Mini-camp was indeed awesome, and so was Luke (just add Bayes)

Yep, I’m saying that without hard data. But I was there. So let me say it again, in response to numerous comments I’ve seen complaining that no judgement should be passed until a quantitative analysis confirms it:

Mini-camp was awesome. Note that mini-camp was far from the first time I’ve travelled to an event to surround myself with like-minded peers working toward common goals… I find such events events extremely motivating and enjoyable, which is why I’ve been to many such workshops, inside and outside academia (~3 per year for the past 10 years).

Yet mini-camp is still topping my charts. Specifically, the camp is tied for the title of the most life-altering workshop-like event of my life, and the tie is with the workshop that got me onto my PhD topic (graphical causal modelling), so that’s saying something.

In particular, I’ve been visibly-to-myself-and-others more motivated and hard-working since the camp. I’ve had more energy for learning and adaptation, and I find Luke to have been a highly inspiring input to that result.

(I’m talking about Luke because his position is the one being discussed right now, but I got a lot of really inspiring ideas and motivation from Anna before, during, and after the camp as well.)

Hard data will be great to have, but it’s hard to get, especially certifiably causal data (though the prospect is not hopeless, with enough conditional independence tests), especially since the camp was planned and executed on short notice.

In the meantime, let’s do a little Bayes. First, assign priors to how well you expect a week-long sustained interaction between growth-oriented rationalists to go. (If your prior is something like 80%[failure], I’d like to know where you’re getting your growth-oriented rationalists). Now which of the following theories, “failure” or “success”, assigns a higher likelihood to the following observations?


1. People wrote these:


In particular,

“The week I spent in minicamp had by far the highest density of fun and learning I have ever experienced. It’s like taking two years of college and condensing it to a week: you learn just as much and you have just as much fun. The skills I’ve learned will help me set and achieve my own life goal, and the friends I’ve made will help me get there.”—Alexei

“This was an intensely positive experience. This was easily the most powerful change self-modification I’ve ever made, in all of the social, intellectual, and emotional spheres. I’m now a more powerful person than I was a week ago—and I can explain exactly how and why this is true.

At mini-camp, I’ve learned techniques for effective self-modification—that is, I have a much deeper understanding of how to change my desires, gather my willpower, channel my time and cognitive resources, and model and handle previously confusing situations. What’s more, I have a fairly clear map of how to build these skills henceforth, and how to inculcate them in others. And all this was presented in such a way that any sufficiently analytical folk—anyone who has understood a few of the LW sequences, say—can gain in extreme measures.”—Matt Elder /​ Fiddlemath

“I expected a week of interesting things and some useful tools to take away. What I got was 8 days of constant, deep learning, challenges to my limits that helped me grow. I finally grokked that I can and should optimize myself on every dimension I care about, that practice and reinforcement can make me a better thinker, and that I can change very quickly when I’m not constrained by artificial barriers or stress.

I would not recommend doing something like this right before another super-busy week, because I was learning at 100% of capacity and will need a lot of time to unpack all the things I learned and apply them to my life, but I came away with a clear plan for becoming better. It is now a normal and easy thing for me to try things out, test my beliefs, and self-improve. And I’m likely to be much more effective at making the world a better place as well, by prioritizing without fear.

The material was all soundly-researched and effectively taught, with extremely helpful supplemental exercises and activities. The instructors were very helpful in and out of session. The other participants were excited, engaged, challenging, and supportive.

I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned with my local Lesswrong meetup and others in the area. If that’s even 14 as awesome as my time at the Mini-Camp, it will make our lives much better.”—Ben Hoffman /​ Benquo

“I really can’t recommend this camp enough! This workshop broke down a complex and intertwined set of skills labelled in my brain as “common sense” and distinguished each part so that I could work on them separately. Sessions on motivation, cognition, and what habits to build to not fool yourself were particularly helpful. This camp was also the first example that I’ve seen of people taking current cognitive science and other research, decoding it, and showing people what’s been documented to work so that they can use it too. It feels to me now as though the coolest parts of the sequences have been given specific exercises and habits to build off of. This camp, and the people in it, have changed my path for the better.”—David Jones /​ TheDave

2. I wrote this post.

3. Eliezer wants to keep Luke as a permanent hire.

4. Whatever other comments you’ve seen/​heard about the camp from people who attended.


Is this a biased sample? Probably. Is it hard data? Easy to quantify? Not so much. Might this be a big conspiracy by Luke-originating ninja bloggers? Perhaps. But really… which theory assigns the higher likelihood here? Success, or failure?

Lets allow the arguments that can be made about the minicamp be made, rather than ritualistically abstaining from decision-making until numbers show up.

That, and I really hope Luke stays with SingInst :)