Meetup : [Boston] Becoming Stronger 2013-07-23T14:54:28.700Z
Boston Megameetup July 13-14 2013-07-02T07:12:35.072Z
Meetup : [Boston] The Psychology of Marketing 2013-06-12T15:21:05.221Z
Meetup : [Boston] The Science Of Happiness 2013-05-29T20:04:07.923Z
Meetup : [Cambridge] Sunk Cost Kata 2013-05-17T17:57:27.518Z
Megameetup Announcement: Boston, July 13-14 2013-05-14T17:42:29.910Z
Meetup : [Cambridge] How To Do Everything 2013-05-03T14:56:22.079Z
Mortal: A Transponyist Fanfiction 2013-05-01T01:23:36.464Z
Meetup : Cambridge: The Meaning Of Life For Beginners 2013-04-18T23:26:30.330Z
Ritual Report: Schelling Day 2013-04-17T03:46:53.809Z
Schelling Day: A Rationalist Holiday 2013-03-27T13:18:16.710Z


Comment by ModusPonies on How To Construct a Political Ideology · 2013-09-06T14:11:14.985Z · LW · GW

Congratulations! I am glad I was wrong.

Comment by ModusPonies on You are the average of the five people you spend most time with. · 2013-09-06T14:09:27.265Z · LW · GW

Two big points of disagreement:

—Don't focus on unattainable goals. You can't hang out with both Natalie Portman and Nick Bostrom at the same time, and empty wishing is a wasted motion. Instead of seeking role models, seek the skills they exemplify. Think about how you can meet a group of creative, engaging people within the next week. Is there an improv club or a hip cafe where you can get to know the regulars?
—I don't know that it works to have a single friend for each trait. You naturally conform to the group, not to the specific individuals.

Comment by ModusPonies on You are the average of the five people you spend most time with. · 2013-09-06T13:58:28.630Z · LW · GW



black arts

I don't think so. It seems about as black as using the pomodoro technique to manipulate your basic impulses.

causation != correlation

Yes, but given the evidence, I'm pretty sure there's a causal relationship in this case.

What about, say, good leaders?

Data point: I have recently improved my leadership skills by spending time with good leaders in a group that considers those traits high status. (Good leaders still made up a (substantial) minority of the group.)

thesis likely literally false, seek metaphorical sense?

Strong agreement. The thesis is explicitly labeled as literally false in the source.

If anything, to become e.g. creative, you'd be better off by meeting people who are currently becoming creative not who are already creative.

I would be really, really, interested to see data on this. My intuition says you'd do best to spend time with a range of people: a little time with masters, a lot of time with people who are somewhat better than you but whose skills seem within reach, a lot of time with people at your level, and a little time with novices who you can teach.

Comment by ModusPonies on You are the average of the five people you spend most time with. · 2013-09-06T13:36:19.846Z · LW · GW

—I started by giving the long, true version.
—When I gave the incorrect, pithy version, I labelled it as such.
—I gave a specific, non-hypothetical example.

Comment by ModusPonies on Open thread, July 23-29, 2013 · 2013-07-25T01:41:11.261Z · LW · GW

For reference, it's this thread.

Comment by ModusPonies on How To Construct a Political Ideology · 2013-07-23T20:52:07.595Z · LW · GW

Huh. My to-read list keeps getting longer and longer.

Comment by ModusPonies on How To Construct a Political Ideology · 2013-07-23T19:09:46.062Z · LW · GW

I would suggest a different rule of thumb, which I will call the Yvain Method: never post a series. Instead, write one post that stands on its own. Look at the responses. Use them to learn about the subject and other people's reactions to it. Only then should you think about writing post N+1.

Comment by ModusPonies on Low-hanging fruit: improving wikipedia entries · 2013-07-23T13:51:14.496Z · LW · GW

I have already decided to improve some of the pages, beginning with the rather sloppy page that’s currently serving as the entry for existential risks

Ten bonus points for Doing The Work. You have already avoided the most common way these projects fail.

Comment by ModusPonies on How To Construct a Political Ideology · 2013-07-21T18:48:34.719Z · LW · GW

Without commenting on the subject, I'll say that I have a policy of downvoting contentless introduction posts that promise a lengthy forcoming sequence. These projects usually peter out after 2-3 posts, leaving the bulk of the work undone.

Comment by ModusPonies on Open thread, July 16-22, 2013 · 2013-07-18T20:55:35.188Z · LW · GW

"People of color" currently means anyone other than white people, not black people exclusively.

Comment by ModusPonies on Instrumental rationality/self help resources · 2013-07-18T12:14:02.564Z · LW · GW

Getting Things Done—David Allen

Highly, highly recommended. This is the gold standard of organizational advice, and it lives up to its reputation. My productivity has skyrocketed in the five months I've been using this system. I attribute maybe half of that improvement to this book.

Allen describes his system in detail, explaining why each piece is useful. The system is modular, and most people who use it have modified it to fit their particular workflow. The book is longer than it needs to be, but still only something like 200-300 pages. Note that organizational advice is different from motivational advice (although bad organization can sap motivation).

Key insights:

—Breaking down projects into small, achievable "next actions" is a key technique for planning effectively and preventing ugh fields.

—Writing down every task in a single list that you will actually check regularly lets you stop worrying about tasks, reduce your cognitive load, and ensure that nothing gets lost.

Comment by ModusPonies on Less Wrong London New Arrival Integration Task Force · 2013-07-12T03:30:59.201Z · LW · GW

This is a great idea and I will probably steal it.

Comment by ModusPonies on Seed Study: Polyphasic Sleep in Ten Steps · 2013-07-11T19:25:02.139Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure what this argument is about. I don't think you two actually disagree on any questions of fact.

Comment by ModusPonies on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 19, chapter 88-89 · 2013-07-10T19:50:13.803Z · LW · GW

Comment by ModusPonies on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-06-28T05:02:41.980Z · LW · GW

That seemed less like "all cases of depression are due to chemical imbalance" and more like "try medication and other common solutions to see if they work before investigating uncommon solutions"

Comment by ModusPonies on Suggestions for Rationality Blogs in the Sidebar · 2013-06-25T19:29:52.536Z · LW · GW


Comment by ModusPonies on Open Thread, June 16-30, 2013 · 2013-06-25T15:50:40.280Z · LW · GW

For job searching, focus less on sending out applications and more on asking [professors | friends | friends of friends | mentors | parents | parents' friends] if they know of anyone who's hiring for [relevant field]. When they say no, ask if they know anyone else you should talk to. To generalize from one example, every job I've ever worked has come from some sort of connection. I found my current position through my mom's dance instructor's husband.

For figuring out what to do with your long-term future, there's not much I can say without knowing your goals, but might or might not be relevant. If so, they're willing to advise you one-on-one.

Comment by ModusPonies on Suggestions for Rationality Blogs in the Sidebar · 2013-06-25T15:19:30.815Z · LW · GW

Ozy's blog has been taken down.

Comment by ModusPonies on Group Rationality Diary, June 1-30 · 2013-06-21T14:51:00.533Z · LW · GW

For deontological reasons, I've been vegetarian for about a year and a half. I recently decided to make up inaccurate numbers to see if the decision makes sense on utilitarian grounds. The sources I trust seem to agree that eating meat will improve my health, so on one side of the equation I had [extra lifespan] [expected earnings per time] [fraction of earnings I currently donate] [lives saved per dollar donated]. On the other side of the equation, [expected years of life] * [amount of meat an average American eats per year] / [usable meat per animal].

Conclusion: I don't care about animals that much, compared to humans. The result was two orders of magnitude away from even being a difficult decision, so even my horrible made-up numbers were persuasive. I've been eating meat for a couple of weeks, now.

I was publicly vegetarian for a while, so I was afraid of telling people; it felt like admitting I'd been wrong. Nothing embarrassing happened. I'll remember this next time I fear looking foolish for changing my mind.

Comment by ModusPonies on Open Thread, June 16-30, 2013 · 2013-06-21T04:17:53.657Z · LW · GW

I much prefer the new version. It's far easier to spot new comments.

Comment by ModusPonies on How to Write Deep Characters · 2013-06-19T15:19:20.069Z · LW · GW

Propaganda only works when the reader feels like you've been absolutely fair to other side

As a technique for making good stories, I think this is solid advice. As a technique for making effective propaganda, it's blatantly false. Uncle Tom's Cabin is one-sided. Birth of a Nation is one-sided. Brokeback Mountain is one-sided. MoR is one-sided; no one makes a compelling case against rationality.

This isn't too surprising, considering the source. I've read some of Card's propaganda novels. They're good stories, but I wasn't even a little compelled to become a Mormon.

Comment by ModusPonies on Do Earths with slower economic growth have a better chance at FAI? · 2013-06-17T17:30:35.316Z · LW · GW

At some point I need to write a post about how I'm worried that there's an "unpacking fallacy" or "conjunction fallacy fallacy" practiced by people who have heard about the conjunction fallacy...

Please do this. I really, really want to read that post. Also I think writing it would save you time, since you could then link to it instead of re-explaining it in comments. (I think this is the third time I've seen you say something about that post, and I don't read everything you write.)

If there's anything I can do to help make this happen (such as digging through your old comments for previous explanations of this point, copyediting, or collecting a petition of people who want to see the post to provide motivation), please please please let me know.

Comment by ModusPonies on Coursera Public Speaking Course - LW Study Group? · 2013-06-14T13:58:21.471Z · LW · GW

It's currently set up so that only members can see our posts, and I have to approve membership requests manually. If there are any other privacy features you'd like me to turn on, let me know what they are. (I couldn't find anything else in five minutes.)

Comment by ModusPonies on Coursera Public Speaking Course - LW Study Group? · 2013-06-14T13:36:16.578Z · LW · GW

I've signed up, and created a gmail discussion group for us.

Comment by ModusPonies on Open thread, May 17-31 2013 · 2013-06-12T17:48:44.795Z · LW · GW

I can't help but feel like that's mostly all I have to bet on, though.

There are other things that can provide the same benefits. Off the top of my head: a job where you don't work from home, other coding boot camps, or CFAR. If App Academy falls through, you can pursue something else.

Something that makes this even more frustrating is that, had I realized enough of this just a year or two sooner, my opportunities to do something about it would have been far more numerous, simply by virtue of being at college

I don't know anyone who doesn't feel the same way about college, although the specific regrets vary from person to person. It is incredibly frustrating.

"Gain the ability to do things outside the house" is more or less one of my current goals, not that I know how to achieve it.

What's the biggest difficulty standing in your way? Is it the physical travel or the social anxiety or something else entirely? If it's a matter of location and transport, the first step is almost certainly "acquire money." (Given your situation, I think "acquire money" is a hard but solvable problem. Maybe do something like earning two dollars on Mechanical Turk to break down ugh fields and start a success spiral?) Step two would be either "turn money into transportation" or "use money to move to civilization."

More importantly, you can start building your skills without leaving the house. For example, if you're training basic social skills, you could call an acquaintance from college or spend five minutes on chatroulette. Or work on getting to the point where you can move through your own house without fear—it sounds like that would improve your mood and productivity dramatically, and the resilience you'd acquire will help you everywhere you go.

Comment by ModusPonies on Open thread, May 17-31 2013 · 2013-06-12T14:47:58.469Z · LW · GW

Oh, hey, we're almost exactly the same age.

You've got a lot going for you. You can program, you can write, you can enjoy working, you have at least some college education. This is enough to build on.

Based only on this post, it looks like your biggest problem is your social paralysis. Solving this problem isn't easy, but it's possible. Comfort zone expansion (CoZE) seems like the recommended model for training these skills. Try doing things that are possible but make you feel awkward—say, spend five minutes at a social event and then leave, or eat a quick meal in the kitchen, or something. Don't worry about doing these things confidently or well. It's supposed to be difficult and terrifying; when you do something terrifying and the world doesn't end, your brain will be less terrified to do it in the future. This should hopefully expand your comfort zone until you can eventually ignore strangers rather than flee from them, or ask your parents what they'll use your money for instead of living in uncertainty.

Your relationship with your parents sounds really destructive. Changing that should be high priority, whether it's by moving across the country or group therapy and reconciliation or whatever. I don't think income is the biggest barrier to your independence. Mediocre programmers can do pretty well (and can often work from home), and you say you own property, which can presumably be rented or sold. I'm more worried about your independent-living skills; being able to manage the dozens of mundane tasks that parents take care of (e.g. buy groceries, get an air filter changed, pay bills on time) can be a struggle for a lot of people when they first move out. Reddit threads about "life pro tips," or whatever the kids are calling it these days, will be your friend.

I have no idea how much blindness might exacerbate the problem. In any given city, there might or might not exist disability services that can help. My mom would probably be able to find out; let me know if I should ask her about any place in particular.

Applying to App Academy is exactly the kind of proactive, courageous thing you should be doing. Please take a moment to bask in my approval. The program sounds like it could provide everything you need, but it's definitely high risk. You'll be in a crucible where you have to live on your own, take care of yourself, and interact with humans. Either you'll be forced to grow into a significantly more competent human being, or else you'll get overwhelmed and burn out. If you get accepted (although my understanding is that such places are competitive) and decide to go, you'll want to take what precautions you can. Work with the program to set up the supports to make sure you succeed. Leaning on the local rationalist community to do this in parallel, as you mentioned, is also a really great idea.

If you don't go, do what you can to build your independence as soon as possible. You need those skills. Maybe you could do freelance coding online? Maybe you could move into that property you own? I don't know. Change something.

You're in a shitty place for now, but it looks like you're on track to change it. You can gain the social skills, independence, and self-confidence you need to accomplish your goals. People in your situation have done it before. Mostly it seems to require the courage to actually try, and you already have that.

Comment by ModusPonies on 2013 June-August Life Hacks Thread · 2013-06-04T19:03:13.116Z · LW · GW

Seems dangerous. If you inflict pain on yourself when thinking about the future, you might train yourself to not think about the future.

Comment by ModusPonies on Open Thread, June 2-15, 2013 · 2013-06-03T12:09:03.929Z · LW · GW

Reminder: Boston is hosting a megameetup on July 13-14.

Comment by ModusPonies on June 2013 Media Thread · 2013-06-01T23:45:49.477Z · LW · GW

Space Oddity performed on board the International Space Station

From a Fun Theory perspective, this is an important proof that one can, in fact, become an astronaut rock star.

Comment by ModusPonies on The Paucity of Elites Online · 2013-05-31T17:10:57.186Z · LW · GW

What's the value of them blogging to such a small audience, when most of us see each other two or three times a year at conferences?

Probably about the same benefit as having a mailing list, except that outsiders can access it. (I have no particular opinion on how useful a mailing list would be, but it seems like an appropriate reference class.)

None of them are Gold IMO medalists, so it's a good thing we're not working on existential risks!

Comment by ModusPonies on The Centre for Applied Rationality: a year later from a (somewhat) outside perspective · 2013-05-31T01:46:36.550Z · LW · GW

Crash space is certainly available for traveling rationalists, but non-weekend meetups are very unlikely.

Comment by ModusPonies on Finding interesting communities · 2013-05-30T16:02:33.246Z · LW · GW

What exactly are your goals? To whatever extent tradeoffs exist between "the feeling of being among my own kind" and finding good friends on the one hand, and "social reinforcement for doing cool stuff" and "cultivating greatness" on the other hand, which would you prefer?

Either way, moving closer to downtown would probably help, if it's an option. It will bring you closer to two specific communities you've identified, and in general, more people means more communities worth joining.

Comment by ModusPonies on The Centre for Applied Rationality: a year later from a (somewhat) outside perspective · 2013-05-29T02:04:40.854Z · LW · GW

join usssss

Comment by ModusPonies on The Centre for Applied Rationality: a year later from a (somewhat) outside perspective · 2013-05-28T20:05:03.515Z · LW · GW

perhaps I will volunteer to make one such example lesson. And publish it on LW, and process the feedback

If you do this, I'll run the lesson with the Boston group and give feedback.

Comment by ModusPonies on Robustness of Cost-Effectiveness Estimates and Philanthropy · 2013-05-24T14:03:42.914Z · LW · GW

Should shift marginal giving towards x-risk

I agree with this statement. I've considered redirecting my own donations in light of GiveWell's recent writings about how most good public health interventions are already funded. (I'm pretty sure I'm sticking with AMF and/or GiveDirectly, but it took me a lot of thought to decide that, and I now require less additional evidence to persuade me to switch.)

That said, putting this under the "good" category seems like a minor case of treating the argument as a soldier. Evidence is evidence; whether it supports your previous conclusion doesn't make it good or bad.

Comment by ModusPonies on Meetup : [Cambridge] Sunk Cost Kata · 2013-05-23T15:44:02.460Z · LW · GW

The material we used is below. This passed through at least one person's hands before it got to me, so I don't know where CFAR posted it originally.

Slides Exercises 1 Exercises 2 Exercises 3 Exercises 4 Exercises 5

Comment by ModusPonies on Why is it rational to invest in retirement? I don't get it. · 2013-05-22T14:21:22.744Z · LW · GW

But if I had an option 5 -- a safe way to protect my savings from inflation and use them for early retirement, I would certainly prefer that.

Many countries make this possible. Is moving an option?

Comment by ModusPonies on Preparing for a Rational Financial Planning Sequence · 2013-05-22T14:07:18.359Z · LW · GW

I'm interested in part 4, and would likely pay $5-10 for a digital book that contains it, so long as it were favorably reviewed by other members of this community. (Other guides to this exist, I'm sure, but I'd rather pay $5 than spend the time to track down a good one.) I would probably skip part 1 entirely and skim parts 2 and 3 to confirm my impression that it contains nothing new for me.

Comment by ModusPonies on [TED Talk] Peter Singer on Effective Altruism · 2013-05-21T13:49:11.689Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the link. I've just sent it to a coworker who I was telling about effective altruism the other day.

According to one estimate, the Gates Foundation has already saved 5.8 million lives

Does anyone know where this number comes from? I can find a whole bunch of bloggers repeating the claim, but I can't find an original source.

Comment by ModusPonies on Post ridiculous munchkin ideas! · 2013-05-17T20:50:42.634Z · LW · GW

I've seen exactly one, and it's a private channel for the editorial staff of a blog that curates My Little Pony fanfiction. (Yes, this is actually a thing.)

Comment by ModusPonies on To Inspire People to Give, Be Public About Your Giving · 2013-05-17T17:42:54.396Z · LW · GW

I think you just independently derived GWWC.

Comment by ModusPonies on Open thread, May 17-31 2013 · 2013-05-17T17:15:37.117Z · LW · GW

Welcome! I hope you find this community as useful as I have.

—As others have suggested, reading the sequences is extremely useful and I wholeheartedly recommend it. However, it's also really long. If you want to start with something less huge, there's some good stuff here.

—Consider saying more about yourself here or in this thread.

—Where do you live? There might be an in-person meetup nearby.

Comment by ModusPonies on How to Build a Community · 2013-05-16T16:49:09.394Z · LW · GW

The moderators on this website?

Comment by ModusPonies on Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013 · 2013-05-15T19:16:56.685Z · LW · GW

Comically large amounts of networking. The connection that landed me a programming job was my mom's dance instructor's husband.

Comment by ModusPonies on You Only Live Twice · 2013-05-15T17:22:36.362Z · LW · GW

Jeff's spreadsheet might help you evaluate the odds. (Although see the discussion of this approach.)

Comment by ModusPonies on Good luck, Mr. Rationalist · 2013-05-15T16:03:21.629Z · LW · GW

Can you think of any examples of LW brushing off outside views in an unhelpful way? I would be surprised if you could. The most upvoted post on the site is an outsider critiquing one of our sacred cows.

Comment by ModusPonies on Post ridiculous munchkin ideas! · 2013-05-14T18:36:30.764Z · LW · GW

Keyboard covers can solve the hardware side of this problem.

Comment by ModusPonies on Columbus Mega-meetup Planning- RSVPs wanted · 2013-05-14T15:28:00.542Z · LW · GW

20% chance I'll make it.

Comment by ModusPonies on Post ridiculous munchkin ideas! · 2013-05-12T21:03:05.917Z · LW · GW

This isn't a clever way to accomplish something. This is a way of willfully misinterpreting definitions until you can claim success without changing reality.

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying.

—Woody Allen

Comment by ModusPonies on Keeping Choices Donation Neutral · 2013-05-12T02:33:14.722Z · LW · GW

This applies to many altruists, but I don't think it applies to jkaufman. See here.