under 30%. 10-20% is probably ideal. Also, try not to max out any individual cards. Raising the total amount of credit you have available is a good thing and it allows you to charge more while still staying in the sweet spot of card utilization.

  2. Credit History Length: If you're young, I would recommend applying for a new card every 6 - 12 months. This will pay off down the line as you'll have a longer "average age of credit cards" and a higher "total amount of available credit". Having 10-20 credit cards is not a bad thing. They all contribute to the age of your credit history and to your total credit limit.

  3. Payment History and Derogatory Marks: Always pay on time. This has a big impact on your credit score. Set up a savings or checking account with some money in it as a buffer and set all of your credit cards to auto-pay the minimum from this account and set up overdraft protection using this account. I do this to avoid getting any bad marks on my card, but usually end up making a manual payment for the whole account balance before it has a chance to accumulate any interest. With this in place, you can use a credit card for most purchases to get the rewards and to contribute to your credit history. 0 late payments out of a small number of purchases is good, but 0 late payments out of a large number of purchases is better.

  4. Total Accounts and Account Mix: This has a lower impact on your credit score, but having more accounts is better and having a mix of account types is better (mortgage, car loan, credit cards, student loans, etc.). It shows that you have been granted credit by many institutions and that you are equally reliable at different forms of credit.

  5. Increase the credit limits of cards you've already been issued. Many banks will allow you to make a request to raise your credit limit without reporting it as a credit inquiry, you just have to ask them. It can increase the average size of your cards, increase your total available credit, and make it easier to stay under the 30% mark on each card.

Hope this was helpful.

comment by credibility · 2014-05-29T00:13:05.679Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you, this is the most helpful reply.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2014-05-26T16:14:14.489Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Set your bills to auto-pay from your bank account. Then you can treat your credit card like it's effectively a debit card and make your everyday purchases with it in order to collect the rewards. (Though, I think I remember reading that you'll still build your credit rating holding a credit card you don't use.)

comment by edanm · 2014-05-26T14:26:22.208Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I once read "I will Teach you to be Rich" by Ramit Sethi. It went into a fair bit of detail on this.

I didn't finish the book and can't really recommend it, since most of the advice was very US-centric (e.g. optimizing credit scores isn't relevant for me). But it might be a starting place.

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-05-26T07:54:57.601Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Can you give me advice, where I can study medicine online ? I understand that it may be kind of impossible, because there are a lot of seminars with hands-on laboratory work during medical studies. And I know the load of data is enormous. However, I would be thankful for the closest approximation to "get even" with real physicians, or at least nurses.

comment by Metus · 2014-05-26T12:20:18.410Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

What would be the point?

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-05-27T09:52:43.041Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am an argumentative type, do my own net search when I have a condition. However, I do not want to embarass myself in confrontation. For instance, knowing the odds of particular tratment success from Cochrane library, but not knowing some basic physiology fact.

comment by rxs · 2014-05-26T19:25:12.500Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose you've already checked the usuals like coursera, udacity, youtube courses etc.? "Medicine" is exteremely broad, but you can find some interesting intro courses to some of its aspects, e.g.:

https://www.coursera.org/courses?orderby=upcoming&search=medicine

Just some more general courses that sound interesting/useful:

Clinical Terminology for International and U.S. Students https://www.coursera.org/course/clinicalterminology

Understanding Research: An Overview for Health Professionals (looks extremely useful!) https://www.coursera.org/course/researchforhealth

Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us https://www.coursera.org/course/vitalsigns

Clinical Problem Solving https://www.coursera.org/course/clinprobsolv

Introduction to Pharmacy https://www.coursera.org/course/intropharma

Introductory Human Physiology https://www.coursera.org/course/humanphysio

Plus many intro courses on genetics, neuropsychology etc.

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-05-27T09:48:10.149Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Those are some very good tips, thanks !

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-05-26T12:57:46.617Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Buy a subscription to Elsevier's Clinical Key website. Lots of books, updated clinical guidelines, and an endless flow of journal articles. You'll need to pay extra if you want to specialize.

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-05-27T09:46:34.357Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, seems expensive, but I will do the free trial.

comment by blacktrance · 2014-05-28T16:22:10.010Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

(A thought inspired by Yvain's Weak Men are Superweapons.)

Suppose you agree with Idea-Based Group* X more than the average person does but nevertheless disagree with Group X significantly enough to not be a member of it. Group X is often criticized, but for holding ideas you agree with, and not for the ones you disagree with. How do you avoid pattern-matching as a member of Group X?

*By "Idea-Based Group" I mean a group centered around an idea or a related collection of ideas, which includes things like Effective Altruism, adherents to a political ideology, etc.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-05-28T19:12:16.511Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Holding yourself just outside a large, powerful, controversial social alignment is a pretty uncomfortable thing to do; people in the ingroup aren't going to think of you as an ally, they're going to think of you as a heretic. And thanks to outgroup homogenity, you're going to find it very hard to distinguish yourself from X from the perspective of people outside it. (Insert your own examples here; I'd add some, but all the ones I can think of are politically sensitive.)

If you're loud enough and can get enough people on board early, you might be able to establish yourself as a sustainable group mutually distinguished from X. But I don't think it's possible to reliably keep the groups straight as far as people outside them are concerned: once you've defined your ideology you can't pick and choose the criteria people will be using to make those judgments, so they'll correctly note the similarities more often than not.

comment by blacktrance · 2014-05-28T20:51:08.631Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

people in the ingroup aren't going to think of you as an ally, they're going to think of you as a heretic

The examples that come to mind for me suggest that they're only going to think of you as a heretic if you identify as a member of the ingroup. If you have exactly the same beliefs but place yourself outside of the group, they'll likely ignore you altogether - you're similar enough to not be worth attacking, and small enough to not affect the group's reputation or inner workings.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2014-05-29T06:23:25.912Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've been having this problem a lot lately - I find myself defending various right-wing groups and positions from leftist attacks and end up tarred with the same brush even though I'm far from agreeing with every aspect of the right-wing positions. At the same time there's a strong psychological push toward political polarisation where I find myself agreeing more strongly with the right-wingers than I would have if I hadn't been arguing about it.

So far my solution has been to try to reduce my exposure to political arguments, since they don't do me much good anyway. But if you're on the internet a lot that's easier said than done.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-05-29T08:43:44.226Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I was called "left-wing" by some right-wing people, called "right-wing" by some left-wing people, and when a random Jehovah Wittness called me "an intolerant Catholic", I stopped caring anymore about how other people call me, because it simply doesn't make sense.

When someone calls you X, they usually mean that you are not as anti-X as them.

Signalling group loyalty, affective death spirals, et cetera. If you don't believe that your enemies eat little babies, you are probably one of them; QED. You can't have a rational debate with mindkilled people on internet. Maybe in a private debate a few of them would admit that you have a point, but in a group, someone will always seize the opportunity to signal group loyalty by accusing you of something.

comment by MrMind · 2014-05-28T18:34:00.721Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly you can exploit the Central Category Fallacy. You copy the whole memeplex X, change what you want and declare it to be an entirely different thing, with its own name, ideology, etc.
If someone challenges you that it is the same thing as X, you just point to the different things and say "See? Xers believe this and that, but I most emphatically DON'T!"
If someone is interested/pedantic enough to point out the similarities, you can concede that sometimes Xers think like you do. Granted, screening for pattern matching means also no Halo Effect from X-ers and their friends.

comment by blacktrance · 2014-05-28T18:43:53.451Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Finding catchy names for ideologies isn't easy, but the bigger problem is that people will think "You're an Xer" much more often than they'll explicitly accuse you of being an Xer. Although I suppose you could continuously say "I'm not an Xer, but I think this idea they have is right".

comment by MrMind · 2014-05-29T07:48:39.758Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I guess that without proper social experiments it's hard to tell, but I feel that people rarely take the time to properly distinguish memeplexes based on their memetic content: they rely much more on things like faces, group associations, catchy names, etc. Monkey social stuff, you know.
I feel that you can either optimize for distinguished appearance, or arguing about the content of your memeplex of choice. I don't see the second working well to do the first job.

comment by Vulture · 2014-05-29T00:44:56.115Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And on a pop-Kantian note, this would be a good strategy to universalize since an environment with more ideological splinter groups that are mutually distinguished from each other would probably be more intellectually healthy than the current climate.

comment by gwern · 2014-06-02T17:07:03.666Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I finished a spaced repetition experiment with my treadmill: http://www.gwern.net/Treadmill#treadmill-effect-on-spaced-repetition-performance-randomized-experiment

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2014-05-31T22:52:10.454Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

My body itches uncomfortably whenever I start exercising or am embarrassed. This is causing me to avoid exercise and thinking about things that cause me embarrassment, some of which are problems in my life I should be solving. Does anyone know what this kind of reaction is called and what I can do to get rid of it?

(Previously I thought the itching was being caused by heat, sunlight, or my detergent, but I've since changed to a gentler detergent and I still get this reaction even when I'm not particularly hot or exposed to much sunlight.)

comment by moridinamael · 2014-06-02T15:24:36.341Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is just your skin starting to sweat. I complained about this to an extremely fit friend and his somewhat disdainful advice was that I needed to exercise more. Perhaps this answer is not at the level of rigor you wanted, but I think everyone experiences this, and the more you sweat, the less uncomfortable sweating becomes.

comment by niceguyanon · 2014-06-03T05:18:39.260Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like to tack on to this question by asking about itching and the onset of sleeping. Someone I know has a serious enough problem of getting very itchy right before sleeping, to the point of not being able to sleep. My first guess was dust mites, but freshly laundered sheets do not stop the itching, and no itching occurs when wearing days old jeans.

comment by Pfft · 2014-06-01T03:41:01.565Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For a while I've had mysteriously itchy skin which seems triggered by hot showers, temperature changes, and time-of-day. I was told antihistamine tablets (sold over-the-counter for hay-fever) can help, but I have haven't tried it yet.

(Another common cause of itchy skin is being too dry => apply moisturizing lotion twice daily. It doesn't sound like what you have, but I guess you could try).

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-05-26T20:53:50.053Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Cards Against Rationality is almost two years old, and badly in need of an update. Some of the jokes are dated; some of them were never as funny as we thought; and some ended up needing too much explanation in games.

Any suggestions?

comment by 9eB1 · 2014-05-31T09:33:00.917Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A practical solution that I use is to buy all the expansion packs and discard cards you don't like without regret (we remove any card that repeatedly requires explanation, or always goes unused). The expansions aren't very expensive. There are also third-party expansion sets, but I don't have any so can't vouch for their quality.

comment by raisin · 2014-05-29T10:02:43.039Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This might be the wrong type of thing to post here.

I suffer from a medical disorder that is very unpleasant. I also suffer from a personality disorder that is very unpleasant. For these reasons, and a few others, I planned a suicide for next week (next week because my family member has an event coming up and I don't want to ruin it). I already kinda precommitted to it by gambling away all of my money and even taking a loan and gambling that away too. I bought the necessary tools to carry out the task.

Even though I understand the position of Eliezer and other people on this site who say that death is the ultimate bad - I found the related parts in HPMOR very beautiful - I don't personally endorse it the same way. Death is pretty bad, but it's not that bad. Using Hanson's language, when I engage in far mode thinking I definitely agree with anti-deathism, I'd really like to party on the moons of Jupiter, hang out with friends, read books, play games and do science, become a being of pure energy and whatever people who live forever do for as long as possible. I mean, life can be very great. But often when I'm in near mode, I just wanna get the hell out of here.

Thinking about actually killing myself feels very unnatural to me. It's easy to think and talk about it on an abstract level, but whenever I feel like I'm gonna actually do it, I feel absolutely miserable. I like to think that when I've properly slept and woken up, my brain has reset to the default setting and I'm in a "natural state" and it's usually then when thinking about doing suicide hurts the most. It's taken years of thinking about it and becoming tolerant to the idea so that I can actually do anything about it, and I still feel very shitty whenever I think about it. This all shows how unintuitive it is, but I guess people can get used to anything. The fact that it's unnatural doesn't mean it's a wrong decision, it's just very interesting to observe my feelings about it.

Despite my precommitment, I probably won't do it because I haven't done it before after similar feelings of certainty. (If you think suicide is bad, you might say akrasia is good for some things, eh? I'm not sure if suicide is bad for me, so I'm not sure if akrasia is good or bad in this case.) If I estimate the probability the same way I estimate other probabilities on PredictionBook, there's probably 20% chance I'm gonna do it during next month. No one dies of hunger in my country and if for nothing else, if I life for 40 years there's a small chance that I could see an intelligent explosion, an em explosion or some other exponential growth event.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-29T12:53:15.791Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Did you speak with a professional counselor about your issues?

comment by raisin · 2014-05-29T12:57:34.978Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Nah. And I don't have enough money anymore to do that. That was probably very dumb thing to do, but whatever.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-29T13:21:55.056Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There are still services like: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ If you aren't in the US, which country are you from?

comment by raisin · 2014-05-29T17:02:31.821Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you aren't in the US, which country are you from?

Didn't notice this question. I'm from Finland.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2014-05-30T11:47:18.227Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I found this link with information to a Finnish suicide hotline: http://www.suicide.org/hotlines/international/finland-suicide-hotlines.html

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-30T03:43:29.284Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would be pretty confident that there are free counseling options available in Finland for people who have borderline personality disorder and are contemplating suicide. It's not like you live in a third world country with a bad safety net.

comment by raisin · 2014-05-29T13:26:12.046Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Those people usually have such a different way of thinking that I feel even more alienated. I don't want to be convinced out of suicide, I'm not even sure if I want help.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-29T13:35:16.724Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Then what about talking with your family?

comment by raisin · 2014-05-29T13:41:41.730Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't feel particularly close to them, so that's an even more difficult thing to do.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-29T13:42:11.552Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's probably an easier thing to do then committing suicide.

comment by raisin · 2014-05-29T13:47:26.979Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Then it's not a problem. If it's easier, then I will talk to them, if it's not, I will commit suicide. It may very well be that I will talk to them even though it will be very painful, only time will tell.

comment by MrMind · 2014-05-29T10:37:38.139Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's not exactly clear what propels your suicidal thoughts. The sufference given by your mental/physical condition? Or are the condition themselves that generate those thoughts?
I'm also curious about gambling away your money: why gambling instead of say, donating or spending them in drugs, prostitutes, etc.?

comment by raisin · 2014-05-29T10:54:25.961Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's not exactly clear what propels your suicidal thoughts.

It's because I'm not exactly sure about it myself. I also didn't want to make it clear because I feel it's too embarrassing.

The sufference given by your mental/physical condition? Or are the condition themselves that generate those thoughts?

Probably both, but the former more.

I'm also curious about gambling away your money: why gambling instead of say, donating or spending them in drugs, prostitutes, etc.?

I first thought about donating it to GiveDirectly. But I don't have a 100% will to die. I thought I'd want to live if I had so much money that I could live comfortably and not have to work for years and gambling has a very small chance of achieving that. About drugs, I have no interest in mindless wireheading. I would, if the state of euphoria would last, but in regards to contemporary drugs what goes up must come down so the negative/positive mental states even out and I might as well live in a normal neutral mental state. But I bought some psychedelics and used them for a while until I grew tired of them and threw the rest of them away. I also thought about prostitutes, but I wasn't excited enough to do anything about it.

Generally, I've been sensory binging for some time now and it hasn't made my situation that much better so I don't feel like drugs or prostitutes would make me feel very much better on the long term.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-05-29T13:35:14.255Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Normally the first rule of responding to a suicidal poster on a web forum would be advising you to get professional help, call an emergency line, join a support group, all that stuff. And it's still what I will recommend you do in the first place, but we must admit that some of them may be ill-equipped to deal with the struggles of a highly rational person. On the other hand, they may try a supportive approach you haven't thought of yet. As per the posted LW guidelines, we must point you to these resources:

http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Suicide,_Self-Harm,_or_Violent_Content_on_LessWrong#Suicide_and_Self-Harm

As your medical history is yours to choose to share or not, you don't need to apologize for keeping it private. But you wouldn't need to apologize, either, if you chose to discuss it with us. You're protected behind your username. Most of us don't know you in meatspace. And even if someone dared make fun of you or say something insensitive, he/she would be downvoted to cyber-hell. One of the main priorities I've noticed in the LW forum is that its members take human survival very seriously, and we're talking your survival here.

In your post I saw several signs that suggest you don't really want to die. You postponed it out of consideration for your relative (i.e. you still care about things in this world). Every day you wake up less sure of doing it than you were the previous night. You still find the idea repulsive on a gut level. By what I'm about to say I mean absolutely no disrespect, and I don't intend in any way to minimize what you're feeling, but as someone who has been terribly depressed before, I can assure you that people who are resolved to suicide find the idea comforting, not unnerving. From your words it's clear you want the pain to end, but not to end it all.

For most of us, keeping on with life is just the default state, something that happens on its own if we don't do anything to change it. In your case, you'll find that, when staying alive becomes a conscious decision, it gives you an added strength that most people aren't familiar with. Instead of just living because it's what's supposed to happen, you will feel that you decided to stop inertia from pushing you (as it does to all of us) and instead stepped up to own your life. Choosing to stay alive will gradually change your mindset toward more self-mastery. It also comes with a number of responsibilities. You have medical issues to attend to. Eventually you'll need to face the consequences of what you did with your money, and work towards restoring your livelihood. Other LW members are a hundred times more money-savvy than I am, and will be able to give you much better advice on that matter. What I can say to you is something that both LW rationalists and suicide counselors say: question what your mind is telling you. Especially if it's telling you that you need to harm yourself; in that case you should not believe it at all.

comment by raisin · 2014-05-29T17:37:57.226Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Normally the first rule of responding to a suicidal poster on a web forum would be advising you to get professional help, call an emergency line, join a support group, all that stuff.

Okay, I haven't done the first two. I've made a couple posts on www.reddit.com/r/suicidewatch during the past few years but then I started harassing the people of that subreddit for reasons I'm not exactly sure of - I encouraged them to commit suicide, like this - then my whole IP got banned from reddit about a week ago.

And it's still what I will recommend you do in the first place, but we must admit that some of them may be ill-equipped to deal with the struggles of a highly rational person.

I'm not sure if I'd call me "rational", I'm not sure if a rational person would consider suicide, but I'm a bit out of the ordinary for sure.

On the other hand, they may try a supportive approach you haven't thought of yet.

Okay, I promise to call to a suicide hotline before I attempt a suicide (confidence, 90%).

As per the posted LW guidelines, we must point you to these resources: http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Suicide,_Self-Harm,_or_Violent_Content_on_LessWrong#Suicide_and_Self-Harm

I don't live in any of those countries so that didn't help me very much,

In your post I saw several signs that suggest you don't really want to die. You postponed it out of consideration for your relative (i.e. you still care about things in this world). Every day you wake up less sure of doing it than you were the previous night. You still find the idea repulsive on a gut level. By what I'm about to say I mean absolutely no disrespect, and I don't intend in any way to minimize what you're feeling, but as someone who has been terribly depressed before, I can assure you that people who are resolved to suicide find the idea comforting, not unnerving. From your words it's clear you want the pain to end, but not to end it all.

I'm not sure if that's a good thing to say for a person frequenting LW forums who probably has some level of self-awareness, but it surely isn't for a general suicidal person. I quote SQLwitch, the mod from /r/suicidewatch, who's been helping suicidal people for decades:

'Don't disagree with suicidal people about how bad things are. It’s not about their circumstances; it’s about their suffering, and you can’t measure that from the outside. A message that in any way tries to tell or show the suicidal person that “it’s not so bad” is just another way of saying “I don't understand what you’re going through”.'

'For our OPs who are in the lowest and most dangerous state of mind, simply seeing one of these message can make their sense of alienation and failure worse, because they are not remotely able to believe that it's true for them. Anything meant to be universally "uplifting", including the overuse of the "It Gets Better" message, which originated in the specific context that adults aren't usually as emotionally immature as teenagers, tends to backfire."'

This part of your post initially made me feel worse because being suicidal is a considerable part of my identity (I've been thinking about it for the past 7 years). Making assumptions about a person you don't know makes the other person feel kinda bad. It's a bit unfair because you can say the same thing about every person who is still alive and suicidal. Every live suicidal person has something to cling to because otherwise they would have seriously attempted suicide already and would mostly likely be dead - or in the process of committing suicide.

I've had some comfort from suicide, but it has been from a state between "abstract" and "practical". Not from a state "I'm gonna do it a few hours from now".

In your case, you'll find that, when staying alive becomes a conscious decision, it gives you an added strength that most people aren't familiar with. Instead of just living because it's what's supposed to happen, you will feel that you decided to stop inertia from pushing you (as it does to all of us) and instead stepped up to own your life.

I've used that kind of rational to think of myself as a "better person" but it hasn't worked. Or I don't know, maybe it has. And maybe I don't really want to die. Can you taboo the concept "resolved to suicide"? Maybe I'm not actually resolved to suicide, but I've thought about it a lot and made plans. Only time will show if I'm actually gonna do it.

What I can say to you is something that both LW rationalists and suicide counselors say: question what your mind is telling you. Especially if it's telling you that you need to harm yourself; in that case you should not believe it at all.

But questioning my mind is one of my problems to begin with. Other people have told me that "I should be more confident" and I "should trust myself more". Being suicidal is such a big part of my identity that I should basically question everything I do, and then I'm not at all sure what I should do which leads to further problems.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-05-29T18:08:12.873Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I hope I didn't come out as trying to tell you things weren't so bad, because that was not my intent. I'm not inside your head and I have no right to explain your feelings to you. I don't, and won't, question your circumstances, which are very real. What I'd like to help you focus on is what you decide to do about those circumstances, because that part of your personal story isn't set in stone yet.

You probably know it's not a healthy sign that suicidal thoughts have gotten so deep that they've become a core part of your identity. However, what we often cling to as our identity is more flexible than we're willing to admit. If you've ever changed religions or dealt with unconventional sexual feelings, you know that the way we've grown used to define ourselves may in fact evolve continually.

Perhaps I ought to have been more detailed with the questioning part, but I didn't want to cross a line where I would begin dictating to you what you should do. Questioning your mind also involves learning to distinguish which thoughts are reliable and which aren't. Examine where a thought leads you, trace the consequences as fully as you can before you judge whether that thought serves you or not, and by "serve you," you may insert whichever you like from "makes me stronger," "makes me happier," "calms me down," or whatever priority you have set for your life. You won't always want to ask yourself what's the use of every thought, because it gets tiresome at times. You'll need to set criteria that work for you so you're free from both carelessness and overthinking.

comment by raisin · 2014-06-01T06:10:59.784Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In your post I saw several signs that suggest you don't really want to die. You postponed it out of consideration for your relative (i.e. you still care about things in this world). Every day you wake up less sure of doing it than you were the previous night. You still find the idea repulsive on a gut level. By what I'm about to say I mean absolutely no disrespect, and I don't intend in any way to minimize what you're feeling, but as someone who has been terribly depressed before, I can assure you that people who are resolved to suicide find the idea comforting, not unnerving. From your words it's clear you want the pain to end, but not to end it all.

I think I kinda got obsessed with this part of your post and started thinking really much about it (sorry for ignoring all the other advice in your posts). Mainly because I realized that I even suck at being suicidal - I'm not good at even that, haha. I guess I shouldn't care about things in this world if I'm suicidal. With that in mind I decided to advance it by a week, so umm... today. I have a big amount cognitive dissonance, I still suck at this "really wanting to die" business, but maybe I'll push through.

comment by MrMind · 2014-05-29T13:06:53.973Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's because I'm not exactly sure about it myself. I also didn't want to make it clear because I feel it's too embarrassing.

Now I'm curious than ever, but of course you're not obliged to satisfy my curiosity. In my culture there's no overlap between embarassing and very painful diseases, but I guess that in other cultures (say, Japanese) it might be different.

I'm also shooting in the dark here, but something like

so the negative/positive mental states even out and I might as well live in a normal neutral mental state

sounds odd from a person with suicidal thoughts.

comment by raisin · 2014-05-29T13:11:16.448Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Now I'm curious than ever, but of course you're not obliged to satisfy my curiosity.

Let's see if I can muster enough courage to speak about my problems more explicitly.

sounds odd from a person with suicidal thoughts.

I've heard that one before (that I have weird issues for a person with suicidal thoughts. Even that I'm maybe even lying to myself... that I'm not actually suicidal.)

comment by MrMind · 2014-05-30T07:27:27.562Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've heard that one before (that I have weird issues for a person with suicidal thoughts. Even that I'm maybe even lying to myself... that I'm not actually suicidal.)

Well, I wouldn't say that, after all everyone has their own peculiarity. Perhaps your brain is compartimentalizing suicide and survival instincts, and you're switching between the two. We still understand so very little about the brain and its diseases nobody can be really sure.

comment by raisin · 2014-05-29T14:30:58.817Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Alright, my problems are Irritable bowel syndrome and borderline personality disorder.

comment by MrMind · 2014-05-30T07:22:46.852Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, one of my dearest friend suffers from both IBS and a mild case of OCD. I wonder if there's some connection between IBS, the enteric brain and the encephalic brain that might explain these occurences.
I say this because when a psychiatrist tried to treat her for the latter disorder, the meds aggravated the first condition, so were promptly suspended. No one saw this coming.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-05-29T14:34:34.172Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does your country provide universal health care? Or how does it work?

comment by raisin · 2014-05-29T14:38:30.499Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Does your country provide universal health care?

Yes. Why?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-05-29T14:47:51.757Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Earlier you mentioned you couldn't afford a counselor. I don't know the specifics of your country's system, but lack of money should not be a problem if you have coverage for both of your conditions.

comment by raisin · 2014-05-29T15:01:37.245Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's not very simple. I'm not sure if I have coverage for those conditions. It could be.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-29T15:08:22.275Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In most countries being suicidal is a condition that's covered. In any case it can't hurt to ask a local therapist whether you would be covered.

comment by iarwain1 · 2014-05-27T01:15:08.533Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Anybody know about the purported dangers of smart meters? I couldn't find too many sources that I felt were reliable that said they were anything more than an extremely minimal health risk, if that. The only two sources I could find that might be credible and said it was a problem were this and this (starting on pg 31). But even if it's not such a problem, it's only about $100 + $10/month to have it avoided. I can probably afford that, so isn't it worth the money to have an extremely minimal health risk avoided?

comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-05-27T22:26:41.383Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Why would it be any more dangerous than a computer?

comment by palladias · 2014-05-26T23:25:07.269Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Dear hivemind: Any suggested interventions/experiments for a lack of appetite?

I haven't felt hungry in at least a month. I still eat, obviously, but I do it out of conscientiousness rather than desire, and have about one meal a day, with a couple of snacks that probably don't add up to a full meal throughout the day. I've had periods of no appetite before, but they usually resolved themselves within a week or so. I tried not eating when I wasn't hungry, assuming I'd wind up hungry, but this just resulted in my not eating at all for a day and a half.

Suggestions?

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2014-05-27T01:23:00.530Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If you've been losing a significant amount of weight as result (and weren't overweight to begin with) I'd suggest seeing a doctor ASAP.

comment by palladias · 2014-05-27T02:13:05.401Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Not that I've noticed (I don't have a scale). But my clothes seem to fit about the same/don't need tailoring.

comment by kalium · 2014-05-27T01:00:54.738Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Marijuana is at least worth trying (if easily available).

comment by palladias · 2014-05-27T01:04:08.086Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Suggestion appreciated, but I'm not interesting in that for personal and professional reasons.

comment by gjm · 2014-05-27T00:30:28.734Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'd suggest "see a doctor" as the most obvious intervention.

comment by palladias · 2014-05-27T00:45:35.825Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My GP is in a different state than I currently live in. I mentioned periods of hungerlessness before (the shorter ones) and she said I should make sure to eat anyway, which I mostly do.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-05-30T16:21:04.212Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I tried not eating when I wasn't hungry, assuming I'd wind up hungry, but this just resulted in my not eating at all for a day and a half.

And after that did you persist in not being hungry?

Were you suffering consequences of lack of food (low energy, irritability, etc.) while not feeling hungry?

comment by palladias · 2014-05-30T20:00:21.915Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Still wasn't hungry after not eating. And no side effects that I noticed.

comment by chaosmage · 2014-05-27T16:01:07.940Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you're newly in love, that'll usually decrease appetite. The effect peters out after a few months, no intervention needed.

comment by charlemango · 2014-05-28T01:29:01.115Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Really? That's interesting. What's the hypothesis on why this occurs?

comment by chaosmage · 2014-05-28T08:55:39.576Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The pop sci explanation is that love gives you dopamine and dopamine decreases appetite - but appetite loss is also a reaction to loss of a loved one so I don't think that's very convincing.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-05-27T08:11:36.607Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You don't say that this is causing you any problems. Is it? Do you find yourself as physically and mentally fit as previously?

comment by palladias · 2014-05-27T13:57:45.838Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, no problems besides confusion (and my grocery bill is lower). But it's sufficiently odd that it seems with investigating/fixing. Plus it means I enjoy eating a lot less, since I don't desire to eat, so it just feels like a duty that costs me money.

comment by TylerJay · 2014-05-27T06:36:19.558Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with Daniel_Burfoot about exercise. 20 minutes of low-intensity cardio exercise is usually enough to increase appetite. Bodybuidlers will often do a small amount of cardio on their off-days to keep appetite up.

You could also eat more foods that are less satiating. Fructose for example (while probably bad for you) doesn't trigger an insulin response and does not contribute to satiety, while fiber-rich foods are more filling. A google search can help you find the right kinds of foods.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-05-27T01:36:46.432Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The obvious suggestion is just to exercise more.

comment by EStokes · 2014-05-30T20:53:22.141Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Try keeping food nearby? Have food in the house that's easy to prepare? Buy tastier food (even at the expense of healthiness)?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-05-26T23:35:11.036Z · score: -1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I tried not eating when I wasn't hungry, assuming I'd wind up hungry, but this just resulted in my not eating at all for a day and a half.

Well, fasting for a day is generally considered good for one's health.

comment by Joshua_Blaine · 2014-05-28T17:27:58.561Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's clear that LessWrong disagrees with you, but in the spirit of challenging my assumptions I'm asking you for any substantive sources that support your claim.

Or less substantively, where did you hear/why do you believe that?

comment by knb · 2014-06-01T10:00:40.758Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Relevant keyword is intermittent fasting

comment by Will_BC · 2014-05-26T22:53:58.495Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Any advice on how to increase the amount I read without increasing the time I spend reading? I'm concerned that just trying to up the pace will lower my comprehension.

comment by Vaniver · 2014-05-26T22:59:01.442Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If you're not going to increase the input or the rate, then I think all you have left to modify is the quality.

comment by Will_BC · 2014-05-27T00:21:19.248Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I'm open to increasing the rate, but I'm looking for information on how people do that without harming comprehension.

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2014-05-27T02:34:32.323Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My experience is that modern speed-reading techniques don't lower comprehension unless you get extremely fast (say, 900-1500 wpm). The exception is the very early stages, so it's good to practice on, e.g., mildly interesting fiction. After a couple of weeks with ~30 minutes of focused practice daily, I was reading at double my previous pace with the same comprehension.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-27T08:45:00.033Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

How do you know that you have the same comprehension?

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2014-05-28T17:59:24.101Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I frequently give my friends detailed feedback and analysis on their writing. They know about my speed reading thing, and none of them have noticed any change in the quality of my feedback.

comment by drethelin · 2014-05-27T21:22:04.175Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The feeling of having the same comprehension is 90 percent of what you want anyway, if you haven't had problems with failing eg school assignments.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-27T21:54:03.844Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The feeling of having the same comprehension is 90 percent of what you want anyway, if you haven't had problems with failing eg school assignments.

I don't think that's the case. I frequently read in order to learn something and not in order to feel like learning something.

comment by drethelin · 2014-05-28T01:22:22.166Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How regularly do you apply what you learned? Of the last 10 books you've read, have you used something from each of them?

If you're applying what you've learned, and it seems to work, that's how you know you haven't lost comprehension. If you're not applying what you've learned, it doesn't matter that much either way.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-28T04:40:59.635Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Most of what I read isn't books but internet discussion. It's often hard to distinguish what using an intellectual idea means. I do learn things and bring them up in a separate discussion a year later.

If I reply to your post than I'm using the fact that I read your post to write an answer. Better understanding of your point of view translates into a better answer.

comment by Will_BC · 2014-05-27T02:40:21.180Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Where did you learn these speed reading techniques?

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2014-05-27T07:07:51.225Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I leaned from Matt Fallshaw, who IIRC was using something loosely based on the Evelyn Wood method.

comment by Will_BC · 2014-05-28T02:33:10.373Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for answering, I did some googling and found a website called spreeder.com that seems to be helping. So far I've been able to gradually increase the wpm from where I was comfortable starting, and it seems like it could be an effective tool.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-06-01T13:51:18.002Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

George Dvorsky, IEET: 10 Futurist Phrases And Terms That Are Complete Bullshit - many of which used to mean something but have decayed into victims of the ways words can be wrong.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-06-02T11:32:43.829Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Will" (in the sense of future tense, and grandiose predictions thereof) is on that list, yet he closes with this (my emphasis):

Not only WILL biological, unmodified humans exist in the far future, they WILL ALWAYS reserve the right to stay that way. So-called transhumans and posthumans are likely to exist (whether they be genetically modified, cybernetic, or digital), but THEY'LL ALWAYS inhabit a world occupied by regular plain old Homo sapiens.

So it's ok to say that business WILL continue as usual, but not to say that it WILL be different?

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-06-03T08:18:08.510Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, that was less than ideal writing.

comment by closeness · 2014-05-27T17:12:40.357Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm thinking of ways to promote effective altruism, such as speaking at colleges and political lobbying. Any thoughts/recommendations?

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-29T01:16:28.789Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Start a local EA meetup.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-05-27T19:54:52.461Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

and political lobbying

Which political things do you want to lobby for?

comment by closeness · 2014-05-27T20:10:31.969Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Changing where international aid goes. Regulating charities so they have to apply a criteria showing how effective they spend money. This is in Ireland btw.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-05-27T20:14:44.209Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

they have to apply a criteria showing how effective they spend money.

What measure of effectiveness would you propose such that it is easy to calculate and applicable to all charities?

comment by closeness · 2014-05-27T20:24:24.226Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think the easiest way would be to show smallest number of euros per live saved, and charities which have minimal to do with saving lives wouldn't be considered useful at all. Givewell.orgs' charity list seems like the best one to promote, as for charities which work within Ireland, that would be more difficult.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-05-27T20:26:39.573Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

charities which have minimal to do with saving lives wouldn't be considered useful at all

That's a rather... extreme attitude.

So you want a government policy which explicitly says that charities which do not directly save lives are worthless?

comment by closeness · 2014-05-27T20:34:50.251Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It would be more about informing than enforcing. There are already rules here which make registered charities show where their money goes, so a mechanism for comparing effectiveness wouldn't be a big leap.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-05-27T20:44:44.556Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

so a mechanism for comparing effectiveness wouldn't be a big leap.

I submit that an official government definition of what constitutes the effectiveness of a charity would be a huge leap.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2014-05-27T18:15:36.868Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There was something on the Effective Altruist facebook page (I think) about how political lobbying only really makes a difference if you have a lot of cash to burn.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-29T01:16:25.252Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think lobbying success depends a lot of the quality of the arguments that you have and your personal abilities. Simply being in a position to tell a politician a good argument that the politician didn't know existed beforehand can change something even if you don't have much money.

comment by jamesf · 2014-05-27T16:40:31.390Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm an engineer at WishWould in New York. We haven't launched yet, but our product is essentially a universal feedback tool that makes handling that feedback easy for organizations.

We're looking for someone (like you!) with experience in both project management and the data science skill cluster to lead our analytics efforts. This is an opportunity to have an outsized altruistic impact by helping a business that donates directly to charities succeed. And, of course, you'd get to work closely with at least one other rationalist :)

Contact me for more information!

comment by Algernoq · 2014-05-27T05:44:07.184Z · score: -2 (22 votes) · LW · GW

I'm concerned (morally horrified as well as convinced of factual error) by quotes from two texts that are part of the "canon" here. The first advocates nonconsensual sadism; the second advocates sadism. Warning: SEX AND CONSENT AND SADISM TO BE DISCUSSED:

From "Three Worlds Collide":

The Confessor [, a rationality expert on a starship's crew,] held up a hand. "I mean it, my lord Akon. It is not polite idealism. We ancients can't steer. We remember too much disaster. We're too cautious to dare the bold path forward. Do you know there was a time when nonconsensual sex was illegal?"

Akon wasn't sure whether to smile or grimace. "The Prohibition, right? During the first century pre-Net? I expect everyone was glad to have that law taken off the books. I can't imagine how boring your sex lives must have been up until then - flirting with a woman, teasing her, leading her on, knowing the whole time that you were perfectly safe because she couldn't take matters into her own hands if you went a little too far -"

Nonconsensual sex is generally illegal and is obviously harmful, given the widely known, well documented negative consequences that I will not enumerate here. The quote about this is a transparently gender-reversed claim that the risk of sexual assault improves relationships by making them more exciting. This is obviously and offensively wrong. Does the risk of robbery improve living conditions? Does the risk of death improve life? Also, a future society where consent is optional appears to be a terrible dystopia: assuming a free democratic government, lack of consent implies that advertisers and corporations could force consumers to buy things. This quote needs A LOT of additional justification and qualification (and ideally deletion) to avoid implying that "raising the sanity waterline" means "abolishing liberty and ethics."

From the April Fool's Day 2014 Confession:

I’m very worried, in retrospect, that they all managed to cure themselves via standard self-modification techniques. It’s very obvious that if I’d realized in dath ilan [, an ideal rationalist society,] that I was a sexual sadist, I would have treated this as an error and probably not told anyone before I fixed it. It would not have occurred to me that sexual masochists were a thing or that I could find a willing victim to be sadistic at, I would have thought I was being sick and selfish.

Consensual sadism is (usually) legal. For the rationalist goal of "raising the sanity waterline", being consensually sadistic appears to be a distraction at best. Inflicting pain for fun appears likely to harm empathy and sociability. I don't know much about this community/practice. "Willing victim" implies victimization in a negative sense, while BDSM is intended to be positive for all participants.

Moral relativism awareness notice: I am aware that "should" cannot be derived from "is", and that no one knows how or why anything exists except in relation to other things that exist.

Given that we're trying to be "rational", which presumably means "think in a way that gets the best outcome for the thinker given the situation and the available information", I fail to see how sadism is anything but a harmful distraction, and sexual consent an essential good.

comment by AlexSchell · 2014-05-27T06:41:15.405Z · score: 25 (25 votes) · LW · GW

At least one point of Three Worlds Collide is to help the reader appreciate what Irreconcilable Moral Differences feel like from the inside. Humanity revising its view of consent contributes to this goal, and has the benefit of being nearer. With immortality to keep past generations alive, sufficient cumulative moral progress will feel to them about as alien and terrible as legalizing rape.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-05-27T12:19:21.889Z · score: 22 (22 votes) · LW · GW

The first advocates nonconsensual sadism; the second advocates sadism.

Creating a fictional society in which people do X does not imply advocating X.

comment by edanm · 2014-05-27T08:46:42.171Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

" This is obviously and offensively wrong. Does the risk of robbery improve living conditions? Does the risk of death improve life? Also, a future society where consent is optional appears to be a terrible dystopia: assuming a free democratic government, lack of consent implies that advertisers and corporations could force consumers to buy things. This quote needs A LOT of additional justification and qualification (and ideally deletion) to avoid implying that "raising the sanity waterline" means "abolishing liberty and ethics.""

That part of the story wasn't trying to say "this is something that needs to happen to raise the sanity waterline". Remember, it's just a fictional story. Rather, it was trying to show an example of something that we today would find incredibly offensive and morally unjustifiable, and yet that became a part of humanity.

Remember that for someone 500 years ago, many of our current practices seem absolutely repugnant and morally unjustifiable, even though today they're just part of culture. Even 100 years ago, the idea of a black person sitting next to a white person on a bus was considered terrible, not to mention women having any kind of rights at home. In some parts of the world, a woman showing her hair is considered immoral and unjustifiable.

The story just wanted to give something that could happen but most people would think is wrong.

comment by falenas108 · 2014-05-27T19:45:15.731Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Consensual sadism isn't a goal of raising the sanity waterline any more than having better sex is, but many people consider both to be enjoyable things. We can't say anything that does not strictly raise the waterline is automatically bad, or even a neutral thing.

Inflicting pain for fun appears likely to harm empathy and sociability

In my experience, this is very much the opposite of what happens. As a sadist, I need to be more aware of what my bottoms are experiencing. In most cases, it isn't that people who are bottoming enjoy all pain, I had to learn to recognize the difference in reactions between pleasure, good pain, bad pain that they like, and bad pain that they don't like. This is much harder than in vanilla practices, which just needs to differentiate between any type of pain and pleasure.

As for sociability, the BDSM community is very much a social one, and I don't see how being in it would decrease this.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-05-28T14:05:12.638Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

bad pain that they like

What do you mean by “bad” for that to make sense?

comment by falenas108 · 2014-05-28T23:11:19.683Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For some people, certain types and amounts of pain is actually processed as a basically enjoyable thing. Other types of pain are still processed as pain, but is still something they want to happen and enjoy on a different level.

comment by kalium · 2014-05-30T06:41:03.964Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The distinction that I make is physically damaging versus not. So good pain that I like is pretty simple (hair-pulling, spicy food, moderate heat, etc.); good pain that I don't like would include a lot of the pain caused by exercise; bad pain that I like would include excessive heat (for some reason damaging levels of heat are easier for me to enjoy than other sorts of injury; I've burned myself before by walking on hot pavement that wasn't quite too hot to enjoy), and bad pain that I don't like would include stubbed toes, sprained ankles, and the like.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2014-05-27T09:55:45.146Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

That part in Three Worlds Collide is intended to show that future humanity is as far removed from us as the Baby-Eaters and the Superhappies are from future humanity. It's not put forward as an example to follow. Shock and disgust are the intended reaction. (Also as a sidenote, I remember Yudkowsky saying that he probably should have put in a different example.)

I can't comment about rationalists and BDSM since I'm not a part of the latter community. What I do know is that subs tend to be just as happy with the arrangement as doms are and that a sub not being happy with the thing is seen as a bad thing.

Also, BDSM isn't just about inflicting (or receiving) pain for sexual pleasure. Aftercare is an important aspect of the relationships, from what I read.

comment by shminux · 2014-05-27T20:59:57.636Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm concerned (morally horrified as well as convinced of factual error) by quotes from two texts that are part of the "canon" here.

Neither is anything remotely resembling "canon". TWC is an early attempt at metaethics fiction, and the Confession was reposted from Facebook, by popular (but misguided) demand. While a fun reading in context, they do not represent anything more. The LW site is certainly not the intended audience for the "confession", as far as I understand, and this mismatch shows quite painfully.

If you feel like being "morally horrified" (whatever that might mean), at least consider looking at the Sequences.

comment by Algernoq · 2014-05-30T00:21:24.309Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I meant "morally horrified" as shorthand for "high confidence that what is described greatly reduces happiness". If you have a decision-making process that operates without you feeling anything, I would like to hear about it. In that case, you might enjoy reading Gut Feelings, which describes how feelings typically help people accurately make decisions in a time-limited environment. In some scenarios, allowing time to think and reflect resulted in a less-accurate decision-making than relying on snap judgments, for example because time allowed people to assign too much meaning to unreliable information.

While a fun reading in context, they do not represent anything more.

This could be said about any text anyone disagrees with.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-05-30T16:17:03.222Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This could be said about any text anyone disagrees with.

No, it really couldn't - not with a similar degree of justification, anyway.

(Why is this a bad comment? Not everything is a fully general counterargument, and the context here is definitely nontrivial!)

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-27T08:37:54.421Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

For the rationalist goal of "raising the sanity waterline", being consensually sadistic appears to be a distraction at best.

You are not reading at a deep enough level to engage with the text. dath ilan is supposed to be a rationalist ideal world. It's a world without sadists. The text doesn't disagree with the claim that sadism is a distraction from following the rationalist goal.

Inflicting pain for fun appears likely to harm empathy and sociability. I don't know much about this community/practice.

I also don't know, but if you don't know, why are you making the claim in the first place instead of doing a bit of background research?

comment by MathiasZaman · 2014-05-27T09:51:04.954Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You are not reading at a deep enough level to engage with the text. dath ilan is supposed to be a rationalist ideal world.

I didn't read dath ilan as an ideal world, just a better one.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-05-27T11:45:46.884Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You are missing a word in my sentence. The key word isn't "ideal" but "rationalist".

comment by MathiasZaman · 2014-05-27T11:52:51.927Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't miss it and my response would be the same. Dath ilan is optimized better than our world, but certainly not maximally optimized.

comment by bramflakes · 2014-05-27T10:05:23.785Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This part was a jarring note in Three Worlds Collide for me, but for a different reason. If these people grok evolutionary theory so much that they can infer the evolutionary reason for an alien species' Baby-eating behavior within the course of a day, and also evolutionary psychology concepts like "superstimulus" have permeated to be part of everyday language, then why do they have trouble understanding why unwanted sex might be a cause for discomfort? I can accept societal attitudes towards it changing given sufficiently advanced technology, but that people wouldn't UNDERSTAND why it was once proscribed just breaks immersion for me.

comment by drethelin · 2014-05-27T21:15:40.804Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

People very often use the phrase "I don't understand x" to express disapproval and to mean "I haven't even TRIED to understand x"

comment by bramflakes · 2014-05-28T14:54:19.714Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Are you talking about me or the characters?

comment by drethelin · 2014-05-28T21:51:24.981Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The characters.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-05-29T16:10:03.952Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For the rationalist goal of "raising the sanity waterline", being consensually sadistic appears to be a distraction at best. Inflicting pain for fun appears likely to harm empathy and sociability.

This doesn't seem at all obvious to me. Source?

comment by Algernoq · 2014-05-29T23:58:27.830Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

While studies of SM are lacking, other activities involving inflicting pain are shown to reduce empathy. Examples include violent video games (study) and fighting in a war (article). I don't have a source for sociability impact beyond my self-interested desire to avoid people who enjoy causing pain.

comment by Pfft · 2014-05-30T04:09:43.965Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe those are not comparable. E.g. anna anthropy writes

you think about violence differently when it’s asked for, and when the person receiving it is someone that you care about – it has consequences. you start checking in, paying attention to her physical and emotional state.

comment by Algernoq · 2014-05-31T00:25:45.159Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Makes sense. I wish more people had such self-awareness and empathy!

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-05-27T05:52:07.421Z · score: -7 (23 votes) · LW · GW

while BDSM is intended to be positive for all participants.

Or at least rationalized as such.