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: 85 (32 votes)
How to choose a massage therapist 2020-03-01T06:53:44.608Z · score: 23 (7 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: 71 (20 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: 69 (23 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)
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)


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?

Comment by mingyuan on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-19T22:07:24.623Z · score: 23 (8 votes) · LW · GW

What does Dan actually do? What's his output and who decides what he looks into?

Comment by mingyuan on Give praise · 2019-12-12T04:07:42.718Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, good point, I don't have a citation handy for that so I just deleted it. Doesn't really change anything about my argument.

Comment by mingyuan on Give praise · 2019-12-12T02:44:58.222Z · score: 38 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I have several problems with including this in the 2018 review. The first is that it's community-navel-gaze-y - if it's not the kind of thing we allow on the frontpage because of concerns about newcomers seeing a bunch of in-group discussion, then it seems like we definitely wouldn't want it to be in a semi-public-facing book, either. 

The second is that I've found that most discussion of the concept of 'status' in rationalist circles to be pretty uniformly unproductive, and maybe even counterproductive. People generally only discuss 'status' when they're feeling a lack of it, which means that discussions around the subject are often fraught and can be a bit of an echo chamber. I have not personally found any post about status to be enlightening or to have changed the way I think.

My other concerns have to do with specific parts of the post:

How is worth generated? Quite simply, by giving praise.

This is unsubstantiated and confusing in a whole host of ways. First, what is 'worth' supposed to mean? Toon seems to say it means something along the lines of "we will grant you personhood and take you seriously and allow you onto the ark when the world comes crumbling." If I had to sum this idea up into one word I would call it 'acceptance'. 

Second, "worth is generated by praise" doesn't square with my experience at all. I tend to think I'm fairly well-calibrated when it comes to my own abilities, so when someone gives me praise that I don't think I deserve, that doesn't generate any value for me (I just think the person is wrong/miscalibrated). Praise is also not what I need when I'm burned out or upset - I need people to help me solve my problems, not give me vacuous words of encouragement.

Also, to be more general about it, giving children too much praise can harm them just as much as giving them too little. 

I'm having trouble putting my finger on exactly what else about this claim feels wrong to me, but the two points I covered are definitely not all of it. It just really rubs me the wrong way.

I'd like to suggest we try for Giving Praise as a rationalist virtue.

I see lots of rationalists shying away from calls to action nowadays, and I think this one is particularly dicey. Related to my point about being calibrated about your own abilities, if we unthinkingly adopted this 'rationalist virtue', it seems like it would encourage people to say nice things to others even when it wasn't warranted.

In this post, Toon specifically mentions not being appreciated for his work on RAISE, which he recently revealed shut down partially due to potential funders having concerns about the organization. While I know from (less intense) experience that it can be really emotionally draining to work for no pay on something that gets no recognition, I don't think the problem there is that we're refusing to give recognition. The problem is usually with the project. When I've worked on projects that fizzled and died, and while the negative feedback at the time hurt my feelings, I'm glad that people didn't lie to me and tell me that the projects were a good idea. The failure and lack of recognition were usually eye-opening signals that my idea was bad or that I was going about the thing incorrectly. I don't have context on RAISE beyond what's in Toon's post, but (not to be a huge jerk) my sense is that it was likely a flawed project, and while the impact the whole thing had on Toon's well-being was definitely unfortunate, I see no evidence that just giving him more praise for the effort he was putting into it would have been helpful. 


If I were to reformulate the entire idea of this post into something more palatable to me, I would say something like, "If you appreciate someone's actions, you can often provide them with a lot of value by giving them specific and genuine feedback about what it is you appreciate about them," and, "In general, showing people love and acceptance is a good way to help them avoid burnout, and once you have that established backdrop of trust and mutual respect, you can be honest with them about the ways in which they're going about things wrong." 

These takeaways are very different from the original "give praise", and I continue to be uncomfortable with this post.

Comment by mingyuan on Bay Area Winter Solstice 2019 · 2019-12-02T19:52:11.415Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, please come, we'd love to have you!

Comment by mingyuan on DanielFilan's Shortform Feed · 2019-11-21T21:16:45.348Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

fwiw the global poverty part of EA already does a fair amount of work in India. I know EA is a bit (and increasingly) fragmented between different cause areas, but that still might be a useful entry point?

Comment by mingyuan on The LessWrong 2018 Review · 2019-11-21T21:14:26.117Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It does not - it still strips it all out and redirects me. Chrome on a Macbook Pro.

Comment by mingyuan on mingyuan's Shortform · 2019-11-21T21:03:28.034Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Also probably related: habit formation

Comment by mingyuan on mingyuan's Shortform · 2019-11-21T20:58:04.625Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

[This is in shortform because I haven't looked into any of the existing literature on the subject]

I've been thinking for a while about how people's mental machinery works. Specifically, I've been thinking about spelling and reading. It's reasonable to assume that everyone has roughly the same mental machinery for spoken language, as this is something that has been a part of human experience for tens of thousands of years. Similarly, you'd expect everyone to have the same mental machinery for loving others, feeling hungry, and other things that were present in the ancestral environment.

Reading, on the other hand, is an 'intellectual technology' that's only been around for a couple thousand years. And of course, along with reading comes writing and spelling.

My housemates and I had a conversation once a couple years ago where we each tried to describe our internal experience of spelling words, and they were so vastly different as to be incomprehensible. For example, for me, words are basically indistinguishable from their spellings - each English word is a chunk, and when I think of a word I just also think of a picture of that word. If asked to spell it, I can read it off from the picture, or I can just say the correct sequence of letters in a way that's introspectively opaque to me.

On the other hand, some of my housemates described having to sound out the word each time (it was stored verbally rather than visually), or other things that were even more foreign to me and that I can't remember because the conversation was two years ago. (But you can imagine another person who has to imagine looking the word up in a dictionary, or typing it on a keyboard, in order to spell it.)

I see this also with the task of memorizing text. For me this is basically trivial - I can memorize hundreds of lines of text in a day or two if I just read through it enough times. One of my housemates, on the other hand, has basically nothing memorized at all, and it's very hard for him to memorize anything. We once went caroling, and even though we sang the same song like 20 times in a row, he just had to hum along in the background because he couldn't learn the words.

The takeaway is that we all have basic mental scaffolding that allows us to develop skills like spelling and memorizing text, but there are many different edifices that we can construct on top of that scaffolding. Some will be more effective than others (e.g. my native memorization machinery is much more effective than my housemate's). This isn't often noted because most people are not as into introspection as the people I know.

Something to note is that, since many of these edifices are constructed from a very young age, one would expect them to be very hard to retrain. For a real example of people building new mental edifices, look at memory palaces - they replace an introspectively opaque, sort of random process with a structured and effective process, but they take time to learn. 

Follow-up thoughts: Could this be leveraged to teach people to spell, or be better at more important things like math or research? Like, instead of saying, "spell this word", you could say, "picture this word in your mind and read off the letters." Except that not everyone has mental imagery? Typical mind fallacy feels related but in a more complex way than just "these are the same topic." 

My lunch break is now over.

Comment by mingyuan on The LessWrong 2018 Review · 2019-11-21T20:38:28.762Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is also happening to me

Comment by mingyuan on Open & Welcome Thread - November 2019 · 2019-11-05T19:36:26.629Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's nice to meet you too! :)

Comment by mingyuan on Skill and leverage · 2019-11-04T15:56:44.656Z · score: 15 (10 votes) · LW · GW

This feels very much like typical mind fallacy. Sure, for me, cleaning my room and loading the dishwasher are extremely easy, mindless things. But I know some people - my boyfriend, for instance - for whom household chores take up an undue amount of mental energy and are near-physically painful to do. On the other hand, he can happily spend hours trying to figure out a complex physics problem (while for me, this takes an undue amount of mental energy and is near-physically painful). Perhaps a more widespread example is reading books. Some people find it relaxing and do it all the time; other people have to exert a lot of mental violence to do it.

So, forcing my boyfriend to do 'easy' things like doing the laundry or reading a novel is going to be an uphill battle, but it could well be the case that doing AI safety research would, to him, feel like an endless stream of fun. I think that's the point Katja's making. Everybody's different.

Comment by mingyuan on Who lacks the qualia of consciousness? · 2019-10-09T06:24:58.476Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but not super vividly? Like, there's definitely a spectrum - you have people with aphantasia, and then on the other end you have my sister, who can build a 3D model of a sculpture in her mind, make various changes to it, and then construct it out of clay. My mental imagery is much weaker than that, more like vague impressions with some visual component, or images that are definitely there but fade when I look them head on (like stars).

Comment by mingyuan on Who lacks the qualia of consciousness? · 2019-10-06T20:55:49.431Z · score: 12 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure if this counts but: the experience you describe as "a vivid sensation of my own presence" is something I only have rarely, in flashes, and it always freaks me out. It's happened to me periodically for my whole life, and I've come to believe it falls under the label of dissociation.

Most of the time, I walk around basically on autopilot. I have feelings and wants, and I can introspect and remember things, but I'm not paying attention to the fact that it's myself doing those things; I just do them. This is very qualitatively different from what it's like to dissociate. When I dissociate, I am very aware that I am a brain in a body, that there's something it's like to be me and not anybody else, that everything around me was constructed by humans, etc. This sounds more like the "vivid sensation" you talked about, but I'm not sure. If so, I don't entirely lack the qualia of consciousness, but I don't have it most of the time, and it freaks me out when I do have it.

Comment by mingyuan on Happy Petrov Day! · 2019-09-27T03:43:24.923Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I really liked this, thank you for writing it.

Comment by mingyuan on Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019 · 2019-09-27T02:42:33.961Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps a nitpick, but I feel like the building of trust is being treated less as a sacred value, and more as a quantity of unknown magnitude, with some probability that that magnitude could be really high (at least >$1672, possibly orders of magnitude higher). Doing a Fermi is a trivial inconvenience that I for one cannot handle right now; since it is a weekday, maybe others feel much the same.

Comment by mingyuan on Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019 · 2019-09-26T23:29:48.000Z · score: 15 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Oh wow, I did not realize how ambiguous the original wording was.

Comment by mingyuan on Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019 · 2019-09-26T23:03:52.088Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I preemptively counter-offer whatever amount of money tcheasdfjkl would pay in order for this hypothetical person not to press the button.

Comment by mingyuan on Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019 · 2019-09-26T21:55:15.493Z · score: 20 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Wasn't totally sure when I wrote it, but now firmly yes.

Comment by mingyuan on Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019 · 2019-09-26T21:03:09.765Z · score: 45 (10 votes) · LW · GW

(I have launch codes and am happy to prove it to you if you want.)

Hmmm, I feel like the argument "There's some harm in releasing the codes entrusted to me, but not so much that it's better for someone to die" might prove too much? Like, death is really bad, I definitely grant that. But despite the dollar amount you gave, I feel like we're sort of running up against a sacred value thing. I mean, you could just as easily say, "There's some harm in releasing the codes entrusted to me, but not so much that it's better for someone to have a 10% chance of dying" - which would naïvely bring your price down to $167.20.

If you accept as true that that argument should be equally 'morally convincing', then you end up in a position where the only reasonable thing to do is to calculate exactly how much harm you actually expect to be done by you pressing the button. I'm not going to do this because I'm at work and it seems complicated (what is the disvalue of harm to the social fabric of an online community that's trying to save the world, and operates largely on trust? perhaps it's actually a harmless game, but perhaps it's not, hard to know - seems like the majority of effects would happen down the line).

Additionally, I could just counter-offer a $1,672 counterfactual donation to GiveWell for you to not press the button. I'm not committing to do this, but I might do so if it came down to it.

Comment by mingyuan on Five Minute Beans · 2019-09-22T16:52:48.494Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Although at that point you're basically just making Peter Special :P

Comment by mingyuan on Meetups as Institutions for Intellectual Progress · 2019-09-21T22:00:30.223Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, Raemon said it's 1-3 months of work, but I'm a bit concerned that those 1-3 months might not start for another year or so, due to the LW team being busy as heck with a bunch of other priorities. I do agree that it's worth putting real thought into this though, and not starting out on a platform just so we can start out, if it might end up being the case that we want to use a different platform later.

Comment by mingyuan on Meetups as Institutions for Intellectual Progress · 2019-09-20T20:42:49.366Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I share a general opposition to Facebook. However, I'm not sure what would be a reasonable alternative. I've tried setting up Google Groups and Slacks for coordination of this type before, but those platforms have a bit of a 'talking in a library' problem - if they're inactive, they generally remain inactive. There's also the problem of needing to use a platform that people use all the time anyway. Slack is good for me, because I'm in multiple active Slack workspaces, but lots of people use it only for work or don't want multiple workspaces. Google Groups are okay on this axis because they can go to people's emails, but there's some magic startup energy that needs to go into making a Google Group active, and I don't know what it is (critical mass?).

As for the LW suggestion - I don't feel that LessWrong currently has the infrastructure to support something similar to a Facebook group, and even if the LW team was willing to build something like that, they have dozens of other priorities. In addition, a lot of the groups I'm targeting identify as SlateStarCodex meetups and don't have buy-in to LessWrong either as a platform or as a thing they want to identify with.

So, yes, I'm definitely open to alternatives to Facebook. I guess at this point a Google Group feels like the best option, but I'm not optimistic about it. Very open to continuing this conversation here or elsewhere.

Comment by mingyuan on Welcome to Kyiv SlateStarCodex · 2019-09-20T17:30:36.217Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hi Shannar and Oleksii, try emailing Mary at You might have more luck getting a response that way :)

Comment by mingyuan on Meetups as Institutions for Intellectual Progress · 2019-09-18T21:45:01.666Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I actually agree, and that's what I meant by 'polluting the commons' - if anyone who ever had an idea about meetups could go around demanding that people implement their thing, everything would quickly fall apart. (Random side note: this is one of the main failure modes of school reform in the US - there are so many new initiatives forced upon teachers that they never have time to get used to them, develop their own style, or even do their job). This is why I'm trying to be careful this time around. I also hope that my response to your top-level comment helped you understand where I'm coming from here.

Comment by mingyuan on Meetups as Institutions for Intellectual Progress · 2019-09-18T21:18:04.913Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This point (from both Vaniver and Charlie) is well-taken - I definitely agree that some amount of retreading the same ground is fine and often necessary or useful. I guess what I meant to express was, if there are conversations people are having that contain potentially novel insights or interesting new ways of looking at a problem/topic, then it would be good if those were written up and added to the canon. By default this is almost never happening, so it's the thing I want to encourage.