Musings on the LSAT: "Reasoning Training" and Neuroplasticity 2014-11-22T19:14:45.411Z
Others' predictions of your performance are usually more accurate 2014-11-13T02:17:38.580Z
Minerva Project: the future of higher education? 2014-11-10T05:59:47.564Z


Comment by Natha on Musings on the LSAT: "Reasoning Training" and Neuroplasticity · 2014-12-05T20:33:18.227Z · LW · GW

I wanted to thank you for your response and to apologize for not getting to read it sooner (I am in the throes of final exams, project due dates, et c.). The Lumosity control group or some similar intervention is a great idea and probably the only way to know for sure if LSAT prep had any unique effects.

Comment by Natha on Musings on the LSAT: "Reasoning Training" and Neuroplasticity · 2014-11-26T03:15:49.835Z · LW · GW

Thank you for this awesome, informative comment. I'm glad to get some perspective on this; at the end of the day I guess it is just a test of basic logic concepts... I guess I shouldn't expect that to carry over to other areas of one's daily life.

Comment by Natha on Musings on the LSAT: "Reasoning Training" and Neuroplasticity · 2014-11-23T16:54:42.449Z · LW · GW

Yeah, I think that one is ruled out because they are scheduling only 7 voyages (with no memory of prior voyages). I see what you mean though; it doesn't say anything about prior voyages, but I think of it as 7 slots to fill, and since there is no slot before 1, it can't be Jamaica. The answers are at the end of the test (pg 38).

Comment by Natha on How can one change what they consider "fun"? · 2014-11-21T04:17:18.353Z · LW · GW

Scott has some useful, if sobering, thoughts about this on his blog and I think I agree with him. He ends up positing that intrinsic motivation is more or less fixed and describes the whole process as a fascination lottery: there are certain things we find inherently interesting and motivating, and other things we could never really be interested in, even if we really really wanted to.

And my attempts to hack intrinsic motivation, which would be like a instant win condition for everything if I could achieve it, have been mostly unsuccessful and left me with severe doubt it is even possible. So I have pretty much given up on math.


But the thing is, I couldn’t choose to be interested in sports any more than I could choose to be interested in math or a huge sports fan could choose to be interested in psychology or a gay person could choose to be interested in women. I mean, there’s probably some wiggle room, maybe if I put a lot of effort into finding the most interesting sports and learning everything about them I could appreciate them a little. But would I have comparative advantage over the kid who memorized the stats of every pitcher in both leagues when he was 8? Barring getting hit by some kinda cosmic rays or something, I don’t think that’ll everhappen.

That being said, it seems a little defeatist. Perhaps there's some way to really choose your fascinations...

Comment by Natha on Welcome to Less Wrong! (6th thread, July 2013) · 2014-11-18T20:37:07.523Z · LW · GW

Hey Alex!

When I think back to when I was your age, I really wished I had gotten more involved in math competitions. Does your school have any programs like MATHCOUNTS, AMC8, etc.? I didn't compete in any academic competitions until high school, and I really wished that I had known about them earlier on. It makes getting ahead in math so much fun and it helps lay some really important foundations for the more complicated stuff.

Anyway, keep up the good work!

Comment by Natha on Welcome to Less Wrong! (6th thread, July 2013) · 2014-11-18T20:35:13.647Z · LW · GW


Comment by Natha on Welcome to Less Wrong! (6th thread, July 2013) · 2014-11-18T05:14:01.334Z · LW · GW


Hey, I haven't had time to read your post yet but I wanted to suggest that you post over in the discussion section to get more visibility and feedback; I don't think too many people read through the welcome thread posts and those who do are usually just browsing user blurbs. Great to meet you!

Comment by Natha on Minerva Project: the future of higher education? · 2014-11-17T15:37:22.690Z · LW · GW

Hey, thanks for the comment! I have never had been in a law school classroom, but I remember reading about the law school experience in Shulman's (2005) signature pedagogies in the professions article; he argues that law school, medical school, clergy school, design school, etc, have unique educational approaches because these facilitate learning of the skills and dispositions valued by each profession (e.g., the back-and-forth, often harsh exchanges characteristic of a law school classroom train you to "think like a lawyer", to handle conflicting views/interpretations, and to make an abiding distinction between legal reasoning and personal moral judgements.

I thought it was a cool article in general, but I especially liked how he pointed out the one thing they all have in common: "Pedagogies nearly always entail public student performance; without it, instruction cannot proceed. ...this emphasis on student's active performance reduces the most significant impediments to learning in higher education: passivity, invisibility, anonymity, lack of accountability. So much depends on student contributions... there is an inherent uncertainty associated with those situations (direction of discussion jointly produced by the instructor's plan and the students' responses), rendering classroom settings unpredictable and surprising, raising the stakes for both students and instructors. Learning to deal with uncertainty in the classroom models one of the most crucial aspects of professionalism, namely, the ability to make judgements under uncertainty."

Comment by Natha on November 2014 Monthly Bragging Thread · 2014-11-14T14:50:50.490Z · LW · GW

Great score! I'm a test prep guy and the GMAT quant is serious, erm, business. What kind of programs are you applying to? MBA?

Comment by Natha on November 2014 Monthly Bragging Thread · 2014-11-14T04:29:09.282Z · LW · GW

Awesome! If what you're dealing with is social anxiety, then you might find this blogpost helpful (I know I did). It sounds like it may be something more serious; if so, all the more reason for congratulations!

Comment by Natha on Link: Rob Bensinger on Less Wrong and vegetarianism · 2014-11-14T04:02:37.962Z · LW · GW

Aside from painting "LessWrong types" in really broad, unflattering strokes, I thought the author made several good points. Note though that I am a ~15 year vegetarian (and sometime vegan) myself and I definitely identify with his argument, so there's the opportunity for subjective validation to creep in. I also find many perference-utlitarian viewpoints persuasive, though I wouldn't yet identify as one.

I think the 20% thing and the 1-in-20 thing were just hypothetical, so we shouldn't get too hung up on them; I think his case is just as strong without any numbers. There is some uncertainty about the continuum of animal cognition and how it relates to their capacity to suffer.

My own personal voice-inside-my-head reasons for vegetarianism can be summarized as follows: "I am an animal, but a unique kind of animal who can understand what it means to feel pain and to die and who doesn't want that to happen to himself or to any other animals. My unique kind of animal can also live a happy, healthy life at very little personal expense without causing other animals to feel pain or to die." Thus, Rob's first 4 premises (particularly 2 and 3) resonated with me.

I don't believe other animals, even other mammals, have anything like human consciousness. Nor do I believe they should be accorded human rights. But I know that at the end of the day, biologically I am a mammal; if you're warm-blooded and you've got hair and a neocortex, then I'm really going to avoid hurting/killing you. If you have a spine and a pulse, I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt.

Comment by Natha on Others' predictions of your performance are usually more accurate · 2014-11-13T19:35:38.719Z · LW · GW

PSA: coincidentally, David Dunning (an author in every study I mention above) is currently doing a Reddit AMA. I did not plan this, but if you have any questions for him, he's all ears!

Comment by Natha on Others' predictions of your performance are usually more accurate · 2014-11-13T03:10:01.410Z · LW · GW

Ah, yes that's much better isn't it. Am I allowed to change this? Sorry for being such a flagrant newcomer; it seems like I really need to tighten up my language.

EDIT: I've given it some thought and I think it has something to do with being active on Reddit, where there's lots of incentive to sensationalize your posts. I will be mindful of this going forward.

Comment by Natha on Others' predictions of your performance are usually more accurate · 2014-11-13T03:01:40.512Z · LW · GW

You're exactly right, sorry. I'll keep the picture because I think it suffices to illustrate the trend, but I'll update my description for clarity. Here are the other summary graphs for studies 1, 2, and 4

ETA: Strangely apropos this post, David Dunning is doing a Reddit AMA right now; I should go ask him why he and Kruger (1999) chose to report quartiles!

Comment by Natha on ... · 2014-11-12T03:41:27.133Z · LW · GW

It's poorly written too, like some grade school gag. If it's meant to be taken seriously, it is pretty amateurish...

Comment by Natha on November 2014 Monthly Bragging Thread · 2014-11-12T03:17:07.011Z · LW · GW

Hey, terrific! Did you enjoy the book itself? I really liked AoPS series; I remember getting a whole lot out of Introduction to Counting and Probability. I distinctly remember thinking over and over, why didn't they tell me this in school!

I'm not sure what your ultimate goals are, and you're probably already familiar with the online AMC8/10/12 and Olympiad problem banks that others have mentioned; if not, I couldn't recommend them more highly for bringing newly learned skills to bear on novel problems. At one point, I worked through all the AMC8, then all of the AMC10. It became very addictive!

Also, perhaps more recreationally, the MAA does a question of the day called Minute Math, which is always good for a quick diversion.

Comment by Natha on Minerva Project: the future of higher education? · 2014-11-11T13:23:42.124Z · LW · GW

I think just 3 of the degree programs they offer have been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Also, very interesting observation about the similarity to video games; this makes sense, especially in light of the gamification craze.

Comment by Natha on Things to consider when optimizing: Commuting, Transportation · 2014-11-11T01:21:42.717Z · LW · GW

I recently moved to a moved to a big US city and promptly sold my car. I can't stand the stress of driving, parking, or maintaining a car in the city and I am also extremely frugal.

My preferred method of getting around is to ride my bicycle, but there are important considerations (bike lanes and infrastructure, weather, potentially getting really sweaty). I've had the same $250 bicycle since 2007 and it requires very minimal upkeep. I've replaced the tires once and gotten a few tune-ups here and there... probably another $250 in the past 7 years, averaging 3 rides/week.

I like cycling because it forces me to get a little bit of exercise every day; setting aside separate time for exercise always feels like such a waste, and I like making my commute do double duty as fitness. Also, if something breaks on a bike it is usually pretty obvious, cheap, and easy to fix. I like that am not beholden to any specialist/mechanic.

If I need to go far, I will ride it to the nearest bus stop, stow the bike on the front of the bus, and hop off the bus near enough to pedal to my destination without breaking a sweat. The bus is great too; I see all sorts of people I wouldn't otherwise know existed, and I use the transit time for leisure activities (usually reading).

Comment by Natha on Minerva Project: the future of higher education? · 2014-11-10T22:30:45.592Z · LW · GW

I've been jumping around reading Caplan's posts on your link in my free time today and I've found him very convincing. However, I know very little about economics. Could you recommend a good overview article on signalling/ability bias/human capital in higher education? I am sincerely quite interested in this stuff.

Comment by Natha on 2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2014-11-09T17:08:16.701Z · LW · GW

First-time taker! Shorter than I expected. Hope I did the digity thing right...

Comment by Natha on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject · 2014-11-05T07:28:06.918Z · LW · GW

I've got a recommendation for experimental design/general inference:

Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Generalized Causal Inference, by Shadish, Cook, and Campbell (2001)

Admittedly, this is the only textbook I've ever used that was expressly for experimental design, but I really do think it is superb. Does anyone else have comparison texts for this kind of thing? The validity typology alone is heroic; statistical conclusion validity, internal validity, construct validity, and external validity are each covered in great detail, as are common threats to each of these types of validity.

Comment by Natha on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject · 2014-11-05T07:16:32.557Z · LW · GW

Subject: Animal Behavior (Ethology)

Recommendation: Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach (6th Edition, 1997) Author: John Alcock

This is an excellent, well organized, engagingly written textbook. It may be a tiny bit denser than the comparison texts I give below, but I found it to be far and away the most rewarding of the three (I've just read the three). The natural examples he gives to illustrate the many behaviors are perfectly curated for the book. Also, he uses Tinbergen's four questions to frame these discussions, which ensured a rich description of each behavior. The author gives a cogent defense of sociobiology in the last chapter, which was icing on the cake.

Other #1: Principles of Animal Behavior (1st Edition, 2003) Author: Lee Alan Dugatkin

This was one I had to read for a class; it's a bit shorter than Alcock, and maybe it has been improved upon since this inaugural edition, but I found the fluff-to-substance ratio to be concerningly high. It was much more basic than Alcock, perhaps better suited for a high school audience. The chapters were written like works of fiction and the author maintained this style throughout, which I found distracting (though others may like it). Bottom line: If you have had a decent college level class in biology, you would definitely be better off going straight to an older edition of Alcock.

Other #2: Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach (9th Edition, 2009) Author: John Alcock

I read through this edition too (I think there's a 10th out now) while writing my undergraduate thesis to make sure I hadn't missed any important updates in the field (I hadn't). The new edition had ~100 fewer pages; it was long on pictures (quite a few more than its predecessor) and short on content. It's been several years now and I can't remember exactly the ways in which it differed, but “watered down” comes to mind. I would highly recommend picking up an older edition unless this one is specifically required.

Comment by Natha on Welcome to Less Wrong! (6th thread, July 2013) · 2014-11-05T04:31:02.202Z · LW · GW


Actually, I am no stranger to this site; I have been a sporadic fly-on-the-wall here since early 2011, when I found out about you guys through gwern's personal webpage (to which my interest in nootropics, n-backing, and spaced repetition had led me). I've made several desultory stabs at the sequences; I think I've read most of them twice over, but some I've abandoned and some I've never touched. I started HPMoR reluctantly, found I couldn't put it down, and finished it in a single sitting. Lately I've been pretty swamped with work, but I've been trying to follow along with the Superintelligence reading group. Though I've been content to lurk, I am now extremely keen to take a more active role in the discussions!

Blurb: I am a 25 year-old doctoral student and researcher in the Learning Sciences with an academic background in Statistics and Biology (mostly behavioral neuroscience). I am dedicated to making learning as powerful and efficient as possible through psychological, biological, and technological cross-pollination. Only an optimally educated humanity will be equipped to solve the problems of the future (and indeed, those of the present)! Though my research contributions have been mainly on projects not my own, I am ultimately interested in psychometrics, human-computer interaction, intelligent tutoring systems/cognitive tutors, and redesigning classroom instruction to reflect the state of the art in cognitive science.

For a while I was deeply wary of technology---the recklessness of our innovation and the potential it had to change human beings irreparably if it didn't eliminate them completely. I had just discovered Heidegger's Question Concerning Technology, Bill Joy's Wired essay, Kaczynski's manifesto... sundry warnings of an impending techno-dystopia. But I came to reevaluate my fears: the proper course of action is not to rage against the machine. Our future is a technological one whether we like it or not (spoiler: we like it), and despite my initial resistance I have come to embrace technology and the changes to humanity it will increasingly entail; not only has it greatly improved life on Earth (at least for humans), but it can be continually leveraged to this end (for all forms of life). However, I feel that emerging technologies should be pursued with much greater care than they are currently, and anticipation of the many longterm side-effects of such development requires that the people of the world (or their devices) be informed/thoughtful enough to do so (cf. differential intellectual progress). Any attempt at a such a wholesale societal improvement program requires better education, and my hope is to help speed things along on this front.

Gah, I really meant to keep this shorter, but I still have so much to say about myself! Best to quit now before I bring up my precocious childhood or my pious vegetarianism! Here's to many great discussions! I look forward to meeting you all!