Makeshift face touch warner 2020-03-18T09:38:42.476Z · score: 15 (5 votes)
I'm leaving AI alignment – you better stay 2020-03-12T05:58:37.523Z · score: 121 (42 votes)
Usable implementation of IDA available 2020-02-29T08:54:09.155Z · score: 12 (6 votes)
Training a tiny SupAmp model on easy tasks. The influence of failure rate on learning curves 2020-02-05T07:22:49.624Z · score: 6 (2 votes)
Twenty-three AI alignment research project definitions 2020-02-03T22:21:49.089Z · score: 17 (6 votes)
Remote AI alignment writing group seeking new members 2020-01-18T02:10:38.618Z · score: 12 (3 votes)
How to make TensorFlow run faster 2019-11-28T00:28:21.099Z · score: 3 (3 votes)
rmoehn's Shortform 2019-11-10T22:07:39.932Z · score: 3 (1 votes)
Announcing the Farlamp project 2019-10-01T02:16:16.205Z · score: 9 (4 votes)
Looking for remote writing partners (for AI alignment research) 2019-10-01T02:16:10.198Z · score: 28 (8 votes)
Update: Predicted AI alignment event/meeting calendar 2019-09-13T09:05:28.741Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Predicted AI alignment event/meeting calendar 2019-08-14T07:14:57.233Z · score: 31 (13 votes)
Which of these five AI alignment research projects ideas are no good? 2019-08-08T07:17:28.959Z · score: 25 (9 votes)
Job description for an independent AI alignment researcher 2019-07-13T09:47:54.502Z · score: 8 (6 votes)
Please give your links speaking names! 2019-07-11T07:47:07.981Z · score: 43 (19 votes)
How to deal with a misleading conference talk about AI risk? 2019-06-27T21:04:32.828Z · score: 21 (9 votes)
Agents dissolved in coffee 2019-06-04T08:22:04.665Z · score: 4 (2 votes)
The Stack Overflow of Factored Cognition 2019-04-21T12:19:39.262Z · score: 4 (2 votes)
Factored Cognition with Reflection 2019-04-06T10:00:50.497Z · score: 15 (6 votes)
A cognitive intervention for wrist pain 2019-03-17T05:26:58.910Z · score: 24 (13 votes)
(Non-)Interruptibility of Sarsa(λ) and Q-Learning 2016-11-16T04:22:06.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes)
Earning money with/for work in AI safety 2016-07-18T05:37:55.551Z · score: 7 (8 votes)


Comment by rmoehn on April Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-04-02T00:23:59.618Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Cardboard and plastic: Tottori Prefecture goes low-tech to protect officials from COVID-19

This made my day.

  • Cheap, low-tech prevention measures.
  • ‘“I hope this system will send out a message that even Tottori, where no infections have been reported yet, is being very vigilant.”’ – Yes!

I want Tottori spirit everywhere.

Comment by rmoehn on I'm leaving AI alignment – you better stay · 2020-03-24T06:17:26.213Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What could have been different about the world for you to succeed in getting a sustainable AI Safety research career?

If I had had a mentor early on, in the beginning of 2016, that would have been great. A mentor who has patience for a bungling young person and keeps nudging them back on the right path. A mentor who has time for a weekly video call. A mentor who sets the structure for the relationship. Because I wouldn't have known what structure is good.

I still don't know how to find such a person.

What if you got more funding?

More funding would unblock all dependency cycles in the diagram above. This means that I could continue doing research. Would I do it? I think so, especially with a collaboration partner as described above. I tend to be doubtful about what I'm doing, but I also believe that I have something to contribute to the field. Not raw math power – other people are better at that. But more on the software development, process, management, people side.

What if you got some sort of productivity coaching?

I don't think I have a big problem with productivity. Are you asking because I wrote about dawdling above? I've fixed that mostly. And I'm so far not willing to give up the remaining big time consumers (family, Japanese, weightlifting, BJJ, sleep).

That said, it's always helpful to have someone look at what I'm doing and tell me where I can do better.

What if you had a collaboration partner?

This would help if the person filled in for my weaknesses. Ie. if they knew in depth about math and ML theory. If they liked to read articles and keep up with what the field is doing. If they liked to carve out new problems to be solved.

About the research sponsorship:

I'm all for supporting eager people. The tax issues and other formalities can be sorted out. Whether I would personally start earning to give or have time for discussions and feedback, I don't know yet. It depends on what I do next. Certainly I wouldn't mind if people ask me for it. I would like to be the kind of mentor that I wish I had. Of course, I'm still inexperienced, but I think I could help someone who is where I was four years ago.

I wouldn't want to evaluate the usefulness of people's proposals and make funding decisions. This would require keeping up with current research, which is something I dislike. Also, I'm already doubting the usefulness of my own research, so how would I know about others'?

If you need more detail, let me know and I'll book a time in your Calendly.

Comment by rmoehn on [Meta] Do you want AIS Webinars? · 2020-03-22T05:39:42.186Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I can do that to get things started. For at least the first five webinars. Later I might drop out in order to concentrate on whatever I'm doing then.

I'm usually available between 21:30 and 12:00 UTC. You can also check my Calendly:

Comment by rmoehn on I'm leaving AI alignment – you better stay · 2020-03-22T05:34:34.338Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'll get back to this by 24 March.

Brief note on sponsoring: I like the idea. Practically one might need to jump through some extra hoops in order to get these donations deducted from one's taxes.

Comment by rmoehn on [Meta] Do you want AIS Webinars? · 2020-03-22T00:19:53.355Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is a great intitiative! If I was still working on AIS, I would be very keen on running a webinar, too.

Comment by rmoehn on How does one run an organization remotely, effectively? · 2020-03-20T22:12:35.200Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would follow Manager Tools guidance. They have a whole section called Remote/Virtual Teams and a new cast on Managing During a Pandemic - The COVID-19 Cast.

I don't have any experience as a manager. But I've been following their guidance in many other areas with success. And they usually give a detailed justification of their guidance within each cast.

Comment by rmoehn on Makeshift face touch warner · 2020-03-19T22:00:25.446Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I see.

Comment by rmoehn on Makeshift face touch warner · 2020-03-19T07:54:10.757Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! Yeah, yours must be more accurate and also cost-competitive, if you factor in the manual labor for building my device. The only advantage of mine is that people can make it at home, which means there are no supply problems.

The Japanese in the background is Asahi Shinbun (a newspaper). I live in Japan, so this is my go-to desk protector when working with a knife. 🔪📰 :-) How come you know how to distinguish Japanese from Chinese characters?

Comment by rmoehn on I'm leaving AI alignment – you better stay · 2020-03-17T09:20:42.756Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for sharing your story and for encouraging me! I will certainly keep in touch with the AI alignment community.

Comment by rmoehn on I'm leaving AI alignment – you better stay · 2020-03-14T03:04:22.537Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the extended quote! :-) As I wrote, I'm sceptical of Jim Collins' claims. On the other hand – people can't just noodle around and expect to be lucky. There must be certain activities that lead to more success than others. So there is some value in Collins-type research in that it finds likely candidates for success-inducing activities.

Comment by rmoehn on rmoehn's Shortform · 2020-03-13T07:28:20.890Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Updated the Prediced AI alignment event/meeting calendar.

Many changes this time – it's worth checking out.

Comment by rmoehn on I'm leaving AI alignment – you better stay · 2020-03-12T11:54:52.648Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Good point about the misaligned skillset.

Relationships to results can take many forms.

  • Joint works and collaborations, as you say.
  • Receive feedback on work products and use it to improve them.
  • Discussion/feedback on research direction.
  • Moral support and cheering in general.
  • Or someone who lights a fire under your bum, if that's what you need.
  • Access to computing resources if you have a good relationship with a university.
  • Mentoring.
  • Quick answers to technical questions if you have access to an expert.
  • Probably more.

This only lists the receiving side, whereas every good relationship is based on give-and-take. Some people get almost all their results by leveraging their network. Not in a parasitic way – they provide a lot of value by connecting others.

Comment by rmoehn on Growth rate of COVID-19 outbreaks · 2020-03-10T09:38:52.022Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

About odd reporting in Japan:

Comment by rmoehn on rmoehn's Shortform · 2020-03-09T23:43:26.824Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I also posted this on the Coronavirus Open Thread: And Elizabeth points out that there's a website that does it: I bet it'll give me a good startle some time today.

Comment by rmoehn on March Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-03-09T23:40:51.079Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by rmoehn on March Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-03-09T21:25:15.997Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How about an app that trains you not to touch your face?

Point your phone's camera or a webcam at yourself while you're working. The app produces a beep whenever you move your hand near your face.

Technically feasible, I'd say. Someone familiar with iOS/Android computer vision APIs should be able to put it together in a few days.

Comment by rmoehn on rmoehn's Shortform · 2020-03-09T12:23:20.796Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How about an app that trains you not to touch your face?

Point your phone's camera or a webcam at yourself while you're working. The app produces a beep whenever you move your hand near your face.

Technically feasible, I'd say. Someone familiar with iOS/Android computer vision APIs should be able to put it together in a few days.

Comment by rmoehn on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-05T00:30:35.555Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In that case you can use the straight 70 % isopropyl alcohol as a sanitizer and be fine. According to the WHO guidelines, only the isopropyl alcohol is the effective substance in the recipe. The hydrogen peroxide is ‘used to inactivate bacterial spores in the solution’. If you buy medical-grade 70 % isopropyl alcohol, there shouldn't be any bacterial spores in it.

The glycerol serves as a humectant. If you don't add it, you might have to use more sanitizer in order to keep your skin wet for the whole thirty seconds. And you'll have to keep your skin happy in some way separate from the sanitizing.

Comment by rmoehn on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-03T11:31:24.623Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

(FactorialCode has fixed it.)

The formulas above are incomplete. You have to fill them up to ten litres with water. Thus it is written in the PDF.

(As far as I know, too high an alcohol concentration makes the sanitizer less effective.)

Comment by rmoehn on How should I be thinking about the risk of air travel (re: Coronavirus)? · 2020-03-02T21:57:13.444Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know how much this one helps, but it's not on your list:

Take advantage of that vent above your head.

"Set your ventilation at low or medium," he says. "Then position it so you can draw an imaginary line of current right in front of your head. I put my hands on my lap so I can feel the current — so I know it's properly positioned."

Then if something infectious is floating in your personal space, he says, that air from the vent will create enough current to knock it away.

Pathogens On A Plane: How To Stay Healthy In Flight

Comment by rmoehn on Does anyone have a recommended resource about the research on behavioral conditioning, reinforcement, and shaping? · 2020-02-19T22:12:10.183Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

These are the research-related resources listed in Karen Pryor's ‘Don't Shoot the Dog’, which itself is a great practical resource about training with reinforcement etc.:

Comment by rmoehn on Does iterated amplification tackle the inner alignment problem? · 2020-02-15T23:35:08.034Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

IDA includes looking inside the overseen agent: ‘As described here, we would like to augment this oversight by allowing Bⁿ⁻¹ to view the internal state of Aⁿ.’ (ALBA: An explicit proposal for aligned AI) If we can get enough information out of that internal state, we can avoid inner misalignment. This, however, is difficult and written about in The informed oversight problem.

Comment by rmoehn on rmoehn's Shortform · 2020-02-11T06:21:24.419Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Updated the Prediced AI alignment event/meeting calendar.

New event: Technical AI Safety Unconference

Comment by rmoehn on Some quick notes on hand hygiene · 2020-02-08T01:58:01.734Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree.

Comment by rmoehn on Some quick notes on hand hygiene · 2020-02-06T22:10:38.500Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

masks […] help prevent touching one's mouth and nose

I agree in the case of someone who knows what they're doing. For many, however, a mask does the opposite. Yesterday I went out for two hours and saw someone re-pinching the wire above the nose, someone pushing the mask around their face, and someone taking the mask off and putting it in her pocket.

The latter seems innocuous, but think about it: Taking the mask off, she touched the outside, which had caught all the nasty viruses. Thereafter she ate lunch. Then, coming back from the cafeteria and after touching many shared surfaces, she probably put the mask back on, touching the inside in the process. Then the inside touches her face.

Comment by rmoehn on Some quick notes on hand hygiene · 2020-02-06T09:33:43.075Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Studying this with Anki is a waste of time in my opinion. Just execute the instructions three times and you're good to go. Physical skills are best learned physically.

Aside from that: Strong upvote!

Strange thing about the WHO guide: The nail area/tip of the thumb doesn't get much friction. Step 7 appears to address the space under the fingernails (which should be short anyway). But at least the lateral half of my thumb tip doesn't touch anything when I try it. Hm, maybe in step 6.

Comment by rmoehn on Disasters · 2020-01-22T08:56:00.671Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The Wirecutter guides, although also affiliate-financed, are good, too:

Comment by rmoehn on "How quickly can you get this done?" (estimating workload) · 2020-01-19T09:01:01.339Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I especially like how differences of understanding were exposed when estimates diverged.

Comment by rmoehn on "How quickly can you get this done?" (estimating workload) · 2020-01-18T08:53:04.160Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Did you get very good at estimating, because you had tracked the time on similar pieces of work before? Ie. were you doing reference class forecasting? If yes, that's a good reminder for me. I'm familiar with the concept, but it has slipped from my mind recently.

Also, how much effort would the estimating itself take? For example, how many seconds or minutes would you be thinking about a three-hour work item?

Comment by rmoehn on "How quickly can you get this done?" (estimating workload) · 2020-01-18T02:40:15.287Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've given up on estimating software development tasks well. Yes, you can do interval estimates, as How to Measure Anything recommends. Yes, you can track your estimates and improve them over time. But it's slow and few project management applications support it. (OmniPlan is the only one that works on Mac and gives you Monte Carlo simulations based on your interval estimates. But getting information on how well your estimates matched reality is still hard.)

So I've settled on the 80/20 solution, Evidence Based Scheduling. It's implemented in FogBugz, which forecasts milestone completion using a Monte Carlo simulation based on your past estimates and how long it actually took. Which means that you make quick and dirty estimates, and out comes a probability distribution over completion dates that automatically takes into account how good you are at estimating.

They changed their pricing recently, but it should still be free for up to two users. You might have to ask the sales team.

All that said, if you have actionable guidance on how to estimate, how to get milestone completion forecasts based on the estimates, then how to judge and improve your estimation accuracy – if you have that and all in a convenient way, I'd be happy to know and adopt it.

Comment by rmoehn on ACDT: a hack-y acausal decision theory · 2020-01-18T01:58:22.411Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oliver from LessWrong just helped me point the accusatory finger at myself. – The plugin Privacy Badger was blocking, so the images couldn't be loaded.

Comment by rmoehn on ACDT: a hack-y acausal decision theory · 2020-01-18T01:44:36.840Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No idea. But I've singled your post out unfairly. I just remembered some other posts where I saw broken links and they are also only broken in Firefox. I've written to the LessWrong team, so I hope they'll look into it.

Comment by rmoehn on ACDT: a hack-y acausal decision theory · 2020-01-17T07:27:35.950Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To other readers: If you see broken image links, try right-click+View Image, or open the page in Chrome or Safari. In my Firefox 71 they are not working.

Comment by rmoehn on rmoehn's Shortform · 2020-01-13T07:20:33.945Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Updated the Predicted AI alignment event/meeting calendar.

  • Application deadline for the AI Safety Camp Toronto extended. If you've missed it so far, you still have until 19th to apply.
  • Apparently no AI alignment workshop at ICLR, but another somewhat related one.
Comment by rmoehn on Old Airports · 2020-01-09T10:00:09.055Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here's another one, which is not on the Wikipedia list – old Kamoike Airport in Kagoshima City:,130.5563526,2162m/data=!3m1!1e3

Non-satellite photos from the past:鴨池空港&t=ffab&iar=images&iax=images&ia=images

Comment by rmoehn on Running and Optimizing · 2020-01-04T22:27:26.314Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's a good illustration if you're optimizing by pushing one variable – running harder. It's not a good illustration in general. Consider my case, which is analogous to yours:

My overall goals are health, fitness and wellbeing (as I assume yours is). And I lift weights, for example doing Turkish Get-Ups with a kettlebell. I started this with no weights, then increased to 12 kg, 16 kg, 20 kg. So my metric is weight x sets. Whenever I increased weight, I got injuries/pains. – First an irritated muscle under my shoulder blade, then pains around my thoracic spine, then a muscle on the outside of my shoulder that felt like it was getting pulled.

I could have said that I'm pushing myself too hard and decided to stay at the old weight. Instead I turned other knobs: I improved my warm-up, did some mobilizations and fixed my form, even booking a personal trainer/physiotherapist a few times. Similar things happened with every weighted exercise I'm doing. It's just hard to move correctly. Increasing the load (weight, speed etc.) exposes your faults. Then you fix them.

So optimizing my metrics brought me towards my overall goals, continuing to optimize started to bring me away from them, but still continuing to optimize (by taking different actions) brought me even closer to them: greater load plus more correct movements are part of health, fitness, wellbeing.

Comment by rmoehn on rmoehn's Shortform · 2019-12-29T12:14:32.917Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's great information that one doesn't have to go to a sleep lab anymore! The sensor test sounds like something I'd want to do even with my low expectation of having sleep apnea.

The Velumount is a nice device – I think one of my friends has one. Snoring, however, isn't my problem. My throat is still young and springy. I was thinking more of central sleep apnea, which has a much lower base rate.

Comment by rmoehn on rmoehn's Shortform · 2019-12-28T02:22:50.612Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

CAVEAT: If you have symptoms such as snoring, excessive day-time sleepiness, need for rapid breathing after waking up etc., don't rely on putting a phone on your belly; go to a doctor.

Smartphone for monitoring breathing during naps… With apps such as SensorLog for iPhone or phyphox for Android you can log the pitch angle (angle between the long axis and horizontal) of your smartphone. Before a nap, turn on logging and place one end of the phone on your hip bone, the other on your belly. Afterwards you can examine your breathing pattern by looking at the pitch-over-time curve.

I've used this as a quick-and-dirty test for sleep apnea without having to buy an expensive respiration belt or going through the hassle of a sleep nap. Note that my worry about sleep apnea is mostly hypochondriac and founded on sometimes violent sleep phenomena. See the caveat above.

Comment by rmoehn on What are you reading? · 2019-12-24T09:29:56.289Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Paul R. Cohen: Empirical Methods for Artificial Intelligence (non-fiction) – Great if you want to experiment with ML, but don't have a supervisor to tell you how to do it.

Svend Åge Madsen: Sæt verden er til (fiction) – To keep my Danish alive. It's the third Madsen book I'm reading and I like all of them.

The Wall Street Journal (news)

(Added 2019-12-30) Dan Carlin: The End Is Always Near. Apocalyptic Moments, from the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses (audiobook, non-fiction) – Dan Carlin makes Hardcore History, my favourite podcast. In this book he gives illustrates perspectives on existential risk in his usual style of telling stories of history.

Comment by rmoehn on rmoehn's Shortform · 2019-12-13T02:25:50.321Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Updated the Prediced AI alignment event/meeting calendar.

New event: AI Safety Camp Toronto

Comment by rmoehn on What are some things you would do (more) if you were less averse to being/looking weird? · 2019-12-10T09:15:51.291Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Wear only swim briefs all through the summer, except when sun protection is needed. – Saves laundry and air conditioning. Requires great tolerance for being/looking weird.

Comment by rmoehn on How I do research · 2019-11-20T02:58:20.620Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

These are great suggestions for the thinking part of doing research.

For people who have difficulty with the first part – finding a good problem – I recommend the classic The Craft of Research. It also has practical guidance about writing down your results.

Comment by rmoehn on Predicted AI alignment event/meeting calendar · 2019-11-12T08:57:44.057Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't understand. Would you like to have the September 2020 event at the top?

Maybe what is most relevant to you differs from what is most relevant to me. I delete all past events, which limits the ‘irrelevant stuff’. And most relevant to me are the events that are soonest.

Comment by rmoehn on Predicted AI alignment event/meeting calendar · 2019-11-11T08:53:18.387Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can't imagine a good format with new content at the top. But I will add markers, so people can quickly scan for changes. I assume that's why you asked?

Comment by rmoehn on rmoehn's Shortform · 2019-11-10T22:07:40.333Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Updated the Prediced AI alignment event/meeting calendar.

Main change: Deadline for SafeAI workshop corrected to November from December.

Comment by rmoehn on Multi-belled Brass · 2019-10-25T07:34:56.395Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Watch the last linked video and listen to the opinion, then form your own. You might come to the same conclusion. :-)

By the way, I'm German and as a child I liked to hear the Schalmeienkapelle of my village play. If I heard them live these days, however, I might want to get out of earshot quickly. Then again, it might take time to develop an appreciation. The strangest musical styles exist around the world.

Comment by rmoehn on Looking for remote writing partners (for AI alignment research) · 2019-10-03T09:26:53.081Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Cool. Then we're three so far. I'll wait until tomorrow for more responses. Then I'll get back to the responders to schedule a time.

Comment by rmoehn on Looking for remote writing partners (for AI alignment research) · 2019-10-01T09:24:26.658Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would get together with anyone and see how it works out. If the differences in knowledge or topics cause discontent or other problems, we call it quits. Stricter criteria I can't set, because I don't have any experience with writing groups. And when it comes to knowledge of ML/math/research, I'm at a rather low level. Which isn't to say that I'm a complete nitwit. My main achievements are just in other areas.

Comment by rmoehn on A cognitive intervention for wrist pain · 2019-09-10T12:03:46.958Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for writing this! It's good to see more sceptical approach. Do you have any more recommendations for reading on the subject?

Not really, sorry. Wacky old Sarno did the job for me, so I didn't look further. Then I took what rational argument I could find and put it in the above article. However, for the people who think that the human body is easily broken, I'll repeat one recommendation from above: Through the Valley by Col. William Reeder.

EDIT: Another recommendation: When I have sports-related issues, I treat them with recommendations from Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett. And when this doesn't fix it, I call one of the PTs at what used to be MobilityWOD. Apparently they've changed their branding to ‘The Ready State’.

I've had RSI for five years now. I read Sarno, tried the Curable app, and tried on the hypothesis that my pain was psychosomatic. For my case, the benefit I've got from a more psychosomatic approach is to try to form fewer negative associations with the pain. I used to view the pain as an indication that my body was broken and that I was ruined. Now I still have the pain, but I have much less of that secondary psychological reaction to the pain, and that's greatly improved my life.

I've heard a similar story from a friend with chronic fatigue. Good for you!

[…] In my estimation, this article and other arguments that RSI is psychosomatic move too quickly from (true) evidence that chronic pain is a weird and mysterious to the claim that it must be psychosomatic.

I'm not saying that all RSI is psychosomatic. Sorry for not being clear. I just know that my case was psychosomatic, so I assume that it's psychosomatic for a certain unknown percentage of wrist pain sufferers.

My reasoning is this: I had severe wrist pain. And the physical remedies I tried didn't work. I read a book that gave me a few ideas and "thought remedies" and the pain went away. And it's been staying away for years, no matter how much I type. (As I mentioned in the article, I get occasional slight, which pains I attribute to stress and which go away quickly.) As the psychological change led to a physical change, I conclude that I've had psychosomatic pain. And since it's unlikely that only I had it this way, I conclude that there must be other sufferers of psychosomatic wrist pain.

The pain being ‘weird’ is not required for my argument. There is one paragraph mentioning ‘strange’ pain, but that's just one of my handwavy diagnostic criteria, not an antecedent.

I worry that saying that RSI is psychosomatic feels like it explains the condition, but really doesn't explain it very well. I like that in your post you make some predictions based on your hypothesis.

I'm not aware of any satisfying explanation. I just know that changing my mind somehow cured my pain, so I call it ‘psychosomatic’.

Actually I make another prediction in the comments: ‘If stress causes wrist pain and people stress out, because they think that typing is bad for them, wrist pain should be "contagious". Take an office full of workers who are doing fine. Then one starts having wrist pain for whatever reason, finds online warnings about RSI, tells their colleagues, they get worried about their work being harmful for them, and some of them also start having wrist pain.’

It would be informative to make a study of the EA and rationality communities and see if we find a contagion pattern. I thought about doing it myself, but my intuitions are stuck in the ‘RSI is psychosomatic’ camp. So I would just be seeing evidence the way I want to see it.

My impression is that the hypothesis of myofascial trigger points has better evidence and does a better job of explaining cases of RSI, and many people who argue that RSI is largely psychosomatic are not aware of the theory of myofascial trigger points.

This might be the explanation for the physical cases. I have skimmed the page on trigger points. And what you write about the foam roller and the lacrosse ball sounds like what I'm doing when I've messed up some body part with poor weightlifting form. This works well, even though I wouldn't explain the weightlifting pains with trigger points.

Another thing I'd like to warn against is trusting the ‘pleasurable feeling of pain’. Doing this, I once (or twice?) seriously messed up the muscles under my shoulder blade and later aggravated my elbow joint. All healed, though.

I should note that I'm probably biased against the hypothesis that RSI is largely psychosomatic. This is because it feels like the hypothesis trivializes my condition. Of course, I think this bias is silly, but I think I do still have it.

Trivializes it how? I wouldn't consider psychosomatic issues trivial at all. In fact, it's terrible that a mostly reasonable person like me can be kicked into a vicious circle of stress and pain by well-reputed and well-intended information from family, friends or the web. This is why I want to change the communication around wrist pain: help the people with purely physical pain, but don't make it worse for those with a penchant for psychosomatic issues.

I also wonder if this bias could explain why I haven't got benefit from a psychosomatic approach to my RSI. I do certainly seem to meet the psychological profile of people who are susceptible to psychosomatic pain I've heard described in books and media such as Sarno's.

I guess I'm the opposite. Sarno's arguments somehow made it into my brain to a degree sufficient to get rid of the pain. And being ‘magically’ cured this way has reinforced the psychosomatic hypothesis to a point where a "PSYCHOSOMATIC" neon sign pops up in my head whenever I hear about a mysterious, unexplained condition. Which in turn shuts down the mechanisms that originally caused the pain.

Of course, when I write about this, I try to shield my eyes from the neon sign and concentrate on established facts.

Just for fun (and not for argument, please), here's a little rave from the troupe that's providing the electricity for the neon sign:

Overuse injury from typing on a keyboard? Maybe. It is an awkward movement. But it appears absurd to me that using a mouse would lead to overuse injuries. Come on! We open and close our hands all day long, and flex our fingers with much greater force than is required for a click. And think of all the repetitive (handcraft) activities that people had to do in the past! Typing on mechanical typewriters, playing musical instruments, copying books by hand, grinding grain with a stone, knitting, sewing, spinning, weaving baskets and cloth, weeding, picking berries, making arrows, ropes and fishing nets, planing, sawing, cutting, hacking, thatching, carving, filing…

Heck, if typing was so bad for you, shouldn't half the secretaries of the mechanical typewriter era have fallen out of the workforce within three years?

I've written this post with my recommendations for treatment here. I have a section on the psychological component to RSI, but I don't discuss the hypothesis that RSI could be more or less entirely psychosomatic.

I saw that section and I'm happy that it's there. Thank you!

Comment by rmoehn on Literature Review: Distributed Teams · 2019-09-07T03:17:46.032Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you need more input, I recommend:

They're podcasts, not literature. But you can download all the shownotes, which read like a whitepaper, if you buy a one-month licence for $20.