[Question] Babble challenge: 50 ways of sending something to the moon

This is an exercise, and as such is a bit different from your ordinary question post...


Come up with 50 ways of sending something to the moon. In less than 1 hour.

I don’t care how stupid they are. My own list included “Slingshot”, “Massive trampoline” and “Bird with spacesuit”.

What matters is that you actually hit 50. I want you to have the experience of thinking that you’re out of ideas, but nonetheless deciding to push yourself, and finding your best idea thus far.

This regularly happens to me when I do this exercise. I’ll feel stuck. I’ll feel like giving up. But I force myself to say three more stupid things… “mega tall tree”, “super boomerang”, “railgun” … and, all of sudden, I have a fourth idea that’s actually not that shabby.

Why do this?

1) Becoming more creative.

Coming up with ideas is a bottleneck for me personally. I want to become stronger.

I have a very simple model for how to improve. My brain will start generating more ideas if I A) force myself to have ideas, even if they’re bad, and B) reward myself for having them.

The act of filtering for actually good ideas is a second, different step. First you babble. And only then you prune. I claim that you can train each of those “muscles” separately.

I think that in the past my creativity has been held back by excessive self-criticism. I now think it should be possible to improve by separating the creative and the evaluative step—at least for practice purposes.

2) Building a culture of practice on LessWrong

LessWrong currently feels like an unusually intellectual bar. You pop in and grab a drink; instead of watching a stand-up comedian someone does a PowerPoint presentation; and the ensuing conversation is great. That’s a fine thing.

But what if part of LessWrong was more like a gym? Or a dojo?

You come in, bow to the sensei, and then you start practicing. Together. Each of you focusing all your attention on your movements, pushing yourselves to your limits, and trying deliberately to become stronger.

I want us to have that, but for rationality.


  • 50 answers or nothing.

That’s the babble challenge. We’re here to work hard.

  • 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.

Man, I barely know anything about going to the moon. Yet I did come up with 50 ideas.

“Bird with spacesuit” is fine. I have some intuition where making these ideas actually helps me become creative. I try to track that intuition.

  • 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 sending something to the moon!