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Comment by aubrey on Productivity poll: how frequently do you think you *should* check email? · 2015-01-12T11:26:40.027Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is a useful tip. However, I find that many sites do not accept email addresses with + in them.

In the past I also found that I sometimes could not remember what I had added after the +, or even that I had put a +, so I could not sign in. Now I use a password manager so this part is no longer a problem for me.

Comment by aubrey on 2015 Repository Reruns - Boring Advice Repository · 2015-01-12T10:49:57.418Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Get enough sleep. It will give you better intelligence, happiness and health.

There is existing lots of research on how very bad sleep deprivation is for cognitive performance. Many smart people are keen to get smarter by taking nootropic drugs, which have not so good evidence of effectiveness, and not much evidence for long term safety.

Not to be sleep deprived is a massive, free cognitive enhancement. Not only is it good for your cognition. The long term health effects have been studied, and it is not only not bad for you, it is indeed very good for your health. You will almost certainly live longer as well as smarter!

Many smart people also stay up late at night and get up too early to get enough sleep. This is a bad bargain. It is hard to change this habit. However, the gains are potentially very big for people.

I have changed my behaviour before big days at work when I have to appear smart. In the past I am staying up late the night before to practice and prepare. I would not prepare for such meetings by drinking alcohol, because I know it would impair my cognitive function, including how well I am able to assess my own cognitive function, so I would not perceive how impaired I was. But I did prepare for such meetings by not sleeping properly, although the effect is the same. Now I go to bed early that night. I feel I am much smarter, and have had more success recently in these big days.

I consider going to bed early is my secret weapon to get smarter. This is a trick to make it seem more fun than staying up late playing a computer game instead!

Comment by aubrey on What steep learning curve do you wish you'd climbed sooner? · 2014-09-04T19:34:44.434Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I do not like "steep learning curve" the way people use it. It raises my probability estimate that person using it has done no study of learning. This reduces my probability estimate that they have sound insight about learning.

Sometimes I work with learning curves for machine learning or human learning. These curves are plots of a measure of learning (say, correct score, or number of mistakes) versus time or number of trials or number of training examples or number of iterations. When topic is hard, curve is shallow! It takes more learning to improve score or reduce mistakes. Steep learning curve means topic is easy. Mastery comes with very few repeats or little time or little data.

Does anyone know why so many use it wrong, to mean topic is hard and progress is slow? I believe Wikipedia article is right and "learning curves" must come from scientific study. How did meaning get reversed? Wikipedia article says "Arguably, the common English use is due to metaphorical interpretation of the curve as a hill to climb." but has no citation.

Comment by aubrey on Open thread, 18-24 March 2014 · 2014-04-27T16:31:08.702Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have spoken to an optician as in reply to other message in this thread.

I have also asked at a computer science department in a European university. It was funny! Everybody in the department except some grad students had myopia. Many of the older faculty also had myopia. But nobody had LASIK. Sorry I did not count properly. My visit was for other reason. However, I can say the modal mode of vision correction was glasses for distance vision and taken off for reading or computers. There were also some people with varifocal glasses. There were also some people with contact lenses for distance vision and reading glasses for reading or computers.

Comment by aubrey on Open thread, 18-24 March 2014 · 2014-04-27T16:26:32.429Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I was not clear. I do not think that presbyopia corrects myopia. It even makes it worse at distance. But at close myopia can offset the effect of presbyopia.

As presbyopia narrows your zone of focus, you can not focus as close as previously. If you have myopia, you can focus at much closer distances than people with normal vision. Before presbyopia, this is not much use. When presbyopia develops, you have more close vision to spare, and can still read a book or a computer screen when people with normal vision would need reading glasses.

I will give a simplified example. A person has mild myopia, and needs a correction to focus at infinity, of strength -2.50 dioptres. They have successful LASIK surgery which gives them normal vision. They develop severe presbyopia, and require a correction of +2.50 dioptres to be able to focus at a comfortable reading distance. They now need reading glasses. If they had not had LASIK surgery they would need distance glasses but would not need reading glasses. They can gain the correction of +2.50 dioptres by taking off their distance glasses.

This is why I say, "[with successful LASIK] you get better distance vision but also you get worse close vision as presbyopia develops.". What is more important may vary from person to person.

I have spoken to an optician about this, and she was mostly confirming this. This is only N=1 argument from authority though! She agreed of course that people with myopia and presbyopia can get good close vision by taking off their distance glasses. They do not need reading glasses, unless they wear contact lenses or have had LASIK. However, I must say that she did not not think that this would be a reason for most young people to not have LASIK. She said would certainly not advise LASIK for people with presbyopia or who would likely have it soon. She said also that people who wear contact lenses for myopia who get presbyopia, she will suggest under-correction in one eye, so that they have good distance vision in one eye and good close vision in the other.

Need for glasses is not a binary variable. It has more states than that. It must at least include 'need distance glasses' and 'need reading glasses'.

Comment by aubrey on Open thread, 18-24 March 2014 · 2014-03-20T12:51:12.139Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Laser eye surgery (LASIK) is being suggested by several people on LessWrong, who suggest it is a costly procedure that has high likelihood to improve your life. I do not think this is a good trade-off across a life time, because presbyopia.

Almost all humans experience presbyopia. This is age-related deterioration in the ability of the eye to adjust focus. In history, the biggest effect for most people is reduced ability to read, but now it also is affecting the ability to use computers.

If you have myopia (short sight), you can not see distant objects without distance glasses. However, myopia means that you will retain the ability to focus at close distance for longer as presbyopia develops.

So LASIK surgery is not only trading money for better distance vision: if it works, you get better distance vision but also you get worse close vision as presbyopia develops.

How long will you live in each condition?

According to last year's survey, the mean age is 27.4 (stdev 8.5). Presbyopia usually develops from age 40. Let us disregard the possibility of uploading because the mean date for the singularity is 2150. Life expectancy for a 27-year-old US male is 50 years. This is likely an underestimate. It is a period life expectancy, not a cohort life expectancy, and we do expect future improvements in longevity. It is, too, a population average. LessWrongers are smarter and better educated than average, which is associated with longer life. We will nonetheless use it for illustration.

So, very roughly, the trade for an average LessWronger considering LASIK is reduced need for glasses for 13 years against increased need for glasses for 37 years, or longer. Also, I guess that most LessWrongers with myopia spend much more time reading and using computers than doing tasks that require distance vision. I also guess they value those activities more.

Therefore this does not seem a good trade to me even if it were free of cost and risk.

Have I made a mistake? Has anyone more data? I know old people with presbyopia and I know young people with LASIK but I do not know anyone who has both. I guess some people on LessWrong have LASIK, but very few or no people have presbyopia, so I expect no people here with both. I guess that in universities there are faculty members who have both so I will ask on my next visits. Sometimes it seems even that all faculty members have myopia!

Comment by aubrey on Open Thread: March 4 - 10 · 2014-03-08T07:06:48.223Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I am happy my idea made you happy!

Maybe try a short pencil or something, so you can keep your mouth closed.

I do not think this will work. The theory is that holding the pencil in your teeth contracts the same muscles you use to smile (zygomaticus major, risorius). If you can keep your mouth closed, these muscles will not be affected in the same way. I think any other object that is long enough should work. I use a mechanical pencil.

Comment by aubrey on Open Thread: March 4 - 10 · 2014-03-07T14:38:03.472Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I have had a ridiculous munchkin idea. My idea is to hold a pencil in your teeth to increase productivity.

There are some reasons to believe that being happy makes you more productive, rather (just?) than the other way round. This research is quite new. This does not mean it is wrong, but it is not replicated well. If it is true, you can make yourself more productive by making yourself happier.

Forced smiling may make you feel happier. It is hard to force smile when you are not happy. It is even harder to do work and force smile at the same time. When I try this, I forget to force smile.

There are some reasons to believe that holding a pencil in your teeth makes you happier. This research is very old. This does not mean it is wrong, but it is not replicated well.

I have just had this idea. It seems to be widely known as an idea to make you happy, but not to make you productive. I have not yet time to test it for a long period. Short-term results are that I feel silly. I do not want to do this in the office. However, I am smiling because the idea is fun. In my subjective opinion this makes me more productive.

Comment by aubrey on Open thread for December 17-23, 2013 · 2013-12-21T21:18:58.718Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My guess is that a mild refusal would be acceptable to Google. They are unlikely to be put off by a change of subject.

A hard refusal might annoy them, if they persist in asking.

I suggest naming a very high figure first, to gain benefit from the anchoring effect. Then mentioning your salary will make it the anchor for the negotiation. Google has a reputation for paying high salaries.

If you are looking for advice on negotiation, I suggest searching for 'anchoring' as well as 'negotiation, to get more evidence-based advice.

Good luck.

Comment by aubrey on Open Thread, November 23-30, 2013 · 2013-11-25T06:27:57.356Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am interested in getting better at negotiation. I have read lots on the subject, but I have realised that I was not very careful about what I read, and what evidence the authors had for their advice. I have stumbled on a useful heuristic to find better writing.

The conventional wisdom in negotiating says you should try very hard to not be the first person to mention a price.

I can see that, if you're the seller, it may make sense to try to convince the buyer that they want the product before you start the price negotiation.

When it comes to the price negotiation though, I am not confident about the conventional wisdom.

Given what we know about anchoring, it seems more likely that the first person to say a figure will tend to anchor the negotiation to that figure, and this will influence the negotiation towards that figure.

I hadn't read anything discussing this until I thought of it myself. But searching for 'anchoring' as well as 'negotiation' qives plenty of links to negotiation advice that looks much more evidence-based than what I'd read before: example. Checking for 'anchoring' in the index would probably work as a filtering technique for books on the subject, but I have not tested this.

Comment by aubrey on Open Thread, November 15-22, 2013 · 2013-11-22T06:44:44.766Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you, this has prompted some very useful thoughts.

you can see a sort of noblesse oblige in others which leads to huge charitable donations and voluntarily forgoing chances to improve their position

This feels close to my situation. I come from a high-privilege family with a long tradition of self-sacrifice and doing good works.

I thought of a theory to explain my situation. Part of my problem is not really wanting to win in negotiations. I do want to win, just not as much as I want to avoid feeling socially awkward and grasping. When the negotiation stakes are small for me, I would rather spend more money and feel better. When the stakes are negligible for all, like in games, I play to win. When the stakes are very high for me, it would be rational to negotiate hard, but I don't do that as much as I want to, out of habit learned on smaller stakes and because I do hyperbolic discounting and weigh feeling awkward now higher than losing lots of money long term.

The stakes in the role play negotiation were negligible, but I still did badly. However, it felt real enough while I was doing it. I was feeling very awkward.

Exposure and deliberate practice seem like good ways of reducing the awkwardness. Another line is to work on the hyperbolic discounting. I could think of the decision in Timeless terms: "I'm making the awkwardness vs profit decision for all similar negotiations." Or I could think what I would advise a needy friend to do.

Comment by aubrey on Open Thread, November 15-22, 2013 · 2013-11-22T06:19:28.058Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There are plenty of real world situations where you can negotiate prices.

Thank you, I hadn't thought properly about that. I was avoiding all those situations. Doing actual negotiations for small stakes is an excellent plan. It's not quite perfect. It doesn't give very good feedback, since I don't get any information about what they would have been willing to settle for if I were a better negotiator.

When you want some form of interacting with your friends, you could bet with them frequently. Betting means that you can negotiate the odds.

I'm interested in this, but my friends really don't like to do it. They also don't want to play games with me for money.

I think part of the reason they don't want to is that they think I will win. But I think I would win less if we played for money!

Comment by aubrey on Open Thread, November 15-22, 2013 · 2013-11-20T10:14:19.434Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That sounds worth trying. Thanks. Intuitively it feels as though it would make me care about the game outcome like I care about real-money negotiations. It also feels as though it would make me suck at the game. But that's progress, because I have a known route to practicing at games.

At first I wanted to say "That's going to cost me money!". But I was fine with the idea of paying for training courses to get better. Financially it comes to the same thing, but loss aversion is at work here.

Thinking that through made me realise I'm muddled about my utility function here. If I play the game to win, I end up spending more money. I already give as much to charity as I feel comfortable with, so it would mean some discomfort.

Comment by aubrey on Open Thread, November 15-22, 2013 · 2013-11-19T22:07:23.999Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting question.

I definitely feel high-status. I'm in a high income percentile, and have substantially higher net worth than that most people with my income history, because I've made good decisions about how to use my income. Obviously, I know people who are higher status and wealth than me, but I mostly compare myself to people who are not. (Partly a deliberate choice to try to boost happiness and life satisfaction.)

There might be a status connection. To exaggerate, it feels more like "someone of my status shouldn't stoop to grubbing around with low-status arguments about money" rather than "someone of my status doesn't deserve money". That might be a contributory factor, but it feels like the effect size is small.

In the negotiations I feel regret about, I definitely felt like the higher-status participant, but the less experienced at negotiation. Or rather, the less effective one.

Comment by aubrey on Open Thread, November 15-22, 2013 · 2013-11-19T21:57:41.826Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you, that's very useful to know.

As it happens I'm in Europe right now, but there are plenty of universities with psych departments nearby so I will check out their calls for participants.

Comment by aubrey on Open Thread, November 15-22, 2013 · 2013-11-19T10:55:40.111Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I've been worried that I'm not very good at negotiating about money. Recently, I had evidence to update in that direction. As part of a course, we paired up and did a negotiation roleplay exercise. I was one of two massive outliers out of thirty who agreed an outcome much, much worse than the rest of the group.

The exercise was structured so that there was quite a lot of space between the two negotiator's bottom lines. I was clear of my bottom line. I got everything I had to get. But almost all of the money that was available for negotiation went to the other person. This seems very familiar from other, real-life contexts I've been in.

I don't like the idea that I'm losing money that I could have just by negotiating better. What can I do to get better?

I've read lots and lots of books and articles, and been on lots of courses. I could write a very convincing guide to negotiation skills. I think that I would find doing more of this very interesting, but it wouldn't make me any better at it in practice.

I've explored more training courses, but haven't found any that offer more than a handful of role plays, and none that promise the sort of feedback that would make deliberate practice#Deliberate_practice) work. Do such courses exist?

My other idea was to practice with friends using games that involve a lot of negotiation. But I'm good at those games already. The skill doesn't seem to transfer over to real-world contexts. Are there games that are very close to real world negotiations?

What have I not thought of?