"Essayer is the French verb meaning "to try" and an essai is an attempt. An essay is something you write to try to figure something out... In a real essay, you don't take a position and defend it. You notice a door that's ajar, and you open it and walk in to see what's inside."
-- Paul Graham
My house has been calling and driving around CA for the past few days to try to get information, and I find it really disheartening. I'm not sure a single site we visited (and there have been 30+ at this point) had even vaccinated all of its healthcare workers. All government-run sites are closed on weekends and holidays, and no sites of any kind were open other than during normal business hours (at most 12 hours a day, often more like 8 hours). We ran into an old man at a closed site who hadn't been able to get any kind of information from the vaccination site, and watched another old man do 30 full minutes of paperwork before getting his shot. Some of the older/wiser people in my house aren't as depressed as I am after each excursion, because they say they already knew the world was inadequate, and this isn't an update. Doesn't mean it's not a fucking disaster.
My mom is a teacher and 64, but since she's not a K-12 teacher and is younger than 65, she's in Tier 5 along with healthy 16-year-olds. Fuck that. She lives in Wisconsin, for which I have been completely unable to find any information on how a person might get vaccinated. (Let me know if you have info, please.)
Meanwhile in Arizona, a friend's grandma got vaccinated at 2:24 AM, because they're open 24/7 like some kind of sane people.
tl;dr everything is terrible and the faith in humanity I felt as a child is but a dim memory as my heart and soul are ground into the dust and shat on
It's indeed a super fun game! I played it a bunch in high school but hadn't thought about it as a test of rationality :)
I usually use the languages on signs as a starting point and am not as good with other cues, but when I was in high school I played at my friend's house and her dad was a geologist, and that was an interesting new angle. Also one time it dropped me in my (quite small) hometown, which was wild.
Negotiations about COVID precautions were nota major cause of conflict, but the situation of being in full, absolute, no-interactions-outside-the-house lockdown for many months let conflicts brew, fester, and come to a head (if I may grossly mix metaphors). I'd mostly ascribe it to the kind of close-quarters chafing that leads people to say "don't live with your friends unless you want to hate them", just ramped up a notch.
My feelings here are so confused. I basically agree with all of the comments so far, even though some of them kind of contradict each other. I really like Dagon's points of "don't do it for the money" and thinking of the people you live with as partners. I wrote about the latter earlier in the pandemic.
I would also like to admit to having behaved far from admirably this year and having been involved in a lot of conflicts. But everything is really different because we've been in lockdown for nearly a full year. Prior to lockdown, my group house was on balance a positive thing in my life, but I wasn't ready to be forced to spend every waking (and sleeping) minute with eight other people for a full year with no escape.
If your experience at a Bay group house was only during the pandemic (and Decision Tree at that, which as everyone else has noted is really not representative), then it's very unsurprising that it was toxic. Very few Berkeley houses have survived lockdown fully intact (i.e. without anyone leaving and with no bad feelings), and a number of houses dissolved completely.
Negotiating COVID precautions is stressful. Being locked in a house with other people and not getting to do any of the things you want to do is stressful. This has nothing to do with rationality or even really group houses; it's caused plenty of conflicts among non-rationalist friends and family members of mine.
My general take on this whole situation is that it's really hard to be a person. Living in group houses comes with a lot of potential benefits (more serendipitous social interactions, cheaper rent, coparenting, shared resources, accountability partners), but any time you live with someone, there will be things you disagree on and need to negotiate. It turns out that most people are just quite bad at those negotiations, especially when they get emotionally fraught (like COVID precautions). There are some situations where it's worth it to get good at those negotiations (e.g. with a person you're marrying), but it is really hard.
The only way I know of to live with someone without experiencing this stress is morally and epistemically questionable at best: When I was in college, it was generally accepted among my friends that in three-person apartments, two people would ally socially against the third (usually without the third's knowledge). While this is a nasty thing to do and requires both parties to lie, it was really important for our friendship. I survived living with two of my best friends two different years, because any time anything went wrong, we could blame it on the third girl, which let us sidestep the vast majority of the conflict that comes from living together. If the trash didn't get taken out, we didn't have to fight about it amongst ourselves, we could just say it was the other girl's fault. It also made it easier to admit to mistakes, in a complicated way.
I don't really have a conclusion here. I think the conclusion might be that you're right, living in a group house is horrible and I hate it. But also, being a person and having to interface with other people at all is horrible and I hate it, but it's just something I have to do and I don't think it has anything to do with 'toxicity' in group houses in general. Also disclaimer that it is past my bedtime and I'm not always so pessimistic but it has been a truly awful year on the social front and this post and writing this comment made me feel a lot of feelings.
Ah, I have figured out (part of) the mystery! In the time since you signed up, KCL has stopped offering the policy you bought (to new people) because it was too good a deal at current interest rates. Something like that. So in the absence of that IUL is the best option.
Yeah of course! I'll go into all of this more in my three posts on getting life insurance for cryonics, but in brief:
I received the same warnings about IUL, but it looks to me like it's not actually all that risky, and the small amount of risk seemed worth it given that IUL premiums are substantially lower than those for whole life (depending on who was giving me quotes I saw whole life premiums twice as high as IUL). I say whole life because I'm told that whole life and GUL are essentially the same, and I'm going through Kansas City Life, which offers whole life but not GUL. And, I'm using KCL because it's super cryonics-friendly and offers the cheapest rates for someone in my circumstances; if I were in a different actuarial class I might consider getting GUL via Nationwide.
As for VUL, my impression is that it's very much an investment vehicle and involves stock picking, so I didn't even bother looking into it for cryonics.
All that said, I haven't actually had a policy underwritten yet and am still scheduled for more conversations with my insurance agent, where we'll talk further about whole life vs IUL. That's one of the things subject to change, but hopefully I'll have more clarity on it by this time tomorrow :)
Wow, I've had Crackbook Revival for 24 hours and I'm very impressed! The fact that the timer resets if you switch away is great, but an unexpected bonus is that it delays every action on those pages that changes the URL. Now doing anything at all on Facebook is really inconvenient (I already didn't have newsfeed, which I assume isn't susceptible to this due to being infinite-scroll), so I'll probably only use it if I really want to do something specific – and not just to internet stalk old friends and make myself feel lonely. Nice.
I have my starting time set to 5 seconds but it only increases .1 second per check, because when I had it set at 1 second things went out of control really fast. This is because there are some sites that I don't want to check mindlessly, but that I do endorse using for other purposes (e.g. I use LW for reference, research, and writing). That means I take actions on those sites somewhat often, and the counter goes up every time, and it becomes untenable. I would set a larger increase interval if I was only using the extension for sites I never wanted to check (but in that case, I'd just block them entirely with Freedom).
This was a great post on a subject that hadn't occurred to me before. My main criticism is that it was not at all what I expected from the title, and therefore I think "alike minds think great" is not a good name for the concept. If I were referencing it, my hypertext would probably say something like, "you optimize for being good at the things you care about people being good at," which admittedly is a whole lot less pithy, but I feel it's clearer.
A lot of rationalists are on the self-improvement train and I have been as well, but lately I've been thinking that maybe personality traits just don't change over time. As a baby I nursed for comfort and would overnurse until I threw up; as an adult I still have trouble telling when I'm hungry or full and seem predisposed to develop eating disorders. As a child I had massive problems with anxiety and rage; as an adult, I still do. I've always been weirdly drawn to house cleaning and related skills – when my mom would drive to the grocery store my sister would stay in the car and write in her notebook, while I would learn how to calculate which cereal had the cheapest unit price – and housework is still one of the things I spend most of my time on.
I've changed a lot, but these things haven't changed.
Do people just all have underlying traits that stay with them from birth to death and make them who they are?
Like many people I know, I never really had to try at anything growing up, and so I never learned to try. I never had to learn how to 'study' because I always aced tests regardless, and honestly I still haven't figured it out. College was a lot more challenging, and when faced with that I basically gave up on learning and just half-heartedly tried to survive.
So these aren't novel ideas, just reflections on deliberate learning from someone who has never really had to do it before.
In my first week of college, I tried out for a bunch of a cappella groups. I'd always had a good raw singing voice but had very little training – I'd taken a handful of private voice lessons, but I'd never sung in a choir or anything. Even during the auditions I could tell that I wasn't going to pass. I especially struggled with matching a series of pitches played on the piano. It was so obvious to me that I wouldn't get any callbacks (and I was right) that I scheduled a hangout with a friend during callbacks.
Despite not getting into any groups, I stayed close to the a cappella scene and latched on really tightly to one group in particular. They even let me sing with them sometimes in casual social settings, and I learned so much just from observing them, their processes, and the things they focused on when learning and giving each other feedback. That – my first year of college – was when I really started getting serious about deliberately improving my singing. The summer after first year I took three months of voice lessons (which still wasn't enough for me to pass a cappella auditions) and bought myself a Blue Yeti.
Throughout college I recorded songs on my computer, started to learn harmony parts by ear, and invented harmonies to sing with myself. When I listened to music I would improvise harmonies over it, and honestly, most of them were terrible for about the first five years; it's only in the past two years that I've gotten a good enough hit rate on harmonies to do this aloud when other people are around. I also learned some hard bits from Hamilton just by repeating them hundreds of times in the shower and while walking around campus (e.g. Eliza's runs in Helpless, and the 123456789 sequence from Ten Duel Commandments). By the end of college my solo voice had improved a lot but I still had a lot of technical issues that I knew I needed to work on.
After college I joined the Bayesian Choir, which is a pretty good environment for skill building because the rehearsal structure is that every week you have three hours to learn a new song from scratch and then record it at the end. At my first rehearsal I was one of only two altos who showed up, and luckily the other one was a lot more experienced because I was absolutely and completely lost. I could only sight-sing insofar as I could tell whether we should be moving up or down. A year later, I was confident enough to sometimes lead the alto (or tenor) sectional. The next year I went to a jazz camp where I 'majored in' singing, which supplemented my more structured choir experience with a healthy dose of improvisation and fun.
Three years after college graduation I music-directed my house's production of Hamilton, which involved things like coming up with vocal exercises to help my 'cast' with specific problems, teaching people to harmonize for the first time, and a small amount of arranging. I think I understand music a lot better now.
But here's the part that I hadn't really encountered before: I've now reached a point where I've corrected the obvious problems and can easily sound good in most situations. But now I'm trying to do harder things like learning Beyoncé runs, singing entire a cappella arrangements with just myself, and 'finding my voice' (rather than just emulating the style of the original of what I'm singing).... and I now feel like I'm a terrible singer and can never get better.
My friend from college gave me a vocal exercise (intended for my Hamilton cast) that requires quick precision on weird intervals, and while I can do it if I focus, it highlights to me how large a gap there still is between me and her. Why do I lean on vocal scoops so much, especially when switching registers? It can be a stylistic choice, but I'm doing it inadvertently and that's just sloppy. Wasn't my range bigger in the past? Will I ever sound genuinely good in the soprano range? I still struggle with rhythm and that probably means that I will always-for-the-rest-of-my-life struggle with rhythm. I could definitely still do with better breath support but I'm too lazy to train it, and it feels like I will never get the hang of that Beyoncé run.
I'm pretty sure there are books about this (like Robert Greene's Mastery and Seth Godin's The Dip)that I just haven't gotten around to reading. I just feel more down on myself about singing than I'm used to (even though I still believe that I'm good at it and I still have projects I'm excited about). I think the more I know about singing, the more obvious the differences between good and bad singing are to me, and the more obvious it is how far I am from being Beyoncé.
There've been a couple isolated instances where I had unusually vivid imagined experiences – the first was a dream with really lifelike sensory input (specifically touch), and the second was that I heard a voice so clearly that I could almost have convinced myself I was hearing it. These highlight to me how very unlifelike my usual inner life is. I can think of sounds, get songs stuck in my head, find notes without vocalizing, and even sometimes combine a harmony line with a melody line in my head, but it's not really anything like the experience of hearing. Similarly, the experience of visual imagination is really not anything like the experience of seeing.
I always knew that other people had different inner lives from me since my sister's brain is completely different from mine and we fought about it a lot growing up. But it's hard to imagine what other people's inner lives are like – probably related to the fact that it's hard to describe my own.
Other things it might be interesting to ask about:
How well can you visualize abstractions?
How well can you visualize n-dimensional mathematical objects?
How easy/hard is it for you to move through a room when the lights have just been turned off? (i.e. you saw the positions of all of the objects, but you can't see them at the time when you're moving)
Testing different kinds of memory – e.g., memorizing arbitrary strings such as phone numbers vs strings with a logical structure such as proofs or poems; or how well you're able to recall a melody you've only heard once
If you really cared about this I would suggest watching cooking shows (but like, not the trashy kind). I learned a lot about baking – and what makes it good or bad – from watching Bake Off, to the point where it was kind of a problem. Like, I made a cake for Christmas last year, and people were like "wow this is really good, thanks," and I was like "PAUL HOLLYWOOD WOULDN'T THINK SO"...... and I bake less now.
Re: Casual minor encounters and non-encounters with strangers – I have been really surprised how much I miss this, because I previously thought of myself as not all that interested in the mass of people around me. But now, I think so fondly of this one time I was at the grocery store and needed something from a top shelf, and I was able to just stop a guy walking past me and ask him to reach it for me. Also another time when I was walking home from the BART station and someone asked me for directions to his hotel, and how rewarding it was to help him. And another time during morning commute when I struck up a conversation with an old guy decked out in Green Bay Packers gear because I figured he was probably from Wisconsin, and even though he wasn't, we had a really nice and friendly talk. And all the conversations started by using a little red Radio Flyer wagon to get groceries. I guess you don't know what you've got until it's gone.
Giant party at my house too! I never thought I would miss parties
Finally making out with [redacted]
Getting to flirt because I'm able to interact with people who I don't also share a house with 24/7, and (new, poly, in-quarantine) housemate relationships are not a good idea, but also I want to date
Being nice to strangers / not literally running away from them if they get too close (I wonder how hard this habit will be to break?)
Smiling at people without being like, shit, they can't tell, I'd better make my eyes squinty
Wearing lipstick where everyone can see it
Wearing clothes I'm excited about where anyone except my rather indifferent male housemates can see it
Getting to meet my coworkers in person
Holding my best friend's new baby and booping its nose and kissing its tummy as much as I want, because this will be the first time someone I know really well has had a baby and so they won't think I'm weird
Going on walks
Being somewhere other than my house, literally ever
Buying my own produce
Not having everyone around me be on video calls 90% of the time
Not having to be on video calls really ever
The knowledge that I could go to ecstatic dance if I got on BART for half an hour and paid $20 – I almost never do that, but I just like knowing that somewhere out there ecstatic dance is happening and I could join if I really wanted to
Having a routine
The possibility of performing on a stage again
Massages, oh my god
All those weddings that got postponed! Gonna be so many weddings!
Hey, "When I do count the clock" is my favorite sonnet too! "And death once dead, there's no more dying then" <3
I also recommend "Almighty by degrees" by Luke Murphy (only available on Kindle I think) – I bought it because of an SSC Classified Thread, and ended up using a poem from it in my Solstice last year. There's also a poetry tab on my masterlist of Solstice materials. Damn I love poetry.
I also thought of a Chrome extension; a quick search turned up Word Replacer, a generalized version of extensions like 'cloud to butt' and 'millennials to snake people', which could probably be finagled into being the thing you want. e.g. you could replace the words you want to taboo with '---'. I don't know how/if the extension works on word processors though; I am not a programmy human.
Re: drumming, seems great for simple long-distance messages, e.g. between villages. More Western analogy is ringing church bells – the whole village immediately knows if there's an enemy attack, or a fire, or a.... wedding. Very important.
Semaphores (not the CS type)
"The beacons are lit, Gondor calls for aid!"
Blinking-based communication – extremely inefficient, but good if you have locked-in syndrome. Also not private, but potentially you could communicate privately across a room by blinking morse code.
Personally I'd be most interested in my friend group adopting SEE, so that you can still communicate at a party that's too loud (or even bring down the volume, since fewer people would be talking). Also if my boyfriend is across the room and I want to complain to him that I'm hungry or want to leave, I don't have to go over there, or like, text him (especially since he never has his phone on him). All of the other options seem too limited in their use. The only drawback (besides the startup cost, obv) is it's not a good way of communicating privately, if everyone around you has learned it and can see you doing it. But I guess if I need to say something privately to my boyfriend, in many contexts it would suffice to speak in horribly mangled German.
I don't see why this wouldn't be possible? It seems pretty straightforward to me; the only hard part would be the thing that seems hard about making any hourglass, which is getting it to take the right amount of time, but that's a problem hourglass manufacturers have already solved. It's just a valve that doesn't close all the way:
Unless you meant, "how can I make such an hourglass myself, out of things I have at home?" in which case, idk bro.
I want to start by saying that these are some interesting ideas that I had definitely never thought about before! However, if your goal is to "improve the lives of as many people as possible, as much as possible" I think you missed the mark a bit – this looks more like "interesting/novel ways to improve the lives of people who are disadvantaged in a way I'm personally familiar with." The people whose lives can be improved most cost-effectively probably live thousands of miles away from you. (I can't tell from reading how familiar you are with EA and don't want to come across as patronizing.) Specific note on #7 – lead abatement is actually a cause area that GiveWell has looked into, and it looks like there's a new EA organization focused on it!
Now time for my opinions!
If you have several billion dollars, you should start another organization like Open Phil or the Gates Foundation – a foundation that's solely funded by you, trying to do the most good by your standards, led by really smart and thoughtful people who you trust. Reasoning:
$1B is generally more than any single cause area can easily absorb, and existing foundations (even Open Phil) aren't a very good place to put the money either, since they often already have trouble spending down their huge endowments.
You'd be subject to a different set of constraints and likely have a different philosophy than the other foundations, so you'd be able to cover more/different ground. (e.g. the Gates Foundation has done a lot of really excellent work, but they also pour a lot of money into education, and that area is so problematic that they're probably essentially just pouring that money down the drain.)
Open Phil doesn't like to fund more than 50% of any project, because that can often create bad dynamics (e.g. the recipient subconsciously becomes oversensitive to the donor's opinions for fear of losing funding); if you come in as a separate donor and independently think the project is good, you and Open Phil together can fully fund the project without creating this dynamic (as long as you don't form – or appear to form – a coalition).
Also something something competing in the marketplace of ideas; hand-wavey reasoning that maybe having another foundation with a focus on evidence-based interventions would push both you and Open Phil to do a better job overall.
Man, all this is really making me wish I had a billion dollars.
Thanks for those links! It actually makes me appreciate what lsusr is doing here more – those translations give me a better sense of the meaning and intention behind the poem, but lsusr's highly literal word-to-word translation gives me a better sense of how Chinese poetry is structured and how it feels to read it natively. That's actually really really cool, wow.
Also, not relevant, but one of those translations is by Vikram Seth, who was my mom's friend when they were both expats in China in the early 1980s. I always feel sort of warm when I see his work in the wild, even though I've never met him.
I also once had a dream that was a whole lifetime long. Waking up from it was disorienting and came with a deep sense of loss. But I didn't talk to anyone about it afterwards and I've now forgotten all of the details.
I have now complimented this sequence enough times that I feel comfortable saying that I really wish there were fewer Twitter links. Over 50% of your links are to Twitter, and I have Twitter permablocked on all devices at all times (and I'm sure I'm not the only one). The real problem is that often the hypertext is just a teaser and I can never find out what you were referencing. I don't really know how to remedy this without making a bunch more work for you, but I notice it every week and so I wanted to note it.
Hello it me. Status update is that we really had the best of intentions re: getting the last four volumes out in time for Christmas, but we hardcore failed, but progress is really happening! I swear! Christmas 2021!
The people around me reason this way a lot, and I think it's for some reason really unintuitive for most people to start doing. This post is clearly written and I like it as an artifact I can point people to, rather than explaining the thing from scratch myself every time.
This post made me realize some things I was doing wrong in my life, and I sometimes still find myself explicitly saying in my head, "the real rules have no exceptions", when I'm considering breaking a self-imposed rule. I find it a very useful concept handle.