Comment by fburnaby on Mate selection for the men here · 2013-11-22T18:48:17.380Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. Yeah, I agree with you. But booze loosens something up for me. It turns something in my social brain on high. This is not the same thing as confidence, so my wording was bad.

Comment by fburnaby on The Belief Signaling Trilemma · 2013-09-22T21:01:20.816Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have a suspicion that your option number 2 is already baked pretty deep into actual humans' psychologies.

Comment by fburnaby on How I Became More Ambitious · 2013-07-06T13:01:46.222Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I read and identified with and commented on your post a year and a half ago. I just wanted to say I'm glad to know that you're feeling more ambitious now. And thanks for sharing. I haven't solved these same problems for myself nearly to the same extent, so learning about your recent experiences is extremely valuable for me.

Comment by fburnaby on Rationality Quotes June 2013 · 2013-06-03T11:22:10.132Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Why Opium produces sleep: ... Because there is in it a dormitive power.

Moliere, Le Malade Imaginere (1673), Act III, sc. iii.

Comment by fburnaby on Being Foreign and Being Sane · 2013-06-01T18:37:27.589Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by fburnaby on Earning to Give vs. Altruistic Career Choice Revisited · 2013-06-01T18:36:55.532Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree. The best cogs understand their role in the machine, which requires intimate understanding of the machine as a whole. AND they can feel what's going on as it happens.

Comment by fburnaby on Being Foreign and Being Sane · 2013-05-26T17:48:27.653Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If you didn't manage to notice your retinal blind spot or the mechanisms by which you conjugate verbs in your native tongue, what are the chances that you aren't at least a little mistaken about your true goals and desires and how best to achieve them?

Even though I'm very familiar and comfortable with your thesis, I found that sentence striking.

Comment by fburnaby on LW Women Entries- Creepiness · 2013-04-28T21:38:52.642Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I had exactly the same reaction. I believe (though have extremely small data number of data points) that offering a number instead of asking for one would be taken as low-status. On the other hand, I doubt that the balance between having a proposition accepted or denied is often that delicate. Presumably in most cases, by the time you're considering exchanging information, she or he has already made up their minds enough that such a small faux-pas wouldn't matter much.

Comment by fburnaby on Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism · 2013-03-06T02:55:29.498Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I identified very strongly with your article. I feel exactly the same way and suspect the same things are going on in my brain when I hear really bad feminist arguments. They're somehow more annoying than really bad (even worse!) gender regressive arguments.

This has lead me to question whether I should indulge myself in making my contrarian, actually-gender-progressive, arguments against what I perceive as mainstream opinion (feminism). Feminism really isn't nearly as mainstream as it feels to me. I'm just privileged as a member of the intellectual progressive elite - I got to go to good schools, I'm a professional, I select progressive friends and grew up with somewhat progressive parents. Yes, it was a revelation when I realized how many problems there are with mainstream feminism, but I'm also a product of a pretty rare selection bias in a society that's actually still racist. I actually buy the feminist narrative that there is still a lot of (level 1) sexism in our society, even though I tend to only see the problems with (level 2) mainstream feminism.

But there is a problem here for a consequentialist. No matter how clearly I put my criticisms, they're only understood as "some reactionary rationalization". People don't grasp the nuance and count one more head on the wrong side. It seems like it will lead to better consequences if I spend a majority of time "me too"ing mainstream feminism and biting my tongue about most of the issues in it. Or at least building more explicit feminist cred before pointing out some of the problems.

So this leads me to a question for you: why do you think that, in the face of your realization about why you criticize what you criticize, continuing to do it is the right thing to do?

Comment by fburnaby on Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism · 2013-03-06T02:18:53.974Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

doesn't follow politics / political junkie / avoids talking about politics due to mind-killing

Comment by fburnaby on Rationality Quotes January 2013 · 2013-01-02T02:07:53.918Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's funny. I've seen that movie five times or so. But I watched it again a few days ago, and that line struck me, too. Never stood out before.

Comment by fburnaby on [study] Ego depletion might disappear with age · 2012-09-16T13:33:48.450Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Habituate yourself to the mean."

Comment by fburnaby on Negative and Positive Selection · 2012-07-09T11:06:54.917Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That definitely makes it clear what your intention is.

Comment by fburnaby on Negative and Positive Selection · 2012-07-08T20:20:33.585Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm male and (I think) I tend to apply negative selection when deciding.

Comment by fburnaby on Negative and Positive Selection · 2012-07-08T20:19:31.383Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It seems that Vaniver and pnrjulius have assumed that you're having trouble picking good dates. If, instead, you are worried about getting picked (or accepted) for dates, then maybe you're on to something. I'd be interested in knowing whether the majority of people accept dates based on a positive or a negative selection process. It may need to be broken down by gender.

(I have a hypothesis that I won't share yet, in case it influences results)

Comment by fburnaby on Weekly LW Meetups: Berlin, Buenos Aires, Cambridge MA, Pittsburgh · 2012-06-01T23:52:32.112Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is there sufficient interest in starting a meetup in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada? If so, chime in!

Comment by fburnaby on I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions · 2012-05-13T14:51:40.827Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I read that comment as: "I think it's actually doing better than most (in staying self-aware and not being as socially naive)". Not that it's doing better than Marxists or others in actually changing the world. They obviously did a lot more in that regard than LessWrong ever has (or likely ever will).

Comment by fburnaby on Crowdsourcing the availability heuristic · 2012-04-30T21:42:14.409Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that being "approachable" might play in the dynamic, too. Needing help may attract others who can thereby raise their own status by helping you.

Comment by fburnaby on Crowdsourcing the availability heuristic · 2012-04-30T21:37:14.478Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm just speculating at random now, but the idea has popped into my head so I'll share.

We're adapted to function in small tribes where status may be very absolute and worth guarding on the one hand, and cooperation/helping each-other necessary very frequently. Our modern situation isn't quite the same - I'm completely self-sufficient in the sense that I can participate in formal and impersonal business activities and then purchase anything I need. Most of my friends are the same - if we're out, we pay our own tabs; if we're having a bad day, we try not to spread our contagious bad moods to each-other.

But I've recently been reading Robert Wright's book "Non-zero". He suggests that trading favours with people is a central part of human bonding. We may need to have opportunities to get a feel for each-others' characters by exchanging small favours, before we start trusting each-other with bigger things (Is this person a defector? I'll test that out by exchanging a fairly trivial favour. If they don't defect, I can up the ante. Etc). If that's true, then we're not getting many opportunities to show each-other that we're co-operators, not defectors.

Of course, there used to be two ways of being a defector: 1) ruthlessly cheating for gain, or 2) being an inadequate tribe-member who can't carry their weight. In that sort of situation, requiring help too often would look bad in the same way that someone with bad credit would look to a lender - not someone to do business with. Just as private companies have "optimal debt ratios", perhaps humans do, too. If you're too needy you start to look like bad credit, but if you aren't needy enough, you never get an opportunity to up your credit rating. Perhaps the credit-rating -> status analogy has something for it. And perhaps relative loners like me are too more tuned to the "avoid being perceived as an inadequate tribe-member" logic than is appropriate in our wealthy modern world.

Comment by fburnaby on Crowdsourcing the availability heuristic · 2012-04-30T20:30:24.416Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It definitely feels status-lowering to me when I ask for help. Consequently, I very rarely ask for help. However, I've noticed that my friends who do ask for help or do other things that feel status-lowering to me (especially "over-sharing" their feelings) also have more friends and more active social lives than I do.

Comment by fburnaby on Crowdsourcing the availability heuristic · 2012-04-30T20:25:56.723Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. The art of Googling can be pretty difficult, and a few brains are still smarter (though less broadly knowledgeable, perhaps) than Google, at this point in time.

Comment by fburnaby on Evidence for the orthogonality thesis · 2012-04-05T00:50:23.823Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I was a strong moral realist, I'd also believe that an AI should be able to just "figure it out". I wonder instead if exposure to the field of AI reserach, where cost functions and methods of solution are pretty orthogonal would help alleviate the moral realism?

Comment by fburnaby on Evidence for the orthogonality thesis · 2012-04-05T00:40:20.552Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Classic Murder Gandhi.

Comment by fburnaby on Simple but important ideas · 2012-03-22T00:56:52.167Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Or simple ideas have all sorts of implications that naturally follow, but which most readers need to have teased out for them.

Comment by fburnaby on Evolutionary psychology: evolving three eyed monsters · 2012-03-16T21:39:08.557Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Be suspicious of overly bold claims in evolutionary psychology - check and mostly agreed, though see Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea for something that might slightly re-inflate the idea of good ev-psych.

But I don't see how your suggestion to think about minds as "lined slates" follows. It seems to not follow even more after having read your argument. What reason do be have to think that our minds have evolved to be very flexible general learning processes? Your argument makes me imagine my mind as the opposite - after reading your argument, out brains look even more like they should be a bunch of wires, randomly attached.

In the days when Sussman was a novice, Minsky once came to him as he sat hacking at the PDP6. "What are you doing?", asked Minsky. "I am training a randomly wired neural network to play Tic Tac Toe". "Why is the net wired randomly?" asked Minsky. "I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play." Minsky shut his eyes: "Why do you close your eyes?" Sussman asked his teacher. "So the room will be empty." At that moment, Sussman was enlightened.

Comment by fburnaby on [SEQ RERUN] Is Humanism A Religion-Substitute? · 2012-03-15T00:29:28.435Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I believe that and agree that it's gotta be a major factor in driving god-belief and other types of animism (it's one of the brain-holes I'm talking about). Yet, religion seems to be a superset -- and sometimes a large one -- of god-belief. There's seemingly more to explain. There are likely several other brain-holes involved here.

Comment by fburnaby on [SEQ RERUN] Is Humanism A Religion-Substitute? · 2012-03-14T17:44:40.301Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There was so much talk of "religion-shaped holes" in the brain in those comments! Shouldn't it be pretty obvious to people who are aware of the "meme" concept that religions are brain-hole shaped and not the other way around?

Of course it's ok if a rocket-ship fills a certain brain-hole in a similar way the religion does - rocket ships are benign. It's naming one or several of those holes "religion-shaped" that seems to have a dark-artsy kind of effect and turn us all stupid.

Comment by fburnaby on The Stable State is Broken · 2012-03-14T16:29:52.646Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To add some credence to your recommendations: since actually understanding the logic of stable strategies, I feel much less frustrated by the examples cited by Bakkot than I used to when I assumed they were the result of evil. I also view them as problems to be solved, not enemies to scorn. This really truly seems like an improved disposition being caused by understanding.

Thought to be fair, my actions have been changed much less than my dispositions have. Such understanding has, at most, impacted my behaviours which I associate with far-mode: how I vote, argue and make life decisions. My leisure activities, smoking habits, purchasing habits haven't changed.

Comment by fburnaby on Fallacies as weak Bayesian evidence · 2012-03-13T23:12:21.794Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It didn't bother me. Though this may just be beacause I'm already habituated to ignoring it after having read many journal articles.

Comment by fburnaby on How I Ended Up Non-Ambitious · 2012-03-04T15:13:11.021Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My first-year courses in engineering (in Canada) made basic use of calculus without assuming any real understanding of it. By second-year, the calculus was assumed and for linear ODE's and similar. Third-year, we moved to Laplace and Fourier transforms and the final year finally started to get into applications and standards and "real" things.

I've always wondered how different other engineering school curricula are.

Comment by fburnaby on People who "don't rationalize"? [Help Rationality Group figure it out] · 2012-03-04T15:01:14.308Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I agree that this seems like a good thing to try for both dreaming and rationalization! I've recently gotten myself a notebook for at home, just for doodling ideas about the things I'm reading. It might be a good idea just to try and expand that to dreaming, rationalization and other things too, just to see what comes out. To provide myself more reliable access to an "outside view" of myself.

Comment by fburnaby on People who "don't rationalize"? [Help Rationality Group figure it out] · 2012-03-03T23:47:02.596Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't remembered a dream in years. There are three that I have had in my life which I can recount even a bit of (all of which were nightmares, interestingly). I'm pretty sure that I have them all the time because I sometimes wake up with strange images in my head. But these images disappear very quickly and I can't tell someone what I was dreaming about even minutes after waking.

I notice that I sometimes catch myself rationalizing in simple ways, like offering some justification for a shortcoming that I have. But I notice also that I can only think of one example in my life where I've done this... Yet I have an impression that I do it all the time.

I wonder if there's... something in common there? How many people don't tend to remember their dreams?

Comment by fburnaby on Rationality Quotes February 2012 · 2012-02-12T00:38:58.062Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Once the demands of acting - and hence deciding - in a time-pressured world are factored into our vision of rational thought, we get a model of the mind vastly unlike the model typically (and dimly) imagined by rationalists in the in the great tradition of Descartes, Leibniz and Kant.

Daniel Dennett, Elbow Room, (Control and Self-Control)

Comment by fburnaby on [LINK] Refuting common objections to cognitive enhancement · 2012-02-10T11:57:56.655Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As a nerd, I have a (usually socially unacceptable) impulse to offer 16 possible ways that some plan could go wrong. It's fun, and on occasion useful. It seems very possible to me that your impression of "the state of bioethics" comes from a selection effect, where bioethecists show off their coolest objections to an obviously good thing.

Actually, in engineering school, I learned the same notion -- "shoot lame puppies early". It's a good plan to look for every possible (for a reasonably narrow definition of "possible") way your design could fail before you move further.

All I'm trying to say is that just because these philosophers are talking about cases that probably don't matter doesn't mean that no-one should think about them. On the very small chance that they do matter, the payoffs for having thought about them are large.

Comment by fburnaby on Urges vs. Goals: The analogy to anticipation and belief · 2012-01-27T23:49:08.214Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

When I'm there, I feel like working and when I'm anywhere else, I don't. I haven't ever stopped to try and figure out what it is about the place, but I've assumed that someone must be thinking about it.

If you'd like to have some guesses:

  • it's a very sterile environment with no distractions
  • I feel pressure to demonstrate that I'm working right this second, which may help me stay in near-mode

(One necessity for all this to work is, of course, that my goals be related to furthering my career and to accomplishing and learning stuff that's positively correlated to my employer's goals.)

Comment by fburnaby on Urges vs. Goals: The analogy to anticipation and belief · 2012-01-26T05:35:04.557Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My workplace seems, at times, to be well-designed to align my urges and goals for me.

(also: Congratulations, Anna and Carl on your wedding!)

Comment by fburnaby on [Meta] No LessWrong Blackout? · 2012-01-23T23:23:17.736Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Doing things just to signal your status is a basic social skill and not something to be ashamed of.

Yes, but what I'm trying to get at is that if we started assigning status to people who actually accomplish things, we'd all start ... accomplishing more things!

Comment by fburnaby on [Meta] No LessWrong Blackout? · 2012-01-23T14:00:22.110Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You don't necessarily lose status by admitting that you do things that people only do to prove how high status they are.

Interestingly, this seems to only apply in rationalist communities. While I think it's a good norm for encouraging truth-seeking, it seems bad for winning to let each-other off the hook too easily.

Comment by fburnaby on How to un-kill your mind - maybe. · 2012-01-23T13:55:24.096Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My strategy has been to identify with "Keep your Identity Small".

Comment by fburnaby on Rationality quotes January 2012 · 2012-01-23T13:41:18.185Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It seems most common to mix those two modes as convenient.

Comment by fburnaby on The Singularity Institute's Arrogance Problem · 2012-01-23T04:24:10.738Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What about getting some tech/science savvy public-relations practitioners involved? Understanding and interacting effectively with the relevant publics might just be a skill worthy of dedicated consideration and more careful management.

Comment by fburnaby on How I Ended Up Non-Ambitious · 2012-01-23T01:35:26.230Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I found this was a common theme in good engineering courses. The whole course would boiled down to three or four new concepts. By the time the final came around, it just felt like thinking hard about common sense even though at the beginning of the term, everything had seemed counter-intuitive.

Comment by fburnaby on Breaking the chain of akrasia · 2012-01-22T17:11:19.308Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm weaker still, I think. I need the person who's depending on me to be close by.

Comment by fburnaby on How I Ended Up Non-Ambitious · 2012-01-22T16:52:00.275Z · score: 26 (26 votes) · LW · GW

When I was graduating from high school, I was warned a lot that when I go to university: "your grades will tend to drop a letter grade". When I mentioned that I was going to study engineering, I was additionally told that "half of you will flunk out or drop out in the first year". I very self-consciously tried to manage my expectations about how good my grades should be, trying to find a reasonable goal that was (1) achievable so that I wouldn't get stressed out, but still (2) sufficiently "ambitious" so that I'd be sure to graduate and be able to find a good job and feel good about having spent four years of my life.

The way you describe your attitude toward "ambition" resonates with the feeling I had toward it then. If I set my ambitions too high (acing all my courses), I'd feel like a failure when I missed those goals. But if I set my goals just right, I'd feel the contentment of meeting them, but with minimal risk of failure. A safe emotional bet with no risk to my status, since as you say, I'd have "a way to feel superior to people who’ve accomplished cooler things than me".

But as it turned out, I have a good brain for engineering and other mathy, sciency things. My initial commitment to strive for moderatley good grades (I recall promising myself a B+ average), paired with my expectation that the program would be very difficult kept me motivated to study a lot. As it turned out, this level of motivation converted into a perfect A+ GPA within 2 years. That felt really good. And surprisingly, the increased confidence I gained in academics transferred over to the rest of my life - I became more confident socializing and dating (from a previous baseline of 0 confidence) and life felt awesome.

It didn't take long before I became more ambitious. I got interested in all sorts of intellectual pursuits, including reading LW/OB and signed up for grad school in an essentially unrelated discipline. I was confident enough that I could just catch up with other students as I went. I committed to doing so publicly. My estimate wasn't way off. I got through the program and caught up to other students. But I sure didn't stand ahead of the pack like I'd hoped. Even a fairly minor failure, which is what I consider the last few years of my life to be, had a huge impact on my mood. I was depressed as I was writing my thesis and stayed so all last summer as I started planning the next phase of my life. It's just amazing, not only how much missing a big goal like this hurt, but also how much it impacted my ability to even try. Which created quite a terrible feedback loop, of course.

Your post, Swimmer, has reminded me just how important "tuning" my expectations has been in determining my happiness. I think your parents are very right that choosing achievable goals is very important for your happiness. That's been a completely new lesson for me recently.

And it makes sense: If happiness is mostly a reward for doing status-raising things like achieving goals or doing cool things, then choosing "easy" goals (nursing in your example, though I'm not trying to say "nursing is easy") and calling it wisdom may be one way to do it. Choosing "cool" goals (being a physicist or a doc) may be another good way to doing it, because you might tend to think about your goals in far-mode. In either case, you're doing things which in your mind should increase your status and are experiencing the utility that comes with such "winning".

Just to add: Since discovering this dynamic, I've taken a somewhat-cool fairly challenging job and my depression has decreased quite a bit. It wasn't immediate, but as I gradually change my self-image from "failure as an academic" to "pretty good up-and-coming engineer with a quirky job description", that depression has been lifting.

Comment by fburnaby on POSITION: Design and Write Rationality Curriculum · 2012-01-20T00:40:13.732Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Having seen many concerns about the low salary/skill ratio: it seems like about the same situation that I had for my graduate degree. I took half the salary for a job that was (by my estimate at the time) twice as cool as the alternatives. In that light, the position seems like quite a good deal, as most grad students don't earn that much. If you expect to experience side-benefits from this job, such as benefiting from increased rationality, or having cool stories to tell people about your interesting job, then this seems like a good deal.

Comment by fburnaby on The problem with too many rational memes · 2012-01-20T00:15:25.825Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Trying it in the world definitely deserves some karma. I'll take this as a reminder to stay alert for situations when it's useful and practice it diligently.

Comment by fburnaby on The problem with too many rational memes · 2012-01-19T02:46:43.021Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I can't imagine what the arguments are in support of "church doesn't advance your goals". What are they?

I know all sorts of arguments that "churches lead to all sorts of horrible political-social effects" and ones about "churches ruin some particular lives (imagine some closeted, self-hating homosexual who would have been happy in a secular background)", but if you get something from going to church, and it's your goal to do so... that seems very straight-forward.

Comment by fburnaby on The problem with too many rational memes · 2012-01-19T02:37:47.806Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In your LW articles, you come off as both charismatic and intelligent. You have interesting insights, you're willing and able to post your thoughts (and they're frequently even not-in-sync with the general LW zeigeist), you use lots of engaging personal examples... Are you sure you're not being humble or maintaining a wrong self-image for some other reason?

Comment by fburnaby on The problem with too many rational memes · 2012-01-19T02:20:38.681Z · score: 26 (26 votes) · LW · GW

I have a friend who frequently cuts into a conversation with the phrase: "you're right, but..." and then tells you why you're oh so very wrong. His body language admits no sarcasm (how he does this, I don't know) while he says it. In fact, I think I'm the only one of our mutual friends who has noticed his frequent use of this trick.

But it works a lot!

Comment by fburnaby on [META] 'Rational' vs 'Optimized' · 2012-01-06T22:10:17.762Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Either they even each-other out, or people think we're crazy and self-contradictory?