[Question] Babble challenge: 50 ways to escape a locked room

Once again, it is time to be­come stronger.

This week’s challenge: You find your­self in a locked, empty room. You only have the clothes on your body and a phone in your pocket. You have enough en­ergy to not need food or wa­ter for 10 years. Your phone has enough bat­tery power to not need to recharge. It has wi-fi.


You have 1 hour to come up with 50 ways.

Look­ing back

To last week’s bab­ble cham­pi­ons, who made it to 50 —

gjm, mr-hire, Te­traspace Group­ing, Neel Nanda, Erick­Ball, Harm­less, steven0461, Vanilla_cabs, gogishvilli, justin­pom­brio, Bautista Cazeaux, tom­cat­fish, NunoSem­pere, Un­named, MikkW, Mati_Roy, James Fad­den, James Barry, fron­tier64, Slider, smiley314.

— I salute you.

To­gether we pro­duced more than 1300 ways of go­ing to the moon. (Though there’s likely a lot of over­lap.)

I found it in­spiring. Both in terms of the turnout (which far sur­passed my ex­pec­ta­tions) and in terms of the cre­ativity of in­di­vi­d­ual sub­mis­sions. Read­ing your an­swers made me re­al­ise I can do a lot bet­ter. There are other lev­els to reach. I want to get there.

Mov­ing for­wards: weekly babble

I am hereby com­mit­ting to do­ing a bab­ble challenge on LessWrong ev­ery week for the com­ing six weeks (in­clud­ing to­day).

(The for­mat might change a bit along the line, but the im­pe­tus will re­main the same.)

Prac­tice is about build­ing for the long run.

Show­ing up ev­ery week and putting all that de­liber­ate­ness into your craft.

Show­ing up for years to tread that sub­tle in­cline, un­til one day you find your­self side by side with a be­gin­ner. They look upon your moun­tain of com­pound re­turns and all they see is magic. But you know that “some­times magic is just some­one spend­ing more time on some­thing than any­one else might rea­son­ably ex­pect”.

Even­tu­ally I’ll switch away from the bab­ble challenge to other things. But what mat­ters is to re­tain that will to im­prove, that burn­ing fire to ad­vance fur­ther. And I want LessWrong to be a place that sus­tains a flour­ish­ing cul­ture of prac­tice and self-im­prove­ment.

If you want that as well, I in­vite you to join me. Com­ment and com­mit to show­ing up for this week, and then five more.

(If you just want to try it out once and then reeval­u­ate, that’s also fine. You’re wel­come to do that.)

Why cre­ativity?

I feel like so much of our abil­ity to make the world great is bot­tle­necked by cre­ativity.

We don’t know how to solve the al­ign­ment prob­lem. We haven’t un­rav­el­led all the mys­ter­ies of sci­ence. There are trillion dol­lar com­pa­nies that haven’t been founded.

Some­how, some­one will need to reach into that weird aether where in­sight is born, and pluck out a solu­tion to share with the world.

Creativity is not the only thing we need. We also need good judge­ment. Con­crete skills like de­sign, cod­ing, man­age­ment and re­search abil­ity. Money. Great team­mates. Luck.

But cre­ativity is a cru­cially im­por­tant com­po­nent. I’d be sur­prised if I re­gret in­vest­ing in my cre­ativity.


  • 50 an­swers or noth­ing. Shoot for 1 hour.

It’s fine if you don’t man­age all of them in one hour. But any an­swers must con­tain 50 ideas. That’s the bab­ble challenge. We’re here to challenge our­selves.

  • Post your an­swers in­side of spoiler tags. (How do I do that?)

  • Cel­e­brate other’s an­swers.

This is re­ally im­por­tant. Shar­ing bab­ble in pub­lic is a scary ex­pe­rience. I don’t want peo­ple to leave this hav­ing back-chained the ex­pe­rience “If I am cre­ative, peo­ple will look down on me”. So be gen­er­ous with those up­votes.

If you com­ment on some­one else’s post, fo­cus on mak­ing ex­cit­ing, novel ideas work—in­stead of tear­ing apart worse ideas.

Re­ward peo­ple for bab­bling—don’t pun­ish them for not prun­ing.

I might re­move com­ments that break this rule.

  • Not all your ideas have to work.

The prompt is very un­der­speci­fied. You don’t know if there are doors or win­dows; or, if so, what they are like. You don’t know the ma­te­rial of the wall. Use your cre­ativity — feel free to come up with solu­tions that only work in some of those sce­nar­ios.

If it helps, imag­ine that you’re a fic­tion writer. You’re search­ing for in­ter­est­ing ways to con­tinue the above story.

  • My main tip: when you’re stuck, say some­thing stupid.

If you spend 5 min ag­o­nis­ing over not hav­ing any­thing to say, you’re do­ing it wrong. You’re be­ing too crit­i­cal. Just lower your stan­dards and say some­thing, any­thing. Soon enough you’ll be back on track.

This is re­ally, re­ally im­por­tant. It’s the only way I’m able to com­plete these ex­er­cises (and I’ve done a few of them in the last few days).


Now, go forth and bab­ble! 50 ways of es­cap­ing a locked room!