Self-sacrifice is a scarce resource 2020-06-28T05:08:05.010Z · score: 62 (37 votes)
Seeking opinions on the pros and cons of various telepresence tools 2020-04-05T18:22:51.775Z · score: 9 (3 votes)
Meetups in the era of COVID-19 2020-03-15T06:24:03.318Z · score: 29 (5 votes)
How to have a happy quarantine 2020-03-15T03:42:56.085Z · score: 86 (33 votes)
How to choose a massage therapist 2020-03-01T06:53:44.608Z · score: 25 (8 votes)
Looking for books about software engineering as a field 2020-02-03T21:49:05.926Z · score: 15 (7 votes)
Bay Solstice 2019 Retrospective 2020-01-16T17:15:03.840Z · score: 72 (21 votes)
The Towel Census: A Methodology for Identifying Orphaned Objects in Your Home 2019-12-22T06:04:44.111Z · score: 32 (11 votes)
mingyuan's Shortform 2019-11-21T20:58:04.387Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
Welcome to Lexington Rationalists [Edit With Your Details] 2019-09-25T02:45:28.785Z · score: 5 (1 votes)
Welcome to Auckland EA/SSC Meetup Group [Edit With Your Details] 2019-09-25T02:43:17.678Z · score: 7 (3 votes)
Welcome to New Delhi SSC [Edit With Your Details] 2019-09-25T02:38:17.069Z · score: 5 (1 votes)
SSC Meetups Everywhere: Darmstadt, Germany 2019-09-19T00:53:59.600Z · score: 5 (1 votes)
Meetups as Institutions for Intellectual Progress 2019-09-17T05:23:08.004Z · score: 77 (24 votes)
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: 35 (15 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)


Comment by mingyuan on Covid 7/2: It Could Be Worse · 2020-07-03T00:02:52.799Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

you did it!!! thank!

Comment by mingyuan on Covid 7/2: It Could Be Worse · 2020-07-02T23:09:05.355Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

isn't D':

Comment by mingyuan on Covid 7/2: It Could Be Worse · 2020-07-02T21:24:26.701Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

@LW team I can't see some of the images in this post because they're embedded from Twitter and I have Twitter blocked. Can haz fix?

Comment by mingyuan on What was your reasoning for deciding whether to raise children? · 2020-06-30T18:49:17.663Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is a good thoughtful response as well! I think the calculus is actually significantly different for men vs women, where the Elon Musk option is unlikely for men, but feels kind of unimaginable for women. Obviously not every single parent relationship in the world is gendered this way, but honestly I'd guess like 98% are, maybe more. And on inside view, you know I'd totally end up the mother figure in any relationship. On the other hand, I'd be fine living in a group house with someone who had a kid - indicating to me that it's not participating in raising kids that I don't want, but being responsible for raising kids. (Also the pregnancy thing, as I mentioned. Shudder.)

So yeah, if I were a man in a non-precipice world I think I could easily want kids. But that's not the situation, so... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Comment by mingyuan on How ought I spend time? · 2020-06-30T18:14:29.826Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Also, see Lynette's recent post on prioritizing.

Comment by mingyuan on How ought I spend time? · 2020-06-30T18:13:29.594Z · score: 10 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What is your goal?

Comment by mingyuan on TurnTrout's shortform feed · 2020-06-29T04:54:01.028Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by mingyuan on TurnTrout's shortform feed · 2020-06-29T04:52:34.336Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to try out the hypothesis, I recommend that he (or you, if he's not receptive to it) read Sarno's book. I want to reiterate that it does not work in every situation, but you're welcome to take a look.

Comment by mingyuan on TurnTrout's shortform feed · 2020-06-29T01:54:14.151Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's very similar to what John Sarno (author of Healing Back Pain and The Mindbody Prescription) preaches, as well as Howard Schubiner. There's also a rationalist-adjacent dude who started a company (Axy Health) based on these principles. Fuck if I know how any of it works though, and it doesn't work for everyone. Congrats though TurnTrout!

Comment by mingyuan on What was your reasoning for deciding whether to raise children? · 2020-06-28T19:37:55.803Z · score: 14 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I've always been enamored of babies, but I've known and asserted for as long as anyone can remember that I don't want to have children. My sister has known and asserted for her whole life that she does want to have children. So to some extent it feels innate. When I was a kid I was told "don't say you don't want kids, that could easily change when you grow up." But I'm in my mid-20s now and in a stable relationship, and I've never wavered on that point once in my life that I can remember. I still have ~15 years left to change my mind, but I'd be fairly surprised if I did.

Both my sister and I did a fair amount of babysitting, and while she found it very rewarding (and went on to work with kids professionally), I found it extremely draining and a constant struggle. I have fatigue problems and had lots of trouble keeping up with the kids; I constantly second-guessed how stern or lenient I should be with them; I was garbage at telling stories of any kind; I couldn't keep running when they wanted to play tag; my arms got tired bouncing a crying baby; when one girl smeared her poop on the walls I just wanted to throw up my hands and cry. I often say that I love babies, but only because I can give them back.

I think there are a lot of things on top of that that make me a bad fit for parenting. I need a lot of sleep and a lot of alone time. I don't always have my emotions very well under control and I know from experience how scary that can be for a child. I have a lot of things that I want to accomplish that don't involve children, and I'd certainly have to make major changes to the way I live to accommodate a child. I also date people who don't want children, so suddenly changing my mind on that point would be a dick move.

Another big one is pregnancy. While a lot of women my age (including my sister) go a bit crazy with the desire to physically be pregnant, I find the idea absolutely horrifying. I have enough health problems and hypochondria without adding pregnancy (and its after-effects) to the mix, and there's also something I just innately find quite disturbing about it, to the point where I subconsciously avoid friends when they're pregnant. I'm in a play right now where my character gets pregnant and the idea of donning a fake belly was so creepy to me that I could barely even talk about it, and even gesturing to my normal stomach and pretending there's a baby there onstage makes me feel really uncomfortable.

So those are some of my many reasons. I think you can see pretty clearly that nearly every single factor points in the same direction, although there are two exceptions - (1) I really love the feeling of a soft warm baby in my arms, and (2) I am descended in an unbroken line from the very first self-replicating molecules, and it feels bad to, like, spit in the face of my fishy ancestors by stopping the line here. But those two things are not nearly enough to outweigh the others. So it's a no from me.

Comment by mingyuan on mingyuan's Shortform · 2020-06-28T19:12:08.719Z · score: 18 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Housemate conflicts

It’s been a heck of a weird year so far, and what with quarantines and pandemics and protests and everyone’s ensuing mental health crises, I know a lot of group houses that have seen significant internal strife, my own house among them. So I’m writing this not necessarily because I think it’s insightful, but because I think it might be healing (or, failing that, at least explanatory).


When choosing housemates, you’re usually thinking along the lines of, “Are these people interesting to talk to, financially responsible, and generally non-odious to live with?” You probably want to have in place mechanisms for conflict resolution, but those conflicts will likely be along the lines of “should we hire cleaners or just be stricter about chores?” or “how late at night is it okay to play music?” – relatively low-stakes. In many cases, you can also just move out if you find you have irreconcilable conflicts, which puts an upper bound on how bad the situation can get.

But lately, we’ve been thrown into a world where the housemate question is more, “Do I trust these people to make life-and-death decisions for me and be arbiters of my every action, and do we have conflicting neuroses that will drive us crazy if we’re forced to spend every day together for the foreseeable future?” To me, that sounds a whole lot like marriage, and I sure as hell wouldn’t marry someone on the basis of, “well, they happened to be there and seem pretty okay overall.” (I don’t even want to marry my wonderful boyfriend of three years!) And while moving is always costly, it's much more so in a world where you can't have other people come in your house and touch your stuff, you can't feel safe renting a car to move the stuff yourself, travel is very limited, and wherever you move to is where you'll have to spend nearly 100% of your time.

In the archetypical marriage – a close and trusting relationship between two people who love each other – you can sit down and talk through major problems, and come to really understand one another’s point of view, hopefully bringing you to a compromise that doesn’t hurt anyone. In a California-standard social bubble of 12 people, it’s difficult to do the same. Even small decisions require an hour of discussion, you have less emotional safety than you would in a one-on-one discussion with someone you love, and even if everyone does share their honest emotional perspective, it’s often impossible to come to a decision that doesn’t hurt anyone. And for me at least, it’s impossible to care about 11 other people’s emotions to nearly the extent that I care about my boyfriend’s, which makes for a less productive decision-making environment.

All that is to say – the many fights and housemate breakups that have arisen in the past few months don’t mean that anyone involved is a bad person, or that the people can’t ever be friends again. It just means you weren’t ready to get married. And that's okay.

Comment by mingyuan on Eight Short Studies On Excuses · 2020-06-25T18:39:30.070Z · score: 13 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Like all economics professors, I have no soul, and so am unable to sympathize with your loss."

Relatable. One time my friend was out with his roommate when the roommate got hit by a car, and my friend took him to the hospital and stayed with him all night. He came to his economics professor the next day having gotten absolutely no sleep and asked if he could take the midterm (scheduled for that day) a different day. The professor responded that he would only allow it if my friend paid his $500/hour consulting fee for drawing up and proctoring a new exam. My friend took the midterm as scheduled.

Comment by mingyuan on SlateStarCodex deleted because NYT wants to dox Scott · 2020-06-23T19:10:11.478Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · LW · GW I feel uncomfortable with your proposals and your tone. Rogs' comment upthread says why better than I could.
Comment by mingyuan on Open & Welcome Thread - June 2020 · 2020-06-23T18:38:42.720Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There are certainly a lot of people here interested in the same topic! Jeff ( is probably the most prolific poster on raising children, though his kids are still quite young. Good luck and have fun!

Comment by mingyuan on Open & Welcome Thread - June 2020 · 2020-06-21T17:23:36.652Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Welcome Yitz!

Comment by mingyuan on Wireless is a trap · 2020-06-11T03:25:18.418Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You're welcome ;D

We have and (cheaper than Raj suggested because they come in three-packs). They are my babies :)

Comment by mingyuan on Most reliable news sources? · 2020-06-07T19:12:45.376Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

+1 for Wikipedia, that's how I find out most of my info on current events. If there's something that seems likely to be important to my near-term decision-making (e.g. riots near me) I'm likely to Google for it to find more details, but Wikipedia is a good place to find out 'what are the major things that are happening in the world right now, in broad strokes'.

Comment by mingyuan on Biases: An Introduction · 2020-06-03T20:26:43.819Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah! Yes! I've never been able to properly formulate an answer to why this example bothers me so much, but you did it! Thank you!

Comment by mingyuan on Baking is Not a Ritual · 2020-05-27T13:44:02.045Z · score: 16 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for this! Two things that helped me immensely with developing my models of baking were (1) watching a lot of Bake Off, and (2) having to contend with dietary restrictions (I was vegan when I started baking in earnest, and am now gluten-free but not vegan, for complicated reasons). 

For (1): In addition to being both calming and delightful as a thing to watch, I find Bake Off really helpful because the bakers all have really good models of how and why baking works, and they often share them verbally. This, for example, is how I learned that kneading functions to 'develop' the gluten in a dough, and therefore cut it out of any recipe where I wasn't using gluten (although, naive substitution there is basically always doomed anyway), but that's only one among many examples. 

The other really cool thing is that you get to see the bakers make lots of mistakes, for both simple and complex steps. Observing failure modes is great for this kind of model-building, and it's all the better that you don't have to make the mistakes yourself!

For (2): Starting my baking career without eggs helped me get an intuitive feel for what they're used for (and also put me in complete awe of eggs, especially once I started using them). Similarly, cutting out gluten and seeing what happened to my tried and true recipes as a result made me understand what flour does better. Maybe I should have a concept of 'emulsifier', but I've gotten along pretty well with 'binding agent' vs 'raising agent'. (Correct me if I'm wrong but) eggs function as both. 

I never really went for weird ingredients like flax eggs or agar agar, which gave me a great chance to understand more common ingredients better! The trusty binding agents I have on hand if something isn't coming together are xanthan gum (dry) and applesauce (wet), although, I mean, usually you just want to add more of whatever is in the recipe (e.g. flour for dry, eggs for wet). For raising agents, vegan recipes will generally using both baking powder and [baking soda + acid]. Lemon juice and apple cider vinegar work equally well as the acid, although as an edge case you probably wouldn't want to, like, substitute apple cider vinegar for lemon juice in a recipe for lemon muffins.

There are also smaller things like, using almond milk instead of regular milk led me to realize that milk in recipes is almost always(?) more about fullness of flavor than about the fat, so you could really just use water and the recipe would still come out, though it would probably be less rich. Similarly, fats are somewhat interchangeable in many situations (e.g. melted butter vs olive oil in cupcakes probably doesn't make a huge difference) but definitely not all - for doughs in particular, you really want to pay attention to the behavior of the fat at the temperature you're working with, as you mentioned. Normal butter and vegan butter have slightly different melting points, which can affect doughs that you want to be flaky, and vegetable shortening has a higher melting point than either, which makes it good for doughs if you can't be arsed with all that freezing butter stuff. Unfortunately, butter tastes better than everything else.

Finally, since this is just a brain dump at this point, gluten-free all-purpose flour is heavier than normal flour, which makes it slightly harder to make rise. This isn't generally a problem for almost all recipes, but somehow turns into a complete disaster when you're using yeast. I try not to let failure stop me from trying things, but I am completely done with trying to make gluten-free yeasted breads. Even with all the knowledge I'm claiming to have here, I cannot fathom the depths of the disasters that occur in this realm.


Okay well, that was a lot. Thank you for coming to my TED talk. And remember kids: if a recipe calls for self-rising flour, they're lying to you; just add baking powder and salt to your normal-ass flour and you'll be fine.

Comment by mingyuan on mingyuan's Shortform · 2020-05-22T23:10:59.205Z · score: 22 (6 votes) · LW · GW

When I was in high school, I once had a conversation with a classmate that went something like this (except that it was longer and I was less eloquent):

Him: "German is a Scandinavian language."

Me: "No, it's not. German and the Scandinavian languages both fall under the umbrella of Germanic languages, but 'Scandinavian languages' refers to a narrower category that doesn't include German."

Him: "Well that's your opinion."

Me: "No??? That's not what an opinion is???"

Him: "Look, it's your opinion that German isn't a Scandinavian language, and it's my opinion that it is. We can agree to disagree."

Me: ??????????????????!!!!!!!!!????!?!?!?!?! *punches self in face*


When I was taking a required intro biology course in college, I had already read a bunch of LW and SSC, notably including That Chocolate Study. So when the professor put Bohannon's results and methodology up on the projector, I was ready as heck to talk about all of the atrocities therein. The professor asked us to pair up with the person next to us to discuss whether we believed Bohannon's results, and I decided to give the freshman next to me the chance to speak first before I absolutely demolished everything. The girl turned to me with wide eyes and a confident, creaky-voice drawl, and said, verbatim: "I think it's true, because chocolate is known to be a superfood."

I was floored. How could this be happening in real life? I was at an elite college with a sub-10% acceptance rate, and this person next to me had just said "known to be" and "superfood" like they explained anything – like they meant anything. I will never forget those words. Looking back, that may have been the day I decided to move to the Bay after graduating. No regrets.

Comment by mingyuan on mingyuan's Shortform · 2020-05-22T22:55:38.226Z · score: 29 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I get sick of people saying things that imply that rationality has no practical, tangible benefit (e.g. "I moved to the Bay and am no better off" etc). Lots of discussion about this topic talks about physical fitness, career success, or investing. But since this is my shortform and I can say whatever I want, I want to talk about a concept that I've personally found helpful: the idea of fire alarms (as talked about in There’s No Fire Alarm for Artificial General Intelligence and Sunset at Noon), which is sort of like just another concept handle for noticing confusion.

When I was eleven, my family spent Thanksgiving at my grandparents' house. That weekend, as we were getting ready to make the several-hour drive back home, the adults were doing odd jobs around the house and my sister and I were hanging out with our cousin in the den, maybe watching a movie or something. At some point, my cousin looked up and asked, "Is someone screaming?" My priors on someone screaming were extremely low, and I didn't hear what she heard, so I said, "Nah, it's just a machine," and turned back to what I was doing. Turned out it was someone screaming, and my decision to ignore that possibility could very well have meant the difference between my dad living and dying. (The details aren't important, but for anyone who's worried, he lived.)

Another anecdote. In late 2017, shortly after the release of both There’s No Fire Alarm for Artificial General Intelligence and Sunset at Noon, I was standing with Habryka in a dimly lit and dusty room, setting up A/V for a show. In a moment of stillness, Habryka looked over and said, "Is that smoke?" Due to the poor lighting and my low prior on things randomly catching on fire, my knee-jerk response was still "Nah." But luckily Habryka wasn't so dismissive, and he went over and unplugged the definitely-actually-smoking cord before a proper fire could start. I've similarly witnessed the entire LessWrong team insisting on investigating every time they smell smoke (even though every time it's just been someone burning something on the stove or in the oven). 

I think there's an implicit expected value calculation in this, where it might be slightly inconvenient to investigate every time you smell smoke or hear a scream, but sometimes - and perhaps not even that rarely - the payoff for doing so is preventing a structure fire or saving a life. I've spent years chastising myself for my dismissiveness back when I was eleven, and I think that my contact with rationality has made me into the sort of person who's more intentional about investigating warning signs, and therefore much less likely to let my dad die just because it seemed unlikely to me that someone was screaming.

Comment by mingyuan on How to learn from a stronger rationalist in daily life? · 2020-05-21T05:40:39.756Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Just to add another single datapoint, I have had a very different experience of living around Berkeley rationalists. The people around me are constantly pushing me to actually think through the positions I put forward, to ground my beliefs more firmly in reality, and to think more deeply in general. Where three years ago (when I moved here) I was painfully shy and hopelessly intimidated by the intellectual conversations around me, I'm now much more self-confident and much slower to defer to others epistemically. I have learned to tackle big projects and face problems without immediately giving up. The changes are somewhat nebulous (i.e. it's not like I had some very tangible change like going to the gym every day), but they're very clear to anyone who interacted with me three years ago vs today. I definitely don't think most of this would happened if I weren't around the Berkeley rationalists. I wasn't exactly doing deliberate practice, but I also didn't just sit around hoping for osmosis to make me cooler - like Ray, I think I really benefited from the 'try things' mindset. I was constantly throwing myself out of my comfort zone, and while it often went quite poorly, I'm happy with the end result.

Most credit goes to Habryka for meeting me where I was at while simultaneously always encouraging me to push my boundaries, but the fact that literally everyone I live with has gone through CFAR instructor training certainly also helps, as did working at a few rationalist/EA orgs and having casual interactions with people who I know are a lot smarter and better at rationality than me. 

Comment by mingyuan on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-05-19T18:05:49.901Z · score: 17 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I was always wary of using drugs to solve my problems (I always thought I should just apply more willpower), but then my anxiety got so bad that I cried every day for nearly a year. Going on SSRIs immediately made a massive difference. I only cry about once a month now and have far more good days than bad.

Similarly, sucking it up and taking ibuprofen when I feel a migraine starting is way better than 'powering through' it. You requested only one problem-solution pair per answer, so I'll generalize this to 'significant life improvements when I stopped blindly rejecting drugs on principle.'

Comment by mingyuan on Why do you (not) use a pseudonym on LessWrong? · 2020-05-09T17:05:47.475Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Mostly my reason is what FactorialCode said - using your real name online was just Not Done for most of internet history. But also my real name is extremely generic and I don't like it or identify with it much.

Comment by mingyuan on How to have a happy quarantine · 2020-04-29T18:46:46.993Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah yes, sorry about that! Some of the exercises are available here; there are more in the book :)

Comment by mingyuan on For those of us living in the middle of nowhere, any cool meetup groups we can finally participate in during our lockups? · 2020-04-04T05:43:18.514Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hi lisperati, good question! There's a Facebook group here for online effective altruism events, and a Discord server here which was primarily intended to help rationality meetup organizers coordinate their online meetings, but might be a good place to ask around about groups you can join. There have also been a few online megameetups already, which have been announced on LessWrong. I hope that helps!

Comment by mingyuan on How to have a happy quarantine · 2020-03-15T04:25:04.043Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry no, it wasn't a joke - my internal doc explains this better but I thought it looked unwieldy here. The description is "Opt in once, then we’ll make you do it every day to overcome the activation energy. Maybe morning calisthenics or some other group exercise." Does that make more sense?

Also I corrected your spelling of "borders" in your recent question :P

Comment by mingyuan on LessWrong Coronavirus Link Database · 2020-03-14T15:46:05.227Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW <- Wolfram Alpha's COVID resource hub

Comment by mingyuan on How effective are tulpas? · 2020-03-11T22:43:41.774Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think the referent of Guy's "this failure mode" was "breaking your brain", not "committing murder." This comment seemed to me like an unnecessary strawman :(

Comment by mingyuan on Wanting More Intellectual Stamina · 2020-03-10T21:58:25.686Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is a really good question and unfortunately I don't have an easy answer. One secret about the CFAR curriculum is that it's not about the techniques themselves, but about the mindset. I think of this mindset as a combination of "enjoying the feeling of agency" and the scientific method. That is, recognizing that you are capable of taking decisive action rather than just being passively caught in the flow of events, and experimenting to figure out what works for you. 

Another thing that really really helps (though it's certainly not possible for everyone in every situation) is surrounding yourself with people who value this kind of thing as much as you do – people who will support your efforts to become more productive and to figure out what it is that you really want, rather than scoffing at you or acting like you're weird. If you can't accomplish this with your IRL social group (which was something I had trouble with in college), I found that it really helped to immerse myself in rationalist writings, especially HPMOR and Minding Our Way. 

Bottom line, the whole thing is an ongoing process rather than a series of magic bullets. 

Comment by mingyuan on How effective are tulpas? · 2020-03-10T20:18:52.606Z · score: 10 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I just wanted to say I'm really impressed with your level-headed discussion, your ability to notice your own mistakes, and your willingness to change your mind (not just about pursuing tulpamancy, but also about people's intentions). I wish you all the best :)

Comment by mingyuan on How effective are tulpas? · 2020-03-10T18:19:32.706Z · score: 11 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm no doctor or anything, but my understanding is that only people with a genetic predisposition can develop actual schizophrenia. Schizophrenia usually first manifests in a person's twenties, if it's going to manifest, but it's not a sure thing – there are certain precautions you can take to make it less likely that it will develop. For example, I have a friend whose mom is schizophrenic, and he's really careful to avoid hard drugs and other intensely mind-altering practices. So if you have anyone in your family with a history of schizophrenia, I'd be extra careful with tulpamancy.

On the other hand, there are lots of mental illnesses that don't seem to require a family history – again, this is way outside of my realm of knowledge, but anecdotally, it seems like just about anyone can develop severe depression, hypomania, or a destructive drug habit, given the right circumstances. So if nothing else, I'd advise you to proceed with a whole lot of caution.

As for the point about getting swept under the rug: I have no familiarity with the discussion that goes on in circles that are interested in tulpamancy, but if it's primarily self-reports, well, people who are imprisoned, dead, or severely mentally compromised wouldn't be able to report on their status. I think I might sound like I'm trying to scare you – I guess maybe I am? It just seems really important to me to tread carefully around tulpas.

Comment by mingyuan on How effective are tulpas? · 2020-03-10T17:18:49.639Z · score: 14 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I imagine one of the cases Davis is thinking of is the same one I'm familiar with. Someone we know started experimenting with tulpas and became visibly more unstable, then shortly thereafter had a schizophrenic break and tried to kill someone, and has now been in federal prison for several years. Someone who had been working with them on tulpas then spent at least a year in an "unproductive and unstable state", addicted to drugs etc. I know very little about tulpas themselves but knowledge of that situation makes me agree with Davis that tulpamancy is a major red flag. 

Comment by mingyuan on How long does SARS-CoV-2 survive on copper surfaces · 2020-03-07T16:48:22.026Z · score: 9 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The basic answer is - pretty fast, but not immediately.

This paper compares 9 metals (lead kills slightly better than copper but that unfortunately extends to the humans; zinc and some other metals also kill pretty well, only two did not). Within an hour, copper dropped CFU from 10^6->10^1 (the measurement threshold). Zinc took 2 hours, nickel 4.

(this research actually done by Connor Flexman)

Comment by mingyuan on Even if your Voice Shakes · 2020-03-06T22:01:45.213Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, thank you for doing that. I admire you standing up for what you believed in. Donated.

Comment by mingyuan on How to choose a massage therapist · 2020-03-02T19:13:49.723Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I agree.

Comment by mingyuan on How to choose a massage therapist · 2020-03-02T19:12:59.551Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that asking questions is a good sign, but I still stand by the basic point I was trying to make. Often the place the pain is felt and the knot of tension causing the pain are not colocated. A good massage therapist should understand the human body well enough to figure out what's wrong from a combination of palpating and communicating, rather than solely working the place where you tell them you have pain.

Comment by mingyuan on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-02-28T23:39:10.774Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You could ask a related question!

Comment by mingyuan on Will the current COVID-19 outbreak increase the use of block-chain in supply chain management globally? · 2020-02-28T19:06:55.407Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Can you maybe give a brief explanation of why you think this might or might not be the case?

Comment by mingyuan on Wanting More Intellectual Stamina · 2020-02-22T21:34:25.954Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Seconding this recommendation!

Comment by mingyuan on Wanting More Intellectual Stamina · 2020-02-22T21:33:49.744Z · score: 22 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Epistemic status: Hardcore projecting myself onto a stranger.


I was in college pretty recently, and I think I recognize in this question a lot of the same unhealthy attitudes that were so toxic for me in college and for the year(ish) after graduation. Like this:

I feel like I'm unable to let go of the fun-loving part of me which needs stupid entertainment. I simply cannot stay interested enough in learning and knowledge to be doing it 24/7, but I feel like this is requisite in order to be a successful thinker.

This is just not how life works. The vast majority of people, including the really successful ones, like "stupid entertainment" of one form or another. Habryka watches a lot of YouTube. Luke Muehlhauser is obsessed with corgis. Elon Musk.... smokes weed on live TV. It's not intrinsically bad to enjoy things that aren't work.

You are framing this as "I'm unable to let go of the fun-loving part of me." I think that's dangerous. Interesting and successful people still enjoy hanging out with their friends and doing things that aren't work. Staying interested in one single field 24/7 is definitely not a requisite for being a successful thinker, and in fact is probably counterproductive (see David Epstein's great book Range on this subject). Keeping yourself happy and not burned out is really important, and following your curiosity to a variety of other fields can often give you valuable perspective on your core work. 

How do you guys stay interested in something (an idea or even an entire field) persistently enough to always be motivated to work on it?

(The following paragraph is probably fairly specific to the existential risk community (as compared to e.g. academia), but you did ask on LW, so, y'know. That's what you get.) 

For most of the people I know who are doing really intense work, they don't stay motivated solely out of 'interest.' If Buck Shlegeris were just following his interest, he'd likely spend more time on physics and music than he does, but instead he devotes a lot of his time to MIRI because he believes in the importance of working to reduce existential risks. That's not to say he doesn't enjoy his MIRI work, just that it's not all about "staying interested." Sometimes we do things because we endorse doing them, rather than because we just want to do them. I've heard of some rationalists who claim to have integrated all of the subcategories of their personality (to use your term), but these people are by far the exception rather than the rule. 

 Is it unrealistic to hope to always be motivated by your curiosity? 

Yes and no. There might be times when you're just devouring everything you can on a topic – I remember in high school I used to spend Sundays at my friend's house with all the other girls in my calculus class, doing extra credit work for fun, and then I would go to math team competitions after school and talk with my friends about proofs at lunch. I think there are academics who are also like this – in particular, some professors seem to just want to talk about their field all the time, and they seem to really enjoy it. Maybe it's possible to intentionally cultivate that level of sustained enthusiasm, but if so I don't know how to do it, and I wouldn't count on it as your only motivator. Curiosity can drive your choice of field and keep you excited about it on medium timescales, but not minute to minute.

I like my job quite a lot, but there are plenty of days when I don't feel intrinsically motivated to do it. Days when what I really want is to do housework or practice some song on the guitar or go for a long walk in the forest. But I do my work anyway, because I've committed to do it – because there would be consequences if I just didn't show up to work, because my coworkers (who I really like) would have to shoulder the burden I left, because my financial security is tied to it. Curiosity is a lovely motivator if you have it, but external commitments are much more reliable.

Will I burn myself out if I devote my free-time to extracurricular reading?

Not if you still allow time for other things that provide you with value! (See the recommendation of goal factoring below.) And especially not if you read because you're following your interest, rather than because you think you 'should' (see also p.167 here). I read like it's a religion and it often gives me energy rather than draining it. I'm a 'technical writer for software in the streets, rationalist in the sheets' with a degree in physics, but I read about whatever I want – currently that's mostly urban design, nutrition, and evolution. I love reading. But if I'm not into a book, I'll drop it. I think you should generally not perform mental violence in order to get yourself to do things... although being in school probably makes that hard.


Recommendations: A fair amount has been written on LW about the value of rest; see the Slack and the Sabbath sequence for a good start. I also recommend looking into CFAR's technique of goal factoring, where you try to get at the reasons why you're really doing something. (See also the Hammertime post and the CFAR handbook). Not to write the bottom line for you, but I expect you'll find that things like hanging out with your friends are providing you with value that you couldn't get by spending all your time studying.

Scott Alexander's wanting vs. liking vs. approving framework also seems relevant here (though, spoiler alert, it's kind of a confusing mess if you actually try to pin down what he means by each word.)

Also extremely relevant: Eliezer's On Doing the Impossible.


College is a unique environment where you newly have a lot of control over how you spend any given moment of your time, and yet you have more work to do than can actually fit into that time. (This was often literally true for me, YMMV.) You pressure yourself because your grades aren't as perfect as they were in high school, and you feel like you could be doing more if you were just somehow better. But I think that comes from a flawed orientation towards your goals. Instead of torturing yourself over those lost hours of studying, I recommend half-assing it with everything you've got. There are some classes where trying to get value out of them is like drawing blood from a stone, so maybe don't bother – if you're interested in the material, just read on your own. Unless you're shooting for grad school (which maybe you are, and I don't know much about that world), as long as you keep your GPA above 3.0 and get that piece of paper two years down the line, no one's going to care about anything else. Don't feel like it's wrong to live your life in a way that makes you happy. Don't beat yourself up too much. And good luck <3

Comment by mingyuan on Looking for books about software engineering as a field · 2020-02-05T02:15:21.226Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh this looks promising, thanks Rogs! Do you have a copy I could borrow?

Comment by mingyuan on Looking for books about software engineering as a field · 2020-02-05T02:14:14.216Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fair point, I probably should have said more about my background. Will also add it to the OP.

I have an undergrad degree in physics, which gave me extremely minimal exposure to Python. I also took two quarters of intro CS, one in C and one in Racket. As a result I know how to write a for loop and a bit about very basic algorithms; that's about it. I've been in my current job for nearly a year, and my primary task is to write about the skillsets of individual software engineers. This entails things like connecting someone's verbal knowledge of back-end web development to their experience creating microservices; I can do this quite competently and don't make many technical mistakes. I have also learned a bit on the job regarding a couple data structures, some web stuff, and smatterings of info about ML, data science, DevOps, front-end/UI, and mobile development.

And thanks for the Wikipedia link; I hadn't looked at that yet and might end up pursuing that :)

Comment by mingyuan on AIRCS Workshop: How I failed to be recruited at MIRI. · 2020-01-09T05:34:32.284Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think that they were mentioning that they loved recruiting because it leads them to work with extremely interesting people, but that it's hard to find them. Given that my goal was explicitly to be recruited, and that I didn't have any answers yet, it was extremely awkward for me. I can't state explicitly why, after all I didn't have to add anything to their remark.

Reading this, it sounds to me like the bad thing here might have been the unintentional implication that people who are not hired by MIRI are not extremely interesting people. I'm sure that's not what they meant, but it's understandable that that might be awkward!

Comment by mingyuan on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2019-12-30T18:23:28.097Z · score: 16 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The thing is, you don't have to actually be particularly good at software development in order to get a high-paying programming job. Even mediocre or very junior programmers can easily break six figures, something that's much harder even in other intellectual labor positions in the Bay Area (e.g. technical writing, which is what I do). So, while I don't disagree that being a good software developer is very difficult, I definitely don't think that explains away the issue discussed in the OP, and I definitely disagree that "very few can become good enough to be paid for" software development.

(Source: I work for a software recruiting company where I have access to information on both the skill level and the salary of thousands of software developers.)


Comment by mingyuan on The Towel Census: A Methodology for Identifying Orphaned Objects in Your Home · 2019-12-23T06:57:36.488Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You know, that's an excellent point. I just bought my boyfriend a new towel and washed all the towels in the house (serendipitously, everyone's out of town for the holidays). I also want to note that we no longer really have this problem, and that the smell - at least the ambient smell - has never been very bad. Although, yeah, when I stick my face in some of the towels and smell them I... wish I hadn't. I'm also a female with good hygiene, moderate OCD, and an unusually good sense of smell, so. Yeah, I hear you. 

Also, re: the two months thing - the guest towels would generally just remain hanging up after one or two uses, while housemates generally would each wash their own towels regularly like normal adults. So it's not quite as bad as it sounds, though it's still not exactly ideal. 

Time to clean everything! Thank you for your input.

Comment by mingyuan on The Towel Census: A Methodology for Identifying Orphaned Objects in Your Home · 2019-12-22T18:10:02.420Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This doesn't solve the problem of knowing which ones are guest towels and which are in use by housemates. Also, assuming that it takes at least a couple hours to wash and dry all the towels (realistically more like seven hours, given the large number of towels), and that each housemate only has one towel, this strategy would mean someone can basically just unilaterally decide that no one gets to shower for the better part of a day.

Comment by mingyuan on Annual review and daily tracker template files (in google doc/sheets) · 2019-12-22T06:51:53.400Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Awesome, thank you so much for this! I was just gearing up to do Alex Vermeer's annual review and this is super helpful. Note: the last link (to the Google doc) isn't publicly accessible; unless that was intentional, you probably want to change the sharing permissions :)

Comment by mingyuan on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-22T06:35:57.638Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But we've already read all of those!

Comment by mingyuan on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-19T22:09:15.647Z · score: 44 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I've heard a lot of people say things along the lines that CFAR "no longer does original research into human rationality." Does that seem like an accurate characterization? If so, why is it the case that you've moved away from rationality research?