Developmental Thinking Shout-out to CFAR 2013-05-03T01:46:56.866Z
Book Suggestion: "Diaminds" is worth reading (CFAR-esque) 2013-05-03T00:19:01.587Z
[link] Cargo Cult Debugging 2012-07-09T16:05:32.498Z


Comment by MarkL on Personal Notes On Productivity (A categorization of various resources) · 2015-03-25T23:32:45.255Z · LW · GW

Meditation: My blog is a terse, cryptic, rambling, ungrammatical rabbit hole, but it's highly opinionated and absolutely packed with links and resources:

Here are two practical posts:

Shinzen Young, Daniel Ingram, Kenneth Folk, and Culadasa have systems that can get you very far depending on how well they fit you.

Comment by MarkL on "Spiritual" techniques that actually work thread · 2015-03-20T15:28:46.551Z · LW · GW

If you stopped flow by binding all your energy to your chakra's that would be an explanation for the negative side effects you are describing.

I think we're just having a terminology issue. Spontaneously or deliberately, I can experience what could be described as undulation and movement throughout my body at any time, continuous "traveling" fluctuations. But, I would describe this more as "spreading activation" than "flow." Like, I don't think something is moving but, yes, sensation can move or spread in a seemingly non-discontinuous way. Do you think we're describing the same thing?

(Also, I'm more inclined to belief this is all in the brain's maps [electrochemical] than too much actually happening on-site [mechanical, mechanotransduction, or electromagnetic].)

Lots of research has already been done, but I haven't looked closely at the quality. My impression is that there are positive effects, but I doubt that those effects would be any different than from placebo or a proper control. That doesn't mean it's not a valuable practice, though.

Importantly, in the peer-reviewed literature (however poorly conducted, which could make results meaningless) all effects seem to disappear as soon as there is any sort of blinding. To me, this implies that the phenomenon is 100% psychosomatic and autosuggestive. But, again, that doesn't diminish the value of these experiences and practices; it only bounds and contextualizes them.

All that being said, I do most definitely still have probability mass assigned to air-gap mechanotransduction and electromagnetic radiation, for expert practitioners, but, again, it's a very small amount of probability mass.

Comment by MarkL on "Spiritual" techniques that actually work thread · 2015-03-20T00:51:37.609Z · LW · GW

Fascia vibration and mechanotransduction could be a thing. I would think that can be coincident with autonomic interoception (what I write about) but doesn't have to be. I hadn't heard of Danis Bois. His framework looks like it could be life-changing for some people.

I'm not really sure if there's an effective way to respond to your comments about my experience. I've been doing meditation, bodywork, "energy" work, phenomenology, and much more for over a decade, via many different systems, from many different perspectives (neuro, psych, evo psych...). I have no reason to lower my degrees of belief for my assertions at this time.

You may be trained in PP, but are you trained in phenomenology? Russell T. Hurlburt has been publishing peer-reviewed phenomenology papers for decades. He gives examples of people who are absolutely certain of their inner experience but quickly and confidently revise their claims after a few training sessions.

Comment by MarkL on "Spiritual" techniques that actually work thread · 2015-03-19T03:00:56.250Z · LW · GW

What systems do you work with? What do you think "energy" is?

Comment by MarkL on "Spiritual" techniques that actually work thread · 2015-03-13T16:48:52.974Z · LW · GW

The "truth" about "energy work," according to me:

(with a brief nod to psychoneuroendoimmunology.)

Comment by MarkL on Open thread, Oct. 13 - Oct. 19, 2014 · 2014-10-13T17:54:52.758Z · LW · GW

Writing is hard.

Alright, here's my list of writing resources (in no particular order):


This is an excellent article about writing:

Some more inspiration:

AI luminary Schmidhuber has written about complexity and beauty, and I've found his thoughts helpful:

My blog is one, long, ungrammatical, rough-draft experiment, for reference, e.g.:

Comment by MarkL on Group Rationality Diary, October 1-15 · 2014-10-01T19:30:23.737Z · LW · GW

I've been using a personal wiki to develop my rationality skills, and I've recently written about it, here:

Comment by MarkL on Books on consciousness? · 2014-09-24T03:37:36.281Z · LW · GW

Not a book, but a blog post and a paper:

PRISMs, Gom Jabbars, and Consciousness

Comment by MarkL on [LINK] Speed superintelligence? · 2014-08-15T20:11:12.897Z · LW · GW

The point is that these speed runs presumably involve backtracking. They can rewind time and explore different paths until they find one they like.

Comment by MarkL on Identification of Force Multipliers for Success · 2014-06-21T19:11:50.023Z · LW · GW

Meditation and metacognitive training in general.

Self link:

I have made some unsubstantiated claims in the "I’ve given you some reasons to meditate:" bullet in the link above. More generally, there is plenty of evidence that meditation does good things to you.

Comment by MarkL on Depression's evolutionary roots · 2014-06-18T10:30:09.333Z · LW · GW

More evolutionary perspectives here:

Comment by MarkL on Depression's evolutionary roots · 2014-06-18T10:28:43.707Z · LW · GW

Psychotherapy wouldn't work if working with the psychotherapist didn't elicit a workable solution. I've intermittently found psychotherapy to be very helpful, but it doesn't always solve the problem for which I went to psychotherapy for.

Comment by MarkL on Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity · 2014-05-27T18:20:15.854Z · LW · GW

Buteyko breathing [1] and high-intensity interval training [2]. YMMV, etc.


[2] e.g. "sprinting" on an elliptical

Sleep apnea is caused by low CO2 tolerance which causes you to breath off too much CO2, and low CO2 levels relax smooth muscle, including the smooth muscle of your throat (which otherwise should actively maintains your airway at all times). The above two practices increase CO2 tolerance.

(Low CO2 tolerance can be caused by many things (e.g. too much mouth breathing from allergies, jobs which require lots of talking or singing or instrument playing, lots and lots of sitting without exercising, chronic anxiety, etc.)


  1. Personal/anecdotal: Intense jaw clenching, tongue soreness, turbinate opening within a few days of starting buteyko breathing, objectively far less moving around during sleep, subjectively deeper more refreshing sleep.
  2. This is how I think (poorly edited rant):
  3. Clinical trial(s?) show that Buteyko breathing does stuff (e.g. improves asthma symptoms without increasing lung capacity)
Comment by MarkL on Open Thread, May 5 - 11, 2014 · 2014-05-05T12:16:46.583Z · LW · GW

Anything remotely like this for EU countries?

Comment by MarkL on [Sequence announcement] Introduction to Mechanism Design · 2014-05-01T12:22:55.479Z · LW · GW

Anyone do "mechanism design" in their day job? What are jobs that have aspects of this? (Besides implicitly, like every web startup ever, which is still interesting to think about.)

Comment by MarkL on How Tim O'Brien gets around the logical fallacy of generalization from fictional evidence · 2014-04-25T21:51:49.051Z · LW · GW

As encouragement to OP, I haven't read The Things They Carried either, but OP totally makes sense, and it's interesting and helpful, and I'm glad ze posted it. (... But now I realize OP has been edited before I got to it, so maybe parent applied more beforehand. :-)

Comment by MarkL on LessWrongWiki User Pages Underutilized; Tag Proposal · 2014-04-24T22:40:50.101Z · LW · GW

I have updated my user page.

Comment by MarkL on LSD, Meditation, Enlightenment, and Ego Death · 2014-04-22T22:18:52.042Z · LW · GW

I look at it as an empowering concept, apologetic, or an explanation of how "rationality" can go awry. I think Mitchell Porter says it best:

But the really hard questions are characterized by the fact that we don't know how to think rigorously about them - we don't have a method, ready at hand, which allows us to mechanically compute the answer.

Rather, grasping at easily available ontologies and attempting to reason with them will not get you very far when you're trying to do that with your life (at least at first). But some people, I think, don't learn how to go below easily available ontologies to create new ontologies (or comfortably rest in uncomputable but navigable ambiguity) that are closer to "what's actually going on," to move forward in their lives and projects. Hence "rationality" doesn't work for them.

Comment by MarkL on LSD, Meditation, Enlightenment, and Ego Death · 2014-04-22T10:46:00.374Z · LW · GW

I just mean, in the beginning, I made more of an effort to simulate an LW-rationalist perspective and write accessibly or intriguingly to people who knew that memeplex. I've gotten lazier in later posts, just writing about what interests me, from my perspective. I don't really consider myself a rationalist. A "transrationalist" maybe. But maybe it's all semantics--non-straw-vulcan, Keith Stanovich's reflective rationality, etc.. I am fascinated by phenomenology, metacognition, and evolutionary psychology, and "rationality" is only one interacting, interweaving component for living the good life and changing the world. It's also a trap if considered in isolation:

Some people get permanently stuck in that valley. I feel like I bypassed it because of my philosophical background, practices, and interests, but maybe I'm Dunning-Krugering.

Comment by MarkL on Open thread, 21-27 April 2014 · 2014-04-22T10:26:05.676Z · LW · GW

How strong is the evidence in favor of psychological treatment really?

Existent. But psychological treatment is in it's infancy. I am not a licensed mental health professional, but watch this:

Now, go find a therapist who's at least 45 years old, preferably 50-plus, is not burned out, and loves what they do. It doesn't really matter what the therapeutic modality is. Don't go to a thirty-something CBT-weenie.

Edit: A bunch of recent posts on my blog are about therapy. May or may not be useful:

Comment by MarkL on LSD, Meditation, Enlightenment, and Ego Death · 2014-04-21T22:33:19.823Z · LW · GW

Motivating, appreciated.

Comment by MarkL on LSD, Meditation, Enlightenment, and Ego Death · 2014-04-20T22:29:43.336Z · LW · GW

transcendental meditation

Robert Forman has done TM for many, many years, and he writes about his experience in this book:

His perspective is balanced and thoughtful.

You might also be interested in my meditation blog which is often (particularly in earlier posts) but not always from a rationalist perspective:

Comment by MarkL on Unfriendly Natural Intelligence · 2014-04-15T11:15:49.513Z · LW · GW

Perfectly beautiful nude people, on demand, with infinite rapid novelty is a superstimulus.

Comment by MarkL on Open Thread April 8 - April 14 2014 · 2014-04-08T13:35:01.068Z · LW · GW

Here is a self-link to my meditation blog; this post has links to other posts:

The blog is a mixture of personal experience, unscientific references, and cherry-picked peer-reviewed research. I specifically talk about the dangers of meditation, with included citations, but unfortunately it's all mixed in with other stuff. Here is one place to start:

Comment by MarkL on Humans can drive cars · 2014-01-30T22:42:07.528Z · LW · GW

On the Cruelty of Really Teaching Computer Science by prof. dr. Edsger W. Dijkstra:

I think the issue is that driving is a process of tiny course corrections, where if you're slightly off course you don't die. But, programs are fragile. One bit wrong and you die.

Comment by MarkL on Open thread, January 25- February 1 · 2014-01-28T23:26:37.347Z · LW · GW

I'm coming at this from ten years of brain fog, unrefreshing sleep, "feeling sick all the time," etc. Mostly better now; I did a lot of stuff highly specific to my situation. The below mostly helped with enduring it. Remember, I'm just some random idiot on the internet, hope this is helpful, and in no particular order:

Comment by MarkL on Open thread, January 25- February 1 · 2014-01-27T01:05:45.850Z · LW · GW

My meditation blog from a (somewhat) rationalist perspective is now past 40 posts:

Comment by MarkL on Methods of Introspection: Brainstorming and Discussion · 2013-10-27T00:31:12.086Z · LW · GW

This is all stuff that I use:

Comment by MarkL on Inferential silence · 2013-09-25T15:13:34.248Z · LW · GW

See also: Warnock's Dilemma

The problem with no response is that there are five possible interpretations:

  • The post is correct, well-written information that needs no follow-up commentary. There's nothing more to say except "Yeah, what he said."
  • The post is complete and utter nonsense, and no one wants to waste the energy or bandwidth to even point this out.
  • No one read the post, for whatever reason.
  • No one understood the post, but won't ask for clarification, for whatever reason.
  • No one cares about the post, for whatever reason.

—Bryan C. Warnock

Comment by MarkL on Please share your reading habits/techniques/strategies · 2013-09-13T14:40:02.327Z · LW · GW

Read the table of contents, read the index, read through the citations, read the preface/forward/intro, possibly read the concluding chapter. Then and only then do I dip into the book in a few targeted places, and then and only then do I (sometimes) read the entire book.

Comment by MarkL on Course selection based on instructor · 2013-09-09T01:27:36.396Z · LW · GW

For math courses, I always took the "honors" version. This was not because I was an over-achiever but because the honors versions were taught by professors whereas the normal versions were taught be TAs. The instruction was soooooooooooo much better, which made up for the extra work and/or extra difficulty. My annoyance level was kept low, which was worth it.

Comment by MarkL on The 50 Shades of Grey Book Club · 2013-08-24T22:36:25.637Z · LW · GW

The idea is to start a thread for people to discuss 50 Shades, or something else perceived as trashy, and try to find what's likable in it.

The links in this MetaFilter post will make it harder:

Or maybe it won't.

But, seriously, I genuinely enjoy trashy, extremely problematic stuff like 50 Shades. I am curious to see a poll, too, to get a sampling of things that provoke, "I DO NOT GET WHY SO MANY PEOPLE LIKE THIS THE CONTEMPTIBLE FOOLS."

I cannot participate, but things that give me hives off the top of my head are Sex In The City and professional sports.

But, it's usually not the what but the why that makes me insane and contemptuous. Like, I don't mind if you watch hours of reality TV, but you better have a damn good reason, even if it's not easy to articulate. I have to trust you see something I don't, the metabolizing of which is gratifying to you in a me-approved way. /channeling-my-most-pathologically-judgmental-aspects-of-self

This made me hate Sex In The City less, though I'm still suspicious:

Comment by MarkL on [link] Book review: Mindmelding: Consciousness, Neuroscience, and the Mind’s Privacy · 2013-07-29T16:14:04.840Z · LW · GW

This book looks very interesting, as does the author's other work. Sort of tangentially related: empathic accuracy. Right now, humans can infer the emotions and actual thought contents of complete strangers, way above chance. This guy has done many, many years of research:

Ickes, William. Everyday mind reading: Understanding what other people think and feel. Prometheus Books, 2003.

Comment by MarkL on Open thread, July 23-29, 2013 · 2013-07-23T15:42:55.020Z · LW · GW

It's my pleasure. Feedback greatly appreciated--I have over a decade of thinking and doing on this; Help me expand on the parts that people most care about.

Comment by MarkL on Open thread, July 23-29, 2013 · 2013-07-22T17:23:34.739Z · LW · GW

I started a meditation blog from a rationalist perspective. 10 posts so far.

Comment by MarkL on Dealing with Administrative Stress · 2013-07-01T19:08:50.173Z · LW · GW

Venkatesh Rao has tips on this exact topic:

Comment by MarkL on Open Thread, June 16-30, 2013 · 2013-06-16T16:45:39.682Z · LW · GW

Somewhere I think there's a quote about Eliezer writing faster with a writing partner. Could someone point me to this quote?

Comment by MarkL on does imagining +singularity cause depression? · 2013-05-31T03:08:44.564Z · LW · GW

I'm sure some people find some of these ideas distressing or depressing, whether or not they actually accept them as true in whole or in part. I would say I do, in a qualified way. But I have decent perspective on the whole singularity/LessWrong/FAI/etc/etc memeplex.

Comment by MarkL on does imagining +singularity cause depression? · 2013-05-30T20:02:37.814Z · LW · GW

Try reading Hoffer's "The True Believer" to gain insight into how elements of singularity thinking can be really poisonous to your mental wellbeing. There's more and less healthy ways to think about and approach the future.

Comment by MarkL on Developmental Thinking Shout-out to CFAR · 2013-05-04T14:14:10.479Z · LW · GW


I don't have any references that I can reach for, and I'm not sure how good the studies actually are, or what they actually say, but my mild belief is that meditation does generally accelerate cognitive development at all stages.

Also, the "unitive" stage isn't just found in advanced meditators: "enlightenment is an accident, meditation makes you accident prone," as the saying goes. Not that I want to get into a discussion about classical Buddhist enlightenment. Also, Wilber does say that that meditative attainment and cognitive development can be orthogonal (see "Wilber-Combs lattice" concept).

Finally, "Meditation is just a way of practicing with your mind to experience reality in a specific way," is a really broad statement. There's lots of different kinds of meditation. The types of meditation that are probably most relevant here are not "state achievement and stabilization" types, but meditation techniques that make what your mind is already doing more transparent over time.

I think "mind functioning transparency" and associated metacognitive skill increases are a key part of how all this hangs together (cf. the so-called "construct aware" stage, for example). So, the above class of meditation protocols could accelerate the "ego level" line, and use of which would be correlated with but not necessary for hitting the so-called "unitive" stage.

But I do agree that descriptions of the "unitive" stage (by both the experiencers and the researchers) can be colored by all sorts of "spiritual" language and assumptions, and these assumptions have certainly influenced the path and interpretation of this research (and that influence is a mixed bag). But there is methodologically sound signal in there, and I think it's likely that there's an underlying structure to the unfolding of the higher (and lower) stages that can be independent of culture, meditation, and Buddhism. In any case, the nature/nurture/culture influence at each stage and the "ontological status" of these stages is still an open question, as are their utility and malleability.

Comment by MarkL on Developmental Thinking Shout-out to CFAR · 2013-05-03T20:16:46.014Z · LW · GW

I don't/didn't have time to assemble a coherent section on this, but I also want to point people towards Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Related buzzphrases: Experiential avoidance, rule-governed behavior, environmentally contingent behavior, repertoire narrowing, relational frame theory... (Stephen C Hayes and colleagues) There's a developmental line or skillset in there that relates to ugh fields, original seeing, cached thoughts, and more, in LessWrong jargon. See also "Compassion Focused Therapy: Distinctive Features" for more references and exercises for influencing "socioemotional" brain systems.

Comment by MarkL on Book Suggestion: "Diaminds" is worth reading (CFAR-esque) · 2013-05-03T15:10:17.935Z · LW · GW

I had a specific reason for giving the book a shot, while simultaneously I had strong evidence that I was wasting my time. I wanted to nudge people who didn't have a specific reason to read it to consider reading it, anyway. Overkill? Doth protest too much? Maybe!

Comment by MarkL on "I know what she has to offer already" is almost always false · 2013-04-12T16:57:12.833Z · LW · GW

Learn how to safely fight. Like, really, truly, ugly-ly fight:

After the Fight; amazon

You'll get more out of your relationships and have better relationships. (John Gottman who writes all the pop relationship books (and does peer-reviewed, quantitative research) loves this guy's stuff.)

Comment by MarkL on Interesting discussion of concentration and productivity [link] · 2013-02-12T12:46:38.809Z · LW · GW

Oh yeah, so here's how I actually log these 2-4 hours: If a) I'm only doing X (e.g. not also eating or listening to music), and b) I truly expect not to be distracted (I'm in an isolated location and email and phone are off), then I log that time. Otherwise, it goes into the "everything else" bucket. From my log, it looks like I average only 15 hours/wk under these criteria.

Comment by MarkL on Interesting discussion of concentration and productivity [link] · 2013-02-07T14:36:34.447Z · LW · GW

Just more anecdata, but this jives with me. I keep time logs. I have "maximal mental effort" (MME) and "everything else." For me it's about scope and depth: MME is about how much I can integrate and bring to bear on what I'm doing, like my capacity to coherently integrate citations into my writing. So perhaps it's how large and long you can subconsciously sustain "useful potential inputs" to conscious working memory. Monkey coding I can do, for sure, many hours a day. But coding at my maximum ability is, again, 2-4 hours per day.

Comment by MarkL on Scholarship: how to tell good advice from bad advice? · 2013-01-29T16:46:03.334Z · LW · GW

Ok. That's compatible with what I meant, even if it's not what I said. :)

Comment by MarkL on Scholarship: how to tell good advice from bad advice? · 2013-01-28T20:35:40.756Z · LW · GW

This reads like a recipe for locking-in into your own randomly generated dogma.

I'm coming back to this years later, but, wait, what? How does one learn, then? How does one separate true stuff from false stuff without engaging with it, without wrestling with it, without trying to disprove it, without applying it?

When you don't know, you don't know what you don't know. How can you know, except by doing something intelligently accidental? Even if it's just doing the exercises at the end of the chapter?

Comment by MarkL on Michael Vassar's Edge contribution: summary · 2013-01-23T14:39:21.754Z · LW · GW

Comment by MarkL on Checklist of Rationality Habits · 2012-11-08T18:34:17.202Z · LW · GW

Something to add: allocating attention in the correct order:

  1. emotions
  2. felt meaning
  3. verbal thoughts

Otherwise you have the failure mode of avoiding painful emotions (even if they're being triggered erroneously) and then all sorts of bad things happen. So check in with (1) before (2) and (3). And check in with (2) before applying (3), because otherwise you're using cached thoughts.

Comment by MarkL on Incentives to Make Money More Effectively, Should We List Them? · 2012-10-30T01:12:54.190Z · LW · GW

Jealousy/envy of people that have money. It's worth a simmering frustration and, more importantly, short bursts of action, for me.