Write a Thousand Roads to Rome 2018-02-08T18:09:21.192Z
Phoenix Song 2018-01-02T05:57:11.103Z


Comment by Screwtape on If Rationality can be likened to a 'Martial Art', what would be the Forms? · 2019-02-06T15:51:30.952Z · LW · GW

A few I do regularly;

Odds calibration. Make predictions, with odds, about things. A number of people do this on a yearly basis ( but you can do it on a much shorter range as well, estimating how long a chore will take, which people will arrive to a dinner first, or how much a company's stock price will move after some announcement. "My next meeting today will not wind up canceled, 80% confidence." Write these down somewhere accessible (though probably private) and record the accuracy. The goal is for the things you say will happen with 80% confidence to happen eight times out of ten.

Be wrong. State aloud and write down some fact about the world that you think is true, think of an authority you would trust (Wikipedia is a decent starting point here) and then look it up. "The population of Houston Texas is between one and two million." If you are right, bask in the warm glow. If you are wrong, admit aloud that you are wrong, and what the right answer is. The goal is to get used to saying this when it is correct to say. (Speaking of which- I was wrong, the population of Houston is over two million.)

Follow curiosity. I'm not confident that "keep googling questions and clicking links in Wikipedia until you feel the confusion disappear" is especially efficient, but learning what "wait a minute, I'm still confused on how this actually works" feels like is easier to me when there's no pressure to nod and move along with the class. Notice the feeling of confusion, and what makes it disappear. (I'm curious what happened with Houston's growth spike from 1999 to 2000- Montpelier Vermont and Lincoln Nebraska show similar jumps that year, but not Albany New York or Orlando Florida- but it looks like my meeting was only delayed and not canceled, so I'll have to figure that out later.)

Comment by Screwtape on My Hello World · 2018-10-18T15:51:28.498Z · LW · GW

Welcome! I'd recommend taking advantage of physical meetups if you can. I still lurk a lot, but meeting a few people in person made me feel a lot more comfortable.

Comment by Screwtape on Tips on talking about Polyamory · 2018-09-18T18:38:36.951Z · LW · GW

I have mostly seen "youth group" used in the context of "Christian youth group" and while your circumstances may be very different, I would advise exercising some caution around whether this will be seen as corrupting the youth. There is a difference between "believes things near the current frontier of progressiveness" and "is genuinely open-minded about things beyond the current frontier of progressiveness." This difference can and will bite you if you mistake one for the other.

Comment by Screwtape on A Rationalist's Guide to... · 2018-08-13T20:49:27.216Z · LW · GW

First of all, I'd just like to take a moment to say that I quite appreciate your username.

Second, to take your initial question literally, I don't think there are that many rationalists who actually want to rule the world. The position sounds like it would involve paperwork and talking to uninteresting yet obstinate people, so speaking for myself I don't think I'd actually want the job. There are probably many rationalists who would take the position for instrumental reasons, but because it's an instrumentally useful job, the competition for it is fierce. I'm not saying you meant it literally, but I think the distinction points at something important; what is it we actually want?

I'd like to be more in-shape, to work on more interesting programming projects, and to go on more successful dates. I'd pretty cheerfully read a guide on those subjects, and would probably be amenable to contributing to such a guide. Somebody else might want to save more lives, or have a higher class lifestyle, or lead a more interesting and exciting life. Some skills are generically useful to a large range of goals (financial management, persuasion, etc) but something that might be crucial to my goals might be irrelevant to yours. In addition, the format of whatever we're learning from matters; when learning to work out a youtube video is probably more useful than text. I would love to see more essays in the vein of SSC's Much More Than You Wanted To Know, but audio lectures, videos, or illustrations are good too. (Have you ever tried learning martial arts from a textbook? It's not ideal.)

Lastly, something worth thinking about. We all have the internet, and can all ask google for information. What advantage does a rationalist repository of teachings have? I'm confident we have some (offhand, we have common jargon, possibly a willingness to do experiments, and the occasional dedicated specialist) but if we want to do more than toss a lot of blogs in a pot and stir, it might be good to keep the comparative advantages in mind.

Comment by Screwtape on Would you benefit from audio versions of posts? · 2018-07-26T15:22:36.523Z · LW · GW

Would not be especially useful to me, but my brother has a major preference to listen rather than read.

Comment by Screwtape on LW Update 2018-07-01 – Default Weak Upvotes · 2018-07-02T13:24:04.145Z · LW · GW

This might make people even more reluctant to downvote. If a downvote removed a thousand points of karma, I would almost never use one. I'm more comfortable giving metaphorical slaps on the wrist the lighter the slap, so to speak. It's possible I'm typical minding here.

That said, if you did this and did not announce it, my downvote habits wouldn't change and this would work more or less as intended.

Comment by Screwtape on Last Chance to Fund the Berkeley REACH · 2018-06-28T15:06:20.408Z · LW · GW

Upped my donation to $10 via Patreon. Being on the far end of the country and being noticeably cash constrained conspire to make that number smaller than I'd prefer, but I want projects like this to work.

Comment by Screwtape on Give praise · 2018-04-30T18:02:05.163Z · LW · GW

Hrm. I find myself wanting to disagree with this comment while agreeing with your original post. I think there's three distinct levels worth thinking about.

There's worthiness as in "self-worth" or "worth helping." The world is probably better if the bulk majority of people have this, and I have heard people express the idea that every human is worthwhile in this sense. That's not to say me or you can't prioritize who we care about, but "such and such people aren't worth the air they breath" is a dangerous line of reasoning. Complements aren't particularly useful here, as "You can use language, therefore your existence is positive" can frankly come off as a backhanded insult of sorts, since that's a really low bar.

There are correct steps in the right directions well*, including most personal growth and including hill climbing towards better states. This is the place I think complements are best deployed; an adult human taking a ten minute walk outside is better than that human sitting on the couch watching reruns. (I recognize I'm making a value claim there that may not be globally correct.) Guessing "red" all the time in the probability question above is better than guessing "red" 60% of the time and guessing "blue" 40% of the time. Progress is worth appreciating, both on the personal level ("hey, congrats on beating your mile-run time!") and on the group level (I watched a time-lapse map of malaria cases in a room full of EAs recently, and I am kinda disappointed that nobody cheered.) It doesn't even have to be a new achievement! In martial arts, I eventually reached the point where every other session the instructor would nod and say "good stance" before moving on. This never stopped feeling good to hear, and it kept the basics in my mind even as I moved on to more advanced steps.

Then there's being correct on an absolute scale. The kind of rightness that involves local validity and correct premises, the kind that gets measured against the real world and succeeds. A successful rocket launch, a healthy patient after surgery, an AI that does what we meant and not what we said. The universe does not grade on a curve and gives no awards for effort. I think if we as aspiring rationalists lose sight of this, then we will eventually go astray no matter how good we are at the first two*. Complements here are rare, but powerful.

My suggested heuristic for the community would be to complement someone when you know them and see them advance along the path, or when they do something which helps you advance*. I also offer complements when someone does something I want them and/or others to do more of even if it is not novel, and I suspect that this kind of complement is what you are seeking to encourage; if so, then we are in agreement. "Good stance" is important to hear, as is "good job updating" and even "hey, good job organizing the meet up yesterday! I think you pretty good moderating, you jumped in at the right moment when me and Bob were getting derailed." Praise for getting things right, with the promise of more encouragement as we climb higher.

*To be clear, I don't think there's a single linear ladder we climb straight up from ignorance to superrationality. There are probably multiple paths to the summit, and there may well be more than one peak. That's a different topic however.

Comment by Screwtape on Give praise · 2018-04-30T14:53:19.800Z · LW · GW

Ordinary need not get lots of upvotes- I think I agree with you in that- but "not bad" shouldn't be downvoted. More germanely, I think "better than average" is worth rewarding with a complement if you can catch it in the moment.

Some years ago I started teaching a handful of kids from my community basic rationality skills. The first thing I taught them was probability, drawing cards with and without replacement and trying to build up an idea of what statistics meant, and I clearly remember praising them when they realized that if 60% of the cards are red and 40% are blue, you always guess that the next card will be red instead of guessing red most of the time and blue some of the time. A couple of weekends ago my roommate (who is usually a couch potato) asked if it was okay if they went with me when I was heading out for a walk, and after we got back I told them it was nice to have company and that walking with them was fun, because I want them to do that more often.

When somebody does something you wish people would do, I think a quick complement or piece of praise is a fine way to <strike> classically condition your friends and family</strike> make them feel good about it. I would clearly distinguish "You're the best writer!" from "you're really good at writing!" from "I liked this thing you wrote, particularly this piece." The first is the greatest complement from a literal, absolute level, but the last is the one that people seem to feel most and is also true more often.

Comment by Screwtape on Does Thinking Hard Hurt Your Brain? · 2018-04-30T14:50:58.528Z · LW · GW

No headache, but B. sounds closer to my experiences. Consistently doing things I don't want to do and don't understand why it matters makes me less and less inclined to do more of those things and means I have to pay more attention to avoid saying or doing something grouchy. Working on an interesting problem (one that sits just outside my current skill) tends to make me focus more and more, and once I break focus I often find I have aches from bad posture or eyestrain.

Doing a bunch of challenging tasks or working out a lot tends to make me more cheerful and agenty, sitting on the couch grinding levels in an MMO tends to make it harder to break patterns and do challenging tasks. As far as I can tell this is the opposite way things are supposed to work, but it's consistent.

Comment by Screwtape on The Case Against Education · 2018-04-16T21:28:08.526Z · LW · GW

Even if you are correct, this still points to a massive failing.

Lets say 95% of students feel as you feel. My feelings on primary and secondary school are more upset and angry than Zvi has expressed here, and had about twenty people in my graduating class; perhaps every other student in my class loved it. In that case, it's still a system where one in twenty children are bored, stifled, and hurt. A system that was exactly like the current system but where those children like me and Zvi who would take "sick days" to get out could freely get out feels like it would be a much better system.

Comment by Screwtape on Write a Thousand Roads to Rome · 2018-03-27T21:23:10.913Z · LW · GW

Because frankly my opinion of the current American education system is that it is slightly worse than chance at teaching people things regardless of the pedagogical method; just because a blind man can't shoot straight doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the gun.

I admit I haven't read any scientific studies on learning styles and would cheerfully read any two that you wanted to point me at. It's possible the studies you're thinking of didn't involve schools or conventional teachers, and if that's true then I'm more interested in reading them. My experience with learning styles was mostly firsthand in school, and there the educational system made a few strange choices that (I think) blunted the usefulness of the approach.

To use my brother as an example: the school classified him as an auditory learner, but their auditory teaching methods involved having him give oral presentations in place of certain essay writing assignments. This was a small step forward since he could speak clearer and easier than he could write (though its impact on his grades was wiped out by the fact that drawing was hard for him and they had him do the visual learning assignments as well) but at no point did the school offer him an audiobook version of something instead of the paperback.

My prediction for the studies is that they had a specific list of learning styles each with a different specific study technique and/or that they asked each student to use each technique. This resulted respectively in some students not improving at all (because the technique that would help them wasn't on the specific list) and/or the best students doing worse (because they had to spend time using techniques that weren't suited to them) with the result that overall performance declined.

There are a lot of different ways to try and learn something. (Listen to it on loop, anki decks, write an essay about it, try to teach someone else, etc.) I think that humans naturally vary in which methods of learning are easiest and most effective for them, and a good idea is to try a lot of different ways of learning material, to keep track of which ways work best for you, and then to use those techniques to learn everything you want to learn going forward. The index cards that help me learn best aren't in any of the official Learning Styles technique lists the teachers had, but once I found them I started using them for everything while not expecting them to work especially well for the median student. That's the useful core at the heart of Learning Styles, even if they were never used to great effect.

Does that fit with the studies you've seen and your own understanding?

Comment by Screwtape on The Costly Coordination Mechanism of Common Knowledge · 2018-03-16T15:08:26.125Z · LW · GW

Upvoted, and I wanted to specifically say that I appreciate you for writing this concept down where it can be easily and specifically pointed to in the future.

Comment by Screwtape on The Steampunk Aesthetic · 2018-03-08T20:02:14.130Z · LW · GW

I'm chuckling to myself as I read this because this morning there was heavy snow outside and my power was out, so I hiked partway up out of the valley I live in to get reception on my cell phone to call the office and find out whether it was open (it was) and then went back down shovel the shared parking lot and driveway with my neighbors so we could get our cars out, then halfway to work found that the road was blocked by a fallen tree so me and a few others who had stopped sawed it up and hauled it clear of the road (someone had a chainsaw in the back of their pickup thankfully) so we could get to where we were going. Is ruralpunk a word? If it isn't I find I want to make it a word.

This doesn't happen every day, but I would guess I have a day like that around once a month. I've been considering moving to a city for access to better jobs, and the thought of growing unused to events like the above has been one of the factors that make me reluctant. Perhaps it's an irrational appreciation for a rugged aesthetic, but I find I'm more cheerful after nature makes me solve some problems that involve grabbing something physical and working up a sweat.

Comment by Screwtape on Write a Thousand Roads to Rome · 2018-02-09T15:35:10.914Z · LW · GW

Agreed. I would also love an easy way to ask or answer "Huh, I'm having a hard time understanding this. Do you know of any explanations in X format?" The worst case when writing something that's already written (assuming you do it well) is that you waste a bit of time, but you can probably expect that your configuration of words will happen to be a better explanation for at least one person than what exists.

As for the username, I played the devil's advocate one too many times and someone used it as a nickname for me. I was already a fan of "Screwtape Proposes A Toast" by C.S. Lewis and it fit the pattern for names I respond to easily, so when I made an account on Less Wrong I picked that.

Comment by Screwtape on Paper Trauma · 2018-02-01T16:20:48.025Z · LW · GW

Thank you for that link! That looks easier than finding somewhere to prop up the whiteboard in the boot of my car, I'll give it a try. If you don't mind me asking, why do you buy them when you move if they're removable?

Comment by Screwtape on Paper Trauma · 2018-02-01T16:17:07.358Z · LW · GW

Have you ever looked at forms of shorthand? I picked up pieces from a journalism major I knew in college, and then started making up my own. You can write a lot faster if you're willing to be incomprehensible to anyone else.

Comment by Screwtape on Paper Trauma · 2018-02-01T16:11:56.044Z · LW · GW

I use index cards extensively as an exobrain. I like that I can rearrange them on a desk or table as I'm thinking, sorting ideas into different categories, and I also like that I can idly flip through them while on a bus or when standing in line. A couple hundred will fit in a pocket without being folded, they form a stiff enough surface that I can write on them without needing to find a desk or wall to write on, and they don't give people the sense that I'm not paying attention to them the way taking notes on a phone does. They're also good at forcing me to ruthlessly prioritize information since there's a limited amount of space, but if you need more space then about ten index cards gives you the same available area as a normal sheet of printer paper. The ones I use have lines on one side for writing, and blank space on the other side for drawing. Oh, and you can dog-ear or tear them in certain patterns to allow quickly finding certain categories of cards in the stack.

In the evening when I get ready for bed, I take my cards and lay any new ones I care about preserving on my desk and take a quick picture of them with a smartphone.

Comment by Screwtape on An experiment · 2018-01-31T14:51:55.430Z · LW · GW

My first stats teacher used the example of juvenile delinquency and ice cream sales, which rise and fall together. She gave us a few minutes to try and explain why this might be before pointing out that both of these rise dramatically during the summer, when it's hot out and kids are out of school.

Comment by Screwtape on Taking it Private: Short Circuiting Demon Threads (working example) · 2018-01-22T14:29:47.937Z · LW · GW

When I was reading Raemon's post and reached the line "I haven't run this by Qiaochu yet (I think getting formal permission/endorsement adds an 'significant trivial inconvenience' that might disrupt the process too much), but I expect him to endorse the following, and I'll update/clarify if I got anything wrong" I started to slightly suspect something might have gone awry, because that seemed a useful step for forging agreement moving forward and because if there was a dialogue between two people asking "is this summary of our positions accurate?" prior to posting that summary seems like it adds at most one or two steps to the process.

That you are glad this was written assuages much of that suspicion, but since you would describe your position differently I'd like to ask; do you think checking the summary against the other person in this process is an important step, or is skipping it for speed and convenience a good tradeoff?

Comment by Screwtape on No, Seriously. Just Try It: TAPs · 2018-01-16T16:34:24.171Z · LW · GW

Trigger-Action Plans did essentially nothing for me the first two serious attempts I made to use them. I found this confusing, since structurally they seemed very similair to drills which do work well for me. The second time I leaned on that similairity, deliberatly setting up multiple instances of the trigger to happen close together the first few days in order to get the idea in my head while I was paying attention to it, which helped a little but ultimately they didn't stick.

What worked for me the third time was adding a step. The last part of any plan needs to be some kind of reward for myself that I otherwise wouldn't get. When I go to sit down at my desk, I do twenty push-ups, and then eat a chocolate chip. When I get home from work, I go for a run, and then immediately make myself a smoothie. Importantly, these things are off limits except through the TAP. Apparently I can't reliably enforce a rule of "when I get to my desk I do push-ups" but I can reliably enforce a rule of "I don't get chocolate chips unless I did push-ups."

Comment by Screwtape on Phoenix Song · 2018-01-03T17:05:23.796Z · LW · GW

I used to get mad when people didn't know things I thought of as basic knowledge or notice things I thought of as obvious, and thought that expressing that would make them remember or pay more attention as well as being personally satisfying. Expressing that as anger got me in trouble a few times and also didn't get them to notice related but non-identical things, so I tried different reactions before settling on sounding kind and concerned and trying to explain the problem. This slightly raised the likelyhood of most people doing better next time, and eventually got me a useful reputation of being kind which was useful.

I'd say I've been maintaining that reaction as a deliberate mask a majority of the time for the last ~8 years. I never bothered trying to change my internal reaction, but I acted (in the sense of an actor on a stage) the way that got me the best results until it became an automatic reflex. Now I find when this happens my thoughts don't flow "What an idiot, crap can't say that out loud, right okay fake being a kind person, what would a kind person say?" They flow "Hrm, that wasn't what I wish they'd done. I wonder what I can do to make this less likely to happen again, possibly by making them feel good about doing what I'd rather they'd done instead?" I don't think I could pinpoint the moment things changed over, but it's very different when I pay attention to it.

I wrote paragraphs three to nine ("I think I might have wanted. . ." through "What do I want to be?" partially because explaining what I think now is made easier by explaining what I thought then and what changed, largely because I feel very strange responding to a call for heroes and was more comfortable responding with the caveat that I am a highly noncentral example, and lastely because it's the kind of thing I wish someone else had written and I had read when I was younger. It may be that this section could have been written better- I'm working without an editor here as none of this would make sense to the people I'd usually ask- but I am glad to have written it.

Let me know if you decide to take exceptional action, and in what domain you decide to apply yourself. Being inspiring is a source of warm fuzzies, and it's possible we could help each other.

Comment by Screwtape on Updates from Boston · 2017-12-06T01:40:46.451Z · LW · GW

In most of my social groups, "pop" is equivalent to what you describe using "backthumb" for. This started with the programmers, who also use "push" when deliberately introducing a new temporary topic, and reached fixation.

Comment by Screwtape on Next narrow-AI challenge proposal · 2017-11-22T15:13:26.958Z · LW · GW

Clairification: The next M:tG set is the new Un-set, built around goofy jokes and tomfoolery. While we don't have a full list of cards, the last such set had things like cards that gained bonuses for doing the hokey pokey. If an AI can figure out how to play that well, then I am much more impressed with it than I am with any other set. Are we counting Unstable, or assuming a more normal expansion?

Comment by Screwtape on Entitlement, Covert Contracts, Social Libertarianism, and Related Concepts · 2017-11-20T16:00:28.944Z · LW · GW

It may be helpful to think of some social conventions as a protocol. Extended technology metaphor to follow.

The TCP/IP is full of standards that could have been done multiple ways and is in many places arbitrary; there's no such thing as the objectively correct transmission protocol. That said, if someone ignores the TCP/IP and tries to send packets between computers with their own personal protocol, they're not going to make much headway. There is a reasonable sense in which someone can say that they're forming and sending their packets 'wrong' despite the arbitrary nature of the protocol, especially if they haven't informed the other side how to decipher what they're sending. Plus, if it turns out someone's personal protocol says "if the handshake is not returned, send two copies of the original packet with their own handshakes" and therefore clogs up the network then I think it's reasonable to say there's probably something wrong with their personal protocol even if the system they're trying to communicate with knows the protocol.

Interpersonal protocols are kind of like network protocols. There's some sense of good and bad design around them, but no objective morality involved, just what works. Genuinely insulting people you like is kind of like trying to use your own personal communication standard with some shaky design choices on a public network; both ineffective at communication and capable of ruining someone else's day. Whether effectiveness and human utility are moral is above my pay grade, but encouraging good protocols is worth doing.

(This example may or may not be drawn from my garbage fire of a morning. Hope everyone else is having a good day, and (sysadmin voice) is networking considerately!)

Comment by Screwtape on [deleted post] 2017-11-09T14:20:12.609Z

If you had arbitrary amounts of resources, then having more alchemists studying and researching in parallel would be an unalloyed good. That said, the situation as described reminds me a little of the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation; you don't just need fuel to life the rocket, you need fuel to lift all the fuel you want to burn later as well. From the sound of things, they did build an impressive financial structure- large enough to be insulated from at least two civilizational collapses, large enough to have people who can waste time like the Alchemist we're talking to. Still, how many people are surrounding each alchemist, like the fuel being burned to carry fuel?

There is no doubt more than one teacher per student, almost certainly scribes and cooks and so forth for the organization, and hopefully physical trainers and doctors to prolong the life of each student as much as possible. There's a harsh tradeoff between time spent doing jumping jacks to stay in good health vs time spent learning more alchemy. There's probably a harder tradeoff yet on how young you can start teaching an alchemist. The teachers of teachers have most likely made close study of how much time spent in unfocused play recuperates focus for alchemy, and at what rates. Student choice is based on luck as much as rigorous selection, hoping for the prodigy or genius who can think of something others wouldn't or who can intuitively grasp something and shave days or months or years off your schedule, or have the pedagogical skill to reorganize the schedule when a student does that.

The unstated horror to me is, what if the achievement you wish to accomplish is in fact out of your utmost reach by less than a decade, even after a perfect run of learning? Shiver.

In unrelated topics, anyone else ever play Ars Magica? Man that was a good game.

Comment by Screwtape on An Equilibrium of No Free Energy · 2017-11-01T20:01:19.574Z · LW · GW

Counterargument, depending on what you view the goal of the rationality movement is: If we want to raise the sanity waterline and get the benefits from having a lot of people armed with new insights, we need to be able to explain those insights to people. Take literacy- there's a real benefit to getting a majority of a population fluent in that technique, something distinct from what you get from having a few people able to read. Imagine if the three rationality techniques most important to you were so widespread that it would be genuinely surprising if a random adult on the street wasn't capable with them. What would the last year have looked like if every adult knew that arguments are not soldiers, or that beliefs should pay rent? (My social media would be a much more pleasant place if everyone on it knew that nobody is perfect but everything is commensurable.)

We teach math by starting with counting, then addition, then subtraction, then multiplication, and so on until differential equations or multivariable calculus or wherever ones math education stops. One can argue that we teach math badly (and I would be pretty sympathetic to that argument) but I don't think "too many easy to understand lessons that teach only one new insight" is the problem. I might go so far as to say we need multiple well written articles on the most important insights, written in a variety of styles to appeal to a wide variety of reader.

Comment by Screwtape on Continuing the discussion thread from the MTG post · 2017-10-25T20:34:08.514Z · LW · GW

Hrm. I would like it if Conor stuck around, since I think the content produced in the last 30 days was enjoyable and helpful to me, but I also think paying costs to slow down the formation of an LW orthodoxy that doesn't align with his goals would be a bad investment of energy. If it was costless or very low cost or if preventing the orthodoxy/causing it to form in a way that aligned with his goals was possible, then it would probably be worth it.

I am not in Conor's head, but if I was in their place I wouldn't be convinced to stick around as just a delaying tactic. A much more convincing reason might be to stick around, take notes of who does engage with me the way I wanted to engage with people, and then continue to post here while mostly just paying attention to those people.

Comment by Screwtape on [deleted post] 2017-10-25T14:42:00.346Z

Honestly, I see that as being Black. If you're tutoring other people and supporting them in reaching self-reliance that skews into other colours, but I often think of Objectivism's "everything works better when everyone is selfish" as being a very Black way of seeing the world.

Comment by Screwtape on [deleted post] 2017-10-24T15:25:38.508Z

I'm Red-Blue, trying to shift towards Black as a deliberate effort. A common pattern I see in myself is spotting both a pragmatic solution that improves things for me and a needlessly clever and novel solution that I actually pick, and then kicking myself when the clever solution works but doesn't actually advance my position as much as the Black choice would have. I have absolutely said the wrong thing in conversation because I came up with some really fun turn of phrase that I just had to try. I enjoy watching other people's Red-Blue shine too; I even enjoy being heckled or argued with as long as the insults or counterpoints are sufficiently new and interesting. I share your evaluation of Red-vs-Blue as the wrong question. They feed into each other for me, Red providing goals and rewards and Blue providing means and methods. At the very core, I think of myself as fundamentally Black and selfish though.

I admire White, I think White has the best levers for completing large projects, I think that minor tweaks to White's rules can make a much larger difference in more people's lives than most ideas Red or Blue come up with, but I have a really hard time binding myself into White. I also have a mental tic where the most interesting thing about White to me is always how to break it, thinking about where the smallest wrench could be thrown to bring the whole thing crashing down. I wish I had more Green, but I think it was too late in my development before I realized it would be possible to be part of a pack. I still think I could (and would really enjoy) being part of a community like that, but at this point I think it would have to be formed for Black reasons (with each member feeling like joining and staying was to their own benefit.) Green groups tend to make me feel very nervous, like I have to watch them closely for the slightest hint that they're starting to turn on me and that I need to be able to run very fast when they do.

I feel comfortable with Black. I like it when I know what someone actually wants, and we can make deals or compete or help each other or stay out of each other's way. I guess I have a strong prior that everyone is fundamentally Black and when someone presents themselves as another colour I have to spend time figuring out what their ulterior motive is, while when they start by saying that they're Black we can cut to the chase a lot quicker.

Comment by Screwtape on [deleted post] 2017-10-24T14:47:28.205Z

Solstice is attempting to Build Community and Feel Emotions. Doesn't that make it green/red?
Polyamory for me is Red successfully beating the socially expected White order of things.

Comment by Screwtape on [deleted post] 2017-10-24T14:28:59.422Z

. . . Oh.

Reading part 3 gave me the blindingly obvious in hindsight realization that Guess-culture Georg would actually have to do non-insignificant amounts of cognitive work to move from implicit to explicit. I participate in guess-culture since it's the norm in my social circles, but I would estimate it takes closer to 80% of my cognitive load and I've just been assuming that everyone else was more naturally able to model other people and so they were explicitly doing ~10% or whatever, and were unable to articulate the shortcuts. This suddenly makes so much more sense.

I've enjoyed much of your 30 days of posts, but it is entirely possible that this is the realization that's going to stick with me.

Comment by Screwtape on HOWTO: Screw Up The LessWrong Survey and Bring Great Shame To Your Family · 2017-10-09T13:56:32.916Z · LW · GW

First, thank you for admitting a screwup and therefore making it easier for the next person to do so.

Second, I think the survey is valuable and useful both for the community at large and to a personal project of mine, enough to donate my own time into it. What kind of people would you want to answer your SOS? I can make websites and theme things, I can do really basic stats analysis, I don't mind data entry so if the best way to import questions to Google Forms is to retype it I can cheerfully do that. I've got a decent amount of experience with Forms, which includes a useful trick for really long surveys.

Comment by Screwtape on Writing That Provokes Comments · 2017-10-04T14:25:51.213Z · LW · GW

A visible community vote on what we would like to see more of might get a flurry of people to cross the lurker/poster divide, but when I picture myself seeing that feature I wind up thinking about it as a way I could ask ("vote") for something I wanted the particularly prolific or especially insightful writers here to talk about. Imagine ten thousand lurkers voting for a Project Hufflepuff update or something like that. A variation that might incentivize new writers might be an open vote, with what kind of posts each user wants placed somewhere notable on their profile. I ran across TheZvi's You're Good Enough post a few weeks ago, and that's likely to be the kick I needed to start blogging long form again. (Status: Two half-written ~3k word posts. If I don't have a blog I can point people at by the 15th of October, I will admit that it wasn't enough of a kick.)

On that post, TheZvi offered to read things that were written because of their post, and knowing I have at least one guaranteed reader makes writing a lot easier for me. Commenters often want engagement of some sort. Stating at the end of a post that you precommit to reading the first ten on-topic comments and responding to them all with a comment of your own or the first ten blog posts responding to your own post that people link you and commenting on those posts seems like it might incentivize people to write the kind of responses you want them to write. This would allow the people who write a lot and who large parts of the community read to steer the conversation more; whether this is good or bad is a reasonable question but the notion isn't obviously terrible. It would at least create a variety of topics budding writers could be directed at; a single outcome from a LessWrong topic vote might result in a dozen new posts about that one topic, while a different "this is the kind of content I want" statement from the widely read authors would be more likely to result in three or four posts on each of their topics.

I don't think this would require any technical changes, and I think it would also be a worthwhile experiment.

Comment by Screwtape on Open thread, September 4 - September 10, 2017 · 2017-09-21T19:20:00.230Z · LW · GW

The synopsis of The Wicked + The Divine does look like my kind of tale. Both "Mortal becomes god" and "Mortal kills god" show up with weird frequency in my favourite stories.I'll likely check that one out first :)

I thoroughly enjoyed last year's solstice. I'm hoping to be able to take a three day weekend for it, since I know there were some meetups before and after that I had to miss since I was just in town for the one night. Do you happen to know the best spot to watch for details on the solstice or adjacent activities, once things are more organized?

Comment by Screwtape on Stupid Questions September 2017 · 2017-09-21T15:14:53.917Z · LW · GW

I don't know what the best algorithm is, but what I did was something like the following.

Step 1. Make a list of the things you enjoy doing. Attempt to be specific where possible- you want to get at the activity that's actually enjoyable, so "making up stories" is more accurate for me than "writing" is, since it's the storytelling part that's fun for me instead of the sitting down and typing specifically. Sort the list in the order that you most enjoy doing the thing, with an eye towards things you can do a lot of. (I do like chocolate, but there's a sharp limit in the amount of chocolate I can eat before it stops being fun.) There's no exact length you need, but 10~15 seems to be the sweet spot.

Step 2. Line up the things you enjoy doing with jobs that do them a lot. Make a list of those jobs, putting under each job the different things you would like about them along with things you know you'd dislike about doing the job. Talking to people in that field, reading interviews with them, and good old fashioned googling are good steps here. Sort the jobs by how many of your favourite things to do are in them and how few things you don't want to do are in them.

Step 3. Take the list of jobs, and look up how much money each job makes, along with how much demand there is for that job and how many qualifications you'd need to earn to reasonably expect to get the job. Hours worked per week and health risks are also good things to think about. (Note: Sitting at a computer for nine hours straight should really count as a health risk. I'm not joking.)

Step 4. You now have a good notion of enjoyment vs practicality. If there's a standout winner in both of them, do that. If not, then consider your tradeoffs carefully. You will probably enjoy things less when you have to wake up every morning and do them, but it also caught me by surprise how little time it feels like I have to work on personal projects after eight or nine hours plus commuting.

Step 5. Think about UBI and cry a little, then dedicate a side project towards ushering in the glorious post-scarcity future.

Comment by Screwtape on 2017 LessWrong Survey · 2017-09-13T15:13:36.221Z · LW · GW

I have taken the survey. I don't remember there being a public key question at the end of the last one though, which is a shame since that obviously means I don't remember what mine was last time.

Comment by Screwtape on New business opportunities due to self-driving cars · 2017-09-07T21:14:07.807Z · LW · GW

Here's something I've been curious about: If you're running an autonomous car rental, what do you do with peak load times? I have to imagine there's a drastic difference in demand between 9am~11am vs 5pm~7pm, and an even larger difference between those and 2am~4am. Part of me thinks demand drives prices and everyone shifts their arrival/departure times a little to try and find lower transport costs, but I also would assume that rush hour traffic would do that all on its own. The other likely outcome seems to be that you keep enough vehicles on hand to satisfy peak demand, and then they just sit quietly in a parking lot the rest of the time.

Half of my daily commute takes place on a single lane dirt road, and I therefore have no idea why people endure heavy traffic unless they have completely inflexible work hours. Does anyone have any ideas?

Comment by Screwtape on Open thread, September 4 - September 10, 2017 · 2017-09-07T14:04:30.931Z · LW · GW

As someone who hopes to attend the NY Solstice but is too far away to offer much assistance, you have my thanks for working on that!

What graphic novel(s) have you read recently you really liked? I haven't been paying attention to the media since Gaiman's Endless Nights, but that's largely because a change of social circle meant the stream of recommendations dried up.

I stay barefoot as much as is remotely socially acceptable, which isn't as nearly as much as I'd like.

Comment by Screwtape on Is life worth living? · 2017-08-31T17:29:20.205Z · LW · GW

You are correct. Rephrasing, as I was unclear before: my experiences will be indistinguishable to me, but from an outside perspective I think there's a difference. In the moment I'm making the decision, I'm trying to take that outside view. I suppose I'm trying to answer what I think was the spirit of the question; I value me existing and having experiences. Getting to go through life again means I exist 'longer' (it's unclear exactly how the time reversal works in this case, but for this to make any sense there has to be some kind of added amount of subjective experiences, even if they're exact copies of 'previous' experiences) and I would rather prolong my existence than cease to exist.

Imperfect analogy: imagine telling a paperclip maximizer that you will copy every paperclip it's made, but you will copy them somewhere else where the paperclip maximizer will never sense them. It wants more paperclips, so it likes this idea. In a similar way, I like me existing and having experiences.

Comment by Screwtape on Is life worth living? · 2017-08-30T21:07:17.500Z · LW · GW

If I was presented with this choice ten years ago, I very well might have chosen (1), but I would have been aware that my life was fairly reliably getting more enjoyable as a function of time. (For me, being five was horrible, being ten sucked, being fifteen was frustrating, being twenty was actually pretty good, etc.)

Experiencing something twice doesn't seem indistinguishable to me, which is the notion I'm getting from a lot of other people's responses. I don't remember eating ice cream a few months ago, but I'm pretty sure I did and I enjoyed it. I ate ice cream yesterday and it was enjoyable. The enjoyment of something is still relevant even if I don't remember it; if I ate ice cream now, got mindwiped of the memory of that, and then had another cone I still think more than one ice cream's worth of utility is being generated. Likewise, reliving my life over again still has meaning.

I do kinda wish I could start the replay around fourteen though. That'd skip a lot of the worst moments.

Comment by Screwtape on Open thread, August 28 - September 3, 2017 · 2017-08-30T15:25:56.677Z · LW · GW

Comment by Screwtape on Open thread, August 14 - August 20, 2017 · 2017-08-14T19:28:39.023Z · LW · GW

Crash Course on youtube has a variety of ~10 minute videos on a whole bunch of topics- I haven't watched most of the topics, but History and Literature are pretty decent. The length hurts in a lot of places, but I think it does a good job given that constraint and I'll admit I'm a lot more likely to "one more video" my way through a dozen of those than I am to sit down for a two hour documentary on the Vietnam War or The Great Gatsby, even if I'd feel like I was getting a more in-depth education out of the latter.

Comment by Screwtape on Open thread, August 7 - August 13, 2017 · 2017-08-10T17:35:12.962Z · LW · GW

Is that really a programming skill though? Aren't most fields of human endeavor theoretically improved by being able to work with people, making it something of a generic skill? Alternately, if cooperation is domain specific enough to be a 'programming' skill then it seems like some programmers are amazing even if they lack that skill.

Various novels have been written by two authors, but I wouldn't say the inability to co-write with an arbitrary makes one a terrible author. Good Omens was amazing, but I'm not sure that Pratchett and Stephen King hypothetically failing to work well together makes either of them a bad writer. This is less obvious in less clearly subjective fields, but I think it might still be true.

It's worth noting that "Gah, I can't work with that guy, I'm too highly skilled in my own amazing paradigm!" is more often a warning sign of different problem rather than a correct diagnosis of this one.

Comment by Screwtape on Should I study hypnosis? · 2017-08-08T21:25:31.915Z · LW · GW

Hrm. Do you mean "emotional self control" as in "able to control what emotional signals you send via tone of voice or body language" or "you can decide what emotions you feel at to what extent"? I think I have the former, the latter is much harder for me.

What makes someone decently hypnotizeable? Is it something you can deduce from observation/measurement, or do you have to try and hypnotize someone and see whether it works or not?

Given two people with experience in hypnotism have recommended the same book, I'll be reading it and seeing for myself soon enough I suppose :) Any important advice you'd give or pitfalls to avoid?

Comment by Screwtape on Should I study hypnosis? · 2017-08-08T21:20:29.498Z · LW · GW

Reality is Plastic ordered. I'll be sure to put a review up somewhere once I've received/read/experimented with it. I'll likely check out the youtube videos as well, though video is far from my favourite format to learn things from. If I get really good results out of it maybe I'll take a shot at condensing the abstraction somewhere, though that seems a long shot at the moment.

My own blog was more about my attempts to figure out what's really going on as explained to "myself a couple years ago", so I didn't bother summarizing anything that I didn't feel was "new" or hard to get from what was already out there.

Ah, I get what you mean about your blog. Yeah, those diary-esque recordings can be really helpful to the person making them or the person in a similair place while being sometimes useless for anyone else.

I'm the first to admit that people who hand wave away the scary bits with "hypnosis can't do that" are dangerously wrong/lying, but it hypnosis is still a far cry from scalable/arbitrarily aimable mind control.

See, that's one of those things I keep looping around to. Even assuming I take hypnotists at their word that hypnotism is far from arbitrary mind control (which I do, for the record, though I have to at least think about the possibility) there's a whole lot of power involved in even basic possibilities. Facebook's news feed or a slick TV commercial exert a level of mental influence that already makes me uncomfortable. If hypnotism is potent enough to be useful, then I have to assume it's potent enough to be harmful.

By "damage you can do" do you mean the sort of damage you can do with a handgun (intentional and directed) or the sort of damage you can do with a sedan (accidental and as often hurting yourself) or some third thing? (I recognize my examples aren't great, but hopefully the work enough that you understand the question. If not I can try and rephrase.)

And thank you for taking the time to give direction!

Comment by Screwtape on Open thread, July 31 - August 6, 2017 · 2017-08-02T20:46:34.632Z · LW · GW

Also germane is that if a high-schooler asked me how to practice judgement and decision making, I'm not entirely sure how I'd suggest learning that. (Maybe play lots of games like poker or Magic? Read the sequences? Be a treasurer in high school clubs?) If someone asked how to practice programming, I can think of lots of ways to practice that and get better.

Confounder- I make my living by programming and suspending my judgement and decision making.

Comment by Screwtape on Should I study hypnosis? · 2017-08-02T15:30:31.661Z · LW · GW

Your suggestion that hypnotism is intrinsically better learned in person makes a lot of sense to me, so maybe the reason there aren't that many written how-to guides is because capable hypnotists recognize that and try and push would-be students towards in-person lessons. Unfortunately, I'm rural enough that getting in-person training is somewhat troublesome.

Have you read "Reality Is Plastic"? I haven't, though I have read two books on the subject which both had the same problem of spending almost all their wordcount on details too advanced of where my skills were at and not enough wordcount in the basics. "Popular" doesn't equal "useful" unfortunately :\ (You'd think this would be one area, like marketing, where you could equate popularity with author skill, but oh well.) If you have read it and think it would be useful, I'll likely pick it up.

Comment by Screwtape on Should I study hypnosis? · 2017-08-01T20:51:55.931Z · LW · GW

I'm somewhat interested in hypnosis, but your blog seems to have the same problem I've encountered in googling the subject or in other blogs about hypnosis; namely, they seem like they have lots of information for someone who already has a basic understanding of how to do it but little information for someone who doesn't know how to do it in the first place. (I only read the 2011 and 2016 posts so far, but I haven't run into a how-to yet.) If I was looking to study driving, information about how cylinders work or edge cases in the automotive law code is good to know and I understand why a driving focused blog would talk about that, but what I have yet to find is something like "put the keys in the ignition (probably located behind the wheel) and turn them until you hear the rumble- that's the engine. Now check if the stick in the centre of the car is positioned next to either the 1 or the D symbols..." Do you have a post (or short series of posts) than have that basic how-to, or do you know of a good place to get that ground knowledge?

At the moment, my hypothesis is either that hypnotists have some less known variation on "a magician never reveals their secrets" and that all capable hypnotists either figured out the basics via independent efforts or studied from someone they met personally who knew how it worked. Given the capabilities ascribed to the skillset that should probably relieve me, but it does make research and dabbling in the subject a tad frustrating.

(An alternate hypothesis is that hypnosis just doesn't work, like telepathy or homeopathy, but at the moment that seems to have a lower probability then the above. Not a very low probability mind, but I've met enough acquaintances who've been hypnotized, read enough confident blogs and boasts of hypnotists, and seen dumber sounding loopholes in the human psyche to be at all sure this doesn't work.)

Comment by Screwtape on Becoming stronger together · 2017-07-11T18:26:28.408Z · LW · GW

How geographically spread out are you, measured in miles between the two furthest members or maybe average miles from the usual meeting point? That you meet up once a month implies you probably don't have to take a plane but that it is a long drive.

Assume someone else wanted to replicate your group. What advice would you give specifically about group formation? From the outside, I'm curious how you started initially and whether there are any common traits among you that are not common among most rationalists? What activities/policies/habits did you set up first, particularly around keeping the group active together and allowing for iterative improvement?

Separate question: How much of the improvements do you attribute to the group vs self-directed growth?

I think a lot of the benefits you're describing seem like they would come from having a close group of friends who are smart and pay attention, but given things like Project Hufflepuff and Dragon Army if you've successfully formed a close group of rationalists then the most important information I want to learn from you is how to do that, especially since your method doesn't rely on moving into an apartment with other people.

"Programmer with friends who goes to the gym" already describes me, but I would be moderately interested in trying to replicate this given that more friends and more commitment mechanisms to keep working out would be good things for me.