Scattered thoughts on how the rationalist movement has helped me:
On the topic of rationalist self-improvement, I would like to raise the point that simply feeling as though there’s a community of people who get me and that I can access when I want to has been hugely beneficial to my sense of happiness and belonging in the world.
That generates a lot of hedons for me, which then on occasion allow me to “afford” doing other things I wouldn’t otherwise, like spend a little more time studying mathematics or running through Anki flashcards. There’s a part of me that feels like I’m not just building up this knowledge for myself, but for the future possible good of “my people”. I might tie together stuff in a way that other people find interesting, or insightful, or at least enjoy reading about, and that’s honestly fricking awesome and blows standard delayed-gratification “self improvement” tactics outta the water 10⁄10 would recommend.
Also there’s the whole thing that Ozy who is rat-almost-maybe-adjacent wrote the greatest summary of the greatest dating advice book I ever read, and I literally read that effortpost every day for like 8 months while I was learning how to be a half-decent romantic option, and holy SHIT is my life better for that. But again—nothing specific to the rationalist techniques themselves there; the value of the community was pointing me to someone who thinks and writes in a way my brain sees and says “mmm yes tasty good word soup i liek thanke” and then that person happened to write a post that played a big role in helping me with a problem that was causing me a ton of grief.
TLDR rationalists > rationalism
I have spent many years unintentionally dumbing myself down by not exercising my brain sufficiently. This place is somewhere I can come and flex a bit of mental muscle and get a bit of a dopamine reward for grasping a new concept or reading about how someone else worked their way through a problem and I am really glad it exists. The HPMOR series was especially useful for becoming more rational and since reading it my peers have noticed a change in the way I discuss difficult topics. I really enjoy recognising when the tools I’ve learnt here help me in my day to day stuff. In saying all that I feel I’m a rare ‘right of centre’ member here but because you are all rational it’s not such a big deal. Rational people are so much nicer to talk to eh!
Yeah, similar here. The existence of people with values similar to mine is emotionally comforting, and they also give good advice.
This certainly seems important (I do think this is a key value the community provides). But it is importantly different from “the rationality content of the community is directly helpful for people-in-general.” If it were just “people who get you”, this wouldn’t obviously be more or differently important than other random subcultures.
Agreed on the difference. Different subcultures, I think, all try to push different narratives about how they are significantly different from other subcultures; they are in competition with other subcultures for brain-space. On that observation, my priors that rationalist content is importantly different to other subcultures in that regard are low.
I suppose my real point in writing this is to advise against a sort of subcultural Fear Of Being Ordinary—rationalism doesn’t have to be qualitatively different from other subcultures to be valuable. For people under its umbrella, it can be very valuable, for reasons that have almost nothing to do with the quirks of the subculture itself.
Nod. I do agree with that.
Which post from Ozy do you mean?
Metcalfe’s (revised!) law states that the value of a communications network grows at about nlogn.
I frequently give my friends the advice that they should aim to become pretty good at 2 synergistic disciplines (CS and EE for me, for example), but I have wondered in the past why I don’t give them the advice to become okay at 4 or 5 synergistic disciplines instead.
It just struck me these ideas might be connected in some way, but I am having trouble figuring out exactly how.