Delicious Luminosity, Om Nom Nom

post by Alicorn · 2012-03-07T03:02:12.694Z · score: 11 (22 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 33 comments

I have decided that it would be valuable for me to read books (blog posts, articles, random conversations between smart people who store chatlogs) about introspection, take notes, and try to distill and clarify the information.  This could result in me eventually giving up, or in a Luminosity Sequence: Second Edition (Now With Literature, Part Of This Complete Breakfast!), or (optimism!) me being able to sort ~90% of people into some number of categories such that their category membership tells me how to help them develop luminosity superpowers in N simple steps with exercises/therapy-ish stuff/etc.

Help me eat luminosity!  I need recommendations for stuff to read.  This stuff should be:

I read really fast.  Don't worry about oversaturating me with recommendations, but please do say a little about why you recommend a thing (even if it's "I haven't read this, but I keep hearing about it, so I guess some people like it") and post recommendations in separate comments so people with information about the item can vote up and down separately.  Recommendations for non-written things will be heavily discounted but not outright disqualified.

I would also like a supply of guinea-pigs-in-waiting for if and when I get to the point of trying the sorting or the superpower-giving part of the optimistic end state of the project.

If people want me to, I can document the process of luminosity-eating so there is a template to follow for other subject-eating projects, but I wouldn't do this by default because in general I only do things that someone would care if I didn't do them.

33 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-03-07T08:14:44.325Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's Yvain's Limits of Introspection post, which links to a paper on the scientific study of what we can access introspectively. Yvain isn't exaggarating when he calls it a "classic": Google Scholar lists over 6000 cites.

You may also wish to take a look at the papers citing it to see if there's anything more recent that's relevant, though from a brief glance it looked like the top results were about something else than introspection entirely. Still, there are probably more relevant results buried there somewhere.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-03-07T08:21:46.236Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Introspection. As usual (based on my brief skim of the article), SEP has good coverage of the topic and provides plenty of references for looking more into the topic. Among other things, it covers both the history of introspection in science, from its early rise to its decline to its modern re-emergence, as well as a discussion about the accuracy of introspection.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-03-07T05:35:38.739Z · score: 8 (24 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What's the point of trying to justify it after the fact? Unless you do some sort of systematic literature review, this is just going to be an exercise in confirmation bias.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-03-07T05:56:35.517Z · score: -5 (29 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have quashed the impulse to downvote and then ignore you, but the impulse was present because of your derisive phrasing and you should be aware of that in case you did not mean to prompt that reaction.

My reaction to the content apart from the phrasing is: "What prompts you to predict that? What results could my project turn up that would falsify your prediction? What do you mean by a 'systematic literature review'?"

comment by [deleted] · 2012-03-07T13:37:02.331Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have decided that it would be valuable for me to read books (blog posts, articles, random conversations between smart people who store chatlogs) about introspection, take notes, and try to distill and clarify the information. This could result in me eventually giving up, or in a Luminosity Sequence: Second Edition...

I do not believe it is too uncharitable to read this as saying, more or less, that you will look for various corroborating information unless it turns out to be either too hard or too contrary to what you've already established in the luminosity sequence. In which case, you'll just give up! This is nascent publication bias.

What prompts you to predict that?

Luminosity is, as far as I can tell, a general self-help sequence with less empirical verification than, e.g., connection theory. You've also invested a lot of time and effort into it. Greater scientists have fallen prey to less motivation.

What results could my project turn up that would falsify your prediction?

Minor or major corrections to the sequence. It's highly unlikely to be totally correct as it stands. Alternatively, you could review a large enough fraction of the relevant literature so as to make the existence of contrary evidence unlikely.

What do you mean by a 'systematic literature review'?

Systematic review.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-03-07T18:13:05.575Z · score: 7 (15 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm still not sure where you're getting your impression. I will not just look for corroborating information, and I don't think I said anything that sounded like that, but the voting indicates that people agree with you, and I don't understand at all. (Or maybe my downvotes are just because I have again failed to come up with a civil-sounding way to express discomfort with an interlocutor's tone? Is there any way to do that at all, or are my choices radio silence v. painstakingly refraining from reacting to the tone for an entire conversation? Someone please tell me.)

What would be the point of looking for corroborating information? What would I do with it? I'm interested in contradictions and elaborations, especially where it seems like the differences derive from people having variety that I didn't account for the first time around. I'll give up if it's too hard (I'm not getting paid, this isn't my life's work, etc.) but I'm not going to give up if the Second Edition has to be very different in content from the first (why in the world would I want to bother writing a Second Edition that had no material differences from its predecessor?)

I think the first edition of the Luminosity Sequence is actually pretty bad. It embarrasses me. I want something better to direct people to!

comment by [deleted] · 2012-03-07T22:32:25.048Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(Or maybe my downvotes are just because I have again failed to come up with a civil-sounding way to express discomfort with an interlocutor's tone? Is there any way to do that at all, or are my choices radio silence v. painstakingly refraining from reacting to the tone for an entire conversation? Someone please tell me.)

I think it might be more specific than lack of civility alone. I'm not sure that lack of civility is always a problem. Sometimes the interlocutor has it coming. But this:

I have quashed the impulse to downvote and then ignore you, [...]

sounds... haughty? Condescending? Something along those lines.

You could try being more like "I'm annoyed at you in a thoroughly egalitarian manner" rather than "Your comment indicates that you are an insect beneath my notice" (that is my gut reaction to your comment, not a claim about intended meaning).

comment by Alicorn · 2012-03-08T00:20:20.764Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you come up with a sample script of what you're talking about? It sounds like a plausibly right explanation and my brain generates words that it thinks conform to the theory appropriately, but I appear to be really bad at being annoyed at people on LW without getting downvoted so I am trying to err on the side of asking for more help.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-03-09T21:13:09.787Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sample script? Ok. I tried to imagine myself writing your post and reacting to paper-machine's comment and that's what I've come up with:

Justify what after the fact? Exercise in confirmation bias while confirming what?

Literature review is pretty much what I'm planning to do. Maybe it won't be very systematic but then I'm not trying to write a review paper but to pick some interesting looking things and test them. If you stumble upon something real then it will stay real regardless of how much other material on the topic you read.

Arriving at silly conclusions because of biases is always a possibility and you can't have enough warnings, that's true, but those warnings don't have to take the form of "you're dooomed. Give Up!"

And I tried introspecting (ha!) and noting the thoughts that flitted through my head when I was trying to differentiate that reply from your not-very-well-received one (not all of them got applied to the hypothetical reply above):

  • Don't mention your voting (to me, it always comes off as overdramatic).

  • If you explicitly talk about your annoyance, don't emphasize the restraint you've shown in expressing it (and maybe try be a little apologetic about it -- not towards the specific person you're addressing but in a general "I'm annoyed because I'm an imperfect human being, woe is me" manner).

  • The fact that you got annoyed probably means that the comment contains some presupposition that casts you in a bad light. Figure out what that is and deny it.

  • Somehow acknowledge the possibility that the annoying comment was written in good faith -- that paper-machine really wanted to warn you against biases and overdid it. That way even if the other party was really trying to score cheap rationalist-points by taking a potshot at you, they can insist on that more friendly interpretation, thus retracting their attack while still saving face. And so peace is restored thorough the Realms.

Also, this is all based on intuition and explicit cynical cognition, no experience of actually expressing my annoyance at people on LessWrong (so I have no idea if I wouldn't be downvoted to hell too) and not that much experience in getting graciously annoyed at people in real-life. Approach with extreme distrust.

comment by jsalvatier · 2012-03-09T23:18:35.906Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very well put.

comment by shokwave · 2012-03-08T18:10:27.504Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I appear to be really bad at being annoyed at people on LW without getting downvoted

Don't take it too hard: everyone, everywhere, is really bad at being annoyed at people in general without getting some sort of status hit. This has a lot more to do with the person's reaction to "being annoyed at" and a lot less to do with anyone's skill at "being annoyed at" people.

Well, that wasn't clear at all. There is no safe, good way to be annoyed at people, because people mostly don't like it when someone's annoyed at them. Most of these people will then retaliate in some manner that's supposed to be unpleasant. This is the case online and off.

Sounds profound, but none of that helps you deal with these people when you're annoyed, does it?

I think the answer lies in examining why you want to be annoyed at them: for example, if it's to change their behaviour, then you only need look for more effective ways to change their behaviour than being annoyed. I don't claim that changing their behaviour is your goal in being annoyed; but you should subject whatever reason you do have to some scrutiny and figure out another, potentially more effective way of achieving that goal or goals.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-03-07T19:18:31.174Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm still not sure where you're getting your impression. I will not just look for corroborating information, and I don't think I said anything that sounded like that, but the voting indicates that people agree with you, and I don't understand at all.

1) Total votes don't work that way. (That is an example of me being derisive, but not toward you. Also, contrary to my own policy, I did not downvote your previous comment, if only because I don't want to inflame you further.)

2) As far as I can tell, intending to avoid falling into a bias or committing a fallacy doesn't always cause the bias to go away. This is one of the main points of Kahneman's research -- some biases are so pernicious that even people who know about them fall flat into them. That's why I recommended doing a systematic literature review. If you know that you've sampled a sufficiently large fragment of the underlying literature, then you'll know that if dissenting literature exists, you made every attempt to find it.

(Or maybe my downvotes are just because I have again failed to come up with a civil-sounding way to express discomfort with an interlocutor's tone? Is there any way to do that at all, or are my choices radio silence v. painstakingly refraining from reacting to the tone for an entire conversation? Someone please tell me.)

If you don't want to respond to me because of tonal issues, I won't take it personally. In the future I will attempt to be as toneless as possible when responding to you.

I'm interested in contradictions and elaborations, especially where it seems like the differences derive from people having variety that I didn't account for the first time around. I'll give up if it's too hard (I'm not getting paid, this isn't my life's work, etc.) but I'm not going to give up if the Second Edition has to be very different in content from the first (why in the world would I want to bother writing a Second Edition that had no material differences from its predecessor?)

This is genuinely new information. Compare this with

This could result in me eventually giving up, or in a Luminosity Sequence: Second Edition (Now With Literature, Part Of This Complete Breakfast!), or (optimism!) me being able to sort ~90% of people into some number of categories such that their category membership tells me how to help them develop luminosity superpowers in N simple steps with exercises/therapy-ish stuff/etc.

which does not seem to imply anything about largely modifying or revising the basic theory of luminosity.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-03-07T21:21:27.134Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As far as I can tell, intending to avoid falling into a bias or committing a fallacy doesn't always cause the bias to go away.

Don't I know it! However, I don't actually have much of an underlying theory to confirm. The luminosity sequence was about me and stuff that works for me, mostly, and I admitted that from the get-go:

In this sequence, I hope to share some of the techniques for improving luminosity that I've used. I'm optimistic that at least some of them will be useful to at least some people. However, I may be a walking, talking "results not typical".

This is why your assertion confused me. I'm not sure what I'd be confirming by reading books and articles and stuff. I know some things work for me, but I'm very hesitant to generalize too much (this is why I'm especially interested in the heterogeneity of minds).

At any rate, I apologize for my part in this miscommunication and I hope I've managed to clarify.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-03-07T21:44:06.319Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The part about therapy concerned me. I overestimated your optimism. Very well; I pray for your success.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-03-08T02:47:23.573Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Amanda Baggs's blog, currently at https://ballastexistenz.wordpress.com/, has a lot of introspection / self-discovery material by a person who is both quite intelligent and quite far from neurotypical; as well as a lot of material that should be precautionary for any therapeutic or other-optimizing approach.

comment by TimS · 2012-03-07T14:19:40.462Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome by Tony Attwood seemed like applying luminosity to the particular problems of Aspergers. It might be useful, for a compare and contrast with your method, if nothing else.

Btw, I might not have gotten to the Luminousity sequence if not for this post, so thanks for posting.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-03-07T08:36:50.204Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wikipedia on Focusing. I have no idea of how useful this is, but it's apparently an introspection technique that's used in psychotherapy and disciplines related to it. To the extent that you consider psychotherapy to be of some use, it might be worth looking into.

Despite the common view about psychotherapy being nonsense, there are reviews suggesting that it often does no worse than cognitive behavior therapy or other more "fashionable" forms of therapy.

comment by Bruno_Coelho · 2012-03-11T23:16:15.121Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

E. Schwitzgebel book on inner experience.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-03-11T02:09:19.363Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"The User's Guide to the Human Mind" by Shawn T. Smith. It's a self-help book centered around the idea that the best way to cope with undesirable mental phenomena is to observe them with detachement, accept them and move on. Surprisingly, it manages to turn that idea from a vaguely eastern-sounding piece of mumbo-jumbo into something actionable and effective in practice. Well, at least for me it did.

It seems to be based on ideas of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which is a recent offshoot of CBT. The book doesn't mention this explicitly -- I'm guessing based on the things it cites and the similarity between it's ideas and the description in the Wikipedia article. And said article contains a longish list of relevant books so chance of successful information acquisition through library infiltration is high.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2012-03-07T05:17:13.006Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

On Anger by Seneca

This is the oldest and simplest work that deals with introspection that I know of. It is probably worth a read even if you weren't doing this kind of research. Also, it is short and the modern translations are easy to read.

comment by jswan · 2012-03-07T04:06:05.487Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha

This is a book about the technical aspects of meditation. I haven't finished it yet (nor put it into practice), but it seems like a very low woo-factor book on introspection practice.

comment by atorm · 2012-03-07T03:22:06.257Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I volunteer to guinea pig.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-03-07T03:31:56.974Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

.

comment by Voltairina · 2012-03-07T06:01:55.932Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

...and my axe;)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-03-07T03:16:52.073Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't have specific recommendations, but Gurdjieff and Ouspensky did a lot with self-observation. The only specifics I remember is that there was considerable concern about whether you were really observing yourself or just kidding yourself that you were doing so, and there was some mention of finding out what you were doing that saw a waste of energy, and ceasing to do those things.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-03-08T03:26:13.080Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In addition to my glowing cavy army (er, I mean, my luminosity guinea pigs) I would like a volunteer or three who is not also a guinea pig and who is not already my close personal friend to sanity-check methodologies I develop before I contaminate my glowing cavy army (that is to say, my luminosity guinea pigs) with any input. (Close personal friends may also be consulted but I should probably have at least one or two less interested parties.)

comment by Waffle_Iron · 2012-03-12T17:56:28.178Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am willing to help.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-03-12T18:08:17.069Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

List of Doom! Wooooooo.

comment by erratio · 2012-03-08T16:35:03.698Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd be interested

comment by Alicorn · 2012-03-08T19:43:48.168Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have added you to my List of Doom.

comment by TimS · 2012-03-08T15:10:49.544Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd be willing to help with that, but I'm never sure how helpful others find my feedback and advice.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-03-08T19:44:05.614Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Now you are on my List of Doom. If I don't think you're helpful it'll be pretty easy to ignore you.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-03-07T05:54:05.379Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Volunteer guinea pigs, please email me (alicorn@elcenia.com) or IM me (AIM: Alicorn24; MSN: alicorn@elcenia.com; Gtalk: elcenia@gmail.com).