Comment by quentin on Emotional Basilisks · 2013-06-28T23:28:21.521Z · LW · GW

I don't see how this relates to the original post, this strikes me as a response to a claim of objective/intrinsic morality rather than the issue of resolving emotional basilisks vis-a-vis the litany of tarsky. Are you just saying "it really depends"?

Comment by quentin on The ethics of breaking belief · 2012-05-10T18:04:42.665Z · LW · GW

This is something I think about a lot. We all know pure rhetoric is never going to deconvert someone, but a combination of "dark arts", emotional vulnerability, and personal connection seems a likely recipe.

A quick summation of how I feel about religiosity: I hate the belief, but love the believer. I went through a long and painful deconversion process, so I can empathize with them. I know that religious people struggle with doubt and are probably terrified by the prospect of losing their faith. I've had the chance to go for the throat (so to speak) several times, but never had the conviction to do so.

So I guess the question you have to ask, is, what are you offering them in return? Keeping in mind that they are probably more of a "normal" than you are, how is it going to effect their social and psychological well-being? Do you anticipate that changing that one belief will manifest itself in greater mastery of rationality, or even a glimpse of the path? Or are you just stealing a childs safety blanket and telling them to grow up?

The only other mitigating factor I can think of is "raising the sanity waterline", specifically by decreasing the overall population of virulent religious memes. But aren't there probably better and easier ways of doing so that don't involve randoms going through bleak existential withdrawl?

That's a serious question, I'm not settled on the issue at all either. Of course, there are some people who will just need a push, a friend to tell them it's ok. If they seem like they can thrive as an athiest, due to humanist values, being contrarian, courageously facing the truth, or whatever, I don't see why not.

Comment by quentin on No Value · 2012-05-07T17:31:23.199Z · LW · GW

I agree with the post above advising "Wait, don't panic". I experienced (still do, sort of) exactly what you describe, and the people I developed the closest friendships with did as well. In fact, it was one of the primary contexts in which we were able to bond. As an intelligent person in a frequently alienating world, it can be very easy to feel disconnected and emotionally isolated. Don't immediately conclude that you have a disorder that requires medical treatment.

So, if it helps: a lot of people experience what you are going through. A lot of people feel empty. It might be learned helplessness, a self-defense mechanism, or something else entirely. But if you are interested in becoming a better, more fulfilled person, and willing to put in the work required, don't conclude you are broken. Make change, be open to happiness and emotion.

Also, I'm not going to claim that psychadelics don't have potential value in the arena of personal growth, but at your current position they are probably not an optimal strategy.

Comment by quentin on Meta Addiction · 2012-03-19T19:30:37.176Z · LW · GW

Of course. Doing low level stuff like brushing your teeth is boring. Going meta is fun.

Eventually you need to actually cash out your strategies and really brush your teeth, at which point going meta can be a form of procrastination that has the benefit of making you feel like you are being productive.

I try to mentally file metacognition under "enjoyable pastime", but I'm not sure if the low level resource manager agrees with the user. This produces an acute form of akrasia wherein, while attempting to be productive, I go really meta, encounter a stack overflow, resolve the issue, and then treat myself to a well deserved break because I'm such a brilliant meta-theoretician.

Comment by quentin on [Link] Cooking for people who don't · 2012-02-13T19:40:47.053Z · LW · GW

First of all, I highly recomend Good Eats. As a tv show, it's probably not the most efficient way to learn how to cook, but Alton Brown presents simple, useful recipes while managing to convey the high-level methodology of the process. More importantly, it's damn entertaining.

I agree with RomeoStevens; keep it simple at home. I enjoy cooking, but I found that trying to prepare homecooked meals every night for myself led to motivational breakdown. So when I'm home, I graze on things that are healthy and delicious. A little bit of some (good) cheeses, raw vegetables, baguette, fresh fruit. Stir-fried-whatever when I'm in the mood.

Also, while this probably applies to anything you want to do better, it seems especially true of cooking: learn to enjoy it. It's really very easy and quite relaxing when you get the hang of it.

Comment by quentin on Describe the ways you can hear/see/feel yourself think. · 2012-01-27T21:19:42.303Z · LW · GW

I can read much, much faster than I can think words, and yet I still hear (at least some of) the words.

I can mentally replay any sense I've experienced. I sometimes get appropriate physiological responses, such as my mouth watering when imagining food. I can hear music, see movies. The resolution of any of this isn't very good. I wouldn't normally say I can actually experience these things, I do because I can't grok how else one would imagine a cow without "mentally seeing" something like a cow; but apparently this is the case (?).

I am bad at manipulating numbers. As far as I can tell, either I have something memorized (e.g. multiplication tables) or I graphically visualize writing the problem out, long-hand, on paper, complete with all the steps you learned in 3rd grade like crossing out digits when you borrow. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this... the most inefficient virtual machine that ever was.

On the other hand, I have amazing (low-end at least) intuition. Actually, most all of the problem solving and "real thinking" I do is a complete mystery to me. This is causing problems for my research, as in lower education (which I consider as everything through undergrad) I never had to study, or even think methodically. I just squint my eyes and the answers comes out of the ether.

Comment by quentin on Urges vs. Goals: The analogy to anticipation and belief · 2012-01-25T19:02:29.270Z · LW · GW

I second that thank you!

Usually self-help books are way too fluffy for me to end up finishing (much less implementing), hopefully some of this will stick. Looks good so far :D

Comment by quentin on How I Ended Up Non-Ambitious · 2012-01-24T20:29:16.067Z · LW · GW

I'm honestly curious, how did you condition yourself to feel this way?

I mean, I think about the singularity, try to discount for my given bias (introverted young male in STEM field who read a lot of scifi) and I still conclude it is a worthwhile problem; but more importantly a problem that could use my skillset.

But I don't emotionally ... grok it, which makes me wonder if I really do believe it, or if it is belief-in-belief. I'm having my own struggle with ambition, and I'm at a point where I don't know if I actually care about anything. It seems that at my core, all my motivation stems from a desire for social status, which scares me.

Comment by quentin on Building case-studies of akrasia · 2011-12-14T23:02:57.378Z · LW · GW

I would probably make an excellent actual case study in akrasia. I'll try to quickly summarize a few issues.

instance:Weight lifting.

After a bad break-up, I pursued it rigorously for about 6 months, with great success, creating a postitive feedback loop. I was fueled by the progress, which inevitably plateaued, leading me to stagnation. In an attempt to get back on track, I purchased a squat rack and barbell, so that I could work out whenever was most convenient. In retrospect, this was a really bad idea. I find it virtually impossible to put in an adequate workout at home, because it is too easy to be distracted. My average workout duration dropped from over an hour to probably less than 15 minutes. Attempting to precommit to not to interact with anything that wouldn't be at a gym failed, because my mind won't accept artificial constraints like that. I speculate that it failed for another reason: working out in a public gym probably triggers the status seeking parts of my brain, incentivizing me to look good by working harder now, as well as reminding me what I'm working for in the long-run (not that anyone cares at all about what anyone else does in the gym).

  • Do: Work out in public, measure progress in an objective way, reward yourself after a good work out
  • Don't: Make it too convenient, fail to take into account diminishing returns

instance:Undergraduate research

Much of my akrasia stems from anxiety. I had originally impressed the professor of a class I was taking, and later in informal research. In both cases I enjoyed the work, which was occasionally greuling, but where the price of failure was nonexistent - I was in no danger of receiving less than an A in the class, and the research consisted of occasional, casual meetings and setting my own pace and direction. In time, they offered me a payed position, which came with deadlines, frequent status reports, and so on. I noticed that both the quantity and quality of my work decreased, for two reasons. The original work had convinced me to go to graduate school, which subsequently made my supervisors opinion of me suddenly important (letters of reccomendation). Because of this, I started making promises and accepting burdens that were probably not unreasonable, but personally unrealistic. I began to feel incredible anxiety about this, so much so that even doing the work, but especially corresponding with my supervisors caused significant duress. It was perceived as laziness and nonresponsiveness; and I knew this, which made the anxiety worse: so bad in fact that I would avoid checking my email and seeing them on campus. Sometimes I'd be sitting there, knowing that there was probably an unanswered email in my inbox, KNOWING that I would have to read and answer it eventually, and knowing that waiting could only possibly make it worse, and for some reason I still would put it off.

In general, I feel that I have destroyed my ability to precommit. For a particularly ludicrous illustration: I have trouble getting up. My record for most times hitting snooze is probably > 15. I tried literally taping a caffeine pill on top of the button. The next morning, I just peeled it off and went back to sleep. Me_sleeping is an evil bastard.

Comment by quentin on How is your mind different from everyone else's? · 2011-12-08T03:46:09.894Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure if I experience the same thing, but it sounds similar.

It sometimes happens with peoples faces, more often with my laptop screen when I've been staring at it for a while. It is impossible to put into words... sort of like my sense of size becomes meaningless. Depth perception vanishes. Sometimes things seem very small, or very large, but that is not quite it. It is more like my brain doesn't know how to parse anything related to absolute size.

Sometimes when I'm trying to fall asleep, I'll experience it with very high intensity. Normally when I think of an object, it is in one of two ways. Either I'm modeling it in my head, in which case it seems roughly head-sized and located (where else) in my head. Alternatively I superimpose it on the environment, and I can roughly envision it at appropriate scale. So whatever part of my brain that is responsible for these tasks seemingly deactivates. It's really interesting in an abstract way, but its accompanied by mild nausea and vertigo.

Comment by quentin on How is your mind different from everyone else's? · 2011-12-07T23:43:48.303Z · LW · GW

Wow, I thought everyone got those.

Some from that list I would have imagined to be universal (who doesn't get shivers and tingles listening to Beethoven? seriously.), but these in particular are both incredibly accurate for myself and things that I figured were personal quirks:

Exposure to slow, accented, or unique speech patterns

Viewing educational or instructive videos or lectures

Watching another person complete a task, often in a diligent, attentive manner - examples would be filling out a form, writing a check, going through a purse or bag, inspecting an item closely, etc.

Sometimes I watch instructive videos on youtube, where the narrator has a slow, interesting voice and is methodically explaining how to do a mundane task, like... folding clothes. This gives me extremely pleasurable sensations, with a slight hint of shame for having such obviously wierd tastes. I'm glad to know I'm not a freak :D

A similar experience can be stimulated in most people with a device... it consists of dozen or so wire prongs that you massage your head with (The Octopus Tingling Head Massager, I'm completely serious)... the feeling it produces for me is similar to ASMR, and I've never had anyone tell me it didn't feel really good.

Also, "head orgasm" is a pretty accurate phrase for this too.

Comment by quentin on What I think about you · 2011-11-30T19:06:59.217Z · LW · GW

I didn't know there was such a term, thank you. I kind of wish there was a way to signify that status in posts.

I agree that it isn't a problem on the internet, especially not here. I would be interested in discussing this topic as it applies to meat-space (in particular among friends and allies), as it is something I have given a great deal of thought.

Comment by quentin on Open thread, November 2011 · 2011-11-21T23:52:14.214Z · LW · GW

Yeah, I didn't look hard enough. So I'll leave this here.

Dear people from the future, here is what I have found so far:

Though, if anyone was in a similar position and would like to share, I'd still love to hear about it.

Comment by quentin on Behavioral psychology and buying a warranty at Menards · 2011-11-15T06:28:50.060Z · LW · GW

A small, but common related occurrence:

When you are checking out at a grocery store, or sometimes at fast food joints, they'll ask you to donate $1 to charity. Of course it is some sub-optimal charity, but the looming discomfort of saying no factors in far more than it should. Plus, it is really hard to tell some random person "sorry, but the utilon-to-dollar ratio is insufficient".

It seems to generalize to a category of 1-of things that arise in social situations. You know it is sub-optimal to along, you know it would be uncomfortable to speak up, but (at least personally) you find it difficult to gauge the actual cost of doing so (in socialons), and wonder if you aren't just overthinking the whole thing - by which point, of course, the decision is already in motion.

Comment by quentin on Transhumanism and Gender Relations · 2011-11-12T03:02:33.753Z · LW · GW

What does it mean to be agendered? Can you provide a specific example?

I've never respected gender roles; I'm a fairly androgynous (physically and behaviorally) male and I'm attracted to fairly androgynous females... but I don't know how one would go about "dissolving" their hormones and genitalia.

Comment by quentin on Open thread, November 2011 · 2011-11-10T03:26:53.458Z · LW · GW

How to cryonics?

And please forgive me if this is a RTFM kind of thing.

I've been reading LW for a time, so I've been frequently exposed to the idea of cryonics. I usually push it to the back of my mind: I'm extremely pessimistic about the odds of being revived, and I'm still young, after all. But I realize this is probably me avoiding a terrible subject rather than an honest attempt to decide. So I've decided to at least figure out what getting frozen would entail.

Is there a practical primer on such an issue? For example; I'm only now entering grad school, and obviously couldn't afford the full cost. But being at a very low risk of death, I feel that I should be able to leverage a low-cost insurance policy into covering such a scenario.

Comment by quentin on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-09T21:55:16.560Z · LW · GW

Finding ourselves with the ability to reflect on how our instinctual behavior and preferences are derived from inclusive genetic fitness necessitates neither fully accepting, nor fully rejecting these preferences.

I understand that, in seeking a romantic partner, there are qualities I value above those as determined by the blind idiot god. One of these qualities is reflectively the ability to rationally self-determine preferences, to the extent that such a thing is possible.

I liken my understanding to the fable of the oak and reed. I prefer, and indeed expect, potential romantic partners to signal appropriate ... fertility, in a reductive sense. Likewise, I exhibit desirable behavioral cues (actually, much of the alpha male mentality is worthwhile in itself): confidence, leadership, non-neediness, etc. In neither case (hopefully) are these the qualities that are primarily desired, but merely the minimum threshold that our biology imposes on such endeavors.

Is finding a partner with such an understanding realistic, or even possible? Yes, to an extent. It is a very unfortunate fact of our society that females aren't socialized in a way that facilities rationality, relative to males; a scarcity which makes such an individual that much more appealing. I have met some, and dated a very few of these. I'm still optimistic.

Comment by quentin on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-02T18:51:23.096Z · LW · GW

Just to agree with the above, and expand my feelings:

I don't see a lot of new ideas here. It would surprise me if an average less wrong reader hadn't spent a little time researching this topic, and all of this is fairly mainstream information.

I have a very strong ugh field set up around instrumentally pursuing females. After a bad break up, I spent about 6 months learning PUA, I had quite good success (my physical appearance is not lacking), but found the whole thing to be so pathetically empty compared to previous "organic" relationship that I felt defeated even though I wasn't.

I realize that this can probably be accounted for, and note that it is one area that the PUA community seems to be lacking in. Lots of emotionally unfulfilling sex isn't optimal by a long shot, though it may be beneficial for a certain subset of individuals.

Anyways, one of the most important things I learned was to try and avoid too much theory, and break it down into individual actionable items. Given that with this topic especially, readers will likely come from all over the spectrum of possible skill levels, that might be a hard thing to do. But perhaps behavioral exercises... links to resources and specific suggestions for conversation, fashion, body language.

Comment by quentin on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-01T22:43:46.089Z · LW · GW

I'm not contradicting you at all, but I'm just curious: how do you know that you are smarter than virtually everyone you meet? If there is anything more to it than an intuition, I'd love to know about it. I've always wondered if there was some secret smart-person handshake that I wasn't privy to.

Personally, I'd say the lower 80 or 90% immediately identify themselves as such, but beyond that I try to give others the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they aren't interested in the conversation, don't want to seem intelligent, or or just plain out of my leauge. I don't value humility very highly at all; but there aren't many things that would convince me I or someone else was demonstrably in the top fraction of the top percentile.

Also, I've been intuitively aware of the optimism bias for as long as I can remember, and estimates like ".1% and 99.9%" trigger my skepticism module hard.

Comment by quentin on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-01T21:12:49.614Z · LW · GW

I was wondering if the IQ-calibration question was referring to reported or actual IQ. It seems to be the latter, but the former would be much more fun to think about.

Also, are so many LWers comfortable estimating with high confidence that they are in the 99.9th percentile? Or even higher? Is this community really that smart? I mean, I know I'm smarter than the majority of people I meet, but 999 out of every 1000? Or am I just being overly enthusiastic in correcting for cognitive bias?

Comment by quentin on Why would we think artists perform better on drugs ? · 2011-10-31T19:45:35.373Z · LW · GW

I've been wanting to ask this here for a while: is there any (active or dead) discussion thread or article or something on the (rational :D) use of psychoactive substances? I've been very cautiously experimenting myself, and this is the only online community that I respect and whose goals seem to be inline with my own. There seem to be several exceedingly good reasons to partake, while all of the negative ones can be significantly mitigated with knowledge and precaution.

I'm a chaotic good, compsci undergrad doing research. Psychoactives haven't increased my research or programming productivity (yet); though the xkcd comic suggesting that alcohol may do so ( seems to be true. It is very hard to ride that peak though.

I can make a small anecdotal contribution. Nothing in my life has had as profound an impact on my conscientiousness (i.e. fighting akrasia) as some of my more intensely positive drug induced experiences. This effect is typically profound for several days afterwards, and noticable for weeks. This is significant, for me at least, because akrasia seems to be much more limiting than my creativity or intelligence.

Comment by quentin on Social status & testosterone · 2011-10-20T20:41:53.038Z · LW · GW

So, ought we take supplemetary testosterone?

The benefits of weight training are typically significant and self-evident. Though anecdotal, most accounts I've heard (including my own) suggest that this is in large part due to increased testosterone levels. Why not supplement the natural process? If so, by how much?

Comment by quentin on Life is Good, More Life is Better · 2011-10-18T22:59:02.412Z · LW · GW

Which is better: a society of immortals who never give birth, or a society that procreates and dies in the normal manner, whose population is stable at the same size?

That is to say, if both equally maximize observer-moments, does the "life-cycle" increase or decrease utility?

Comment by quentin on Mental Rebooting: "Your Brain on Porn"... · 2011-10-18T21:12:05.423Z · LW · GW

So there are several issues that seem conflated to me. More specifically, should we:

  1. watch porn less
  2. masturbate less
  3. orgasm less

While the post superficially would be advocating (1), the justifications seem more in line with (3). Actually, I can get behind all three to some extent, and for different reasons. I just think they should be seperated. For instance:

  1. sex becomes more enjoyable due to resensitization to arousal cues
  2. sex is much more optimal than masturbation
  3. basically all of the reasons already given (energy, focus, motivation... hormonal stuff)
Comment by quentin on Pascal's wager re-examined · 2011-10-04T20:29:12.253Z · LW · GW

the only compelling argument I've heard against Pascal's Wager is that you can't/shouldn't believe something just because it is convenient to do so

As I understand it, that's because our universe has provided no evidence that belief alters reality; but it does seem to suggest that the optimum strategy is relentless pursuit of truth. However, if we had good reason to think otherwise (I don't think this article counts), I see no reason why one shouldn't alter their beliefs to their benefit, apart from aesthetics.

Whether or not this is even possible is unclear to me; but my intuition is that I could intentionally update to false beliefs, contrary to what seems to be the consensus here.

Comment by quentin on Get genotyped for free ( If your IQ is high enough) · 2011-10-03T23:31:07.263Z · LW · GW

I was briefly excited as I met both GRE and SAT cutoffs. But now I'm feeling guilty and debating whether or not to apply; I'm certainly not in the 99.9th percentile. I absolutely love this community but I don't really post because I sincerely feel inadequate.

I'm easily in the 5th percentile, but I feel like an imposter with my standardized test scores: the tests are SO damn easy and don't measure anything of substance. GRE verbal tests your ability to recall obscure words, and the math tests your ability to maintain focus through 2 hours of trivial middle-school math. I didn't study at all.

Comment by quentin on Procedural Knowledge Gaps · 2011-02-10T23:55:44.483Z · LW · GW

For people I actually care about, I have better means of staying in touch. My inner circle has had a private voice chat server for years now, and that's part of the reason I haven't really been forced to use a social networking website.

But I'm trying to dramatically change who I am as a person, and this is a necessary step. I have severe issues with self-consciousness and social anxiety (despite acknowledging that this is unjustified as I am affable and attractive) so I am generally looking for ways to ease myself into social normalcy.

Comment by quentin on Procedural Knowledge Gaps · 2011-02-10T22:26:36.120Z · LW · GW

I have a kind of embarrassing one, but that's kind of the point of this discussion so here goes.

For some reason I've always had an aversion to social networking websites. I remember when all my peers used xanga, then livejournal, then myspace, and now facebook, and I always refused to use them whatsoever. I realize now though, that they represent a massive utility that I desperately need.

I am worried though, about starting new. Maybe I'm being overly paranoid, but it seems that having few friends on such a website signals low status, as does getting into the game this late.

So should I just create an account and add every single person I am even tangentially acquainted with? Is there a feature on facebook where you can hide who your friends are? Is it appropriate to ask someone you just met to friend you? What other cultural and social knowledge am I missing in this area?