Posts

Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds 2010-11-08T21:42:32.423Z · score: 6 (9 votes)

Comments

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Open Thread, Apr. 06 - Apr. 12, 2015 · 2015-04-06T16:35:36.098Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Slate Star Codex fulfills this niche for me.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on [LINK] Amanda Knox exonerated · 2015-03-30T16:19:45.810Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If she only did that once in many hundred days, on that night in particular, then that could be a very huge amount of evidence.

....No. Not even slightly. This line of questioning MIGHT be relevant if you didn't already have the killer identified, with overwhelming physical evidence pointing towards them. You don't need to explain why Knox turned her phone off, because you already have the killer and every single piece of physical evidence at the crime scene accounted for.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Meetup : Dallas, TX · 2015-01-07T20:25:25.959Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can't attend this one, but I can possibly attend in the future. The Dallas area is a 2 hour drive for me, but I make it up there every couple of months or so. (Incidentally, I'll be there on Saturday night, but not in time for this meetup.)

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on New Monthly Thread: Bragging · 2013-08-12T15:40:06.963Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW
Comment by vive-ut-vivas on LW Women: LW Online · 2013-02-18T01:00:26.972Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think her reaction makes a tremendous amount of sense, at least as she explains it.

I do, and I didn't have any kind of dysfunctional upbringing. I agree with your friend, and if such a place existed, I would enjoy participating there.

It's possible to be intelligent and interested in rationality, but uninterested in being constantly graded and judged.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on LW Women: LW Online · 2013-02-18T00:51:07.469Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I do feel like LW is cold, and I'd rather not say "unfriendly", which to me sounds explicitly hostile, but it's non-friendly. Commenting here feels like Coming to Work, not like hanging out with friends. You know, where I need to remember to mind all of my manners. Seeing the orange envelope fills me with panic, as I am sure there is someone there just waiting to chew me out for violating some community norm or just being Wrong.

Truthfully, I think it is the lack of "small talk" that makes it feel unfriendly to me. It has the air of, "we're not interested in you personally, we're here to get things done". I want things to be personal. I want to make friends.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Open Thread, December 1-15, 2012 · 2012-12-05T14:32:55.278Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The main reason I am interested in a LW-related environment (other than it really being my only online "community") is because I know there's been talk here before about people switching fields to become programmers. That's a group of particular interest to me, since I'm one of them. I also know of at least one other person here who is working on becoming a programmer through self-study. There was a post a while back about encouraging more people to become computer programmers, so I'm betting that there are more of us out there.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Open Thread, December 1-15, 2012 · 2012-12-02T14:07:50.243Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's been some talk recently of the need for programmers and how people that are unsatisfied with their current employment can find work in that area while making a decent living. Does there exist some sort of virtual meet-up for people that are working towards becoming programmers? I'd like to form, or be part of, a support group of LW-ers that are beginning programming. There may be something like this around that I've just missed because I mostly lurk and not even that regularly anymore. (Hoping to change that, though.)

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Amanda Knox: post mortem · 2011-10-24T00:04:12.762Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What evidence I have seen does not give me much confidence in the critical thinking ability of posters here as a group, to put it politely. Not much different from "anonymous internet posters" in general.

Just in this instance, or in general?

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Amanda Knox: post mortem · 2011-10-21T14:25:23.190Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that's the way to put it, but let me ask you this: How much stock do you put in the unsupported assertion of an anonymous person on the internet?

How much stock do you put in the supported assertion of an anonymous person on the internet? I think that's a more relevant question here. To what degree does a poster's anonymity detract from his argument?

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Just a reminder, for everyone that signed up for the intro to AI class, it's started. · 2011-10-13T10:49:20.266Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm in all three. I second the LW study group formation.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Knox and Sollecito freed · 2011-10-03T22:38:54.419Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

A victory for rationality, today. I feel truly happy about this.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Polyhacking · 2011-08-28T11:01:49.002Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is just the way I like to relate to myself but I'd decide I was allowed to switch to poly if it was a good idea but that I'm not allowed to date poly-inspiration-X. For at least as long as a limerance period could be expected to interfere with judgement and also long enough that I could see if poly worked for me without the interference. That way my infatuation biases don't get to subvert my decision making either by temptation or by defensive reaction.

That's completely reasonable, I'll agree with that.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Polyhacking · 2011-08-27T03:31:45.348Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

I find this very interesting. Polyamory is something that I've toyed with intellectually for a while, but I have several ugh fields around it. Namely, and this one has been borne out by this very post, that "going polyamorous" seems like the kind of thing monogamous females do in order to acquire polyamorous males. Perhaps if one was a sufficiently status-y female, one would be able to convert the polyamorous male to being monogamous. Of course, this comes with all sorts of issues (namely, making the polyamorous partner unhappy). I just haven't been sufficiently convinced that being polyamorous would make me happy for any reasons other than using that polyamory to attract a high-status mate that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to attract. I, like you Alicorn, have been too long seduced by the monogamy aesthetic.

Now, I will try to imagine the conditions sufficient in order for me to hack myself into being polyamorous. I imagine that they would be thus:

  • I would have to decide, for myself, that I wanted to be polyamorous before meeting some polyamorous male that I desired. That is the only way that I can reasonably trust myself to make a decision in my own best interest.
  • I would have to be convinced that there was no asymmetry. I believe this is my primary repulsion to polyamory. I envision myself in a situation where I want primary access to a partner who does not similarly wish primary access to me. I also envision lots of emotions and stress involved in deciding what "primary" even means.
  • I need to be convinced, for myself, that becoming polyamorous is not a status-lowering move.
  • I'm concerned about the exponential increase in exposure to STI's as well. Of course, I've had partners cheat on me in so-called monogamous relationships, so I'm aware that this is not something that a monogamous relationship necessarily shields me from.

As it stands, I haven't been in a monogamous relationship wherein I desired within that relationship that it was open so that I could date others. I also haven't yet desired someone who was (to my knowledge) polyamorous. I have already decided that I do not want the latter condition to be the catalyst for changing my worldview, so right now, I consider myself open to the possibility in the future, should I find myself in a situation where I wanted to date multiple partners. So thanks Alicorn, I am now significantly more luminous!

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Community norm question: brief text ad signatures · 2011-07-11T13:21:19.726Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I vote "ad signatures are okay on posts but not on comments".

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Austin, TX LW Meetup, 6/4 1:30PM · 2011-06-11T14:19:05.897Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Okay great. I can't make it there this time, but if you all are meeting every week, I can definitely make it sometimes. I live up near Ft Worth so it's quite the drive for a day trip! Are you using google groups to communicate or anything?

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Austin, TX LW Meetup, 6/4 1:30PM · 2011-06-09T02:57:28.198Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is this happening again this Saturday, the 11th?

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Upcoming meet-ups: Buenos Aires, Minneapolis, Ottawa, Edinburgh, Cambridge, London, DC · 2011-05-16T13:55:04.726Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Any chance of a regular meetup getting started in the DFW area?

Edit: Before anyone tells me to start one myself, my intention with asking this question was polling to see if anyone else actually lives there.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Advice in fighting depression? · 2011-03-30T19:34:40.468Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It sounds like she needs therapy. Antidepressants and exercise will help take the edge off until she can get the therapy, but mental illness needs to be treated by a medical professional.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Procedural Knowledge Gaps · 2011-02-10T01:39:50.971Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do you exercise?

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Less Wrong: Open Thread, December 2010 · 2010-12-08T23:57:27.493Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I could make an appearance. I'm not super familiar with DC so staying pretty close to a metro station would be ideal.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Less Wrong: Open Thread, December 2010 · 2010-12-06T16:21:34.978Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm jealous of all these LW meetups happening in places that I don't live. Is there not a sizable contingent of LW-ers in the DC area?

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on What I've learned from Less Wrong · 2010-11-20T21:36:52.458Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not understanding the disagreement here. I'll grant that imperfect knowledge can be harmful, but is anybody really going to argue that it isn't useful to try to have the most accurate map of the territory?

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on What I've learned from Less Wrong · 2010-11-20T14:35:13.097Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't read that paper - but thanks for the link, I'll definitely do so - but it seems that that's a separate issue from choosing which beliefs to have based on what it will do for your social status. Still, I would argue that limiting knowledge is only preferable in select cases -- not a good general rule to abide by, partial knowledge of biases and such notwithstanding.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on What I've learned from Less Wrong · 2010-11-20T14:16:53.483Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And ideally, you'd take that fact into account in forming your actual beliefs. I think it's pretty well-established here that having accurate beliefs shouldn't actually hurt you. It's not a good strategy to change your actual beliefs so that you can signal more effectively -- and it probably wouldn't work, anyway.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on What I've learned from Less Wrong · 2010-11-20T13:45:52.537Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's probably useful at this point to differentiate between actual beliefs and signaled beliefs, particularly because if your beliefs control anticipation (and accurately!), you would know which beliefs you want to signal for social purposes.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on What I've learned from Less Wrong · 2010-11-20T13:34:58.784Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

And many of the people in this community rub me the wrong way.

Yes, like you, for stealing my post idea! Kidding, obviously.

At the risk of contributing to this community becoming a bit too self-congratulatory, here are some of the more significant concepts that I've grokked from reading LW:

Most of all, LW has taught me that being the person that I want to be takes work. To actually effect any amount of change in the world requires understanding the way it really is, whether you're doing science or trying to understand your own personality flaws. Refusing to recognize said flaws doesn't make them go away, reality doesn't care about your ego, etc.

And apparently there was this Bayes guy who had a pretty useful theorem...

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on "Target audience" size for the Less Wrong sequences · 2010-11-20T03:39:15.179Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The other two were a friend of mine and a productivity blog whose name and url I have since forgotten.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Yes, a blog. · 2010-11-19T05:39:42.459Z · score: 37 (37 votes) · LW · GW

Don't forget: Wikipedia happened.

And this is precisely why I haven't lost all hope for the future. (That, and we've got some really bright people working furiously on reducing x-risk.) On rare occasions, humanity impresses me. I could write sonnets about Wikipedia. And I hate when so-called educators try to imply Wikipedia is low status or somehow making us dumber. It's the kind of conclusion that the Gatekeepers of Knowledge wish was accurate. How can you possibly get access to that kind of information without paying your dues? It's just immoral.

I pose this question: if you had to pick just one essay to introduce someone to LW, which one would you pick and why? I'd like to spread access to the information in the sequences so that it can benefit others as it did me, but I'm at a loss as to where specifically to start. Just tossing a link to the list of sequences is.....overwhelming, to say the least. And I've been perusing them for so long that I can't remember what it's like to read with fresh eyes, and the essays that have the most impact on me now were incomprehensible to me a year ago, I think.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on "Target audience" size for the Less Wrong sequences · 2010-11-19T00:56:23.272Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

So, I was directed toward this post, in no small part because I am, demographically, a bit unusual for LW. At times, I'm quite optimistic about LW and rationality-in-general's prospects, but then I remember that my being here, and participating, is the product of happenstance. But then again, I actually have been pointed to LW from three different sources, so perhaps it was inevitable.

Ah, but here comes my embarrassing admission:

Most people who are already awesome enough to have passed through all these filters are winning so hard at life (by American standards of success) that they are wayyy too busy to do boring, anti-social & low-prestige tasks like reading online forums in their spare time (which they don’t have much of).

The above is a much more influential factor in my considering how much to participate than I feel happy admitting. I'll openly admit that being rational is not my default mode; I wasn't even targeted as "bright" as a kid. No out-of-ordinary test scores came from me. I have had to really work to get my thoughts to avoid being immediately processed through a Is this the kind of belief that will get me social status? filter. So, I do have this massive fear that being rational is just not natural for me. Nor is my IQ, I suspect, anywhere near the high end of the spectrum here....though that filter for social status has been, I think, obscuring my intelligence for most of my life.

Does socializing on the internet feel low-status to me? Yeah, it does....and had I not basically grown up on the internet, I doubt I'd ever give a community like this a second glance. It's been really tough divorcing society's ideal of what is status-y from what I actually want to do. I love the internet, and I spend a vast amount of time on it, but it still feels low status to me, and so it's not something I advertise. Despite my ability to find more interesting conversation here than I can possibly hope to find in real life!

So, even though I was pointed to LW multiple times independently, I probably would never have actually become an active participant (insofar as I am one) had I not had the personal endorsement of my brother, who is an active member, that this was a very intelligent place. Honestly, I wasn't properly calibrated to identify this place as, well, what it actually is. I don't know what to suggest to get this to be more appealing to people that are like me - that is, smart enough to benefit from the sequences, but not likely to seek it out on their own. The rationality book is probably the best bet.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Reference Points · 2010-11-18T18:13:47.076Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It seems reasonable, and is consistent with my own experience, that deliberately and vividly imagining the pleasant experiences associated with doing X activates the former and inhibits the latter.

But since I can't actually copy this technique and have it work every time, I suspect that other people find it equally unenlightening, which is why I think it's a poor model for actually bringing someone out of procrastination. That is, I think there's something else going on in your head in addition to just imagining the pleasant experience that you're not recognizing and therefore can't communicate. Not just you, of course, this is exactly what I'm struggling with: identifying why my brain works differently some days than others. I'm in the middle of tracking what the conditions are when I have an "on" day versus an "off" one. I've already noticed that if I write down the patterns of thoughts that I have when "on", thinking them back to myself when I'm "off" doesn't actually change my mental state. I really want to identify what factor(s) will turn me from "off" to "on" every single time. An impossible goal, alas.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Anti-Akrasia Reprise · 2010-11-17T18:05:17.559Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And although I'm using the multiple selves / sub-agents terminology, I think it's really just a rhetorical device. There are not multiple selves in any real sense.

I would actually dispute this, but that goes into what you actually mean by a "self". I don't see how it's not obvious that are multiple agents at work; the problem of akrasia is, then, trying to decide which agent actually gets to pilot your brain at that instant. I suspect this is alleviated, to some extent, by increased self-awareness; if you can pick out modes of thought that you don't actually want to "endorse" (like the "I want to be a physicist" versus "I don't want to do physics" example below), you are probably more likely to have the ability to override what you label as "not endorsed" than if you are actually sitting there wondering "wait, is this what I really think? Which mode is me?"

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Anti-Akrasia Reprise · 2010-11-17T17:49:56.024Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that rationality is not superego strengthening, but ego strengthening- and the best way to do that is to elevate whoever isn't present at the moment. If your superego wants you to embark on some plan, consult your id before committing (and making negative consequences immediate is a great way to do that); if your id wants you to avoid some work, consult your superego before not doing it.

Thing is, I don't think this actually happens. When I'm being productive and not procrastinating, and I try to sit back and analyze why I'm "on" that day, I might attribute it to something like "hmm, long-term desires seem to be overriding short-term desires today, clearly this is the key". As if, for whatever reason, my short-term self was on vacation that day. My belief is that what's happening is something much more fundamental, and something that we actually have much less control over than we think; the conditions for not-procrastinating were already in place, and I later added on justifications like, "man, I really need to listen to far mode!". This is why, when I'm having a day where I am procrastinating, those same thoughts just don't move me. It's not the thought that's actually determining your actions ("My desire to make an A in this class SHOULD BE stronger than my desire to comment on Less Wrong, so therefore I am going to override my desire to play on the internet to do work instead"), but the conditions that allow for the generation of those thoughts. I think that's why telling myself "I don't want to do this problem set, but I know I need to" doesn't actually move me....until it does.

YMMV, of course. Others might be able to induce mental states of productivity by thinking really hard that they want to be productive, but I sure can't. It's either there or it isn't. I can't explain why it's there sometimes, but if you ask me in a productive mode why I'm able to get so much more done, well, it's just obvious that far mode is more important.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Reference Points · 2010-11-17T17:22:11.005Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This reference point phenomenon is, to me, the kind of thing that seems obvious after you've already done it, but isn't actually helpful if you're trying to change a behavior.

If you're trying to get into the habit of going to the gym or whatever, you already know that it's going to be to your benefit in "far" mode but "near" mode you just doesn't want to go. Near mode you has better stuff to do right now, healthfulness is far mode's problem. You can't re-program yourself to associate "working out" with "feeling good" until you've already been doing it for a while. This has been my experience, anyway. I run every day, and it's just part of what I do, but the catalyst to getting into this habit wasn't that I was suddenly able to convince myself that this was something that was good for me and that later on I'd enjoy it, even if I didn't enjoy it now -- no, the reason I started running was because at the time I had an immediate desire to do it (stress, pent-up frustration with life situations). I have absolutely no ability to trick my near mode to do things to the benefit of far mode; it has to have utility to me, right now.

Of course, now that I've been doing this for a while, when I'm about to go run I don't even have a mental dialog where I have to convince myself that it's something that I want to do - I just do it. If I haven't run today, then obviously I am going to run, there's modus ponens. If for some reason I have a voice saying I don't want to do it, my brain immediately overrides that with, "But that just doesn't make sense!". If I were trying to convey this mental process to someone else, I might say something like, "well, I just envision myself running and having a good experience, and then not running and not having that good experience, so I've changed my reference point". This after-the-fact explanation sort of explains what's happening in my mind, but doesn't actually give somebody else tools that allow them to actually copy it. The only advice I'd give is to find an actual compelling reason to do it whatever it is right now, rather than trying to fake yourself into thinking you want to do something that you really don't.

Basically, you're right about the changing reference points but I think you've got the order mixed up. That happens after you've changed the behavior.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Have no heroes, and no villains · 2010-11-11T01:43:34.579Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As a general rule, I try not to lie to myself. I wasn't referring to the social convention of picking a side to cheer for, but the internal conflict that occurs when you love someone and they turn around and hurt you; for instance, your SO makes a huge mistake, but you're reluctant to let that outweigh all of the good qualities that they have. It then turns into a situation where you have to determine where exactly that moral event horizon lies that then makes them unsuitable as your partner. (If anybody has an algorithm for this, please, help me out!)

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Have no heroes, and no villains · 2010-11-08T22:01:07.895Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

And on an equally depressing note, I've run into this with significant others. Sadly, I've found that my inability to subscribe to the Good Guy/Bad Guy narrative hasn't resulted in optimizing relationships.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread · 2010-06-28T14:38:55.692Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's supposed to be his mother, Lily.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on How to always have interesting conversations · 2010-06-16T18:40:43.588Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I mentioned a few comments below that I have experience with this method. It works. What I've worked on is specifically rehearsing the transitions between topics, and you can even practice this with a friend who pretends to be a stranger. Role playing is actually fantastic for acquiring conversation skill, and both of you benefit.

**I don't want to re-start the argument from last night, so I want to say that this method is only helpful if you're trying to get from small talk to meaningful conversation, not trying to break the ice in the first place.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Open Thread June 2010, Part 3 · 2010-06-15T19:40:50.400Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The inertia of the conventional wisdom ("you've gotta go to college!") is further making the new generation slow to adapt to the reality, not to mention another example of Goodhart's Law.

I wish I could vote this comment up a hundred times. This insane push toward college without much thought about the quality of the education is extremely harmful. People are more focused on slips of paper that signal status versus the actual ability to do things. Not only that, but people are spending tens of thousands of dollars for degrees that are, let's be honest, mostly worthless. Liberal arts and humanities majors are told that their skill set lies in the ability to "think critically"; this is a necessary but not sufficient skill for success in the modern world. (Aside from the fact that their ability to actually "think critically" is dubious in the first place.) In reality, the entire point is networking, but there has to be a more efficient way of doing this that isn't crippling an entire generation with personal debt.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on How to always have interesting conversations · 2010-06-15T19:19:54.844Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps, but your advice required the ability to successfully start conversations, since you were suggesting to talk to random people

Well, the entire topic of the original post was contingent upon already being in a situation of engaging in small talk with someone. The LW meet-up, for example. If you are already able to start conversation with someone, but wanting to skill up in steering the conversation into interesting avenues, Kaj Sotala's post should be very helpful. Being able to make small talk does not at all imply skill in having interesting conversation.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on How to always have interesting conversations · 2010-06-15T19:02:19.554Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It helps if student and teacher are both clear on what the subject being taught actually is in the first place, and which level everybody is starting at. The fact remains that just because you're not good at making small talk doesn't mean that the opportunity isn't there, everywhere. Either way, in order to get better, you will have to practice, regardless of how difficult it is to get to the point of even being able to practice. Kaj Sotala's post wasn't about how to talk to random strangers, but how to get to interesting conversations with someone you're already talking to. It's a bit unfair to accuse people who are here to help with that issue of not being helpful on a related, but different one.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on How to always have interesting conversations · 2010-06-15T18:51:34.148Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I understand your frustration. I should have made it clear that I wasn't attempting to help people who are trying to get to the barrier of making small talk in the first place; I was directing my advice to those who are interested in making the transition from small talk to interesting conversation. You're right that I haven't been particularly helpful in addressing that first point. I think that with some reflection I might be able to give decent advice on that topic, but that will require more introspection.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on How to always have interesting conversations · 2010-06-15T18:40:30.771Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I didn't realize I was entering into a discussion on how to acquire extroversion! I admit, I'm unqualified there. But I definitely do have experience, and advice to give, on how to steer conversation toward interesting topics for both individuals interested in having a conversation, which is what I thought we were talking about in the first place. :)

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on How to always have interesting conversations · 2010-06-15T18:34:26.293Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Not to me, they aren't.

Of course not, with that attitude! ;) I certainly don't know enough about you to advise you on how you may be sending people the wrong signals in conversation. Do you have any friends that are good conversationalists? Take them with you. That's actually how I learned! "Shadowing" a popular friend is a great way to pick up conversation skill. I'm sure you know someone who's good at this, since popular people, by definition, know lots of people!

Seriously, have you ever actually been bad at conversation and tried out your own advice? You're speaking exactly like someone who's never had a problem with this and so doesn't know what barrier such a person has to cross.

Not sure I've ever been "bad" at conversation, but I - like everybody else! - have had to work on improving it by practice.

Anyway, I fear we've drifted a bit from my original point, which was directed towards people who want to talk to other people in a situation where both parties are already willing to talk. Advising on how to talk to people who aren't interested in conversation off the bat will require more thought on my part.

ETA: Hit "comment" too early.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on How to always have interesting conversations · 2010-06-15T18:22:48.182Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well, full disclosure: I'm a really extroverted person, so I apologize if I may be trivializing the art of small talk. That's definitely not my intention, since I want to make it clear that it's a skill that is to be learned. Also, the conversational nuances are a bit different if you're chatting up someone of the opposite sex versus just making small talk with a random stranger. I'm only talking about the latter, I don't claim to have any helpful advice regarding the former. ;) I'm assuming that's what the "captive situation" thing refers to.

Generally, people like to talk. Sometimes they don't. You might be a brilliant conversationalist and run into someone who's pissed off and doesn't want to talk, so you shouldn't take that personally. You can pick up cues about people as to how amenable they are to conversation; if they're avoiding all eye contact with everyone in the area, that's a bad sign. If you make eye contact and smile, that's a good sign. If you're not practiced at small talk, you start with the smiley people. Practice talking to people who are good at conversation; observe the way they steer conversations and what their mannerisms are.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on How to always have interesting conversations · 2010-06-15T18:06:42.861Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Everyone can find somebody to practice small talk with. The benefit of conversation practice isn't contingent upon doing so in quick succession, but accumulation of conversation experience over time. You can increase your skills very rapidly even without access to the condensed conversational environment of fraternity/sorority recruitment. I don't even recommend participating in that if you can avoid it, since it's a very stressful experience. But it does make you really good at talking to people.

Go to a bar, people are usually there to talk. Interestingness varies considerably, of course. If you work, make small talk with your coworkers. If you're in school, say hello to the person sitting next to you. Make a habit of doing this wherever you go. That's the best way to practice.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on How to always have interesting conversations · 2010-06-15T17:52:11.819Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Dunno where your confusion lies, but my point was only that if you spend enough time practicing talking to people, it gets easier, regardless if you're a sorority girl or SIAI research fellow. Everyone can do it.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on How to always have interesting conversations · 2010-06-15T17:40:08.063Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

This is actually great advice. Not to scare anyone away (since I know the point is to have interesting conversation....), but the techniques discussed are essentially identical to what they teach during sorority recruitment practice. (I assume it's the same for fraternities, not that anyone cares). During recruitment, each girl will talk to hundreds of potential recruits in a short amount of time and has to be a very skilled conversationalist in order to assess the personality and interests of the other person. You're taught to steer very basic small talk ("What's your major?" "Where are you from?") into directions to find something unique and interesting about the person, and you only have a couple minutes to do it. They practice this for many, many hours a day leading up to recruitment. After a few weeks of this, you really can talk to anybody about anything.

The point of the post is to make conversations interesting, so you need to be able to steer the talk from mundane to something better, without making the other person feel like they're being pulled to one of your pet topics. Best way to do this is practice. Improv comedy is actually a related (and equally practicable) skill, interestingly enough...

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on How to always have interesting conversations · 2010-06-15T17:19:34.041Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The people that aren't good at conversation are the ones that don't have easy opportunities to increase the number of conversations.

I don't think that's true. Who doesn't have easy opportunities to increase their number of conversations, other than a total shut-in? People are everywhere, and therefore, so are potential conversations. You might not have the most interesting conversation with the guy standing behind you in line at the bank, but the only way to get better at conversation is practice, like the OP said.

Comment by vive-ut-vivas on Bayes' Theorem Illustrated (My Way) · 2010-06-04T19:13:57.809Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What if it's not a false belief? It's alot different from "2+2=3" or "the world is flat". Why? Because you can prove those things correct or incorrect.

The extremely low prior probability and the total lack of evidence allow us, as Bayesians, to dismiss it as false. Taboo the word "proof", because it's not useful to us in this context.