If you've attended LW/SSC meetups, please take this survey! 2019-03-25T21:48:37.976Z · score: 9 (3 votes)
[Speech] Worlds That Never Were 2019-01-12T19:53:51.241Z · score: 24 (6 votes)
Madison Solstice Gathering 2018-11-28T21:36:24.846Z · score: 18 (6 votes)
Atlanta SSC Meetup 2018-08-29T16:56:05.277Z · score: 6 (2 votes)
Theories of Pain 2018-08-26T22:05:17.172Z · score: 33 (14 votes)
Welcome to Kansas City SSC Meetup [Edit With Your Details] 2018-08-23T18:18:12.223Z · score: 5 (1 votes)
Chennai SSC Meetup 2018-08-13T22:34:50.603Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Welcome to Kyiv SlateStarCodex 2018-08-13T21:15:17.002Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Moscow SSC Meetup 2018-08-12T03:13:03.606Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Brussels SSC Meetup 2018-08-12T03:11:30.209Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Oslo SSC Meetup 2018-08-10T23:12:55.814Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Sacramento SSC Meetup 2018-08-10T00:40:14.429Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Columbus SSC Meetup 2018-08-09T21:18:29.975Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Kiev SSC Meetup 2018-08-09T20:41:51.272Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Sheffield SSC Meetup 2018-08-08T20:06:21.489Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Phoenix SSC Meetup 2018-08-08T19:51:12.609Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Philadelphia SSC Meetup 2018-08-08T19:48:56.559Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Rochester SSC Meetup 2018-08-08T19:44:47.725Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
São Paulo SSC Meetup 2018-08-07T04:54:37.894Z · score: 7 (2 votes)
Houston SSC Meetup 2018-08-06T15:54:29.793Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
St. Louis SSC Meetup 2018-08-06T03:50:29.518Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
NYC SSC Meetup 2018-08-06T01:23:32.641Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Jersey City SSC Meetup 2018-08-06T00:05:41.726Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Washington DC SSC Meetup 2018-08-05T15:42:35.266Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Seattle SSC Meetup 2018-08-05T04:41:11.270Z · score: 9 (3 votes)
Vienna SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T23:22:16.565Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Vancouver SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T23:17:13.851Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
San Antonio SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T23:09:32.895Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Prague SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:59:48.478Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Portland SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:56:15.752Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Pittsburgh SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:53:45.308Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Paris SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:51:16.200Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Oklahoma SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:47:20.468Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Manchester SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:42:19.230Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Madrid SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:36:00.499Z · score: 9 (4 votes)
London SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T03:54:41.625Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Lexington SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T03:51:51.949Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Edmonton SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T03:34:44.856Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Detroit SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T03:27:43.204Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Denver SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T03:25:20.700Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Copenhagen SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T03:19:14.685Z · score: 7 (3 votes)
Chicago SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T03:08:00.968Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Ann Arbor SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T02:46:59.723Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Brisbane SSC Meetup 2018-08-03T20:02:44.935Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Austin SSC Meetup 2018-07-31T01:39:55.192Z · score: 7 (3 votes)
San Diego SSC Meetup 2018-07-31T01:36:09.197Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Pune SSC Meetup 2018-07-30T23:06:14.914Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Zurich SSC Meetup 2018-07-30T22:21:44.155Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Wellington SSC Meetup 2018-07-30T22:17:41.924Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Tübingen SSC Meetup 2018-07-30T22:15:29.870Z · score: 6 (2 votes)


Comment by mingyuan on Shortform Beta Launch · 2019-07-28T17:39:16.004Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Bug report: When I went to /shortform, the comment box was already filled in with a private message that I wrote (and sent) about a year ago. It was neither my first PM nor my most recent.

Comment by mingyuan on What was the official story for many top physicists congregating in Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project? · 2019-07-04T17:30:06.093Z · score: 25 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it was wartime, and it wasn't really a secret that physicists would be helping with the war effort (since basically everyone was expected to contribute). Many top scientists took a break from their work at this time to work on things like codebreaking and radar; many of these projects were also top secret at the time. And Feynman mentions (in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!) that they used obfuscation techniques like having him take a roundabout series of train trips to end up at Los Alamos, so probably it was very non-obvious that many famous scientists were congregating there in particular. They could plausibly have been thought to all be working on separate projects.

Overall my guess would be that people didn't find it all that unusual that top physicists were disappearing from public life, and that it would have been pretty hard to figure out they were all congregating in one place. This doesn't map easily to the AGI question since 1) we're not in the middle of WWII, and 2) modern technology would make it significantly harder to hide the development of such a large-scale project, especially if it took many prominent figures out of the public eye (this is basically what Dr_Manhattan said).

Comment by mingyuan on The Competence Myth · 2019-07-04T15:57:58.102Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Because demand for cities isn't volatile? Like, if you're a company, you're operating in the market, where people have a choice whether to use/buy your product/service. If what you're producing isn't high-quality/doesn't meet a market need, your company fails (and the quality of the product is often a direct consequence of a CEO's decisions).

Conversely, with cities there's a lock-in: people build lives there; they invest in their houses, communities, and personal relationships. Cities are not nearly as fungible as (almost all) products. So even if the city is poorly run, people have strong incentives to stay there rather than moving elsewhere.

Plus, a city is more than its organizational structure: it's the geographical features, the businesses that operate there, and the people who live there. (To some extent the latter two are downstream of the city's organization, but they're definitely not fully determined by it).

tl;dr it's a lot easier to lose customers than to lose citizens. I don't think the situations are all that comparable or that we can learn anything meaningful about competence by looking at the success of the average city.

Comment by mingyuan on Houston SSC/LW/EA Social Meetup · 2019-07-01T22:37:09.620Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, weirdly that's because I put it in parentheses. Try now:

Comment by mingyuan on Houston SSC/LW/EA Social Meetup · 2019-06-26T03:15:40.291Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry to hear that! One of the organizers was definitely there but they didn't have a sign - I'll suggest to them that they bring one in the future. I also recommend joining the Facebook group ( if you want real-time updates. Again, sorry that happened to you! Good luck in the future!

Comment by mingyuan on Decisions are hard, words feel easier · 2019-06-21T19:34:51.712Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Seems like yes; fixed this.

Comment by mingyuan on Counterfactuals about Social Media · 2019-04-24T04:24:48.030Z · score: 34 (9 votes) · LW · GW

When you wrote "Against Facebook" a couple years ago, I had the same reaction as some of the other commenters here - that yes, Facebook was terrible, but I used it more responsibly than other people, and I had really thought it through and was getting the valuable things out of it while avoiding most (though not all) of the drawbacks.

But I left Facebook (and Tumblr) last November, and now reading this post I was like, "hell yeah, of course." I don't ever feel a desire to check Facebook - last week it sneakily logged me back in without me knowing, and I couldn't deactivate again fast enough. I had a bunch of notifications but even the thought of checking them felt disgusting.

I thought Facebook was helping me keep in touch with friends, but before leaving I made sure I shared my other contact information with anyone who asked for it, and this seems like it's solved the problem. I may not know what's going on with everyone I've ever known at every moment, but I know that I could find out if I really wanted to, by texting them or emailing them or sending them a letter. Plus, this strategy meant that one of my friends from high school, who I haven't talked to in years, sent me a postcard from all the way in Japan! That gave me more warm fuzzies than a full year of Facebook use. Since leaving social media I also spend more time with my housemates and higher-quality time with my boyfriend, so I feel that it's helped my social relationships in general, even if I have fewer now.

(One caveat is that I live in a group house, which means that if there's an event that I might want to go to or something important happens in our social circles, I'm likely to find out about it even though I don't have Facebook, because my housemates do have Facebook. So this feels kind of like cheating.)

I'm more conflicted about the use of Facebook for things other than casual socializing. On the LW/SSC meetups survey I ran, I asked a question about how people would want to communicate with people from other meetup groups, and a clear majority of respondents wanted to use a Facebook group. I really don't want to go back to using Facebook (which I'd have to if I wanted to admin the group), but I do sort of agree that Facebook groups are the best currently-existing tool for the sort of thing we want to do.

I also used to have a feeling that Facebook was really the only place to go to ask for things like borrowing items or finding volunteers for events. That's somewhat less true for me since people in my neighborhood coordinate over Slack and Discord, but I do think there's a lot of value in being able to broadcast requests to hundreds of people at once.

tl;dr I personally hate Facebook but am not sure about the feasibility of replacing it. Not a very unique position, I know.

Comment by mingyuan on Experimental Open Thread April 2019: Socratic method · 2019-04-01T16:25:50.114Z · score: 18 (7 votes) · LW · GW

You can auto-collapse comments from GPT2 in

Comment by mingyuan on If you've attended LW/SSC meetups, please take this survey! · 2019-03-26T01:29:43.771Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Wow great point, I'm silly! Changed, thanks :)

Comment by mingyuan on A cognitive intervention for wrist pain · 2019-03-17T05:44:37.655Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don’t want to come off as attacking you, but I wonder about the validity of your wife’s evidence. From what I understand Japanese culture strongly discourages any discussion of personal weakness, so it seems likely that the fact that your wife hasn’t heard of anyone experiencing wrist pain doesn’t tell us much about whether they’re experiencing it or not.

Comment by mingyuan on A cognitive intervention for wrist pain · 2019-03-15T22:12:52.925Z · score: 10 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hm, I’ve read Sarno, but given your framing on his work - do you think this model predicts that general-purpose stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation should alleviate RSI (and other chronic pain)? I’d be interested to see if there’s any research on that.

Also thanks for the data point, you’re the second rationalist I know who has publicly said they’ve overcome their pain with Sarno or Sarno-like methods. I notice that I am confused....

Comment by mingyuan on How dangerous is it to ride a bicycle without a helmet? · 2019-03-09T04:31:16.851Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think it’s important for you to make more prominent the fact that you have an unusually strong preference against wearing a helmet, because for someone like me for whom wearing a helmet is basically costless I think the evidence you found pretty clearly indicates that I should wear a helmet, since I can get a 3x reduction in mortality risk at no cost. Other than that, fine, I concede :p

Also I know you don’t want to put more time into this, but I found this post to be pretty hard to follow overall (though the conclusion was clear). I could maybe edit if you care.

Comment by mingyuan on Informal Post on Motivation · 2019-02-24T21:05:44.083Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Fixed your images and a bunch of obvious typos :)

Also, great post! I'm still digesting it so I don't have much to say, but a lot of this resonates, and it's always useful to me to see people write down their explicit models for things I've spent a lot of time thinking vaguely about.

Comment by mingyuan on Open Thread January 2019 · 2019-01-09T20:29:09.446Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Seems like calling it ‘Open and Welcome Thread’ rather than just ‘Open Thread’ may have resulted in fewer posts last month. It’s also just an awkward name and (like almost all post titles) doesn’t display in full on my phone. I’m in favor of changing the title back, but keeping the part in the post body about introducing yourself.

Comment by mingyuan on What precisely do we mean by AI alignment? · 2018-12-09T02:58:23.331Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is an open question, so what you see is the entirety of the post. Hopefully forthcoming answers will provide the content you're looking for! :)

Comment by mingyuan on Worth keeping · 2018-12-07T06:40:58.744Z · score: 0 (12 votes) · LW · GW

*wiggles fingers* <3

Comment by mingyuan on Winter Solstice 2018 Roundup · 2018-12-05T20:38:03.418Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Update: There is now a Facebook event here and a doc of logistics and music here!

Comment by mingyuan on The housekeeper · 2018-12-04T18:55:52.432Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It was 16 when I took over the house a little over a year ago, currently down to 10 permanent residents, which is the lowest it's ever been while I've been here.

Comment by mingyuan on The housekeeper · 2018-12-04T06:19:14.344Z · score: 23 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Yup, and it turns out the idea proposed in the OP is actually way more complicated than it sounds. For one thing, it's unlikely that a single person would be very well-suited for all of the jobs listed (e.g. I am good at the ops/logistics stuff but shy away strongly from the conflict resolution type stuff). But more importantly, it's unlikely that everyone in the house would be happy enough with every decision the housekeeper made that they would be able to function as autonomously as described. This happens even if the housekeeper is entirely competent at all of their tasks, because people will just have conflicting tastes about things like decorating - this is basically inevitable in a larger house.

I also think it helps people have buy-in to their house if not literally all of the tasks are assigned to one person. At Event Horizon, the 'housekeeper' isn't in charge of cooking house dinner or running events, which lets more people do something tangible for the house as a whole (besides just a chore), and leads to a diversity of events tailored to what different subgroups in the house want to do. We also have monthly 'virtues' which just means that everyone volunteers to do something nice for the house, which can range from 'replace some light bulbs' to 'draft a proposal for a new house system' to 'make it so we have a library.' I think this is pretty important.

Bottom line I agree that some version of this thing is likely a good idea for most larger houses, but it's a part of working out systems for house governance, which is a really complicated task. I'm hoping to write a mini-sequence in the coming year on what I've learned about running a rationalist house, but I don't currently feel equipped to write an authoritative section on house governance systems because we are still very much in the middle of working that out.

(I will note for completeness sake that though running Event Horizon is definitely enough work to be someone's full-time job, it's never been paid enough for that to be practical for anyone, so I'm not totally sure what house leadership would look like if someone was putting all of their working effort towards it.)

Comment by mingyuan on Winter Solstice 2018 Roundup · 2018-11-28T21:37:36.901Z · score: 17 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Habryka and I are running one at my parents' house in Madison WI on December 21. There's a private Facebook event that I can't make unprivate but I also made a LW event. Email or message me if you want details :)

Comment by mingyuan on Berkeley: being other people · 2018-10-22T18:46:13.979Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Grocery line: This basket is too heavy. But maybe my physical limitations are all in my head and I should just get over it. Stop being so tired. Look there's candy! It's so pretty I bet it tastes so good I want it. No, remember, candy makes you feel bad (*remember the physical sensation of eating too much candy*). Is the person behind me mad at me for taking up too much space on the conveyor belt? Does he think I'm stupid or inconsiderate or poorly dressed? How fast can I make this transaction? In what order should I put these things in the grocery bag? What if I suddenly forget my PIN number and can't pay? Am I being degrading by not having a conversation with the cashier?

Youtube: I'm not a regular watcher of Youtube, but the most recent thing I discovered was the genre of videos akin to "the Hamilton soundtrack but every time they say his name it gets 10% faster." I also like in-depth analysis of movies and TV shows - even ones I've never seen, if the reviewers are entertaining.


  • I'm in pain most of the time.
  • I'm unusually prone to anger and have a lot of rage fantasies, and I want to scream and break things unusually often (when I was in school I would often break my pencil in half when I got angry, because it was inconspicuous but still helped a little).
  • I barely have any episodic memory stretching back more than one year at any given time, and >90% of my memories are bad memories, despite me having had a pretty good life.
  • I dissociate a lot (and have since childhood), including dissociating basically every time I look in a mirror, because I'm like, "who is that? what is that? who are these people around me? how did I get here?". As a result I have a constant sense of suspicion that nothing is actually real. This only goes away when I'm really wrapped up in what I'm doing and not thinking about the fact that I'm a human in a physical body in a physical world, but it's easy to be jolted out of that.
  • I'm not good at allocating my attention between competing sensory experiences. If I'm in a room where a lot of conversations are happening, I'll try to follow the ones to my left and right in addition to the one I'm supposed to be in. I can't work while listening to music or if people are talking or if I can see movement in my visual field, or sometimes even if my clothes are too tight. I lose my train of thought when I hear a baby or child.
  • I pay much more attention to what other people (mostly strangers) are thinking about me than I think is normal. Oli phrased it as something like, the world around me is made up of giant heads and their giant faces are staring at me all the time and judging me. (I think he said other people's heads are 20x bigger to me than they are to him). I learned to walk and eat and open and close doors maximally silently because I hated bothering other people. If someone tells me off or even just corrects me I usually want to cry.
  • When I have a plan to do something, I rehearse it in my head over and over beforehand. Usually before big events that I've planned I have a nightmare the night before where I experience the entire next day but a bunch of things go wrong. The rehearsing also makes me feel kind of stuck, so e.g. if my implicit plan was to sit in bed and read, and one of my housemates starts a conversation with me when I walk into the kitchen to get water, I feel a ton of internal tension even if I've read the book before and the conversation is way better than sitting in bed, because it's just not what I planned to do and I can't adjust.

Comment by mingyuan on Shit rationalists say - 2018 · 2018-10-02T02:30:43.968Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Honestly I just watched the video for the first time and I don't think it needs an update; it's still pretty painfully accurate :P

Comment by mingyuan on What Are Meetups Actually Trying to Accomplish? · 2018-10-01T18:24:14.643Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hi Joshua, sorry I missed this comment! I'm not in Chicago anymore, though I'm still invested in the group's success. I've been meaning to write up a postmortem of the version of Chicago Rationality that I ran (and later passed off to Peter), but I recently started working full-time so I'm not sure when I'll get around to that - for now I can just say a couple of things here.

One is that I think Chicago is more spread-out than a lot of major cities, which makes it really hard to pick a good location - e.g., we initially had our meetups in Hyde Park, but we had very low regular attendance because most people weren't willing to trek all the way down to the south side; and when meetups were moved to Harold Washington Library we basically lost all the UChicago students. Similarly Northwestern is way far from any central location you might pick, but in the opposite direction. This makes it really hard to sustain a core group of people who will regularly show up.

Another is sort of a catch-22, where because there's not a lot happening in Chicago in terms of rationality or EA, there's not a lot keeping really hardcore rationalists/EAs in the city. Like, I joined a version of Chicago Rationality in March of 2015 that only lasted for three months, at the end of which all four other members moved to the Bay to work for EA organizations. I think this was almost certainly the right call for all four of them, because they didn't have strong roots in Chicago, weren't well-positioned to earn to give, and were good fits for the culture and organizations they joined in the Bay, and most importantly because there was no community for them in Chicago and no way for them to have an impact there.

As for why I think there hasn't been a lasting community in Chicago so far: Chicago isn't flooded with programmers like some other cities - which is a big deal because programmers are way disproportionately into rationality/SSC - and it doesn't have particularly unique industries that would draw rationalist-type people. Here I'm thinking of Seattle (which has sustained a large rationalist community), where lots of people don't want to leave their jobs at Amazon, Microsoft, and SpaceX. (See also Paul Graham's essay on cities, which led me to reflect on Chicago and find it to feel not at all ambitious, at least to me).


So those are my super rough thoughts on what it's like to try to make a community work in Chicago. I definitely don't think it's impossible - there are communities in much weirder places with many fewer rationalists - but I think it's important to keep these considerations in mind, and maybe using an atypical strategy to accommodate them.

For example, I can imagine that you might want to have weekly meetups switching off between three regular locations - one closer to Northwestern, one closer to UChicago, and one downtown. That way people who weren't able to easily travel to the other locations could still make it to ~one meetup per month, which would allow them to feel like part of the community even if they're not at every event. If the three locations each had a different host, this would also help with leadership redundancy (which I talk about in the post).

For the 'not a lot happening in Chicago' concern, I think you'd just want to be careful to not place all your eggs in a basket that's likely to move away soon (like me, sorry). You need people who are committed to staying in Chicago and building a community there, rather than just excited about the thing but apt to leave for greener pastures. This means that while universities might be good places to find new members, you shouldn't build your group such that it relies on students to survive.

Hope this was helpful, and sorry it was so long! Feel free to ask more questions :)

Comment by mingyuan on Theories of Pain · 2018-09-03T19:56:48.053Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW
What is your pain

This is actually quite a personal question, and I don't like answering it so I'm not going to.

As for what I've tried - briefly, I've tried most of the things listed above, other than somatic therapy (which I'm interested in trying), and acupuncture and surgery (which I'm not). I started off consulting the medical establishment about my pain at the age of five, and gradually branched out to alternatives when that didn't work. I currently mostly use massage, some of the exercises I learned from physical therapy, and psychologically-based relaxation techniques.

Comment by mingyuan on Rationalist Community Hub in Moscow: 3 Years Retrospective · 2018-08-26T01:09:00.015Z · score: 21 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for writing this; it's so cool to finally hear what's going on with Kocherga!

I know some of the people at CFAR are very interested in talking with you about your curriculum. It's too late to apply now, but CFAR is running a workshop in Prague next month and would be super interested to see someone there who was familiar with Kocherga-style applied rationality. So if any of your alumni are able to get to Prague easily and would be interested in meeting up with people from CFAR, have them email to see if they can set something up! Note though that I don't work for CFAR, so take this all with a grain of salt.

Separately, I'd be interested to know if you've pursued any of the larger-scale funding options such as CEA. Kocherga seems like it plausibly could have gotten funded via the EA Community Building grants (although that's not for sure due to its focus on rationality rather than EA). Note that a comparison to the Berkeley REACH would not be appropriate here because REACH did not exist yet when Stardust applied for the community building grant, whereas Kocherga has a long track record. In any case, it seems worth it for you guys to apply for grants. You're clearly doing something valuable :)

Anyway, I've pledged $30/month. Best of luck!!

Comment by mingyuan on Orange County SSC Meetup · 2018-08-09T20:47:33.586Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No, not that I know of.

Comment by mingyuan on Would you benefit from audio versions of posts? · 2018-07-26T16:14:00.430Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It wouldn’t be useful to me, but might allow me to finally get my sister into rationality, since she’s basically incapable of reading :)

Comment by mingyuan on A Step-by-step Guide to Finding a (Good!) Therapist · 2018-07-20T19:11:14.382Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the resources! Fair warning though, I used Reflect and it matched me with you. Beware!

Comment by mingyuan on Look Under the Light Post · 2018-07-17T19:59:39.699Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, that is the original version of the parable; gworley is playing on the original here and suggesting that maybe it misses something important about why someone might do something as apparently fruitless as looking for his keys where the light is rather than where he dropped them.

Comment by mingyuan on Last Chance to Fund the Berkeley REACH · 2018-06-28T03:05:26.480Z · score: 24 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I recently cancelled my recurring Patreon donation due to financial insecurity, but with the new developments both at REACH and in my life, I'm happy to say I've reinstated and increased my donation. Best of luck <3

Comment by mingyuan on [deleted post] 2018-05-05T17:08:45.963Z

First of all, I'm really sorry you've had this discouraging experience in your first few weeks on LessWrong. It does seem unfair that you've received a lot of negative votes while receiving very little feedback on why that is. I think there's something real in all of the interpretations you listed, and my guess would be that each one was an opinion held by at least one person who read at least one of your posts (presuming high traffic on Frontpage posts).

For now, I think it makes most sense for you to continue to post regularly, just on your personal blog. Given what you've said here I definitely don't want to discourage you from writing, but I think there are certain expectations of Frontpage posts that you're unlikely to meet since you're a newcomer both to writing and to the ideas of the community.

I strongly encourage you to read more of the rationality canon and become familiar with the discussion around various ideas before writing too much about those ideas. From what I remember of surveys of prominent users of the old LessWrong, most of them, upon discovering the site, spent several months just reading the Sequences without posting or commenting, then spent several months or years just commenting, and only then began writing their own top-level posts. Obviously times have changed in a lot of ways; I just want to emphasize that familiarity with the canon is a quite important prerequisite for writing well-received posts.

I also agree with Elo that you might want to wait before addressing sensitive topics - if you are a newcomer to the community and an inexperienced writer, it will be difficult for you to write about controversial or sensitive things in a way that is:

  • interesting to long-time readers of the site - in that it provides novel insight and is framed in a way that makes it relevant to their interests
  • comprehensible - it can be really difficult to convey your thoughts on complex topics to strangers through only the written word, and I think this just takes a lot of practice (hopefully with fast feedback loops)
  • nuanced, not clumsy - the thing about writing about sensitive topics is that people can be really, well, sensitive about them (surprise!); there are a myriad of ways you can end up putting your foot in your mouth and you need to know your audience well and write clearly and carefully to be able to avoid all those failure modes

Some other, more concrete things:

I found your post on effective altruism difficult to follow; I didn't actually understand it until reading Ixakas' comment. On a first (uncomprehending) read, it kind of comes off as a naïve attack on something that is really important to a lot of people here, which may be where a lot of the downvotes came from. You also seemed to present things as novel insights when pretty much every premise in the post is something that's been discussed in this community for years. That said, now that I've read Ixakas' top-level comment, I do find the post pretty interesting.

As for your post on dating: I'm a young female and it didn't make me personally uncomfortable, but the framing is a bit rude, as Elo said - even just the title, 'Finding a Girlfriend', feels to me like it elides a lot of what a romantic relationship actually is. I had a friend who thought in these terms, trying to find The One using a search algorithm that involved dating apps and spreadsheets, and he was wildly unsuccessful at dating. Actually, my main thought when reading your post was that it might be pretty helpful to someone like him. So, that general way of looking at the problem may not be the best, but as long as a lot of people are going to do it anyway your post seems like it could be valuable.

To look at an example of someone managing to successfully navigate discussing this sensitive topic - when lukeprog wrote about rational romantic relationships, he included personal anecdotes, but he also looked at what was going on from other points of view (including a lot of female POV), and mostly framed the problem as one that humans in general have, rather than one specific to any group. It also helped that he included a whole bunch of scientific evidence.


In conclusion, this was a very long comment but I hope you find at least parts of it useful. Good luck, Michaël.

Comment by mingyuan on Unyielding Yoda Timers: Taking the Hammertime Final Exam · 2018-04-04T00:49:31.491Z · score: 23 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Great submission! I especially like Emotion Propagation – it's something I've thought about specific cases of, but hadn't conceptualized as a cognitive defect, and I think it might be surprisingly pervasive. I'm definitely going to try looking at my bugs from an emotion propagation angle. Thanks for that :)

Comment by mingyuan on Rationalist Lent is over · 2018-04-02T04:45:07.128Z · score: 35 (8 votes) · LW · GW

[I don't feel like this comment is done, but better to post incomplete things than to not post at all]

As you predicted, my thing was hard. As I predicted, my thing was an interesting experiment and gave me a lot to think about. I think that's not really in the spirit of Lent, but it was useful for me (she said, demonstrating her perpetual need to justify herself in the face of imagined criticism). Thoughts:

  • For the most part the thing wasn't hard because I didn't notice it happening, it was hard because every time I did it, it felt like in that particular instance the thing I was saying really was true.
    • One contributing factor to this was that the thing was poorly defined: e.g., does excessive apologizing count as putting myself down? (There were dozens of other edge cases like this that aren't immediately springing to mind.)
    • There were situations in which it felt disingenuous to be positive about myself, e.g. meetings with my manager. But maybe the thing is about framing and not objective facts - e.g. I could frame things as opportunities for improvement rather than as 'shortcomings', which sounds more like a reflection on my intrinsic worth.
  • I am pretty confused about to what extent the things that come out of my mouth correspond to actual beliefs I have about myself. They're more reflexive than reflective.
    • Something about signaling contributes here, probably. I'm pretty confident that I don't put myself down in an attempt to get compliments from others, because compliments make me uncomfortable and annoyed and I'd be quite confused if I were subconsciously fishing for them. A more likely source of this is that I really hate disappointing (or otherwise inconveniencing) people and sort of design my entire life to avoid ever doing that. So if I set expectations low (by putting myself down), it means I need to reach a lower bar in order to not disappoint people, which means there's less pressure on me.
  • I'm concerned that I failed with abandon, in such a way that I actually made the thing worse by trying. This was a failure mode I didn't foresee (but should have), where I was like, "well, I failed at my goal of being more positive about myself, I guess I'm a failure."

Some other notes I wrote at the ~halfway point (7 March):

  • Not saying negative things about myself (insofar as I've actually been doing it) hasn't had any apparent effect on my sense of self efficacy or self worth. I think some of this is that I'm not vocalizing the negativity but I'm still thinking it. Maybe it would be better to explicitly say positive things rather than avoiding negative ones.
  • I'm less prone to start messages with "sorry I'm stupid" or things to that effect, but that might just be basic professionalism and not wanting to put other people in a position where they feel like they have to refute the negative things I say about myself.
  • I still feel like I should be allowed to say things when I feel like they're objectively true, but of course that defeats the whole purpose.
  • I think sometimes Oli mistakes me being exhausted for me just having low self-efficacy in general (e.g. I say I "can't" go do something when what I mean is I'm too tired to do it right now). I think I should be more careful to draw a distinction between those, so I don't reinforce an image of me as helpless.

Final thought:

  • Holy **** what's wrong with me why am I so bad at being positive about myself get it the **** together. I know personal progress is a long and difficult road but sometimes I wonder if just getting a good slap in the face and having someone shout "GET IT TOGETHER" would fix me. Probably not. I guess I have to do the hard thing. Boo.
Comment by mingyuan on April Fools: Announcing: Karma 2.0 · 2018-04-01T17:00:06.375Z · score: 22 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Please don't upvote me I don't want anyone to hear me

Comment by mingyuan on Leaving beta: Voting on moving to · 2018-03-12T17:58:25.709Z · score: 54 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Agree. Something the old LessWrong did that the LW2 community page doesn't currently do, was that it displayed upcoming meetups on the side of every page, and in my experience as an organizer sometimes people would just stumble across the site for the first time, immediately see there was a meetup in my city, and show up. From a design perspective I know there's no way Oliver will go for having meetups display on the side of every page, but maybe we can do something to make nearby meetups comparably visible, because that does seem really important.

Comment by mingyuan on Making yourself small · 2018-03-09T00:02:16.097Z · score: 38 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I'm curious about your claim that low-status playing big is rarely occurring in nature, because it was far easier for me to think of low-big examples than high-small examples. What examples did you think of, if you care to share? Maybe we're interpreting the thing slightly differently? And I definitely agree that low-big is a dangerous place to be, but it's not obvious to me that either (a) or (b) will come into play in all or even a majority of cases.

I think a lot of low-big happens when people are relatively socially oblivious, and in those situations I think social pressure is often ineffective at pushing people back down to the low-small state. There is a common problem at rationality meetups (where people skew higher-than-average autistic) where someone takes up far more than their fair share of air in the room and doesn't pick up on others' signals of annoyance or discomfort.

Another situation that leads to a lot of low-big is when a person who's used to being high status comes into a new context and erroneously expects their status to be conserved across domains. A probably-familiar example is a freshman at an elite university who was the smartest person in his hometown and therefore has been trained to think that everything he has to say is really important, who dominates class discussion despite having nothing interesting or insightful to say. In that case I guess I would naïvely expect (a) to push that person to be smaller eventually, but in practice that hasn't been my experience.

Also, a lot of old people and tenured professors play big no matter what situation they're in, and (a) is very unlikely to work on them, but (b) also might not work if they're in a situation where they can't gain status just by being big and blustery (e.g. the rationality community!).

Do you think there are other forces that act to repel people from low-big besides (a) and (b)? If not, are there other reasons why you think low-big is not a stable equilibrium? I ask because it definitely doesn't look like a stable equilibrium, but I haven't thought of things other than (a) or (b) that would make that the case.

I also agree that "both noticing and moving in the social game are in themselves predictive of high status," but I don't think it necessarily follows that "on the high status side it's very easy to play both big and small as the situation demands." I think there are plenty of people (probably particularly females, because of how we're explicitly socialized to not take up space) who have definitely acquired status but play small far more often than is warranted. Imperfect examples that come to mind are Lauren Lee and Scott Alexander (and me, but you don't know me) - although I'm concerned I might be equivocating here between 'being small' and 'playing low status.' I definitely always am both small and playing low status and trying to wrench myself out of that is painful and confusing, but I don't know if the same is true of Lauren or Scott.

I think all I'm really saying here is that 'being good at the social game' implies 'high status', but 'high status' does not imply 'being good at the social game' - which maybe makes the axes more orthogonal than you think.

Comment by mingyuan on Shit rationalists say - 2018 · 2018-02-21T19:32:30.955Z · score: 32 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Rationalist dating:

"I know this might be a weird analogy, but relationships are like LessWrong"

"Should I date Jaan Tallinn? I'm not attracted to him at all, but it seems high-EV."

"You're so cute I just want to invest all my resources in you!"

"I know we should go to sleep, but have you considered hyperbolic discounting?"

"Now that you've witnessed my inability to apply instrumental rationality to the problem of going to sleep on time you have to break up with me"

"I don't have to take care of myself because in twenty years we won't even have human bodies anymore!"

"Wait don't go, you're instrumentally useful to me!"

Comment by mingyuan on Rationalist Lent · 2018-02-15T19:08:33.040Z · score: 16 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This was me for quite a few years. I've noticed that in times when I'm really depressed I'll read fanfic until I pass out from exhaustion at 4am, but when I feel happy and emotionally fulfilled (e.g. the past few months) my fanfic habit completely disappears and I feel no desire to read it even when I get notifications for it. Strangely, this wasn't something I easily identified as pica at our CFAR workshop.

Comment by mingyuan on Rationalist Lent · 2018-02-14T20:10:10.818Z · score: 21 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I know this doesn't square with the CFAR canon, but in my experience changing things about myself, it's surprisingly often enough for me just to notice that I want the thing to change, and then it just happens without further effort (the two examples that jump to mind are 1. drastically improving my handwriting and 2. transforming myself from a bully into a ray of sunshine). I've been doing this one for the last ~20 hours and it feels like it falls in that category - I've always noticed when I'm doing it in the past, the only difference is that now I've decided to do something about it.

Also, Oli is pretty good at protesting vehemently when I put myself down, so I have a reliable external enforcement mechanism :)

Comment by mingyuan on Rationalist Lent · 2018-02-14T05:00:21.853Z · score: 18 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Oh man there are so many things it would be cool to try this with! But in the interest of not getting distracted I’m going to choose only one, so: I’m giving up saying negative things about myself. And also specifically the phrase “I can’t.” Yay, I can succeed! Thanks for the prompt Qiaochu :)

Comment by mingyuan on Meetup : [Metro Detroit / Ann Arbor], Michigan: LW and SSC meetup where I bring food · 2017-04-05T18:25:13.576Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I stole your 'you're much more interesting than you think you are' spiel for my own SSC meetup announcement; I hope you don't mind. Such an important message! I was so hesitant about going to my first meetup that I very nearly didn't go at all, which would have been the hugest mistake of my life, so thank you!

Comment by mingyuan on Meetup : Chicago SSC Meetup / Rationality Reading Group · 2017-04-05T18:18:50.694Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Important: "If you can read this sentence, you're invited. If someone told you about it, you're invited. If someone re-posted it somewhere else and you read it, you're invited. (Feel free to repost, mention, or link to this announcement anywhere you think people will be interested.) No level of expertise is required. Do not worry if you don't think you're interesting enough. You're much more interesting than you think you are. Even if you're not, you're invited anyway."

(Stolen from the Detroit/Ann Arbor event page)

Comment by mingyuan on Meetup : Chicago Rationality Reading Group · 2017-03-10T19:28:26.827Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The meeting is actually at 1:00, not at noon as listed. Apologies, I think this was a glitch due to DST.

Comment by mingyuan on Double Crux — A Strategy for Resolving Disagreement · 2017-02-02T02:02:29.218Z · score: 10 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Anecdotal data time! We tried this at last week’s Chicago rationality meetup, with moderate success. Here’s a rundown of how we approached the activity, and some difficulties and confusion we encountered.


Before the meeting, some of us came up with lists of possibly contentious topics and/or strongly held opinions, and we used those as starting points by just listing them off to the group and seeing if anyone held the opposite view. Some of the assertions on which we disagreed were:

  • Cryonic preservation should be standard medical procedure upon death, on an opt-out basis
  • For the average person, reading the news has no practical value beyond social signalling
  • Public schools should focus on providing some minimum quality of education to all students before allocating resources to programs for gifted students
  • The rationality movement focuses too much of its energy on AI safety
  • We should expend more effort to make rationality more accessible to ‘normal people’

We paired off, with each pair in front of a blackboard, and spent about 15 minutes on our first double crux, after the resolution of which the conversations mostly devolved. We then came together, gave feedback, switched partners, and tried again.


  • For the purposes of practice, we had trouble finding points of genuine disagreement – in some cases we found that the argument dissolved after we clarified minor semantic points in the assertion, and in other cases a pair would just sit there and agree on assertion after assertion (though the latter is more a flaw in the way I designed the activity than in the actual technique). However, we all agree that this technique will be useful when we encounter disagreements in future meetings, and even in the absence of disagreement, the activity of finding cruxes was a useful way of examining the structure of our beliefs.

  • We were a little confused as to whether coming up with an empirical test to resolve the issue was a satisfactory endpoint, or if we actually needed to seek out the results in order to consider the disagreement resolved.

  • In one case, when we were debating the cryonics assertion, my interlocutor managed to convince me of all the factual questions on which I thought my disagreement rested, but I still had some lingering doubt – even though I was convinced of the conclusion on an intellectual level, I didn’t grok it. When we learned goal factoring, we were taught not dismiss fuzzy, difficult-to-define feelings; that they could be genuinely important reasons for our thoughts and behavior. Given its reliance on empiricism, how does Double Crux deal with these feelings, if at all? (Disclaimer: it’s been two years since we learned goal factoring, so maybe we were taught how to deal with this and I just forgot.)

  • In another case, my interlocutor changed his mind on the question of public schools, but when asked to explain the line of argument that led him to change his mind, he wasn’t able to construct an argument that sounded convincing to him. I’m not sure what happened here, but in the future I would place more emphasis on writing down the key points of the discussion as it unfolds. We did make some use of the blackboards, but it wasn’t very systematic.

  • Overall it wasn’t as structured as I expected it to be. People didn’t reference the write-up when immersed in their discussions, and didn’t make use of any of the tips you gave. I know you said we shouldn’t be preoccupied with executing “the ideal double crux,” but I somehow still have the feeling that we didn’t quite do it right. For example, I don’t think we focused enough on falsifiability and we didn’t resonate after reaching our conclusions, which seem like key points. But ultimately the model was still useful, no matter how loosely we adhered to it.

I hope some of that was helpful to you! Also, tell Eli Tyre we miss him!