Posts

BrienneYudkowsky's Shortform 2019-12-03T17:46:19.117Z · score: 18 (5 votes)
Training Reflective Attention 2014-12-21T12:53:52.558Z · score: 23 (25 votes)
Simulate and Defer To More Rational Selves 2014-09-17T18:11:10.505Z · score: 143 (137 votes)
What It's Like to Notice Things 2014-09-17T14:19:02.157Z · score: 50 (40 votes)
A Dialogue On Doublethink 2014-05-11T19:38:47.821Z · score: 55 (60 votes)
On Straw Vulcan Rationality 2014-02-02T08:11:54.705Z · score: 17 (44 votes)
Tell Culture 2014-01-18T20:13:09.414Z · score: 135 (136 votes)
Rational Resolutions: Special CFAR Mini-workshop SATURDAY 2014-01-02T20:32:26.931Z · score: 7 (8 votes)
Human Memory: Problem Set 2013-10-31T04:08:45.436Z · score: 13 (16 votes)
Meditation Trains Metacognition 2013-10-20T00:47:03.927Z · score: 35 (39 votes)
How do you say no? 2013-10-04T03:44:12.712Z · score: 14 (15 votes)
Ketogenic Soylent 2013-09-27T01:17:33.889Z · score: 6 (11 votes)
Polyphasic Sleep Seed Study: Reprise 2013-09-21T22:29:05.744Z · score: 40 (49 votes)
Seed Study: Polyphasic Sleep in Ten Steps 2013-07-11T07:17:20.355Z · score: 31 (36 votes)

Comments

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on BrienneYudkowsky's Shortform · 2020-01-31T02:21:53.761Z · score: 36 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a thing I posted to Facebook four years ago:

In a thread about Jennifer Kahn's NYT article on CFAR, someone observed that there are an awful lot of articles that amount to "techie birdwatching", which are sort of like "check out what this crowd of weird people does, aren't they weird?" Nearly every article I've seen on rationalist-related organizations and events has been like that, and I've noticed it's upset some of my fellow birds. It's mean in real life to treat somebody like a circus freak, and that's how it can feel to be a secondary character in one of these stories.

I responded with (approximately) the following.

About the birdwatching: I think this comes straight from the story structure. (Application of Orson Scott Card's MICE model follows.) If you plan to use narrative structure to give your nonfiction article greater emotional impact, you've sort of got four basic options:

  1. You can start with a puzzle that you'll work with the reader to solve over the course of the story. This could have been "Trustworthy person X claims to have done impressive thing Y using CFAR techniques. How did that happen? I went to a CFAR workshop, and as you may have guessed from the clues I spent most of this article dropping, it turns out the solution to the puzzle is Y."

  2. You can follow a specific person, opening with a dilemma that threatens their self-narrative and role in their community, showing their struggle to re-define themselves, and closing with their adoption of a new self-narrative/role. This could have been, "Tod signed up for a CFAR workshop when he could no longer put up with [thing]. This story is about his struggle to learn and apply the techniques taught at the CFAR workshop he attended, and the person he became as a result."

  3. You can open with a dark force throwing the world into chaos, follow some people who struggle to re-establish order, and close when they've succeeded. This could have been, "Things were fine and dandy at the CFAR worshop until [disaster]. We used a bunch of rationality techniques (which they taught us over the course of the workshop) to deal with [disaster], and in the end things were good again and we had a big party."

  4. You can open with an outsider journeying to a strange new land, show them experiencing a bunch of new and interesting things, and close with them returning home a slightly different person than they were when they set out. This one looks like, "I heard about this interesting thing called CFAR, so I attended a workshop to find out what it was all about. While there, I experienced a bunch of things through the eyes of an outsider on an alien world. Then I went home, and found those experiences stayed with me in a narratively satisfying way."

With the possibilities laid out like that, I think it's pretty easy to see why most reporters are going to augment their straight-facts reporting with 4-type story structure. It's just way easier, unless they happen to be reporting on an organization where they're already an insider. So when a reporter uses 4-type story structure with a Bay Area thing as the setting, the weird and interesting things the main character sees through the eyes of an outsider will be the sort of geeky and bohemian people and behaviors that exist in the Bay. If they didn't approach it like that, then unless they used some other story structure, the narrative would lose almost all of its emotional resonance.

They're not necessarily depicting us as bizarre aliens because they find us incomprehensible and like to make fun of us, or anything like that. They're likely doing it because they know how to tell a good story.

So I think if you want coverage for CFAR (or another unusual organization) that doesn't focus on how it's full of weird geeks and cultish behaviors, I think you have to pitch a journalist a story idea from one of the other three categories of structure, and somehow make it easier and/or more compelling for them to stick to that structure instead of falling back on "I'm an outsider going to a new place to see strange things."

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on BrienneYudkowsky's Shortform · 2019-12-30T21:52:10.154Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

whoa i totally forgot i wrote that

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on BrienneYudkowsky's Shortform · 2019-12-29T18:24:36.700Z · score: 35 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I wrote up my shame processing method. I think it comes from some combination of Max (inspired by NVC maybe?), Anna (mostly indirectly), and a lot of trial and error. I've been using it for a couple of years (in various forms), but I don't have much PCK on it yet. If you'd like to try it out, I'd love for you to report back on how it went! Please also ask me questions.

What's up with shame?

According to me, shame is for keeping your actions in line with what you care about. It happens when you feel motivated to do something that you believe might damage what is valuable (whether or not you actually do the thing).

Shame indicates a particular kind of internal conflict. There's something in favor of the motivation, and something else against it. Both parts are fighting for things that matter to you.

What is this shame processing method supposed to do?

This shame processing method is supposed to aid in the goal of shame itself: staying in contact with what you care about as you act. It's also supposed to develop a clearer awareness of what is at stake in the conflict so you can use your full intelligence to solve the problem.

What is the method?

The method is basically a series of statements with blanks to fill in. The statements guide you a little at a time toward a more direct way of seeing your conflict. Here's a template; it's meant to be filled out in order.

I notice that I feel ashamed. 
I think I first started feeling it while ___.
I care about ___(X). 
I'm not allowed to want ___ (Y). 
I worry that if I want Y, ___.
What's good about Y is ___(Z).
I care about Z, and I also care about X.

Example (a real one, from this morning):

I notice that I feel ashamed. I think I first started feeling it while reading the first paragraph of a Lesswrong post. I care about being creative. I'm not allowed to want to move at a comfortable pace. I worry that if I move at a comfortable pace, my thoughts will slow down more and more over time and I'll become a vegetable. What's good about moving at a comfortable pace is that there's no external pressure, so I get to think and act with more freedom. I care about freedom, and I also care about creativity.

On using the template:

The first statement, "I notice that I feel ashamed," should feel a lot like noticing confusion. To master this method, you'll need to study experiences of shame until you can reliably recognize them.

The second statement, "I think I first started feeling it while ___," should feel like giving a police report. You don't tell stories about what it all means, you just say what happened.

The rest should feel like Focusing. Wait for a felt shift before moving to the next statement.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-26T20:26:33.684Z · score: 16 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Done.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on What are the open problems in Human Rationality? · 2019-12-26T20:20:08.460Z · score: 45 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I feel daunted by the question, "what are the big open questions the field of Human Rationality needs to answer, in order to help people have more accurate beliefs and/or make better decisions?", but I also think that it's the question at the heart of my research interests. So rather than trying to answer the original question directly, I'm going to share a sampling of my current research interests.

Over in the AMA, I wrote, "My way of investigating always pushes into what I can’t yet see or grasp or articulate. Thus, it has the unfortunate property of being quite difficult to communicate about directly until the research program is mostly complete. So I can say a lot about my earlier work on noticing, but talking coherently about what exactly CFAR’s been paying me for lately is much harder." This will not be a clean bulleted list that doubles as a map of rationality, sorry. It'll be more like sampling of snapshots from the parts of my mind that are trying to build rationality. Here's the collage, in no particular order:

There are things you’re subject to, and things you can take as object. For example, I used to do things like cry when an ambulance went by with its siren on, or say “ouch!” when I put a plate away and it went “clink”, yet I wasn’t aware that I was sensitive to sounds. If asked, “Are you sensitive to sounds?” I’d have said “No.” I did avoid certain sounds in local hill-climby ways, like making music playlists with lots of low strings but no trumpets, or not hanging out with people who speak loudly. But I didn’t “know” I was doing these things; I was *subject* to my sound sensitivity. I could not take it as *object*, so I couldn’t deliberately design my daily life to account for it. Now that I can take my sound sensitivity (and many related things) as object, I’m in a much more powerful position. And it *terrifies* me that I went a quarter of a century without recognizing these basic facts of my experience. It terrifies me even more when I imagine an AI researcher being subject to some similarly crucial thing about how agents work. I would very much like to know what other basic facts of my experience I remain unaware of. I would like to know how to find out what I am currently unable to take as object.

On a related note, you know how an awful lot of people in our community are autistic? It seem to me that our community is subject to this fact. (It also seems to me that many individual people in our community remain subject to most of their autistic patterns, and that this is more like the rule than the exception.) I would like to know what’s going on here, and whether some other state of affairs would be preferable, and how to instantiate that state of affairs.

Why do so many people seem to wait around for other people to teach them things, even when they seem to be trying very hard to learn? Do they think they need permission? Do they think they need authority? What are they protecting? Am I inadvertently destroying it when I try to figure things out for myself? What stops people from interrogating the world on their own terms?

I get an awful lot of use out of asking myself questions. I think I’m unusually good at doing this, and that I know a few other people with this property. I suspect that the really useful thing isn’t so much the questions, as whatever I’m doing with my mind most of the time that allows me to ask good questions. I’d like to know what other people are doing with their minds that prevents this, and whether there’s a different thing to do that’s better.

What is “quality”?

Suppose religion is symbiotic, and not just parasitic. What exactly is it doing for people? How is it doing those things? Are there specific problems it’s solving? What are the problems? How can we solve those problems without tolerating the damage religion causes?

[Some spoilers for bits of the premise of A Fire Upon The Deep and other stories in that sequence.] There’s this alien race in Verner Vinge books called the Tines. A “person” of the Tines species looks at first like a pack of several animals. The singleton members that make up a pack use high-frequency sound, rather than chemical neurotransmitters, to think as one mind. The singleton members of a pack age, so when one of your singletons dies, you adopt a new singleton. Since singletons are all slightly different and sort of have their own personalities, part of personal health and hygiene for Tines involves managing these transitions wisely. If you do a good job — never letting several members die in quick succession, never adopting a singleton that can’t harmonize with the rest of you, taking on new singletons before the oldest ones loose the ability to communicate — then you’re effectively immortal. You just keep amassing new skills and perspectives and thought styles, without drifting too far from your original intentions. If you manage the transitions poorly, though — choosing recklessly, not understanding the patterns an old member has been contributing, participating in a war where several of your singletons may die at once — then your mind could easily become suddenly very different, or disorganized and chaotic, or outright insane, in a way you’ve lost the ability to recover from. I think about the Tines a lot when I experiment with new ways of thinking and feeling. I think much of rationality poses a similar danger to the one faced by the Tines. So I’d like to know what practices constitute personal health and hygiene for cognitive growth and development in humans.

What is original seeing? How does it work? When is it most important? When is it the wrong move? How can I become better at it? How can people who are worse at it than I am become better at it?

In another thread, Adam made a comment that I thought was fantastic. I typed to him, “That comment is fantastic!” As I did so, I noticed that I had an option about how to relate to the comment, and to Adam, when I felt a bid from somewhere in my mind to re-phrase as, “I really like that comment,” or, “I enjoyed reading your comment,” or “I’m excited and impressed by your comment.” That bid came from a place that shares a lot of values with Lesswrong-style rationalists, and 20th century science, and really with liberalism in general. It values objectivity, respect, independence, autonomy, and consent, among other things. It holds map-territory distinctions and keeps its distance from the world, in an attempt to see all things clearly. But I decided to stand behind my claim that the “the comment is fantastic”. I did not “own my experience”, in this case, or highlight that my values are part of me rather than part of the world. I have a feeling that something really important is lost in the careful distance we keep all the time from the world and from each other. Something about the power to act, to affect each other in ways that create small-to-mid-sized superorganisms like teams and communities, something about tending our relationship to the world so that we don’t float off in bubbles of abstraction. Whatever that important thing is, I want to understand it. And I want to protect it, and to incorporate it into my patterns of thought, without loosing all I gain from cold clarity and distance.

I would like to think more clearly, especially when it seems important to do so. There are a lot of things that might affect how clearly you think, some of which are discussed in the Sequences. For example, one common pattern of muddy thought is rationalization, so one way to increase your cognitive clarity is to stop completely ignoring the existence of rationalization. I’ve lately been interested in a category of clarity-increasing thingies that might be sensibly described as “the relationship between a cognitive process and its environment”. By “environment”, I meant to include several things:

  • The internal mental environment: the cognitive and emotional situation in which a thought pattern finds itself. Example: When part of my mind is trying to tally up how much money I spent in the past month, and local mental processes desperately want the answer to be “very little” for some reason, my clarity of thought while tallying might not be so great. I expect that well maintained internal mental environments — ones that promote clear thinking — tend to have properties like abundance, spaciousness, and groundedness.
  • The internal physical environment: the physiological state of a body. For example, hydration seems to play a shockingly important role in how well I maintain my internal mental environment while I think. If I’m trying to solve a math problem and have had nothing to drink for two hours, it’s likely I’m trying to work in a state of frustration and impatience. Similar things are true of sleep and exercise.
  • The external physical environment: the sensory info coming in from the outside world, and the feedback patterns created by external objects and perceptual processes. When I’ve been having a conversation in one room, and then I move to another room, it often feels as though I’ve left half my thoughts behind. I think this is because I’m making extensive use of the walls and couches and such in my computations. I claim that one’s relationship to the external environment can make more or less use of the environment’s supportive potential, and that environments can be arranged in ways that promote clarity of thought.
  • The social environment: people, especially frequently encountered ones. The social environment is basically just part of the external physical environment, but it’s such an unusual part that I think it ought to be singled out. First of all, it has powerful effects on the internal mental environment. The phrase “politics is the mind killer” means something like “if you want to design the social environment to maximize muddiness of thought, have I got a deal for you”. Secondly, other minds have the remarkable property of containing complex cognitive processes, which are themselves situated in every level of environment. If you’ve ever confided in a close, reasonable friend who had some distance from your own internal turmoil, you know what I’m getting at here. I’ve thought a lot lately about how to build a “healthy community” in which to situate my thoughts. A good way to think about what I’m trying to do is that I want to cultivate the properties of interpersonal interaction that lead to the highest quality, best maintained internal mental environments for all involved.

What is "groundedness"?

I built a loft bed recently. Not from scratch, just Ikea-style. When I was about halfway through the process, I realized that I’d put one of the panels on backward. I’d made the mistake toward the beginning, so there were already many pieces screwed into that panel, and no way to flip it around without taking the whole bed apart again. At that point, I had a few thoughts in quick succession:

  • I really don’t want to take the whole bed apart and put it back together again.
  • Maybe I could unscrew the pieces connected to that panel, then carefully balance all of them while I flip the panel around? (Something would probably break if I did that.)
  • You know what, maybe I don’t want a dumb loft bed anyway.

It so happens that in this particular case, I sighed, took the bed apart, carefully noted where each bit was supposed to go, flipped the panel around, and put it all back together again perfectly. But I’ve certainly been in similar situations where for some reason, I let one mistake lead to more mistakes. I rushed, broke things, lost pieces, hurt other people, or gave up. I’d like to know what circumstances obtain when I get this right, and what circumstances obtain when I don’t. Where can I get patience, groundedness, clarity, gumption, and care?

I’ve developed a taste for reading books that I hate. I like to try on the perspective of one author after another, authors with whom I think I have really fundamental disagreements about how the world works, how one ought to think, and whether yellow is really such a bad color after all. There’s a generalized version of “reading books you hate” that I might call “perceptual dexterity”, or I might call “the ground of creativity”, which is something like having a thousand prehensile eye-stalks in your mind, and I think prehensile eye-stalks are pretty cool. But I also think it’s generally a good idea to avoid reading books you hate, because your hatred of them is often trying to protect you from “your self and worldview falling apart”, or something. I’d like to know whether my self and worldview are falling apart, or whatever. And if not, I’d like to know whether I’m doing something to prevent it that other people could learn to do, and whether they’d thereby gain access to a whole lot more perspectives from which they could triangulate reality.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-26T19:48:34.587Z · score: 41 (9 votes) · LW · GW

This isn’t a direct answer to, “What are the LessWrong posts that you wish you had the time to write?” It is a response to a near-by question, though, which is probably something along the lines of, “What problems are you particularly interested in right now?” which is the question that always drives my blogging. Here’s a sampling, in no particular order.

[edit: cross-posted to Ray's Open Problems post.]

There are things you’re subject to, and things you can take as object. For example, I used to do things like cry when an ambulance went by with its siren on, or say “ouch!” when I put a plate away and it went “clink”, yet I wasn’t aware that I was sensitive to sounds. If asked, “Are you sensitive to sounds?” I’d have said “No.” I did avoid certain sounds in local hill-climby ways, like making music playlists with lots of low strings but no trumpets, or not hanging out with people who speak loudly. But I didn’t “know” I was doing these things; I was *subject* to my sound sensitivity. I could not take it as *object*, so I couldn’t deliberately design my daily life to account for it. Now that I can take my sound sensitivity (and many related things) as object, I’m in a much more powerful position. And it *terrifies* me that I went a quarter of a century without recognizing these basic facts of my experience. It terrifies me even more when I imagine an AI researcher being subject to some similarly crucial thing about how agents work. I would very much like to know what other basic facts of my experience I remain unaware of. I would like to know how to find out what I am currently unable to take as object.

On a related note, you know how an awful lot of people in our community are autistic? It seem to me that our community is subject to this fact. (It also seems to me that many individual people in our community remain subject to most of their autistic patterns, and that this is more like the rule than the exception.) I would like to know what’s going on here, and whether some other state of affairs would be preferable, and how to instantiate that state of affairs.

Why do so many people seem to wait around for other people to teach them things, even when they seem to be trying very hard to learn? Do they think they need permission? Do they think they need authority? What are they protecting? Am I inadvertently destroying it when I try to figure things out for myself? What stops people from interrogating the world on their own terms?

I get an awful lot of use out of asking myself questions. I think I’m unusually good at doing this, and that I know a few other people with this property. I suspect that the really useful thing isn’t so much the questions, as whatever I’m doing with my mind most of the time that allows me to ask good questions. I’d like to know what other people are doing with their minds that prevents this, and whether there’s a different thing to do that’s better.

What is “quality”?

Suppose religion is symbiotic, and not just parasitic. What exactly is it doing for people? How is it doing those things? Are there specific problems it’s solving? What are the problems? How can we solve those problems without tolerating the damage religion causes?

[Some spoilers for bits of the premise of A Fire Upon The Deep and other stories in that sequence.] There’s this alien race in Verner Vinge books called the Tines. A “person” of the Tines species looks at first like a pack of several animals. The singleton members that make up a pack use high-frequency sound, rather than chemical neurotransmitters, to think as one mind. The singleton members of a pack age, so when one of your singletons dies, you adopt a new singleton. Since singletons are all slightly different and sort of have their own personalities, part of personal health and hygiene for Tines involves managing these transitions wisely. If you do a good job — never letting several members die in quick succession, never adopting a singleton that can’t harmonize with the rest of you, taking on new singletons before the oldest ones loose the ability to communicate — then you’re effectively immortal. You just keep amassing new skills and perspectives and thought styles, without drifting too far from your original intentions. If you manage the transitions poorly, though — choosing recklessly, not understanding the patterns an old member has been contributing, participating in a war where several of your singletons may die at once — then your mind could easily become suddenly very different, or disorganized and chaotic, or outright insane, in a way you’ve lost the ability to recover from. I think about the Tines a lot when I experiment with new ways of thinking and feeling. I think much of rationality poses a similar danger to the one faced by the Tines. So I’d like to know what practices constitute personal health and hygiene for cognitive growth and development in humans.

What is original seeing? How does it work? When is it most important? When is it the wrong move? How can I become better at it? How can people who are worse at it than I am become better at it?

In another thread, Adam made a comment that I thought was fantastic. I typed to him, “That comment is fantastic!” As I did so, I noticed that I had an option about how to relate to the comment, and to Adam, when I felt a bid from somewhere in my mind to re-phrase as, “I really like that comment,” or, “I enjoyed reading your comment,” or “I’m excited and impressed by your comment.” That bid came from a place that shares a lot of values with Lesswrong-style rationalists, and 20th century science, and really with liberalism in general. It values objectivity, respect, independence, autonomy, and consent, among other things. It holds map-territory distinctions and keeps its distance from the world, in an attempt to see all things clearly. But I decided to stand behind my claim that the “the comment is fantastic”. I did not “own my experience”, in this case, or highlight that my values are part of me rather than part of the world. I have a feeling that something really important is lost in the careful distance we keep all the time from the world and from each other. Something about the power to act, to affect each other in ways that create small-to-mid-sized superorganisms like teams and communities, something about tending our relationship to the world so that we don’t float off in bubbles of abstraction. Whatever that important thing is, I want to understand it. And I want to protect it, and to incorporate it into my patterns of thought, without loosing all I gain from cold clarity and distance.

I would like to think more clearly, especially when it seems important to do so. There are a lot of things that might affect how clearly you think, some of which are discussed in the Sequences. For example, one common pattern of muddy thought is rationalization, so one way to increase your cognitive clarity is to stop completely ignoring the existence of rationalization. I’ve lately been interested in a category of clarity-increasing thingies that might be sensibly described as “the relationship between a cognitive process and its environment”. By “environment”, I meant to include several things:

  • The internal mental environment: the cognitive and emotional situation in which a thought pattern finds itself. Example: When part of my mind is trying to tally up how much money I spent in the past month, and local mental processes desperately want the answer to be “very little” for some reason, my clarity of thought while tallying might not be so great. I expect that well maintained internal mental environments — ones that promote clear thinking — tend to have properties like abundance, spaciousness, and groundedness.
  • The internal physical environment: the physiological state of a body. For example, hydration seems to play a shockingly important role in how well I maintain my internal mental environment while I think. If I’m trying to solve a math problem and have had nothing to drink for two hours, it’s likely I’m trying to work in a state of frustration and impatience. Similar things are true of sleep and exercise.
  • The external physical environment: the sensory info coming in from the outside world, and the feedback patterns created by external objects and perceptual processes. When I’ve been having a conversation in one room, and then I move to another room, it often feels as though I’ve left half my thoughts behind. I think this is because I’m making extensive use of the walls and couches and such in my computations. I claim that one’s relationship to the external environment can make more or less use of the environment’s supportive potential, and that environments can be arranged in ways that promote clarity of thought (see Adam’s notes on the design of the CFAR venue, for instance).
  • The social environment: people, especially frequently encountered ones. The social environment is basically just part of the external physical environment, but it’s such an unusual part that I think it ought to be singled out. First of all, it has powerful effects on the internal mental environment. The phrase “politics is the mind killer” means something like “if you want to design the social environment to maximize muddiness of thought, have I got a deal for you”. Secondly, other minds have the remarkable property of containing complex cognitive processes, which are themselves situated in every level of environment. If you’ve ever confided in a close, reasonable friend who had some distance from your own internal turmoil, you know what I’m getting at here. I’ve thought a lot lately about how to build a “healthy community” in which to situate my thoughts. A good way to think about what I’m trying to do is that I want to cultivate the properties of interpersonal interaction that lead to the highest quality, best maintained internal mental environments for all involved.

I built a loft bed recently. Not from scratch, just Ikea-style. When I was about halfway through the process, I realized that I’d put one of the panels on backward. I’d made the mistake toward the beginning, so there were already many pieces screwed into that panel, and no way to flip it around without taking the whole bed apart again. At that point, I had a few thoughts in quick succession:

  • I really don’t want to take the whole bed apart and put it back together again.
  • Maybe I could unscrew the pieces connected to that panel, then carefully balance all of them while I flip the panel around? (Something would probably break if I did that.)
  • You know what, maybe I don’t want a dumb loft bed anyway.

It so happens that in this particular case, I sighed, took the bed apart, carefully noted where each bit was supposed to go, flipped the panel around, and put it all back together again perfectly. But I’ve certainly been in similar situations where for some reason, I let one mistake lead to more mistakes. I rushed, broke things, lost pieces, hurt other people, or gave up. I’d like to know what circumstances obtain when I have get this right, and what circumstances obtain when I don’t. Where can I get patience, groundedness, clarity, gumption, and care?

What is "groundedness"?

I’ve developed a taste for reading books that I hate. I like to try on the perspective of one author after another, authors with whom I think I have really fundamental disagreements about how the world works, how one ought to think, and whether yellow is really such a bad color after all. There’s a generalized version of “reading books you hate” that I might call “perceptual dexterity”, or I might call “the ground of creativity”, which is something like having a thousand prehensile eye-stalks in your mind, and I think prehensile eye-stalks are pretty cool. But I also think it’s generally a good idea to avoid reading books you hate, because your hatred of them is often trying to protect you from “your self and worldview falling apart”, or something. I’d like to know whether my self and worldview are falling apart, or whatever. And if not, I’d like to know whether I’m doing something to prevent it that other people could learn to do, and whether they’d thereby gain access to a whole lot more perspective from which they could triangulate reality.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-22T00:17:52.876Z · score: 28 (8 votes) · LW · GW

More about why CFAR would be non-functional if it weren’t dogfooding:

As I said, my thoughts aren’t really in such a state that I know how to communicate them coherently. But I’ve often found that going ahead and communicating incoherently can nevertheless be valuable; it lets people’s implicit models interact more rapidly (both between people and within individuals), which can lead to developing explicit models that would otherwise have remained silent.

So, when I find myself in this position, I often throw a creative prompt to the part of my brain that thinks it knows something, and don’t bother trying to be coherent, just to start to draw out the shape of a thing. For example, if CFAR were a boat, what sort of boat would it be?

If CFAR were a boat, it would be a collection of driftwood bound together with twine. Each piece of driftwood was yanked from the shore in passing when the boat managed to get close enough for someone to pull it in. The riders of the boat are constantly re-organizing the driftwood (while standing on it), discarding parts (both deliberately and accidentally), and trying out variations on rudders and oars and sails. All the while, the boat is approaching a waterfall, and in fact the riders are not trying to make a boat at all, but rather an airplane.

The CFAR techniques are first of all the driftwood pieces themselves, and are also ways of balancing atop something with no rigid structure, of noticing when the raft is taking on water, of coordinating about which bits of driftwood ought to be tied to which other bits, and of continuing to try to build a plane when you’d rather forget the waterfall and go for a swim.

Which, if I had to guess, is an impressionistic painting depicting my concepts around an organization that wants to bootstrap an entire community into equalling the maybe impossible task of thinking well enough to survive x-risk.

This need to quickly bootstrap patterns of thought and feeling, not just of individual humans but of far-flung assortments of people, is what makes CFAR’s problem so hard, and its meager success thus far so impressive to me. It doesn’t have the tools it needs to efficiently and reliably accomplish the day-to-day tasks of navigation and not sinking and so forth, so it tries to build them by whatever means it can manage in any given moment.

It’s a shitty boat, and an even shittier plane. But if everyone on it were just passively riding the current, rather than constantly trying to build the plane and fly, the whole thing would sink well before it reached the waterfall.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-22T00:16:22.634Z · score: 27 (8 votes) · LW · GW

So, is CFAR rich?

I don’t really know, because I’m not quite sure what CFAR’s values are as an organization, or what its extrapolated volition would count as satisfaction criteria.

My guess is “not much, not yet”. According to what I think it wants to do, it seems to me like its progress on that is small and slow. It seems pretty disorganized and flaily much of the time, not great at getting the people it most needs, and not great at inspiring or sustaining the best in the people it has.

I think it’s *impressively successful* given how hard I think the problem really is, but in absolute terms, I doubt it’s succeeding enough.

If it weren’t dogfooding, though, it seems to me that CFAR would be totally non-functional.

Why would it be totally non-functional? Well, that’s really hard for me to get at. It has something to do with what sort of thing a CFAR even is, and what it’s trying to do. I *do* think I’m right about this, but most of the information hasn’t made it into the crisp kinds of thoughts I can see clearly and make coherent words about. I figured I’d just go ahead and post this anyhow, and y'all can make or not-make what you want of my intuitions.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-22T00:14:24.332Z · score: 38 (9 votes) · LW · GW

(Just responding here to whether or not we dogfood.)

I always have a hard time answering this question, and nearby questions, personally.

Sometimes I ask myself whether I ever use goal factoring, or seeking PCK, or IDC, and my immediate answer is “no”. That’s my immediate answer because when I scan through my memories, almost nothing is labeled “IDC”. It’s just a continuous fluid mass of ongoing problem solving full of fuzzy inarticulate half-formed methods that I’m seldom fully aware of even in the moment.

A few months ago I spent some time paying attention to what’s going on here, and what I found is that I’m using either the mainline workshop techniques, or something clearly descended from them, many times a day. I almost never use them on purpose, in the sense of saying “now I shall execute the goal factoring algorithm” and then doing so. But if I snap my fingers every time I notice a feeling of resolution and clarification about possible action, I find that I snap my fingers quite often. And if, after snapping my fingers, I run through my recent memories, I tend to find that I’ve just done goal factoring almost exactly as it’s taught in mainlines.

This, I think, is what it’s like to fully internalize a skill.

I’ve noticed the same sort of thing in my experience of CFAR’s internal communication as well. In the course of considering our answers to some of these questions, for example, we’ve occasionally run into disagreements with each other. In the moment, my impression was just that we were talking to each other sensibly and working things out. But if I scan through a list of CFAR classes as I recall those memories, I absolutely recognize instances of inner sim, trigger-action planning, againstness, goal factoring, double crux, systemization, comfort zone exploration, internal double crux, pedagogical content knowledge, Polaris, mundanification, focusing, and the strategic level, at minimum.

At one point when discussing the topic of research I said something like, “The easiest way for me to voice my discomfort here would involve talking about how we use words, but that doesn’t feel at all cruxy. What I really care about is [blah]”, and then I described a hypothetical world in which I’d have different beliefs and priorities. I didn’t think of myself as “using double crux”, but in retrospect that is obviously what I was trying to do.

I think techniques look and feel different inside a workshop vs. outside in real life. So different, in fact, that I think most of us would fail to recognize almost every example in our own lives. Nevertheless, I’m confident that CFAR dogfoods continuously.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-21T03:28:50.621Z · score: 10 (6 votes) · LW · GW
which are all about breaking parts of your mind down into smaller parts

Na, my mind's a bunch of super tiny stuff to begin with. When I do IDC, I just stop in my unified-person-fabrication a little earlier than the point at which I've erased all ability to perceive internal distinctions.

(Sorry, I know that's not an answer to your question. Maybe somebody, perhaps even a future me, will come by and give you a real answer.)

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-21T03:23:32.107Z · score: 10 (6 votes) · LW · GW

What did that conversation cause you to think CFAR believes the impact of their workshops *is* about?

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-20T22:16:29.654Z · score: 60 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Hello, I am a CFAR contractor who considers nearly all of their job to be “original research into human rationality”. I don’t do the kind of research many people imagine when they hear the word “research” (RCT-style verifiable social science, and such). But I certainly do systematic inquiry and investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise beliefs, theories, applications, etc. Which is, you know, literally the dictionary.com definition of research.

I’m not very good at telling stories about myself, but I’ll attempt to describe what I do during my ordinary working hours anyway.

All of the time, I keep an eye out for things that seem to be missing or off in what I take to be the current art of rationality. Often I look to what I see in the people close to me, who are disproportionately members of rationality-and-EA-related organizations, watching how they solve problems and think through tricky stuff and live their lives. I also look to my colleagues at CFAR, who spend many many hours in dialogue with people who are studying rationality themselves, for the first time or on a continuing basis. But since my eyes are in my own head, I look most for what is absent in my own personal art of rationality.

For example, when I first read the Sequences in 2012 or 2013, I gained a lot, but I also felt a gaping hole in the shape of something like “recognizing those key moments in real-life experience when the rationality stuff you’ve thought so much about comes whizzing by your head at top speed, looking nothing at all like the abstractions you’ve so far considered”. That’s when I started doing stuff like snapping my fingers every time I saw a stop sign, so I could get a handle on what “noticing” even is, and begin to fill in the hole. I came up with a method of hooking intellectual awareness up to immediate experience, then I spent a whole year throwing the method at a whole bunch of real life situations, keeping track of what I observed, revising the method, talking with people about it as they worked with the same problem themselves, and generally trying to figure out the shape of the world around phenomenology and trigger-action planning.

I was an occasional guest instructor with CFAR at the time, and I think that over the course of my investigations, CFAR went from spending very little time on the phenomenological details of key experiences to working that sort of thing into nearly every class. I think it’s now the case that rationality as it currently exists contains an “art of noticing”.

My way of investigating always pushes into what I can’t yet see or grasp or articulate. Thus, it has the unfortunate property of being quite difficult to communicate about directly until the research program is mostly complete. So I can say a lot about my earlier work on noticing, but talking coherently about what exactly CFAR’s been paying me for lately is much harder. It’s all been the same style of research, though, and if I had to give names to my recent research foci, I’d say I’ve been looking into original seeing, some things related to creativity and unconstrained thought, something about learning and what it means to own your education, and experiences related to community and cooperation.

It’s my impression that CFAR has always had several people doing this kind of thing, and that several current CFAR staff members consider it a crucial part of their jobs as well. When I was hired, Tim described research as “the beating heart” of our organization. Nevertheless, I personally would like more of it in future CFAR, and I’d like it to be done with a bit more deliberate institutional support.

That’s why it was my primary focus when working with Eli to design our 2019 instructor training program. The program consisted partially of several weekend workshops, but in my opinion the most important part happened while everyone was at home.

My main goal, especially for the first weekend, was to help the trainees choose a particular area of study. It was to be something in their own rationality that really mattered to them and that they had not yet mastered. When they left the workshop, they were to set off on their own personal quest to figure out that part of the world and advance the art.

This attitude, which we’ve been calling “questing” of late, is the one with which I hope CFAR instructors will approach any class they intend to teach, whether it’s something like “goal factoring” that many people have taught in the past, or something completely new that nobody’s even tried to name yet. When you really get the hang of the questing mentality, you never stop doing original rationality research. So to whatever degree I achieved my goal with instructor training (which everyone seems to think is a surprisingly large degree), CFAR is moving in the direction of more original rationality research, not less.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on How to learn soft skills · 2019-12-15T19:40:27.633Z · score: 23 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I like this post! Thank you for writing it!

> Do consider adding your favorite books, or book-reading strategies, in the comments!

Here are some book-reading strategies I've found useful:

  • When I feel angry, offended, frustrated, or some other emotion that seems to want me to stop reading or to not let the words get all the way in, I ask myself what I want from the book/author that I'm not getting. For example, while reading Nonviolent Communication, I felt something like angry whenever there was a sentence I didn't totally agree with (which was most of the sentences). Turns out I wanted a trusted adviser, someone who would guide me in my studies so I didn't have to create all of the structure for my education myself. While that desire was active and pointed at whatever I was reading, obviously false statements were quite painful. When I recognized that this was going on and that I would not find such an adviser in Marshall Rosenberg, I was able to receive whatever he had to say in a much more opportunistic, "let's see what I *can* do with this information" sort of way.
  • In addition to trying on the perspective of the author, I also like to try on the perspective of the ideal reader: I pretend that even though I semi-randomly selected this book off of a shelf, it was secretly written to me in particular. The author knows all about me and and is actually extremely wise, and these are precisely the things I need to hear to solve my most pressing problems. While occupying that perspective, I ask myself what it is I need to hear from this book, and what's true about me such that I need to hear it.
  • Whenever something sounds trite or vapid and yet is emphasized by the author, or by large swaths of society in general, I try re-reading it with the assumption that *I'm* the one who's been trite and vapid up to this point, and now I have an opportunity to learn what is life-changingly important in this phrase/paragraph/book.
  • I try to be brash and selfish when I read. I try to have as many valuable insights as possible without any concern for whether the author meant anything along those lines. Sometimes this feels rude, and I find myself being pulled into a dull, studious, subservient sort of mental space. It's those times when I remind myself to be brash and selfish. (I also use this reminder when I encounter a vapid thing and need find what's life-changingly important about it.)
  • I highlight things and write in my books. Rather than highlighting things that seem "important" (or that could conceivably appear on a test), I mainly highlight things I have emotional responses to. Sometimes I use several colors of highligher to track several kinds of emotions (especially confusion, desire/curiosity, and satisfaction/insight). What I write in the margins is an attempt to give voice to the emotion. I think that most of what this does is keep the book in constant dialogue with System 1.
Comment by brienneyudkowsky on BrienneYudkowsky's Shortform · 2019-12-12T19:47:25.963Z · score: 28 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Sangha: Part 1

In years past, the word “community” conjured for me images of many people talking to each other, as at a party or a bake sale. When I thought of “finding community”, I thought of looking for a group of people that would frequently interact with each other and also me. It didn’t really sound appealing — lots of chaos, too many people talking at once, constant misunderstandings, and so forth. But I knew that I felt worse and worse over time if I never saw other people. So I entered a “community” of people with a shared interest, and therefore an excuse to spend time together, and I gradually tried to figure out how to make “community” a better experience. I failed at that, over and over, for years.

In 2019, I began to succeed. I know exactly why, but I feel a little embarrassed saying it, because it sounds so cheesy. I’ll say it anyway: I succeeded because I stopped looking for community outside of myself.

My new year’s resolution for this year was to “take refuge in the sangha”.

Literally, “sangha” is a group of monks and nuns living together at a monastery. When I spent a summer at a Zen temple, though, the abbess there used the term much more expansively. Sometimes she meant “everybody who comes to the temple”. Sometimes she meant “everyone who practices Buddhism”. Sometimes she meant “all sentient beings” (and she used “sentient” rather broadly as well, usually including all living things plus a variety of spirits). But whenever she said “sangha”, she always seemed to suggest something about her relationship to those beings, something with the flavor of monks and nuns practicing together day in and day out, washing floors together and meeting in the meditation hall well before the sun is up. In her view of the world, the grasshoppers in Germany are supporting her practice.

When I resolved to “take refuge in the sangha”, I intended to do it no matter where I was or who I was with. If it’s possible to be supported by the grasshoppers in Germany, then there ought to be some way to be supported by the strangers on the street, and the birds in my backyard, and the friends I haven’t seen in many months. I was after a way of being that’s antithetical to isolation, yet compatible with solitude.

That way of being, it turns out, is community. Or community results from it, or something. After a year of learning to take refuge in the sangha, my conception of community is not about what happens when people get together. It’s about what remains when they’re apart.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on BrienneYudkowsky's Shortform · 2019-12-08T18:52:55.381Z · score: 40 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose you wanted to improve your social relationships on the community level. (I think of this as “my ability to take refuge in the sangha”.) What questions might you answer now, and then again in one year, to track your progress?

Here’s what’s come to mind for me so far. I’m probably missing a lot and would really like your help mapping things out. I think it’s a part of the territory I can only just barely perceive at my current level of development.

  • If something tragic happened to you, such as a car crash that partially paralyzed you or the death of a loved one, how many people can you name whom you'd find it easy and natural to ask for help with figuring out your life afterward?
  • For how many people is it the case that if they were hospitalized for at least a week you would visit them in the hospital?
  • Over the past month, how lonely have you felt?
  • In the past two weeks, how often have you collaborated with someone outside of work?
  • To what degree do you feel like your friends have your back?
  • Describe the roll of community in your life.
  • How do you feel as you try to describe the roll of community in your life?
  • When's the last time you got angry with someone and confronted them one on one as a result?
  • When's the last time you apologized to someone?
  • How strong is your sense that you're building something of personal value with the people around you?
  • When's the last time you spent more than ten minutes on something that felt motivated by gratitude?
  • When a big change happens in your life, such as loosing your job or having a baby, how motivated do you feel to share the experience with others?
  • When you feel motivated to share an experience with others, how satisfied do you tend to be with your attempts to do that?
  • Do you know the love languages of your five closest friends? To what extent does that influence how you behave toward them?
  • Does it seem to you that your friends know your love language?
  • To what extent do you “know how to have friends”?
  • Describe your relationship with your boss.
  • Describe your relationships with your co-workers.
  • When you think about being part of a church, how much longing do you feel?
  • When you notice that you feel lonely or isolated, how do you tend to respond?
  • How satisfied do you tend to be with your response to feelings of loneliness or isolation?
  • Imagine that you suddenly had to move to another city where nobody knew you and there were no rationalists or EAs. How surprised would you be to hear that within two years, you’d feel well supported by a warm and friendly network of local social connections?
  • Excluding people who live in your house, how many faces can you picture of the people who live on your street? How many of them could you greet by name? How many of them have you spoken to in the past month? How many of them have you helped with something? How many of them have helped you with something?
  • When you think about your participation in your community, what do you feel dissatisfaction or longing about?
  • If you suddenly moved to another city, how big is the hole you would leave in your community? What would be its shape? In what ways and to what extent have the people around you come to depend on you?
  • How much stronger are you with your community than without it? In what ways, specifically, have you allowed it to support you over the past year, and how much benefit did you gain from that?
Comment by brienneyudkowsky on BrienneYudkowsky's Shortform · 2019-12-06T18:14:54.693Z · score: 42 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Some advice to my past self about autism:

Learn about what life is like for people with a level 2 or 3 autism diagnosis. Use that reference class to predict the nature of your problems and the strategies that are likely to help. Only after making those predictions, adjust for your own capabilities and circumstances. Try this regardless of how you feel about calling yourself autistic or seeking a diagnosis. Just see what happens.

Many stereotypically autistic behaviors are less like symptoms of an illness, and more like excellent strategies for getting shit done and having a good life. It’s just hard to get them all working together. Try leaning into those behaviors and see what’s good about them. For example, you know how when you accidentally do something three times in a row, you then feel compelled to keep doing it the same way at the same time forever? Studying this phenomenon in yourself will lead you to build solid and carefully designed routines that allow you to be a lot more reliably vibrant.

You know how some autistic people have one-on-one aides, caretakers, and therapists who assist in their development and day-to-day wellbeing? Read a bit about what those aides do. You’ll notice right away that the state of the art in this area is crap, but try to imagine what professional autism aides might do if they really had things figured out and were spectacular at their jobs. Then devote as many resources as you can spare for a whole year to figuring out how to perform those services for yourself.

It seems to me that most of what’s written about autism by neurotypicals severely overemphasizes social stuff. You’ll find almost none of it compelling. Try to understand what’s really going on with autism, and your understanding will immediately start paying off in non-social quality of life improvements. Keep at it, and it’ll eventually start paying off in deep and practical social insights as well (which I know you don’t care about right now, but it’s true).

I know you want me to tell you what to read. You’re going to hate my answer. Basically everything related to autism that you pick up will be slightly helpful but woefully inadequate. Most things you find will seem deeply confused and infuriatingly bound up with identity politics. The most practical stuff will be written for parents with autistic children, and most of that will seem to be trying to comfort the parents by making their kids act less weird, never mind what the kids are experiencing or why. It’s really awful, I’m so sorry.

Go get on Google Scholar as you were obviously going to anyway, and you’ll find at least *some* juicy theoretical stuff. After that, your best resources will not be found under “autism”, but under “predictive processing” and “perceptual control theory”. Three notable semi-exceptions are *The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome* by Tony Atwood, *Women and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Understanding Life Experiences from Early Childhood to Old Age* by Sarah Hendrickx and Judith Gould, and *The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime* by Mark Haddon. (You’ll get farther with this if you first train the skill “getting the most out of books that you hate”.)

Everything published by the organization “Autism Speaks” is gonna piss you off to no purpose. Just skip it.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on BrienneYudkowsky's Shortform · 2019-12-05T17:59:15.930Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Notes on Part One: Men Without Chests:

  • What is the relationship between believing that some things merit liking while others merit hatred, and the power to act?
  • Is there a way to preserve the benefits of a map/territory distinction mentality while gaining the benefits of map/territory conflation when it comes to taste/value/quality?
  • What exactly *are* the benefits of map/territory conflation?
  • Are terrible contortions necessary to believe in objective value wholeheartedly?
  • What are we protecting when we dismiss objective value? What does it seem to threaten?
  • "It is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are." What exactly is the word "to" doing in that sentence?
  • Everybody knows that value is objective, and also that it isn't. What are we confused about, and why?
  • What role does religion play in a community's relationship to value?
  • If everyone who ever lived thought a certain combination of musical notes was ugly, but in fact everyone were wrong, how could you know?
  • The Lesswrong comment guidelines say, "Aim to explain, not persuade." Is this a method by which we cut out our own chests?
Comment by brienneyudkowsky on BrienneYudkowsky's Shortform · 2019-12-05T17:55:25.680Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thread on The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on BrienneYudkowsky's Shortform · 2019-12-04T23:18:17.191Z · score: 34 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about monographs .

“A monograph is a specialist work of writing… or exhibition on a single subject or an aspect of a subject, often by a single author or artist, and usually on a scholarly subject… Unlike a textbook, which surveys the state of knowledge in a field, the main purpose of a monograph is to present primary research and original scholarship ascertaining reliable credibility to the required recipient. This research is presented at length, distinguishing a monograph from an article.”

I think it’s a bit of an antiquated term. Either that or it’s chiefly British, because as an American I’ve seldom encountered it.

I know the word because Sherlock Holmes is always writing monographs. In *A Study In Scarlet*, he says, “I gathered up some scattered ash from the floor. It was dark in colour and flakey—such an ash as is only made by a Trichinopoly. I have made a special study of cigar ashes—in fact, I have written a monograph upon the subject. I flatter myself that I can distinguish at a glance the ash of any known brand, either of cigar or of tobacco.” He also has a monograph on the use of disguise in crime detection, and another on the utilities of dogs in detective work.

When I tried thinking of myself as writing “monographs” on things, I broke though some sort of barrier. The things I wrote turned out less inhibited and more… me. I benefited from them myself more as well.

What I mean by “monograph” is probably a little different from what either Sherlock or academia means, but it’s in the same spirit. I think of it as a photo study or a character sketch, but in non-fiction writing form.

Here are my guidelines for writing a monograph.

1. Pick a topic you can personally investigate. It doesn’t matter whether it’s “scholarly”. It’s fine if other people have already written dozens of books on the subject, regardless of whether you’ve read them, just as long as you can stick your own nose in the actual subject matter as well. It would be hard for me to write a monograph on the cognitive effects of blood redistribution in high-G environments, because I don’t own a fighter jet. But I could absolutely write a monograph on the cognitive effects of blood redistribution during physical inversion, because I can do a handstand against the wall or hang upside down from a horizontal bar.

2. Write down dozens of questions about the topic. Yes, really, dozens. They don’t have to be good questions. Do this in brainstorming mode. Afterward, highlight the questions you feel particularly drawn to. Don’t leave out anything you feel a burning itch to know, even if it seems literally impossible to answer.

3. Pick one of your questions and start writing about it. As you write, do whatever investigations occur to you, and write about them. Favor methods that put you in more direct contact with the territory, even when you expect you could read about someone else’s investigations. Please do write later about somebody’s meta-analysis on whether things fall up, but go drop a bunch of pencils on your own first.

4. Do this with all of the questions on your list that call to you. When you’re done, you’ve written a monograph.

Now that you have some idea of what the heck I’m even doing, maybe I’ll feel more comfortable sharing my monographs here. My plan is to publish them little by little as I write, so other people can influence my investigations. You’ll get a series of “essays”, but they may be in a wide range of styles and formats from poetry to data sets to expository prose, the better to see the topic from many perspectives.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Monthly Bragging Thread January 2016 · 2016-01-22T23:01:53.933Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I wrote the first story I've ever truly been proud of.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Proper posture for mental arts · 2015-12-20T01:42:11.279Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So, by way of analogy, what might an error in attempting to (say) consider the opposite look like, and what would a good “mental posture” be that would make the error matter less?

(written before reading on)

Outward orientation. Focus on features of the external world. Seeking harmony with the movements of reality.

Here are some motions I might make if I discover I've failed to consider the opposite:

  • Oh no, I've broken a rule! That was bad and I am bad. wallows What do I need to do now to atone?
  • Can I retroactively save myself from fully acknowledging that I've made the error by finding a convincing argument showing that I didn't actually need to consider the opposite in the first place?
  • This is evidence that I'm intrinsically not the better version of myself I like to imagine.
  • I'm not as good as the people who wouldn't have made this mistake.

If you startle a cat that's preparing to pounce, it might suddenly jump, whereas if you startle it wile it's lazing about, it might just twitch and look at you suddenly. When it's preparing to pounce, its posture makes jumping the default reaction to anything that happens.

If any of these mental motions is my reflexive response to discovering an error, I must be posed for self assessment, as though I'm prepared to pounce on myself - "What do my experiences mean about me as a person?" - and for judgement of my relationship with other people, with imaginary versions of myself, or with a system of rules.

Some motions I'd rather make upon discovering I've failed to consider the opposite:

  • Consider the opposite. (Better late than never.)
  • What was the nature of my mistake, what damage have I done, and how can I repair it?
  • How would I like to respond next time I encounter an experience like the one that happened just before I made this mistake?

(Preferably in that order.)

What posture would make these thoughts the sort I'd have as an automatic reflex if a failure to consider the opposite were to sneak up on me and yell "boo"?

There are probably some more specific good answers to this, but the one that comes to mind - and my current best answer to the more general question "what posture is good for rationality?" - is something like "seeking harmony with external reality".

This is a feeling I'm familiar with from partner dance. When I'm not dancing very well, I tend to have a strong inward focus. I'm concerned about what I am doing, whether the thing I did was what the lead meant for me to do, and how I look to other people.

When I'm dancing my best, my focus is always outward: on the lead, on the music, on the patterns of movement we're creating together. My focus is on the dance, not on myself. It's a kind of being in love, an intense selfless attentiveness to the phenomenon of dancing.

Similarly, when I'm trying to make good decisions in the midst of uncertainty and frequent error, I move more effectively if my attention is on the world, instead of on myself.

Excuse me for getting all poetical, but: Just as a master dancer must be in love with the dance, so must a master rationalist be in love with the truth. Maintaining a posture of selfless attentiveness to accuracy is what it means to be in love with the truth.

When I've fallen - say, by failing to consider the opposite - and may have damaged my model, this kind of outward-facing, world-aligned mental posture helps me spring right back up to rejoin the dance and make things right again.

[Edit: "Maintaining selfless attentiveness" is most of how I personally be in love. I am aware of having an unusual way of being in love. This might be closer to what most people experience as parental love than romantic love. Anyway, it's probably a bad phrasing for most, and just a good handle for me.]

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Tell Culture · 2015-06-12T16:30:28.110Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For the record, I mostly regret posting this.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-02-10T20:34:40.782Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure why we're focusing in on narratives here, but I suspect it's for not very good reasons. Whether it's good for some people to "think of themselves as sidekicks" seems less important than whether it's good for people to actually perform the actions of a "sidekick". We can talk about how to promote or discourage the set of actions once that's settled. I'd much rather present a breakdown of what I actually do day to day and why, and then have people point out what precisely it is that I'm doing wrong.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Shit Rationalists Say? · 2015-01-03T16:34:53.546Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think this should still happen.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Training Reflective Attention · 2014-12-24T21:11:02.558Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I said it because of how I think about thoughts. When i say "thought", I mean anything that is happening in consciousness. Any sensation, any mental event that you're subjectively experiencing. When I say "conscious", I mean "you're experiencing things" (and maybe also you're awake). So if you're not experiencing things, you're not conscious. So if I taboo "thought" and "conscious", then I'd express this bit as "Try to stop having mental events. (You can't actually do that while in a state that affords trying, of course. Trying is a mental event.)"

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Training Reflective Attention · 2014-12-23T13:52:39.120Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't need citation. How would that help? It just needs clarification. Which will be easier if you'd tell me what you think might be wrong about it.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Training Reflective Attention · 2014-12-23T13:50:34.458Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not at all yet, though some of it is inspired by CFAR material. I'm not a CFAR staff member, just an occasional guest instructor. I'm in Chile for four months developing this stuff so I've had almost no contact with them for that time. But who knows, maybe they'll find some of it useful and pick it up.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Training Reflective Attention · 2014-12-21T18:56:23.916Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If I answer that question honestly, it means I'm telling you the decisions I've made that I regret most. Mistakes like that pretty much don't happen when my mind is in good condition. I'm pretty sure I'm willing to do that, but I'd at least like to make sure first that trivial mistakes won't do.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Harper's Magazine article on LW/MIRI/CFAR and Ethereum · 2014-12-13T17:25:58.896Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This gave me so many warm fuzzies. <3

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Simulate and Defer To More Rational Selves · 2014-09-17T13:26:54.801Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This whole comment thread is utterly delightful.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Simulate and Defer To More Rational Selves · 2014-09-09T21:51:08.636Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Wish granted!

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Simulate and Defer To More Rational Selves · 2014-09-08T21:44:43.488Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Please do report back on whether it helps you!

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on A self-experiment in training "noticing confusion" · 2014-08-22T18:04:51.284Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is one of the most valuable things I've read in months. Thank you!

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on A Dialogue On Doublethink · 2014-05-09T22:25:49.368Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I can already predict, though, that much or my response will include material from here and here.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on A Dialogue On Doublethink · 2014-05-09T02:40:15.440Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Can you give three examples of improvements in your life since your epiphany?

Sure!

1) My conversations with friends are more efficient illuminating. 2) I learn more quickly from mistakes. 3) I prevent more mistakes before they get the chance to happen.

If I hadn't given those examples, could you have predicted positive changes resulting from having generally more accurate beliefs? It really doesn't seem that surprising to me that someone's life would improve in a zillion different ways if they weren't wrong so much.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on A Dialogue On Doublethink · 2014-05-09T02:34:10.257Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

So8ers, you're completely accurate in your interpretation of my argument. I'm going to read some more of your previous posts before responding much to your first comment here.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on A Dialogue On Doublethink · 2014-05-08T18:15:41.036Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

done. sorry, didn't know.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Truth: It's Not That Great · 2014-05-06T23:40:29.407Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

It is indeed a cue to look for motivated reasoning. I am not neglecting to do that. I have scrutinized extensively. It is possible to be motivated by very simple emotions while constraining the actions you take to the set endorsed by deliberative reasoning.

The observation that something fits the status-seeking patterns you've cached is not strong evidence that nothing else is going on. If you can write off everything anybody does by saying "status" and "signaling" without making predictions about their future behavior--or even looking into their past behavior to see whether they usually fit the patterns-- then you're trapped in a paradigm that's only good for protecting your current set of beliefs.

Yes, I do have good reasons to think the things I'm imitating are causes of their success. Yes, they're more successful on average than people who don't do the things, and indeed I think they're probably more successful with respect to my values than literally everybody who doesn't do the things. And I don't "happen" to be in close proximity to them; I sought them out and became close to them specifically so I could learn from them more efficiently.

I am annoyed by vague, fully general criticisms that don't engage meaningfully with any of my arguments or musings, let alone steel man them.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Truth: It's Not That Great · 2014-05-05T04:03:47.537Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I was not signaling. Making it a footnote instead of just editing it outright was signaling. Revering truth, and stating that I do so, was not.

Now that I've introspected some more, I notice that my inclination to prioritize the accuracy of information I attend to above its competing features comes from the slow accumulation of evidence that excellent practical epistemology is the the strongest possible foundation for instrumental success. To be perfectly honest, deep down, my motivation has been "I see people around me succeeding by these means where I have failed, and I want to be like them".

I have long been more viscerally motivated by things that are interesting or beautiful than by things that correspond to the territory. So it's not too surprising that toward the beginning of my rationality training, I went through a long period of being so enamored with a-veridical instrumental techniques that I double-thought myself into believing accuracy was not so great.

But I was wrong, you see. Having accurate beliefs is a ridiculously convergent incentive, so whatever my goal structure, it was only a matter of time before I'd recognize that. Every utility function that involves interaction with the territory--interaction of just about any kind!--benefits from a sound map. Even if "beauty" is a terminal value, "being viscerally motivated to increase your ability to make predictions that lead to greater beauty" increases your odds of success.

Recognizing only abstractly that map-territory correspondence is useful does not produce the same results. Cultivating a deep dedication to ensuring every motion precisely engages reality with unfailing authenticity prevents real-world mistakes that noting the utility of information, just sort of in passing, will miss.

For some people, dedication to epistemic rationality may most effectively manifest as excitement or simply diligence. For me, it is reverence. Reverence works in my psychology better than anything else. So I revere the truth. Not for the sake of the people watching me do so, but for the sake of accomplishing whatever it is I happen to want to accomplish.

"Being truth-seeking" does not mean "wanting to know ALL THE THINGS". It means exhibiting patters of thought and behavior that consistently increase calibration. I daresay that is, in fact, necessary for being well-calibrated.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Audio Version of "How to Actually Change Your Mind" · 2014-02-19T05:33:21.446Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The reason I'm excited about this: I read quite slowly. But there's plenty of software available for speeding up audio, so I get a lot more read by listening at around 3x.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on On Straw Vulcan Rationality · 2014-02-03T20:25:48.362Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

As someone recently said on Facebook: I am trying really hard to read any of the comments as similarly tongue in cheek, but... it's not working.

What I was actually expecting was a playful battle-of-the-Trekies where we argue largely in jest over whether, how, and why an ideal Bayesian community should emulate or differ from Steel Vulcans. I am updating pretty strongly toward "Lesswrong doesn't do humor." If I shouldn't be, feel free to explain what I'm missing. I'm sort of new here.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on On Straw Vulcan Rationality · 2014-02-02T20:11:15.280Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're definitely right about Sarek, but I've not seen Enterprise, so I'm not familiar with T'Pol.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Tell Culture · 2014-01-18T20:11:48.554Z · score: 2 (12 votes) · LW · GW

A community of HPMOR!Quirrell variations would have your very post in main, with plenty of upvotes, all the while secretly whetting their blades. Perfectly rational.

I really don't think so. A community of Briennes, which is not a community of HPMOR!Quirrells but shares some relevant features, would recognize the overwhelming benefit of coordination. Any given individual would be much stronger if she had the knowledge of all the other individuals, or if she could count on them as external memory. And because she would be stronger that way, she knows that they would be stronger if she also remains trustworthy. Her being trustworthy allows her to derive greater benefit from the rest of the community. Other people are useful, you see. With Tell culture in place, you can do things like feed your model of the world into someone else's truth-checker and get back a more info-rich version. You only defect if the expected utility of doing so outweighs the expected utility of the entire community to your future plans.

I'd love to hear what culture Eliezer thinks an entire community of Quirrells would create.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Tell Culture · 2014-01-18T18:55:06.878Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

^_^ I'll move it to Main then.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Tell Culture · 2014-01-18T18:54:18.202Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

People's feelings do sometimes get hurt when you say "no". And people's feelings get hurt when you're honest with them sometimes. My thesis is that it's easier, as a community, to recover from hurt feelings than from ignorance and deceptions.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Tell Culture · 2014-01-18T18:51:55.165Z · score: 16 (20 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not suggesting all of society is ready for this. I'm suggesting we work toward it among highly rational peers and allies. This is how, and much of why, my close social circles work. Now that I'm used to it, I'd have it no other way.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on 2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2013-11-24T06:03:13.649Z · score: 26 (26 votes) · LW · GW

Survey complete! I answered ALL the questions. ^_^

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Human Memory: Problem Set · 2013-11-01T22:23:44.723Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well I don't actually recommend it. :-p It's just something along the right lines that I wouldn't have thought of.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Human Memory: Problem Set · 2013-11-01T03:53:40.935Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm liking this for "hit the door with your head". Just the kind of thing I was looking for.

Comment by brienneyudkowsky on Human Memory: Problem Set · 2013-10-31T18:22:57.610Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It would almost certainly fail for me. I seem to store stuff like this just fine, which I believe because the information will often come to me when I don't need it, but I'm no good at retrieving it at will just because it's somewhere in my brain.