Post-COVID Integration Rituals 2021-04-12T16:54:53.557Z
3 Cultural Infrastructure Ideas from MAPLE 2019-11-26T18:56:48.921Z
Unreal's Shortform 2019-08-03T21:11:22.475Z
Dependability 2019-03-26T22:49:37.402Z
Rest Days vs Recovery Days 2019-03-19T22:37:09.194Z
Active Curiosity vs Open Curiosity 2019-03-15T16:54:45.389Z
Policy-Based vs Willpower-Based Intentions 2019-02-28T05:17:55.302Z
Moderating LessWrong: A Different Take 2018-05-26T05:51:40.928Z
Circling 2018-02-16T23:26:54.955Z
Slack for your belief system 2017-10-26T08:19:27.502Z
Being Correct as Attire 2017-10-24T10:04:10.703Z
Typical Minding Guilt/Shame 2017-10-24T09:39:35.498Z


Comment by Unreal on The Apprentice Thread · 2021-06-17T18:17:56.732Z · LW · GW

[MENTOR kind of]

Non-standard perhaps, but I think good to toss into this pool. The Monastic Academy takes on two-month apprentices (with a free bed and free vegan food). You study meditation, the Buddhadharma, fundraising, grounds work, cooking, cleaning, how to give and receive feedback, and how to be a good community member (we all live and work together). Ideal if you are bought into social collapse / climate collapse scenarios being one of the major challenges the planet faces and at least somewhat bought into the idea that the major leverage point is the mind itself (on every scale). 

Location: Lowell, VT

More info: 

DM me if you want to ask me stuff. 

Comment by Unreal on Active Curiosity vs Open Curiosity · 2021-03-28T19:42:09.181Z · LW · GW

Thanks for doing this investigation! I love your thoroughness and precision. 

Based on my personal ontology of this, "something sort of similar that isn't curiosity at all" doesn't register as a relevant class of object to me. It sounds like it's relevant to you, however. Perhaps there's something you want to preserve with the term "curiosity." That's interesting, and I find myself curious about it (more open than active, atm). 

As an aside, I get the vague sense that you're doing something somewhat confusing (to me) with regards to building maps of phenomenology. Especially when I read the set of questions about joint-carving. This seems like a longer conversation to be had, if you wanted to have it one day.

Some of the confusions I have can be summed up in these inquiries: 
"If 'open curiosity' ends up being fairly distinct and unitary, does that make it more joint-carving? ...Why?" 
"Does 'more joint-carving' basically stand in for 'more real' to you? Or something?" 

Anyway this is a longer conversation, I think, and best to carry out not-via-text. But hope reading this was useful or insightful for you. 

Comment by Unreal on Motive Ambiguity · 2020-12-27T19:44:01.380Z · LW · GW

Oh, hm, I think I am noticing something:

I don't like what the post is trying to reify because I think it predicts reality less well than whatever I am using to predict reality 


Maybe it predicts reality "okay" but I feel it adds an unnecessary layer of being bitter / cynical / paranoid when this is not particularly healthy or useful. 

The latter thing feels like a serious cost to me. 

I'm not trying to promote naive optimism either. 

But the world this post paints feels "dark" in a way that seems less accurate than available alternatives. 

And also seems a bit more likely to lead to adversarial dynamics / Game A / finite games / giving up on oneself and others / less love / less faith / less goodwill / less trying. That is a serious cost to me. 

I'm guessing that the counterpoint is... NOT seeing the world this way will lead to getting taken advantage of, good guys losing, needless loss, value degradation, etc. ? 

Comment by Unreal on Motive Ambiguity · 2020-12-27T19:17:23.724Z · LW · GW

I tried to directly respond to the points in this post. But the framing of this post is so off-kilter from mine that it's confusing to try to "meet" your frame while maintaining my own.

I'm just going to have to give my own take, and let people be confused how the two integrate. 


I'm the middle manager with the widget factory. I imagine ~two possible scenarios:

  • My higher-ups actually would want me to make the saner choice, but I am personally very confused, or there's been a lot of miscommunication / lack of clarity. Maybe my ability to read their signals of what they'd want is very wrong, or they just don't give much feedback at all. (I've seen this happen lots. This seems totally plausible to me.) In MY world, the higher-ups need me to demonstrate loyalty by showing an ability to make the worse decision. I am desperate for their approval and am confused about how to get it. In REALITY, the game of dishing out approval is not something the company optimizes for, and so the higher-ups haven't a clue about my internal drama. If they could read my mind, they'd pity me. They assume that I'm just learning the ropes, and they're willing to eat the cost of some middle manager making mistakes, and they don't have time to fix all the errors. They let it go without comment (perhaps a sign of the problem). I am twiddling my fingers in anxiety, hoping they like me / don't fire me.
  • My higher-ups will in fact promote me for making the insane choice, and my read about that is totally correct. In this world, lots of systems and people are corrupt. Bribery, cheating, scams, embezzling, etc. are prevalent. There isn't much rhyme or reason to choice-making because people can NOT be expected to be rewarded for doing good work; the only reward is having the right connections. If you don't have the right connections, you're probably fucked. Think the USSR under Stalin. In this world, basically everyone is insane. They've let integrity go out the window. "This is why we can't have nice things." Clean effort does not result in reward. People resort to other means.

I honestly don't see the example making any sense outside of something similar to the above scenarios, unless you remove information from the system (e.g. I don't know that the water-poisoning factory costs the SAME as the not-water-poisoning factory) or there's info left out ("no additional cost" isn't taking into account things like legibility or robustness or something). 


I'm the spouse planning dinner. I can imagine the following scenarios, which carry some element of insanity:

  • I have some core belief that Love = Suffering or Love = Sacrifice. ("Core belief" is a technical term here.) This leads me to doing some insane things like always doing the thing I don't want to do, whenever I get a sense my partner wants that something, with the expectation that this is "how love works" or something. My partner does not want me to do this, but I'm kind of stuck / can't get distance from the pattern.
  • My partner is stuck in a zero-sum mentality about romantic relationships. They get upset when I don't make grand gestures or display active self-sacrifice. They feel insecure in the relationship. When I seem happy at their "expense", they assume I don't love them / care about them. I feel obligated to pick places they like even when I don't like them, and I am carrying some slight resentment about it. It doesn't feel worth rocking the boat. In fact, they do seem more relaxed when I seem "less openly excited or happy"—because to them, this means I need them more, and they feel less likely to be abandoned or rejected. (In this case, let's say that this is the wrong assumption in this particular relationship, but hasn't been wrong in past relationships, and they are dealing with trauma in the area.)
  • Or, as is all too common, both me and my partner are carrying some kind of trauma-based insanity about relationships. We're codependent and playing out a weird stereotypical trope of sacrificing our own preferences for the sake of the other. We don't see a problem actually, with this, if you asked us, but we're both suffering more than otherwise.

I can imagine the following scenarios, which are not insane:

  • I enjoy giving my spouse the gift of taking them to their beloved restaurant, regardless of my own preferences. I see this as practicing generosity. I put my preference aside, but this leaves no negative residue. I'm genuinely happy to take them to a restaurant they love. In our relationship, we don't prioritize "having good experiences" as much as we do giving / building / quality attention / etc.
  • I am practicing relinquishing my preferences because I want to be able to enjoy myself regardless of particular external circumstances. I believe it's good to take each moment as it is and appreciate the present, over necessarily trying to make myself experience particular things. Giving my spouse a nice dinner is an excellent bonus.
  • If we always went to the restaurant we both love, we'd get less variety of restaurant choices for our romantic dinners. So sometimes I pick the restaurant they love, and sometimes they pick the restaurant I love, and sometimes we pick the restaurant we both love. Overall, this is value-positive in the long term.


These examples are outputs from my model of how reality works, from what I can tell. 

Comment by Unreal on Rest Days vs Recovery Days · 2020-12-23T20:20:38.972Z · LW · GW

aww i like this :) 

+1 for Slug Days instead of Recovery Days

Comment by Unreal on Rest Days vs Recovery Days · 2020-12-23T16:01:15.548Z · LW · GW

If this gets published in some way, it might be worth changing the name of these concepts. I think I did a bad job in naming them. 

Some suggestions for "Recovery Days" = Zombie Days, Junk Days, Tired Days

I think "Rest Days" is a good name for this concept, and I'd prefer keeping it. 

Comment by Unreal on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-02-29T03:12:20.087Z · LW · GW

This article attempts to answer this:

Quoting from it:

The United States: how COVID-19 could play out
The US currently has 15 confirmed COVID-19 infections but what we want to know is the number of infected at large.
Let’s try to estimate this number.
Around 3M Chinese visit the US annually not counting other foreigners or American citizens who travel to China and return.
Before US Borders were closed to China travelers the virus was already prevalent for at least ~14 days during which infected people traveled freely.
That implies at least 115,068 visitors who had recently been to China entered the US from Jan 9th — Jan 23rd. To guess how many may have been infected I noted that China’s initial quarantine area encompasses 60M people which is 1/23rd of China’s population.
Therefore ~5,000 suspected persons arrived in the US from affected areas. Assuming the infection rate was around 0.5%, we can guess there were around 25 infected people at large by January 23rd. But which 25 of the 5,000??
Note: some infected may continue to come in from China but only if they are US permanent residents or citizens (and they are forcibly quarantined in military installations). The US does not currently limit arrivals from Thailand or Singapore however, as opposed to Israel, which was the first to announce such limits today.
In an assertive scenario the US government would track down all 5,000 suspected infections above as well as anybody they interacted with and put them all in quarantine.
I have heard no reports in that vein and believe it’s likely not the case. On the other hand, there have been reports of dangerous mistakes, such as incorrectly removing an infected person from a hospital in San Diego.
Even worse, we can’t tell how many people are now infected but don’t have a reason to suspect they have it. They may have been around an asymptomatic infected person who came from Wuhan or touched a contaminated surface.
If in fact COVID-19’s “asymptomatic R0” is over 1, a single infected person would start an epidemic cascade. I think it is highly probably this is happening now but that we are in the early stages of the exponential curve and therefore the problem is invisible.
Furthermore, because most cases are mild, infected persons may be misdiagnosed or not seek treatment. The virus may go through 5–10 growth cycles before we realize a city outbreak is underway.
Once it’s clear there is an outbreak in say Columbus, OH, it’s hard to say how many people the local infected persons have already spread the disease to and it will be hard to find them all.
That’s one reason why the CDC instructed medical professionals across the nation to report cases of flu-like symptoms to monitoring centers and also released a diagnostic test for COVID-19 that it’s distributing to 115 labs. However, the test was faulty and for now samples are still going to Atlanta, which means results will be delayed.
Sadly, a faster acting, reliable test that could be delivered to thousands of labs will take months to develop.
My take is that if the number of total infected (not merely confirmed infected) in a city exceeds a few hundred, that city is in trouble.
With 25–100 infected people at large who may be anywhere in the US we should be very concerned.
When I would take action
If my city had more than 15 confirmed cases, I would take 2nd measures as noted below
If my city had more than 20 confirmed cases, which grew to 30 cases or more in less than 10 days, I would take 3rd measures as noted below
Precautions: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Measures
I’m currently based in San Francisco, a mere few blocks from UCSF, where two confirmed COVID-19 patients, diagnosed in Santa Clara, were transferred for treatment.
1st Measures (I’ve already taken these)
Buy six weeks worth of food in case self-quarantine is necessary
Cease attending local group events such as gyms
Cease using public transportation which I would otherwise do every other day. Instead I use my car or Lyft/Uber
Purchase $350 worth of masks for self and wife. Haven’t found a good solution for daughter
Avoid air travel to East Asia
Minimize air travel and when traveling, carry Lysol wipes to disinfect seating area, avoid using the toilet, wear a mask for the duration of travel. Avoid eating. Drink only from my own bottle.
2nd Measures
Expand food stocks to 4 months
Cease all air travel
Cease eating out at restaurants
3rd Measures
Self-quarantine for 2 weeks to observe whether things are static or worsen. If infected numbers are static, revert to 2nd Measures, otherwise keep self-quarantine.
Comment by Unreal on Money isn't real. When you donate money to a charity, how does it actually help? · 2020-02-03T20:48:53.535Z · LW · GW

Some directions I would go with this question myself:

  • How does shared cultural narrative affect human behavior, and is it more reliable than money?
  • Can money buy commitment? Personal development? Deep confusion and questioning about one's ethical choices?
  • What's the connection between money and relationship-building? (Especially with regards to fundraising.)
  • Can money buy coordination? How much coordination would it be able to buy? How reliable would it be?
  • What is a thing that is NOT money that can result in coordination, better shared narratives, personal development, a commitment to ethics, etc.?
Comment by Unreal on Money isn't real. When you donate money to a charity, how does it actually help? · 2020-02-03T20:45:47.842Z · LW · GW

I just want to say this is the best question I've seen asked online in a while.

I'm sorry this comment doesn't have anything much to add other than:

Wow this question is amazing, and I wish more people would ask it, and I'm better for having read it. So thank you for asking it.

Comment by Unreal on Circling · 2020-01-11T19:55:39.631Z · LW · GW

My personal understanding of rationality is that Rationality(tm) was always open to being discarded along the way to attaining the 12th virtue.

If you speak overmuch of the Way you will not attain it.

To be clear, I still highly value truth-seeking, model-building, winning, etc. I just don't know what 'rationality' is actually trying to refer to these days. Maybe it feels small and incomplete to me, given my current perspectives.

Comment by Unreal on Circling as Cousin to Rationality · 2020-01-08T19:48:28.758Z · LW · GW

I feel like Circling isn't that much stronger than meditation on this particular axis. You might be characterizing "mental universe" as very different from "interpersonal universe," but to me they're very similar—because in both cases you have to use your subjective experience as the medium of "evidence delivery" so to speak.

Comment by Unreal on Circling as Cousin to Rationality · 2020-01-06T13:13:30.283Z · LW · GW

I think someone should maybe write a post describing how meditation is a form of empiricism, and then it should follow as a pretty easy corollary that Circling is also a form of empiricism.

Comment by Unreal on Circling · 2019-12-19T09:22:42.749Z · LW · GW

I gave some of those details above. I don't have further thoughts.

Comment by Unreal on Circling · 2019-12-18T23:53:47.679Z · LW · GW

One of the founders of Circling Europe sincerely and apropos-of-nothing thanked me for writing this post earlier this year, which I view as a sign that there were good consequences of me writing this post. My guess is that a bunch of rationalists found their way to Circling, and it was beneficial for people.

I've heard it said that this is one of the more rationalist-friendly summaries of Circling. I don't know it's the best possible such, but I think it's doing OK. I would certainly write it differently now, but shrug.

At this point I've done 1000+ hours of Circling, and this post isn't that far off from what I currently believe about Circling.

I'm less clear on the connection between Circling and 'rationality' because I have lost some touch with what 'rationality' is, and I think the concept 'rationality' is less personally meaningful to me now.

I do believe that Circling has a deep connection to epistemics, belief formation, and belief updating, and can teach us many things about how those things work. Similar to meditation, Circling can guide people to understanding perception and seeing through their own perceptions (the lens that sees its lens that sees its lens etc).

I believe the pitfalls are still more or less accurate, but I wouldn't quite frame them the way I did. I think I was catering to a rationalist audience then. But yeah I don't really personally agree with the perspective I took.

RE: how to learn about Circling. Right now I would recommend heavily people start with something like Aletheia or Integral-style Circling and then go on to try official Circling Europe events in Austin or SAS. Or maybe online at Circle Anywhere. For my first experience, I would try going to 'official' events and avoid 'wild west' style events / events with independent facilitators. That's my personal opinion.

Comment by Unreal on The Five Main Muscles for a Full Range of Natural Movement, Dynamic Alignment & Balance. · 2019-12-06T05:38:41.091Z · LW · GW

I appreciate seeing this post here! I am very interested in this sort of topic, generally.

I'm confused why the post has such a low karma score. If nothing else, it seems like a useful reference for human anatomy.

One thing this post suffers from is, like, it's overwhelming for a noob to look at. Personally I'd much rather just hire someone to teach me all this in person, if at all possible.

That said, it still seems like a great reference for parts of human anatomy, and it contains a very interesting hypothesis. I wish LessWrong talked more about this stuff, as it seems very important for humans and how humans think.

Writing about anything RE: biology, life, anatomy, etc. seems difficult because it's all very 3D in nature, and it's best to have good visualizations. Which are not always available. That said, I am grateful that you put all this together. It seems like it took a lot of work. And I hope to see more in the future.

Comment by Unreal on 3 Cultural Infrastructure Ideas from MAPLE · 2019-12-05T19:38:35.544Z · LW · GW

Worth noting here that the Schedule at MAPLE is very conducive for creating these low-stakes contexts. In fact, inside the Schedule, you are always in such a context...

There is a world-saving mission at MAPLE, but at MAPLE, it does not define people's worth or whether they deserve care / attention or whether they belong in the community. I think the issue with both the EA and rationalist community is that people's "output" is too easily tied to their sense of worth. I could probably write many words on this phenomenon in the Bay community.

It is hard to convey in mere words what MAPLE has managed to do here. There is a clearer separation between "your current output level" and "your deserving-ness / worthiness as a human." It was startling to experience this separation occurring on a visceral level within me. Now I'm much more grounded, self-confident, and less likely to take things personally, and this shift feels permanent and also ongoing.

Comment by Unreal on Circling · 2019-12-03T18:19:55.877Z · LW · GW

Upon re-reading this post, I want to review this sentence:

In my experience, being in an SNS-activated state really primes me for new information in a way that being calm (PSNS activation) does not.

I think this is true still, but I also suspect being in a certain calm, open PSNS state is also good for integrating new information.

I don't understand this fully yet. But some things:

  • Many therapeutic modalities attempt to get me into a particular open, peaceful, "all-seeing", perceptive state. Often related to compassion + curiosity. Referred to as "Self" in IFS. From here, I have been able to integrate many things that were previously "too hard" or "overwhelming."
  • In Circling, I have sometimes been basically doing CoZE and going right up to the fence of my fears. Maybe looking at someone actively caring about me / understanding me while I feel shame / fear / self-judgment. For me, this is a very activating situation, like reaching the peak of a roller coaster. From here, I have made some of my biggest updates / experienced my largest releases. And I attributed that to the level of activation / fear, in contrast with the "drop"—there's this big juxtaposition between my feared/projected/storied reality and what is happening in front of me right now.

These phenomena are mostly still mystery to me.

Comment by Unreal on 3 Cultural Infrastructure Ideas from MAPLE · 2019-11-27T23:05:13.624Z · LW · GW

I think growth-training programs actually do work for the former.

E.g. My CFAR workshop wasn't something I decided to go to because I was thinking about training leadership. But it none-the-less helped unlock some of this "entry level leadership" thing. Much of the same happens with Circling and other workshops that help unblock people.

So far what seems to work here is training programs that do any kind of developmental training / leveling up. Ideally they work on you regardless of what stage you happen to be and just help propel you to the next stage.

Of course, not all the people who go through those programs end up interested in leadership, but this is probably fine, and I suspect trying to pre-screen for 'leadership potential' is a waste of effort, and you should just ride selection effects. (Similar to how people who emigrate correlate with having skill, resourcefulness, and gumption.)

Comment by Unreal on 3 Cultural Infrastructure Ideas from MAPLE · 2019-11-27T22:23:27.341Z · LW · GW

I feel very compelled by this! I would love to help figure out how to approach this bottleneck. I have some ideas.

My sense is that there are some useful funnels already in place that one could take advantage of for finding potential people, and there are effective, growth-y training programs one could also take advantage of. There are maybe bottlenecks in money + space in specific training programs + getting the right people to the right training programs.

Comment by Unreal on 3 Cultural Infrastructure Ideas from MAPLE · 2019-11-27T20:37:26.743Z · LW · GW

It feels tractable to me. I feel like there are lots of levers to play around with.

Pieces I suspect may be load-bearing:

  • Honest selection effects. This means sending accurate, honest messages, to attract people who are good fits and pass under the radar of those who aren't. (With some flexibility at the edges, as some people might be on the fence / seem like not-fits but only on the surface; those people can run some cheap experiments, like visiting for a few days.)
  • There needs to be a bigger point to it all. I don't think this can all just be for the sake of "my own health" or "I feel less stress with a schedule" or something like this. These personal motivations don't stand up to enough pressure. At MAPLE, everything is ultimately for the sake of training awakening and leadership. You signed up in order to grow in these ways, and so you're devoting yourself to the training. And more than that, the point of training is to become a person who can help others / do good things when you leave—someone who can be of benefit, be reliable, is trustworthy, is compassionate. You'll sacrifice some optionality if there's an inspiring, higher purpose to the sacrifice. If it only feels like "well I guess I could give up on some sleep in order to exercise because it's good for me...?", then it could often go either way. When there's a higher purpose that's bigger than me, there's always a North Star to be following, even if I'm not always on track.
  • Reasonable, skillful leadership. This thing probably doesn't work very well if decisions are all based on consensus or something. So you'd want to find at least a few pretty reliable, trustworthy, reasonable people to lead / hold the important roles. Power should be spread around, but it seems fine for there to be a "final say-so" person, who exercises end-of-the-line power, but does so infrequently. There are various ways to play with this. The important thing is having a few good leaders (maybe even just one? but this feels less robust to me), who people would be willing to follow, and they should divide roles between them in a sensible way. One person can be end-of-the-line decision-maker tie-breaker (probably the person with the Vision).
  • Using commitments wisely. If the leaders all have buy-in (because they put in the most effort, money, etc.), but the followers don't, the thing will probably fall apart. Get commitments from people, preferably in writing. And then make sure commitments really mean something, in general. Include integrity in your list of virtues. Leaders should consistently demonstrate they care about commitments (big or small) and that when they themselves break commitments, they take that seriously. People should not break their commitments, but also they shouldn't be shamed if they do. A broken commitment is like a death. It's no one's fault, but it's also worth trying to prevent. Occasionally, it may be correct to break a commitment, but there should be an acknowledgement of its suboptimality (e.g. perhaps it should have been differently made originally, or never made).
  • Feedback culture. It should be welcome and encouraged and also normal to give and receive feedback from each other, daily. Ideal feedback should be kindly given, rather than given out of annoyance, superiority, disappointment, shaming, or guilting. Feedback is ideally received as a gift. It is OK to fail in giving/receiving feedback well, because people can give feedback on how you give/receive feedback. At MAPLE, it's part of the written commitment that you will give/receive feedback. (Part of me suspects this works so well at MAPLE because of the meditation training, which helps people feel more equanimous and calms egoic reactivity. If meditation training is important for growing the skill of giving/receiving feedback easefully, that might be a major constraint.)
  • Financial viability. One thing about Dragon Army that I didn't like was that Duncan seemed to be holding most of the financial burden, and his willingness and ability to provide financial support seemed cruxy to the thing staying afloat. Now I understand better that it's possible to fundraise for projects like this and also apply for grants. My sense now is that if people don't want to give you money for such a project, maybe it's better to just not do it? On the other hand, if your project has visionary and trustworthy leadership—then you can probably find people interested in funding it, even if they're not directly involved. If your project is inspiring and beneficial to others, you'll probably find donors. I think it's better not to rely on the residing community members as the only source of financial support. (Leverage seems to work this way?)
Comment by Unreal on Partial summary of debate with Benquo and Jessicata [pt 1] · 2019-08-17T18:40:44.306Z · LW · GW

I see great need for some way to indicate "not-an-accident but also not necessarily conscious or endorsed." And ideally the term doesn't have a judgmental or accusatory connotation.

This seems pretty hard to do actually. Maybe an acronym?

Alice lied (NIANOA) to Bob about X.

Not Intentionally And Not On Accident

Comment by Unreal on Machine Learning Analogy for Meditation (illustrated) · 2019-08-13T17:36:04.821Z · LW · GW

Thanks! This was helpful analysis.

I suspect my slight trigger (1/10) set off other people's triggers. And I'm more triggered now as a result (but still only like 3/10.)

I'd like to save this thread as an example of a broader pattern I think I see on LW, which makes having conversations here more unpleasant than is probably necessary? Not sure though.

Comment by Unreal on Machine Learning Analogy for Meditation (illustrated) · 2019-08-13T14:52:17.447Z · LW · GW

I acknowledge that it's likely somehow because of how I worded things in my original comment. I wish I knew how to fix it.

Comment by Unreal on Machine Learning Analogy for Meditation (illustrated) · 2019-08-12T21:21:47.677Z · LW · GW

Yeah I'm not implying that System 2 is useless or irrelevant for actions. Just that it seems more indirect or secondary.

Also please note that overall I'm probably confused about something, as I mentioned. And my comments are not meant to open up conflict, but rather I'm requesting a clarification on this particular sentence and what frame / ontology it's using:

If you're experiencing "motivational issues", then it stands to reason that it might be useful to keep an eye on which thoughts are leading to actions and which are not.

I would like to expand the words 'thoughts' and 'useful' here.

People seem to be responding to me as though I'm trying to start an argument, and this is really not what I'm going for. Sharing my POV is just to try to help close inferential gap in the right direction.

Comment by Unreal on Machine Learning Analogy for Meditation (illustrated) · 2019-08-12T14:44:34.893Z · LW · GW

Hmmm. No.

Basically, as far as I know, System 1 is more or less directly responsible for all actions.

You can predict what actions a person will take BEFORE they are mentally conscious of it at all. You can do this by measuring galvanic skin response or watching their brain activity.

The mentally conscious part happens second.

But like, I'm guessing for some reason, what I'm saying here is already obvious, and Abram just means something else, and I'm trying to figure out what.

Comment by Unreal on Machine Learning Analogy for Meditation (illustrated) · 2019-08-10T16:49:54.640Z · LW · GW

My inferential distance from this post is high, I think. So excuse if this question doesn't even make sense.

If you're experiencing "motivational issues", then it stands to reason that it might be useful to keep an eye on which thoughts are leading to actions and which are not.

I think I don't understand what you mean by 'thoughts' ?

I view 'thoughts' as not having very much to do with action in general. They're just like... incidental post-hoc things. Why is it useful to track which thoughts lead to actions? /blink

Comment by Unreal on Machine Learning Analogy for Meditation (illustrated) · 2019-08-10T14:50:29.808Z · LW · GW

I also liked reading the handwritten version.

Comment by Unreal on Unreal's Shortform · 2019-08-10T12:36:58.635Z · LW · GW

Yeah, I think it's more the latter.

I would classify situation 3 as a lack of the model-building skill proper, which includes having my models affect me on an alief level. Although introspection would help me notice what my aliefs are to begin with.

Comment by Unreal on Unreal's Shortform · 2019-08-09T20:42:02.806Z · LW · GW

When I talk about "model-building skill" I think I mean three separate skills:

Skill A) Model-building skill proper

Skill B) Introspection skill

Skill C) Communication skill

There are probably a lot of people who are decent at model-building proper. (Situation #1)

I'm imagining genius-level programmers. But then when you try to get some insight into what their models actually are or why they do things one way vs another, it's opaque. They don't know how to explicate any of it. They get annoyed by having to try to verbalize their models or even know what they are—they'd rather get back to coding and are frustrated having to "waste time" convincing other people.

Then there are other people who might be decent at model-building and introspecting on their models, but when they try to communicate their models to you, it comes out as gibberish (at least to your ears). And asking them questions doesn't seem to go anywhere. (Situation #2)

Then there's the situation where people are really articulate and able to communicate very clear, explicit, verbal models—but when it comes to implementing those models on a somatic-emotional level, they run into trouble. But it sounds like they have the model-building skill because they can talk about their models and share genuine insights about them. (Situation #3)

An example is having a bunch of insightful theories about social dynamics, but when actually in a situation where they could put those theories into practice, there is some kind of block. The models are not acting like felt models.


I've been in Situation #3 and Situation #1 before.

Overcoming Situation #3 is a scary thing. Being able to see, make sense of, and articulate models (from afar) was a way of distancing myself from reality. It was a preemptive defense mechanism. It helped me feel superior / knowledgable / satisfied. And then I continued to sit and watch rather than participate, engage, run experiments, etc. Or I'd play with "toy models" like games or structured activities or imaginings or simulations.

To be fair to toy models, I learned quite a lot / built many useful models from playing games, so I don't regret doing a lot of that. And, there's also a lot to be gained from trial by fire, so to speak.

For Situation #1, the solution mostly came from learning to introspect properly and also learning to take myself seriously.

Once I honestly felt like I had meaningful things to share with other people, it became easier to bother trying. (It's hard to do this if you're surrounded by people who have high standards for "interesting" or "useful." Being around people who were more appreciative helped me overcome some stuck beliefs around my personal worth.)

I also had a block around "convincing other people of anything." So while I could voice models, I couldn't use them to "convince people" to change anything about their lives or way of being. It made me a worse teacher and also meant my models always came across as "nice/cool but irrelevant." And not in a way that was easy for anyone to detect properly, especially myself.

Comment by Unreal on Unreal's Shortform · 2019-08-03T21:11:22.625Z · LW · GW

#trauma #therapy

My working definition of trauma = sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activation + dorsal vagal complex (DVC) activation

The SNS is in control of fight or flight responses. Activation results in things like increased heart rate / blood pressure, dilated pupils, faster breathing, and slowed digestion.

The DVC plays a role in the freeze response that exists in many vertebrates. In vertebrates, the freeze response results in immobility. In humans, the freeze response is associated with de-activated language centers in the brain (based on MRI research on trauma flashbacks). From my own extrapolations, it also seems associated with dissociation / depersonalization (sometimes) and lessened ability to orient to one's surroundings.

The dorsal branch of the vagus originates in the dorsal motor nucleus and is considered the phylogenetically older branch.[3] This branch is unmyelinated and exists in most vertebrates. This branch is also known as the “vegetative vagus” because it is associated with primal survival strategies of primitive vertebrates, reptiles, and amphibians.[3] Under great stress, these animals freeze when threatened, conserving their metabolic resources.

The vagus systems acts by inhibiting the SNS.

In other words, a traumatic incident involves "fully pushing the gas pedal while simultaneously fully pushing the brake." On the one hand, the body is trying to engage fight or flight, but in cases where neither fighting nor fleeing feel like options, the body then tries to engage freeze.

a) This releases a bunch of stress hormones.

So, according to The Body Keeps the Score, cortisol is a hormone that signals the body to STOP releasing stress hormones. In people with PTSD, cortisol levels are low. And stress hormones fail to return to baseline after the threat has passed, meaning they experience a prolonged stress response.

b) This helpless freeze response becomes a learned response in similar situations in the future.

The concept of "learned helplessness" is very likely related to the experience of trauma. (Interestingly, the Wikipedia article doesn't even mention the word "trauma.")

From the "Early Key Experiments" section on the Learned Helplessness Wiki page:

American psychologist Martin Seligman initiated research on learned helplessness in 1967 at the University of Pennsylvania as an extension of his interest in depression.[4][5] This research was later expanded through experiments by Seligman and others. One of the first was an experiment by Seligman & Maier: In Part 1 of this study, three groups of dogs were placed in harnesses. Group 1 dogs were simply put in a harnesses for a period of time and were later released. Groups 2 and 3 consisted of "yoked pairs". Dogs in Group 2 were given electric shocks at random times, which the dog could end by pressing a lever. Each dog in Group 3 was paired with a Group 2 dog; whenever a Group 2 dog got a shock, its paired dog in Group 3 got a shock of the same intensity and duration, but its lever did not stop the shock. To a dog in Group 3, it seemed that the shock ended at random, because it was his paired dog in Group 2 that was causing it to stop. Thus, for Group 3 dogs, the shock was "inescapable".
In Part 2 of the experiment the same three groups of dogs were tested in a shuttle-box apparatus (a chamber containing two rectangular compartments divided by a barrier a few inches high). All of the dogs could escape shocks on one side of the box by jumping over a low partition to the other side. The dogs in Groups 1 and 2 quickly learned this task and escaped the shock. Most of the Group 3 dogs – which had previously learned that nothing they did had any effect on shocks – simply lay down passively and whined when they were shocked.[4]

It seems very likely they ended up traumatizing the dogs in that experiment by caging them up and then electrocuting them. The dogs subsequently don't "flee" even when the cage is open. They've ingrained their freeze response.

Similarly in humans, traumatized people become trapped within their own mental constraints when faced with a triggering situation. They rationalize why they can't change things, but the rationalization is likely "after-the-fact". They're frozen on a nervous-system level (which happens first), and they're justifying the freeze with stories (which happens after).

Not to say that the stories are irrelevant or don't affect things. I think they do.

c) In future similar situations, the "body" believes it's still stuck in the past / that the traumatic incident is still happening in some way. It tries to recreate the original pattern over and over.

[ My use of the word "body" is a bit shifty here. I might mean something like System 1 (Kahneman) or Self 2 (Inner Game of Tennis) or whatever part of you stores "feeling beliefs" (Bio-Emotive) or "core beliefs / belief reports" (Connection Theory). When I say "body" in quotes, this is what I mean. Whatever I mean, it probably involves the limbic system. ]

I don't fully understand what's going on here, but here's a couple super-bad made-up stories with a bunch of missing gears:

Story #1: The "body", feeling trapped, keeps trying to relive the experience in an effort to "finally find some way out". Similar to the function of dreaming, which is to try to "rehearse" some event but try out a bunch of variations quickly.

Often, reliving trauma doesn't actually end up with a different outcome, however. In many cases, the traumatized person ends up reinforcing the original trauma narrative.

Somatic Experiencing is a therapy modality that tries to relive a trauma with a new narrative where the person is not helpless, and it does it by engaging the "body" (rather than the intellect).

Story #2: The "body" has a bunch of trapped "energy" from the original trauma, and the "energy" needs a way to release.

The person usually fails to find a way to release the energy without the help of therapy or ritual or some kind of processing technique.

The Bio-Emotive process releases "energy" in the form of sobbing and vocalizing. It engages the emotional system through simple language ("I feel sad and helpless"). It engages the meaning-making / narrative system through simple story ("He left me to die"). There can be a large, loud emotional and physical release from this process.

( Lots of approaches have been developed for dealing with trauma, but I'm mentioning two as direct examples of how my Stories might fit given current practices. )


I've been thinking about this lately because I'm about to give a talk on trauma, so I've been re-reading sections of Waking the Tiger and The Body Keeps the Score.

I highly recommend the latter book as a pretty comprehensive view of where we are on trauma research lately. The former book is by Peter Levine, who developed Somatic Experiencing therapy and figured out a lot of stuff through trial-and-error with his clients. His language is less "science-y sounding" or something, but it contains helpful exercises and the correct "mindset" for being with trauma.

Comment by Unreal on Integrity and accountability are core parts of rationality · 2019-07-15T22:41:19.397Z · LW · GW

This post is relevant to my post on Dependability.

I'm at MAPLE in order to acquire a certain level of integrity in myself.

The high-reaching goal is to acquire a level of integrity that isn't much-influenced by short/medium-term incentives, such that I can trust myself to be in integrity even when I'm not in an environment that's conducive for that.

But that's probably a long way off, and in the meantime, I am just working on how to be the kind of person that can show up on time to things and say what needs to be said when it's scary and take responsibility for my mistakes and stuff.

I thumbs-up anyone who attempts to become more in integrity over time! Seems super worthwhile.

Comment by Unreal on The Relationship Between the Village and the Mission · 2019-05-14T03:01:57.014Z · LW · GW

I'm realizing that I need to make the following distinction here:

Village 1) There is a core of folks in the village that are doing a hard thing (Mission). and also their friends, family, and neighbors who support them and each other but are not directly involved in the Mission.

Village 2) There is a village with only ppl who are doing the direct Mission work. Other friends, family, etc. do not make their homes in the village.

I weakly think it's possible for 1 to be good.

I think 2 runs into lots of problems and is what my original comment was speaking against.

Comment by Unreal on The Relationship Between the Village and the Mission · 2019-05-12T23:33:52.156Z · LW · GW

[ comment copied from Facebook / I didn't read the full article before making this comment ]

i am somewhat anti-"Mission-centered Village."

i think entanglement between mission and livelihood already causes problems. (you start feeling that the mission is good b/c it feeds you, and that an attack on the mission is an attack on your ability to feed yourself / earn income)

entanglement between mission and family/home seems like it causes more of those problems. (you start feeling that if your home is threatened in any way, this is a threat to the mission, and if you feel that your mission is threatened, it is a threat to your home.)

avoiding mental / emotional entanglement in this way i think would require a very high bar: a mind well-trained in the art of { introspection / meditation / small-identity / surrender / relinquishment } or something in that area. i suspect <10 ppl in the community to meet that bar?

Comment by Unreal on The Relationship Between the Village and the Mission · 2019-05-12T23:32:50.719Z · LW · GW

[ comment copied from Facebook / I didn't read the full article before making this comment ]

agree with a lot of this, esp the part about not trying to welcome everyone / lower barrier to entry to the point that there's no commitment involved

i think a successful village will require a fair amount of commitment and sacrifice, in terms of time, effort, opportunity cost, and probably money

if everyone is looking to maximize their own interests, while pursuing a village, i think this will drain resources to the point that nothing gets done or things fall apart. a weak structure will beget a fragile village. and i think a fragile village can easily be net harmful.

at the same time, it's good to be considerate to people who can't contribute a whole lot due to disability or financial insecurity.

Comment by Unreal on Dependability · 2019-04-08T17:26:22.773Z · LW · GW

Hmm I wonder if there's something about meditation in a monastic setting where all the rules need to be strived to be followed that does something.

Because I'm pretty sure a number of the residents of the monastery here have become much more reliable after a year or two of being here.

It might be context-dependent too, but I seem to not be worried about that problem as much for me. I feel above-average at the generalization skill and think I can take some useful things out of a specific context into other contexts.

Comment by Unreal on Dependability · 2019-03-30T12:27:06.570Z · LW · GW

I don't think I've properly conveyed what I mean by Dependability, judging by the totality of the comments. Or, maybe I've conveyed what I mean by Dependability, but I did not properly explain that I want to achieve it in a specific way. I'm looking to gain the skill through compassion and equanimity. A monastic lifestyle seems appropriate for this.

I also did not at all explain why I'm specifically disadvantaged in this area, compared to the average person. And I think that would bring clarity too, if I explained that.

Comment by Unreal on Dependability · 2019-03-28T19:58:24.643Z · LW · GW

I will try to explain where my disagreement is.

1. Concept space is huge. There are more concepts than there are words for concepts. (There are many possible frames from which to conceptualize a concept too, which continues to explode the number of ways to think about any given concept.)

2. Whenever I try to 'coin' a term, I'm not trying to redefine an old concept. I have a new concept, often belonging in a particular new frame. This new concept contains a lot of nuance and specificity, different from any old words or concepts. I want to relay MY concept, which contains and implies a bunch of models I have about the world. Old words would fail to capture any of this—and would also fail to properly imply that I want to relay something confusingly but meaningfully precise.

3. I'm not 'making up' these concepts from nothing. I'm not 'thinking of ways to add complexity' to concepts. My concepts are already that complex. I'm merely sharing a concept I already have, that is coming forth from my internal, implicit models—and I try to make them explicit so others can know what concepts I already implicitly, subconsciously use to conceptualize the world. And my concepts are unique because the set of models I have are different from yours. And when I feel I've got a concept that feels particularly important in some way, I want to share it.

4. I want to understand people's true, implicit concepts—which are probably always full of nuance and implicit models. I am endlessly interested in people's precise, unique concepts. It's like getting a deep taste of someone's worldview in a single bite-sized piece. I like getting tastes of people's worldviews because everyone has a unique set of models and data, and that complexity is reflected in their concepts. Their concepts—which always start implicit and nonverbal, if they can learn to verbalize them and communicate them—are rich and layered. And I want them. (Also I think it is a very, very valuable skill to be able to explicate your implicit concepts and models. LessWrong seems like a good place to practice.)

5. "But what about building upon human knowledge, which requires creating a shared language? What about figuring out which concepts are best and building on those?" I agree this is a good goal to have. The platform of LessWrong is already built to prune concept space (with multiple ways for concepts to be promoted or demoted).

But I do think this goal is "at odds" with my goal of sharing my concepts, learning others' concepts, and diving into the depths of concept space. What I want here is to be in the "whiteboarding" phase where lots of ideas and thoughts are allowed to surface, and maybe it's their first time really seeing the light, but I get feedback, and other people have associated thoughts and share those. And it's a generative sort of phase, rather than a pruning phase.

It seems plausible my posts should stay in my 'blog' and off the front page? I don't fully understand the point of front page vs blog personally. But I'd be happy to keep my posts in the corner of "my blog" and do the 'whiteboarding' thing there.

If any of the mods want to discuss this dilemma with me (I'd prefer doing this offline), I'd be into getting more opinions on this.

Comment by Unreal on Dependability · 2019-03-27T04:37:54.176Z · LW · GW

There's some overlap with conscientiousness, but dependability doesn't include being organized, being efficient, caring about achievement or perfection, being hardworking, being careful, being thorough, or appearing competent.

Grit seems important for trying and follow-through in particular!

Comment by Unreal on Dependability · 2019-03-27T00:11:40.572Z · LW · GW

I guess I disagree :P

Comment by Unreal on Active Curiosity vs Open Curiosity · 2019-03-24T06:36:54.135Z · LW · GW

I've been watching a bunch of videos on this, and I'm finding them quite interesting so far.

Also I agree lots of precision and discernment are useful to maintain here. It could get "floppy" real fast if people aren't careful with their concepts / models.

Comment by Unreal on Rest Days vs Recovery Days · 2019-03-22T06:57:17.262Z · LW · GW

Connotations of Rest that I find relevant:

  • lack of anxiety
  • PSNS activation
  • relaxed body (while not necessarily inactive or passive body)
  • a state that you can be in indefinitely, in theory (whereas Recover suggests temporary)
  • meditative (vs medicative)
  • not trying to do anything / not needing anything (whereas Recover suggests goal orientation)
  • Rest feels more sacred than Recovery

Concept that I want access to that "Recover" doesn't fit as well with:

Comment by Unreal on Active Curiosity vs Open Curiosity · 2019-03-21T19:42:35.121Z · LW · GW

Ian McGilchrist came out a book on brain hemispheres and their specialized roles called The Master and His Emissary. This summary was useful:

The Left Hemisphere handles narrow focus (like a bird trying to pick out a seed among a bunch of pebbles and dirt), while the Right Hemisphere handles broad, open focus (the same bird keeping some attention on the background for predators). The LH is associated with tool use and manipulation of objects. The RH is associated with exploration and experiential data gathering.

I don't immediately know how the hemispheres may be involved in the types of Curiosity. But a plausible hypothesis might be that Active Curiosity would be more left-brained and Open Curiosity would be more right-brained.

Comment by Unreal on Rest Days vs Recovery Days · 2019-03-21T01:28:49.100Z · LW · GW
It's not that you're just doing whatever you "feel" like, in a generic sense. You're doing something like Focusing on your stomach in particular

Yes, this is right.

I also do predict the stomach is where most people should be Focusing on, for getting proper Rest. I think there's some kind of ongoing battle between the head and the stomach, and people/society tends to favor the head.

But I get mileage out of doing Focusing on all kinds of areas.

Comment by Unreal on Rest Days vs Recovery Days · 2019-03-21T01:05:01.668Z · LW · GW

So some very general links (since 'improving productivity on chores and future planning' sounds like it could mean a lot of things):

Overall, I've gotten large gains out of designing my life such that work feels like water flowing downhill rather than me trying to trudge uphill.

I use Policy-Based Intentions a fair amount, as a way to save willpower. I'm like a game designer trying to design the maze that my mouse is running in, if that makes sense. And I try to make it easy for the mouse to make the correct decisions depending on the situation.

Comment by Unreal on Rest Days vs Recovery Days · 2019-03-20T19:33:36.337Z · LW · GW

I think Kaj is right. But in general, video games / TV feel like they help me escape the present moment, avoid thinking about something or feeling my body, and keep me in my head. Video games also have that feeling of fake productivity which makes them feel like a compulsive "pretend work." (Aka pica.)

I guess I also should have distinguished "reading for pleasure" and "productive reading." I was advocating for the former and not so much the latter.

Once, I did a spontaneous picnic where I put a blanket outside somewhere nice and brought a basket of food and a book. And I just lounged outside, reading [Annihilation] and eating and looking at nature. If I imagine having TV instead, I feel like I lose the ability to choose where my attention goes freely. With a book, I can pause or daydream and take my time with it more easily.

But really it's up to you what counts as Restful. I can imagine watching video interviews Restful for some reason. Or listening to podcasts. I'm less sure what Restful video games for me would be.

Comment by Unreal on Rest Days vs Recovery Days · 2019-03-20T19:18:37.242Z · LW · GW

I would experiment with that in the following ways:

  • Try not doing any projects and see how that is (This seems good for what Zvi / Ben describe as an emergency check / Sabbath as alarm.)
  • When you feel like working on a project, do so but periodically check "Do I still feel good about doing this right now? Is this yummy? Do I want to be doing this?" Do the check and then follow what seems good in the moment.
Comment by Unreal on Active Curiosity vs Open Curiosity · 2019-03-17T00:07:39.143Z · LW · GW

Open curiosity does not actively seek to understand. Which is why I call the other one 'active'.

I suspect concentrated and diffuse curiosity are both referring to types of active curiosity. Open curiosity is talking about something different.

Comment by Unreal on Active Curiosity vs Open Curiosity · 2019-03-15T13:11:43.489Z · LW · GW

yes, this is basically what I'm referring to

Comment by Unreal on Policy-Based vs Willpower-Based Intentions · 2019-02-28T22:10:31.135Z · LW · GW

Oh yeah. I do think the nature of the task is an important factor. It's not like you can willy-nilly choose policy-based or willpower-based. I did not mean to present it as though you had a choice between them.

I was more describing that there are (at least) two different ways to create intentions, and these are two that I've noticed.

But you said that you can't use this on everything, so maybe the policies that I would need willpower to install just happen to be different from the policies that you would need willpower to install.

This seems likely true.

It's not that I don't have policies, it's that this description sounds like you can just... decide to change a policy, and then have that happen automatically.

It is true that I can immediately change certain policies such that I don't need to practice the new way. I just install the new way, and it works. But I can't install large complex policies all in one go. I will explain.

the Lyft thing sounded complicated to memorize and I would probably need to consciously think about it on several times when I was actually doing the tipping before I had it committed into memory.

With zero experience of Lyft tipping, I would not just be able to think up a policy and then implement it. Policy-driven intentions are collaborations between my S1 and S2, so S2 can't be doing all the work alone. But maybe after a few Lyft rides, I notice confusion about how much to tip. Then maybe I think about that for a while or do some reading. Eventually I notice I need a policy because deciding each time is tiring or effortful.

I notice I feel fine tipping a bit each time when I have a programming job. I feel I can afford it, and I feel better about it. So I create and install a policy to tip $1 each time and run with that; I make room for exceptions when I feel like it.

Later, I stop having a programming job, and now I feel bad about spending that money. So I create a new if-then clause. If I have good income, I will tip $1. If not, I will tip $0. That code gets rewritten.

Later, I notice my policy is inadequate for handling situations where I have heavy luggage (because I find myself in a situation where I'm not tipping people who help me with my bag, and it bothers me a little). I rewrite the code again to add a clause about adding $1 when that happens.

Policy re-writes are motivated by S1 emotions telling me they want something different. They knock on the door of S2. S2 is like, I can help with that! S2 suggests a policy. S1 is relieved and installs it. The change is immediate.

Comment by Unreal on Policy-Based vs Willpower-Based Intentions · 2019-02-28T21:05:01.648Z · LW · GW

That's interesting!

How do other people handle the tipping thing? Whether for a driver or at a restaurant? Are you kind of deciding each time?

How do you handle the question of "who pays for a meal" with acquaintances / new people / on dates? My policy in this area is to always offer to split.

How do you handle whether to give money to homeless people or if someone is trying to offer you something on the street? My policy here is to always say no.

I'm curious what other people are doing here because I assumed most people use policies to handle these things.