To save the world, make sure to go beyond academia

There were several interesting talks at the GoCAS workshop on existential risk to humanity. The one that was maybe the most thought-provoking was the last one, by Seth Baum, who discussed the difficulty of translating the results of academic research into something that actually does save the world. He gave two examples. First, climate change: apparently in the economics literature, there has...

Read More

Debiasing by rationalizing your own motives

Some time back, I saw somebody express an opinion that I disagreed with. Next, my mind quickly came up with emotional motives the other person might have for holding such an opinion, that would let me safely justify dismissing that opinion. Now, it’s certainly conceivable that they did have such a reason for holding the opinion. People do often have all kinds of psychological,...

Read More

The muted signal hypothesis of online outrage

Everyone, it sometimes seems, has their own pet theory of why social media and the Internet often seem like so unpleasant and toxic places. Let me add one more. People want to feel respected, loved, appreciated, etc. When we interact physically, you can easily experience subtle forms of these feelings. For instance, even if you just hang out in the same physical space with a bunch of other people...

Read More

The parliamentary model as the correct ethical model

In 2009, Nick Bostrom brought up the possibility of dealing with moral uncertainty with a “parliamentary model” of morality. Suppose that you assign (say) 40% probability to some form particular of utilitarianism being correct, and 20% probability to some other form of utilitarianism being correct, and 20% probability to some form of deontology being true. Then in the parliamentary...

Read More

Confidence and patience don’t feel like anything in particular

After doing my self-concept work, I’ve been expecting to feel confident in social situations. And observing myself in them or after them, I have been more confident. But I haven’t felt particularly confident. The thing is, being confident doesn’t feel like much in particular. I was pretty confident in my ability to open my laptop and write this post. I’m also confident in...

Read More

How I found & fixed the root problem behind my depression and anxiety after 20+ years

I was nine years old and about to soon turn ten, when I announced to my parents that I didn’t want any birthday presents, because I didn’t think that I’d done anything to deserve them. This left my parents more than a little puzzled and upset, especially when I later also insisted I didn’t want presents for other birthdays – nor for Christmas, for that matter. I...

Read More

Meditation insights: suffering is intrinsically bound together with pleasure

A principle which I’ve been gradually been able to observe and internalize, thanks both to meditation and some other mind-hacking practices, is that suffering is never about the pain itself. There are conditions in which people report pain but do not mind it; pain is just an attention signal. Pain does not intrinsically cause suffering: what causes suffering is experiencing the pain, and...

Read More

Books that have had the biggest impact on my life/thought

In roughly chronological order: 1. J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings 2. Eliezer Yudkowsky: The Less Wrong Sequences 3. Michele Boldrin & David K. Levine: Against Intellectual Monopoly 4. Olivia Fox Cabane: The Charisma Myth 5. Marshall Rosenberg: Non-Violent Communication 6. Eugene Gendlin: Focusing; Connirae Andreas & Tamara Andreas: Core Transformation Tolkien, because...

Read More

Cognitive Core Systems explaining intuitions behind belief in souls, free will, and creation myths

A book I’m currently reading, Cognitive Pluralism, cites research suggesting that human infants as well as many non-human animals (particularly primates) are born with four “hard-coded” core reasoning systems: A Core Object System which identifies cohesive and continuous objects (as opposed to say liquids or heaps), enables tracking of such objects, and causes us to expect...

Read More

Relationship compatibility as patterns of emotional associations

Much of relationship compatibility comes down to a fuzzy concept that’s variously referred to as “chemistry”, “clicking”, or just feeling good and comfortable in the other’s presence. This is infamously difficult to predict by any other means than actually spending time around the other. OKCupid-style dating sites, with their extensive batteries of questions...

Read More

Fixing the 4X end-game boringness by simulating legibility

4X games (e.g. Civilization, Master of Orion, for this discussion I’m also counting Paradox-style grand strategy like Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, Stellaris) have a well-known problem where, once you get sufficiently far ahead, you’ve basically already won and the game stops being very interesting. There have been various attempts to fix this, but the problem remains. (Extra...

Read More

Core Transformation

So I went to my head to ask myself: what is the one thing that I’ve been trying to get from all of my romantic relationships? What is the common theme that unites all of my fantasies? What is the thing that I desperately find myself craving for even now? That one “if only I could have that, then everything would be fine” thing? Initial associations: Trust. Safety. Someone who...

Read More

Moving on

I expect this to be my last breakup post (about this particular breakup, at least :P). After having processed all the pains I’ve discussed in previous posts, there was just a final one left, one that’s in a sense the simplest. It’s that I have tremendous respect and admiration for my ex. She combines a brilliant intelligence, a fiery loyalty to her principles, and a stark...

Read More

Re-interpreting meanings

After I made my last breakup post, siderea left me with some excellent thoughts about it. While there were a lot of good points, these were the parts that resonated the most. She started by describing the reaction that many people have to her:   … a lot of people, male, female and otherwise, fall “in like” with me very quickly, because for a lot of them, I...

Read More

On perceived connections

Writing about this seems to be useful, both for me and some other people, so more on breakup pain: The fact is that I don’t have very much experience of long relationships, and that I haven’t had many deep friendships either. At this moment I feel like I only have one really deep friendship, and I don’t get to see that person nearly as often as I’d like. I’ve long...

Read More

Letting go – but not *too* much

Dealing with breakup pain, part twenty million: I mentioned in a previous post that dealing with loss seems to come in stages. Grief is not grieving after one thing: rather there are many different things one has to come to terms with, all tangled up with each other. The most recent pain I had in the last few days involved repeatedly recalling various good moments we had. It felt unclear to me...

Read More

No, I don’t think we need more existential terror

There’s a popular narrative that goes roughly like this: most of human history has been dangerous and uncertain, and that’s the kind of environment our minds work the best in. The reason why so many people these days are bored and depressed is because we’ve made the world *too* safe, we would actually be healthier and happier if the world was somewhat more dangerous and not so...

Read More

On tangled and layered grief

A thing you’d think I’d already have figured way earlier, but only became obvious to me after this latest breakup, is that there are stages of grief (other than the anger-denial-etc. ones).   A number of times, I’ve felt like I’d already gotten through the pain… Only for it to come up again, with me getting increasingly frustrated – “didn’t I...

Read More

Meditation instructions for self-compassion

I really liked, and have gotten a lot out of, the self-compassion advice in the book The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness. First, on the general attitude and approach: When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they’re going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It’s a...

Read More

On my burnout

I’ve said a lot about depression, self-compassion, and breakup blues. I haven’t said much about burnout. I have that too. Have had for years, in fact. This is just the first time that I’ve had a chance to stop and heal. I did a day of work last week, the first one I’ve done since the end of November. It went well. It felt good. So I thought I would try to get a full...

Read More