How should you go about valuing your time? 2021-01-10T06:54:56.372Z
Babble Thread 2021-01-09T21:52:12.383Z
Thoughts on Mustachianism 2021-01-09T09:27:36.839Z
Conversation, event loops, and error handling 2021-01-08T08:05:49.224Z
Give it a google 2020-12-29T05:30:39.133Z
adamzerner's Shortform 2020-12-16T09:51:03.460Z
Why I love stand up comedy 2020-12-16T09:34:22.198Z
Bad reductionism 2020-12-16T08:21:33.944Z
Debugging the student 2020-12-16T07:07:09.470Z
Map and Territory: Summary and Thoughts 2020-12-05T08:21:07.031Z
Writing to think 2020-11-17T07:54:44.523Z
When socializing, to what extent does walking reduce the risk of contracting Covid as opposed to being stationary? 2020-11-16T00:39:30.182Z
What are some good examples of fake beliefs? 2020-11-14T07:40:19.776Z
What is the right phrase for "theoretical evidence"? 2020-11-01T20:43:38.747Z
What is our true life expectancy? 2020-10-23T23:17:13.414Z
Should we use qualifiers in speech? 2020-10-23T04:46:10.075Z
Blog posts as epistemic trust builders 2020-09-27T01:47:07.830Z
Losing the forest for the trees with grid drawings 2020-09-24T21:13:35.180Z
Updates Thread 2020-09-09T04:34:20.509Z
More Right 2020-07-22T03:36:54.007Z
In praise of contributing examples, analogies and lingo 2020-07-13T06:43:48.975Z
What gripes do you have with Mustachianism? 2020-06-11T23:42:42.472Z
Does taking extreme measures to avoid the coronavirus make sense when you factor in the possibility of a really long life? 2020-06-05T00:58:49.775Z
"No evidence" as a Valley of Bad Rationality 2020-03-28T23:45:44.927Z
Is the Covid-19 crisis a good time for x-risk outreach? 2020-03-19T16:14:45.344Z
Is the coronavirus the most important thing to be focusing on right now? 2020-03-18T22:48:17.191Z
Assorted thoughts on the coronavirus 2020-03-18T07:08:30.614Z
Why would panic during this coronavirus pandemic be a bad thing? 2020-03-08T08:32:50.753Z
Reflections on Premium Poker Tools: Part 4 - Smaller things that I've learned 2019-10-11T01:26:40.240Z
Reflections on Premium Poker Tools: Part 3 - What I've learned 2019-10-11T00:49:10.739Z
Reflections on Premium Poker Tools: Part 2 - Deciding to call it quits 2019-10-09T04:17:25.259Z
Reflections on Premium Poker Tools: Part 1 - My journey 2019-10-09T00:42:05.694Z
Feature Request: Self-imposed Time Restrictions 2019-05-15T22:35:15.883Z
You can be wrong about what you like, and you often are 2018-12-17T23:49:39.935Z
What is abstraction? 2018-12-15T08:36:01.089Z
Trivial inconveniences as an antidote to akrasia 2018-05-18T05:34:55.430Z
Science like a chef 2018-02-08T21:23:45.425Z
Productivity: Working towards a summary of what we know 2017-11-09T22:04:28.389Z
Idea for LessWrong: Video Tutoring 2017-06-23T21:40:50.118Z
Develop skills, or "dive in" and start a startup? 2017-05-26T18:07:34.109Z
How I'd Introduce LessWrong to an Outsider 2017-05-03T04:32:21.396Z
New meet up in Las Vegas! 2017-04-28T23:57:21.098Z
Meetup : Las Vegas Meetup 2017-04-28T00:52:37.705Z
Should we admit it when a person/group is "better" than another person/group? 2016-02-16T09:43:48.330Z
Sports 2015-12-26T19:54:39.204Z
Non-communicable Evidence 2015-11-17T03:46:01.503Z
What is your rationalist backstory? 2015-09-25T01:25:04.036Z
Why Don't Rationalists Win? 2015-09-05T00:57:28.156Z
Test Driven Thinking 2015-07-24T18:38:46.991Z
Is Greed Stupid? 2015-06-23T20:38:34.027Z


Comment by adamzerner on Lessons I've Learned from Self-Teaching · 2021-01-25T18:45:55.466Z · LW · GW

I guess the crux is about Anki helping with retention. If you'd lose a lot of your understanding without Anki, I agree it's worthwhile. If you'd only lose a little, it seems like a better use of time to seek deep understandings elsewhere.

Comment by adamzerner on Lessons I've Learned from Self-Teaching · 2021-01-25T17:47:16.239Z · LW · GW

I don't see why these should be mutually exclusive, or even significantly trade off against each other... I aim to get a deep / intuitive understanding, and then use Anki to make myself use that understanding on a regular basis so that I retain it.

Because that time you spend using Anki to retain it is time that you could spend seeking deep understandings elsewhere.

It's more like, you don't have to do every single practice problem, or complete all the bonus sections / applications which don't interest you.

Yeah, that makes sense. Sounds like we made opposite mistakes :)

Another approach is, you start with the papers you want to understand, and then backchain into the concepts you have to learn in a big tree. Then you're guaranteed not to waste time. I haven't tried this yet, but it sounds very sensible and I mean to try it soon.

I've tried that. I think it's an approach to have in your toolkit, but for me it's not really my style.

Eg. in learning Haskell I've been trying to skim a book, then work on practice problems, then backtrack when I notice a concept I haven't learned yet that I need to solve the problem. I always seem to get lost/overwhelmed in doing the backtracking. So I pivoted to reading the 1000+ page Haskell Programming from First Principles book, which is exactly what the title implies, and it's going well for me.

Also from a more motivational perspective rather than a pedagogical one, I find that I can get into a flow state more easily with the first principles approach. With the backtracking approach, I often get stuck. With the first principles approach, it may be slow at times, but at least I'm continuing to take small steps forward and not getting stuck.

Comment by adamzerner on Lessons I've Learned from Self-Teaching · 2021-01-25T17:36:19.861Z · LW · GW

Hm, I seem to have different experiences than you have had.

Sometimes it helps by keeping technical details (like trig identities or programming syntax) close to the surface, so I can finish a project faster or plow through whiteboarding a problem with a colleague.

My experience as a programmer (from myself and from talking to others) is that you pick up syntax pretty quickly. For a new language there's a learning curve. Perhaps SRS would help with that, although that doesn't seem too useful. Eg. I use JavaScript every day and rarely use Python. I could use SRS for Python. Alternatively, I could wait until I need to use Python, take a few days getting familiar with the syntax, and then be fine, which seems better.

Other times it helps by cementing a deep conceptual intuition strongly

Perhaps my memory is failing me, but I can't recall doing SRS over and over again ever cementing a deep conceptual intuition for me. I think looking at the same thing from different angles is often helpful, but with SRS, a given card is largely looking at the concept from one angle.

Here's an example. I'm learning functional programming right now. In functional programming, operators like + and * are just functions. Instead of 2 + 3 you can do (+) 2 3 just like you'd do add 2 3. Similarly, you could call functions using infix notations by using backticks like this 2 `add` 3 and it behaves like an operator. This really cemented for me what an operator is in such a way that I don't think SRS ever could, and it did so much faster.

But above all, it ensures that I can keep learning, even if I only have 20 minutes a day to spare for deep/slippery topics like quantum computing; or 10 minutes a day to capture a fleeing professional experience that would otherwise be in one ear/out the other... It's hard to reproduce that kind of growth with traditional learning methods.

It sounds like your point is moreso that it's hard to be as productive without SRS, but I'd like to note that there are other ways you can use a spare 15 minutes to learn rather than SRS.

Comment by adamzerner on Lessons I've Learned from Self-Teaching · 2021-01-25T01:19:32.547Z · LW · GW

use a spaced repetition system like Anki.

Spaced repetition/Anki is one of those things that seems obvious and like it makes perfect sense. However, my experiences have been pushing me further and further away from thinking that it is usually something that is useful.

I spent a year or so self-studying full time. I also spent a few months studying Leetcode stuff for FAANG interviews half-time. In both experiences I spent months using Anki, perhaps 100-200 cards where I would study the cards pretty consistently every day.

I know this might go against the research on spaced repetition, but I've found that the stuff I used to study often just doesn't stick. On the other hand, there are things that I never really did spaced repetition on that have stuck remarkably well. My impression and experiences is that obtaining a deep understanding is a lot more fruitful than doing spaced repetition.

Also, thinking along the lines of a sanity check and the outside view, are there examples of people becoming very successful due to Anki? My impression is that it doesn't happen all too often, and when it does it is because Anki happens to be a great fit for the situation, eg. passing med school exams. 

Completing The Whole Textbook Is Usually a Big Waste of Time, Please Don't Do It

Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense, and is the mindset I've had for a while. I agree that the end worth seeking are those central concepts rather than memorizing certain details. However, I think that playing around with those annoying details might be a good means to the end of grasping central concepts. I spent a lot of time telling myself, "It's only the big concepts that matter, so you can skip this section, you don't have to answer these questions, you don't have to do these practice problems."

Well, it's also true that you could take memorizing details too far (I'm looking at you organic chemistry). I guess it's just a matter of judgement, and that the insight of "wait, it's really only the big concepts that I need to care about" is likely to lead to failure modes where you undervalue the details.

Read Easier Textbooks Instead of Struggling Valiantly

Strongly agree. Seems like a failure mode that is common. I love "X for Dummies" types of books/posts. Reminds me of Explainers Shoot High, Aim Low:

A few years ago, an eminent scientist once told me how he'd written an explanation of his field aimed at a much lower technical level than usual.  He had thought it would be useful to academics outside the field, or even reporters.  This ended up being one of his most popular papers within his field, cited more often than anything else he'd written.

Be Comfortable with Approximate Models

Reminds me of the blurry-to-sharp approach:

Comment by adamzerner on How should you go about valuing your time? · 2021-01-25T00:32:54.256Z · LW · GW

Yeah. All of these considerations make the idea of valuing your time a bit confusing to me.

Comment by adamzerner on Thoughts on Mustachianism · 2021-01-25T00:30:56.846Z · LW · GW

Interesting about tutoring. I would imagine that even there, a) you wouldn't really have autonomy about what to teach, because the clients would mostly be students who are taking a class looking to get a good grade, which would usually involve memorizing the teachers passwords, so your job would be helping them memorize these passwords. And b) even if there was no test you needed to get the students to pass, eg. maybe someone learning to code, I'd imagine that usually they'd be interested in something analogous to "getting the code to work" rather than being intellectually curious about deeper stuff.

In which case I would expect tutoring to not be much fun either. Did this stuff match your experiences at all?

Comment by adamzerner on Thoughts on Mustachianism · 2021-01-24T20:48:25.057Z · LW · GW

Hm, I like that idea of boss mode vs worker mode. I think it'll help me and I'm excited to give it a try.

Interesting to hear about your experiences as a high school teacher. Teaching is one of my favorite things to do and a part of me in the back of my mind whispers, "Maybe you should just go be a teacher since you like it so much." But I have a pretty strong impression that like you're saying, and like most things that people are passionate about, things change a lot once it's a job.

I like how you worded that, "now I'm a developer again". I think that's exactly what I'm working towards right now. I spent 1 year on self-study, 2 on a startup, then this past year was a 3 month contract, some freelancing, and some more self-studying. Now I just started a job and am 1.5 months in and am looking to get that "I'm a developer again" status.

Comment by adamzerner on Thoughts on Mustachianism · 2021-01-22T05:44:38.779Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the comments!

"a soul-crushing job is still the only thing that gives meaning to your life". (Yeah, you didn't write it that way, but that is how I read it.) ... There is probably a lot of them.

Sounds like we are in agreement here. Lots of people who would, in practice, regress to a lot of TV watching and lounging around and end up less happy than they would be at a job, even though in theory they should be able to take advantage of eg. the educational and travel programs you mention to live a happier life. But also a good chunk of people who have things they're passionate about and would live a happier life in retirement.

I don't want to make it out as if it's all about passion vs. no passion or keep busy vs don't keep busy though. I think there are also subtle things that make retirement better or worse than being at a job.

For example, I'm 28 years old and spent time a) working as a programmer, b) starting a startup, and c) self-studying. Maybe this is just a quirk of my psychology, but in (b) and (c) I am very critical of myself, basically acting like my own boss breathing down my neck, judging my performance. "Are you doing enough? Should you be meditating more? Working more hours? Less? Using pomodoros? Networking more? Investing more in education? Less? Taking a long mid-day break? Doing journaling count as hours towards my workday?" There are just all of these questions, and I experience a sort of pardox of choice. I've found that having a boss I don't experience those things too much, it's more about doing the standard, expected stuff. These experiences have made me think that there are weird subtle things that can be hard to predict, and that an outside view of looking at how people handle their retirement (or retirement-like periods of time) is more appropriate than an inside view of looking at the gears of retired life and thinking about what happens when you turn those gears.

In the past, before I burned out at work, and before I had kids, I used to do projects like this once in a while, so it seems likely to me that I could do the same in the future, when the kids grow up, if I could get early retired somehow.

I think some people's response to this would be that your past self might be different and stuff, something perhaps similar to value drift. It's a thought that has been in the back of my mind to pay attention to, but for me I don't buy it. Eg. people say that for entrepreneurship, if you re-enter the workforce it's hard to pick back up again in the future, but I've both a) picked back up again and b) plan on picking back up again (currently at a job but planning on starting startups again in the future).

Who would hire a 50+ software developer who didn't spend the last 10 years developing software? (I am already the oldest guy in the room, and no, it doesn't make others treat me with respect. I look five or ten years younger than my actual age, but even that is already too old.) I am no superstar, my job skills are kinda average.

I hear ya there. I had about a 3 year gap in my resume as I self-studied and started a (failed) startup and it seems to have really hurt my ability to find jobs. I'm also on the average side skill-wise.

Comment by adamzerner on Conversation, event loops, and error handling · 2021-01-22T05:13:06.550Z · LW · GW

Glad you liked it! Yeah that makes a lot of sense about those nonverbal cues giving a stronger signal than the verbal ones, while also slowing down conversation less. And that's interesting to hear about how improv improves ones listening skills. I never made that connection before, I always thought of it as more "learning how to be funny"

Comment by adamzerner on adamzerner's Shortform · 2021-01-22T00:48:19.601Z · LW · GW

By low-hanging fruit I mean 1) non-trivial boost in electability and 2) good effort-to-reward ratio relative to other things a politician can focus on.

I agree that there are other things that would be more impactful, but perhaps there is room to do those more impactful things along with smaller, less impactful things.

Comment by adamzerner on adamzerner's Shortform · 2021-01-22T00:22:25.793Z · LW · GW

Everyone hates spam calls. What if a politician campaigned to address little annoyances like this? Seems like it could be a low hanging fruit.

Comment by adamzerner on Open & Welcome Thread - January 2021 · 2021-01-20T17:36:05.446Z · LW · GW

Hm, that does seem plausible. I'm curious what others think.

Comment by adamzerner on Open & Welcome Thread - January 2021 · 2021-01-20T17:24:25.740Z · LW · GW

Thanks. Fixed.

Comment by adamzerner on Open & Welcome Thread - January 2021 · 2021-01-20T08:37:35.325Z · LW · GW

The Invisible People YouTube channel interviews homeless people. At the end, the interviewer always asks what the interviewee would do if they had three wishes. Usually the answers are about receiving help with money, drugs, or previous relationships. Understandably.

But in Working Actor Now Homeless in Los Angeles, the guy's mind immediately went to things like ending deadly disease and world peace. Things that would help others, not himself.

And it wasn't as if he debated doing things for himself vs. for others. My read is that the thought of doing things for himself didn't even really get promoted to conscious attention. It didn't really occur to him. It looked like it was an obvious choice to him that he would use the wishes to help others.

One of the more amazing things I can recall experiencing. It gave me a much needed boost in my faith in humanity.

Comment by adamzerner on (USA) N95 masks are available on Amazon · 2021-01-19T17:28:01.465Z · LW · GW

That's what I suspected but it's great to get it reinforced. Thanks!

Comment by adamzerner on (USA) N95 masks are available on Amazon · 2021-01-19T00:52:36.619Z · LW · GW

So N95 isn't as negatively effected after these types of sterilizations? Any comments on whether N95 is more practical/appropriate for everyday people?

Comment by adamzerner on (USA) N95 masks are available on Amazon · 2021-01-18T20:28:25.157Z · LW · GW

I never quite got these questions answered and I guess this would be a good place to ask: what is the difference between KN95 and N95?

My understanding is it's about the shape/fit of the mask rather than the filter. If so, is N95 better fitting? Always/usually, or does it depend?

Comment by adamzerner on Singlethink · 2021-01-17T08:58:35.349Z · LW · GW

I have a similar story.

When I was a senior in highschool, I took microeconomics. Before senior year I never tried in school. Senior year I started to care about intellectual things and started trying. I hated my teacher and openly read the textbook in class instead of listening to her lectures.

When it came time for finals, I had a good grade in the class, some sort of high A, and had already been accepted to college. I figured out that if I don't do the final project, my grade would be a B.

I told this to my teacher. She was so angry at me and said she'd fail me. I said she can't, at least not without going against the grading rubric she had established in our syllabus.

I explained to her that I was frustrated because she was missing the most important concept in all of economics: incentives! How can she design the incentives and then be mad at me for acting accordingly? What kind of economist does that? Moreover, the whole system is set up with bad incentives. She should thank me for exposing them, recognize that I've grasped the important concepts, and give me an A.

At least that's the story I like to tell myself. And other people! It's not the truth though. The truth is I have major public speaking anxiety and didn't want to do the public speaking the final project would entail. That's all it was. I don't even think I grasped the centrality of incentives at the time. I think I learned about that about a year later once I discovered LessWrong.

Well, even that paragraph isn't really the truth, but it's something I tell people sometimes too. The reason I tell people these untrue stories is when I figure the truth doesn't matter much and because the story is just meant to convey a point, not be a description of who I am as a person. This comment itself is probably being made less clear and more awkward by this last paragraph, and I considered not including it for that reason. But things like that are a bit of a slippery slope. I noticed myself starting to believe the fake stories to some extent, and that's probably not worth the price of telling a less awkward story to people who I don't care about.

Comment by adamzerner on Evaluability (And Cheap Holiday Shopping) · 2021-01-17T06:56:51.555Z · LW · GW

This seems related to scope insensitivity. In talking about 200,000 dead birds, 200,000 has low evaluability. Same with having a 1/X chance of dying in a car crash.

Comment by adamzerner on Every Cause Wants To Be A Cult · 2021-01-16T20:58:47.289Z · LW · GW

I feel confused about the distinction between ingroup behavior and cult-like behavior. It makes sense to me that groups would, as a default, regress towards ingroup behavior without a force pulling them away from it. But it doesn't seem accurate to say that they will naturally move towards cult-like behavior.

Maybe cult-like behavior is similar to ingroup behavior. We only label things as cults when the behavior gets extreme enough/far enough along the spectrum. And so, maybe it is accurate to say that groups naturally move towards cult-like behavior.

But even so, the equilibrium point surely isn't anything close to an "actual" cult. Ingroup behavior can certainly be very powerful, but rarely powerful enough to cause you to given away all your property in anticipation of the saucers landing. 

Comment by adamzerner on Covid 1/14: To Launch a Thousand Shipments · 2021-01-14T17:57:46.691Z · LW · GW

He also points out that there was never an expected value case that could be made in defense of the policy of holding back doses. The simple argument for First Doses First is not only compelling, it is overwhelming. If you can make two people 80% protected, or make one person 95% protected, and you want to turn the tide of a pandemic and protect people, that’s that.

Also, I would expect less risk compensating from people who have received only one dose.

Comment by adamzerner on Thoughts on Mustachianism · 2021-01-11T18:59:13.775Z · LW · GW

I think that is true for a typical Mustachian, but at the same time there's nothing about Mustachianism that says you should do this. The idea is to be frugal and retire early because retiring early allows you to pursue what you are passionate about and stuff. If making more money and donating it to effective causes is what you are passionate about, Mustachianism doesn't say to avoid it. (That's my interpretation of it anyway.)

(Average lifetime income is in the range of $1M, is beside the point, but I couldn't resist looking it up.)

Huh, that seems low, at least for a wealthy western country. Iirc average income in America is around $50k. Over 40 years that is $2M. Adding on interest makes it even more.

Comment by adamzerner on Thoughts on Mustachianism · 2021-01-10T23:48:41.066Z · LW · GW

I don't share that impression. A central and overarching claim that he makes on his blog is basically that everyone is doing it wrong. I think it is difficult to make that claim while also appearing tolerant. Given that it is the claim he is making, I think he does a solid job of also appearing tolerant. Could be better, could be worse.

In my reading of his blog, he strikes me as someone who values open-mindedness and epistemics, and generally a lot of the same virtues we value here on LessWrong. I think like everyone else he can get carried away and have some biases and stubbornness shine through, but at his core I don't think he is the type of person who would be intolerant.

Comment by adamzerner on Thoughts on Mustachianism · 2021-01-10T08:02:53.198Z · LW · GW

Yeah, to some extent. My impression is that the evidence is somewhere in the ballpark of moderate to strong. I could see an argument for why it should be considered weak, but it's hard to see an argument for it being zero evidence (I'm not sure if that's what you're implying or not).

Comment by adamzerner on Babble Thread · 2021-01-10T03:51:03.378Z · LW · GW

Creating new types of threads like these are cheap experiments that seem worth doing more of.

Comment by adamzerner on Thoughts on Mustachianism · 2021-01-10T01:34:17.122Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the input!

To me, the early retirement option has always seemed like it was better suited to people who had unrewarding jobs that paid better than any of the jobs they would like more (for MMM, this was programming).

Yeah. And I think I've always underestimated how many people have a job doing exactly what they want to be doing. For me, I really, really enjoy teaching and could see myself wanting to spend my life doing that. I could also see myself at the right programming job wanting to do that forever.

On the other hand, even if you like your job it's hard to see how having substantial savings in case of layoffs or unforeseen circumstances could be a bad thing (see Richard Meadows' post on this point).

Well, I wouldn't go that far. There is a tradeoff in play. You could go on a lot of awesome vacations with that money you'd need to retire in your mind :)

I also find that the parts of my job I like the most require physical infrastructure that is effectively only accessible within institutions, so I favor a path that lets me retain access to that while not worrying about the periodic layoffs endemic to my chosen industry.

As a programmer, I see some parallels here. Mainly that you get to interact and learn from other smart people when you work at a (good) company, but also that you get to solve problems that you otherwise wouldn't get to work on alone. Caveat is that if you look hard enough you can find these things in the world of open source.

I don't think we can learn too much about what people want to do with large amounts of free time from what they have done during Covid.

Hm, I think that's a good point and that there's definitely truth here. But I also think that there are things that we can learn. Covid means people can't do certain social things with their free time, but it doesn't prevent them from doing things like art or music. So if people don't take up art or music during Covid with their excess free time, that seems like reasonably strong evidence that they also wouldn't take up art or music in a non-Covid world with excess free time.

Comment by adamzerner on Babble Thread · 2021-01-09T22:49:32.635Z · LW · GW

Thanks for bringing this up. I'll edit to make it more clear, but I what I'm going for here is "anything".

It seems to me like there should be a place for "anything babbles" for people who do have things that come to mind they want to babble about, and also a place for "prompted babbles" for people who need the prompt and because it's cool to see how other people babbled on the same topic you're babbling about.

I misread your comment initially. Now I see that you specify prompts that people can default to. That seems like a good idea. I'll add some.

Comment by adamzerner on Science in a High-Dimensional World · 2021-01-09T22:45:57.679Z · LW · GW

I was expecting the central idea of this post to be more similar to/an extension of Everyday Lessons from High-Dimensional Optimization. That in a high-dimensional world, a good scientist can't afford to waste time testing implausible hypotheses. Doing so will get you the right answer eventually, but it is far too slow. In a high-dimensional world, there are just too many variables to tweak. Relevant excerpt from My Wild and Reckless Youth:

The way Traditional Rationality is designed, it would have been acceptable for me to spend thirty years on my silly idea, so long as I succeeded in falsifying it eventually, and was honest with myself about what my theory predicted, and accepted the disproof when it arrived, et cetera. This is enough to let the Ratchet of Science click forward, but it’s a little harsh on the people who waste thirty years of their lives. Traditional Rationality is a walk, not a dance. It’s designed to get you to the truth eventually, and gives you all too much time to smell the flowers along the way.

To what extent is this post making these points?

Comment by adamzerner on Babble Thread · 2021-01-09T22:18:50.323Z · LW · GW

Mental health as x-risk reduction.

Assumptions. People push hard for profit because they have inner demons, and hard profit seeking is something that is bad for AI safety. Then for things like nuclear war, perhaps such human conflicts would be significantly less likely to occur if people didn't have inner demons.

Similar points could be made for happiness, with mental health being "move you from being in the red to being even" and happiness being "move you from being even to being in the green".

Comment by adamzerner on Babble Thread · 2021-01-09T21:53:24.376Z · LW · GW

To talk about meta-level stuff such as how this Babble Thread should be structured, please comment here.

Comment by adamzerner on COVID-19: home stretch and fourth wave Q&A · 2021-01-09T21:20:07.181Z · LW · GW

Agreed that it matters a lot how crowded the store is and how much talking occurs, and that your assumptions seem more realistic.

Some adjustments that come to mind:

  • It seems like it'd make sense to assume that people in the grocery store are slightly more risky than average, with the assumption that less risky people are less likely to grocery shop indoors and more risky people are more likely to grocery shop indoors. Perhaps using the 10k healthcare or social worker option for risk profile instead of the 7k average person in your area.
  • I see a pretty significant amount of people not covering their nose with their mask, so maybe "their mask" should be more like 1/3 the risk instead of 1/4 the risk.
  • For "your mask", I don't know too much about the stuff about how to fit your mask, but my best guess would be to assume it's more like 1/5 the risk instead of 1/10.
  • I agree it's much closer to "not talking" than "normal conversation", but some talking does occur. Maybe it'd make sense to use 1/4 instead of 1/5.

Ballparking it, and assuming a few other minor adjustments, maybe the truth is something like 3x what your estimate is. (It'd be great if the calculator let you make such adjustments inline.)

Comment by adamzerner on Thoughts on Mustachianism · 2021-01-09T20:49:41.434Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the compliment :)

Hm, in thinking about it it seems to me that the tension you describe is moreso a matter of the time value of money than it is about where you choose to allocate your money.

Suppose that you earn $4M over the course of your career, and want to spend $2M on yourself over the course of your life. You can 1) focus on saving your money first and donating it later, or 2) donating it now as you earn it. In both cases the amount you're spending on yourself versus others are the same, but in the former case you are the one who benefits from the time value of money (earning interest) instead of the charities. (Additionally, perhaps charities can put money to better use now versus later.)

This matter of timing that I describe seems like a question that is separate from the question of how much to spend on yourself versus others. Eg. spending $2M on yourself over a lifetime versus $1M versus $3M.

Perhaps this is also something that EAs and Mustachians disagree on? I'm not sure. My impression is that a large majority of EAs are ok with or even recommend a lifestyle that is at least as spendy as a Mustachian lifestyle, if only for the purpose of: standard of living → happiness → productivity gains → better at making money that could be used altruistically. But I also recall hearing philosophies that are more about: "you can feed ten families in Africa if you eat ramen instead of chicken and rice".

Comment by adamzerner on A dozen habits that work for me · 2021-01-08T17:44:46.416Z · LW · GW

Huh. This inspired me. Just created a Beeminder goal for it.

Comment by adamzerner on adamzerner's Shortform · 2020-12-31T20:46:35.848Z · LW · GW

Hm, I'm having a little trouble thinking about the distinction between X in the current context vs X universally. Do you have any examples?

Glad to hear you've noticed this from Hanson too and it's not just me.

Comment by adamzerner on adamzerner's Shortform · 2020-12-31T20:42:22.942Z · LW · GW

Hm, let's see how those assumptions you're using affect the numbers. If it lasts 5 years instead of 25 the breakeven would become 30 hours/year instead of 6. And if we say that the value of better air quality is $0.20/hr instead of $1/hr due to the uncertainty in the research you mention, we multiply by 5 again and get 150 hours/year. With those assumptions, it seems like it's probably not worth it. And more generally, after talking it through, I no longer see it as an obvious +ROI.

(Interesting how helpful it is to "put a number on it". I think I should do this a lot more than I currently do.)

However, for myself I still feel really good about the purchases. I put a higher value on the $/hr because I value health, mood and productivity more than others probably do, and because I'm fortunate enough to be doing well financially. I also really enjoy the peace of mind. Knowing what I know now, if I didn't have my Awair I would be worried about things screwing up my air quality without me knowing.

Comment by adamzerner on adamzerner's Shortform · 2020-12-31T04:49:42.337Z · LW · GW

Yup I got it both the Awair and the Alen.

  • PM2.5 started off crazy high for me before I got the Alen. Using the Alen brings it to near zero.
  • VO2 and PM2.5 accumulates rather easily when I cook, although I do have a gas stove. Also random other things like the dishwasher cause it to go up. The Alen brings it back down in ~30 minutes maybe.
  • CO2 usually hovers around a 3/5 on the Awair if I don't have a window open. I'm finding it tricky to deal with this, because opening a window makes it cold. I'm pretty sure my apartment's HVAC system just recycles the current air rather than bringing in new air. I'm hoping to buy a house soon so I think ventilation is something I'm going to look for.
  • For me I don't actually notice the CO2 without the Awair telling me. I don't think I'd do a good job of remembering to crack a window or something without it.
  • I wonder if your house has better ventilation than mine if you're not getting issues with PM2.5. Could be if it's an older house or if your HVAC system does ventilation.

I see what you're saying about how the actual actions you should take seem pretty much the same regardless of whether you have the Awair or not. I agree that it's close, but I think that small differences do exist, and that those small differences will add up to a massively large ROI over time.

1) If it prompts you to crack a window before you would otherwise notice/remember to do so.

2) If something new is causing issues. For me I noticed that my humidifier was jacking up the PM2.5 levels and realized I need to get a new one. I also noticed that the dishwasher jacks it up so now I know to not be around while it's running. I would imagine that over time new things like this will pop up, eg. using a new cleaning product or candle.

3) Moving to a new home, remodeling or buying eg. new furniture could cause differences.

4) Unknown unknowns that could cause issues.

Suppose you value time spent in better air quality at $1/hr and that the product lasts 25 years. To break even, you'd need it to get you an extra six hours of good air quality each year. That's just two afternoons of my example #1, where you were sitting around and forgot to crack a window or something when the Awair would have sent you a push notification to do so. $1/hr seems low and I'd expect it to give a good amount more than six extra hours per year, so my impression is that the ROI would be really good.

Comment by adamzerner on Give it a google · 2020-12-30T17:20:08.744Z · LW · GW

Meta: Upvoted to counteract downvotes.

1) This strikes me as an honest attempt at world modeling. 2) I don't share the viewpoint but I think it meets the bar of being plausibly true. 3) Given the intended content, I don't think it was written in an excessively bitter tone at all.

Using the criteria of "I want to see more/less of this" that the FAQ recommends for voting, I want to see more comments like this. I worry that currently, people are fearful about coming across as too bitter and it gets in the way of honest attempts at world modeling.

Comment by adamzerner on Give it a google · 2020-12-29T23:19:31.210Z · LW · GW

Interesting to hear. I've always had a vague sense that search results aren't that great in general but haven't noticed a change over time. Could easily just be me though.

Comment by adamzerner on Give it a google · 2020-12-29T17:39:45.362Z · LW · GW

Note that even in the failure case (success rate of AirBNB hosts in Las Vegas), you still learned something - that it's not a simple enough question for easy answers.

True! A noteworthy consolation prize.

SEO has gotten to the point that it actually takes some skill to google things usefully. This is the only reason I can think that your main point (you'll learn something valuable in a very short time on almost any topic, so use this technique early and often) would not apply to most of us.

Yeah, that does sound plausible and it hadn't occurred to me. Makes me think back to The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills: Worse Than You Think.

Comment by adamzerner on adamzerner's Shortform · 2020-12-29T06:49:33.929Z · LW · GW

Gotcha. I appreciate you pointing it out. I'm glad to get the feedback that it initially wasn't clear, both for self-improvement purposes and for the more immediate purpose of improving the title.

(It's got me thinking about variable names in programming. There's something more elegant about being concise, but then again, humans are biased towards expecting short inferential distances, so I probably should err on the side of longer more descriptive variable names. And post title!)

Comment by adamzerner on adamzerner's Shortform · 2020-12-29T06:33:10.253Z · LW · GW

Changed to "It's not obvious" is a useful critique.

Comment by adamzerner on adamzerner's Shortform · 2020-12-29T05:55:32.507Z · LW · GW

Hm, I might be having a brain fart but I'm not seeing it. My point is that people will make an argument "A is true based on X, Y and Z", someone will point out "it's not obvious that Y", and that comment is useful because it leads to a discussion about whether Y is true.

Comment by adamzerner on adamzerner's Shortform · 2020-12-29T05:39:23.588Z · LW · GW

"It's not obvious" is a useful critique

I recall hearing "it's not obvious that X" a lot in the rationality community, particularly in Robin Hanson's writing.

Sometimes people make a claim without really explaining it. Actually, this happens a lot of times. Often times the claim is made implicitly. This is fine if that claim is obvious.

But if the claim isn't obvious, then that link in the chain is broken and the whole argument falls apart. Not that it's been proven wrong or anything, just that it needs work. You need to spend the time establishing that claim. That link in the chain. So then, it is useful in these situations to point out when a link in the chain isn't obvious when it was being presumed obvious. I am a fan of "it's not obvious that X".

Comment by adamzerner on adamzerner's Shortform · 2020-12-27T23:23:32.083Z · LW · GW

That sounds reasonable and I considered doing something similar. What convinced me to get it anyway is that in the long run, even if the marginal gains in productivity and wellness you get from owning the Awair vs your approach are tiny, even tiny gains add up to the point where the $150 seems like a great ROI.

Comment by adamzerner on Writing to think · 2020-12-23T20:08:26.021Z · LW · GW

Cool! In the past LessWrong had posts divided into "main" and "discussion". Technically you can use discussion for whatever you want: ramblings, questions, etc. But that wasn't the social norm. I think people still held themselves to a relatively high standard in the discussion section as well.

And I've always hypothesized that having sections that are dedicated to eg. shortform or eg. questions would make people a lot more comfortable eg. with off the cuff writing or eg. asking questions. Having a dedicated section just makes it really clear that what you're doing is ok.

Now I suspect that social norms are the more important piece. Even if shortforms are available and labeled as such, if other people are using it for more well thought out and researched writing, it's hard to go against the grain and do off the cuff writing their. As I talk about in the OP, I think off the cuff writing is important in helping you think, so I am glad to see you using it that way! Doing so will make LessWrong more like the rationality dojo Eliezer originally envisioned.

Comment by adamzerner on Willa's Shortform · 2020-12-22T04:05:07.567Z · LW · GW

Since shortform posts are, short and don't require high epistemic confidence and seem compatible with social media style posting, I will now write shortform posts regularly so that I get at least some writing done. This will help process the torrent of data and thoughts swirling around in my head like some chaotic vortex. It's hard to do anything with that vortex there, but writing helps quiet it and feels good, in particular, having written feels amazing even though the act of writing can be painful.

I can really relate to this. I too experience that vortex and find that writing helps with it, in addition to just helping me reason about things. I wrote about it in Writing to Think if you're interested.

Comment by adamzerner on adamzerner's Shortform · 2020-12-22T04:00:14.541Z · LW · GW

I just learned some important things about indoor air quality after watching Why Air Quality Matters, a presentation by David Heinemeier Hanson, the creator of Ruby on Rails. It seems like something that is both important and under the radar, so I'll brain dump + summarize my takeaways here, but I encourage you to watch the whole thing.

  • He said he spent three weeks researching and experimenting with it full time. I place a pretty good amount of trust in his credibility here, based on a) my prior experiences with his work and b) him seeming like he did pretty thorough research.
  • It's easy for CO2 levels to build up. We breathe it out and if you're not getting circulation from fresh air, it'll accumulate.
  • This has pretty big impacts on your cognitive function. It seems similar to not getting enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep also has a pretty big impact on your cognitive function. And perhaps more importantly, it's something that we are prone to underestimating. It feels like we're only a little bit off, when in reality we're a lot off.
  • There are things called volatile organic compounds, aka VOCs. Those are really bad for your health. They come from a variety of sources. Cleaning products and sprays are one. Another is that new car smell, which you don't only get from new cars, you also get it from stuff like new couches.
  • In general, when there's new construction, VOCs will be emitted. That's what lead to DHH learning about this. He bought a new house. His wife got sick. It turned out the glue from the wood panels was emitting VOCs and making her sick.
  • People in the world of commercial construction know all about this. When a hotel is constructed, they'll wait eg. a whole month, passing up revenue, to let the VOC's fizzle out. But in the world of residential construction, for whatever reason it isn't something people know about.
  • If you want to measure stuff like CO2 and VOCs, professional products are expensive, consumer products are usually inaccurate, but Awair is consumer product for $150 that is good.
  • If you want to improve indoor air quality, air purifiers are where it's at. They do a good job of it. You could use filters on eg. your air conditioner and stuff, but in practice that doesn't really work. High quality filters make your AC much less effective. Low quality filters are, well, low quality.
  • Alen is the brand of air purifier that DHH recommended after testing four brands. I spend about 10-15 minutes researching it. Alen seems to have a great reputation. The Wirecutter doesn't recommend Alen seemingly because you could get similar quality for about half the price.
  • I decided to purchase the Alen BreatheSmart 75i today for $769. a) I find it very plausible that you could get similar quality for less money, but since this is about health and it is a long term purchase, I am happy to pay a premium. b) They claim they offer the industry's only lifetime warranty. For a long term purchase, I think that's important, if only due to what it signals.
  • I considered purchasing more than one. From their website it seemed like that's what they recommend. But after talking things through with the saleswoman, it didn't seem necessary. The product weighs about 20 pounds and is portable, so we could bring it to the bedroom to purify the bedroom before we go to sleep.
  • I currently live in a ~1000sqft apartment and was initially planning on purchasing the 45i instead of the 75i. The 45i is made for 800sqft and 75i 1300sqft. The saleswoman said it's moreso a matter of time than ability. The 45i will eventually purify larger spaces, it'll just take longer. That'd probably be fine for my purposes, but since this is a long term purchase and I don't know what the future holds, I'd rather play it safe.
  • The Alen BreatheSmart does have an air quality sensor, but I decided to purchase an Awair as well. a) The Alen doesn't detect CO2 levels. At first I was thinking that I don't really need a CO2 sensor, I could just open the window a few times a day. But ultimately I think that there is value in having the sensor in my office. It sends you a push notification if CO2 levels pass whatever threshold, and I think that'd be a solid step up from me relying on my judgement and presence of mind to open windows. b) My girlfriend has been getting a sore throat at night. I think it's because we've been using the heat more and the heat dries out the air. We used an air purifier last night, but I think it'd be useful to use the Awair to make sure we get the humidity level right. (We do have a Nest thermostat which detects humidity, but it's not in our bedroom.)
  • In general, I'm a believer that health and productivity are so important that on the order of hundreds of dollars it isn't worth trying to cut costs.
  • Air quality is something you have to pay attention to outside of your house as well. The presentation mentioned a study of coffee shops having poor air quality.
  • Older houses have a lot more draft so air quality wasn't as big a problem. But newer homes have less draft. This is good for cutting your electric bill, but bad for air quality.


  • Cooking gives off a significant amount of bad particles, especially if you have a gas stove.
  • You are supposed to turn your vent on about five minutes before you start cooking. Most people don't turn it on at all unless it smells.
  • Apartment kitchens often have vents that recycle air instead of bringing in fresh air, which isn't what you want.
  • If you're using a humidifier, use distilled/filtered water. If you use water from the sink it will add bad particles to the air.
  • I've found that random appliances like the dish washer and laundry machines increase VO2 and/or PM2.5 levels.
Comment by adamzerner on Gauging the conscious experience of LessWrong · 2020-12-20T22:58:57.380Z · LW · GW

Right! I couldn't remember the term Typical Mind Fallacy and was searching around looking for it, but couldn't find it. Thanks.

Comment by adamzerner on Gauging the conscious experience of LessWrong · 2020-12-20T21:52:11.717Z · LW · GW

Yesterday I discovered I had been a victim of the Mind Projection Fallacy thanks to accidentally finding out that someone very close to me doesn’t have an internal monologue, doesn’t think in words and has a visual photographic memory.

I don't think this is the Mind Projection Fallacy. The Mind Projection Fallacy happens when you take properties of your own mind and project them out onto the external world.

Like how in the OP, beauty is a property of your own mind, you perceive someone as beautiful. They don't possess the property of beauty. But the fallacy occurs when you take that thing in your mind (beauty) and project it out into the external world, assuming it is a property of the woman.

Here, having an internal monologue isn't a property of your own mind in the same way that something like beauty is, so I don't think it is the Mind Projection Fallacy that is occurring.

(I know this is a little tangential to the main point of this post, but it still seems worth mentioning.)

Comment by adamzerner on Map and Territory: Summary and Thoughts · 2020-12-19T19:17:41.391Z · LW · GW

If you are at risk of having fake beliefs latch on to you, then I agree that it is useful to learn about them in order to prevent them from latching on to you. However, I question whether it is common to be at risk of such a thing happening because I can't think of practical examples of fake beliefs happening to non-rationalists, let alone to rationalists (the example you gave doesn't seem like a fake belief). The examples of fake beliefs used in Map and Territory seem contrived.

In a way it reminds me of decision theory. My understanding is that expected utility maximization works really well in real life and stuff like Timeless Decision Theory is only needed for contrived examples like Newcomb's problem.