Book Reviews 2017-07-18T14:19:19.301Z
Mental Subvocalization --"Saying" Words In Your Mind As You Read 2014-02-15T02:38:58.030Z
"Singularity or Bust" full documentary 2013-11-01T20:48:13.857Z
Time-logging programs and/or spreadsheets 2013-10-16T23:57:31.920Z
Reading habits/techniques/strategies (second post on the topic) 2013-09-29T12:55:42.094Z
Please share your reading habits/techniques/strategies 2013-09-13T13:41:53.584Z
Are certain types of loyalty categorically unreasonable? 2013-09-06T13:42:31.295Z
Looking for Opinions on "Antifragile" by N. Taleb 2013-08-30T22:29:32.173Z


Comment by Torello on January 2018 Media Thread · 2018-01-02T18:17:50.591Z · LW · GW

Audiobooks I completed in 2017

Books I completed in 2017

My favorite books I read this year

Comment by Torello on November 2017 Media Thread · 2017-11-04T21:56:36.595Z · LW · GW

Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright, 2017

The Three Languages of Politics by Arnold Kling, 2017

The Clock of the Long Now by Stewart Brand, 1999

I would guess that both "Three Languages" and "Long Now" would appeal to most LW readers.

Comment by Torello on October 2017 Media Thread · 2017-10-01T20:52:35.513Z · LW · GW

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, 2016

The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller, 2000

Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, 2010

Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior by Geoffrey Miller, 2009

Comment by Torello on September 2017 Media Thread · 2017-09-03T14:41:48.260Z · LW · GW

Ambient Findability by Peter Morville, 2005

The Spoils of War by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, 2016

Future Sex by Emily Witt, 2016

Comment by Torello on August 2017 Media Thread · 2017-08-03T00:57:38.879Z · LW · GW

The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley


Language at the Speed of Sight by Mark Seidenberg


Paying for it by Chester Brown


Autobiography by John Stuart Mill


Comment by Torello on August 2017 Media Thread · 2017-08-03T00:54:28.030Z · LW · GW

Exit West by Moshin Haimd


Comment by Torello on Book Reviews · 2017-07-18T19:36:13.640Z · LW · GW

Thanks, should be working now.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015 · 2015-02-06T23:55:55.545Z · LW · GW

Yes, you've hit on the main point. Survival (and later on, reproductive value) is what matters. The fact that the maps help them survive is what matters. The existence of the map or its accuracy matters only matters in so far as it contributes to reproductive success.

Natural selection doesn't "reward" them for having an accurate map, only a map that helps they live and reproduce.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015 · 2015-02-06T00:36:03.975Z · LW · GW

I agree that "limited" is a better word than "horrible".

What I meant by "horrible" is that, relative to human maps, ant maps are extremely limited; they do not represent "truth" or reality as well to the same scope or accuracy of human maps.

I think the point is that even though ant maps are limited, they can still be adaptive. Natural selection is indifferent to the scope/accuracy of a map in and of itself.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015 · 2015-02-05T00:43:00.407Z · LW · GW

Because the truth, even in small matters like snake coloration, can make a difference, the original quotation is an overstatement.

All natural selection "cares about" is genes copied. Claws, peacock tail feathers, and "maps" can all "make a difference," but natural selection only acts on the results (genes copied); natural selection itself doesn't favor any particular kind of adaptation, that's why I think the original quote is not an overstatement.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015 · 2015-02-05T00:35:31.151Z · LW · GW

If your map significantly doesn't match the territory, natural selection is likely to be brutal to you.

Another way to think about his idea:

Natural selection is equally brutal to all life. Moss and ants have horrible maps, but they are still successful in terms of natural selection.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015 · 2015-02-05T00:23:53.329Z · LW · GW

If, magically, you get a choice between getting a more accurate map or a less accurate map, you should always choose the more accurate map.

I think that point he's trying to make is that natural selection doesn't magically get a choice between maps. In general, a more accurate map will only become available to the mind of some creature if it happens to be adaptive for genes in a particular population in a particular environment.

Think of all the creatures with really bad maps. In terms of reproduction, they are doing just fine. For some species, their relative reproductive success can be improved with more accurate maps, but that's a means to the end of reproductive success,

There are many ways to "make a living" in evolutionary terms, and having a mind with accurate maps is only one of them.

Think of all the creatures who don't have "maps" as humans do. They are still being acted upon by natural selection.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015 · 2015-02-04T06:00:12.283Z · LW · GW

He's using "indifferent" metaphorically. He would completely agree that natural selection has no mind.

What he means is that natural selection operates on differential rates of reproduction of genes, not on the accuracy/truth of the beliefs that the mind of an individual holds.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015 · 2015-02-04T05:22:41.311Z · LW · GW

Maybe I should have included the whole paragraph:

"And even when "truth" can be clearly defined, it is a concept to which natural selection is indifferent. To be sure, if an accurate portrayal of reality, to oneself or to others can help spread one's genes, then accuracy of perception or communication may evolve. And often this will be the case (when, say, you remember where food is stored, and share the data with offspring or siblings). But when accurate reporting and genetic interest do thus intersect, that's just a happy coincidence. Truth and honesty are never favored by natural selection in and of themselves. Natural selection neither "prefers" honesty nor "prefers" dishonesty. It just doesn't care."

He's talking about the "maps" that humans/animals may carry in their brains. These maps don't need to match the territory to be adaptive (I think your criticism of the quote hinges on how you would define "significantly"). But there's quite a bit of space where a "bad map" does not prevent adaptive behavior.

For example, some non-venomous snakes "copied" the color patterns of venomous snakes. It's still adaptive for animals to avoid all snakes with this coloring (just to be safe) without needing to know the truth about which snake is dangerous and which isn't. And natural selection is "rewarding" the non-venomous snake for lying about how dangerous it is.

Comment by Torello on Open Thread, Feb. 2 - Feb 8, 2015 · 2015-02-03T15:35:26.590Z · LW · GW

Your discussion of failure modes at the bottom of this comment is excellent.

Do you have any recommend books or articles on the topic?

Has there already been a post about these failure modes on the main page? If not, please expand this into a main post.

Too all other readers, please feel free to share books or articles on the topic.

Comment by Torello on Open Thread, Feb. 2 - Feb 8, 2015 · 2015-02-03T15:25:07.061Z · LW · GW

I think she means urgency from the perspective of the general population; many people are at risk if a growing number of people stop getting vaccines.

I think members of the organic food movement feel that their cause is urgent, but members of the general population are not put in danger by their decision to eat organic food and therefore don't have urgent feelings about it.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015 · 2015-02-03T15:17:47.359Z · LW · GW

[Charles] Darwin wrote in his autobiography of a habit he called a "golden rule": to immediately write down any observation that seemed inconsistent with his theories--"for I had found by experience that such facts and thoughts were far more apt to escape from the memory than favorable ones."

-Robert Wright, The Moral Animal, p.280

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015 · 2015-02-03T15:15:31.312Z · LW · GW

And even when "truth" can be clearly defined, it is a concept to which natural selection is indifferent.

-Robert Wright, The Moral Animal, p. 272

Comment by Torello on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-19T00:40:59.755Z · LW · GW

There are drugs for alcoholics that make you sick if you drink, so it makes you feel miserable short-run but may help you to be stable/functional/productive long run.

Comment by Torello on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-19T00:39:03.975Z · LW · GW

Keep lot of slips of paper on a clipboard next to the bed. Give each idea its own slip (so they can easily be sorted later). Lay down on the bed 25 minutes early, which will give you time for the thoughts to arise, then you'll get your full sleep time.

Comment by Torello on Open thread, Dec. 8 - Dec. 15, 2014 · 2014-12-08T23:41:37.585Z · LW · GW

Not to derail the post, but I saw on your blog you had IQ testing done. I just had it done, about to get the results.

Do you have any recommendations for resources that will help me make sense of the results? My motivation in taking the test was to see what types of problems/domains I might be good at (relative to my own performance in other domains).

Comment by Torello on Open thread, Dec. 8 - Dec. 15, 2014 · 2014-12-08T23:38:35.161Z · LW · GW

The links were broken for me.

I picking up my kit from the post office tomorrow. I'm also gifting all four grandparents with kits for Christmas. I would be very interested to hear what you plan to do with your data.

Look at this site:

I haven't looked at it closely yet, but it may prove valuable. I would love to hear suggestions from other people on the site about what I should do with my data, especially given that all my grandparents will do it, which is probably very rare at this point in history.

Comment by Torello on Open thread, Nov. 24 - Nov. 30, 2014 · 2014-12-01T03:02:30.693Z · LW · GW

I agree that small physical differences can be very consequential--wouldn't small mental differences be similarly consequential?

This radiolab episode discusses how swimmers who engage in more self-deception win more frequently, controlling for other factors (i.e., self-deceivers on a division 3, 2, and 1 teams are more likely to beat their opponents, so at different levels of physical skill their mentality is predictive).

We are talking about very small margins of victory in many (or most) cases.

I'm not sure what you're getting at here--that the victory of a particular person is attributable to noise because the margin of error is small?

Comment by Torello on Open thread, Nov. 24 - Nov. 30, 2014 · 2014-11-25T22:39:27.659Z · LW · GW

Thanks for your reply.

Can you point me to any articles/sites about biofeedback devices? Have you done biofeedback yourself?

Perhaps you're right about the bomb squad heart rate, maybe a moderately raised rate would be a proxy for optimal/peak arousal levels. However, I'd guess that a little too much calm is better than overwhelming panic, which would probably be a more typical reaction to approaching a bomb that's about to explode.

I agree that a coach would be better, but a book is a more practical option at the moment.

(this may sound snarky, but isn't) Did you learn meditation from a teacher, or from a step-by-step book? The steps you give seem are simple (not easy), and a good starting point. I think a meditation coach would help you flesh these out, but those kinds of precise instruction are what I'm looking for.

Comment by Torello on Open thread, Nov. 24 - Nov. 30, 2014 · 2014-11-25T02:26:42.712Z · LW · GW

This is not exactly a reply to your question, but I think your question is fits this dynamic:

Miller's Iron Law of Iniquity

In principle, there is an evolutionary trade-off between any two positive traits. But in practice, every good trait correlates positively with every other good trait.

Comment by Torello on Open thread, Nov. 24 - Nov. 30, 2014 · 2014-11-25T02:21:16.472Z · LW · GW

TLDR: Requesting articles/papers/books that feature detailed/explicit "how-to" sections for bio-feedback/visualization/mental training for improving performance (mostly mental, but perhaps cognitive as well)

Years ago I saw an interview with Michael Phelps' (Olympic swimmer) coach in which he claims that most Olympic-finalist caliber swimmers have nearly indistinguishable physical capabilities, Phelps' ability to focus and visualize success is what set him apart.

I also saw a program about free divers (staying underwater for minutes) who slow their heart-rates through meditation.

I also read that elite military units visualize to remain calm and carry out complex tasks despite incredible stress (for instance, bomb squad members with heart rates lower in the presence of a bomb than on an average afternoon at the base). Unfortunately I didn't record the sources of these various pieces, so I can't link to them

Has anyone read any specific how-to books on the topic, i.e., here are step-by-step instructions for visualizations, lowering heart rate, mental clarity, etc?

Comment by Torello on Open thread, Nov. 3 - Nov. 9, 2014 · 2014-11-06T23:29:04.707Z · LW · GW

Rich people treat the space stations as cabins.

Alternately, artist colony for the next generation of super-wealthy artists like Damien Hearst (spelling?) need to go for "artistic inspiration" (scare quotes due to Hansonian signling).

Comment by Torello on Open thread, Oct. 13 - Oct. 19, 2014 · 2014-10-15T23:17:27.833Z · LW · GW

I read GTD about four months ago and have started using it at work. It's made an incredible difference by 1) reducing the instances I feel overwhelmed or confused about what to do 2) helping me to better track my primary projects 3) helping me not to forget about small projects or put off the steps to getting them started 4) the system reminds me of what I'm waiting for other people to do, which I never tracked efficiently before.

Comment by Torello on Please recommend some audiobooks · 2014-10-11T15:44:03.213Z · LW · GW

I second Checklist Manifesto due to content.

I second Gang Leader not only for interesting content, but because I found the voice acting to add to the content (I sometimes give up on interesting content because I can't stand the voice acting)

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes October 2014 · 2014-10-02T01:39:31.443Z · LW · GW

"While there are problems with what I have proposed, they should be compared to the existing alternatives, not to abstract utopias."

Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future (page number not provided by e-reader)

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes October 2014 · 2014-10-02T01:37:57.973Z · LW · GW

"Information always underrepresents reality."

Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future? (page number not provided by e-reader)

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes October 2014 · 2014-10-02T01:22:37.413Z · LW · GW

"Put simply, the truth about all those good decisions you plan to make sometime in the future, when things are easier, is that you probably won't make them once that future rolls around and things are tough again."

Sendhil Mullaainathan and Eldar Shafir, Scarcity, p. 215

Comment by Torello on Open thread, September 15-21, 2014 · 2014-09-24T22:57:22.423Z · LW · GW

Thanks for your reply.

Do you think it would be fair to say that for rare diseases (that are not determined by single loci mutations, like Huntington's or BRCA, as you described) it's silly to get a test because a small movement in your risk profile is meaningless in that it wouldn't impact your treatment or behavior in a meaningful way?

Could you explain what you mean by:

Either way, it is a big chunk of likely mortality

Do you work in a related field? You explained this rather concisely, thanks.

Comment by Torello on Open thread, September 15-21, 2014 · 2014-09-20T22:20:57.669Z · LW · GW

From an article I'm reading:

"For example, the life-time risk for an individual in the United States to develop Crohn’s disease is about 1/1000. How helpful is it for clinicians and patients if that risk shifts to 1/500 or 1/2000?"

It may be hard to tell without the context, but they are suggesting that these revised risk assessments would not be useful. My initial thought is: "If having an estimate is helpful, having a more accurate estimate would be better, and there seems to be a big difference between 1/500 and 1/1000.

Any thoughts?

Full article:

Comment by Torello on Unpopular ideas attract poor advocates: Be charitable · 2014-09-15T22:35:05.396Z · LW · GW

Interesting post!

Another reason to be charitable: these "poor advocates", by virtue of being marginalized/unpopular/cranks may have fewer disincentives to say "the emperor has no clothes", because their standing is already low. Once they put an idea out there, it may gain traction with a greater chunk of the population. Unfortunately, this dynamic leads to "autism is caused by vaccines" movements too.

If you're interested in the topic I highly recommend this BloggingHeads episode: specifically the "emperor has no clothes" and "tokenism" sections (there are links to those segments under the video.

Comment by Torello on Overcoming Decision Anxiety · 2014-09-11T22:18:59.286Z · LW · GW

Definitely read The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, or watch him speak about the book (the book is better than the talks).

Basic concepts he shares:

-reduce the number of options (only seriously consider two options for your custom suit, not four)

-"satisfice" which means saying "I don't need the best, I need something that is good enough."

-limit the number of decisions where you can change your mind. "I only get one decision where I can reconsider today."

-make blanket rules that prevent you from having to make decisions "I can never cheat on my partner, so I don't even need to agonize over every opportunity to cheat that arises."

Comment by Torello on Open thread, September 8-14, 2014 · 2014-09-11T22:06:30.523Z · LW · GW

Not really what you're looking for, but I feel obligated:

Move or get a different job. Reduce your commute by 1 or 1.5 hours. This is the best way to increase the productivity of your commute.

I read (can't remember source) that commuting was the worst part of the people's day (they were unhappy, or experienced the lowest levels of their self-assess subjective well being).

Comment by Torello on Open thread, September 8-14, 2014 · 2014-09-11T22:03:37.714Z · LW · GW

Having a work ethic might help you accomplish more things than you would without one.

It's a good reputation boost. "A highly-skilled, hard-working x" might be more flattering than "a highly skilled x."

Work ethic might be a signal/facet of conscientiousness, a desirable trait in many domains.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-05T01:49:45.505Z · LW · GW

Basically what Lumifer said.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-01T19:06:59.676Z · LW · GW

Perceiving magic is precisely the same thing as perceiving the limits of your own understanding.

-Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future?, (e-reader does not provide page number)

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-05T14:04:11.858Z · LW · GW

I didn't read the linked article--it certainly seems to frame the issue as rationalists vs. barbarians, not humanity vs. the environment (and the flaws of humanity), so thanks for pointing that out.

I do think fundamentalists/extremists/terrorists have an asymmetrical advantage in the short term in that it's always easier to cause damage/disorder than improvement/order. This quote above seems to be a particular example of this phenomenon.

However, I have to agree with Jiro's comment. Extremists may be able to destroy things and kill people, but I wouldn't say they've been able to conquer anything. To me, "conquer" implies taking control of a country, making its economy work for you, dominating the native population, building a palace, etc. Modern extremists commit suicide and then their mastermind hides silently for a decade until helicopters fly in and soldiers kill him.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-05T13:43:56.239Z · LW · GW

"In 1971, John Rawls coined the term "reflective equilibrium" to denote "a state of balance or coherence among a set of beliefs arrived at by a process of deliberative mutual adjustment among general principles and particular judgments". In practical terms, reflective equilibrium is about how we identify and resolve logical inconsistencies in our prevailing moral compass. Examples such as the rejection of slavery and of innumerable "isms" (sexism, ageism, etc.) are quite clear: the arguments that worked best were those highlighting the hypocrisy of maintaining acceptance of existing attitudes in the face of already-established contrasting attitudes in matters that were indisputably analogous."

-Aubrey de Grey, The Overdue Demise Of Monogamy

This passage argues that reasoning does impact ethical behavior. Steven Pinker and Peter Singer make similar arguments, which I find convincing.

Comment by Torello on Open thread, August 4 - 10, 2014 · 2014-08-04T21:29:14.007Z · LW · GW

What is IRC?

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-04T21:19:53.439Z · LW · GW

I've always considered materialism to be intertwined with rationality.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-04T21:18:53.373Z · LW · GW

I see what you mean, but in a military conflict it sees that any gain in power or resources is the result of another group losing power or resources (a zero-sum game). I guess that trade/commerce might be a positive-sum example where competition is still involved but on the whole there is societal benefit.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-04T17:37:45.379Z · LW · GW

This seems like an elegant and funny take on Ben Franklin's wisdom.

Walter Sobchak: "Am I wrong?"

The Dude: "No you're not wrong."

Walter Sobchak: "Am I wrong?"

The Dude: "You're not wrong Walter. You're just an asshole."

-The Big Lebowski, Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 1998

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-04T17:30:43.984Z · LW · GW

Material, adj. Having an actual existence, as distinguished from an imaginary one. Important

  • Ambrose Bierce, The Enlarged Devil's Dictionary, Compiled and Edited by Ernest J. Hopkins, p. 194
Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes August 2014 · 2014-08-04T17:26:28.078Z · LW · GW

I find it ironic that you use a military example to illustrate how we can achieve collective action at the civilization level.

Isn't the fact the Spartans were willing to "come back with their shields - or on it" the epitome of our kind not being able to cooperate?

I always interpreted "our kind" as the whole of humanity, so for me one sub-set of humanity banding together to destroy another subset (or die trying) isn't a good example of civilization-level cooperation, or the kind of meme that would be useful to spread.

Comment by Torello on Rationality Quotes July 2014 · 2014-07-07T16:13:59.125Z · LW · GW

No matter how dissatisfied people are with the results they are getting, they rarely question their way of trying to get results. When what we are doing is not working, we do not try doing something totally different. Instead, we try harder by doing more of what seems self-evidently the right way to proceed.

  • Deborah Tannen, You Just Don't Understand, p. 186
Comment by Torello on Open thread, 30 June 2014- 6 July 2014 · 2014-07-02T03:03:10.815Z · LW · GW

With regard to meeting attendance: -make people present something -hold a vote and if they don't show they don't vote -don't schedule regular meetings, which just get scheduled regularly because they are regularly scheduled. Only schedule meetings when you have a strong rationale for holding it 1) at that time, 2) with clearly defined goals/rationale