Bay Area Winter Solstice 2021 2021-09-07T20:11:56.648Z
Bay Solstice looking for volunteers 2021-09-06T06:45:04.697Z
Takeaways from one year of lockdown 2021-03-01T03:53:20.228Z
Intuitions about utilities 2021-02-06T00:12:44.383Z
Open & Welcome Thread – February 2021 2021-02-05T21:38:28.789Z
Reflections on the cryonics sequence 2021-02-03T01:17:13.556Z
#6: Optional additional steps 2021-02-02T23:57:01.742Z
#5: Making your cryonics arrangements official 2021-02-02T23:54:27.534Z
#4.4: The insurance underwriting process 2021-01-28T02:33:02.592Z
#4.3: Cryonics-friendly insurance agents 2021-01-27T21:13:37.488Z
#4.2: Cryonics-friendly life insurance carriers 2021-01-27T21:05:06.735Z
#4.1: Types of life insurance 2021-01-26T19:55:21.948Z
#4: Introduction to life insurance for cryonics 2021-01-22T20:58:05.529Z
Appendices to cryonics signup sequence 2021-01-22T06:40:20.700Z
#3: Choosing a cryonics provider 2021-01-20T01:47:36.839Z
#2: Neurocryopreservation vs whole-body preservation 2021-01-13T01:18:05.890Z
Cryonics signup guide #1: Overview 2021-01-06T00:25:02.927Z
Some end-of-year media recommendations 2020-12-31T20:10:17.516Z
How to get the benefits of moving without moving (babble) 2020-11-13T20:17:59.278Z
Location Discussion Takeaways 2020-11-02T21:14:24.604Z
The rationalist community's location problem 2020-09-23T18:39:26.278Z
Petrov Day Ritual: Coronavirus Edition 2020-09-23T16:41:39.856Z
Self-sacrifice is a scarce resource 2020-06-28T05:08:05.010Z
Seeking opinions on the pros and cons of various telepresence tools 2020-04-05T18:22:51.775Z
Meetups in the era of COVID-19 2020-03-15T06:24:03.318Z
How to have a happy quarantine 2020-03-15T03:42:56.085Z
How to choose a massage therapist 2020-03-01T06:53:44.608Z
Looking for books about software engineering as a field 2020-02-03T21:49:05.926Z
Bay Solstice 2019 Retrospective 2020-01-16T17:15:03.840Z
The Towel Census: A Methodology for Identifying Orphaned Objects in Your Home 2019-12-22T06:04:44.111Z
mingyuan's Shortform 2019-11-21T20:58:04.387Z
Welcome to Lexington Rationalists [Edit With Your Details] 2019-09-25T02:45:28.785Z
Welcome to Auckland EA/SSC Meetup Group [Edit With Your Details] 2019-09-25T02:43:17.678Z
Welcome to New Delhi SSC [Edit With Your Details] 2019-09-25T02:38:17.069Z
SSC Meetups Everywhere: Darmstadt, Germany 2019-09-19T00:53:59.600Z
Meetups as Institutions for Intellectual Progress 2019-09-17T05:23:08.004Z
If you've attended LW/SSC meetups, please take this survey! 2019-03-25T21:48:37.976Z
[Speech] Worlds That Never Were 2019-01-12T19:53:51.241Z
Madison Solstice Gathering 2018-11-28T21:36:24.846Z
Atlanta SSC Meetup 2018-08-29T16:56:05.277Z
Theories of Pain 2018-08-26T22:05:17.172Z
Welcome to Kansas City SSC Meetup [Edit With Your Details] 2018-08-23T18:18:12.223Z
Chennai SSC Meetup 2018-08-13T22:34:50.603Z
Welcome to Kyiv SlateStarCodex 2018-08-13T21:15:17.002Z
Moscow SSC Meetup 2018-08-12T03:13:03.606Z
Brussels SSC Meetup 2018-08-12T03:11:30.209Z
Oslo SSC Meetup 2018-08-10T23:12:55.814Z
Sacramento SSC Meetup 2018-08-10T00:40:14.429Z
Columbus SSC Meetup 2018-08-09T21:18:29.975Z
Kiev SSC Meetup 2018-08-09T20:41:51.272Z


Comment by mingyuan on Paris, France – ACX Meetups Everywhere 2021 · 2021-09-19T19:25:25.478Z · LW · GW

Date has been provisionally set for 10 October at 16h, with Scott expecting to arrive at 17h — still subject to change based on Scott's schedule. Also note that the location has changed to Trocadéro; the original park closed too early. 

You can join other Paris ACX readers on Discord here: 

Comment by mingyuan on Lots of Hooks · 2021-09-07T03:53:17.325Z · LW · GW

I responded about Command hooks in a subthread, but also recommend picture frame hangers (image below, since the term is somewhat ambiguous). They are not the most helpful/versatile shape, but they can hold quite a lot of weight with only a small nail hole.

Comment by mingyuan on Lots of Hooks · 2021-09-07T03:47:42.847Z · LW · GW

I've used Command hooks in at least six different buildings and almost never had this problem (when they're removed correctly). They make them big and strong enough that you can hang a stepladder.

Comment by mingyuan on Buffalo, NY – ACX Meetups Everywhere 2021 · 2021-08-31T19:49:33.412Z · LW · GW

Update from George:

Due to the desire of an unvaccinated person to come to the meet up, I will be having a second meetup on Monday Sept 6th. at noon.  This second meet up may have an unvaccinated attendee, but all are welcome.  

Comment by mingyuan on Calgary, AB – ACX Meetups Everywhere 2021 · 2021-08-28T17:25:56.797Z · LW · GW

This meetup has been moved to September 5th, because the organizer was no longer able to make it on the 29th (tomorrow).

Comment by mingyuan on [cancelled] Rotterdam, Netherlands – ACX Meetups Everywhere 2021 · 2021-08-26T18:10:07.993Z · LW · GW

This event has been cancelled in favor of combining with Amsterdam. You can still get in touch with Lydia if you're interested in future meetups in the Rotterdam/Den Haag area.

Comment by mingyuan on Berkeley, CA – ACX Meetups Everywhere 2021 · 2021-08-26T00:42:11.851Z · LW · GW

There's a Facebook event now! 

Comment by mingyuan on Treatments for depression that depressed LW readers may not have tried? · 2021-08-23T09:40:39.898Z · LW · GW

Your answer tells me nothing I didn't already know and is not even that accurate (bupropion has more than one official use). Perhaps this isn't the place to say this, but I consistently find every single one of your comments on this site to be needlessly hostile and condescending. It seems like a shame since you clearly have real value to contribute, but interacting with you is just always so unpleasant.

Comment by mingyuan on Treatments for depression that depressed LW readers may not have tried? · 2021-08-22T07:03:17.160Z · LW · GW

I'm confused, I'm pretty sure you live in the US, and I also live in the US and I've been prescribed bupropion. What am I missing?

Comment by mingyuan on Who was the person who escaped the Nazis a day before they cracked down? · 2021-08-17T22:29:58.218Z · LW · GW

(If you don't want to click through, the answer is Leó Szilárd)

Comment by mingyuan on For God's sake, Google it. · 2021-08-12T02:11:07.947Z · LW · GW

See also :P

Comment by mingyuan on Art Meet · 2021-08-09T01:20:21.350Z · LW · GW

[Epistemic status: just my gut reactions. I knew I wasn't going to go because I'm moving in two days and so was busy, but also probably wouldn't have gotten up the courage/agency/will to go anyway (maybe 20% chance I would have gone).]

I think the "there are only eight chairs" thing maybe gave a bit of a vibe of exclusivity and/or set expectations low for attendance, which makes it less appealing as a getting-to-know-people event. 

I also think a large part of it is just that the first instance of a thing is harder to get buy-in for — with choir there's a very established structure and a core of people who show up, so you really know what you're getting into, whereas with this I was unsure what to expect. I guess I'm not sure if there's an action item here. Maybe more assertive wording?

I notice I also felt weird about the idea of drawing outside. I just like to draw on a nice smooth table, and I don't want bugs on my paper. Obviously I get why you would have the event outside, and besides, I don't even know if this would be a deterrent for anyone else.

Comment by mingyuan on What are some beautiful, rationalist sounds? · 2021-08-06T06:44:11.789Z · LW · GW

[I fixed your link; you used Markdown syntax but were in the WYSIWYG editor :)]

Comment by mingyuan on What are some beautiful, rationalist sounds? · 2021-08-06T01:53:59.019Z · LW · GW

I keep a list of all content that has ever been used for Secular Solstice celebrations. It is very long and most of the things on it don't fit the narrower thing you're looking for here, but feel free to peruse it anyway.

I'm too tired / doing other things right now to make a case for everything on there that I think fits the bill, but here are a few:

Pale Blue Dot

Description I found somewhere else:

Brief audio recording of Carl Sagan describing the primary concept of his book Pale blue dot : a vision of the human future in space. In reflecting on the image of the Earth as a tiny speak he notes "that's us" that the Earth is "a mote of dust, suspended in a sun beam' and a "very small stage in a vast cosmic arena."

This but played over nice music (that I think was composed for the purpose).

Hymn to the Breaking Strain

A musical setting of Rudyard Kipling's poem of the same name. The poem is about the double-sided coin of human agency and human fallibility. My favorite stanza:

We only in Creation
(How much luckier the bridge and rail)
Abide the twin damnation—
To fail and know we fail.
Yet we - by which sole token
We know we once were Gods—
Take shame in being broken
However great the odds...


A choral setting of some Carl Sagan quotes. Pitch from the composer:

Mvt. 1 is about discovery ("Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known"),

Mvt. 2 is about beauty ("The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together).

Mvt. 3 is about space at large ("If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.")

On a personal level, Carl Sagan has taught me how beautiful science and the universe can be, and that understanding something enriches the experience, but doesn't take away from the mystery that draws us to the big questions of life. He taught me that the sciences are beautiful; the natural world is elegant; and for such small creatures as we, the vastness is bearable only through love :)

The Circle

This song is about expanding moral circles of concern. I guess that's more of an EA flavor (and it was written by an EA) but I don't think that's out of scope.

And here are some other ones I might come back and make a case for later (not hyperlinked because you said no bare links):

  • Sogno di Volare
  • Her Mysteries
  • Seikilos epitaph
  • Uplift
  • You Were Born
  • The Wheel
  • Time Wrote the Rocks
  • Do You Realize
  • Landsailor
  • The Next Right Thing
Comment by mingyuan on Why not more small, intense research teams? · 2021-08-05T17:42:15.308Z · LW · GW

This describes the LessWrong team, and some other startups I've known of. The sense I've gotten is that most people either don't see the appeal or aren't willing to make that large a commitment? (Living with your teammates is a pretty big commitment, especially if you have other parts of your life, like a partner or kids.) Or, well, I think for the most part, people are working within the standard view of what an organization looks like and just don't think of this option.

Comment by mingyuan on Training Better Rationalists? · 2021-08-05T17:35:10.443Z · LW · GW

I listened to David Goggins' account of Navy SEAL training last year. They encourage you to push yourself so hard that you are at genuine risk of death or permanent disability. The first two times Goggins tried to get through he failed out because of injuries, even though he was willing to — and did — run many miles on literally broken legs. He only made it through the third time because hell week got cut short due to someone in their cohort DYING (from participating in an exercise to tie and untie knots at the bottom of a swimming pool while very sick with pneumonia).

I actually found the book incredibly inspiring, though it did not make me think anyone should model themselves after the Navy SEALs in particular. I also don't think someone should run 100 miles in 24 hours with zero training and continue despite the fact that their legs are breaking and they're shitting and pissing blood while they run, which is another thing that Goggins did.

One training exercise in the book that seemed more reasonable to me (more like an exercise and less like abject torture) was an orienteering-type thing (for I think the Army Rangers?), where the terrain was treacherous and unfamiliar and the weather dangerously cold at night. I think it's a good test of rationality to put yourself in a genuinely high-stakes situation like that — as long as one of the choices you're allowed to make is to call for help if you are genuinely afraid for your life. That was an option in the case of the Rangers orienteering challenge, but my point is that the thing that's bad about SEAL hell week is that you're considered a pussy if you quit, even if it's out of genuine and reasonable fear for your life.

The book overall is about the idea that your limits are fake, and humans can accomplish things that seem like they should be physically impossible as long as they just don't give up. I think that's a concept we could work with. 

I think there are quite a few rationalists who challenge themselves to do fairly hard things, like founding a successful startup, putting together a large conference on short notice at the age of 18, or publishing a good post on rationality every day for a month, things kind of like that. I think I've challenged myself a lot more than I would have if I weren't in the rationalist community, but I don't think I've ever tried to do something that I felt was impossible. (I think a precious few rationalists have faced the impossible — probably Holden and Eliezer, to name any at all — but they're very much the exception rather than the rule.)

Here are some things that feel impossible:

  • Write something as groundbreaking as the sequences, starting in one week (that's your planning period) and posting every day for at least a year
  • Cause the public collective consciousness and ~all significant intellectuals in the US to take x-risk (and especially AI x-risk) seriously, within the year
    • Note that I very much do not suggest that people throw themselves at this task!
  • Make a novel discovery in particle physics (or a similar well-established field that you've never studied before), within six months
  • Without piggybacking on any existing space exploration project, put a spacecraft of your own design / owned by you on the moon within five years
  • Found a new country that gets recognized by the UN

And here are some things where I can see a path to accomplishing them, but where that path feels incredibly hard and scary — these examples are specific to me:

  • Become fluent in Mandarin, both speaking/listening AND reading/writing, in the next three months
    • I have a lifetime of failure to learn Mandarin behind me, including one academic year when I really actually tried, also Mandarin is just really fucking hard
  • Run a marathon within the next year 
    • I have a chronic leg injury that makes running essentially impossible, that feels insurmountable but probably in reality is not
  • Make a million dollars in the next six months just via investing/betting
    • I am a very risk-averse person and was raised to fear the stock market
  • Permanently fix my depression and anxiety
    • It's probably not impossible but jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezzzz
  • Found and run a company, like, one with actual employees and investors and a goal of growth (not just a one-person LLC, that's cheating)
    • This just sounds awful in every way; I hate dealing with people and money and feel super unqualified for all of this

Again these will be different for different people. I think Eliezer's quest to lose weight qualifies somewhere around here. I think things in this class are probably better candidates for serious rationality training exercises than the first list, though, maybe that's wrong.

Anyway the goal is not to teach object-level skills, but to cause people to change their outlook on tasks that seem impossible. I think that's one really important skill for rationalists/EAs to have, though not the only important skill. In any given quest you will probably learn additional useful object-level skills.

So idk those are some thoughts on one aspect of the thing. Didn't properly feel like an answer so here it is as a comment instead.

Comment by mingyuan on What was my mistake evaluating risk in this situation? · 2021-08-05T04:09:10.024Z · LW · GW

I'm curious at what point you believed you didn't need to worry about it and at what point you updated. I think it's hard to answer this question without knowing that (although I don't personally know how to answer it anyway).

Comment by mingyuan on How to get mRNA after J&J · 2021-08-05T04:07:32.367Z · LW · GW

I also did not have to lie. They never asked me if I'd previously been vaccinated against COVID (except to ask whether I'd gotten any vaccines in the last 14 days). 

Comment by mingyuan on How to get mRNA after J&J · 2021-08-05T04:06:43.810Z · LW · GW

In this situation I was asked for ID and insurance and gave them, and there was no problem whatsoever. Record-keeping does not appear to be centralized, even where it ostensibly is? Or at least the pharmacists at CVS aren't checking it when they ask for your ID. Seems like it would be suspicious to decline to give ID?

Comment by mingyuan on Ask Not "How Are You Doing?" · 2021-07-22T01:45:28.036Z · LW · GW

Or "what have you been up to." Keeps the same sense as "what are you doing" without the unintended connotations.

Comment by mingyuan on How to Sleep Better · 2021-07-17T00:51:02.069Z · LW · GW

I'm surprised how much I liked this post given how much I've already read on the topic. It's well-laid-out and made me feel motivated! :)

Re: noise, earplugs aren't the only option! Which is good news for anyone who can't wear them due to sensory issues or a proclivity for ear infections. I use a white noise machine — mine is a Dohm classic, but it's a matter of personal preference; you can probably also just hook your phone up to a speaker and use that. I absolutely hated white noise machines at first (they give me anxiety, weirdly), but some kind of noise solution was a necessity due to living with a bunch of roommates in a house on a busy street, and I eventually got used to them.

Also, I checked out 8sleep's website, and their prices are crazy. If you're really interested in their proprietary mattress technology, then sure, go ahead with that, but don't buy any of their other sleep accessories! I've gotten good-quality versions of all of those products on Amazon for 1/3 the price or less.

Comment by mingyuan on For reducing caffeine dependence, does daily maximum matter more, or does total daily intake matter more? · 2021-07-10T06:57:15.293Z · LW · GW

[note: moved answer to comments]

Comment by mingyuan on Is it true that most studies in Kahneman's 'Thinking fast and slow' are not replicable and the book is largely not supported by evidence? · 2021-07-01T19:39:22.808Z · LW · GW

My impression of The Undoing Project (Michael Lewis's book that you recommend) was that it absolutely and completely ignored the replication crisis. I was hoping for more and ended up super disappointed. It was a fun bit of biography but I don't think it has any bearing on Davy's question.

Comment by mingyuan on Welcome to LessWrong! · 2021-06-30T19:41:04.078Z · LW · GW

People now introduce themselves in the monthly Open and Welcome threads :)

Comment by mingyuan on [Letter] Imperialism in the Rationalist Community · 2021-06-25T15:55:37.667Z · LW · GW

"The rationalist community" =/= LessWrong. The set of things people might say in casual conversation is very different from the set of things those same people would post publicly on the internet.

Comment by mingyuan on The Apprentice Thread · 2021-06-25T05:38:30.187Z · LW · GW

[APPRENTICE] I would like to feel happier! And I think I need help with it, and I've tried therapy several times and that did not seem like the right kind of help.

Comment by mingyuan on The Apprentice Thread · 2021-06-25T05:36:05.262Z · LW · GW

Hey, I don't feel qualified to mentor someone on navigating college effectively, but while in college the best advice I read by far (even though it wasn't specifically targeted at college students) was Nate Soares' Replacing Guilt sequence :)

Comment by mingyuan on Are bread crusts healthier? · 2021-06-19T05:18:28.836Z · LW · GW

I was told the same, often, but I don't remember anyone offering any reasoning. Also, "the vitamins rise to the top" is a terrible explanation since bread has crust all the way around!! Aiyaa.

Comment by mingyuan on Cryonics signup guide #1: Overview · 2021-06-16T17:44:11.536Z · LW · GW

Thanks Josh, your comments have been informative and I'm glad you made them! A major thing that I think this reveals is that I personally am quite risk-averse — I'm willing to pay a premium for maybe-slightly-better perfusion even though that field is so murky, and for life insurance that won't just stop covering me. A maybe-related personality trait is low confidence, so like even if I believe the arguments for short timelines, I don't have enough confidence in that belief to take on (what I perceive to be) the risk of term insurance just based on that.

Also, I and the three other people who I've helped through this process so far could afford to add an extra  ~$150/month expense, so the significantly higher cost wasn't a major deterrent. If I were financially constrained I do expect I would have made different decisions.


I think you're right about most insurance companies being compatible with CI, and based on Oge's signup guide, it seems like most can be made compatible with Alcor as well. Looking at it now, I probably should have been clearer about that, but since it wasn't something I'd looked into in any depth, I didn't feel very comfortable writing about it. If you or someone else wanted to write in more detail about how exactly that works I'd be happy to add it to the sequence.


I also want to ask if you have any standby arrangements? I think that's a meaningful difference between signing up with CI vs Alcor, because as I said at some point in the sequence, ischemic time matters way more for preservation quality than what perfusion technique is used. (Like, if I lived in Ann Arbor, I would almost certainly sign up with CI no matter what.) Maybe this is just my intense risk-aversion showing again, but it seems to me that cryonics arrangements without standby arrangements might be nearly useless, and that's something I would worry about with CI.

Comment by mingyuan on Open and Welcome Thread – June 2021 · 2021-06-07T01:32:34.568Z · LW · GW

Yeah, I largely agree with lsusr. According to my mom (whose career has focused on second language acquisition and Chinese-American cultural exchange), basically no student gets past second year Chinese at a university level unless they're majoring it. Like, even business majors who plan to work in China. When I took university-level Chinese it really shocked me how much harder it was than other languages I'd learned – after nine months of five hours a week of quality university-level instruction, reading-wise I could barely understand books aimed at toddlers, and speaking-wise I could theoretically order food in a restaurant but wouldn't be able to understand any responses to what I said.

And it would be harder than other languages even if you were just learning to speak, but learning to read basically doubles the difficulty (if not more). My mom is quite fluent in speaking and listening – she worked for years as a Mandarin-English medical interpreter, and lived and worked in China (and Japan, which uses some Chinese characters) for a decade long before Google Translate existed – but she's almost entirely illiterate in Chinese. Many if not most people in the village where my dad grew up were illiterate as well. 

Point being, your question was whether it's worth it for you to learn (to read) Chinese, and I think the answer to that is no for almost anyone in almost any situation. Not because it wouldn't be great to know Chinese, but because the time investment is so shockingly huge.

Comment by mingyuan on Holidaying and purpose · 2021-06-07T00:17:52.191Z · LW · GW

Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait we are IN THE SAME PLACE

Comment by mingyuan on Alcohol, health, and the ruthless logic of the Asian flush · 2021-06-05T16:13:54.003Z · LW · GW

This is awesome, I've been curious about Asian flush for ages but never put in the work to research it. Thanks!

Comment by mingyuan on MDP models are determined by the agent architecture and the environmental dynamics · 2021-06-02T16:36:49.806Z · LW · GW

Your link in the first sentence is broken; it should go to 

Comment by mingyuan on Curated conversations with brilliant rationalists · 2021-06-01T17:11:02.733Z · LW · GW

I don't feel like listening faster solves the same problem as having a transcript...

Also yeah, like the podcasters below mentioned, it's totally worth it to make transcripts. Just use 

Comment by mingyuan on What is the Risk of Long Covid after Vaccination? · 2021-06-01T06:13:38.336Z · LW · GW

This doesn't address the exact question you asked, but I think it's important to say. (But it's 1 AM, so I'm not going to say it very well.)

(I'm largely using the general 'you' here rather than specifically calling out OP.)

COVID has put us in a state of fear that doesn't always respond appropriately to new data. It has always been true that you can get sick from being around other people. In fact, it's always been true that you can contract an as-yet-uncurable chronic disease from being around other people.

Is your post-vaccination risk of contracting long COVID significantly higher than that baseline risk? For that matter, what actions do you take every day that have a higher risk of death than contracting COVID does? Do you drive?

How much do you value activities like indoor dining, or concerts? If you didn't really care about going to restaurants or concerts in the first place, then sure, maybe it's costless to continue avoiding them. But if concerts are one of the things you enjoy most in the world, that's a magnitude of sacrifice to your fear that I don't think it makes sense to continue making post-vaccination.

My model is that risk of getting seriously ill from COVID for someone in my demographic, after full vaccination, is zero for all practical purposes. And my point here is, there have always been viscerally terrifying tail risks, like splitting your lip and having your face devoured by flesh-eating bacteria, but fear of flesh-eating bacteria doesn't control your life. You might get seriously injured in a car accident, but if you live somewhere where cars are an everyday necessity, you still drive.

So yes, maybe there is some not-exactly-zero probability of contracting COVID and becoming chronically ill post-vaccination. But going by all of the quantitative models I've internalized over the past 15 months, that probability is still very close to zero, and in any case nowhere near high enough that you should continue avoiding activities because of it. 

You're probably just avoiding activities because you've become so used to it, and now you're putting an unreasonably high burden of proof on the question of whether you should do things that used to seem normal to you. Like, you used to do certain things, then you stopped doing them because of COVID. Now the threat of COVID has been neutralized by the vaccine, so logically you should go back to your Before Times state. But your system 1 doesn't really get this, because it's settled into a new normal where every activity is by default unsafe until proven otherwise. Consider that probably, now that you're vaccinated, all activities are almost exactly as safe as they were before COVID.

As I said this was not particularly well-argued. But I hope I got across the general point.

Comment by mingyuan on Update 2021-05-31 · 2021-05-31T15:44:16.843Z · LW · GW

Fixed! Thanks :)

Comment by mingyuan on Introducing Rational Animations · 2021-05-31T04:18:54.583Z · LW · GW

I don't watch videos but I just wanna say I love that cover art! Such a lot of meaning packed into one image!!

Comment by mingyuan on Aphantasia · 2021-05-29T04:25:02.077Z · LW · GW

I think it used to apply to me more – as a kid if people asked me something along the lines of "what did you do today?" I would automatically say "I don't know," and then if I thought they wanted a real answer, I would think for a bit. But I could almost always answer after thinking for a couple seconds.

I think part of your confusion comes from conflating experiential memory with verbal memory. In the essay, he also mentions that he's really good at remembering arbitrary sequences of digits; I presume that extends to things such as grocery lists, and possibly also intentions that he's formed. For me, I have very few memories of my childhood or even specific experiential memories of more recent years, but I have no trouble remembering what I need to do in a day.

(I do keep a LOT of lists and always have. But I have no idea if this is related.)

Comment by mingyuan on Aphantasia · 2021-05-28T16:54:16.331Z · LW · GW

Oh, and I also notice that despite my weak visual imagination, movie adaptations can still 'ruin' books for me, not exactly because they lock in a certain way that things look, but because they lock in the characters' personalities and the general vibe.

Comment by mingyuan on Aphantasia · 2021-05-28T16:49:45.958Z · LW · GW

I don't even know how to answer this because it's coming from a place that's so foreign to me. I have a quite weak visual imagination (not full-on aphantasia), and I've never heard a voice speaking words in my head when I read (although actually, now that I've listened to a lot of audiobooks, I can force this to happen briefly if I concentrate). But I've always enjoyed reading! To me, I guess I would say, words are just sort of fundamental? Like, the word itself, the shape of squiggles on the page, is the thing that has meaning, and I don't have to visualize anything beyond it to understand it. It's like the difference between reading a foreign language you're not that good at, where you still have to translate every thought into your native language to really understand it, versus reading in your native language, where there's no translation step.

It might be true, as quoted in Mo's comment below, that people with weak visual imaginations are less likely to enjoy extremely visual-description-heavy fiction like Lord of the Rings – I indeed found reading the LotR books mind-numbingly boring, borderline painful. But in almost all works there's a ton of content that can be enjoyed without imagining it into being: concepts, emotions, even most kinds of events. I also find myself very drawn to beautiful writing, wordplay, and just skillful use of language in general, and now that I think about it, this is probably why. Neat!

The same applies to nonfiction – building an understanding of the connections between concepts doesn't have to rest on any sort of visual framework. The concepts can just become connected, literally/physically, in the structure of your brain.

I do think that I would have struggled less with university-level physics and the related math if I had more of a visual imagination. It's quite hard to keep track of things when it all just feels like symbols you're manipulating; I imagine that being able to visualize things would have let me viscerally understand connection between the math and the physical systems being described. As it was I just sort of, knew explicitly that they were connected. But it was all very vague and confusing.

I hope this helps you understand the experience somewhat. Feel free to ask me followup questions.

Comment by mingyuan on Aphantasia · 2021-05-28T16:30:46.315Z · LW · GW


The slender, olive-skinned man brushed the golden locks out of his hazel eyes. He was so focused on preparing for the assassination that he burned his tongue on the scalding cuppa joe (hazelnut, light cream).

That becomes: There’s an assassin.

This resonates so hard for me! When writing fiction I've always felt a bit like I'm doing it wrong because I write almost solely about the characters' feelings, motivations, and internal monologuing. Visual descriptions are something I shoehorn in because I feel like I'm supposed to have them, and figuring out the blocking of a scene is always a nightmare (has this person stood up yet? how far away are they from the thing they need to go touch?) – it feels totally extraneous; I just want the characters to take the plot-relevant actions and not have to figure out where they're standing when they do it! God forbid I ever try to write a fight scene. That would not go well...

So yeah thanks for the link; I really like the essay!

Comment by mingyuan on Takeaways from one year of lockdown · 2021-05-28T16:17:51.001Z · LW · GW

No, Ray is almost certainly right. Everyone I talked to who lived with one exactly one other person (my sister and my mom, and lots of people with their romantic partners) had a way better time than everyone I know who lived in a group house, N=50+. (I can think of maybe one exception?) This is partly about it being easier to negotiate with just one other person, as mentioned in the post, but also just everything being less difficult with just one other person. It's easier to avoid them if you're feeling anti-social; it's easier to build routines alongside just one other person than with a bunch of unreliable housemates; it's easier to notice which of your social needs are not being met and seek out alternative ways to meet them, rather than feeling socially burned out by being around other people 24/7 and yet also not having your needs met.

Obviously I'm primarily talking about pairs of people who like and care about each other, like family members or romantic partners. However, I think some of the benefits would still apply even if it was a randomly assigned roommate. And maybe even still if it was someone you hated, because I think I'd rather live with one person I hated than with multiple people I hated. Not sure though.

In general I think the ability to choose who you interact with is what matters. Feelings of isolation come because you don't reach out to the people you'd like to interact with (maybe because of anxiety about reaching out, maybe because you don't have anyone you'd like to reach out to), but that's at least fixable. Whereas being in a situation where you're forced to interact with a bunch of people all the time whether you want to or not is harder to escape just by application of your own agency. I'd rather live alone and have to put in the activation energy to reach out to people, than live with others and feel totally trapped. Maybe there's such thing as an extrovert for whom having people around is just pretty much an unqualified good, but I don't think I know anyone like that.

Finally, I'll note that Ray's comment is coming from a place of experience – his house noticed quite early on that spending the pandemic together would be a bad idea, and Ray and his partner (who moved somewhere on their own), as well as C (who went to live on his own) seem to have had a pretty good time by their self-reports that I've heard.

Comment by mingyuan on #4: Introduction to life insurance for cryonics · 2021-05-22T16:02:08.534Z · LW · GW

As mentioned in the post, I'm working on the assumption that all costs double roughly every 20 years due to inflation. So the mid 2060s would be two doublings from now, so you'd multiply the current funding minimum of $80,000 by 4 = ~$320,000. Obviously that's just a rough estimate from a very simple model, but I hope it helps :)

Comment by mingyuan on My Journey to the Dark Side · 2021-05-11T22:30:46.708Z · LW · GW

I mean, not really? Everyone has told me that 'nutritionists do/believe it' is not a good reason to do/believe something. I'm also not saying that I stand behind 2000 calories per day; I'm saying that Jim says a lot of things about nutrition all the time and I want to know why.

Comment by mingyuan on My Journey to the Dark Side · 2021-05-11T20:31:50.566Z · LW · GW

Okay, I've heard you say "for most people, 2000 calories per day is a shortfall" and other nutrition-related claims like a hundred times (probably literally if secondhand "Jim says X about nutrition" counts), but unless is seriously failing me, you've never written about why you believe any of that. Which seems especially bad to me in a domain where most information is untrustworthy, and we all know that it's untrustworthy but most of us don't know how to figure what is true. I feel like I'm just supposed to believe you because you've said it so many times with so much conviction for so many years. Can you write a post or something?

Comment by mingyuan on Let's Go Back To Normal · 2021-05-07T18:26:41.850Z · LW · GW

While I'm not against this policy (I'm Chinese American and already sometimes wore surgical masks when sick), I expect your experience of the past year has given you a falsely inflated sense of the efficacy of masks. Yes, they definitely help prevent you from contracting airborne diseases, but a large part of the reduction in infectious disease transmission risk this year was due to the full battery of COVID restrictions, rather than just your own mask use. Like, flu rates were very low[1] because people were very isolated from one another, and so in any given crowded place, you'd be much less likely to encounter anyone who had the flu at all (plus of course, anyone infected would likely be wearing a mask). As things go more back to normal I'd be surprised if just wearing a mask allowed you to avoid getting sick all year, every year. But I guess it depends on the mask and how reliably you wear it?

[1] Flu deaths in the US dropped from ~30,000 in the two previous seasons, to 600 in the most recent season! (source)

Comment by mingyuan on How long would you wait to get Moderna/Pfizer vs J&J? · 2021-04-12T22:09:03.469Z · LW · GW

Reasonable; looking at it again, '0 and 1 are not probabilities' was not my true rejection at all. Mostly I was just surprised to see such an extremely good result from the vaccine that everyone seems to agree is worse.

Comment by mingyuan on How long would you wait to get Moderna/Pfizer vs J&J? · 2021-04-12T18:43:06.347Z · LW · GW

I jumped at the chance to get J&J even though I'm not a essential worker or anything. I think the disconnect between our intuitions is here:

People who can easily continue to guard against significant COVID risks for several weeks without much downside other than quality of life should wait several weeks for Pfizer or Moderna.

As was discussed a bunch in my post on lockdown, the quality of life & mental health impact can be really massive. A marginal month may not seem like a lot if you are really just doing totally fine in lockdown and don't have anything in particular you want to do, but if you are actively suffering all the time, another month feels like forever. Also, for me, waiting a month would mean that I would see my niece for the first time at 3 months old rather than 2 months, which is quite a big difference at that age.

Furthermore, I'm young and healthy, so getting a slightly less effective vaccine probably just shouldn't matter to me that much, when my risk was already so low to begin with. And I wouldn't be surprised if people who get J&J now can get moar vaccinated later (either a J&J booster shot or stacking an mRNA vaccine on top of J&J), so I'm not convinced that the choice I make right now matters that much.


Also I'm pretty skeptical that J&J provides 100% protection at any point, and your source did very little to convince me. 0 and 1 are not probabilities?

Comment by mingyuan on Covid 4/9: Another Vaccine Passport Objection · 2021-04-11T02:57:54.461Z · LW · GW

See, but they did know! 

Comment by mingyuan on Logan Strohl on exercise norms · 2021-04-02T01:53:37.458Z · LW · GW

Side note, my dance group was entirely made up of nerds. And in general I don't resonate with the nerd/jock dichotomy, like, at all. Though based on my sister's experience (in competitive tae kwon do) that may have to do with competitive vs non-competitive forms of exercise.