November 10-day virtual meditation retreat

So yesterday I finished a 10-day virtual meditation retreat taught by Tucker Peck and Upasaka Upali. Several people have asked me what it was like, so here are some highlights. First, a “virtual” retreat means that you spend 10 days doing pretty much nothing but meditation, and also don’t talk to anyone except the teachers, who hold daily lectures and once-every-two-days...

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Memory reconsolidation for self-affection

Last Thursday, I realized that none of the people who ever hurt me did it because there was anything fundamentally wrong with me. I don’t mean that as in “realized intellectually”, I mean as in “realized emotionally so that in any shame-tinged memory that I could think of, the other person decomposed to their inner pain and what they did to me in reaction to that pain and...

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Things are allowed to be good and bad at the same time

I’ve found it useful to sometimes remind myself that things are allowed to be good and bad at the same time. Suppose that there was a particular job that I wanted but didn’t get. Afterwards, I find myself thinking: “Damnit, some of the stuff in that job would have been so cool.” “But the commute would have killed me, it wouldn’t have been a good fit for me...

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Public transmit metta

Metta, or loving-kindness meditation, involves picking a person and wishing them good things. In the same way as other kinds of concentration practice condition your mind by letting it notice how it feels good to be able to concentrate, I think of loving-kindness meditation as conditioning your mind by letting it notice how pleasant it feels to experience metta. What is metta? Psychologist and...

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Attention to snakes not fear of snakes: evolution encoding environmental knowledge in peripheral systems

Sinking In: The Peripheral Baldwinisation of Human Cognition. Cecilia Heyes, Nick Chater & Dominic Michael Dwyer. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2020. Some theories have proposed that humans have evolved to experience some stimuli (e.g. snakes, spiders) as more potentially frightening, so that a fear for these entities is learned faster than a fear for more neutral things. In evolutionary...

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The Haters Gonna Hate Fallacy

Occasionally I see people doing what I think of as the “Haters Gonna Hate Fallacy”. The HGHF says something like: “People are going to misinterpret you no matter how carefully you word things. Therefore, there’s no point wasting time wording things carefully.” An example: “I think [term X] in your post is going to cause misunderstandings, I’d suggest...

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GPT-3 space opera

AI Dungeon is an online text adventure which uses the “GPT” AI to generate responses to what you say. You can type in anything, and it will try to create a response. I had tried it a bit before, as well as seeing a friend try, and it had been amusing but very quickly incoherent. Yesterday I tried its upgraded version, the “Dragon Model“. It’s only available in the...

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Healing vs. exercise analogies for emotional work

I know a fair number of people who put in a lot of effort into things like emotional healing, digging up and dealing with buried trauma, meditative and therapy practices, and so on. (I count myself in this category.) And I think that there’s a thing that sometimes happens when other people see all of this, which is that it all seems kinda fake. I say this because even I have this thought...

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Waiting

I’ve often noticed in myself a tendency, if I am not doing something immediately engrossing, to find myself waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting, not really being present, just willing time to pass. But the weird thing is, frequently there isn’t anything in particular that I’m waiting *for*. Getting out of that situation, yes, but I don’t have anything in particular that...

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18-month follow-up on my self-concept work

About eighteen months ago, I found Steve Andreas’s book Transforming Your Self, and applied its techniques to fixing a number of issues in my self-concepts which had contributed to my depression and anxiety. Six weeks after those changes, I posted a report called “How I found & fixed the root problem behind my depression and anxiety after 20+ years”. I figured that by now it would be...

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Tentatively considering emotional stories (IFS and “getting into Self”)

I’ve recently been getting a lot out of the psychotherapy model of Internal Family Systems, as described in this book. I just wrote a comment on Slate Star Codex describing some of its basics and what I’ve gotten out of it, and thought that I might as well repost it here: I recommend this book, though with the note that I often don’t need to follow the full process outlined...

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Incorrect hypotheses point to correct observations

1. The Consciousness Researcher and Out-Of-Body Experiences In his book Consciousness and the Brain, cognitive neuroscientist Stansilas Dehaene writes about scientifically investigating people’s reports of their out-of-body experiences: … the Swiss neurologist Olaf Blanke[ did a] beautiful series of experiments on out-of-body experiences. Surgery patients occasionally report leaving...

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Mark Eichenlaub: How to develop scientific intuition

Recently on the CFAR alumni mailing list, someone asked a question about how to develop scientific intuition. In response, Mark Eichenlaub posted an excellent and extensive answer, which was so good that I asked for permission to repost it in public. He graciously gave permission, so I’ve reproduced his message below. (He otherwise retains the rights to this, meaning that the standard CC...

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On insecurity as a friend

There’s a common narrative about confidence that says that confidence is good, insecurity is bad. It’s better to develop your confidence than to be insecure. There’s an obvious truth to this. But what that narrative does not acknowledge, and what both a person struggling with insecurity and their well-meaning friends might miss, is that that insecurity may be in place for a...

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New paper: Long-Term Trajectories of Human Civilization

Long-Term Trajectories of Human Civilization (free PDF). Foresight, forthcoming, DOI 10.1108/FS-04-2018-0037. Authors: Seth D. Baum, Stuart Armstrong, Timoteus Ekenstedt, Olle Häggström, Robin Hanson, Karin Kuhlemann, Matthijs M. Maas, James D. Miller, Markus Salmela, Anders Sandberg, Kaj Sotala, Phil Torres, Alexey Turchin, and Roman V. Yampolskiy. Abstract Purpose: This paper formalizes...

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Finland Museum Tour 1/??: Tampere Art Museum

I haven’t really been to museums as an adult; not because I’d have been particularly Anti-Museum, but just because museums never happened to become a Thing That I Do. I vaguely recall having been to a few museums with my parents when I was little, an occasional Japan exhibition as a teen when Japan was a Thing, and a few visits to various museums with school. I think my overall...

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Is the Star Trek Federation really incapable of building AI?

In the Star Trek universe, we are told that it’s really hard to make genuine artificial intelligence, and that Data is so special because he’s a rare example of someone having managed to create one. But this doesn’t seem to be the best hypothesis for explaining the evidence that we’ve actually seen. Consider: In the TOS episode “The Ultimate Computer“, the...

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Some conceptual highlights from “Disjunctive Scenarios of Catastrophic AI Risk”

My forthcoming paper, “Disjunctive Scenarios of Catastrophic AI Risk”, attempts to introduce a number of considerations to the analysis of potential risks from Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). As the paper is long and occasionally makes for somewhat dry reading, I thought that I would briefly highlight a few of the key points raised in the paper. The main idea here is that most of the...

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On not getting swept away by mental content

There’s a specific subskill of meditation that I call “not getting swept away by the content”, that I think is generally valuable. It goes like this. You sit down to meditate and focus on your breath or whatever, and then a worrying thought comes to your mind. And it’s a real worry, something important. And you are tempted to start thinking about it and pondering it and...

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Papers for 2017

I had three new papers either published or accepted into publication last year; all of them are now available online: How Feasible is the Rapid Development of Artificial Superintelligence? Physica Scripta 92 (11), 113001. Abstract: What kinds of fundamental limits are there in how capable artificial intelligence (AI) systems might become? Two questions in particular are of interest: 1) How...

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