Posts

What is operations? 2019-09-26T14:16:30.892Z · score: 99 (32 votes)
Swimmer963's Shortform 2019-08-18T14:48:43.943Z · score: 18 (3 votes)
Reclaiming Eddie Willers 2019-07-13T15:32:01.040Z · score: 60 (21 votes)
Micro feedback loops and learning 2019-05-26T00:50:36.202Z · score: 54 (21 votes)
Examples of growth mindset or practice in fiction 2015-09-28T21:47:29.000Z · score: 13 (14 votes)
The Importance of Sidekicks 2015-01-08T23:21:19.870Z · score: 135 (134 votes)
A discussion of heroic responsibility 2014-10-29T04:22:04.426Z · score: 40 (44 votes)
“And that’s okay": accepting and owning reality 2014-07-27T19:13:43.616Z · score: 26 (30 votes)
Meetup : Upper Canada LW Megameetup: Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Waterloo, London 2014-06-28T22:48:51.107Z · score: 2 (3 votes)
On Terminal Goals and Virtue Ethics 2014-06-18T04:00:05.196Z · score: 68 (68 votes)
Ottawa meetup: Applied Rationality Series, Value of Information 2014-05-05T15:48:31.307Z · score: 3 (6 votes)
Book Review: So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport 2014-04-23T03:27:15.308Z · score: 27 (28 votes)
Why I haven't signed up for cryonics 2014-01-12T05:16:55.458Z · score: 31 (33 votes)
Meditation: a self-experiment 2013-12-30T00:56:06.517Z · score: 52 (52 votes)
Does Goal Setting Work? 2013-10-16T20:54:25.164Z · score: 34 (32 votes)
Meetup : Applied Rationality Talks: Thinking in Bayes 2013-09-13T01:52:45.751Z · score: 3 (4 votes)
To what degree do you model people as agents? 2013-08-25T19:29:33.808Z · score: 34 (37 votes)
Making Rationality General-Interest 2013-07-24T22:02:55.576Z · score: 30 (31 votes)
How I Became More Ambitious 2013-07-04T23:34:15.548Z · score: 65 (65 votes)
The Centre for Applied Rationality: a year later from a (somewhat) outside perspective 2013-05-27T18:31:41.379Z · score: 40 (45 votes)
Learning critical thinking: a personal example 2013-02-14T20:43:06.521Z · score: 37 (40 votes)
Study on depression 2013-01-15T21:58:18.255Z · score: 10 (15 votes)
Playing the student: attitudes to learning as social roles 2012-11-23T02:56:20.331Z · score: 10 (22 votes)
School essay: outsourcing some brain work 2012-04-10T20:14:01.427Z · score: 5 (18 votes)
Emotional regulation Part II: research summary 2012-03-19T21:51:24.247Z · score: 23 (24 votes)
Emotional regulation, Part I: a problem summary 2012-03-05T23:10:11.172Z · score: 10 (25 votes)
How I Ended Up Non-Ambitious 2012-01-23T23:50:42.497Z · score: 143 (131 votes)
The problem with too many rational memes 2012-01-19T00:56:07.321Z · score: 79 (104 votes)
Interesting article about optimism 2011-10-10T18:54:52.420Z · score: 7 (8 votes)
Willpower and diet: advice? 2011-09-21T17:54:44.875Z · score: 2 (5 votes)
Complexity: inherent, created, and hidden 2011-09-14T14:33:40.456Z · score: 8 (19 votes)
My Greatest Achievement 2011-09-12T19:26:38.833Z · score: 31 (56 votes)
Rational Communication 2011-09-10T02:30:12.999Z · score: 23 (30 votes)
Teaching Introspection 2011-08-01T01:10:34.491Z · score: 23 (28 votes)
Reasons for being rational 2011-07-01T15:28:08.165Z · score: 57 (71 votes)
Action and habit 2011-06-02T14:59:00.325Z · score: 91 (99 votes)
Mapping our maps: types of knowledge 2011-04-27T02:16:11.000Z · score: 5 (9 votes)
Publishing industry contacts, anyone? 2011-04-21T14:53:05.925Z · score: 5 (6 votes)
Vanilla and chocolate and preference judgements 2011-04-18T22:14:25.795Z · score: 29 (38 votes)
The peril of ignoring emotions 2011-04-03T17:15:24.712Z · score: 15 (22 votes)
The trouble with teamwork 2011-03-23T18:05:42.335Z · score: 10 (13 votes)
Being a teacher 2011-03-14T20:03:27.602Z · score: 61 (56 votes)
Positive Thinking 2011-03-07T01:03:12.097Z · score: 20 (42 votes)
A Transhumanist Poem 2011-03-05T09:16:06.063Z · score: 12 (27 votes)
Research methods 2011-02-22T06:10:30.792Z · score: 13 (18 votes)
Ability to react 2011-02-18T19:19:34.806Z · score: 78 (83 votes)

Comments

Comment by swimmer963 on Player vs. Character: A Two-Level Model of Ethics · 2019-11-30T00:11:18.053Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I found this post valuable at the time, and read it again as research for writing fiction about rationality, finding it pretty relevant.

Comment by swimmer963 on Unrolling social metacognition: Three levels of meta are not enough. · 2019-11-29T23:30:44.124Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think this post crystallized a concept I had not previously had and will be useful for writing about rationality

Comment by swimmer963 on On the Loss and Preservation of Knowledge · 2019-11-29T22:04:19.740Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

read for research on my EA/rationality novel project, pretty relevant, well laid out

Comment by swimmer963 on Why everything might have taken so long · 2019-11-29T21:57:22.437Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

this topic is super relevant to my fiction project! Really good summary of a lot of areas that affect progress.

Comment by swimmer963 on Toolbox-thinking and Law-thinking · 2019-11-29T21:55:28.744Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Used as a research source for my EA/rationality novel project, found this interesting and useful.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Rocket Alignment Problem · 2019-11-29T20:18:09.273Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Used for research for my EA/rationality novel project, this is a really good analogy!

Comment by swimmer963 on Embedded Agents · 2019-11-29T20:17:43.334Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Read sequence as research for my EA/rationality novel, this was really good and also pretty easy to follow despite not having any technical background

Comment by swimmer963 on Meta-Honesty: Firming Up Honesty Around Its Edge-Cases · 2019-11-29T20:16:54.695Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Used as research for my EA/rationality novel, I found this interesting and useful (albeit very meta and thus sometimes hard to follow).

Comment by swimmer963 on What is operations? · 2019-10-02T14:47:16.622Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is, unfortunately, kind of true in practice. (Although, ideally, is and will become a bit less true at major EA orgs - CEA was pretty good on this dimension and I never felt like people saw me as less intelligent, although that could be because it's less a part of my identity so I didn't notice).

I do think that ops work, especially the finance & accounting aspects, is pretty G-loaded, and that people wrongly perceive this as not the case. Anyway, I hope to discuss all of this more in a later post about the personal fit aspect.

Comment by swimmer963 on What is operations? · 2019-09-27T15:33:13.970Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That is a pretty interesting article, thank you!

Comment by swimmer963 on Swimmer963's Shortform · 2019-08-20T15:43:18.852Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Fiction writing ramble, #2: Worldbuilding.

This is an attempt to walk through the mental process I follow when writing fiction. [Goals: I'd like to better understand what my brain is doing, and put out ideas for other people who might be interested in writing fiction.]

Historically, worldbuilding (I'm talking mainly about fantasy settings here, but sci-fi as well; earthfic applies less) has been one of the planning steps that I most struggle to do alone; I've tended to do it via brainstorming with friends. Figuring out how magic systems and societal norms work is shiny, but apparently less shiny to me than just writing. This method has some obvious downsides; it's harder to get a setting that feels lawful and consistent, and I can write myself into a corner; though the upside is that I don't tend to get nerdsniped on the worldbuilding step and never end up actually writing anything. (I've known several aspiring authors with this problem).

There are two basic ways that I've approached worldbuilding for fantasy:

1) Top-down: posit some rules for a world, and simulate out the consequences; can include what magic is possible and easy/hard, but also the consequences it would have on society.

2) Bottom-up: posit some facts about that world, and try to reverse-engineer the underlying rule-set that would generate those observations.

Thanks to my tendency to do worldbuilding "as I go" while already halfway into a story, rather than figuring out all the rules of the setting in advance, (and my more recent choice to write fanfiction in a setting where the rules were very poorly explained), I've done more of the latter. Both feel "generative" in a sense that's hard to describe, but has some similarities to e.g. doing murphyjitsu on an upcoming event I'm running – I'm building up a model of a scenario, asking a lot of "if X, then what?", and trying to poke at my assumptions and edge cases. (I'm assuming there are multiple ways that fantasy authors do their worldbuilding, and some are less logistics-based.)

It feels like a really important step is adding constraints – reducing the space of what's possible in a setting, getting it down to a set of assumptions that I can simulate and play with. My brain will generate a lot more ideas if I have fewer degrees of freedom.

One of my guiding principles is "it would be really epic if X". Even following method #1, which I'm trying for my next original fantasy setting, any underlying ruleset still gives a lot of options, and I can run it forward and flesh out the details based on which version I think is really cool.

There can also be constraints added by the plot – if I don't have a setting yet, but I do want a particular plot event to happen, I at least know that whatever rules I pick need to make that event plausible.

I can also grab a mishmash of ideas from other books, fiction and not, or straight-up do research for some aspects (I'm currently reading "Legal Systems Very Different From Ours" in order to brainstorm institutions for a fictional civilization.)

In terms of motivation to actually do worldbuilding, probably "getting nerdsniped" is the thing I want to happen, to make it shiny enough that I actually do it rather than jumping straight into writing ch1.

Comment by swimmer963 on Swimmer963's Shortform · 2019-08-19T00:29:16.398Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think I am not actually in flow the majority of the time I'm writing? Like, I get very rare periods where I lose track of time and suddenly it's the end of the day and 10K words have appeared, and I get shorter snippets of forgetting-the-outside-world, but in the second-to-second timescale there's often a feeling of effort and of deliberately staying on task. It just seems to be overall reinforcing enough that I will continue to block out time to do it and throw myself at getting through the hard parts, even if it's been effortful and not felt rewarding in realtime for days or weeks. (I think this has happened more and more as I've gotten further into my fanfic, actually, because I'm writing situations that are harder to model.)

Probably another factor is that when I am sufficiently deep in writingmode, not writing is kind of painful and getting it off my mind enough to do other things is even more so.

Comment by swimmer963 on Swimmer963's Shortform · 2019-08-18T20:22:38.074Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think writing is in general helping me understand things about the world, often things about myself and processing emotions around ethics, effective altruism, work vs play, (and death and grief, so much omg), but also things like "how can a group of people coordinate to make rational decisions in response to confusing and fraught situations". Interestingly, the parts of my fic that are most explicitly about understanding-the-world, like the politics or the parts that required me to read a bunch of Arbital AI safety stuff for research, are generally the least flow-y? That often feels like a thing I am doing to get to the shiny, and given that I'm doing it I should do it right, but it's not necessarily the shiniest thing.

I think sometimes I'm practicing a skill that I already have by making the characters go through a scenario where they need it, and this ends up being pretty satisfying (I have been nerdsniped into doing so much logistics for fictional battles.) Probably writing fictional medical emergencies is satisfying for this reason too?

(It's maybe slightly wireheading a desire-to-understand-the-world-and-people by creating a miniature world and people that I can understand perfectly by definition because I created them? Like, I find fantasy worldbuilding super shiny even though it's literally not about our world. Maybe I feel on some level like I'm learning model-building-in-general? I sort of expect my deep attentional processes to not be that effectively oriented towards learning, though.)

I think it also is a social thing, in that I have a group of ~10 beta readers with whom I've become much closer friends as a result of writing this and their reading it, and a piece of the shininess is when I'm imagining how much a particular person will like a scene (when I finally finish writing the next book and send it out to my betas, anyway, so there's a big delay, but I can imagine the deliciousness of them reading it later and get dopamine hits now). Sometimes I've also written stuff

It also just feels satisfying to make something exist, I think, to draw it out of my head in exactly the form I want – I remember getting into the same kind of flow drawing pictures or composing music, which have much less "content", and I even get some of the thing from singing.

Comment by swimmer963 on Swimmer963's Shortform · 2019-08-18T20:08:36.667Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I want to try to pull more of how-I-write into conscious awareness, both because other people have said they were curious & would like to hear about it, and because that might allow me to better troubleshoot and deliberately optimize it (e.g. sometimes I fail to get into flow and writing is effortful - why?), which I guess is a "curious about the mechanics for instrumental reasons" thing.

Comment by swimmer963 on Swimmer963's Shortform · 2019-08-18T14:48:44.258Z · score: 24 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Fiction writing ramble, 1 of ??:

I've been trying to introspect lately on my fiction writing process. My brain is opaque about what it's doing, which I guess makes sense – I've been telling stories since literally before I knew how to write, and I've never had any formal instruction in it.

Current question: why is it so intensely a superstimulus for me? Writing fiction is pretty much the only thing I will eagerly and endorsedly do for 16 hours straight. My best and most enjoyable writing periods feel very much like "chasing the shiny" – what "the shiny" is, is hard to describe, but it feels more "substantial" than other second-to-second dopamine-hit-seeking behaviours like chasing links on Wikipedia or TV Tropes. Somewhere between pushing towards an exercise high, and drinking water when I'm thirsty, whereas Internet dopamine-seeking is more like eating sugar.

Thinking about a story I'm writing, and especially talking meta about it with friends, is also extremely rewarding, to the point that sometimes I'll find myself off in daydreams or having a chat conversation instead of, you know, actually writing. Reaching the shiny thing on the page is effortful, much of the time – the feeling is often that it's "far away", and I'm sort of hill-climbing towards it, but often spotting smaller shiny things along the way. The big shiny thing can be a particularly clever or cool plot event that I'm setting the groundwork for, a felt sense theme-shaped-thing I'm groping towards, a lesson I want to convey, or the resolution of foreshadowing I've been setting up for dozens of chapters. (Or, let's be honest, my biggest self-indulgence in writing: gratuitous medical emergencies). The opportunities snatched up along the way can be an amusing interaction between characters, a bit of neat worldbuilding my brain generated on the spot, a snippet of dialogue that feels deliciously in-character, or just a sentence or word use that feels poetic and satisfying.

(Things I'm not chasing that I suspect other authors are: funny or badass one-liners, comedy that much in general, or clever deconstructions/reconstructions of "tropes". My fiction seems to have the quality of being consistently funny to anyone who has exactly my sense of humour, which involves e.g. laughing hysterically at particularly surreal accounting errors or, more generally, Murphy's Law in action, and basically not funny to most people. Interestingly, there are scenes in my current fic that I was cackling the entire time I wrote them, that like 3 people have commented on finding funny and most other people think I'm going for dramatic-and-stressful.)

Opening up Scrivener to write feels a lot like going somewhere – vaguely like opening up a new book in a series I love, or playing the next level of an awesome video game, which I suspect is a kind of juicy-anticipation shared by more people. Or returning to a familiar CFAR venue, let's say, with a mix of walking by familiar landmarks and people carrying out instinctive routines, and setting up for something new. The early stages of fleshing out a new world and story feel a bit like times I've flown to a new country, complete with making my way on foreign public transit to the AirBnB I'm staying in and going around opening all the drawers and cupboards to see what's in them (I, uh, will instinctively do a full inventory of every new place I'm staying in). There are big things that I see vaguely at a distance, and smaller local details that I can dig into, almost fractal complexity – except that, of course, I'm making up the details as I go, adding them to a world-model that I'm investing in and know I can return to play in anytime.

Comment by swimmer963 on Reclaiming Eddie Willers · 2019-07-25T14:17:41.745Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(I don't find literary analysis boring at all!) It's been long enough since I read the book that I don't exactly remember all the bits, and it also makes sense that different themes could resonate for different people. I think your interpretation is probably closer to what Ayn Rand intended – she obviously doesn't think of Eddie as an antagonist, exactly, since he has positive traits and her antagonists generally don't. I agree, and probably she would agree, that Eddie was able to do more good by "finding his Dagny" (I mean, this is what I was trying to do at the time!) That being said, I...don't remember having the impression at all that he would have been welcome in Galt's Gulch, even if he had decided to pin his loyalty on Dagny herself rather than the railroad; I don't remember him even having an opportunity to find out that she was leaving or why. (I could just be misremembering this, though.)

Comment by swimmer963 on Reclaiming Eddie Willers · 2019-07-15T18:00:04.376Z · score: 14 (4 votes) · LW · GW

On 2) I agree, but I think this is true of pretty much any "virtue" you could name – ambition, curiosity, kindness, humility, honesty/candor, etc. As you point out, no virtue is sufficient by itself, and no extreme is effective without some balance of the others. (Though I contest the fact that naive hufflepuffism doesn't already include some goal-seeking; caring about getting shit done is a pretty core Hufflepuff trait, and one Eddie Willers has in spades, though of course it may not be strategic or aimed in a useful direction). The main claim I'm making is that loyalty is a virtue the same way e.g. honesty is – not sufficient in itself, harmful if followed unstrategically and unquestioned, but good to have at all.

Another claim I'm making, though it wasn't very explicit here, is that there's not a single "right amount" of loyalty-drive to have. There's going to be a range where it's balanced with other traits and adaptive, different people are going to fall in different places on that spectrum, and that's fine. I have a high enough innate-drive-to-loyalty that I really don't need to cultivate more of it on purpose; it makes more sense to cultivate traits like ambition and self-efficacy that will help balance it; but I also don't think I should hammer that drive out of myself.


Comment by swimmer963 on Reclaiming Eddie Willers · 2019-07-15T15:19:51.430Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Considering motives is something that might be worth exploring in a higher-effort and more fleshed-out post, which this one is not. I do want to note that the Hufflepuff-Slytherin quote was from someone who I think would consider themselves a Hufflepuff, so read to me as a warning rather than a threat (and also was quoted to me second-hand, so I'm pretty uncertain about exact wording and don't want to speculate based on it.)

Comment by swimmer963 on Reclaiming Eddie Willers · 2019-07-15T15:16:23.274Z · score: 15 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This seems like partly a critique of unstrategic loyalty and unquestioned ideals rather than idealism per se, and (to my brain at least) partly like a type error – in my mind, the point of having ideals isn't at all that they will reward you.

I think this is fair re: loyalty to people – it's a red flag if you find yourself being loyal to someone who treats you badly, and falling into that pattern is a pitfall of being someone with a strong tendency to loyalty. Re: entities/institutions, I think it's more complicated, since I don't think modern institutions are generally capable of "being loyal back".

Comment by swimmer963 on Reclaiming Eddie Willers · 2019-07-15T04:42:29.305Z · score: 26 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad you made this comment (even though I confess it's a bit triggering, but I'm going to try my best to respond calmly). I think it's useful for clarifying what I mean, which I hadn't disclaimered very much because this post was pretty low-effort.

I agree that Eddie-as-written is very unstrategic, and also unreflective, in that he doesn't show the capacity to question his own drives. He doesn't attempt to model the world around him and the actual impacts of his actions at all (e.g. I don't think we ever see him thinking in a consequentialist way.) Loyalty as a trait + not trying to question your decision process does seem very dangerous, but I'm not convinced it's dangerous in a fundamentally different way from, say, intelligence or strength or social savvy combined with not questioning one's decision process. Any capacity-to-do-stuff applied in a random or not-well-thought-out direction, or especially in a direction manipulated by an adversarial agent, is likely to be harmful.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by keeping loyalty "in your core identity". The thing I mean to convey is that a) I want to recognize that I have a significant drive towards loyalty, and b) I don't have a moral obligation to rip that part out of my soul and rebuild my motivation system from scratch. Which is different from saying I don't have a moral duty to check whether I'm actually doing the right things. My higher-level ethical framework isn't one where loyalty is fundamental, I do try to check, and I've in fact broken loyalty bonds multiple times after reassessing.

I think I'm not an "obligate-loyal" person, I in fact have other drives and can function to a reasonable capacity through other sources of motivation; this is arguably what I'm doing right now, and I can't claim that it was always deliberate but I think I've ended up "slacking" when my S1 wasn't sure if a leader or institution was worth being loyal to. (I'm leaning towards thinking that loyalty-to-modern-institutions is almost always a misfiring of the drive, and have the start of a post on that.) Embracing my desire-to-be-loyal as part of me doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be an important driver in the near term; it may be that the current world doesn't offer actually-good avenues for this, for the reasons you pointed out, and I'm better off being slightly-less-fully-alive in exchange for not being loyalty-bound to an institution that might be harmful. But, just...yeah, I guess I like the framing in your subsequent comment. Maybe there's a thing wrong with the world, but I'm no longer willing to let people tell me that this is something fundamentally wrong with me.

Comment by swimmer963 on Micro feedback loops and learning · 2019-05-26T17:30:41.843Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Wow! That...is not a thing that I would have expected to exist. I guess it makes sense, if it in fact depends on relatively few variables.

Comment by swimmer963 on Micro feedback loops and learning · 2019-05-26T15:46:25.025Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've had The Inner Game of Tennis on my recommended list for several years, as a general rationality-related book; clearly I should just go ahead and read it!

I did a quick Google for you, and it looks like there are a lot of apps for Android that are similar (though I can't speak to which of them are actually good).


Comment by swimmer963 on Say Wrong Things · 2019-05-25T18:14:00.634Z · score: 20 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I've noticed in the past that I feel aversion to saying (and especially writing down) things that "might be false" – where I'm low confidence, where I expect that I just don't have the information to do more than speculate wildly.

When I try to introspect on this, I do think some of it is fear of being wrong in public (and this feeling definitely responds to local social incentives – I'm more likely to be comfortable rambling without a filter in private with close friends, and in fact do this a bunch.)

I think there are also other pieces. I'm wary that it's hard for humans to incorporate epistemic status tags and actually take my thoughts less seriously if I say I'm very uncertain. I'm also wary of...crystallizing a theory about something, and then becoming vulnerable to confirmation bias as I try to test it against observations? (This worry is stronger in areas where it feels hard to actually get feedback from reality.) As you point out, though, the tradeoff there is giving up on improving understanding.

I suspect I'm a lot less averse to low-confidence-speculation in private than I was several years ago, and it's partly because I think it's good for developing understanding, and partly just because I feel more comfortable socially and have less anticipation of being shut down.

(Also want to note that in general I have only moderate confidence in my introspection on stuff like this, and this comment is mostly a ramble.)

Comment by swimmer963 on Examples of growth mindset or practice in fiction · 2015-09-29T00:26:05.817Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Brandon Sanderson's writings tend to be quite decent.

I'd thought about putting the Mistborn series in the "things that are close to what I'm talking about", but I've only read 2/3 of the first book.

the explanation for the original villain remaining largely technically incompetent is rather contrived and hand-waved.

I'd forgotten about that. I think maybe I assumed the incompetent-villain characters were finding ways to skimp on the training that was supposed to be required?

Comment by swimmer963 on Accomplishing things takes a long time · 2015-06-16T05:36:08.315Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Verbal communication is much harder for people than written.

Um, this is really not universally true at all. In fact, it's possible more than 50% of people find verbal communication easier. (Although this community may contain an overrepresentation of people who find written easier.)

Comment by swimmer963 on How my social skills went from horrible to mediocre · 2015-05-21T02:50:53.744Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Women, in particular, are quite adept at this.

Citation?

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-05-08T00:39:23.873Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Have you read many of the "gritty crime novel" or other "gritty realism" genres? I think I have a felt sense for what that narrative is, but it's hard to explain, because it comes from having read several hundred books in the genre.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-05-07T23:55:43.506Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. I'm going to suggest something that I just thought of and that may or may not be helpful, but here goes:

The trouble with narratives is that once you have one, it's really hard to go back to not having a narrative. Heroism is a narrative. It's going to be really hard to go back to just doing whatever you were doing without interpreting it in some kind of narrative sense – but you can change your narrative. To something like "there are no heroes." Heroism is a construct, a concept, but it doesn't cut reality at the joints. The real world is more like one of those gritty crime novels, where morality isn't a real thing and there are just humans, with drives both noble and corrupt, trying to survive.

This is a narrative I've had, but it wasn't to solve the same problem. I have my couch-potato urges, like anyone, but I've never had to resort to much mental violence to suppress them. I think because I'm able to notice that when I follow the urges, and read sci-fi for ten hours instead of cooking and exercising and cleaning, then I feel physically bad (stiff, achy, etc), and mentally bad (foggy head, being bored but unable to think of a thing to do about it, etc). This is visceral enough feedback for my System 1 to get it and respond to an urge to stay in bed and read my book all day with "do you really want to do that?" (The prerequisite for this may be having good enough energy and mood overall that doing non-couch-potato things is pleasant or at least bearable. I've experienced times when this wasn't the case – when I was so exhausted that trying to do anything other than read fanfic was painful. If trying to do work is always aversive for you, that may well be a medical issue – it'd be consistent with depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.)

Comment by swimmer963 on Is Scott Alexander bad at math? · 2015-05-04T22:01:38.716Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This blog post discusses a study using a construct called “clerical intelligence”; I wonder if low clerical intelligence is the sort of thing that would cause someone to be good at math “conceptually” but keep making frustrating mistakes in practice.

Ooh! I think 'clerical intelligence' is the thing that my husband and I have taken to calling 'attention to detail' amongst ourselves. It's also been at least occasionally studied under that name – when applying for an admin job, they gave me a test of 'attention to detail' that consisted of several hundred timed questions comparing a block of six numbers to another block, having to answer whether they were the same or not, with around 5-10 seconds to spend per question. I don't think I'm outright bad at this, but it's not effortless for me. (Luckily, I had math teachers who gave points for the work getting to the solution, not just the solution, so I could get 7/8 points on a complicated problem even if I substituted a + for a - somewhere and got the wrong answer).

My husband tends to use 'attentional to detail' to some degree also to mean what Paul Graham would call 'taste' or what Jonah would call 'aesthetic discernment'. I think the causal relationship is probably that in order to develop 'taste'–intuitions for what's good that correspond to what's generally agreed to be good – you need to be paying close attention to its details for a few years. Thus I have 'taste' for music, writing, and to some degree math, but not for fashion, since I never looked at what people were wearing.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-23T02:14:42.125Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That's really interesting! Are you able to break down the relevant skills at all?

Comment by swimmer963 on You Only Live Twice · 2015-01-15T19:38:52.967Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I actually had a nightmare recently where I was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and would have preferred not to go through treatment, but felt pressured by other, more aggressively anti-death members of the rationality community. Was afraid people would think I didn't care about them if I didn't try to stay alive longer to be with them, etc. (I'm an ICU nurse; I have a pretty good S1 handle on how horrific a lot of life saving treatments are, and how much quality of life it's possible to lose.)

I've thought about cryonics, but haven't made a decision either way; right now, my feeling is that I don't have anything against the principle, but that it doesn't seem likely enough to work for the cost-benefit analysis to come out positive.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-13T22:13:56.148Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

...I wrote that post, so yes, I've already read most of the comments.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-11T02:39:27.532Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Clarification: I'm not actually planning to do unpaid work for Ruby, at least not immediately. I'm going to be retraining as an executive assistant, because they're useful, and keeping my nursing license valid (possibly finding a part time nursing job if that turns out to be at all feasible, because I really love working as a nurse.)

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-10T16:55:41.691Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What are rationalist heroes supposed to do? And what can “sidekicks” do to help them?

I think founding CFAR was an example; there are both leader and sidekick roles there.

But in that case doesn't the sort of "sidekick" that Miranda describes count as a hero, because being a sidekick is plausibly one of the best ways that they can contribute to solving the world's problems?

Maybe.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-10T16:54:27.723Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

First, Samwise is self-sufficient ("competent"). It's not the typical Robin character that needs to get rescued by Batman as a stupid plot ploy. He has his own skills and carries his own weight. The hero/ine might save/rescue the world, but s/he does not save/rescue this sidekick.

I certainly hope to be at least that competent. I'm an adult; I've lived on my own and been financially independent of my parents since I was 17. If anything, it feels like "okay, I've got this taking care of myself thing down, can I have a harder challenge?" I'm a freaking ICU nurse, responsible for other people's lives 12 hours a day.

Second, Samwise is not a little green wo/man working in the background where no-one can see him/her so that it appears as if the hero/ine did everything on his/her own... They are noticed and they do play a visible role.

It doesn't feel like I would strongly prefer being visible to being in the background. Both have an appeal. There's skill and satisfaction in knowing that you're making it look like the hero did everything on their own, too.

I mean, it might be for whose who see everything gender related (ideology has this effect), but not for those who think it shouldn't matter. The arguments count, not the (gender of the) person who wrote a text.

I think people engage with things they read on multiple levels, not just the explicit arguments, and that includes picking up implicit social norms from context/subtext like "all the pro-hero writers are male, all the pro-sidekick writers are female." And that's not even taking into account the fact that my article is apparently fairly in line with Christian writing on the topic of service, and so might end up shared among Christian bloggers–and the various Christian's sects' attitudes to gender roles are often not ones I endorse.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-10T16:42:35.219Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can't help but feel as though I face the choice of either striving for heroism continually throughout every area in my life, or giving up on my ambitions entirely and becoming a selfish couch potato.

Hmm. Before you were exposed to the LW idea of heroism, how did you feel, motivation-wise? What did you spend your time doing?

I can't help but feel as though I face the choice of either striving for heroism continually throughout every area in my life, or giving up on my ambitions entirely and becoming a selfish couch potato.

This seems incompatible with "I do not, intellectually, believe that striving for this sort of heroism will be likely to have negative consequences, because I don't believe making the effort will significantly affect my actions." If aiming to be a hero doesn't effect your actions, it also shouldn't make the difference between being a "selfish couch potato" and not? But I feel like there's a lot of vagueness here, too. Can you taboo "selfish couch potato" and describe what you fear you would actually do? And compare it to what you're actually doing now? Versus what ideal you would do? Like, actual actions–"I get up in the morning, I go walk to the store..." Etc.

My brain says that I need to work for a couple hours a day learning until I get my degree, then get a good job and make money while studying politics and economics, and then eventually start some kind of charity to help in the 3rd world.

This sounds fine? Like, definitely underspecified as an actual plan, and maybe focusing too much on one path and neglecting all the equally valuable alternatives (I think that happens a lot with long term plans). But it doesn't reek too badly of "I must make desperate efforts to be heroic constantly!"

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-10T16:34:19.305Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I feel that it's healthy to work as an assistant to someone (and stop thinking about work when you leave the office at 6pm), but it's unhealthy to be the assistant of someone (and treat them as a fantasy hero 24/7 and possibly sleep with them).

I think this is exactly what Brienne is talking about when she points out that society doesn't look kindly on people who want to serve others. And... I think maybe you're pointing at something real. It does seem possible that when "being" an assistant breaks, it breaks harder than when "working as" an assistant breaks. So it's a higher-stakes situation to put yourself in. (Both for the leader and for their assistant).

I don't think that negates any of what I said in the post though. Half of my point is basically just "some people are the kind of people who want to be nurses, no, really." Like, it seems to be really hard for people who aren't those kind of people to understand that for me, roles that aren't especially high-status but involve being really useful to other people hit all of my happiness buttons. That people are actually different and that their dream job might be one I'd hate, and vice versa.

The other part probably only makes sense when aimed at people who have taken the concept of "heroes" on board...which large portions of this community have. And that point is mainly: if you're going to accept that heroes and people who want to be heroes are a thing, you've got to have the concept of sidekicks too, otherwise you have a broken unhealthy community. It sounds like you're arguing that it's best not to take either concept on board. Maybe. You can argue that point.

That's also the advice I often give to programmers, to think of themselves as working for a company (in exchange for money) rather than at a company (as part of a common cause).

I'm not sure I have that switch? I've developed strong feelings of loyalty towards every job I've had. As a nurse, this loyalty is felt only a little bit towards the hospital where I work; I feel more of it for my immediate colleagues, and the rest of it towards some abstract "Profession of Nursing." I'm not sure how to stop feeling that way, or honestly why I'd want to stop.

We have all kinds of ancient tribal instincts, which are amplified by reading fantasy and bad (hero-based) sci-fi. I feel that such instincts are usually harmful in the long run, although they seem to make sense in the moment.

This comes across a little bit as saying "hey, don't have emotions!" Which...yeah, maybe emotions cause a lot of problems, but not having them isn't an option. And I'm not sure that not having narratives is an option either. It seems to me that I'm going to think of my life as a narrative in any case; I might as well try to understand and analyze and shape it. (Just as I shape my emotions, trying to lean away from the emotions that seem net-negative...but the way to do that is to guide yourself towards different emotions.)

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-10T06:59:08.706Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When did this sense of despair start? (Was it after exposure to the LW idea of heroism, or before that?) When you ask yourself "what's the bad thing that happens if I am for Goal X, which doesn't include being a hero", do you get an answer? Have you tried tabooing the word "hero" and describing the actual plans and actions that your brain think would be acceptable, versus the ones that it thinks would be unacceptable?

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-10T06:47:59.642Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I'm curious as to why you so strongly think that sidekicks risk being abused, and that "healthy" communities will discourage this dynamic hard. I– I don't want to say that I want to be exploited, but I crave being useful, and being used to my full usefulness. I don't think this desire is unhealthy. Yes, this means that it's always tempting to throw too much of myself at a project, but that's the same problem as learning not to say yes to all the overtime shifts at the hospital and end up working 70 hours a week. I guess you could say that someone I was working for could "abuse" me by forcing me, or coercing or sweet-talking me, into the equivalent of "taking all the overtime shifts." But (in my limited experience of this) the leader's more common motivation seems to be in the opposite direction–of being afraid of pushing their sidekick too far.

I'm wondering whether you have some different experience of this, and would be interested in your elaboration if you have one.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-09T17:08:22.334Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I think my main point is "it's not true that your only options are Be a Hero or Be Insignificant, there's a third option." Because if it's presented as a dichotomy, I think many sidekick-oriented people would go for being insignificant–so the impact they could theoretically have as a hero is moot.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-09T16:22:22.516Z · score: 14 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. I grew up with a different experience. Don't remember feeling especially alone-as-a-rationalist. Some parts of my childhood were unusual; my parents are pretty exceptionally sane, my brother is as interested in rationality as I am. And I think to a large degree it's just a personality difference. From the outside, it sometimes looks like other rationalists are trying to conclude that other people are dumb or unstrategic. (Including Eliezer). This makes no sense to me.

I sometimes wish I could drag various rationalists to my job at the ICU for a while, make them see the kind of teamwork and cooperation that happens in a place where cooperation is a default and a necessity. Nurses, for the most part, just cooperate. Even when there are conflicts. Even when they don't like each other. (Although the degree of "agency" that the team as a whole has does vary with how much the individuals like each other and get along.) I don't know how to make this magic happen on demand, aside from applying selection bias to get the kinds of people who want to be nurses, and then giving them hard-but-manageable problems to solve. And I think I did learn a lot about cooperation at work.

Now I'm curious about the other implications of a society where individuals are isolated. What does that even look like? What do people spend their time doing? What causes the isolation? ...Sci-fi plot brewing.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-09T16:11:53.036Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah. This is definitely a thing. It seems good to have the vocabulary to differentiate the two, so that someone can know whether their current apprentice is aiming to be a hero or a sidekick.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-09T16:09:03.315Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. That's true. I'm not sure how much this is actually a dichotomy in practice, as opposed to a gradient where some sidekicks are more assistant-like, some are in the middle, and some are more second-in-command like. I'm also not sure to what degree the same people are attracted to both second-in-command and assistant roles, and whether it's for the same reasons. That would affect whether it makes sense to classify them together for this purpose. I can come up with imaginary characters who would only be interested in second-in-command, or only in assistant roles, but they both appeal to me for many of the same reasons.

I kind of feel like it has to do with the sidekick's competence and also the scale of the project. If the project is of a scale where it's possible for the hero to make most of the decisions, and the sidekick is new to it and finds assistant-work hard enough, it'll tend towards that role. If the sidekick and hero keep working together, as they both learn and grow, the hero will want to move on to larger-scale projects, and at some point there will be too many high-level decisions for the hero to make all of them, and at this point the sidekick will have been working with them for a long time and learned a lot, and it seems like it might naturally turn into a second-in-command role. But this would only happen in a situation where roles are fluid; if it were a standard case of a CEO and their executive assistant, the role would be unlikely to change that much. (Although EAs do have quite a lot of decision-making power.)

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-09T15:55:43.052Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks. Fixed.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-08T17:55:32.473Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You're not the first person to remark on that. What do you think that we ought to do about it?

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-08T17:54:15.712Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I think that, if Eliezer felt that way in the past, he no longer feels that way; he has told me that he thinks the sidekick role is valuable and regrets possibly having made sidekick-identified people feel otherwise.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-08T11:24:07.077Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Neat! I didn't know that was a thing. Society consistently surprises me by being cooler and bigger than I expect.

Edit: I'm trying to find out what 'SCA' stands for and the first google result was "Sudden Cardiac Arrest." Google knows me way too freaking well.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-08T11:23:38.779Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I've also had this thought. A few people I've showed this too are explicitly bothered about the what-if-it's-a-result-of-the-patriarchy; one person is tempted to identify as a Samwise character, but reluctant to because Sexist Overtones. I...don't think this is the right response. It's a bit like saying "no, I'm going to be a doctor instead of a nurse because women are pushed into nursing by The Patriarchy." Maybe it's true, but it's orthogonal to whether an individual will like nursing or medicine more (although, honestly, they're not that different).

Other thoughts: everyone who wrote publicly about this was female, but most of the people who have emailed me privately to thank me for the post are male. So... Men feel more shamed about wanting to be sidekicks than women do?

I've already had the thought that the message I'm sending might be bad if it spread to society as a whole, because women may be pushed harder away from being CEOs than from being their executive assistants (or whatever the dichotomy), and even a well-written and nuanced pro-sidekick message is going to get parsed as "smart lady says your place is as an assistant." (If a man wrote this post, the message would be different, but I'm not a man.) I still this this message is pretty positive for the LW/CFAR/rationality community to hear; its biases run in different directions.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-08T11:17:53.454Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

I would much rather make phone calls and schedule events than fight Orcs. The latter sounds scary.

...That being said, I do like the aspects of my current job where I get to defibrillate people once in a while. I'm going to miss that.

Comment by swimmer963 on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-01-08T11:09:58.474Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

All of the above is true. And this post is explicitly written for the people who have bought into "the world needs saving" and are angsty about it because they don't want to perform a "hero" role but feel like they should. I'm sure there are thousands of people all around me living simple lives of devotion to their families, partners, and communities. (This includes many of my fellow nurses.) They don't need telling that this is okay. In fact, I think that in larger society, this might be an overall bad message for me personally to send, because it's possible that in society at large women are dissuaded harder from being CEOs than from being executive assistants (or whatever dichotomy) and sending that message an extra time, even if it's well-written and nuanced, would just sum up to "see, honey, another smart-sounding lady says your place in the world is as the CEO's assistant!" (The message would have a different impact if I were male, but I'm not and I can't do that hypothetical.)

But I'm posting this on Less Wrong, where the worldview of "the world is broken and my ethics dictate I try to fix it" is a pretty common mindset. It's something I've bought into, to a degree. I'm talking to the people who already believe that heroes exist. (Maybe they ought not to.) I'd like those people not to have to feel distressed about this.

Can a bond which is essentially based off of someone's propensity to succeed at what they are doing in life really grow to be unconditional? What if Frodo suddenly gets a debilitating disease and can't be a Frodo anymore?

No. If I were helping someone accomplish an important project, and they became debilitated, I'd find another Frodo. (After I'd made sure my first Frodo was going to at least be comfortable and not miserable.) It'd be hard. Loyalty runs deep in me. I don't know if this is a necessary fact about a Samwise character, or if it's just happened to be true of all the people I've talked to so far. But the ethics I have now that dictate that being a nurse for forty years is not the thing I can do with the largest positive expected impact on the world, would also dictate the same thing about being my former Frodo's home-care nurse. Brienne has been pretty explicit that if she's working with a hero, and finds out that they're wrong about a fundamental thing and thus that she could make more impact on her own, she would do it, even though it would be a personal tragedy.

In terms of the romance aspect... I have no idea. It doesn't feel necessary. It feels like there are lots of real-life examples of a dynamic that would be satisfying and feel right to me and aren't romantic–a CEO's executive assistant isn't normally their romantic partner. Nursing has many of the same aspects, and makes me deeply happy, and there's nothing to do with romance there. Maybe if you're going to be working with a single person, romance is convenient; time spent with your partner is also time spent on your important project, you don't have to budget them separately. (This sounds potentially unhealthy/hard on the relationship aspect, so I don't know.)