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Comment by swerve on How to Dissolve It · 2018-03-25T00:43:01.455Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The first paragraphs of the "Backwards Chaining" section of the post is exactly the place where abstract instructions can be helpful, but concrete step-by-step instructions of the technique are arguably even more important for learning to do the thing in the first place. You appear to attempt to ameliorate this by including examples of things you could apply this to. However I think [93%] this isn't as helpful as walkthroughs of the technique imo.

For example, you could include examples of problems you had to solve, and used this technique on, what it felt like to use the technique, what the actual process and results were, etc.

I say this because I think [89%] you're onto something really helpful as a problem solving tool, but as it stands it's hard (not impossible) to extract practical value from the instructions (ie I'm asking you to assume good faith on the part of my criticism).

Thanks for making the post, I got a pretty large amount of value out of it.

Comment by swerve on Hammertime Intermission #2 · 2018-03-02T00:24:40.298Z · score: 20 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm the reader who wrote the quoted piece under the "STORIES" tab on TYMC. I've been tuning every day for about a month and a half. I didn't get a huge amount object level value (tension and stress reduction) from TYMC, probably because I already maintained a pretty low baseline stress and tension levels. But nonetheless I got a lot of meta-value from learning, and found the instructions pretty straightforward to do. I'm wondering what you think needs more clarification or detail, and I'd love to help you figure the skill out if I can.

Note: I'm not squirrel, I don't have as much experience with tuning and I'd defer to him for these things, but another perspective can be useful.

Note-note: Given the opening of your comment, I just realized my comment could come across as me asking for money. That is 100% not what I'm trying to imply. I just really like BWT and want to help more people learn the skills, I've found them all really helpful in one way or another.

Edit: Alas mine own heart aches for the sadness I have brought

Shame I feel and deep at that and wringing hands lest they stay clasped

I hold the door and shut it fine for I drink my sorrow like cheap old wine

Comment by swerve on Two types of mathematician · 2018-02-28T21:14:07.009Z · score: 9 (2 votes) · LW · GW

These essays had a pretty large impact on how I go about learning mathematics, I always had an easier time when formulas or arguments could be mapped onto visual structure. In-fact, before writing this comment (and in general when constructing arguments) I imagined a mind map containing all the relevant ideas and relations I wanted to portray. I am now (somewhat poorly) attempting to translate my 3-D visual argument into a linear verbal one.

Something else to be noted is visual reasoning and complementary cognitive artifacts seem to go hand in hand. Consider that learning to use an abacus can allow someone to simulate an abacus in their mind and produce the outputs of an abacus without needing to actually have one. A similar thing can be done with a slide rule. This practice can also produce other, positive effects on certain parts of cognition*.

I would be surprised if the skill of being able to construct complementary cognitive artifacts wasn't potentially helpful in many domains. I don't know how one would go about learning this, but it seems like something to consider as having positive value if investigated.

*Those papers are the first things that came up with a google search. So I reserve the right to be wrong about the exact consequences.

Comment by swerve on Two types of mathematician · 2018-02-28T20:38:33.661Z · score: 9 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a math/econ undergrad, I've found that using geometry and imagery to contextualize all my classes is the easiest way for me to really understand a subject.

To use a small example: Learning things like the chain rule or the product rule in calculus became trivial once I learned via this method. However, that is not a way of teaching that is present where I'm learning. I've had little (but not zero) success in finding resources on my own that choose to communicate ideas in this way. Or help me hone my visual-math reasoning skills (1 2). I feel like learning other ways just require too much memorization and doesn't easily slot into my intuition. As a result whenever something doesn't intuitively translate to imagery, I feel like I'm plodding along. Are there books, lectures, sequences, or anything out there that I could use? Anything you could send my way would be really appreciated.

Comment by swerve on Yoda Timers 2 · 2018-02-22T22:25:46.302Z · score: 17 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Most important idea huh?

Here goes nothin'..

I think that while the community in general has a large amount of declarative information. A very small amount of it is actually put into procedural format. We have repertoires of information and expertise, we can do some really cool things with our minds when we properly use them. However, we are missing a curriculum. We are missing a centralized place where a repository of literally all the most useful information lies. We have no textbook. We have pieces like Hammertime which try to amend some of this with daily exercises and motivational blurbs to reinforce actual practice. We have the sequences, which do a good job of laying down epistemic hygiene and probabilistic thinking. But even the sequences still failed in certain ways. There are few practice problems, there are few guided opportunities to attempt what you just read. We have certain groups like CFAR's rationality checklist (imo only really covers epistemic hygiene) and the applied cannon. But these are not sufficient.

Jeez that was stressful. I went about 32 seconds over the time limit, but cutting off mid-sentence sounded like a bad time

Also, links were only added after I finished.

Also also, this is not a literal endorsement of my beliefs about the state of rationality. That was an attempt for me to push as much of this idea out of my head as possible in five minutes, so there's probably [75%] going to be some bad wording or misrepresentation or straight up falsity. But that was my best shot.

Comment by swerve on Bug Hunt 2 · 2018-02-21T03:47:34.501Z · score: 15 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Before anything else, thank you for the small piece about "adjusting your seat". It's taken a considerable amount of pressure/dread off of doing Hammertime.

Anyway,

It seems like the heart of the bug hunting skill, is having enough gears in your understanding of a certain domain. Such that you can find specific faults, inefficiencies, and leverage points to address. The inclination to go meta with the domain is also very helpful.

For example, in my own practice of bug hunt, I initially found myself selecting things I was explicitly doing wrong. Over time I started realizing that while this is helpful, it is not the entire picture. Why? Because the purpose of bug hunt is to find things that, if changed, will produce a better result in some area. With this in mind I realized that by shifting my actionable model of bug hunting, I can produce not only way more bugs, but much more salient ones. This came about by way of modeling what bug hunt currently does, and what it would optimally do. The difference between these two concepts are what I now think of as bugs.(eg using bug-hunt on itself proved to be a powerful investment of my time).

Right now I think my most immodest ambition is to Try and Hammer one rationality skill every four days. I'm going to apply it with as much consistency and versatility as I possible can. I'll then write about what I learn, and connect each skill I've learned before, to my current skill, to try and embed each one thoroughly in my toolbox.

Comment by swerve on Hammertime Intermission and Open Thread · 2018-02-10T00:26:22.193Z · score: 19 (5 votes) · LW · GW

After thinking about your reply for a while, you've made me update strongly towards believing that I had overestimated my own efficacy. In particular:

I've been reading LW for about five years and "knew" about most of these tools abstractly without ever getting anything practical out of it. You can check the comments to Hammers and Nailsand extrapolate that even longtime LWers have each only practiced only 5% of all the techniques we have, and that 5% varies wildly from person to person. It's not clear if what I've written so far actually helps in this direction, but I think a properly written sequence will actually inject readers with the moral fire to do the thing that they've known about for years.

This struck me as I hadn't considered that I was missing so many tools. I feel like I've had my life improved a lot by rationality. I can cite many many cases where things get resolved specifically because I have the proper information and training. Yet even with everything I currently do, I now realize that I don't impliment the vast majority of useful things we as a community have managed to come up with. If one of your primary goals with this series it to imbue people with some of that "moral fire", then consider it a success, at least regarding my personal experience. One thing to note is that while the series itself sets the context for this sort of thing to happen. It was only the meta-level conversation, and that specific information about inadequacy that helped me viscerally update. That might be series-relevant information.

Anyway, thanks for helping me fix my models and pointing out a glaring blind-spot.

Comment by swerve on Hammertime Intermission and Open Thread · 2018-02-08T06:45:34.448Z · score: 21 (5 votes) · LW · GW

My gut reaction told me that I hadn't gone through the experience of the uncanny valley. After a minute of thought, I realized that there was a period of four months last year where I divebombed in grades and class engagement. It was contextually because I had just learned about the diaspora and was rabbit-holing everything related to the disparate rationality blog. I was also rereading HPMoR. I think the historic reason for my failure was two-fold. The realization that the community wasn't dead and I wasn't alone; and the overemphasis the sequences and HPMoR had placed on epistemic rationality. I certainly learned how to have more accurate beliefs about the world, but I didn't realize there was a cost to optimizing. Come to think of it I didn't even conceptualize optimizing as a thing people could actually do in the real world. How scary.

I've got to agree with your sentiment about sequences and engagement. I've found I have a reluctance to read something that is explicitly a sequence. You may consider uniquely labeling the rest of the hammertime posts and only compiling them afterwards.

Meta:

I have a question. Er, not so much a single question as a concept with a strong sense of confusion attached to it. What made you decide on the tools you decided to cover? Do you believe all of these techniques are low-hanging, or are they more advanced? What would other advanced techniques look like? I know that other people have attempted such things in the past (with varying degrees of success). I remember reading somewhere (unfortunately I can't recall the source nor the exact quote) that three or four people on that particular thread had strongly considered creating a primer instrumental sequence.

The main issue was something along the lines of 'who am I writing this for?' Anyone reading the sequence would most likely already be famailiar with the material (a la someone on LW) and thus not really need the tools and advice (on account of the information being fairly wide-spread and easily accessable in the rationalsphere). On the other hand anyone who could really use the information is probably not going to be the kind of person reading this material in the first place.

Important note! This is not a criticism of your efforts here. This has been a concern of mine for couple of months and it's extremely gratifying to see someone trying to fix the problem I mentioned in the first paragraph. I suspect communicating the importance of both sides of the rational coin will be a productive way to break part of the uncanny valley. I'm extremely happy that we have more people actually engaging in rationality practice, and generating usable content, and I applaud you for your efforts. The above is just my feeble attempt at asking what direction the steepest gradient for rationality (instrumental or otherwise) is current in. I have a sense that more is possible, but where?

Respond to any of the prompts, or none of them. They're not the point. They're just there to illustrate the point.

Comment by swerve on Paper Trauma · 2018-02-02T06:46:36.093Z · score: 27 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Considering the amount of engagement and positive anecdotes people are putting into this; It appears to me to be evidence that writing things down (in some format) is really helpful. As in, helpful enough that if you are not already writing down your thoughts and ideas you should at the very least take five and come up with an easy way to try it out. This is one of those things that's extremely low cost, with a lot of benefit. Please take the low-hanging fruit.

One more anecdote for the pile: I found carrying and using paper very unwieldy for a long time and recently bought a small messenger bag to carry it all for not much money. This holds a journal, folded up large paper, four differently colored pens, and whatever other miscellanea I happen to have on me. This has completely negated my issues with using paper in a productive way on a daily basis.

Comment by swerve on Hammertime Day 2: Yoda Timers · 2018-02-01T06:44:14.403Z · score: 17 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Putting all of my TAPS on post it notes on my wall so I see them when I wake up. This should make a good trigger for keeping them in mind during the day. It also gives some potentially free utility over time in the form of "see that wall? All those notes are different habits I was able to cultivate".

Comment by swerve on Hammertime Day 1: Bug Hunt · 2018-01-31T21:55:10.125Z · score: 18 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Uh oh. My first run-through yielded only 11 bugs. Considering I'm not hilariously successful at everything means I'm missing a ton of information. My second search yielded a total of 50 bugs. This is still only half of what you minimally requested. I'm glad this was brought to my attention as it's a really glaring deficiency, however I'm not sure how to go about remedying this, as it feels like I wrote down everything I could reasonably come up with (and I still ended up scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas).

Also something that appears at least tangentially related- The Strategic Review by Sebastian Marshall (u/lionhearted) brings up a lot of useful concepts and approaches to bug-fixing. Give it a read for a different perspective.

Not the strangest fix, but it's the best I've got:

When trying to get into making lists and journaling I kept not doing it because of the inconvinence of lugging around a journal. I tried using smaller journals that went into my pocket but then I also needed to carry around a pen. I used a jacket with inside pockets which worked for a while but they were seamed in such a way that it was frustrating to reinsert the journal. Eventually I just went ahead and bought a small purse that I now carry everywhere I go. This completely fixed the problem.

Comment by swerve on Hammers and Nails · 2018-01-30T22:48:07.293Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The simple explaination makes sense. However I'm sure there's a lot more to this than the is conveyed in one-sentence. I'd really like to get my hands on a more in-depth explaination if it's possible. A google search of the term "Fermi Modeling" as well as searching your LW post history has not yielded anything. Is there a post somewhere I can read?

Comment by swerve on Hammers and Nails · 2018-01-23T23:17:41.634Z · score: 57 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Wow this was a lot harder than I expected. I thought about my favorite technique for a solid fifteen minutes before deciding on this. Mostly because I realized that I don't have explicit techniques that I usually use. I definitely use certain things like Immunity to Change Mapping, the Ideological Turing Test, and Neutral Hours. However I think (78%) the majority of the benefit I've gained from rationality lies in a single hammer, or the ability to update from evidence and think about the best option in a scenario. This mostly happens on the 5-second level although I will quite frequently (multiple times a day) stop to viscerally update my priors.

A rather unsettling realization to find that most of my success in making more rational decisions stems from this one place. I'm not sure whether to be distraught or happy. On one hand this could be an indication that I'm very poorly diversified in my skills, or don't have enough of them on the reflex level yet. On the other hand this could indicate the value of an approach like A Thousand Heads in a Row suggests; optimizing many small decisions such that they chain together to form systematic and repeatable progress.

The list below is there for the sake of completeness and in hopes that it encourages other people to try the exercise.

Technique: Bayesian Expected Value Calculation

1.) Combining with Murphyjutsu to determine the leverage points on any plans I make

2.) Sifting through a class syllabus and schedule to determine the best use of my time towards the desired grade

3.) Realizing that my urge to read something else and not do the exercise was a policy statement about what I expected myself to do in the future. Doing the exercise makes me more likely to do other exercises in the future and embrace the singularity mindset.

4.) Trying new foods, or suppliments in response to the value of information

5.) I should get a flu shot

6.) Trying to determine the best way to lead a conversation or extract information from someone

7.) Realizing I might need diversified thinking skills

8.) Realizing I should explictly model my rationality techniques

9.) Checking the value and cost of my current action vs my ideal action at regular intervals.

10.) Realizing there is probably a good chance this technique can be upgraded by some means

Comment by swerve on Singularity Mindset · 2018-01-22T07:25:07.759Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Lo and behold my pleasure at seeing something that's been swimming around in the back of my head for at least a month put out in excellent writing. I found this post valuable for several reasons:

1.) This describes what may be an extremely worthwhile meta-skill. The whole sentiment of "take an idea seriously" seems to have a lot of recursive power. As one takes the singularity mindset seriously, they are in-fact practicing the singularity mindset. This not only gives itself a positive feedback loop, but allows other potentially helpful concepts or ideas to piggyback on the loop and offer utility in other ways. Your example of "More Dakka" made me realize I read that post neigh two months ago and have little to show for it. That's not for lack of the concept's usefullness, but more for my own lack of trying to find an application for it. There is also probably a sub or synergistic skill of identifying which concepts are worth really working at.

2.) This isn't quite as related to the meat of the post, but it is still a very valuable aspect to me. There's something to be said for narrativemancy and the aesthetics of trying to act like an x or y or organic improving AI. It's just low hanging utility fruit that one gets from conceptualizing themself in a certain way.

Comment by swerve on The Balance Between Hard Work and Exhaustion · 2017-10-17T22:28:24.609Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've found that doing postmortems on all my projects is extremely helpful for keeping the long term perspective in mind. I think this is probably because it forces me to make all my projects discrete entities over time, forcing me to step back, reflect, and adjust my course instead of clustering them all together as "work" in my mind.

This carries the added benefit of giving me lots of information about my workflow and how it fluctuates under various conditions. For example, I'll usually record the costs of the project (Money, Neutral Hours.), any external variables (time constraint, multiple projects at once, working with or without people, etc.) and any factors I constructed (How well does a donut per $X/Nh incentivize me to do a certain kind of work, what happens to my comprehension and test scores when I study with naps or interval breaks or whatever.) Additionally, this makes for a convenient way to optimize different activities for certain outcomes by way of experimentation.

Comment by swerve on Instrumental Rationality 2: Planning 101 · 2017-10-08T21:27:46.408Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It seems that applying the concepts in the first post (IE generating examples, translating declarative knowledge into procedural knowledge) works really well for making sure I understand this second post. In particular I found that pausing after each new concept and running through examples + writing in my own words, made the material sink in a lot more thoroughly.
If your intention was to make the posts in this sequence chain together in this way, then hats off to you for a well designed informative series.