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Comment by Ben Schwyn (ben-schwyn) on The feeling of breaking an Overton window · 2021-02-17T17:29:46.206Z · LW · GW

Sometimes when asked a threatening question, or an nonthreatening question in a threatening situation, I get a sense of total blankness and loss of memory. I have no ability to remember or grasp at content relating to the answer to their question. I can see this from the outside, and still probably talk about other things, or if I wish, talk around the blank spot and hope to spiral into it. It feels like the piece of me with relevant knowledge is 'playing dead' until the threat is gone.

My natural inclination is to hold still and watch myself, and see the parts of me that feel alive slowly expand until they include the 'playing dead' part, and it wakes up, and then it might be able to speak. This is somewhat socially awkward. What happens in a conversation going at normal speed without room for a pause is that I feel a strong pull to reach for something other than myself that can speak for me. Anything but my words. Sometimes it's something i can look up, like a book, or document, (that maybe I can pull from my phone or memory), if not I feel a pull towards confirming the question asker's expectations and worldview. Like I can imagine that if I was in a similar situation of buying tons of food and they asked me if it was for the virus, but actually I was buying it for my nuclear bomb shelter, I would feel really easy to say "sure... yeah". Then having said something that was at least slightly in the direction of the truth, I would feel more free to follow up with "well actually...". But sometimes I just end up saying the non-confrontational false thing and it never gets corrected.

Usually this only happens when there are other social norms and pressures going on that make it so I feel unable to talk about or mention the sense of threat.

Comment by Ben Schwyn (ben-schwyn) on Where do (did?) stable, cooperative institutions come from? · 2020-11-04T23:56:03.943Z · LW · GW

Also on crime, I'm not sure the relevance or cause, but NYC's crime rate jumped in the 70s & 80s, then dropped again in the 90s. If anyone knew a good source for the cause of this I'd be curious.

Comment by Ben Schwyn (ben-schwyn) on Where do (did?) stable, cooperative institutions come from? · 2020-11-04T06:33:17.485Z · LW · GW

One possibility if that if a group has safety in resources then they can start competing or peacocking on ethics. Like when the New York Times is doing well, then they can have their journalists do rewarding, risky work which might get them Pullitzer Prizes, and be conservative when considering journalistic ethic violations.  This is good for individual journalists and also the paper's reputation. Now, with the livelihood of their paper less secure they've made many small sacrifices against journalistic ethics to increase or keep revenue stable, which hurts both the individuals and the paper.

I would put this as a specific sub-example of what I might consider the "Eric Weinstein / Peter Thiel / Robert Gordon / Tyler Cowen Stagnation Hypothesis" where they might suggest something like this happening on a larger scale.

Comment by Ben Schwyn (ben-schwyn) on Where do (did?) stable, cooperative institutions come from? · 2020-11-04T05:33:57.101Z · LW · GW

Al

Comment by Ben Schwyn (ben-schwyn) on Rationality for Kids? · 2020-09-17T08:21:18.711Z · LW · GW

He used to have a nice website that had lessons or philosophy for his middle school class (Thingmakery?) but I can't find it with google.

Comment by Ben Schwyn (ben-schwyn) on How do you study a math textbook? · 2020-03-24T21:00:26.737Z · LW · GW

I read math for personal enjoyment, so note that I don't have many checks on my understanding, besides my ability to read more math and feel like I understand.

As I read the book I mentally keep track of how difficult it feels and how much things make sense. If things feel more difficult than I'll make notes as I go through. The notes are more for the purpose of moving slowly through each statement --- otherwise I might skip sentences. I'll draw pictures and label everything in the picture and maybe do a really simple example.

A lot of my focus is on creating mental visualizations and creating a mapping from the definition to the visualization, or from the written proof to the visualization. I'm not sure how to describe it, but different aspects of the visual might seem 'looser' and ambiguous or 'tighter' and well defined, and this guides my thinking. I'll go back and forth trying to work out an example on paper and figuring out how the picture changes until it seems well defined. For example, I've been doing some topology lately, and have been constructing different pictures of lines or shapes and imaginary manifolds and removing different size pieces of them to get an idea of what is considered connected and what is not connected.

Previously I used to do lots of exercises, but I've found the above thing seems to help me learn better and make the exercises easier when I do them, so I've been doing fewer exercises. With exercises where I can look through the book and find a proof that use a similar method and modify it to solve the problem, and then I feel like I've just copied it instead of learning anything, so I often skip these types of problems. For something I'm learning to use for something else (I'm learning math to understand physics better) I do the simple check-your-understanding exercises and move on.

At the end of a chapter of few, I make a 'note sheet' where I add definitions and examples to a single (or several) sheet of paper, as though I was in college and preparing for an exam.

What I haven't figured out is that sometimes I come across small things that I'm not able to understand. Sometimes I ask questions on stack exchange, but find this really breaks up my routine, so if they seem like confusions with minimal impact I move on.

Comment by Ben Schwyn (ben-schwyn) on How effective are tulpas? · 2020-03-11T05:00:33.920Z · LW · GW

I'll add that I've similarly found believing that I have beliefs in my head that are not mine was extremely disorienting. I have epistemic defenses I've built up for keeping out bad beliefs. Once I started believing that I had thoughts inside my head but were 'other'--- then I had what seemed like the mental version of an allergic reaction, where a bunch of my brain was treating another part of it as a foreign invader and trying to destroy it. It seemed like my epistemic defenses were turned inward. This only happened once or twice but was quite disorienting and destabilizing.

However, compartmentalization definitely does seem like a thing in this area that is not generally considered dangerous. So that seems interesting.

I do find Internal Family Systems to be quite helpful though.

Comment by Ben Schwyn (ben-schwyn) on If You Want to Win, Stop Conceding · 2019-05-24T06:56:14.421Z · LW · GW

A note on what this feels like in my body:

When I start feeling like giving up, then I might notice my lips shaking and other signs of nervousness and stress, like jaw clenching. If I notice this and move my body into what is closer to a fighting position (forehead forward, chin down to protect my neck, something about my lower back muscles move slightly), then I feel more relaxed, engaged, and determined, and find it easier to think about object level thoughts about how to win.

If I do the opposite, and move my head back and open my throat, then I will often shake more and feel more comfortable removing myself from the situation. Doing this at the same time as trying to relax is something like the feeling I associate with 'being ok with losing', which is sometimes appropriate. I've found experimenting with both positions helpful.


Comment by Ben Schwyn (ben-schwyn) on Dependability · 2019-03-26T23:29:15.739Z · LW · GW

There is another aspect of this for me that seems related when I think about the word 'responsibility', that if I don't follow through, or don't commit, or am not reliable, then there are consequences of this. If I don't learn to dance, then I'll probably have slightly less fun dancing. If I am not a reliable person, then that means my friends have one less person they can rely on, if my house is not clean, that is one less place other people have that they can feel clean, if I am not working towards meaningful things, then the world and the people in it are in a sense 'missing out' on this. Responsibility seems to be something like recognizing these consequences.

When I am working on a group project, there seems to be a big jump between when I feel the responsibility and not. When I am not taking responsibility, then I feel very free to contribute as little or as much as I feel like. I float in and out of doing other things and setting intentions for big things and small, but there doesn't seem to be much of a difference between when I succeed at what I intended to do or not, and I don't feel much desire to track this. If I commit to something, this seems to go hand in hand with a recognition of negative outcome, or lost positive outcome if I fail, which is the responsibility.

That feels like a burden, like I am constantly aware of a scary thing, and it tugs at my attention until it feels certain I will succeed. It also can feel like a debt, where I want to make sure that I have 'done my part'.

There seems to be a thing like 'managing responsibility levels', where taking on too much responsibility compared to your perception of your ability to succeed at tasks leads can lead to anxiety or other mental health problems, or at least lots of pain from failing.