Thoughts on becoming more organized 2014-08-17T03:46:03.127Z


Comment by Will_BC on Lesswrong 2016 Survey · 2016-03-30T17:44:49.503Z · LW · GW

I suggest this be posted to Main. I go long stretches without checking discussion, and just happened to find the survey here, but I subscribe to the Main RSS feed.

Comment by Will_BC on Lesswrong 2016 Survey · 2016-03-30T17:38:40.166Z · LW · GW

I have taken the survey

Comment by Will_BC on "3 Reasons It’s Irrational to Demand ‘Rationalism’ in Social Justice Activism" · 2016-03-30T16:11:07.693Z · LW · GW

I was trying not to kick the bees nest too hard, but I agree with you, doing bad things does tend to make people think bad things about you.

Comment by Will_BC on "3 Reasons It’s Irrational to Demand ‘Rationalism’ in Social Justice Activism" · 2016-03-30T14:25:25.288Z · LW · GW

Perhaps that connotation is because of the group in question? I dislike playing word games, the words we use should be interchangeable if they refer to the exact same thing. It's kind of like how we went from Negroes to Black to African Americans in an attempt to combat racism, but the racism was the problem, not bad words, and it only gets confusing when you word police. I was talking to some social justice types before the term was used in a derogatory way online and they described themselves that way, and the first place I saw it online was as a self-description of those groups. Words get loaded with bad affect because people have negative thoughts about the thing being referred to. I think any decision to use a new word that predates changing the thing to which we are referring is premature.

Comment by Will_BC on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject · 2016-03-03T09:31:53.290Z · LW · GW

Regarding the McAfee economics book, the link appears to have changed. I believe this link directs to the appropriate text

Comment by Will_BC on [Link] Study: no big filter, we're just too early · 2015-10-22T13:29:54.365Z · LW · GW

You didn't actually do the math on that. According to this paper by the Future of Humanity Institute (Nick Bostrom's group), if life evolved to the point of interstellar travel 3 billion years ago and could travel at 50% of c, then you would expect it to travel not just to this galaxy, but the nearest million. If you go back five billion years and assume travel speeds of 99% of c, it could reach a billion galaxies. 75% of stars in the Milky Way that could support life are older than our Sun. It really is an enigma.

Comment by Will_BC on Rationality Reading Group: Introduction and A: Predictably Wrong · 2015-04-18T02:15:44.645Z · LW · GW

Posts 8 and 9 were really beneficial to me. The illusion of transparency is something that has caused me great distress in the past, and it was really nice to have an explanation for why that was. I always valued my intelligence, and I used to think that when people didn't agree with things that seemed obvious to me it was a sign that they were stupid. I had come across this idea as "people have different experiences", and when I saw things through that lens it helped me to be kinder and less arrogant. These posts really crystallized that idea and made me go "oh, that's why that is".

Comment by Will_BC on Learning and testing environments · 2015-03-28T04:46:20.958Z · LW · GW

Not a full article. Discussion-starter. Half-digested ideas perhaps if they had been fully digested this would have been better received? I think I saw what you were getting at, and I liked it for working them out collaboratively, if you are interested. Will edit article with your feedback.

Learning environments

Examples: Less Wrong, martial arts gyms, Toastmasters

I'm not sure how much LW belongs in this category, which leads me to think that that's a major weakness of the site

  • Focused on improving a skill or virtue or ability

  • "we are all here to learn" attitude

  • Little if any status competition with that skill or ability, because it is understood your level is largely based on how long you are practicing or learning it, being better because having started 5 years before others does not make you an inherently superior person, it is the expected return of your investment which others also expect to get with time.

  • If there is any status competition at all, it is in the dedication to improve

  • It is allowed, in fact encouraged to admit weakness, as it both helps improving and signals dedication thereto

  • The skill or ability is not considered inherent or inborn

  • People do not essentialize or "identitize" that skill or ability, they generally don't think about each other in the framework of stupid, smart, strong, weak, brave, timid

Testing environment

Examples: most of life, that is the problem actually! Most discussion boards, Reddit. Workplaces. Dating.

  • I should just invert all of the above, really

not sure what you mean here

  • People are essentialized or "identitized" as smart, stupid, strong, weak, brave, timid

  • Above abilities or other ones seen as more or less inborn, or more accurate people don't really dwell on that question much but still more or less consider them unchangable, "you are what you are"

  • Status competition with those abilities

  • Losers easily written off, not encouraged to improve

  • Social pressure incentive to signal better ability than you have

  • Social pressure incentive to not admit weakness

  • Social pressure incenctive to not look like someone who is working on improving: that signals not already being awesome at it, and certainly not being "born" so

  • Social pressure incentive to make accomplishing hard things look easy to show extra ability

Objections / falsification / what it doesn't predict: competition can incentivize working hard. It can make people ingenious. this bit was unclear to me Counter-objection: as long as you make it clear it is not about an innate ability. That is terrible for development this made me pause I think this is a difficult subject, but perhaps some people don't believe in the Noble Lie of downplaying innate ability? I am torn on the subject. but if it is not about ability but working on improving, you get the above social pressure incentive problems: attitudes efficient for competing are not efficient for improving I don't think you've backed this claim up. I think I might disagree with you here. Possible solution: intermittent competition.

Possible combinations?

If you go to a dojo and see someone wearing an orange or green belt, do you both see it as a combination of tests taken and thus current ability, or a signal of what the person is currently learning and improving on (the material of the next belt exam) ? Which one is stronger? Do you see them as "good"/"bad" or improving?

Tentatively: they are more learning than testing environments. I may disagree with this do you mean there are, or what are you referring to with they?

Tentatively: formal tests and gradings can turn the rest of the environment into a learning environment.

Tentatively: maybe it is the lack of formal tests and gradings and certifications is what is turning the rest of the world all too often a testing environment. I don't think this is it. I think the world is default a testing environment. One thing that your learning environments seem to have in common is that there is some incentive for the groups to foster new members, and the degree to which they foster new members seems to depend on supply and demand for new members

Value proposition: it would be good to turn as much as possible of the world into learning environments, except mission-critical jobs, responsibilities etc. which necessarily must be testing environment. I agree with this, and related to my above comment I would would say that competition between groups leads to fostering within groups when there is a high demand for new recruits. As a point of nomenclature, how about instead of "testing" competing and instead of "learning" fostering? To me those terms seem closer to the what you're describing, but that's mostly aesthetic, might make the idea clearer for some people. And I think your intuition that good tests might tease out more fostering could be correct, in that having a good test makes for better competition. This is starting to remind me of The Craft and the Community sequence, where EY talks about rationality dogos and struggles with the difficulty of measuring rationality well. Would the equivalent of a belts system in everything fix it? Figuratively-speaking, green-belt philosopher of religion: atheist or theist, but excepted to not use the worst arguments? Orange-belt voter or political-commentator: does not use the Noncentral Fallacy? More academic ranks than just Bachelor, Masters, PhD? I don't know how this would work exactly, for some things perhaps demonstrating a high level of comprehension for certain reading lists? If we are so stupidly hard-wired animals to always feel the need status-compete and form status hierarchies, and the issue here is largely the effort and time wasted on it plus importing these status-competing attitudes into issues that actually matter and ruining rational approaches to them, would it be better if just glancing on each others belt - figuratively speaking - would settle the status hierarchy question and we could focus on being constructive and rational?

Example: look at how much money people waste on signalling that they have money. Net worth is an objective enough measure, turning it into a belt, figuratively speaking, and signing e-mails as "sincerely, J. Random, XPLFZ", where XPLFZ is some precisely defined, agreed and hard-to-falsify signal of a net worth between $0.1M and $0.5M fix it? Let's ignore how repulsively crude and crass that sounds, such mores are cultural and subject to change anyway, would it lead to fewer unnecessarily, just showing-off and keeping-up-with-the-joneses purchases? Scott Alexander from SSC had a similar idea for his ideal world, so you're in good company there. I think this is an area effective altruists should look into, have official rankings for amount donated, though would it really be effective altruism or effective signalling? Either way, a social good I think.

Counter-tests: do captains status-compete with lieutenants in the mess-hall? No. Do Green-belts with orange-belts? No.

What it doesn't predict: kids still status-compete despite grades. Maybe they don't care so much about grades. LW has no "belts" yet status-competition is low to nonexistent.

Comment by Will_BC on Lifehack Ideas December 2014 · 2014-12-12T02:00:25.409Z · LW · GW

I choreograph my morning routines to a specific playlist. I know what I'm supposed to be doing during each specific song, and I get things done on time without distractions. I started in highschool when I would occasionally miss the bus and I never missed the bus after I started.

Comment by Will_BC on How can one change what they consider "fun"? · 2014-11-22T07:58:11.060Z · LW · GW

Have you heard of It sounds a lot like what you'retrying to do with your point system. There's already a LW related guild called the Bayesian Conspiracy.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 14-20 July 2014 · 2014-07-17T15:12:30.193Z · LW · GW

It's hard to say, since there are confounds to changes in my mental state, but it does seem like I'm calmer and more self-aware, and if I make the connection to meditation I can quickly focus on my breath and change my focus.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 14-20 July 2014 · 2014-07-16T19:14:06.408Z · LW · GW

Regarding the mediation, I had a professor of Eastern Philosophy speak at one of my clubs, and he led us in a meditation. When I asked him how long it took before he saw results from his meditation practice, he said about six months, so it's not maximally effective immediately. Anecdotally, I can say that I I have noticed my ability to focus during the meditation to have improved, though I haven't maintained it for six months yet.

Comment by Will_BC on Why I Am Not a Rationalist, or, why several of my friends warned me that this is a cult · 2014-07-16T18:10:37.615Z · LW · GW

Thank you very much for the offer. I should have a post up in over a week and under a month.

Comment by Will_BC on Why I Am Not a Rationalist, or, why several of my friends warned me that this is a cult · 2014-07-14T20:29:54.617Z · LW · GW

It's in the works. I've got a few ideas, but right now I'm running them by family and friends. I have some ambitious goals but I'll probably start small. I would like to see some big changes happen in the world, and I don't think that working in the most straightforward way towards the Singularity is the only way to bring them about.

Comment by Will_BC on Why I Am Not a Rationalist, or, why several of my friends warned me that this is a cult · 2014-07-14T02:01:25.960Z · LW · GW

Those posts are 4 years old and 2 years older than CFAR. I do think that LW could and should do better with instrumental rationality.

Comment by Will_BC on Eutopia is Scary · 2014-07-02T00:37:08.194Z · LW · GW

If you're talking about Brennan's world, it's already driven me a little insane, to the point of having suicidal thoughts. I'm getting better with that now as the rest of your writing is helpful medicine for bad thinking, If I weren't already very receptive to psychiatric treatment and thankfully had a strong skeptical background, it might not have ended well and the thought that that sort of thing might be going on still bothers me greatly. This was the first time I read this particular post, and it helped me downshift the probability of that such a thing is happening now, but it's dangerous stuff for certain people (people with high levels of dopamine have a higher tendency to make type one errors, perceiving patterns where there are none, according to Michael Shermer). I think you're right that the typical person would be fine, but what you might not know is that if you dig deep enough in the conspiracy world there are suicide memes. I am very sure that the vast majority of your readers would be fine, and that for them your stories would be entertaining, even compelling for some, but my two cents is that the disutility is high enough to outweigh that benefit.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 30 June 2014- 6 July 2014 · 2014-07-01T14:30:37.676Z · LW · GW

Perhaps this video will put things in perspective. The other commenter is right, availability bias is at play. But just because we've gone far doesn't mean we should stop, and continuing to raise our standards of what is acceptable is a good thing. My belief is that a great deal of violence is caused by political, economic, and social deprivation and inequality, so if you want to feel like you're working against violence I would recommend working to reduce those. But that's my personal way of dealing with badness in the world. I don't feel totally powerless, I can't personally stop it but I can be part of a collective effort to mitigate it. I haven't done much research into the effective altruism community as I'm a poor college student with high future income potential if things go right, so I figure that landscape could change considerably.

The past is the past, but you are not powerless to stop bad things from happening in the future, it won't be you alone and it won't be clear cut, but you can definitely make the world a better place.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 30 June 2014- 6 July 2014 · 2014-07-01T13:36:57.895Z · LW · GW

I think that I remember reading an even better example about publishing scientific results that might have furthered the Nazis ability to produce a nuclear weapon in HPMOR, though I can't recall where it was exactly. I found that example persuasive, but I considered it a distasteful necessity, not a desirable state of affairs. Hence my confusion at Brennan's world, which I thought being set in the future of our world was perhaps post-Singularity, and therefore the epitome of human flourishing. Another commenter asked me if I wouldn't enjoy the thought of being a super-villain, and I thought , um no, that would be terrible, so maybe there are some Mind Projection issues going on in both directions. I don't know the distribution of people who would gain positive utility from a world of conspiracies, but I'm sure there would be a great deal of disutility with some proportion of current people with current minds. I can see where that world might provide challenge and interest for its inhabitants, but I remain highly skeptical that it's a utilitarian optima. Using my current brain and assuming stable values, it actually seems pretty dystopian to me, but I'll admit that's a limited way to look at things.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 30 June 2014- 6 July 2014 · 2014-07-01T06:13:11.909Z · LW · GW

One could make the argument that anything that harms the mission of lesswrong's sponsoring organizations is to the detriment of mankind. I'm not opposed to that argument, but googling censorship of lesswrong did not turn up anything I considered to be particularly dangerous. Maybe that just means that the censorship is more effective than I would have predicted, or is indicative or a lack of imagination on my part.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 30 June 2014- 6 July 2014 · 2014-07-01T03:28:07.908Z · LW · GW

If something is valuable and powerful, and (big if) it's not harmful, plus it's extremely cheap to reproduce I see no reason not to distribute it freely. My confusion was that Brennan's world seems set in the future, and I got the sense that EY may have been in favor of it in some ways (perhaps that's mistaken). Since it seemed to be set in the future of our world, I got the sense that the Singularity had already happened. Maybe I just need to get to the fun sequence, but that particular future really made me uneasy,

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 30 June 2014- 6 July 2014 · 2014-07-01T03:12:18.102Z · LW · GW

I'm relatively new to the site and I wasn't aware of any censorship.I suppose I can imagine that it might be useful and even necessary to censor things, but I have an intuitive aversion to the whole business. Plus I'm not sure how practical it is, since after you posted that I googled lesswrong censorship and found out what was being censored. I have to say, if they're willing to censor stuff that causes nightmares then they ought to censor talk of conspiracies, as I can personally attest that that has caused supreme discomfort. They are a very harmful meme and positing a conspiracy can warp your sense of reality. I have bipolar, and I was taking a medicine that increases the level of dopamine in my brain to help with some of the symptoms of depression. Dopamine (I recently rediscovered) increased your brain's tendency to see patterns, and I had to stop talking a very helpful medication after reading this site. Maybe it would have happened anyway, but the world of conspiracy theories is very dark and my journey there was triggered by his writings. I guess most of the content on this site is disorienting though, but perhaps some clarification about what he thinks the benefits of conspiracies are and their extent should be would help.

Also, the content on this site is pretty hard hitting in a lot of ways, I find it inconsistent to censor things to protect sensitive people who think about AI but not people who are sensitive to all the other things that are discussed here. I think it's emblematic of a broader problem with the community, which is that there's a strong ingroup outgroup barrier, which is a problem when you're trying to subsist on philanthropy and the ingroup is fairly tiny.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 30 June 2014- 6 July 2014 · 2014-06-30T17:38:52.177Z · LW · GW

Why do you think EY uses conspiracy in his fictional writing? He seems to use them in positive or at least not clearly negative light, which is not how I think of conspiracies at all. I notice that I am confused, so I'm trying to gather some other opinions.

Comment by Will_BC on [LINK] Neuroeconomics course on coursera started just this week · 2014-06-27T00:19:53.800Z · LW · GW

I'm taking this course, I bought the recommended textbook as well.

Comment by Will_BC on Some alternatives to “Friendly AI” · 2014-06-15T23:54:41.850Z · LW · GW

With all these options, single choice voting is pretty clearly sub-optimal, Approval or Range Voting would be better.

Comment by Will_BC on Bragging Thread, June 2014 · 2014-06-11T16:22:28.227Z · LW · GW

I've had some success in the past, but I haven't been able to keep with my program long enough to achieve the results I want and I lost motivation. I don't really have a great deal of disposable income right now, so if I derailed a lot I probably would stop using it. I really like the graphs, and by themselves they are a good motivator, so the thought of losing them is a further motivator. Basically I've had a better diet I've been meaning to stick to and an exercise routine that I sometimes did, but this kept me on track and focused on results.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 9-15 June 2014 · 2014-06-11T16:17:49.123Z · LW · GW

That's a good point, I knew they elected the pope but I wasn't sure about the middle positions, I was thinking more about the size of the groups being an important factor when I compared the other system to the military.. And the Catholic Church is another example of an effective real world analog to a system I was thinking about hypothetically.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 9-15 June 2014 · 2014-06-11T03:10:00.959Z · LW · GW

What I had in mind was more a hybrid between feudalism and the democratic process originally described. Democratic, bottom up above a certain level, top down below a certain level. But the idea was promoting a single person from a small group to a small group of similarly promoted people and so on ad infinitum, concentrating power by either process. I'm thinking of a system that could be implemented in practice.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 9-15 June 2014 · 2014-06-11T02:35:57.299Z · LW · GW

Well, the reasons to try hard are to be kind to others and to learn something yourself. Again, I never said it was an example of a voting system, what was asked for was a system of selecting public officials, and militaries are often public officials and it is not uncommon for them to change domains. The value is in taking a hypothetical system whose merits and weaknesses are difficult to evaluate, and comparing it to its closest analog in reality, which was my goal. I had come up with a system quite similar to the original query's idea, and the thought that it might be more effective in a top down fashion occurred to me, so it was even less different from the military than his idea, and both ideas fit the criteria of

methods for selecting important public officials from large populations that are arguably much better than the current standards as practiced in various modern democracies

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 9-15 June 2014 · 2014-06-11T02:12:10.451Z · LW · GW

Yes, Jesus is popular than the military, and more highly regarded in US politics by a majority of people. The opinions of the majority being of significant importance in a democratic political system. And certainly, there are differences. The direction of authority, which is what elections provide, is one. And there are others I'm sure I'm not mentioning, but those related to elections and authority are the biggest. But if you can't see how it's similar at all then you aren't being very charitable and aren't trying very hard. Both systems are hierarchical, both involve the promotion of a small number from a small group to another small group which then promotes a small number and so on until there is a small number of people or a single person at the top.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 9-15 June 2014 · 2014-06-10T15:37:12.634Z · LW · GW

That's probably a more sophisticated view, but I think popular opinion is with the military.

And the original topic was

methods for selecting important public officials from large populations that are arguably much better than the current standards as practiced in various modern democracies

And I think the military is similar in many ways to option two, sans the election part, which is why I brought it up.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 9-15 June 2014 · 2014-06-10T01:53:05.686Z · LW · GW

Well, highly regarded as far as US politics is concerned. A lot of people here like to see military service in a politician, and it's considered to be somewhat above partisan politics. And doing what you're told is a meritorious characteristic to have in the military, although I suppose it's far less meritocratic than some other organizations, it's ideal is that it is. Although you're certainly right, I should have said my statements were framed in the context of the US politics.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 9-15 June 2014 · 2014-06-09T19:39:04.284Z · LW · GW

There is some incentive to vote strategically, but depending on the range and the other candidate on offer you might be better off voting honestly. If there's a candidate you dislike strongly, and a major candidate you only mildly dislike, you might give your favorite a 10, the mild dislike a 3, and the major dislike a 0, just to reduce the major dislike's chances. The worst case scenario, which you describe, is called bullet voting, and is basically identical to our current system, but if even a small proportion vote honestly it can improve the results. The researcher who made the graph at the bottom of ran computer simulations of voter preferences compared with candidate values, and found that something like 10% of voters given their honest preference can improve results. I do recommend the book if you want to know more.

I am very interested in delegable proxy, although it seems potentially dangerous and I think if it were implemented it would need to be tempered with some less democratic devices, but it could certainly make for some interesting drama.

Comment by Will_BC on Open thread, 9-15 June 2014 · 2014-06-09T19:12:45.378Z · LW · GW

I read a very interesting book on election systems by William Poundstone called Gaming the Vote. His conclusion was that Score (aka Range) Voting was the best system on offer. A brief explanation can be found at; it's a rather simple and intuitive system. As to idea number 2, I had a similar idea a while back, I called it fractal hierarchy, and a few thoughts occurred to me. First, it need not be democratic at all levels. I was thinking that if you wanted to select for rationality then the entry levels might not be very good at this. This led me to realize that this was rather similar to how the US military is structured, and they are generally positively regarded and considered quite meritocratic, so it might be a good way to do things.

Another idea for legislative systems that I came across that is a merger between direct and representative democracy is called delegable proxy. The idea is that every member can vote on every issue, but they can choose to delegate their vote to a proxy voter, who can then choose to delegate all their votes to another voter, and so on, until you get a number of people with large chunks of votes. But for any issue, an individual can retract their vote(s) and vote how they wish. I think this system would allow for a lot of legislation to get passed, and would most strongly represent the popular will, but that is also it's greatest weakness, in that you get the issue of tyranny of the majority and ignorance of the masses playing a greater role.

I am working on a project right now to put these and other ideas into practice, and will make a discussion post about it at some point in the future. If anyone is interested in helping me to better articulate my ideas before I post them, please let me know.

Comment by Will_BC on Bragging Thread, June 2014 · 2014-06-08T15:37:25.134Z · LW · GW

I lost 10 pounds in the last 30 days, and I would like to credit part of that to the LW community for introducing me to Beeminder.

Comment by Will_BC on Brainstorming for post topics · 2014-06-03T19:09:31.706Z · LW · GW

I intend to make a discussion post, once my ideas are more polished and I have sufficient karma. Right now, I'm having a biweekly Google Hangout with a few people and trying to set up a Simple Machine Forum, so if anyone is interested in either of those send me a PM and I'll let you know how they're progressing.

Comment by Will_BC on Brainstorming for post topics · 2014-06-03T04:25:31.536Z · LW · GW

There was an RSA clip about this awhile back. Smile or Die

Comment by Will_BC on Brainstorming for post topics · 2014-06-03T04:06:17.559Z · LW · GW

I have been mostly lurking for a couple of months, but organizing people is one of my main areas of interest, and I have some practical experience in doing it. I have had thoughts along these lines, and right now I'm having a biweekly Google hangout with some friends and family to discuss the issue and get feedback on my ideas. I'd like to very gradually introduce the topics to the rationalist community. But the core idea that I'm working on right now is that rationality is not interesting to the general public because rationality is too abstract. I would like to form a community where the main outreach is "Success Clubs" or something like that, basically a support group for improving your life designed by rationalists. I would also like to create a currency that people earned by attending the meetings and participating in the broader organization. I think the success of cryptocurrencies, video games, and karma systems is evidence that this could be a very useful motivator.

Comment by Will_BC on Open Thread, May 26 - June 1, 2014 · 2014-05-28T02:33:10.373Z · LW · GW

Thanks for answering, I did some googling and found a website called that seems to be helping. So far I've been able to gradually increase the wpm from where I was comfortable starting, and it seems like it could be an effective tool.

Comment by Will_BC on Open Thread, May 26 - June 1, 2014 · 2014-05-27T02:40:21.180Z · LW · GW

Where did you learn these speed reading techniques?

Comment by Will_BC on Open Thread, May 26 - June 1, 2014 · 2014-05-27T00:21:19.248Z · LW · GW

Well, I'm open to increasing the rate, but I'm looking for information on how people do that without harming comprehension.

Comment by Will_BC on Open Thread, May 26 - June 1, 2014 · 2014-05-26T22:53:58.495Z · LW · GW

Any advice on how to increase the amount I read without increasing the time I spend reading? I'm concerned that just trying to up the pace will lower my comprehension.

Comment by Will_BC on Welcome to Less Wrong! (6th thread, July 2013) · 2014-05-07T22:11:16.426Z · LW · GW

Hello all! My name is Will. I'm 21 and currently live in upstate New York. A bit about myself:

At an early age, I remember I was thinking in my head, and I caught myself in a lie. I already knew that it was wrong to lie to other people, though I did it sometimes, but I could not think of any good reason to lie to myself. It was some time before I really started to apply this idea.

My parents divorced when I was ten, and my mother discovered that she had a brain tumor around the same time. In the face of this uncertainty and unpleasantness, my mother turned to religion. She reached the other side of these events without great harm, and in her gratitude began bringing her children (my younger brother and me) to church with her. I had not considered religion much before, and had been somewhat skeptical, but since I was aware of no one personally who shared my skepticism, I suppressed my instincts and became involved with youth groups and church camps. However, my doubts persisted over time as attempted to become a faithful and devout Christian. I knew that I hadn't accepted the claims they made completely, and that caused a great deal of stress. If I had doubts, surely an all knowing God would see them and punish me.

A turning point came when I learned that a couple of my close friends didn't believe in God, and that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I lost the faith I never really had. Considering the existence of God to be someone likely had caused me a great deal of stress, and I felt a great sense of relief by accepting what I deep down believed to be true, an extremely cathartic dissipation of cognitive dissonance. By the time I got to college, I had watched many atheist debates on YouTube and read several atheist books, and became even more confident in my position.

Once I arrived at my university, I joined a club that was mostly populated by atheists ( the Secular Student Alliance and found that I was happiest surrounded by like-minded people. I would Eventually be elected the groups President. Also while I was at university, I took and was a TA for a philosophy class on Plato and Aristotle. Having read some books by Steven Pinker, I realized the science behind why Plato had come up with his theory of Forms. It bothered me considerably that this was not being taught to students along with the historical material, and it also bothered me to discover that there were people who still identified as Platonists. Not all, but too many of the people in the philosophy department struck me as being more concerned with arguing and showing off their intelligence than in actually understanding the world. They matched almost exactly the Sophists that had plagued Socrates.

In 2011, I became involved in the Occupy Movement. I thought that the world was sufficiently bad that it needed changing, and that even if it was a long shot trying was better than doing nothing, I learned a lot about what happens when you forbid anyone to take a leadership position, and also how to organize people who don't want anyone to tell them what to do (between that and running a group of atheists, the meaning behind the phrase "herding cats" has become quite clear to me). I'm interesting to see if some of these ideas might be useful to a rationalist community.

In December of 2012, I an idea struck me that I thought would change the world. It was about organizing people using fractals, and I thought I would immediately start a revolution. I then came to the more general realization that "fractals" were the source of everything in the universe, explaining how complexity arose from simplicity. My friends didn't seem as impressed as I thought they should be. I became increasingly distressed and brought myself to a hospital. They recommended I be admitted to a mental hospital, and with an amount of good sense surprising for one in my condition, I agreed, thinking I either was insane or would be proven sane and therefore right about having solved the mysteries of the universe. I was diagnosed with bipolar type 1. My erratic behavior had been the result of my only truly manic episode, with all the associated grandiose delusions.

After my release from the hospital, I entered a deep depression (which often follows mania in those with bipolar). I lost my sense of self. I didn't know to what extent the new psychoactive medications I was taking were suppressing my intelligence and creativity, I was unsure of my future, and it seemed to me that I had to drastically lower my expectations from what they were in the past in order to prevent a return to mania. I thought that my depression was the price of stability and sanity. I entered a regimen of treatment that was quite difficult and did not produce results very quickly, including what I thought of as a last ditch effort, elctro-convulsive therapy.

In March of this year, I was put on a new medication. This medication improved my mood considerably, and around the same time I started taking it I decided to give lesswrong a closer look. I had seen posts from it elsewhere on the internet, but I had never really given it thorough consideration. Once I began to go through it systematically, starting with Benito's guide. I found that much of it corresponded with ideas that had appealed to me elsewhere, and I found the new ideas to be stimulating as well. Finding lesswrong correlated with a turning point in my life. I have found useful advice and inspiration on this website, I hope to be able to contribute in the future, but right now I'm primarily focusing on finishing the sequences before I get into much posting. I decided to join the study hall to help with akrasia and enjoyed my time there so I wanted to introduce myself to the community more thoroughly.