I’m Georgia. I crosspost some of my writings from eukaryotewritesblog.com.
You might look into bullet journalling—a lot of people find it a pretty helpful and low-mental-effort way to keep to-do lists and record what they do.
This is cool as all hell. How long ago did you do this? If you think of some way to test this, I’d be super curious to learn how much of this you can still remember in a month. I expect it to be pretty decent. I’ve never just… sat down and tried to do this for a big topic, and I might now.
I have a proposal.Nobody affiliated with LessWrong is allowed to use the word “signalling” for the next six months. If you want to write something about signalling, you have to use the word “communication” instead. You can then use other words to clarify what you mean, as long as none of them are “signalling”.I think this will lead to more clarity and a better site culture. Thanks for coming to my talk.
I think I agree with mr-hire that this doesn’t seem right to me. The site is already public and will turn up when people search your name—or your blog name, in my case—or the idea you’re trying to explain.
I don’t especially care whether people use their real names or pseudonyms here. If people feel uncomfortable making their work more accessible under their real names, they can use a pseudonym. I suppose there’s a perceived difference in professionalism or skin in the game (am I characterizing the motive correctly?), but we’re all here for the ideas anyways, right?
Yeah, building on more complex ideas—that you really need to read something else to understand—seems like a fine reason to use jargon.
In fact, I think that the default should be to not want any given post to be linked, and to spread, far and wide.
In fact, I think that the default should be to not want any given post to be linked, and to spread, far and wide.
Here’s something I believe: You should be trying really hard to write your LessWrong posts in such a way that normal people can read them.
By normal, I mean “people who are not immersed in LessWrong culture or jargon.” This is most people. I get that you have to use jargon sometimes. (Technical AI safety people: I do not understand your math, but keep up the good fight.) Or if your post is referring to another post, or is part of a series, then it doesn’t have to stand alone. (But maybe the series should stand alone?)
Obviously if you only want your post to be accessible to LWers, ignore this. But do you really want that?
If your post provides value to many people on LW, it will probably provide value to people off LW. And making it accessible suddenly means it can be linked and referred to in many other contexts.
Your post might be the first time someone new to the site sees particular terms.
Even if the jargon is decipherable or the piece doesn’t rely on the jargon, it still looks weird, and people don’t like reading things where they don’t know the words. It signals “this is not for me” and can make them feel dumb for not getting it.
(Listen, I was once in a conversation with a real live human being who dropped references to obscure classical literature every third sentence or so. This is the most irritating thing in the universe. Do not be that person.)
On a selfish level,
It enables the post to spread beyond the LW memeosphere, potentially bringing you honor and glory.
It helps you think and communicate better to translate useful ideas into and out of the original context they appear in.
If you’re not going to do this, you can at least: Link jargon to somewhere that explains it.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
What do you think of the change? (I think Bostrom’s terms are fine, but it’s still useful to have a word for the broad category of “knowing this may hurt you”.)
Update: I have swapped this out. I appreciate your feedback, because the distinction you point to seems like a valuable one, and I don’t want to step on a great term. Hopefully this resolves the issue?
Aw, carp, you’re totally right. It had been pointed out to me while I was getting feedback that “memetic hazard” doesn’t clearly gesture at the thing, but I hadn’t thought of or been aware that there was a coherent and reasonable definition of “memetic hazard” that’s the thing it sounds like it should mean.
I do actually have one more term up my sleeve, which is “cognitohazard”, which comes about the same way and more clearly indicates the danger. (Which is from thinking / “cognitizing” (?) about it.)
I’m trying to think of a way to switch this out now that doesn’t cause people to get confused or think that the [infohazard vs. knowledge that harms the knower] distinction doesn’t matter. Hmmm. Let me think if I should just edit these posts now.
I love this take. You’re out here living in 3020. Also, I never get to use my eggbeater these days, so I’m excited to try this.
As a result of this, I put a post on Nextdoor offering to walk people’s dogs for free. I’m hoping someone takes me up on it. Thanks for the brilliant suggestion!
Quick authorial review: This post has brought me the greatest joy from other sources referring to it, including Marginal Revolution (https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/10/funnel-human-experience.html) and the New York Times bestseller “The Uninhabitable Earth”. I was kind of hoping to supply a fact about the world that people could use in many different lights, and they have (see those and also like https://unherd.com/2018/10/why-are-woke-liberals-such-enemies-of-the-past/ )
An unintentional takeaway from this attention is solidifying my belief that if you’re describing a new specific concept, you should make up a name too. For most purposes, this is for reasons like the ones described by Malcolm Ocean here (https://malcolmocean.com/2016/02/sparkly-pink-purple-ball-thing/). But also, sometimes, a New York Times bestseller will cite you, and you’ll only find out as you set up Google alerts.
(And then once you make a unique name, set up google alerts for it. The book just cites “eukaryote” rather than my name, and this post rather than the one on my blog. Which I guess goes to show you that you can put anything in a book.)
Anyways, I’m actually a little embarrassed because my data on human populations isn’t super accurate—they start at the year 50,000 BCE, when there were humans well before that. But those populations were small, probably not enough to significantly influence the result. I’m not a historian, and really don’t want to invest the effort needed for more accurate numbers, although if someone would like to, please go ahead.
But it also shows that people are interested in quantification. I’ve written a lot of posts that are me trying to find a set of numbers, and making lots and lots of assumptions along the way. But then you have some plausible numbers. It turns out that you can just do this, and don’t need a qualification in Counting Animals or whatever, just supply your reasoning and attach the appropriate caveats. There are no experts, but you can become the first one.
As an aside, in the intervening years, I’ve become more interested in the everyday life of the past—of all of the earlier chunks that made up so much of the funnel. I read an early 1800′s housekeeping book, “The Frugal Housewife”, which advises mothers to teach their children how to knit starting at age 4, and to keep all members of the family knitting in their downtime. And it’s horrifying, but maybe that’s what you have to do to keep your family warm in the northeast US winter. No downtime that isn’t productive. I’ve taken up knitting lately and enjoy it, but at the same time, I love that it’s a hobby and not a requirement. A lot of human experience must have been at the razor’s edge of survival, Darwin’s hounds nipping at our heels. I prefer 2020.
If you want a slight taste of everyday life at the midpoint of human experience, you might be interested in the Society for Creative Anachronism. It features swordfighting and court pagentry but also just a lot of everyday crafts—sewing, knitting, brewing, cooking. If you want to learn about medieval soapmaking or forging, they will help you find out.
A brief authorial take—I think this post has aged well, although as with Caring Less (https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/dPLSxceMtnQN2mCxL/caring-less), this was an abstract piece and I didn’t make any particular claims here.
I’m so glad that
A) this was popular
B) I wasn’t making up a new word for a concept that most people already know by a different name, which I think will send you to at least the first layer of Discourse Hell on its own.
I’ve met at least one person in the community who said they knew and thought about this post a lot, well before they’d met me, which was cool.
I think this website doesn’t recognize the value of bad hand-drawn graphics for communicating abstract concepts (except for Garrabrant and assorted other AI safety people, whose posts are too technical for me to read but who I support wholly.) I’m guessing that the graphics helped this piece, or at least got more people to look at it.
I do wish I’d included more examples of spaghetti towers, but I knew that before posting it, and this was an instance of “getting something out is better than making it perfect.”
I’ve planned on doing followups in the same sort of abstract style as this piece, like methods I’ve run into for getting around spaghetti towers. (Modularization, swailing, documentation.) I hopefully will do that some day. If anyone wants to help brainstorm examples, hit me up and I may or may not get back to you.
Hi, I’m pleased to see that this has been nominated and has made a lasting impact.
Do I have any updates? I think it aged well. I’m not making any particular specific claims here, but I still endorse this and think it’s an important concept.
I’ve done very little further thinking on this. I was quietly hoping that others might pick up the mantle and write more on strategies for caring less, as well as cases where this should be argued. I haven’t seen this, but I’d love to see more of it.
I’ve referred to it myself when talking about values that I think people are over-invested in (see https://eukaryotewritesblog.com/2018/05/27/biodiversity-for-heretics/), but not extensively.
Finally, while I’m generally pleased with this post’s reception, I think nobody appreciated my “why couldn’t we care less” joke enough.
Yeah! I like getting positive feedback on my work, especially in a rather intimidating forum like here. Anything more specific than “good post” or whatever is better, but even that is more emotionally rewarding than seeing digits in the vote box change.
I don’t like taking complicated variable-probability-based bets. I like “bet you a dollar” or “bet you a drink”. I don’t like “I’ll sell you a $20 bid at 70% odds” or whatever. This is because:
A) I don’t really understand the betting payoffs. I do think I have a good internal sense of probabilities, and am well-calibrated. That said, the payoffs are often confusing, and I don’t have an internal sense linking “I get 35 dollars if you’re right and you give me 10 dollars if I’m not” or whatever, to those probabilities. It seems like a sensible policy that if you’re not sure how the structure of a bet works, you shouldn’t take it. (Especially if someone else is proposing it.)
B) It’s obfuscating the fact that different people value money differently. I’m poorer than most software engineers. Obviously two people are likely to be affected differently by a straightforward $5 bet, but the point of betting is kind of to tie your belief to palpable rewards, and varying amounts of money muddy the waters more.
(Some people do bets like this where you are betting on really small amounts, like 70 cents to another person’s 30 cents or whatever. This seems silly to me because the whole point of betting with money is to be trading real value, and the value of the time you spend figuring this out is already not worth collecting on.)
C) Also, I’m kind of risk averse and like bets where I’m surer about the outcome and what’s going on. This is especially defensible if you’re less financially sound than your betting partner and it’s not just enough to come out ahead statistically, you need to come out ahead in real life.
This doesn’t seem entirely virtuous, but these are my reasons and I think they’re reasonable. If I ever get into prediction markets or stock trading, I’ll probably have to learn the skills here, but for now, I’ll take simple monetary bets but not weird ones.