Comment by aarongertler on The Forces of Blandness and the Disagreeable Majority · 2019-05-03T05:35:45.349Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · LW · GW
The growth of lots and lots of outlets for more “unofficial” or “raw” self-expression — blogs, yes, but before that cable TV and satellite radio, and long before that, the culture of “journalism” in 18th century America where every guy with a printing press could publish a “newspaper” full of opinions and scurrilous insults  — tends to go along with more rudeness, more cursing, more sexual explicitness, more political extremism in all directions, more “trashy” or “lowest common denominator” media, more misinformation and “dumbing down”, but also some innovative/intellectual “niche” media.
Chaos is a centrifugal force; it increases the chance of any unexpected outcome. Good things, bad things, existential threats, brilliant ideas, and a lot of weird, gross, and disturbing stuff.

The idea of an "anti-chaos elite" sounds fairly accurate to me, and it shows up a lot in the work of Thaddeus Russell, who wrote a book about American elites' history of stamping out rude/chaotic behavior and runs a podcast where he interviews a wide range of people on the fringes of polite society (including libertarians, sex workers, anarchists, and weird people with no particular political affiliation). It's not perfect from an epistemic standpoint, but it's still worth a listen from anyone interested in this topic.

Comment by aarongertler on Does the EA community do "basic science" grants? How do I get one? · 2019-03-07T19:47:53.109Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Looks like you already posted on the EA Forum, but in case anyone else spots this post and has the same question:

I'm an EA Forum moderator, and we welcome half-baked queries! Just like LessWrong, we have a "Questions" feature people can use when they want feedback/ideas from other people.

Comment by aarongertler on Industry Matters 2: Partial Retraction · 2018-12-20T20:48:31.763Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Testing comment retraction and editing.

Comment by aarongertler on Lesswrong 2016 Survey · 2016-04-02T04:47:09.510Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I have taken the survey.

Comment: "90% of humanity" seems a little high for "minimum viable existential risk". I'd think that 75% or so would likely be enough to stop us from getting back out of the hole (though the nature of the destruction could make a major difference here).

Comment by aarongertler on Open thread, Aug. 17 - Aug. 23, 2015 · 2015-08-20T06:18:14.239Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I took part in the Good Judgment Project, a giant prediction market study from Philip Tetlock (of "Foxes and Hedgehogs" theory). I also blogged about my results, and the heuristics I used to make bets:

http://aarongertler.net/good-judgment-project/

I thought it might be of interest to a few people -- I originally learned that I could join the GJP from someone I met at CFAR.

Comment by aarongertler on Open Thread, Jul. 6 - Jul. 12, 2015 · 2015-07-10T04:39:42.427Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wrote a pair of essays (and a shorter summary of both) on heroic responsibility, and how it could serve as a strong counterpart to empathy as a one-two punch for making good moral decisions:

http://aarongertler.net/heroism/

Seemed Less-Wrong-ish, though my "heroic responsibility" is written for a different audience than Eliezer's, and is a bit less harsh/powerful as a result.

Comment by aarongertler on Effective Altruism vs Missionaries? Advice Requested from a Newly-Built Crowdfunding Platform. · 2015-07-10T04:32:20.087Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is the best article on EA and religion that I've seen so far, and uses selective Bible quotes to make points:

https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/blog/2014-12-02/christianity-and-giving

Of course, you can use selective Bible quotes to make nearly any point, so this probably won't work if framed as a counterargument. Perhaps you can just show it to your cofounders and ask what they think, as the beginning of a discussion about what God might want or what Christians owe to non-Christians.

But I second MattG's advice that leaving is probably advisable, particularly if the above goes nowhere.

Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015 · 2015-02-09T01:10:28.133Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"Applause, n. The echo of a platitude."

--Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Word Book

Comment by aarongertler on How to learn soft skills · 2015-02-08T05:38:23.861Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I will second The Charisma Myth and The Flinch. I have mixed feelings about Never Eat Alone, but if you live in a large city/on a college campus, Ferrazzi's advice is likely worth reading.

Comment by aarongertler on Who are your favorite "hidden rationalists"? · 2015-01-11T08:09:58.778Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, this was disappointing to me as well. My feeling is that he's an "any publicity is good publicity" type, which could be seen as seedy (he has a book/classes to sell) or safe (he thinks he knows how to save a ton of time on exercising and prevent a lot of silly injuries, he wants as many people as possible to stay healthy). Having read a lot of his stuff and watched some of his talks, my beliefs tend towards the second, but it's unclear.

Who are your favorite "hidden rationalists"?

2015-01-11T06:26:58.471Z · score: 18 (21 votes)
Comment by aarongertler on CFAR in 2014: Continuing to climb out of the startup pit, heading toward a full prototype · 2014-12-28T03:51:54.389Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I gave $50, and plan to give substantially more within a year of graduation. That was one hell of a "big picture" section, Anna.

Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes November 2014 · 2014-11-17T17:26:01.689Z · score: 10 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Teacher: So if you could live to be any age you like, what would it be?

Boy 2: Infinity.

Teacher: Infinity, you would live for ever? Why would you like to live for ever?

Boy 2: Because you just know a lot of people and make lots of new friends because you could travel to lots of countries and everything and meet loads of new animals and everything.

--Until (documentary)

http://mosaicscience.com/extra/until-transcript

Comment by aarongertler on Stupid Questions (10/27/2014) · 2014-10-30T15:33:31.957Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Search "Rationality Diaries" on LW to see a huge archive of examples from recent years. (Those are places where users upload recent stories of victory from their lives.)

Comment by aarongertler on 2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2014-10-26T04:30:50.295Z · score: 39 (39 votes) · LW · GW

Done! The survey has been a progressively smoother experience each of the past three years. And it's nice to have a time to think about the past month's habits in a structured way during the school year.

Comment by aarongertler on Group Rationality Diary, September 1-15 · 2014-09-05T03:48:29.272Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I use a cardboard desk from chairigami.com. Single-surface, but I'm in the process of setting something up for less neck strain. The desk itself was very cheap and portable.

Comment by aarongertler on Group Rationality Diary, September 1-15 · 2014-09-04T03:29:00.638Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Wanted to experiment with working more often while standing (since I estimated a 40-50% chance this would be a good overall choice, between potential health gains and potential productivity gains). Winced at the thought of buying a $100 piece of furniture that would make this possible. Realized that this equated to about 25 cents a day, even at a relatively conservative value of how often I'd use it. And I would absolutely pay 25 cents per day to RENT this thing.

And now I own the thing! And I'm happy every time I see it, and so far I feel good on days when I use it. Odd that one of my lasting gains from CFAR is being better at spending money.

Good books for incoming college students?

2014-07-06T01:21:42.766Z · score: 1 (2 votes)
Comment by aarongertler on Moving on from Cognito Mentoring · 2014-05-19T04:25:55.992Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd think it wouldn't be too hard to have a selective set of clients. A single screening interview makes sense here, and might even help appeal to parents who want to think that their child is being treated as special -- which wouldn't be a bad thing, if the child actually was special.

As an SAT tutor, I've tried to impart life lessons along with bubble-filling lessons (on how to look at tests in general, how to hack studying, etc.), but the scope of those has necessarily been limited, both by the demands of the SAT and by the types of students I work with (I do more 1100-to-1500 transitions than 2000-to-2300).

Still, I feel that the "life lessons + advice for incoming college students" part of my work is much more valuable than the basic subject tutoring. And parents don't seem to object to my sharing their "turf" as far as lessons go. But this may be because I'm still young enough (20) to seem more like a high school student than a surrogate parent. And the life lessons were always a bonus in addition to SAT work; as a primary business, perhaps not so good.

Anyway, I'm sure the Cognito guys have considered all this -- I just hope that someone gives you the chance to pick up the work again in the future (and maybe hire me to help). Thanks for the Quora work, and good luck with your future endeavors!

Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes May 2014 · 2014-05-16T01:13:23.605Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

“I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer.”

― Douglas Adams

Comment by aarongertler on Questions to ask theist philosophers? I will soon be speaking with several · 2014-04-27T22:32:20.601Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wonderful question! I spent some time recently interviewing religious converts on my very un-religious campus, and I think you'll find your discussions fascinating, if not particularly epistemic-rational.

Some topics I'd bring up: Second CronoDas on "why are you not a Jew/Muslim?", as well as "what evidence (especially scientific evidence) could lead you to dramatically change your belief in God, if not stop believing altogether?"

Finally: "If you stopped believing in God, what do you think would be the consequences in your present life on Earth?" Many believers I've met seem to believe out of a desire for comfort/reassurance, which makes far more sense to me than believing based on evidence.

Should I take an academic class on rationality?

2014-04-27T21:54:15.336Z · score: 5 (6 votes)
Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes April 2014 · 2014-04-04T17:56:29.271Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

So as to keep the quote on its own, my commentary:

This passage (read at around age 10) may have been my first exposure to an EA mindset, and I think that "things you don't value much anymore can still provide great utility for other people" is a powerful lesson in general.

Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes April 2014 · 2014-04-04T17:55:35.667Z · score: 27 (31 votes) · LW · GW

"Throughout the day, Stargirl had been dropping money. She was the Johnny Appleseed of loose change: a penny here, a nickel there. Tossed to the sidewalk, laid on a shelf or bench. Even quarters.

"I hate change," she said. "It's so . . . jangly."

"Do you realize how much you must throw away in a year?" I said.

"Did you ever see a little kid's face when he spots a penny on a sidewalk?”

Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl

Comment by aarongertler on What are some science mistakes you made in college? · 2014-03-27T14:42:03.605Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, "learn from it" and "use the crapware" can mean different things. I've found useful the rule of thumb that "someone else once had your problem and you should find out what they did, even if they failed to solve it".

Comment by aarongertler on What are some science mistakes you made in college? · 2014-03-27T00:32:22.845Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In the HUGR, I've included the advice "learn the sad stories of your lab as soon as possible" -- the most painful mistakes others, past and present, have made in the course of action. Helpful as a specific "ways things can go wrong" list.

Comment by aarongertler on What are some science mistakes you made in college? · 2014-03-27T00:30:53.110Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I won't be able to respond individually to everyone, but thank you all for your contributions! If anything else comes to mind, please leave more quotes -- I'll check back periodically.

Comment by aarongertler on What are some science mistakes you made in college? · 2014-03-27T00:30:08.108Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed! I found this to be an extremely helpful resource w/r/t seeking out "meta-expertise":

http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/jesse.shapiro/research/CodeAndData.pdf

Key quote: "Here is a good rule of thumb: If you are trying to solve a problem, and there are multi-billion-dollar firms whose entire business model depends on solving the same problem, and there are whole courses at your university devoted to how to solve that problem, you might want to figure out what the experts do and see if you can't learn something from it."

Comment by aarongertler on How can Cognito Mentoring do the most good? · 2014-03-23T22:37:09.728Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Have you looked at the Johns Hopkins/Center for Talented Youth forums at https://cogito.cty.jhu.edu? I think you need a special login to get on, and I forgot my info long ago, but the community still seems to be of a respectable size.

What are some science mistakes you made in college?

2014-03-23T05:28:48.941Z · score: 5 (8 votes)
Comment by aarongertler on Don't teach people how to reach the top of a hill · 2014-03-09T20:06:39.638Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

At least the existence of this post will make "discovery" easier for the next person who has to do this task (if they know to look for it, at least). Perhaps there are some steps in the process that are best taught instead of climbed, or vice-versa, and the challenge is to figure out the right mixture?

(I recall a coding bootcamp I was a part of, where a careful balance of "look this up" and "ask the instructor" was required so that the instructor wouldn't be overwhelmed and people wouldn't waste an entire day fixing a chain of mistakes flowing from some trivial error.)

Comment by aarongertler on Political Skills which Increase Income · 2014-03-03T05:34:58.060Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

When I saw the title, the first things I thought of were Ramit Sethi's videos on negotiation and the CFAR income negotiation workshop. This seems more focused on promotions than raises, but are you aware of any meta-studies that examine specifically the effect of different types of negotiation strategies?

Comment by aarongertler on Rational Evangelism · 2014-02-28T05:49:59.388Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with avoiding identity-claim aspirations.

When I use the Ned Flanders example, what I'm thinking is:

I know Christians who say that belief in Jesus and being determined to love others will make life better, and they express this better-ness in their incredible patience and kindness--to the point where I wish I were equally patient and kind.

I think we could get to a point where Less Wrong members can say "living with a strong awareness of your own biases and a desire to improve yourself will make your life better", and express this better-ness by being good conversationalists, optimistic, and genuinely helpful to those with questions or problems--to the point where non-members wish they were equally cool/smart/fun/helpful, or whatever other values we hope to embody.

Comment by aarongertler on Meetup : NYC Rationality Megameetup and Unconference: April 5-6 · 2014-02-27T06:19:53.118Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Me 70%.

Comment by aarongertler on Rational Evangelism · 2014-02-27T06:13:14.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

When I visualize Bjorn Lomborg's "Indonesia 2100 should have the same GDP per capita as Denmark now" future, I start to glow on the inside. There are many things about LW that give me that glow. I just wish I were better at expressing the glow at the right times without sounding weird about it.

Comment by aarongertler on Rational Evangelism · 2014-02-27T06:11:16.485Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

HPMOR is really cool, but I've also known several people who can't stand it. Too long/too Gary Stu/too strange for devoted fans of the original series. Luminosity is just as good, but suffers from some of the same issues. I think we need more short stories that have reasonable, non-utopian endings, things people can pick up and read in an hour. Though I say this knowing I likely won't be in a position to write any of these stories for a while...

Comment by aarongertler on Rational Evangelism · 2014-02-27T06:09:11.090Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"These advantages are real, significant, and probably even replicable for a more secular memeset - but I think if we tried it, we'd be missing our own point."

Interesting. I think that could be true of whatever our "point" is right now. But eventually, that point is probably going to have to involve something that people at the IQ 100 level can pick up and use with some success in their daily lives, the same way so many already do with religious principles. (Though LW principles can hopefully avoid most of the negative downsides that come with living religiously.)

Comment by aarongertler on Rational Evangelism · 2014-02-27T06:06:08.491Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds like Jonathan Edwards, or maybe Timothy Dwight. Both of them have Yale residential colleges named after them. No one cares much about the Hell stuff here, though, probably because John Calhoun (another college namesake) was an infamous slaveholder.

Comment by aarongertler on Rational Evangelism · 2014-02-27T06:04:49.036Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Targeted quick reads are great! That's one reason I like the quote threads so much--almost anyone will be fond of a few good rationality quotes, and that's a good way to introduce them to specific LW material.

Rational Evangelism

2014-02-26T06:00:25.556Z · score: 9 (20 votes)
Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-15T06:14:51.355Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Let's just seal up Hell and leave it there" = "Let's just accept the good things about death and leave it there". But I see lots of things with LW glasses on at this point, so it could be a stretch. Also just a fun example of seeing problems from a new angle

Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-15T06:13:10.605Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Cool response! Upvoted. But when I saw the comic, I read it as:

"Hey! Certain things are pretty scary and seem to be beyond our human abilities to deal with! But in the face of fear, we should size things up and take action, large-scale action if need be." In other words, a metaphor for death. (But I've been seeing many things as metaphors for death lately, so your mileage may vary.)

The "Yahweh wants it this way" conclusion is interesting, but then again: If God had to put Hell literally underground, he seems like more a Philip Pullman-ish "mortal god" than an all-powerful superbeing, since he works on the same material plane as us, more or less. (Imagine, for example, what the Devil would be in a literal underground hell. Invincible monster? Probably nothing a few nukes couldn't deal with.) Or perhaps they found the door to Hades and they'll get to face off against a (very beatable) Greek pantheon.

Either way: Better to wage war on Hell than let it sit there. I don't trust any superbeing not to send me there, however pure a life I lead (even if we're just thinking about Christianity vs. Islam, I seem to have only half a chance at Heaven).

Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-14T21:33:39.029Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

http://xkcd.com/1330

Better read than excerpted in full.

Comment by aarongertler on Meetup : Yale: Initial Meetup · 2014-02-11T06:01:42.004Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would love to visit, but will be interviewing candidates for positions at a publication (standard Yale excuse, I know). Hope I get another chance! I can see about recruiting other likely candidates for future meetings, as well.

Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-05T03:47:49.777Z · score: 37 (41 votes) · LW · GW

"The story of Japanese railways during the earthquake and tsunami is the story of an unceasing drumbeat of everything going right [...] The overwhelming response of Japanese engineering to the challenge posed by an earthquake larger than any in the last century was to function exactly as designed. Millions of people are alive right now because the system worked and the system worked and the system worked.

That this happened was, I say with no hint of exaggeration, one of the triumphs of human civilization. Every engineer in this country should be walking a little taller this week. We can’t say that too loudly, because it would be inappropriate with folks still missing and many families in mourning, but it doesn’t make it any less true."

--Patrick McKenzie, "Some Perspective on the Japan Earthquake"

http://www.kalzumeus.com/2011/03/13/some-perspective-on-the-japan-earthquake

(Disaster is not inevitable.)

Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-12T05:42:15.145Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I recently bought a print of the same comic from the author. They are still being sold:

http://www.kiwisbybeat.com/store.html#minus

Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-10T06:21:43.230Z · score: 10 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Expressed in pictures rather than words, but a great example of how to respond to humanity-threatening calamities:

http://www.kiwisbybeat.com/minus37.html?Bonjour

Sidenote: Almost every Minus comic is wonderful, and there aren't that many of them (you can read the whole series in an hour).

Comment by aarongertler on Buying Debt as Effective Altruism? · 2013-11-13T07:04:39.684Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This approach isn't necessarily about improving the same metrics as global disease control, but the idea is that, when those whose debt has been relieved pledge to give, they'll wind up giving more than was spent to help them, after accounting for the lost value of a potential investment and inflation and whatnot.

Vittana's approach involves mico-lending for student loans--so that students who then graduate college have plenty of income to pay Vittana back. This approach is similar, but since forcing people to pay us back makes us essentially debt collectors (and student practices are much more established in the first world than in places Vittana services), I thought a giving pledge might be a nice alternative: "We'll help you if you help others."

Buying Debt as Effective Altruism?

2013-11-13T06:09:53.715Z · score: 12 (16 votes)
Comment by aarongertler on Welcome to Less Wrong! (5th thread, March 2013) · 2013-10-10T20:38:04.722Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Salutations!

My name is Aaron. I'm a college junior on the tail end of the cycle of Bar Mitzvah to New Atheist to info-omnivorous psychology geek to attempted systems thinker. Prospective Psychology/Cognitive Science major at Yale, very interested in meeting other rationalists in the New Haven area. I'm on the board of the Yale Humanist Community, I'm a research assistant in a neuroscience lab, and I do a lot of writing.

Big problems I've been thinking a lot about: Why are most people wildly irrational in the amount of time they're willing to devote to information search (that is, reducing uncertainty around uncertain decisions)? How can humanists and rationalists build a compelling community that serves adults of all ages as well as children? What sorts of media tend to encourage the "shift" from bad thinking to good thinking, and/or passive to active thinking (NPC vs. hero mindset, sort of--this one is complicated), and how can we get that media in the hands of more people?

I read HPMoR without really noticing Less Wrong, but have been linked to a few posts over the years. Last spring, I found "Privileging the Question", which rang so true that I went on to read the Sequences and much of the rest. I was never very certain in my philosophy before finding the site, but now I'm pretty sure I at least know how to think about philosophy, which is nice.

The next few years hopefully involve me getting a job out of college that will allow me to build savings while donating plenty, while aligning me to take a position in some high-upside sector of tech or in the rationalist arena, but a lot of people say that, and I'm very unsure about what will actually happen if I flunk my case interviews. Still, the future will be better than the past regardless, and that thought keeps me going (as does knowing how many people are out there working to avoid future-is-worse-than-past scenarios).

Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes October 2013 · 2013-10-09T14:40:14.369Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Eh, probably. But given how we normally think about poetry and Middle Eastern culture, at least in Khalil Gibran's era (1900-1930), it's nice to see someone from that background talking about how awesome it is to build better boats. I like finding hints of modernism in unexpected places.

Comment by aarongertler on Rationality Quotes October 2013 · 2013-10-06T03:51:33.045Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

“By poet, I mean that farmer who plows his field with a plow that differs, however little, from the plow he inherited from his father, in order that someone will come after him to give the new plow a new name; I mean that gardener who breeds an orange flower and plants it between a red flower and a yellow flower, in order that someone will come after him to give the new flower a new name; or that weaver who produces on his loom patterns and designs that differ from those his neighbors weave, in order that someone will give his fabric a new name. By poet, I mean the sailor who hoists a third sail on a ship that has only two, or the builder who builds a house with two doors and two windows among houses built with one door and one window, or the dyer who mixes colors that no one before him has mixed, in order to produce a new color for someone who arrives later on to give the ship of the language a new sail, the house a new window, and the garment a new color.”

-Khalil Gibran, quoted in Reza Aslan's "Tablet and Pen"