Comment by slicko on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-12-13T00:23:00.191Z · LW · GW

This one rang true for me, whenever I write down a couple of ideas, the ideas just won't stop, and I ride that high for the rest of the day.

I'm curious on how well it works when done intentionally, and for a prolonged period. I'm going to implement this as a habit over the holidays, and see how it goes.

For those interested, I found this article from James on his own website where he talks at length about this idea and provides details around implementing it:
The Ultimate Guide for Becoming an Idea Machine

Comment by slicko on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-12-07T03:41:32.524Z · LW · GW

Spending too much time using your phone each day (surfing, messaging, watching videos, ..etc.).

Change your phone's display settings to only display in grey scale.

I saw this tip online a long time ago, and have tried it on several occasions to break an addiction to my phone (where I was glued to my phone for hours daily).

It's shocking how well this trick works. You realize after using your phone in this mode for a few days how effective colours are in getting and keeping your attention, all in the name of getting you more "engaged" with apps / your phone.

One the one hand, this one-time solution gets rid of all these temptations wholesale, on the other hand, it's almost nauseating to use the phone for a long period of time in grey scale. I don't know why, but I will literally end up tossing my phone away in disgust after a few minutes of using it in this mode, thereby very effectively solving the original problem.

Comment by slicko on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-12-07T03:26:55.068Z · LW · GW

Regularly eating unhealthy snacks/food.

One-time solution:
Put all the unhealthy snacks/food in a hard to reach shelf in the pantry, and shove them all the way to the back.

This solution is very effective in reducing the snacking and junk-food eating. It's based on two laws of behaviour change.

  1. Make it Invisible: If it's out of sight, it's out of mind. With the junk food tucked away, you'll be tempted a lot less, if not completely forget that those foods were even an option.
  2. Make it Difficult: Bending all the way down to reach into the bottom shelf of the pantry (for me, that's at floor level) is really tedious, and that bit of resistance is surprisingly effective in reducing my desire to get that snack/food.

Bonus point — A similar trick is actually well-known in retail: whatever product you put in the top shelf (waist-height) near the cashier will sell much more than any product you put in the bottom shelf (even if the bottom product is a much better-known brand).

* These laws come from the book Atomic Habits, which I've read twice and have grokked fully. As a result, I was able to easily come up with dozens of these one-time solutions for all my daily problems. I consider it a life-changing book and I highly recommend it (and I'd love to chat with anyone about habit design, just PM me).

Comment by slicko on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-12-07T03:14:08.794Z · LW · GW

Endless watching of Netflix (or Youtube).

One-time solution: 
Disable auto-play on Netflix (it's a config setting, which applies across all devices).

Auto-play on services like Netflix is extremely dangerous, especially when watching TV shows whose plot advances episode to episode as if it's a really long movie. For me, watching videos is really immersive and induces a flow state, which famously causes time to dilate (in this case, it shrinks). Hence, without a clear signal that a "unit" of watching has completed, I would get stuck watching for hours at a time.

Additionally, the tiniest bit of resistance (i.e. having to reach for the controller/mouse to click the "Continue" button) seems to be just enough to allow me to regain a semblance of control.

Finally, I instituted a rule for myself: I can watch as much Netflix as I like, provided that before I click the "Continue" button, I must do at least 1 productive thing. Interestingly, most nights, after watching a single episode, I end up stuck in a flow state doing the productive thing instead and the whole evening turns out great!

Comment by slicko on Hiding Complexity · 2020-11-21T05:00:02.450Z · LW · GW

Intuitively, this feels accurate to me (at least for a certain category of problems - those that are solvable with divide and conquer strategies).

I've always viewed most software best-practices (e.g. modularity, loose-coupling, SOLID principles) as techniques for "managing complexity".

Programming is hard to begin with, and programming large systems is even harder. If the code you're looking at is thousands of lines of code in a single file with no apparent structure, then it's extremely hard to reason about. That's why we have "methods", a mechanism to mentally tuck away pieces of related functionality and abstract them into just a method name. Then, when that wasn't enough, we came up with classes, namespaces, projects, microservices ..etc.

Also, I agree that a good amount of learning works this way. I would even point to "teaching" as another example of this. Teaching someone a complex topic often involves deciding what "levels" of understanding are at play, and what subproblems can be abstracted away at each level until the learner masters the current level. This works both when you teach someone in a top-down fashion (you're doing the division of problems for them and helping them learn the subsolutions, recursively), or a bottom-up fashion (you teach them a particular low-level solution, then name the subproblem you've just solved, zoom out, and repeat).

Comment by slicko on Rationality Quotes Thread March 2015 · 2015-03-20T03:22:13.183Z · LW · GW

My first downvote, yay! Didn't feel that bad :)

Anyway, my comment was merely an attempt to allay the philosophical worries expressed in the parent quote and so I used the same terms; it wasn't meant as pedagogy.

Comment by slicko on Rationality Quotes Thread March 2015 · 2015-03-13T18:58:42.989Z · LW · GW

Luckily you only have to make fewer mistakes than your opponent to win.

Comment by slicko on Rationality: From AI to Zombies · 2015-03-13T18:47:50.718Z · LW · GW

Good work guys!

This might be the excuse I need to finally go through the complete sequences as opposed to relying on cherry-picking posts whenever I encounter a reference I don't already know.

Comment by slicko on Innate Mathematical Ability · 2015-03-01T00:30:10.649Z · LW · GW

Not buying anything, just trying to satisfy my desire to optimize any skill I have (Raven's matrices, crumbled paper basketball, driving, how to hold a pen, or any other skill).

See my previous answers to JonahSinick for more details.

Comment by slicko on Innate Mathematical Ability · 2015-02-28T22:28:02.867Z · LW · GW

I appreciate your response, but I think you're forgetting my original question.

I got the answer in under 2 minutes (didn't time it exactly). However, when I first identified my answer candidate (answer 2), it was probably about two thirds of the way in. I got the correct answer by going across at first, but then spent additional time double checking my work using columns, and then double checking my answer before "committing".

I got the answer correctly and in under 2 minutes. I saw the pattern relatively effortlessly, but was only inquiring as to how to optimize the speed by fixing my "hesitation" to commit to the answer until I've double-checked it and ruled out any bait answers as well.

Comment by slicko on Innate Mathematical Ability · 2015-02-28T22:22:44.594Z · LW · GW

I'm reminded of Graham's number (g notation) as an example where new notation (kind of) was invented for the purposes of a math paper.

I read a riveting blog post a few months ago introducing several concepts and building up to graham's number in a very accessible read if anyone's interested:

Comment by slicko on Innate Mathematical Ability · 2015-02-28T22:13:44.244Z · LW · GW

I agree with your overall response, but your note that "weird-looking notation intimidates you" kind of surprised me.

From my perspective, it's not a question of intimidation so much as it is a recognition that the question is targeting a different audience (one who knows such notation).

If you encounter new notation, there is no way to derive the answer anyway by simply "facing" it head on (i.e. without being intimidated), you actually have to look up the notation and any associated information you didn't already know, which requires a higher activation energy (and enthusiasm) than trying your hand at a question with known notation.

Comment by slicko on Innate Mathematical Ability · 2015-02-28T21:58:16.631Z · LW · GW

See my response to JonahSinick below

Comment by slicko on Innate Mathematical Ability · 2015-02-28T21:53:53.009Z · LW · GW

The replies to my query suggest a bit of concern that I'm be placing too much value on IQ tests, which to be honest is not quite true. I've never actually taken a formal IQ test and don't actually know my IQ score. It's really not a big concern to me, though I do believe I'm smarter than average, but then again, most people think that too.

However, to answer your question,it's just my personality - I like to optimize stuff. It doesn't matter what it is, if I recognize that there's a slightly more efficient way to do something, I want to learn it and do it better. It can be as simple as someone throwing a crumbled paper into a recycling bin from a few feet away, if I notice someone is able to do that slightly more efficiently than the way I'm doing it and with better results, then I get really curious and determined to figure out how to optimize my own shots.

So, along that same thread, I noticed inefficiencies in my IQ test taking skills (as I outlined in my original question), which prompted me to query you guys for any tips for improvement.

And in response to shminux and Ilya's concerns, this personality trait of mine is actually quite healthy and a valued asset, it's the reason why I did well academically and am doing well in my career, so nothing to worry about!

Comment by slicko on Innate Mathematical Ability · 2015-02-28T05:47:09.981Z · LW · GW

One thing that kept nagging at me while reading this post is my own experience with taking the SAT's back in grade 11.

I don't remember my score exactly on the verbal section, but it was something like 590. Now, I've always had a noticeably above average command of language and verbal reasoning in my native tongue (based on academic feedback + my own observations), but this is obviously not reflected in the above score.

However, this is explained in my case by the fact that I only really began learning English in grade 10 (I only knew basic words from being raised in a foreign schooling system, but suddenly switched to an all English schooling system in grade 10).

I distinctly remember, during the SAT test, thinking that questions where I actually knew the vocabulary involved (whether in the question itself, the choice answers, or both) were quite enjoyable and "easy", for lack of a better word. However, I also distinctly remember staring at many questions where the vocabulary was completely unknown to me (after only 2 years of studying full-time in English); those questions I left blank or took a random guess (when I had any inkling, no matter how weak).

So, having said that, I believe it's quite reasonable to assume that TT's outstanding performance on the SAT math section at such a young age is largely attributable to the fact that math is logical and can be derived from first principles given enough intelligence. However, the ability to perform equally well on the verbal section is highly dependent on the amount of vocabulary you have accumulated up to that point (which is significantly limited when you're a mere 10-year old and haven't had to go through another 7+ years of formal education and self-learning).

To put it more concisely, I believe the SAT's verbal section depends significantly on the crystallized intelligence aspect (in the form of accumulated vocabulary), whereas the math section can be conquered with sufficiently high fluid intelligence alone.

Comment by slicko on Innate Mathematical Ability · 2015-02-28T05:10:10.786Z · LW · GW

I got the answer in under 2 minutes (didn't time it exactly). However, when I first identified my answer candidate (answer 2), it was probably about two thirds of the way in. I got the correct answer by going across at first, but then spent additional time double checking my work using columns, and then double checking my answer before "committing".

I've taken a couple of online Raven's Matrices type tests in the past, but that was a while ago, so I don't believe memory played too much of a role. However, I seem to have internalized the idea that IQ tests are trying to bait you with obvious answers, and as a result, I end up taking too long double checking my work.

I suppose the only way to get over this lack of confidence in my intuition is with practice, but I'm wary of diluting the feedback I get from the occasional IQ test due to the 'practice effect'.

It's a bit of a catch-22. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Comment by slicko on Innate Mathematical Ability · 2015-02-28T04:54:37.500Z · LW · GW

I had the same reaction to calling it "fancy".

I got the answer fairly quick (didn't time it, but probably about a minute or two). In my head, I was thinking of subtraction, not even "cancelling out".

In a row, cell 1 minus cell 2 equaled cell 3.

I suppose that is an XOR pattern after all, but you only need knowledge of basic arithmetic to verbalize the pattern.

(edit: upon rereading my answer, I guess it's not fair to call it a subtraction only, since I'm still keeping around shapes from cell 1 or cell 2 provided they weren't subtracted. Apparently my brain is doing XOR while thinking of it as a subtraction)

Comment by slicko on Innate Mathematical Ability · 2015-02-28T04:49:57.349Z · LW · GW

What code or syntax is this?

Comment by slicko on Stupid Questions February 2015 · 2015-02-07T01:39:26.496Z · LW · GW

I used to have the same problems, but I solved it with a Beeminder goal of doing 10 minutes of cleaning per day (6 days a week).

Even with very little money on the line ($0 or 5$), I still had enough incentive to actually punch in 10 minutes on the microwave timer and turn into a Tasmanian Cleaning Devil until I heard the ding!!

I feel strangely accomplished afterwards (both for having the discipline to fulfill my commitment on Beeminder and for having an orderly house). I was and still am able to maintain extraordinary levels of cleanliness ever since!

Comment by slicko on Breaking the vicious cycle · 2015-01-01T03:32:57.819Z · LW · GW

As a somewhat recent follower of LW (less than 1 year), it was actually quite useful to sift through your critiques back then (while occasionally they felt a bit personal and unnecessarily emotionally-motivated, I still valued the gist of the content - they were refreshingly contrarian).

Basically, when I first stumbled upon LW, I was excited, awed, and to some extent hypnotized.

The content was an interesting mixture of mathematics, computer science, philosophy and cognitive science, and as a new reader, I found myself easily convinced of many of the main positions advocated. I'm typically skeptical of any extraordinary claims, but the way the content is generally presented here, seemingly scientific and authoritative, evaded my usual defenses.

After a few weeks of taking in a lot of this content, I googled LW and Eliezer to find out more, and stumbled upon some criticisms, as well as your blog, the RationalWiki, ..etc.

Yes, it was interesting to hear about the basilisk, and the apparent knee-jerk reaction of Eliezer, and the ensuing censorship. That exercise helped restore my usual (and useful) skepticism, and consequently I re-examined a lot of the claims and positions with a more careful eye.

I also remember checking out your user profile here on LW, and seeing that you are an active member of the community, and that even though you and others occasionally engaged in some of these heated debates, the fact that one of LW's more vocal critics was not banned or censored was also useful information that I gleaned from this exercise.

As a consumer of your critiques, I was enlightened but not turned-off from LW. In other words, I still somewhat drink the kool-aid, but I carefully check the drink before each sip.

So, thanks for providing a different perspective, and humanizing LW and its contributors, and good luck with your health and future endeavors.

Comment by slicko on Welcome to Less Wrong! (6th thread, July 2013) · 2014-11-08T23:09:21.423Z · LW · GW

Hello all!

I've only just registered on the lesswrong site, but I've been lurking on here for a while. The main reason as to why I finally decided to sign up is that I've been going more frequently to the Toronto meetup sessions and have found that there's tremendous value in thrusting myself into topics/discussions even when I'm not very well-read or knowledgeable on the topics before hand.

By merely listening in and pondering some questions I become more and more interested in the topic, catch some concepts by mere osmosis, and get interested to do further research on my own afterwards. So far that seems to work well and I'm certainly more knowledgeable than when I started.

So, following the same mentality, I thought that I should sign up and try to comment on some of the topics posted on here as a way to immerse myself further.

As for background: I'm a computer science grad with almost 10 years experience now. I like to read about psychology and to constantly learn new things. I'm interested in programming and intellectual discussions, artificial intelligence, winning at life ...etc.

I hope that's sufficient for an introductory comment! See you all around the site sometime.