Against Victimhood 2020-09-18T01:58:31.041Z · score: 78 (34 votes)
On Suddenly Not Being Able to Work 2020-08-25T22:14:45.747Z · score: 35 (16 votes)
Writing with GPT-3 2020-07-24T15:22:46.729Z · score: 41 (17 votes)
Kelly Bet on Everything 2020-07-10T02:48:12.868Z · score: 62 (26 votes)
Fight the Power 2020-06-22T02:19:39.042Z · score: 21 (11 votes)
Do Women Like Assholes? 2020-06-22T02:14:43.503Z · score: 30 (17 votes)
TFW No Incels 2020-05-03T16:56:24.278Z · score: 13 (9 votes)
Sex, Lies, and Canaanites 2020-04-23T16:26:10.458Z · score: 15 (10 votes)
The Origin of Consciousness Reading Companion, Part 1 2020-04-06T22:07:35.190Z · score: 21 (7 votes)
The Great Annealing 2020-03-30T01:08:24.268Z · score: 80 (34 votes)
Tales From the Borderlands 2020-03-25T19:11:48.373Z · score: 58 (22 votes)
Seeing the Smoke 2020-02-28T18:26:58.839Z · score: 156 (65 votes)
The Skewed and the Screwed: When Mating Meets Politics 2020-01-29T15:50:31.681Z · score: 44 (15 votes)
Go F*** Someone 2020-01-15T18:39:33.080Z · score: 15 (38 votes)
100 Ways To Live Better 2019-12-31T20:23:12.039Z · score: 46 (24 votes)
Is Rationalist Self-Improvement Real? 2019-12-09T17:11:03.337Z · score: 181 (80 votes)
Genesis 2019-11-14T16:20:47.508Z · score: 12 (10 votes)
Aella on Rationality and the Void 2019-10-31T21:40:52.042Z · score: 30 (10 votes)
Polyamory is Rational(ist) 2019-10-18T16:48:52.990Z · score: 26 (8 votes)
Interview with Aella, Part I 2019-09-19T14:05:18.523Z · score: 14 (17 votes)
Predictable Identities - Midpoint Review 2019-09-12T14:39:44.348Z · score: 20 (5 votes)
Unstriving 2019-08-19T14:31:56.786Z · score: 42 (29 votes)
Jacob's Twit, errr, Shortform 2019-08-17T23:49:43.993Z · score: 7 (1 votes)
Diana Fleischman and Geoffrey Miller - Audience Q&A 2019-08-10T22:37:53.090Z · score: 40 (21 votes)
Cephaloponderings 2019-08-04T16:45:57.065Z · score: 42 (19 votes)
Interview With Diana Fleischman and Geoffrey Miller 2019-07-16T01:34:26.156Z · score: 13 (11 votes)
PlayStation Odysseys 2019-07-01T17:41:52.499Z · score: 24 (6 votes)
Podcast - Putanumonit on The Switch 2019-06-23T04:09:25.723Z · score: 7 (3 votes)
Get Rich Real Slowly 2019-06-10T17:51:32.654Z · score: 39 (16 votes)
Lonelinesses 2019-05-31T13:55:55.135Z · score: 49 (18 votes)
Thinking Fast and Hard 2019-05-13T19:58:34.089Z · score: 27 (11 votes)
The State of Affairs 2019-05-03T16:18:31.706Z · score: 33 (13 votes)
Buying Value, not Price 2019-04-29T15:51:55.470Z · score: 35 (13 votes)
Interview with Putanumonit 2019-04-24T14:53:00.096Z · score: 17 (7 votes)
Airportpourri 2019-04-24T14:51:24.281Z · score: 6 (2 votes)
Exponential Secretary 2019-03-04T19:47:48.912Z · score: 19 (5 votes)
Cooperation is for Winners 2019-02-15T14:58:08.949Z · score: 23 (8 votes)
Masculine Virtues 2019-01-30T16:03:56.000Z · score: 47 (31 votes)
Curing the World of Men 2019-01-18T20:23:18.006Z · score: -5 (15 votes)
Finance Followups 2019-01-17T17:54:44.256Z · score: 29 (11 votes)
Why Don't Creators Switch to their Own Platforms? 2018-12-23T04:46:47.047Z · score: 45 (16 votes)
In Defense of Finance 2018-12-17T16:59:11.149Z · score: 54 (11 votes)
Peanut Butter 2018-12-03T19:30:56.907Z · score: 32 (8 votes)
Trigger Action Planning Workshop 2018-12-03T19:28:19.041Z · score: 7 (1 votes)
deluks917 on Online Weirdos 2018-11-24T17:03:20.474Z · score: 25 (8 votes)
Mandatory Obsessions 2018-11-14T18:19:53.007Z · score: 81 (29 votes)
UBI for President 2018-10-18T15:09:08.463Z · score: 45 (26 votes)
What the Haters Hate 2018-10-01T20:29:42.489Z · score: 29 (27 votes)
Hang Out on the Roof 2018-09-18T16:10:27.396Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
The Scent of Bad Psychology 2018-09-10T18:42:21.682Z · score: 44 (19 votes)


Comment by jacobian on Covid-19 6/18: The Virus Goes South · 2020-06-20T22:06:20.583Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Here's what I wrote about coordinated moving when Raymond was talking about leaving the Bay for a while:

"Coordinated moving seems hard. It seems unlikely to happen. But, I think that uncoordinated moving can end up quite coordinated.

If I'm thinking of leaving Brooklyn, I have 10,000 small towns to choose from. If [Zvi, or Ray, or anyone like that] publicizes which one he goes to after doing research, that town is immediately in my top 10 options I'll actually consider. Not just because I'd want to live near [Zvi/Ray] and I trust his research, but also because I know that hundreds of other people I like would know about that town and consider moving there. So if people just move out without coordinating but tell all their friends about it, I think we'll end up with decent enough agglomerations of friends wherever the pioneers end up going."

On a related note, I'm planning to go on a small road trip around the northeast in July and would love to visit you in Warwick if you're accepting visitors (got tested this week, alas no antibodies, still distancing at home).

Comment by jacobian on Simulacra and Subjectivity · 2020-05-20T14:16:39.467Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Let me know if this matches — the way I understand it is that level 3 is often about signaling belonging to a group, and level 4 is about shaping how well different belonging signal works.


Level 1: "Believe all women" = If a woman accuses someone of sexual assault, literally believe her.

Level 2: "Believe all women" = I want accusations of sexual assault to be taken more seriously.

Level 3: "Believe all women" = I'm part of the politically progressive tribe that takes sexual assault seriously.

Level 4: "Believe all women" = Taking sexual assault seriously should be a more important signal of political progressivism than other issues.

Level 5: "Believe all women" = But actually take sexual assault seriously even if it becomes opposed to political progressivism because Biden.

Comment by jacobian on Jacob's Twit, errr, Shortform · 2020-04-22T23:08:08.190Z · score: 36 (9 votes) · LW · GW

People ask what the goal of the Rationalist community is. It's to raise the sanity waterline. To flood the cities with sanity. To wash the streets with pure reason. To engulf the land in common sense. And when our foes, gasping for air, scream "this literally can't be happening!" we'll remind them that 0 and 1 are not probabilities.

Comment by jacobian on Premature death paradox · 2020-04-16T22:54:03.492Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you die at age 90, you died prematurely relative to what we'd expect a month before you died, but (postmaturely? it should be a word) relative to what we'd expect and bet on 80 years before your death (i.e., at age 10).

Now, you may still think there's a paradox in the following sense: let's say the median lifespan expected at birth is 70. That means that the 50% of people who died before 70 died prematurely relative to all predictions made throughout their lives, while for the remaining 50% some of the predictions were too pessimistic (those made early in their lives) but some were optimistic. Isn't there still a skew towards being surprised that people died early?

The imbalance disappears if we count not people, but people-seconds. I.e., if we predict how long everyone is going to live at every second of their lives, the average prediction will not be either pre- or post-mature. The people who live longer will accumulate more pessimistic early death predictions through the sheer fact that they live more seconds and so more predictions are made about them. A person who lives to 100 may accumulate 95 years of too-pessimistic predictions and only 5 years of too-optimistic ones.

Comment by jacobian on April Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-04-16T22:25:48.981Z · score: 10 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hydroxychloroquine update!

A smart friend pointed me to this study that explains that mediocre antivirals only work if administered right after infection. By the onset of symptoms the effect is already much reduced. (The study isn't clear as to what counts as "symptoms" except that they occurred 3 days before hospitalization, so maybe early warning signs like loss of smell don't count). HCQ is, at best, a mediocre antiviral.

This model agrees with a new study from China (N=150) that showed zero effect when giving patients HCQ 16-17 days after the onset of the disease. Of note, the study compared Standard of Care to SOC+HCQ, and I have no idea what the Chinese SOC is beyond the minimal requirement of intravenous fluids, oxygen, and monitoring that's mentioned in the paper. In particular, there's no info on whether it includes antibiotics like azithromycin, and whether it includes zinc. It's hypothesized that HCQ works partly by easing the entry of zinc into cells where it slows viral replication, and so they work well in conjunction.

Bottom line: it may still be worth it to take HCQ+zinc if you cough and lose your sense of smell two days after going through an airport, but HCQ may not be of any help to heavily symptomatic people (and it still has nasty side effects).

Real bottom line: now that hydroxychloroquine is a politicized issue, you can't trust anything journalists have to say about it and have to read the studies yourself.

Comment by jacobian on The Great Annealing · 2020-04-01T03:52:34.547Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

As a follow up on the media angle, here's something I posted on my Facebook:

We're going to see a lot of research on hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (HC&A), among other drugs, coming out in the next few weeks from around the world. HC&A is already the standard of care in several countries, in part because the drugs are cheap and widely available and in part because early results are promising. The combined evidence of these studies may show that other treatments are better as a first choice, or that HC&A is better, or that it depends on the particular characteristics of each patient. It’s always going to be complicated.

What the studies will never be able to do is *prove* that HC&A cures COVID since we already know that nothing works 100% for it. There is too much variance in how patients are selected for each study, how they're treated, how outcomes are measured, and how an individual responds. There's never one big indisputable hammer in small-N drug research, and there are always outlier results for people to cherry-pick one way or another. However, enough Bayesian evidence could mount that taking 600 mg of hydroxychloroquine at home at the first onset of symptoms or a positive test is better than chicken soup or going to an overcrowded hospital, all else being equal [1].

And if that happens, there is little doubt in my mind that mainstream media will fight for weeks against admitting that it is the case. They will hide behind "it's not proven" and "more research is needed" and "but the FDA". Facebook will be along for the denial ride claiming they "fight unofficial misinformation", which is anything that’s not coming from the WHO (which is currently telling people not to wear masks). Many politicians will fight to suppress this information as well, especially if Trump starts gloating over some particularly poor pro-HC&A study and saying that he called it. Trump is an idiot, but reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

So, please don’t fall prey to Gell-Mann amnesia. The same people who bullshitted you about “it’s just the flu” and about closing borders and about masks would 100% keep bullshitting you about drugs. Journalists aren’t smart enough to understand cumulative research evidence, and organizations like WHO and FDA have institutional incentives that will force them to react two months and thousands of corpses too late. You have to learn how to read medical studies yourself, or follow people who can and who aren’t compromised by working in media or politics. The lives of your loved ones are at stake.

[1] I will not disclose here whether I think that’s already the case for two reasons. First, I don’t want Facebook to remove this post for giving unsolicited medical advice, so I’m only giving information consumption advice. Second, I am not the authority you should be listening to. It’s better that we all find different sources to read and share our independent conclusions.

Comment by jacobian on "No evidence" as a Valley of Bad Rationality · 2020-03-30T14:19:11.706Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I just thought of this in the context of this study on hydroxychloroquine in which 14/15 patients on the drug improved vs 13/15 patients treated with something else. To the average Joe, HCQ curing 14/15 people is an amazing positive result, and it's heartening to know that other antivirals are almost as good. To the galaxy-brained journalist, there's p>0.05 and so "the new study casts doubt on hydroxychloroquine effectiveness... a prime example of why Trump shouldn't be endorsing... actually isn't any more effective."

Comment by jacobian on Seeing the Smoke · 2020-02-29T06:07:34.367Z · score: 11 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I think the economic impact will also be huge. Businesses are prepared for 2% of their workers being out with the flu on any given day through the winter, but not for 20% to be sick while the other 80% are quarantined as COVID-19 hits their city. And the company who needs the input parts from that first business is not prepared to not have them for a month, and the companies that rely on them are not prepared, and most industries have slim enough cash reserves and profit margins that a pandemic can knock a lot good companies out of business for good. This could all mean just slightly more expensive electronics for two years, or it could mean a decade of unemployment and restructuring.

Comment by jacobian on Go F*** Someone · 2020-01-22T16:36:50.372Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Attractiveness comes in many forms. I'm extroverted and write better than I look, so I do well at dinner parties and OKCupid. You can be attractive in dancing skill, in spiritual practice, in demonstrable expertise, in an artistic pursuit... guitar players get laid even if they're not that good looking.

And yet, everyone's first association when talking about "aim for 100 dates" is Tinder, which works only for the men who are top 20% in the one aspect of attractiveness that's crowded and hard to improve - physical looks. This includes men who self-report as unattractive, like this commenter (and presumably, "Simon").

The minimum threshold of attractivenes on Tinder is incredibly high, much higher than almost any other place to look for dates. It's certainly higher than my own good looks — I only turn Tinder on when I leave the country.

Comment by jacobian on Go F*** Someone · 2020-01-22T16:25:50.202Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was thinking of people who write comments without reading the post, which pollutes the conversation. Or people who form broad opinions about a writer or a blog without reading. I deal with those people all day every day on Twitter and in the blog comments.

I didn't mean people deciding what to read based on the title. Of course everyone does that! Someone seeing 'Go F*** Someone' may assume that the post will be somewhat vulgar, and will talk about sex. Both things are true. People not interested in vulgar writing about sex shouldn't read it. If I titled it 'A Consideration of Narcissism as it Affects the Formation of Long Term Bonds' that would actually be more misleading, since people would not expect it to be a vulgar post about sex and will get upset.

Comment by jacobian on Go F*** Someone · 2020-01-20T22:56:22.607Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I understand your concerns.

I cross-post everything I write on Putanumonit to LW by default, which I understood to be the intention of "personal blogposts". I didn't write this for LW. If anyone on the mod team told me that this would be better as a link post or off LW entirely, not because it's bad but because it's not aligned with LW's reputation, I'll be happy to comply.

I could imagine casual readers quickly looking at this and assuming it's related to the PUA community

With that said, my personal opinion is that LW shouldn't cater to people who form opinions on things before reading them and we should discourage them from hanging out here.

Comment by jacobian on Go F*** Someone · 2020-01-16T21:29:28.714Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

95%+ of people who drop out of the workforce to raise children are women

Citation needed.

Other than that, you are supporting my general argument by writing from within the very framework that I lay out here. Why is the choice to leave work "destructive"? Why is it OK for a man to depend on a woman for the biological necessities of having a family, but not OK for either partner do depend on the other for the financial necessities?

Accomplished women who drop out to raise families usually don't surrender the spending of money to their husbands (I agree that demanding that they do so is patriarchal and bad). They only surrender the making of the money. The ability to spend money is what lets people build good lives and families, but making money is what contributes to their status*. Post-divorce, it's usually much easier for a woman (particularly an accomplished one) to make money again than it is for a man to have children again.

*At least, their status among some people. I personally care about LW karma more than income :)

Comment by jacobian on Caring less · 2019-12-23T22:45:31.762Z · score: 11 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Caring less" was in the air. People were noticing the phenomenon. People were trying to explain it. In a comment, I realized that I was in effect telling people to care less about things without realizing what I was doing. All we needed was a concise post to crystallize the concept, and eukaryote obliged.

The post, especially the beginning, gets straight to the point. It asks the question of why we don't hear more persuasion in the form of "care less", offers a realistic example and a memorable graphic, and calls to action. This is the part that was most useful to me - it gave me a clear handle on something that I've been thinking about for a while. I'm a big fan of telling people to care less, and once I realized that this is what I was doing I learned to expect more psychological resistance from people. I'm less direct now when encouraging people to care less, and often phrase it in terms of trade-offs by telling people that caring less about something (usually, national politics and culture wars) will free up energy to care more about things they already endorse as more important (usually, communities and relationships).

The post talks about the guilt and anxiety induced by ubiquitous "care more" messaging, and I think it's taking this too much for granted. An alternative explanation is that people who are not scrupulous utilitarian Effective Altruists are quite good at not feeling guilt and anxiety, which leaves room for "care more" messaging to proliferate. I wish the post made more distinction between the narrow world of EA and the broader cultural landscape, I fear that it may be typical-minding somewhat.

Finally, eukaryote throws out some hypotheses that explain the asymmetry. This part seems somewhat rushed and not fully thought out. As a quick brainstorming exercise it could be better as just a series of bullet points, as the 1-2 paragraph explanations don't really add much. As some commenters pointed out and as I wrote in an essay inspired by this post, eukaryote doesn't quite suggest the "Hansonian" explanation that seems obviously central to me. Namely: "care more about X" is a claim for status on behalf of the speaker, who is usually someone who has strong opinions and status tied up with X. This is more natural and more tolerable to people than "care less about Y", which reads as an attack on someone else's status and identity - often the listener themselves since they presumably care about Y.

Instead of theorizing about the cause of the phenomenon, I think that the most useful follow ups to this post would be figuring out ways to better communicate "care less" messages and observing what actually happens if such messages are received. Even if one does not buy the premise that "care less" messaging is relaxing and therapeutic, it is important to have that in one's repertoire. And the first step towards that is having the concept clearly explained in a public way that one can point to, and that is the value of this post.

Comment by jacobian on Expressive Vocabulary · 2019-12-17T15:11:37.414Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like this post is missing an important piece.

When people say "chemicals" or "technology" they are very often not talking about the term in question, but communicating an emotional fact about themselves. "I am disgusted by foods that feel artificially produced", "I want you not to be distracted by devices during dinner". Coming up with better and more precise terms won't help at all, since the thing is being communicated has little to do with the referent of the imprecise term.

You can notice this when the conversation switches from personal experience to a more general and technical discussion. If someone proposes a "ban on technology use in school", everyone will be quick to focus on what is actually in the category.

Comment by jacobian on What determines the balance between intelligence signaling and virtue signaling? · 2019-12-17T14:49:40.184Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is a great example. During the Cultural Revolution and similar periods (e.g., Stalinist Russia) you not only wanted to signal virtue above intelligence, you actively wanted to signal *lack* of intelligence as vigorously as you could. The inteligentzia are always suspect.

Comment by jacobian on A LessWrong Crypto Autopsy · 2019-12-10T19:55:58.634Z · score: 14 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I wrote about this post extensively as part of my essay on Rationalist self-improvement. The general idea of this post is excellent: gathering data for a clever natural experiment of whether Rationalists actually win. Unfortunately, the analysis itself is very lacking and is not very data-driven.

The core result is: 15% of SSC readers who were referred by LessWrong made over $1,000 in crypto, 3% made $100,000. These quantities require quantitative analysis: Is 15%/3% a lot or a little compared to matched groups like the Silicon Valley or Libertarian blogosphere? How good a proxy is Scott's selection for people who were on LessWrong when Bitcoin was launching and had the means to take advantage of the opportunity? How much of a consensus on LessWrong was the advice to buy cryptocurrencies? These are all questions that one could find data on (I did a bit of it in my own post), but the essay does no such thing. Scott declares by fiat that 15% earns the community a C grade, with very little justification provided. This conclusion aligns perfectly with what Scott previously opined on the utility of Rationality to things like making money, which doesn't engender confidence in the objectivity of his evaluation.

The idea behind this essay is very admirable; one of the main things we fail to do more as a community is to test ourselves against real world outcomes. And the fact that Scott gathered the data himself is laudable as well. But the essay in itself is more of a suggestion for a good research post than a good work of analysis in itself.

Comment by jacobian on The Intelligent Social Web · 2019-12-10T19:30:41.701Z · score: 53 (16 votes) · LW · GW

In my opinion, the biggest shift in the study of rationality since the Sequences were published were a change in focus from "bad math" biases (anchoring, availability, base rate neglect etc.) to socially-driven biases. And with good reason: while a crash course in Bayes' Law can alleviate many of the issues with intuitive math, group politics are a deep and inextricable part of everything our brains do.

There has been a lot of great writing describing the issue like Scott’s essays on ingroups and outgroups and Robin Hanson’s theory of signaling. There are excellent posts summarizing the problem of socially-driven bias on a high level, like Kevin Simler’s post on crony beliefs. But The Intelligent Social Web offers something that all of the above don’t: a lens that looks into the very heart of social reality, makes you feel its power on an immediate and intuitive level, and gives you the tools to actually manipulate and change your reaction to it.

Valentine’s structure of treating this as a “fake framework” is invaluable in this context. A high-level rigorous description of social reality doesn’t really empower you to do anything about it. But seeing social interactions as an improv scene, while not literally true, offers actionable insight.

The specific examples in the post hit very close to home for me, like the example of one’s family tugging a person back into their old role. I noticed that I quite often lose my temper around my parents, something that happens basically never around my wife or friends. I realized that much of it is caused by a role conflict with my father about who gets to be the “authority” on living well. I further recognized that my temper is triggered by “should” statements, even innocuous ones like “you should have the Cabernet with this dish” over dinner. Seeing these interactions through the lens of both of us negotiating and claiming our roles allowed me to control how I feel and react rather than being driven by an anger that I don’t understand the source of. An issue that I struggled with for years was mostly resolved after reading this post and thinking about it for a while.

The post’s focus on salient examples (family roles, the convert boyfriend, the white man’s role) also has a downside, in that it’s somewhat difficult to keep track of the main thrust of Valentine’s argument. The entire introductory section also does nothing to help the essay cohere; it makes claims about personal benefits Valentine has acquired by using this framework. These claims are neither substantiated nor explored further in the essay, and they are also unnecessary — the essay is compelling by the force of its insight and not by promising a laundry list of results.

Valentine does not go into detail about the reasons that people “need the scene to work” above all other considerations. This for two reasons: the essay is long enough as it is, and the underlying structure is more speculative than established. I hope to see more people exploring this underlying structure as a follow up. I recommend Sarah Constantin’s look at abusive relationships through the lens of playing out familiar roles; I have also written an essay fitting Valentine’s idea into a broader framework of how predictive processing shapes how we think about identity and social interaction.

But again: The Intelligent Social Web didn’t just inspire me to write about ideas, it changed how I live my life. Whenever I feel a discordant emotion in a social interaction or have a goal that is thwarted I put on the framework of improv scenes and social roles to understand what is happening. And every time I reread the post after trying out the framework in real life, I glean more from it. If the post was slightly better structured and focused it could reach more readers, but it is already the most impactful thing I read on LessWrong in 2018.

Comment by jacobian on Is Rationalist Self-Improvement Real? · 2019-12-10T18:23:00.848Z · score: 16 (6 votes) · LW · GW

As I said, someone who is 100% in thrall to social reality will probably not be reading this. But once you peek outside the bubble there is still a long way to enlightenment: first learning how signaling, social roles, tribal impulses etc. shape your behavior so you can avoid their worst effects, then learning to shape the rules of social reality to suit your own goals. Our community is very helpful for getting the first part right, it certainly has been for me. And hopefully we can continue fruitfully exploring the second part too.

Comment by jacobian on Is Rationalist Self-Improvement Real? · 2019-12-10T16:10:47.739Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Somewhat unrelated, but one can think of RSI as being a *meta* self-improvement approach — it's what allows you to pick and choose between many competing theories of self-improvement.

Aside from that, I didn't read the academic literature on TAPs before trying them out. I tried them out and measured how well they work for me, and then decided when and where to use them. Good Rationalist advice is to know when to read meta-analyses and when to run a cheap experiment yourself :)

Comment by jacobian on Is Rationalist Self-Improvement Real? · 2019-12-10T15:53:41.670Z · score: 36 (19 votes) · LW · GW

I have several friends in New York who are a match to my Rationalist friends in age, class, intelligence etc. and who:

  • Pick S&P 500 stocks based on CNBC and blogs because their intuition tells them they've beat the market (but they don't check or track it, just remember the winners).
  • Stay in jobs they hate because they don't have a robust decision process for making such a switch (I used goal factoring, Yoda timer job research, and decision matrices to decide where to work).
  • Go so back asswards about dating that it hurts to watch (because they can't think about it systematically).
  • Retweet Trump with comment.
  • Throw the most boring parties.
  • Spend thousands of dollars on therapists but would never do a half-hour debugging session with a friend because "that would be weird".
  • In general, live mostly within "social reality" where the only question is "is this weird/acceptable" and never "is this true/false".

Now perhaps Rationalist self-improvement can't help them, but if you're reading LessWrong you may be someone who may snap out of social reality long enough for Rationality to change your life significantly.

> if you want to propose some kind of rationalist self-help exercise that I should try

Different strokes for different folks. You can go through alkjash's Hammertime Sequence and pick one, although even there the one that he rates lowest (goal factoring) is the one that was the most influential in my own life. You must be friends with CFAR instructors/mentors who know your personality and pressing issues better than I do and can recommend and teach a useful exercise.

Comment by jacobian on Is Rationalist Self-Improvement Real? · 2019-12-10T05:12:14.034Z · score: 58 (29 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for the detailed reply. I'm not going to reply point by point because you made a lot of points, but also because I don't disagree with a lot of it. I do want to offer a couple of intuitions that run counter to your pessimism.

While you're right that we shouldn't expect Rationalists to be 10x better at starting companies because of efficient markets, the same is not true of things that contribute to personal happiness. For example: how many people have a strong incentive in helping you build fulfilling romantic relationships? Not the government, not capitalism, not most of your family or friends, often not even your potential partners. Even dating apps make money when you *don't* successfully seduce your soulmate. But Rationality can be a huge help: learning that your emotions are information, learning about biases and intuitions, learning about communication styles, learning to take 5-minute timers to make plans — all of those can 10x your romantic life.

Going back to efficient markets, I get the sense that a lot of things out there are designed by the 1% most intelligent and ruthless people to take advantage of the 95% and their psychological biases. Outrage media, predatory finance, conspicuous brand consumption and other expensive status ladders, etc. Rationality doesn't help me design a better YouTube algorithm or finance scam, but at least it allows me to escape the 95% and keeps me away from outrage and in index funds.

Finally, I do believe that the world is getting weirder faster, and the thousands of years of human tradition are becoming obsolete at a faster pace. We are moving ever further from our "design specs". In this weirding world, I already hit jackpot with Bitcoin and polyamory, two things that couldn't really exist successfully 100 years ago. Rationality guided me to both. You hit jackpot with blogging— can you imagine your great grand uncle telling you that you'll become a famous intellectual by writing about cactus people and armchair sociology for free? And we're both still very young.

For any particular achievement like basketball or making your first million, there are more dedicated practices that help you to your goal faster than Rationality. But for taking advantage of unknown unknowns, the only two things I know that work are Rationality and making friends.

Comment by jacobian on What determines the balance between intelligence signaling and virtue signaling? · 2019-12-09T17:21:27.822Z · score: 20 (10 votes) · LW · GW
Another idea is that intelligence is valued more when a society feels threatened by an outside force, for which they need competent people to protect themselves from.

Building up on this, virtue is valued more when a society is threatened from the inside. If people are worried about being betrayed or undermined by those who appear to be part of their tribe they will look for virtue signals. We see this a lot in the high correlation of virtue signaling with signals of ingroup loyalty, while intelligence signaling often takes the shape of disagreeing with the group.

In general, an outside threat or goal allows people to measure themselves against it. Status is set by the number of enemy scalps one collects, for example. But without an external measuring stick people will jockey for relative status by showing loyalty and virtue

Comment by jacobian on Babble · 2019-11-22T22:06:01.583Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This post changed how I think about everything from what creativity is to why my friend loves talking one-on-one but falls silent in 5 person groups. I will write a longer review in December.

Comment by jacobian on Aella on Rationality and the Void · 2019-11-01T19:58:58.205Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

LSD doesn't make your brain do anything your brain is incapable of doing, just many things that your brain hasn't done in a long while. The best description I can give is that it gives you the intellectual openness of a 5-year-old, the emotional openness of a 3-year-old, and the sensory experience of perhaps a baby who has not formed strong enough predictions of things like "the clouds don't shift in shape while I look at them". All of these are in your brain, but they're usually suppressed by the strong top-down predictions and ego-narrative that are generated by parts of your brain like the Default Mode Network. Psychedelics suppress the DMN and let the rest of your brain run free.

Comment by jacobian on Aella on Rationality and the Void · 2019-11-01T15:26:49.093Z · score: 18 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I missed the importance of that sentence in the actual conversation and moved on to the next topic, but then when I listened to the recording it made me go "Holy $&@%!" This is absolutely the biggest disagreement between me and Aella. To me, the fact that the sense of insight is the same is *absolutely terrifying*. It's not a good thing.

Comment by jacobian on Why Are So Many Rationalists Polyamorous? · 2019-10-25T19:20:59.966Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I used both "questioning intuitions" and "overcoming intuitions" in my own article, and both very much refer to what you wrote: understanding where they come from, dissolving when they're not useful. I probably should have chosen a better vocabulary. By "questioning" I mostly meant the *inclination* to even doubt one's intuitions, and by "overcoming" I meant the *ability* or *skill* at behaving in ways that go against your initial reaction (whether because the intuition is dissolved or overridden). I did not mean "overcoming intuition" to mean the normative stance that intuitions should be discarded willy-nilly or numbed, just the ability to do something about them.

Comment by jacobian on Frontpage Posting and Commenting Guidelines · 2019-10-24T23:00:21.390Z · score: 15 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this, but I couldn't find a better place in 5 minutes of searching.

I think that the mix of "recent" and "upvoted" in the Latest Posts section skews way too heavily towards total karma, even for new posts with a tiny number of votes.

As a specific example, my link to a research post on polyamory, Rationality and correlated beliefs was strongly downvoted by the first person who saw it. This set its total karma to 1, which caused it to drop out of the front page within 2 hours of publication. It currently has 3 karma/3 votes. Now, when this happened before I just shrugged and assumed my posts were not good enough. But this is a super high-effort post containing a ton of novel data and analysis on a topic of interest to the community. I dare say it meets the frontpage criteria outlined above. It was linked by Tyler Cowen on Marginal Revolution and currently has 6,200 pageviews, but only 39 of them are from LessWrong.

I think that the "upvoted" part of the algorithm needs to either be downweighted, or its weight should be a function of the total number of votes. 0.5 karma/vote over 100 votes is a signal of low quality, even if the total karma is a healthy 50. 0.5 karma/vote over 2 votes is a signal of nothing at all, but its enough to kick the post out of the frontpage.

Comment by jacobian on Jacob's Twit, errr, Shortform · 2019-10-04T15:54:53.000Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you're reading this, please fill out a short online survey to research the beliefs and habits of people in my online circles. The results, along with my hypotheses, will be published on It is anonymous, multiple-choice, and should take 5 minutes to complete. Thank you!

Comment by jacobian on Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019 · 2019-09-27T05:34:15.376Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As they say in the KGB, one man's nuclear terrorism is another man's charity game show.

Comment by jacobian on Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019 · 2019-09-26T22:10:24.990Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. I have launch codes and will donate up to $100 without writing it in my EA budget if that prevents the nuke from being launched.

Comment by jacobian on Jacob's Twit, errr, Shortform · 2019-09-20T21:06:40.429Z · score: 16 (6 votes) · LW · GW


TL;DR: In Utopia, no one is Catholic.

Politics, business, technology, even rationality: many important things preoccupy us but leave the soul lacking. People crave connection, beauty, purpose, meaning, transcendence. These things can be found And so they turn to the many religions that seem to offer that.

Tim Urban noted that people in non-great relationships are twice as far from having relationships figured out as single people. They have two hard steps to take instead of just one: first to realize their current relationship is bad and break it up, then to find a great one. I'm starting to feel that today's religions are the bad marriages of the pursuit of transcendence.

Religions were not optimized to uplift humans, they evolved to serve their priests and their memes. They offer pieces of the good stuff, but at the heavy cost of false beliefs. And how can the ideal state of your soul be one where you believe falsehoods?

I have seen glimpses of my soul's ultimate goal. In poems, in woods, in cuddle parties. And I'm grateful that I could see them clearly, without the veil of one dogma or another obscuring my vision. I may or may not ever get there, but with religion I certainly won't. And when I hear about rationalist friends becoming religious, I grieve for them having fallen off the path.

I think that this is Sam Harris' core truth, which is why he's so adamant about the benefits of individual spiritual practice and the horrors of organized religion. Each person's path is their own, and while the wisdom and advice of others is indispensable, any person (or holy book) claiming to already know the destination is going in the wrong direction.

Comment by jacobian on Dual Wielding · 2019-08-27T15:18:00.366Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Updating slightly that dual-wielding is a good idea. Updating significantly that the Pixel has a crappy battery - my Note 9 only ever finished the day below 30% during the short while I was obsessed with Bloons TD 6.

Comment by jacobian on Benito's Shortform Feed · 2019-08-17T23:54:14.653Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I've found Facebook absolutely terrible as a way to both distribute and consume good content. Everything you want to share or see is just floating in the opaque vortex of the f%$&ing newsfeed algorithm. I keep Facebook around for party invites and to see who my friends are in each city I travel too, I disabled notifications and check the timeline for less than 20 minutes each week.

OTOH, I'm a big fan of Twitter. (@yashkaf) I've curated my feed to a perfect mix of insightful commentary, funny jokes, and weird animal photos. I get to have conversations with people I admire, like writers and scientists. Going forward I'll probably keep tweeting, and anything that's a fit for LW I'll also cross-post here.

Comment by jacobian on Jacob's Twit, errr, Shortform · 2019-08-17T23:49:44.150Z · score: 10 (8 votes) · LW · GW

There's been a lot of noise lately about affirmative consent, a standard of consent which requires explicit verbal confirmation for every escalation of romantic or sexual interaction. It has been adopted as a standard by many college campuses, and efforts have been made to turn it into actual law.

Most of the discussion has centered around the use of affirmative consent as a legal standard, and as such it is quite terrible: unfair, unjust, and impossible to interpret in a consistent way that stops bad behavior without criminalizing normal conduct. But, what I haven't seen mentioned, is that adopting affirmative consent as a loosely enforced social norm is really good for nerds. If you're not great at reading body language and subtle signs, the expectation that you'll ask for verbal consent makes flirting much easier. You're no longer an awkward geek, you're hip to the times!

I've personally erred on the side of asking explicitly in the past, and I think it has worked out great for me. Most women were happy to give consent when asked, the momentary awkwardness of asking quickly forgotten. A few said "no", in which case it's a good thing I asked! And I doubt that even a single one was poised so evenly on the fence that asking for verbal consent turned her off me.

What do y'all think? And is this actually making life better or worse for women who date nerds?

Comment by jacobian on Diana Fleischman and Geoffrey Miller - Audience Q&A · 2019-08-12T21:19:08.626Z · score: 23 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I feel somewhat bad that this post caused a user to become so outraged that they incinerated triple-digit karma in response. I didn't want to get involved in that conversation, but perhaps it would have been better to delete it before it spiraled.

To provide a bit of context for this Q&A: it was held in a private apartment, as a free to attend meetup that Diana and Geoffrey volunteered their time for. Every question asked by me or by the audience was driven by pure curiosity, no one was trying to be edgy or promote an agenda. This doesn't mean that I endorse every opinion they hold, and indeed, as soon as the recorded interview ended our group argued about these topics for hours. I do, however, endorse Diana and Geoffrey as kind, thoughtful people who hold no prejudice or hate.

I shared this because I promised Diana and Geoffrey that I will transcribe and post the entire interview for them to refer to and for our friends who couldn't attend. If you disliked or downvoted this post: do you think the world would be better off if I held the interview and didn't post the transcript?

Comment by jacobian on Podcast - Putanumonit on The Switch · 2019-06-27T16:32:28.355Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I just finished transcribing a different interview that I conducted, and transcribing audio takes forever. Since the audio quality on this podcast is so good I don't think I'm going to transcribe. However if someone else volunteers to do so, I would be very grateful and will link to the transcript on Putanumonit.

Comment by jacobian on Lonelinesses · 2019-06-23T04:11:26.580Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I love the "air gap" metaphor, that's exactly what I was getting at.

Comment by jacobian on Get Rich Real Slowly · 2019-06-11T18:35:33.574Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The first paragraph in the post links to Get Rich Slowly , the post where I explain the why and how of getting 6-8% on global equity index funds.

Comment by jacobian on Get Rich Real Slowly · 2019-06-11T03:57:43.225Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you and thanks to Lanrian for the tip!

Comment by jacobian on You Have About Five Words · 2019-03-13T15:58:32.025Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This immediately got me thinking about politics.

How many voters could tell you what Obama's platform was in 2008? But 70,000,000 of them agreed on "Hope and Change". How many could do the same for Trump? But they agreed on "Make America Great Again". McCain, Romney, and Hillary didn't have a four-words-or-less memorable slogan, and so...

Comment by jacobian on Masculine Virtues · 2019-02-12T15:14:46.154Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW
The list of things which involve working on a team and are not straight misery is very short. At the moment I can come up with nothing that isn't competitive.

Marriage and a family, if you do it right. Spouses have very aligned incentives, along with the added bonus of sexual attraction and outside expectations of working together. It's tragic when couples turn marriage from cooperation to competition, but it's not at all inevitable.

Comment by jacobian on Masculine Virtues · 2019-01-31T19:47:06.260Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This is a good point. In fact, I wrote an essay for Ribbonfarm about avoiding competition where you can, such as in education, careers, and dating.

This is not a contradiction. This post is about building *traits* that let you be competitive. That's why sports is the best place to learn them: it's a very benign and rule-bound form of competition, very unlike cutthroat politics, academia, AI startups etc. Building skills that allow you to compete doesn't mean you have to seek out zero-sum contests to grind your life away at, but it does mean that you won't get scared away from a field if it becomes competitive and starts forming a hierarchy. It lets you choose where to compete.

Example: MIRI can work on AI safety at its leisure because it successfully competed for a high rank in the hierarchy of EA organizations. MIRI has to compete for donations and employees, and sportsmanship values let it do so without destroying other EA orgs along the way.

Comment by jacobian on Masculine Virtues · 2019-01-31T16:19:20.754Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW · GW

According to Statista, 10-11% of Americans below the age of 50 have played soccer in the last 12 months. Wikipedia puts that number at 24 million and rising in 2006. There are 4 million players registered with official US Soccer Association, but I play every week and have no idea what that is.

So there are somewhere between 5 million and 30 million people who play soccer *regularly* in the US, and 25,000 were admitted to a hospital for head injuries for a rate of 1/200-1/1200.

I play every week but I don't go flying into the sort of aerial tackles that end up with two players banging heads, as well as being cautious about my cranium in general. If my chance of head injury given this is 1/1000 each year, playing soccer is still worth it.

Comment by jacobian on Curing the World of Men · 2019-01-23T18:56:32.652Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Come on, man. I link to the source that I think would be most relevant for my readers to understand the following discussion. In this case, it's the official APA release on the APA website describing the APA guidelines, it's not like I was linking to some third party account. As for the PDF with the guidelines themselves, I link to it at least twice in my post and it is linked from the release as well.

Comment by jacobian on Finance Followups · 2019-01-18T19:48:00.816Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It could be libertarian bias, but I think almost all financial advice would turn into a horrible grotesque if someone turned it into binding law. Politicians are financial idiots, and they will legislate based on what their financial idiot constituents will approve of, not what will make people financially secure in the long term. What politician ever has even the incentive, let alone the knowledge, to do the latter?

Take Social Security for example. It's basically a Ponzi scheme that can only be sustained long-term by doing things that harm everybody, like excess inflation or excluding the people who paid for it (high earners) from receiving it. How is that different from an average financial idiot person taking on credit card debt and then making suboptimal life choices to keep the interest payments at bay? The difference is only in the national scale of the stupidity.

People make bad choices all the time when it comes to money, food and romance. But when politicians jump into those areas they make terrible laws, and those are much worse than mere bad choices.

Comment by jacobian on Some Thoughts on My Psychiatry Practice · 2019-01-18T18:29:47.040Z · score: 11 (8 votes) · LW · GW

If someone will stay in a relationship or job that drives them to the verge of suicide for "identity" reasons, it means that the person/institution providing someone's identity has almost unlimited power over them.

I'm thinking of something like academia, which is used to dealing with people for whom their identity as an "academic" is the most precious thing in the lives. It's not just internal "culty" things like academics having their own friend groups, markers, and even language. It's also how external society sees them, like academics having special social status and even different names ("My name isn't No, it's Doctor No!") that reinforce "academic" as a precious identity. As a result, academia can impose arbitrary rules on its members, overwork and underpay them, and cause them to be depressed and anxious at 6 times the rate of the general public.

Perhaps the antidote to this is to build up an identity that is self-conferred, rather than being dependent on the approval of other people. You can call yourself a "rationalist truth seeker" for example even if the rightful Caliph thinks you're a moron, so that's an identity that doesn't open you to exploitation.

Comment by jacobian on Finance Followups · 2019-01-18T16:53:40.729Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

$1,000 to cover an emergency isn't a measure of wealth, it's a measure of liquidity. For this reason it makes sense to compare it to income. If you have $200,000 in student debt but still have a couple thousand in your checking account in case your car breaks down, you would count as having the money the way the survey was run. Using the word "savings" in that sentence was probably a bad choice on my part.

Comment by jacobian on Finance Followups · 2019-01-18T16:48:39.040Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There's an annoying catch here. I think financial education can help if it comes with really actionable suggestions. Instead of just talking about general principles, the vast majority of people would do better by following some super simple guidelines like:

  • Don't take credit card debt unless it's to save a life.
  • If you have debt at >5%, pay it right away before doing anything else. Devote at least 20% of your income to paying off the debt, regardless of how much you make.
  • After debt is taken care of, put 20% of your income in a global stock index fund 401k each month on autopilot.
  • Whenever you think "I'll buy this thing so that people think I'm cool" consider whether when you see people on the street with the thing you actually think they're cool.

But whenever you write something like that, people will flood you with nitpicks about some convoluted case where the specific advice doesn't apply. In this way, people who understand the math and only need the general principles prevent everyone else from taking the simple and useful advice that would benefit them.

Comment by jacobian on In Defense of Finance · 2018-12-19T07:52:46.266Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, as a matter of fact it doesn't seem like they do - they want 8%-15%. You could start a bank that promises to stay at e.g. 30% equity, but the market seems to indicate that you'll have a hard time finding investors. Banks work hard to differentiate themselves since they ultimately offer very similar products, and I don't know of any large bank that successfully differentiates by having high equity ratios.

Comment by jacobian on In Defense of Finance · 2018-12-19T07:45:53.616Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't this an argument for encouraging more profitable banking (e.g., by eliminating capital requirements) so that banks could afford to give personalized attention to small borrowers? If banking is restricted, there's only enough banking to go around for the big fish.