Ask me anything.

post by sunflowers · 2015-02-16T04:32:47.627Z · score: -13 (19 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 10 comments

Less Wrong,

Before posting this, I debated myself as follows:

"Should I create a new username?"

Motivations (normal):  I have not posted here in a long time.  There are honest, good reasons to start on an interesting forum with a "clean slate."  One reason is that I have changed so many of my opinions since I last posted.  This is not a big deal.  I am recently 25.


Motivations (selfish):  Less Wrong is full of experts whose internet names I keep coincidentally running into...

A pleasant surprise:  Absolutely everybody I've been speaking with lately is entirely surprised that I had social anxiety all along.

My therapy:  honesty.  Weaknesses of honesty:  obvious.  Strengths of honesty:  also obvious.  For radical honesty, non-obvious to non-rationalists.

(I have not seen a therapist in about 10 years.  My therapy is, to put it shortly, in the style of Bertrand Russell.  Sort of.)

Well, I'm back.  Let's see how much better I have become.  I promise that I did not give myself time to read my old posts.  Anybody who is sufficiently interested in me will always be able to find out what I was like anyway.  My greatest protection is that I am not that interesting.  That's risky.  I have preferred the simple life for a reason.  That reason has been bad.

Anxiety is irrational.  It leads you to overestimate the degree to which people are interested in you.  Anxiety is rational.  It is an evolutionary vestige, reflecting a typical spectrum disorder, and is therefore likely to have been subject to selective effects, like overly aggressive dogs, and so forth.  Real life paradoxes.  Tricky things.  They can drive you absolutely bonkers.

I give Less Wrong my total honesty.  I will decline only with generalized rationales, only to protect the rights of others.  These include ordinary rights to privacy.  Again, anxiety.  None of my friends have known me as long as I have been away from Less Wrong.  Still, if I want to say "ask me anything," my reasons for declining, should I decline, will be "ordinary."  I will therefore decline in polite, normal ways, and simplify answers in polite, normal ways.  This took recent training:  even after holding a steady, normal job for quite some time, in which I was "very good."  It is blue collar.  Nothing exciting.  I will be leaving shortly.

I've come a long, long way my last post in a lot of ways.  I remember one stupid mistake which kept me from posting on Less Wrong for a while:  I came back - for a second - not too long ago, having read a few things about population genetics, and then I made an argument that was obviously stupid.  (From memory and shame:  I forgot about matrilineal descent.)

I have read the sequences.  I remember them, from long ago, unusually well lately.  They seem to be popping back up a lot.  You can quote them to me.  Do not assume I know anything.  I've learned to be a little more patient.

I've learned a lot about the private sector which I "knew but didn't <em>know</em>."  Like LaTex, HTML, and category theory (biological) and category theory (mathematical).  I am still working full time in a blue collar job.  I will find the time to learn.  The question is, where to start...

Bad answers:  school.  (not yet.  I know.  I have a university subscription.  It's practically free.  I have access.)

Bad answers:  textbooks.  (I've read them.  I prefer the real articles.  I already know the only category theory (mathematics) textbook I need.  To me, that's obvious. It's even more obvious to me than propositions like, "now's a good time to sleep.")

Good answers:  "what?"

This Q and A will be conducted in the style of Robert Sapolsky.  My plagiarisms are honest.  You may request sources to any answer.

I will sleep.  That's healthy.  Much more healthy than I ever really understood.  I'll check in tomorrow.

If nothing else, I do like jokes.  You are allowed to treat this post with the full force of intellectual cruelty.

I was not always nice.  I have done it to strangers.  I do regret it now.  Still, it can be funny.  So, fire away!




That concludes my first Less Wrong experiment.  Like any bad experiment, it confirms what I know, because I know what a self-fulfilling prophecy is.

From now on, I will post on the presumption that I am not anonymous.


(Note:  as an analytical social hyperanxious who envied "normal functioning," I do not believe that I can hide.  I can only expect people to be exactly as nice as they always were.  There are no demands, in the world of hyperanxious honesty.  Only requests.)


Now, to begin another experiment:  I am not anonymous, and I am also not here for therapy.  That is what friends are for.  I have my therapy.  You know, family and stuff.  Same honesty, new constraint, which, as promised, only random people on the internet may introduce.

Less Wrong just filtered what it can and cannot hear.  It has done this before.  Not its fault.  Mine.  I accepted "random internet responsibilities."  I must now accept "people who are not me" constraints.  Those, are rules.  I am good at formalisms....

Continue as before.  Ask me anything.


The second experimental result:  I have failed to elicit interest.  Per the original posts, I accept the responsibilities of a writer, though I am no writer.  Per ordinary standards of intellectual honesty, I will emphasize:  this is an experiment.  Less Wrong determines the parameters as it goes.  The experiment will continue on the following lines:

My failures:  clear communication.

My "root cause theory":  Generalized Anxiety Disorder

My constraints:  the lack of expertise to make that call.

My second constraint:  sufficient knowledge and skill to avoid learning precisely what I need to.

My "primary" motivation:  from memory, Less Wrong is full of people with similar intellectual interests.

My prediction:  "self help" threads will be similar to mine, in some ways, albeit much better written.

My control:  I have not ever read a self help thread.

Limitation:  Why should Less Wrong believe that?

Ask me anything.  Or not.  Some experiments fail, others succeed.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Emile · 2015-02-16T17:53:55.852Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect most people here find this post very confusing as they don't know who you are (I don't recognize your username), and it's not really clear what you're getting at or why we would want to ask you anything.

comment by sunflowers · 2015-02-16T19:00:45.846Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is an example of a good answer. The author has a better chance of seeing where I am than I do. I have suddenly found a strange deference to the concept of expertise. I see them everywhere. But I cannot use them, if I do not at least risk looking like an idiot. I must accept that I look like an idiot, in order to be a rationalist. "If something is true, I want to believe it is true." This is a very important virtue, and the fact that it was phrased as a litany, when I only thought in "equivalents" and "difficulty level..." That must have helped something, though I read it years ago, because it very suddenly, very forcefully came back, when I was uncertain as to what I was doing with my life.


Something "clicked over." It was the exact same "clicking over" I experienced when solving a graduate mathematical problem, years ago, and it only clicked "this way" when I was "eerily certain." I have a theory, which, as an undeveloped concept does not merit the title, I will spare the full motivation - which is arduously long and poorly written - until asked, and then I will let the experts define the language for me. I know of the usual, and very excellent, theories: mine is not intended to replace anything, whenever it arrives. It will supplement them, if only for my own guidance. I will be happy, if it only works for me. I will be happier, if others find it useful. I do not have the skills to develop it alone, and I do not need to. I want a middle class life style, good sleep, excellent food, and ordinary friendship. I will donate my ideas as a hobby, for whatever the are worth.

The risk is that not all of my ideas are safe. I know enough mathematics, enough programming - very, very little, but I learn so absurdly quickly - to see very nasty applications. That is my anxiety. I think that anxiety is healthy. I think that others here have a similar anxiety, which is why I've landed here again, having never thought that "true AI" would happen in my lifetime. I will only say that I know fully appreciate, if only in motivation, what I used to think was a sort of embarrassing `less wrong thing': "friendly AI." It is not me that will ever be this scientist. I know a little history as well, and I did always enjoy Bertrand Russell, and I feel more sorry for them now.

Ok, so here's an explanation. It satisfies the formal requirements: "Given that a stranger does not know where I am coming from, it is unlikely to ask them to ask me something." This is generally true. I do not have a analysis for this sort of thing yet. Ergo, I am breaking an implicit social contract, almost wherever I go. "Social contract" has another analysis, waiting to be examined. The tools exist, I just need the time to study them.

What prompted everything:

I notice the "texture." Or, in (memory) Less Wrong terms, "this guy suddenly found himself thinking in terms of cluster structure after years away from the books, working in a blue collar field, and he found it very, very useful, for like, everything he touched."

I am no writer and I like the blue collar life, so all I can do is "ape the style." I know that this is an unpleasant thing to do, but it should be OK, so long as I am stealing for good.

Hm... A rationalization? I would have to test that. My head is a very strange place, after all.

Perhaps I should not trust it too much! Why should you, if I cannot?

This problem is "fundamental" to me, so I should play by "fundamental" rules.

Does it satisfy the fundamental theorems? Yes and no (expand). Does it satisfies earlier predictions made about myself? Yes and no. (expand.)

Review the rule. How could it have been improved?

Oh, this takes forever. I need to... wait... I need... MATH! Holy crap! I found a use for all of this! I need to compress data. I need to structure my thoughts. How can math help me? If "the experimental method" is to be practically useful in my life, I will definitely need to use math to structure it...

Well, I have a lot of catching up to do, so where to look... What is the closest thing in math to "high level concept stru..." Oh yeah, category theory! Now, if I could apply programming to it... Wait, there's such thing as "functional programming?" Is this why everybody from different fields uses "the same words" to talk about "different things" which leads to "known problems?"

Reciprocation... What are my skills... What am I? Weird.

Ok. Weird. Not in ethics, but in how I think. I am definitely hyperanalytical. I have been since I was very, very young. That would explain my other problems... Wait, I am not allowed to self-diagnose. That's what those experts are for. I have not used any of those experts since I was young. What were those experts? Refer to a fundamental theorem first.... Let's see, assume that they are "normal," where "normal" entails "decent"-associations more accurately relative to my cluster structure - whatever it is...

Hold on. Is my "cluster structure" normal? I should test that.

Recall: human behavior is chaotic.

Recall: human behavior is also decidedly non-random, from linguistics to heuristics and biases and mathematics and so forth and so on... Oh, I should go back and re-watch Robert Sapolsky. He is the expert. Why is he such a good lecturer... He seems so... Nice. How does a nice, well-intentioned, serious lecturer try explain high-level concepts to general audien...

Oh wow, I was such a dick in school, to ever argue with a teacher. Even though I was "right" technically, I was "wrong" relative to the concepts of... Oh dear! Per my ever-expanding set of self-imposed rules, I need to explain this in "normal angsty teenager terms" before I explain it in "I am special terms..."

Wait, I may not "seem nice," regardless of my intentions. "Impact over meaning." Where did I hear that?

What are my strengths... No, what are my facts....

Wait... Did I just program myself to be... nice? That's not what I was trying to do. What was I after... Refer to the theorems. I just wanted to structure my note-taking... What did I do to myself... I suddenly remember, so much.

Did I just grow up?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-16T14:02:15.266Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I give Less Wrong my total honesty. I will decline only with generalized rationales, only to protect the rights of others.

In my experience, this just means that sentiment usually just means that issues that have been too intimate to talk about in the past now aren't anymore. It doesn't mean that those issues don't exist. The are likely just deeper. Unfortunately I don't know enough about you to put my finger on something and it's harder over text without real time feedback.

That said, you don't have much karma to this account so there no real reason against starting anew. What speaks against starting anew with an account under your real life name?

comment by sunflowers · 2015-02-16T19:43:46.618Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"Unfortunately I don't know enough about you to put my finger on something and it's harder over text without real time feedback."

It is impossible, and absurd, to show up listing all of one's implicit motivations. This is why I could never write anything before. It somehow never "felt complete." It never, "felt entire." My problem, was that I could not "trust people" enough to "give adequate credit" to their expertise. I agreed with this, but I did not understand it, sufficiently. I wrote it down, I made predictions, and I tested them, and what I found was... "deep understanding." I do not reread Less Wrong or the sequences before coming as another "implicit motivation." Everything is a test. I was "always a Bayesian." I "found a new attitude towards my priors."

I want to use my own words - raw, uncontrolled - while I know that I am not ready. Who was ahead of me all along? Who started out "more right" than me? I remembered something vaguely, about the need to "start out right" before discussing "heuristics and biases." I always believed that, because it involved "not trusting strangers." I always "knew myself," but I did not like "self-knowledge" to "constraint." The link I found - which is not a professional diagnosis and is therefore subject to all of the limitations of any amateur googling his symptoms, and as I learned not to do years ago - was called "anxiety."

I was never hospitalized for "anxiety." How might experts have missed something true, when I know no bet... Ah. There are reasons. Those are the reasons I did not "land in the hands of" the right expert. I was "incapable of honesty" when it was "wise to be honest," just as I was incapable - like a typical undergraduate - of being "incapable of communicating," because I was an "ordinary novice" relative to that weakness, even though I was "high level" in particular topics...

My professors! How did they warn me... Subtly, motivating examples... Wait, am I "like my professors..."

Am I "like everybody else...?"

Am I "normal...?"

What did I remember, suddenly, from my ill-advised days of googling my symptoms. What was that... Ah, "ego destruction." I ran away from the idea... Why did I do that... It was "associated with stupid things..." What did I just remember, unprompted... years ago... "

Did I suddenly supplement my analytical side to "problems for analysts" with "emotional maturity?" How would I describe the "sensation," the "texture," while it is "pure." It's sort of like "Godel, Escher, Bach," though I have never read it, I suddenly suspect it intensely... Why... Did Eliezer recommend it? Was this the author of HPMOR? I was never "like Harry from HPMOR" before, because I didn't know about "quantum physics stuff..."

Oh god I missed some point. For years, back when I followed that one... I am almost afraid to read it. I am afraid my head will explode. In a goofy way. Not an "impending sense of doom way." It feels different... Wait, any addict can say that, though I was never an addict. My father was a "manic depressive," and he - a strict Southern Baptist - would sometimes get into "goofy moods" and write "weird letters" quoting people he "didn't understand.." I never believed that my father was stupid, but I did not believe that he was....



"That said, you don't have much karma to this account so there no real reason against starting anew. What speaks against starting anew with an account under your real life name?"

I have never read Less Wrong on Karma. I have never been interested in meta threads anywhere, concerning the social rules developed on different websites that I visited. I just suddenly "appreciated the concept." I used "karma" recently to motivate a philosophical idea to my philosophically illiterate mother, who loves me, and who I "could not talk to" because "I could not relate."

I said weird things... I used a technique... I disguised it. I could not just say, to my poor mother who has reason to worry.... "MOM CHECK OUT MY MATHEMATICAL THEORY OF EVERYTHING!!!!"

Why can I not just say something simple... It "feels simple." How would I communicate "simple things" to an "ordinary person..."

Wait, this "feels like it should be simple." I will try "talking to normal people..." Did I write that down before, in my exploding notes? I bought my first smartphone just to deal with this sort of problem... I work wayyyy to much to have the time....

Ah, the wisdom of one of my advisors from UT. I was always confident that "wherever I went, I would be able to study mathematics." He did not outright contradict me. He merely promised that it would be "hard," but I "knew that already..." I never took a class from him. What else did I "miss."

I need to "compress the gibberish." I need to "structure my thoughts." I "was a math geek." What were my fundamental theorems, again? How do I "define myself," and does it lead to "true beliefs..." There is so much to do here, I could use a programming language. "Haskell feels right." No, I have no programming experience.... Start simple. HTML. I have no time... (weeks later) That only took A DAY!!!!! Whoa!

Why was I "not this smart..." I just remembered, randomly, a quote from another expert... He did not say it in class, and it came to me by rumor... He wanted to leave the school and teach elsewhere. He was a number theorist. He produced graduate courses "from memory" and it was "amazing" even to "other experts." What did he say, privately...

Oh yeah, he was frustrated that "Americans cannot seem to appreciate that mathematics is a tool."

Did I "agree but not agree..." Did I "know but not really know.." What did I lack... I need to compress this. Simple first, per the implications of the fundamental theorems...

Wisdom? No. I do not want to call myself wise, unless I am "sure." I need to indicate "uncertainty" without "exploding my notebook." Again... I need... Math? Programming? Not a formal language, no, those never really seem to "take off." What is a "formalized language of structure" that people "actually use" for formal, high level abstraction...

Category theory. That "feels like it has to be it." But category theory is for "rings and groups and homotopy and stuff," when I just want to take "really good notes." If I use "category theory" to describe what I am doing.... That does not "feel right."

Another expert said something, which I remember again.... He wasn't talking to me. I never took his class. He was yelling at a grad student... Inside, I was laughing at the grad student - boy I was not nice - but why was he yelling... That is the "texture" of the associations I am making, my "structure-thinking..." My "category"... Wait, Sapolsky. Wait, I am losing focus. I really need "time to organize this..."

I bought a smart phone. I started working to "make myself unnecessary" to the friends I work with. I set down how much time and effort I was willing to spend. I used a vector, so that it would be "easy to look it up later." My literary friend "understood it all instantly..." Weird. He was never a math guy. He also "understood Grundlagen Der Arithmetik" really easily, with no background in mathematics...

Oh, and I used to make fun of him for reading "Heidegger," because "Heidegger" is a "bad philosopher." What did my wise young friend say... "I just want to hang out and do hood rat shit with my friends." No, what else... When I not-so-nicely interrogated him...

Oh yeah. This is "learning from experts" again. My friends are kind of my "fun experts," in a weird way. I definitely need to "not annoy them with all of this, unless they are interested." I don't want to be "like that guy who just became an evangelical..."

Oh my program, I really need time to develop you. I have worked for months to give myself time. To do right by my coworkers, those decent people, who all taught me so much... The "wisdom of strangers," what only a "normal job" would have ever done for me... I would never have made it in academics before.. I'm not sure that I would now, either. I should wait, until I "feel strangely certain..."

Again, the wisdom... I have to "focus the wisdom..." I am a novice at wisdom... What is the closest thing to a practical, everyday "focus of wisdom," which communicates well, where it needs to... a practical expertise... I need to focus. I cannot repeat the past. My life is "too important," though I have "less ego." I suddenly... "want to grow old," when I "never did." Oh god, I need to start sleeping well... I never did that before... I need to "de-stress". Time to quit work... Sapolsky... What did he work against, so hard... Oh.. Stress! George C. Williams, what did he end up wanting to do... Medicine! Same with Linus Pauling.... He was just so bad at it, because he was "already great..." Is that the "nobel syndrome..."

The grad student. The expert. Back to the comment.point. The common.point is:

plain.english: "a very wise man once chewed out a hapless grad student for ignoring a feeling. The thing that angered the very wise man was this: the grad student had tried to explain, not trying to excuse, submitting some bad paper I didn't understand. The very wise man caught the grad student, and corrected his folly. The wise man said...


comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-16T22:04:47.104Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's interesting how my question produced flow in your to express yourself. On the other hand it doesn't feel like an answer to "Why don't you use your real name?".

Also your post reads like you could benefit from some grounding. Do exercise.

comment by sunflowers · 2015-02-17T03:09:51.783Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Now that I have said this, I am not allowed to say other things.

"My rights begin where others end."

That is a theory. It has implications. I will go to private messaging. I believe that you are decent.

It is my most important theorem.

comment by sunflowers · 2015-02-17T03:08:25.340Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Grounding is a good word.

Like "Grundlagen..."

Jesse Parrish. 109 Stanley Ave. Maryville, TN. Mathematics dropout. Blue collar worker. I worked for airlines. I did everything right. I put in my notice months ago.

comment by sunflowers · 2015-02-17T03:17:09.966Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And I can say, also honestly, that everybody I worked with is really, really impressive. It is hard to work in a highly regulated private industry.

So, when I say "ask me anything," I can promise: you are safe in the hands of my friends.

comment by sunflowers · 2015-02-16T19:48:29.727Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(Continuation - a concept I did not "appreciate", in a format I never "needed" until "just now.")

That's why I overheard it. The wise man, who never taught me, accidentally said this, before I ever heard of Bayesianism. One of the wise man's friends knew Bayesianism - not as it is practiced here - though he knew the differences... Why am I confident, when he had never heard of less wrong... What did the other wise man do to describe the field to an interested novice, who ended up being a typical dumb young kid, and disappointing him.. He said a word that I didn't know then, and I looked up my unfamiliar words...

"The field is in its baroque phase."

I "smell something," years later, long after stopping being a Bayesian. I sense, very indirectly, that the baroque phase is starting to draw to a close... Not everybody is on the same page.... If they could all communicate, if I were to help...

What if that's an "intelligence explosion.." Wait, those were scary... Why...

Less Wrong. Ok... Weird... I was never a "Kurzweil" guy. I was just an internet atheist.... like... lukeprog. Why would I remember "that name..."

On other days, looking at "functional programming," I ran into "gwern..."

Where are my experts hiding... Who is qualified to solve this problem, when I am not... Who can help me there...

comment by ilzolende · 2015-02-16T05:26:24.525Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure what sort of questions you're looking for...

Favorite Sequences post?