Co-Working Collaboration to Combat Akrasia

Be­fore I was very in­volved in the Less Wrong com­mu­nity, I heard that Eliezer was look­ing for peo­ple to sit with him while he worked, to in­crease writ­ing pro­duc­tivity. I knew that he was do­ing im­por­tant work in the world, and figured that this was the sort of con­tri­bu­tion to im­prov­ing hu­man­ity that I would like to make, which was within the set of things that would be easy and en­joy­able for me.

So I got a hold of him and offered to come and sit with him, and did that once/​week for about a year. As an­ti­ci­pated, it worked mar­velously. I found it easy to sit and not talk, just get­ting my own work done. Even­tu­ally I be­came a beta reader for his “Bayes for Every­one Else” which is re­ally great and helped me in my abil­ity to es­ti­mate prob­a­bil­ities a ton. (Eliezer is still perfect­ing this work and has not yet re­leased it, but you can find the older ver­sion here.)

In ad­di­tion to learn­ing the ba­sics of Bayes from do­ing this, I also learned how pow­er­ful it is to have some­one just to sit quietly with you to co-work on a reg­u­lar sched­ule.

I’ve ex­per­i­mented with similar things since then, such as mak­ing skype dates with a friend to watch in­for­ma­tional videos to­gether. This worked for awhile un­til my friend got busy. I have two other re­cur­ring chat dates with friends to do dual n-back to­gether, and those have worked quite well and are still go­ing.

A client of mine, Mqrius, is work­ing on his Master’s the­sis and has found that the only way he has been able to over­come his akra­sia so far is by co-work­ing with a friend. Un­for­tu­nately, his friend does not have as much time to co-work as he’d like, so we de­cided to spend Mqrius’s coun­sel­ing ses­sion to­day writ­ing this Less Wrong post to see if we can help him and other peo­ple in the com­mu­nity who want to co-work over skype con­nect, since this will prob­a­bly be much higher value to him as well as oth­ers with similar difficul­ties than the next best thing we could do with the time.

I en­courage any­one who is in­ter­ested in co-work­ing, watch­ing in­for­ma­tional videos to­gether, or any other so­cial pro­duc­tivity ex­per­i­ments that can be done over skype or chat, to co­or­di­nate in the com­ments. For this to work best, I recom­mend be­ing as spe­cific as pos­si­ble about the ideal co-work­ing part­ner for you, in ad­di­tion to not­ing if you are open to gen­eral co-work­ing.

If you are spe­cific, you are much more likely to suc­ceed in find­ing a good co-work­ing part­ner for you. While its pos­si­ble you might screen some­one out, its more likely that you will get the at­ten­tion of your ideal co-work­ing part­ner who oth­er­wise would have glossed over your com­ment.

Here is my spe­cific pitch for Mqrius:

If you are work­ing on a the­sis, es­pe­cially if it’s re­lated to nan­otech­nol­ogy like his the­sis, and think that you are likely to be similarly mo­ti­vated by co-work­ing, please com­ment or con­tact him about set­ting up an ini­tial skype trial run. His ideal sce­nario is to find 2-3 peo­ple to co-work with him for about 20 hours co-work­ing/​week time for him in to­tal. He would like to find peo­ple who are de­pend­able about show­ing up for ap­point­ments they have made and will cre­ate a re­cur­ring sched­ule with him at least un­til he gets his the­sis done. He’d like to try an ini­tial 4 hour co-work­ing block as an ex­per­i­ment with in­ter­ested par­ties. Please com­ment be­low if you are in­ter­ested.

[Mqrius and I have pre­dic­tions go­ing about whether or not he will ac­tu­ally get a co-work­ing part­ner who is work­ing on a nan­otech pa­per out of this, if oth­ers want to post pre­dic­tions in the com­ments, this is en­couraged. Its a good prac­tice for re­duc­ing hind­sight bias.]


An vir­tual co-work­ing space has been cre­ated and is cur­rently live, dis­cus­sion and link to the room here.