Visualizing the textbook for fun and profit 2020-09-24T19:37:47.932Z · score: 17 (4 votes)
Let the AI teach you how to flirt 2020-09-17T19:04:05.632Z · score: 37 (19 votes)
A case study in simulacra levels and the Four Children of the Seder 2020-09-14T22:31:39.484Z · score: 32 (9 votes)
Rationality and playfulness 2020-09-12T05:14:29.624Z · score: 41 (10 votes)
Choose simplicity and structure. 2020-09-10T21:45:13.770Z · score: 7 (2 votes)
Resist epistemic (and emotional) learned helplessness! 2020-09-10T02:58:24.681Z · score: 7 (2 votes)
Loneliness and the paradox of choice 2020-09-09T16:30:20.374Z · score: 17 (9 votes)
Loneliness 2020-09-08T08:14:56.557Z · score: 12 (7 votes)
Should we write more about social life? 2020-08-19T20:07:17.055Z · score: 13 (5 votes)
Sentence by Sentence: "Why Most Published Research Findings are False" 2020-08-13T06:51:02.126Z · score: 22 (7 votes)
Tearing down the Chesterton's Fence principle 2020-08-02T04:56:43.339Z · score: 31 (14 votes)
Change the world a little bit 2020-07-26T22:35:05.546Z · score: 22 (13 votes)
Inefficient doesn't mean indifferent, but it might mean wimpy. 2020-07-20T18:27:48.332Z · score: 13 (5 votes)
Praise of some popular LW articles 2020-07-20T00:32:35.849Z · score: 38 (13 votes)
Criticism of some popular LW articles 2020-07-19T01:16:50.230Z · score: 61 (28 votes)
Telling more rational stories 2020-07-17T17:47:31.831Z · score: 24 (13 votes)
AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform 2020-07-11T19:08:01.705Z · score: 5 (1 votes)
Was a PhD necessary to solve outstanding math problems? 2020-07-10T18:43:17.342Z · score: 22 (8 votes)
Was a terminal degree ~necessary for inventing Boyle's desiderata? 2020-07-10T04:47:15.902Z · score: 33 (9 votes)
Survival in the immoral maze of college 2020-07-08T21:27:27.214Z · score: 43 (18 votes)
An agile approach to pre-research 2020-06-25T18:29:47.645Z · score: 14 (6 votes)
The point of a memory palace 2020-06-20T01:00:41.975Z · score: 23 (9 votes)
Using a memory palace to memorize a textbook. 2020-06-19T02:09:18.172Z · score: 56 (23 votes)
Bathing Machines and the Lindy Effect 2020-06-17T21:44:46.931Z · score: 15 (6 votes)
Two Kinds of Mistake Theorists 2020-06-11T14:49:47.186Z · score: 8 (5 votes)
Visual Babble and Prune 2020-06-04T18:49:30.044Z · score: 56 (12 votes)
Trust-Building: The New Rationality Project 2020-05-28T22:53:36.876Z · score: 38 (17 votes)
My stumble on COVID-19 2020-04-18T04:32:30.987Z · score: 40 (19 votes)
How superforecasting could be manipulated 2020-04-17T06:47:51.289Z · score: 24 (14 votes)
Alarm bell for the next pandemic, V.2 2020-04-15T06:47:59.415Z · score: 9 (4 votes)
Curiosity: A Greedy Feeling 2020-04-11T04:38:09.544Z · score: 41 (12 votes)
Would 2014-2016 Ebola ring the alarm bell? 2020-04-08T02:01:47.031Z · score: 16 (7 votes)
Would 2009 H1N1 (Swine Flu) ring the alarm bell? 2020-04-07T07:16:11.367Z · score: 33 (11 votes)
An alarm bell for the next pandemic 2020-04-06T01:35:03.283Z · score: 50 (15 votes)
Has LessWrong been a good early alarm bell for the pandemic? 2020-04-03T09:44:39.205Z · score: 14 (15 votes)
Forecasting an 80% chance of an effective anti COVID-19 drug (probably Remdesivir) 2020-03-15T19:21:31.187Z · score: 11 (3 votes)
Raw Post: Talking With My Brother 2019-07-13T02:57:42.142Z · score: 25 (9 votes)
AI Alignment "Scaffolding" Project Ideas (Request for Advice) 2019-07-11T04:39:11.401Z · score: 9 (4 votes)
The I Ching Series (2/10): How should I prioritize my career-building projects? 2019-07-09T22:55:05.848Z · score: 14 (4 votes)
The Results of My First LessWrong-inspired I Ching Divination 2019-07-08T21:26:36.133Z · score: 20 (12 votes)
Here Be Epistemic Dragons 2019-07-04T22:31:44.061Z · score: 9 (5 votes)
Archive of all LW essay contests 2019-05-30T06:40:02.587Z · score: 13 (3 votes)
Seeking suggestions for EA cash-prize contest 2019-05-29T20:44:35.311Z · score: 16 (6 votes)


Comment by allamericanbreakfast on "Win First" vs "Chill First" · 2020-09-28T22:06:46.601Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you were Jimmy Butler, you might have needed to have kind of an antagonistic attitude toward other people to put in that kind of work without the encouragement of the people around you. He might have needed a sort of "fuck you" approach to get as good as he did. There's a difference between having the kind of attitude that lets you get good, and the kind of attitude that encourages others to get as good as you.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on "Win First" vs "Chill First" · 2020-09-28T21:22:24.988Z · score: 14 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think the proper lesson here is that the absence of a culture of excellence can destroy the potential of even very talented people. But that culture of "win first" is a necessary but not sufficient condition for victory. Otherwise, the Miami Heat would have made the playoffs without Jimmy Butler.

You need to value excellence and intensity, but also to be excellent.

We see this in our forced group projects in my undergraduate classes. The best students (mostly post-baccs like myself in our community college setting) try to band together as often as possible. We know that we can trust each other to do good work. And we know that our mutual devotion to high-quality work will be appreciated, so we don't have to do any apologetics or song and dance routine to motivate each other.

My two takeaways:

  • If you feel like you're not making as much progress as you want, maybe the problem is you need to work much, much harder than seems reasonable to the people around you, or even to yourself.
  • If you're working your ass off and it's annoying the people around you, time to find a place where your intensity will be appreciated.
Comment by allamericanbreakfast on What are good rationality exercises? · 2020-09-28T01:59:54.457Z · score: 14 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Things that interest me:

  • Let's go exploring. Eliezer took a pretty low-bar activity (fan fic) and created something original (HPMOR). Why don't we pick some notorious areas of the internet where we think a little LW-style overthinking could go a long way?
  • A rational approach to cultivating imagination, creativity, and meditation. We have so many tools here for modeling questions of fact. Can't rationality help us develop the right side of the brain as well as the left?
  • Business ideas we could collaborate on, that hinge primarily on rational thinking, learning how to learn, and conscientiousness.

I would not participate in activities that boil down to arbitrary left-brain problem solving.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Most People Aren't Fishermen · 2020-09-28T00:46:53.288Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Another one I heard recently is re-enlistment bonuses in the US military. Soldiers can get up to around $100,000 for signing up for another tour of duty. They're apparently notorious for blowing it on stupid shit almost immediately. But maybe that's just the vivid stories. I'd like to see empirical data before I made up my mind.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform · 2020-09-28T00:33:47.003Z · score: 17 (6 votes) · LW · GW

SlateStarCodex, EA, and LW helped me get out of the psychological, spiritual, political nonsense in which I was mired for a decade or more.

I started out feeling a lot smarter. I think it was community validation + the promise of mystical knowledge.

Now I've started to feel dumber. Probably because the lessons have sunk in enough that I catch my own bad ideas and notice just how many of them there are. Worst of all, it's given me ambition to do original research. That's a demanding task, one where you have to accept feeling stupid all the time.

But I still look down that old road and I'm glad I'm not walking down it anymore.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Shittests are actually good · 2020-09-27T16:12:59.342Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

At least on my end, you didn’t hurt my feelings. I appreciate your sensitivity to that possibility, though.

The tactic of using an “edgy,” but in this case simply wrong, wording in order to provoke a response seems like you’re optimizing for the wrong thing. After all, you seem to have already known that normal healthy evaluation of prospective partners is good, and that shit-testing is bad.

Now you’ve provoked a large number of comments, but they’re mostly focused on reinforcing the common definition of shit-testing rather than on the dating advice you said you wanted.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Shittests are actually good · 2020-09-26T01:30:18.352Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Most standard relationship advice is that if you're looking for a healthy, committed relationship, you should ask lots of questions early on and make sure you're on the same page. Have them meet your friends and see if the friends like them. Do some challenging things together, like taking a road trip. Put yourselves in situations where you can expect to experience some adversity, and see how you cope together.

You don't need to be a devious calculating shit-tester. You just need to take basic steps to make sure that you're a good fit together. This can be a collaborative experience if both people have healthy attachment styles.

I'm saying this as somebody who's been in satisfying, unsatisfying but healthy, and one toxic relationship. The shit-test was a defining feature of the toxic one, and was absent from the other two categories. And the toxic relationship was about as bad for my shit-testing toxic ex as it was for me (a non-shit-testing non-toxic person behaving in a codependent manner). Because when you're shit-testing, you're in a mindset that prevents you from the truly excellent experiences it's possible to have with other people.

So no, I don't think that shit-testing is instrumentally rational. I think it's a horrible trap of confused insecurity, control issues, anxiety, and exploitation that ruins the lives of people who engage in it, and everybody around them.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Most People Aren't Fishermen · 2020-09-25T20:13:23.843Z · score: 13 (8 votes) · LW · GW

With UBI, one thing that would happen is probably decreased demand for high-interest payday loans, budget rental properties, emergency room trips due to neglect of routine medical care, and crappy jobs taken because the risk and expense and energy demands of further education was prohibitive. This is the poverty trap.

If you believe in the poverty trap, then the way that UBI helps our economy become more efficient isn't by unlocking our entrepreneurial potential. It's by breaking us out of our first-world poverty trap that keeps us underinvested in our communities and in ourselves.

Of course, Americans don't like to think of themselves as poor. We like to think of ourselves as entrepreneurs, self-made, strivers. So wrapping a social benefit in that language is a canny political move. And it isn't exactly wrong, either. Although most people won't launch a company, there's not that sharp a distinction between a self-employed person and somebody who's got enough demand for their skills that they can jump from employer to employer in pursuit of higher wages and better work.

This is my story for how UBI can make our economy more efficient. Of course, you have to modulate that by the possibility that allowing people to live off their UBI or blow it on frivolous spending will cancel out those good effects. That question is beyond my pay grade, and I suspect nobody really knows.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform · 2020-09-25T19:51:35.811Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Idea for online dating platform:

Each person chooses a charity and an amount of money that you must donate to swipe right on them. This leads to higher-fidelity match information while also giving you a meaningful topic to kick the conversation off.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Shittests are actually good · 2020-09-25T15:55:31.111Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Agree, and this is an area where we should be precise in our language. Coming up with justifications for regular healthy testing, then labeling them with a name for toxic power moves, risks spreading confusion at best, and bad behavior at worst.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Visualizing the textbook for fun and profit · 2020-09-24T22:17:51.622Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Haha I may take you up on that! Thank you for volunteering :D These visualization techniques are also helping with my molecular biology class. Very general purpose.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform · 2020-09-24T16:26:07.587Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We already had words for lies, exaggerations, incoherence, and advertising. Along with a rich discourse of nuanced critiques and defenses of each one.

The term “dark arts” seems to lump all these together, then uses cherry picked examples of the worst ones to write them all off. It lacks the virtue of precision. We explicitly discourage this way of thinking in other areas. Why do we allow it here?

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Should it be a research paper or a blog post? · 2020-09-24T15:44:01.091Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think my most innovative posts have been in the fields of epidemiology and phenomenological psychology.

I’m pretty sure they’re innovative, in that the specific ideas don’t have an equivalent research article floating around out there. But they shouldn’t be published, because they lack the unambiguous clarity and reputation-staking that a research article is meant to convey. I didn’t go for that because of lack of know-how, lack of confidence, perceived barriers to academic publication that I mostly think are good, the fact that I didn’t want to put in the work, and that I mostly wrote them for me and for this community.

I really think we have something special going on here. It’s not perfect, but it’s unusual.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Most Prisoner's Dilemmas are Stag Hunts; Most Stag Hunts are Battle of the Sexes · 2020-09-23T22:14:49.626Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here's my summary of this post. Is this getting at the point you're trying to make?

The essential difference between a one-off Prisoner's Dilemma and a Stag Hunt is that in the one-shot PD, the prisoners cannot punish or reward each other for cooperating. In a Stag Hunt, the hunters can punish defection and reward cooperation. In both cases, the best outcome is equally good for all players.

The essential difference between a Stag Hunt and a Battle of the Sexes is that in the Stag Hunt, the best outcome is equally successful for all. In Battle of the Sexes, the best one-off outcomes are always unfair to at least one of the participants.

In most real-world situations, we can enforce cooperation. Generally, the outcomes won't be perfectly fair. They'll resemble a Battle of the Sexes more than a Stag Hunt or one-off Prisoner's Dilemma. So the problem is negotiating which unfair outcome the participants will choose. But because the Prisoner's Dilemma is so well-known, people often resort to it as their first game-theoretic analysis of any given situation.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform · 2020-09-23T17:13:29.408Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sci-hub has moved to

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed · 2020-09-23T17:08:14.059Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We obviously can’t give our attention to every truth. The LoG has to be contextual. If you’re spending a lot of resources pursuing an impossible goal because you’re willfully ignoring an uncomfortable fact, stop denying the truth. Build the emotional skills to work through disappointment in a healthy way and move on with your life.

My issue with the LoG is its tone. It seems to frame the process of coping with disappointment as a dispassionate one. Like we’re supposed to be a computer. I think that’s unhelpful on the margin for most people most of the time.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform · 2020-09-23T16:58:35.350Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you treat “the dark arts” as a set of generally forbidden behaviors, or as problematic only in specific contexts?

As a war of good and evil or as the result of trade-offs between epistemic rationality and other values?

Do you shun deception and manipulation, seek to identify contexts where they’re ok or wrong, or embrace them as a key to succeeding in life?

Do you find the dark arts dull, interesting, or key to understanding the world, regardless of whether or not you employ them?

Asymmetric weapons may be the only source of edge for the truth itself. But should the side of the truth therefore eschew symmetric weapons?

What is the value of the label/metaphor “dark arts/dark side?” Why the normative stance right from the outset? Isn’t the use of this phrase, with all its implications of evil intent or moral turpitude, itself an example of the dark arts? An attempt to halt the workings of other minds, or of our own?

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on The Haters Gonna Hate Fallacy · 2020-09-23T05:52:13.324Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think it would have helped this post to give a couple of examples of the HGHF that you've encountered in the wild.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Let the AI teach you how to flirt · 2020-09-19T18:50:38.749Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's hard to be charming, rather than just doing a clumsy imitation of charm. If one person is overly practiced at being charming, they might be able to influence their partner's behavior so that it's no longer a reliable signal of their level of attraction. This fits with the Goodhart's law interpretation.

Then again, it might be that in a romantic context, like speed dating, people are being careful to flirt only if they genuinely want to signal attraction. Flirting might even make the participants feel attracted to each other. This would work against Goodhart's law.

My intuition is that the latter factors are more important than the former, though I do think it's very possible for people to fall into clumsy imitations of charm, especially at first. But I have to assume that charm is a learned skill like just about everything else, so the clumsy attempts might be just an awkward phase.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Let the AI teach you how to flirt · 2020-09-19T16:19:03.074Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. I see this paper as being less “intervention X works to improve people’s flirtation detection rate” and more “here’s an outside view on people’s ability to detect flirtation, vs. an ML algorithm using clear standards to classify speech patterns.”

I think it’s actionable in two ways.

  1. You can speculate about ways to imitate the ML algorithm and get better at detecting flirtation yourself, or creating a context for healthy flirtation.
  2. You can give up on trying to detect flirtation since people tend to be so bad at it, and just ask out everybody you’re interested in if you think that would be socially appropriate.

For someone who feels anxious about flirtation and wants guidance, even having a rule or strategy for going about it that’s a non-toxic and plausible interpretation of these empirical findings might help. Certainly a controlled study might help, though it seems hard to blind it or to execute a flirtation strategy reliably.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Let the AI teach you how to flirt · 2020-09-19T15:58:46.659Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It actually is how I was proposing this information could be used:

“This suggests that if you can get your partner to engage in their own natural flirting style, and get good at detecting it, then you can guess their intentions with much more confidence than the average person is capable of.“

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Let the AI teach you how to flirt · 2020-09-18T15:51:11.346Z · score: 12 (8 votes) · LW · GW

My take is that we’re trying to do both in equal measure, and that a big part of showing you’re a desirable mate is showing that you know how to flirt.

In fact, my gut feeling is that signaling that you’re interested/are flirting is more important. When meeting a stranger, there’s plenty of time to suss out their desirable qualities as time goes on. But if you fail to signal interest, you miss out on the opportunity to discover those desirable qualities entirely.

There are plenty of people who’d make excellent mates who fail to find relationships because they don’t know how to tell when somebody is interested in them. Likewise, there are people who are terrible mates but have no trouble finding relationships because they know how to tell when somebody’s interested in them.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Against Victimhood · 2020-09-18T15:40:44.685Z · score: 9 (7 votes) · LW · GW

My favorite part of this post is your comment on how rejection of your own victim mentality helped you develop empathy for the difficult dating experiences of women. I experienced the same thing, and it strikes me as both true and counterintuitive.

My hesitancy is around weaving together so many areas of life under the title “victimhood.” I’m not ready to accept that Palestine’s problems are due to millions of Palestinians refusing to cast off their victim mentality. Their experience is structurally different from that of a man having a tough time dating, or a person falling for a scam. It’s totally fair to critique left wing activists for not having an in depth understanding of the issue.

Although I’m no longer a leftist, I was in college. I don’t think it’s quite fair to say they’re all in it to burnish their radical credentials. Instead, I’d say that their collective anxiety about acceptance by the others is part of what inhibits them from that in-depth research. It’s all too easy to cast victimology as the new oppressor, and I fear that this post teeters on the verge of that.

But I do like this post. The victim narrative is about demanding empathy from others, and people who support it fear that if people reject the narrative, then they are rejecting empathy. Not so. Empathy can be two-fold: acknowledging the unique external difficulties another person faces, while also feeling compassion for the ways in which their attitude and actions may compound those problems.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Rationality for Kids? · 2020-09-18T15:13:46.931Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That’s fair! I think that’s a good idea to explore and I think it’s great to try things out. If you try something and the kids don’t take to it, no harm done :)

One thing you could try is some probability. There’s a classic intro stats demo where you have a class come up with fake sequences of 20 coin flips in a row, and generate some real sequences of 20 coin flips as well, all while the teacher is out of the room. Then the teacher comes in and guesses which are real and which are fake.

They can do that because people tend to generate fake sequences with too few stretches of repeated heads and tails.

Kids can flip a coin, they’d have fun trying to trick you, and when you guessed right, it might seem like a magic trick. You can also teach them a few things about probability and dice rolls and help them see how it applies to board games.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Rationality for Kids? · 2020-09-17T20:05:48.210Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This hasn't been my experience with kids, honestly. Nor is it my interpretation of the education literature that there's overwhelming evidence that making science education flashy is an optimal strategy. It's hard to do good science education while keeping the flash, and flash isn't the most durable emotion.

Instead, I find that kids like novelty and play, and they also like to feel capable and appreciated for their knowledge. Things don't have to be flashy to be novel and playful to children. Close observation of the world can reveal novelty to them even in things that are familiar, like the patterns on a garden spider's back, or seeing a rainbow in water sprayed from a hose. Making a routine practice of pointing out these phenomena, asking them about it, and making exploring the world in this manner a part of your relationship is the way I would approach things.

I question whether making young kids invent falsifiable models and do controlled experiments is really the best way to kick off their science education. Science education, even in college, is far more about having them read about other people's discoveries and observing the world closely than it is about lab work. Undergraduates rarely if ever invent their own experiments or models.

Nothing wrong with having your kids do an experiment here and there if it's fun. But if it were my own children, I'd have them peer through telescopes, look at bugs with a magnifying glass, follow an ant to see if they can find its nest, build a Halloween costume that incorporates some home-made electronics, learn to program a computer game, help you cook a recipe that requires them to double all the proportions of the ingredients, and other things like that. I earnestly believe that the desire to analyze the world follows from a habit of observing it closely.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on capybaralet's Shortform · 2020-09-17T17:09:28.607Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Be brave. Get clear on your own intentions. Feel out their comfort level with talking about X first. 

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on What Does "Signalling" Mean? · 2020-09-17T15:39:55.460Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

These two domains seen to capture the twin aspects of my favorite signaling topic, flirtation. “Cheap talk” is where you try and display your attractive qualities. “Bayesian persuasion” is where you reveal information, often non-verbally, in order to get someone to escalate, back off, change their tactics, and so on.

I think some of the confusion with signaling arises from the fact that the labels aren’t very intuitive and that these two domains are easy to either conflate, or focus on one at the expense of the other.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Rationality for Kids? · 2020-09-17T15:23:45.633Z · score: 18 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I’ve been teaching this age range for the last ten years. Knowing that the dynamic and priorities of each family are different, I hesitate to over-advise.

But I have a few areas to focus on:

  1. Closely observing the natural world, asking leading questions to get them to articulate details of what they see.
  2. Learning a bit about key scientific principles, and using them to explain the world they’re familiar with.
  3. Use paradox to awaken the puzzle-solving itch.

Ask them what would happen if a store started charging $100 for their favorite candy bar. Or what if the principle of their school had to buy all the kids’ school supplies and decide who gets what. Explain evolution and the basic needs of a plant, then dig up a garden weed and use those ideas to explain its structure. Ask them “When you put ice cubes in a glass of water, why does the ice always melt rather than the water turning all to ice?” Or tell them that “you said abracadabra when you got a cut on your finger and it got better a few days later, so saying abracadabra makes cuts get better,” then ask them how they know you’re wrong.

Together, this gives them practice in all the basic methods of science. Keep it light, keep it fun. When their puzzle-solver’s habit is well established, they‘ll be more likely to feel a need for the clarity that more formal methods can offer.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Eukryt Wrts Blg · 2020-09-17T02:22:23.685Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think that what "signalling" does that "communication" does not is when we use it to analyze how specific actions convey meaning. For example, there's a rich literature on flirting, in which scientists try to break down how various physical postures and gestures interact with things like laughter to signal attraction or aversion. "Communication" tends to imply a conscious, explicit, primarily verbal way of getting information across. "Signalling" tends to imply a subconscious, implicit, and primarily nonverbal way of getting information across. I think what we need isn't so much a taboo on these terms as a clarification of what the difference is between them.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform · 2020-09-16T23:47:17.441Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've been thinking about honesty over the last 10 years. It can play into at least three dynamics.

One is authority and resistance. The revelation or extraction of information, and the norms, rules, laws, and incentives surrounding this, including moral concepts, are for the primary purpose of shaping the power dynamic.

The second is practical communication. Honesty is the idea that specific people have a "right to know" certain pieces of information from you, and that you meet this obligation. There is wide latitude for "white lies," exaggeration, storytelling, "noble lies," self-protective omissions, image management, and so on in this conception. It's up to the individual's sense of integrity to figure out what the "right to know" entails in any given context.

The third is honesty as a rigid rule. Honesty is about revealing every thought that crosses your mind, regardless of the effect it has on other people. Dishonesty is considered a person's natural and undesirable state, and the ability to reveal thoughts regardless of external considerations is considered a form of personal strength.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Against boots theory · 2020-09-14T20:06:51.777Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was thinking about work boots - something you'd wear daily all year long, like I imagine Vimes' boots would be. When I read about construction worker boots, they typically say the boots last 6 months to a few years tops. But it does still sound like upgrading from $20 to $200 boots turned out to save money. The point still stands though that Vimes' belief that he both can't afford the more expensive boots, and that it's this that's the main cause of socioeconomic unfairness, is probably wrong.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Against boots theory · 2020-09-14T17:28:14.745Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

From a literary point of view, I think Sam Vimes' inner monologue is a nice example of the kind of half-baked logic that people often construct in their minds when they're trying to form an intuitive understanding of their own lives. After all, in reality, even a pair of good work boots is only going to last 6-12 months. Vimes has never had the money to buy a pair of $50 boots, so he has wildly exaggerated notions of how long they last.

Given that he thinks that it's his boots holding him back and that $40 can't be impossible for him to come by, Vimes is also probably not great at budgeting and doesn't really know the extent of his expenses. So he has exaggerated notions of how many other expense categories he has for this strategy of buying high-quality for the long term would even apply to.

It's a terrible economic theory because poor people like Vimes sometimes hold terrible economic theories, which is part (and only part) of the reason why they stay poor. And that's what makes it great writing.

When the author labels it a "theory of socioeconomic unfairness," he's being deeply ironic. You'd expect that analyzing one's own economic problems would help them to solve them. Instead, Vimes' theories seem to be keeping him poor. The more he broods on it, the less attention he has to give to tractable ways to improve his financial situation.

Boots theory is the economics equivalent to getting run over by an ambulance.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Loneliness and the paradox of choice · 2020-09-10T20:58:00.208Z · score: 9 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for the positive feedback and taking the time to read!

One area where I'd differ with you slightly is when you describe inconsequential choices as "neurotic." I want to be a little more precise here.

I think that the bad in-the-moment feeling of neuroticism comes not from bad choices, but from disorganized choices - a bad process for decision-making, rather than from bad decisions.

Hence, a person who has had conventionally "bad" life outcomes - broke, unmarried, transient housing - might feel wonderful if he's, say, living in a cabin in the woods during the winter and hikes all spring, summer, and fall. Or if he's a solitary monk. Or a military special ops soldier for whom the entirety of their life's structure is dictated by their mission. My guess too is that some people who sink into long-term addiction do so because, although it destroys many other areas of their life, it makes things oh so very simple. What do I do today? Drink and sit around. When I'm drunk, I won't even have the capacity to think about doing anything else. Simple.

And of course, a person who's had conventionally "good" life outcomes - rich, married, and so on - might feel terrible if he's constantly faced with ever-changing complex problems related to his work or his marriage, doesn't have a well-structured lifestyle, or creates problems for himself with his wealth.

Bill Gates seems like a relatively happy rich person. His marriage seems to be very stable, and I understand that his work time is rigidly structured. These are just a couple observations, of course, but he seems to have found a way to keep things simple and pay other people to take care of as many details and logistical issues as possible.

The ideal to strive for is a life that is simple/structured, and also healthy/successful. But if you have to pick one, most people are going to choose the former over the latter. The timeless wisdom of every spiritual tradition on this planet is that people dramatically underrate how important simplicity and structure is for their well being. Providing it is their reason for being.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Loneliness and the paradox of choice · 2020-09-09T23:51:13.097Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for the insightful and constructive comment!

For me, it's mostly the other way around. Loneliness is an outward manifestation of a fundamental decision-making problem. It's in large part a longing for the structure that other people can provide. I suspect that this accounts for the "all methods of therapy are about equally effective" phenomenon. They all help us make decisions, give us some structure and sense of direction. I wonder if there are any modalities that are directly focused on giving people the ability to make decisions more easily.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform · 2020-09-04T02:50:17.488Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How to reach simplicity?

You can start with complexity, then simplify. But that's style.

What would it mean to think simple?

I don't know. But maybe...

  • Accept accepted wisdom.
  • Limit your words.
  • Rehearse your core truths, think new thoughts less.
  • Start with inner knowledge. Intuition. Genius. Vision. Only then, check yourself.
  • Argue if you need to, but don't ever debate. Other people can think through any problem you can. Don't let them stand in your way just because they haven't yet.
  • If you know, let others find their own proofs. Move on with the plan.
  • Be slow. Rest. Deliberate. Daydream. But when you find the right project, unleash everything you have. Learn what you need to learn and get the job done right.
Comment by allamericanbreakfast on AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform · 2020-09-04T02:02:43.147Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's true, of course. My post is really a counter to a few straw-Vulcan tendencies: intelligence signalling, overthinking everything, and being super argumentative all the time. Just wanted to practice what I'm preaching!

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on "How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read", by Pierre Bayard · 2020-09-03T14:27:57.772Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I only skimmed this post, because I understood it before I read it. A fundamental mistake here is thinking of the book as the primary unit of knowledge - a mistake Elizabeth has covered in one of her recent posts.

Of course you can reference Arthur without having read The Once And Future King. That legend is a story that‘s conveyed in many other books and movies, and sometimes still told orally. So perhaps we should replace this with a category called “Dispersed Books” (DB). The Bible is another example. So is Guns, Germs, and Steel.

By contrast, a truly unread book is one whose stories or arguments aren’t broadly known. You’ve never heard of it, or if you have, you know in advance that you’d sound like an idiot trying to talk about it.

Those are just a couple disagreements. I have many more with the categorization scheme.

But the deeper issue at hand isn’t “how do we know what we know.” It’s “how do we police our discussions with other people“ and “how do we justify our beliefs about what we know?”

In a context where you’re vibing, aka shooting the shit, it’s fine to act like you’re way more informed than you really are. That’s kind of the point.

In other contexts, where you’re presenting yourself as a credible authority, you need to make a clear distinction between “ideas you’re an authority on,” “ideas you’re familiar with” and “books you’ve read.”

The smartest people I’ve listened to do this very carefully.

So if the underlying message of this argument is “it’s ok to shoot the shit,” I agree. If it’s “sometimes stories and ideas can be conveyed by texts other than the original,” that’s trivially true. If it’s “you can make assumptions about the contents of a given book, then opine on the book itself,” that seems very wrong to me.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform · 2020-09-03T03:45:28.995Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Better rationality should lead you to think less, not more. It should make you better able to

  • Set a question aside
  • Fuss less over your decisions
  • Accept accepted wisdom
  • Be brief

while still having good outcomes. What's your rationality doing to you?

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on ricraz's Shortform · 2020-08-27T14:17:45.925Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That’s definitely a concern too! I imagine such groups forming among people who either already share a basic common view, and collaborate to investigate more deeply. That way, any status-anchoring effects are mitigated.

Alternatively, it could be an adversarial collaboration. For me personally, some of the SSC essays in this format have led me to change my mind in a lasting way.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on ricraz's Shortform · 2020-08-26T16:16:05.679Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I’ve been thinking about the idea of “social rationality” lately, and this is related. We do so much here in the way of training individual rationality - the inputs, functions, and outputs of a single human mind. But if truth is a product, then getting human minds well-coordinated to produce it might be much more important than training them to be individually stronger. Just as assembly line production is much more effective in producing almost anything than teaching each worker to be faster in assembling a complete product by themselves.

My guess is that this could be effective not only in producing useful products, but also in overcoming biases. Imagine you took 5 separate LWers and asked them to create a unified consensus response to a given article. My guess is that they’d learn more through that collective effort, and produce a more useful response, than if they spent the same amount of time individually evaluating the article and posting their separate replies.

Of course, one of the reasons we don’t to that so much is that coordination is an up-front investment and is unfamiliar. Figuring out social technology to make it easier to participate in might be a great project for LW.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on What posts on finance would your find helpful or interesting? · 2020-08-23T19:24:10.497Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Caveat: Articles like this do already exist. It's just that I never thought to seek one out until about yesterday. It's probably better for someone with your experience to write new content rather than to do a new spin on old content, unless you are familiar enough with the "for beginners" content that's out there to have a sense of how it could be improved.

For anybody who's like me, here's a place to start.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on What posts on finance would your find helpful or interesting? · 2020-08-23T19:18:58.074Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A post on the absolute basics of how stocks work, written for an intelligent, open-minded, yet totally uninformed audience.

It could cover info on how and why stock gets created in the first place, regulatory agencies and what they do, what benefits and risks are attached to stock ownership, the different ways it can earn money for its owners, and then get into the more theoretical stuff and weird behavior that tends to get talked about more.

The reason I'd like to read this is that I've picked up all my (limited) financial knowledge from conversations, news articles, and podcasts. I've never tried to understand finance from the ground up, so my knowledge feels very patchy.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Maybe Lying Can't Exist?! · 2020-08-23T14:14:02.452Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. In this post, lying is reinterpreted as an honest signal that there are liars in our midst. The response to lying happens through a passive process of evolution.

In the human world, to accuse somebody of lying means not only that we’ve updated our probabilities on whether they‘re a liar, but is a signal to others that we should fight back, to the liar that they’ve been discovered, and to ourselves that we should protect ourselves against the threat. You could say we have an active cultural immune system against lying. “Lying” is a reference to deceptive human behavior that takes place within this context.

What would a collective of AI agents do? Hard to say. Maybe something akin to what we do, or maybe something entirely different due to its greater speed, intelligence, and different construction.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Live a life you feel excited about · 2020-08-22T16:52:35.995Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My overall reaction to your post is that it’s obviously true once you’re in that good stable equilibrium, and that 90% of just about anybody’s challenge with akrasia is in getting there! Of course, probably the answer to the question of how to get to that good place is something like “don’t be depressed and anxious, do enough right things to maintain your emotional health, and have a life that has a manageable level of stress.” A notoriously hard problem...

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Live a life you feel excited about · 2020-08-21T21:32:59.693Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I personally like the idea that you can create your own intrinsic motivation!

Perhaps a distillation is that you can build intrinsic motivation in three ways:

  • Choose more motivating tasks
  • Approach boring tasks in a more exciting way
  • Hype yourself up, especially by telling an exciting story about the task

My guess is that skepticism will come from a few caveats:

  • This seems inauthentic, or else it just shifts more burden on the individual to make intolerable situations feel tolerable. Not only do you have hoops to jump through, you have to like it.
  • Are you sure that the excitement you feel is as strong and lasting as you claim? Are you sure it’s deriving from the activities you’ve listed? Why do you think these activities would help other people?
  • Is it better to take time to optimize for excitement, or just to slog through as efficiently as possible and carve out more time to do thinks that you find exciting without having to artificially generate that emotion?
  • Are you sure that these practices aren’t just part of your normal workflow? Are you discovering something that is new and helpful to you, or just noticing an experience you’ve been having all along?
Comment by allamericanbreakfast on AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform · 2020-08-21T03:31:47.872Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would be interested in arguments about why we should eschew them that don't resort to activist ideas of making the world a "better place" by purging the world of irrationality and getting everybody on board with a more scientific framework for understanding social reality or psychology.

I'm more interested in why individual people should anticipate that exploring these spiritual frameworks will make their lives worse, either hedonistically or by some reasonable moral framework. Is there a deontological or utilitarian argument against them?

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform · 2020-08-21T03:13:20.241Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You can justify all sorts of spiritual ideas by a few arguments:

  1. They're instrumentally useful in producing good feelings between people.
  2. They help you escape the typical mind fallacy.
  3. They're memetically refined, which means they'll fit better with your intuition than, say, trying to guess where the people you know fit on the OCEAN scale.
  4. They're provocative and generative of conversation in a way that scientific studies aren't. Partly that's because the language they're wrapped in is more intriguing, and partly isn't because everybody's on a level playing field.
  5. It's a way to escape the trap of intelligence-signalling and lowers the barrier for verbalizing creative ideas. If you're able to talk about astrology, it lets people feel like they have permission to babble.
  6. They're aesthetically pleasing if you don't take them too seriously
Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Should we write more about social life? · 2020-08-21T02:35:00.261Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Here are some posts I would categorize as good based on these criteria:

Anti-social Punishment: Based on empirical literature, draws on author's extensive familiarity with Slovak culture to help flesh out those studies.

The Virtue of Silence: Providing an original and logical take on several specific, publicly-relevant situations, then generalizing from it.

Ambiguous posts:

Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism: Draws on a little bit of empirical data (the LW survey) and theory (signalling). May stretch the substance a little thin, especially given that it asks you to question why you believe what you believe your most well-thought-out positions, in a way that's kind of unfalsifiable - because are you just being a meta-meta-contrarian?

Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate: Weaves together empirical evidence and Bayesian principles with anecdote and intuition pumps; having no single point, it's hard to argue with or use as a reference.

The Nature of Offense: Sensible and necessary (because it deals with an in-community fracas that's not going to receive a more formal treatment). But doesn't engage with any external data or theory.

Edgy theories of everything:

Of Two Minds: Vague references to evo-psych, uses lots of LW- and cherry-picked examples, no attempt at addressing a counterargument.

Antimemes: No data, no concrete examples, conspiracy-ish.

I wonder if we agree.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Should we write more about social life? · 2020-08-20T20:24:13.343Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My complaint about "Rational Toothpaste" is that it's too wordy. Applying the principle of more dakkawould have led the author to invest in all of it without another moments' thought.

Comment by allamericanbreakfast on Why haven't we celebrated any major achievements lately? · 2020-08-18T17:04:12.859Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps what has waned is merely the ticker-tape parade and a certain form of newspaper reportage. Parades are inconvenient for traffic and not that much fun, so why spend the money? We seem to expect our newspapers to serve more of a social criticism function. Not “Yay, a new COVID-19 drug!” but “Who’s going to be profiting off the new COVID-19 drug?”

As Don Draper said to Peggy when she asked for a thank you, “That’s what the money’s for.”