I think “doesn’t want to ruin other people’s fun or do anything significant” feels more accurate than “do not engage” here?
Thanks for writing this! It seemed like people were being unwarrantedly unfair to you in that thread.
My personal experience was getting the email from Ben, and this being the first I’d ever heard about LessWrong’s approach to Petrov Day. And I somewhat considered pressing the button for the entertainment value, until I read the comments on the 2019 thread and got a sense of how seriously people took it.
I think it’s completely reasonable to not have gotten that cultural context from the information available, and so not to have taken the whole thing super seriously.
And personally I found it fairly entertaining/education how all of this turned out (though it’s definitely sad for all the Pacific time people who were asleep throughout the whole thing :( )
EDIT: Just wanted to add that, now I have the cultural context, I think this was all an awesome celebration and I’m flattered to have been invited to be a part of it! My main critique was that I think it’s extremely reasonable for Chris not to have had the relevant context, but many of those commenting seem to have taken this background context as a given, since it’s clear to them.
Awww. I can’t decide whether to be annoyed with petrov_day_admin_account , or to appreciate their object lesson in the importance of pre-commitment and robust epistemologies (I’m leaning towards both!)
Well, that lasted a disappointingly short time :(
I’m curious why this was designed to be non-anonymous? It feels more in the spirit of “be aware I could destroy something, and choosing not to” if it doesn’t have cost to me, beyond awareness that destruction is sad
I’d be curious to hear more about this shift, and how long it took before it became noticeable—exercising more is something I’m currently trying to motivate myself to do!
I agree that the phrasing as-is is a bit hyperbolic—sometimes the Try Harder button is useful, and it’s definitely a tool worth having in your toolkit. But I also think people majorly over-use it, and that this is unsustainable, high-cost and rarely works in the long-term. And so “stop planning to press it” feels too weakly phrased. At least for me, I rarely explicitly plan to use it, it’s just implicitly planned when I come up with a vague, fuzzy plan. And so an injunction to not plan around it doesn’t feel sufficient for fixing the problem
Maybe “Stop relying on the Try Harder button”? The main point I want to make is that, if you notice yourself using it on a regular basis, alarm bells should start going off in your mind. Something is going wrong with your life systems, this is important, and should be a priority to fix. And I think there are ways that removing it as an option at all can help you to develop much healthier habits.
Thanks! Very strongly agreed, and I consider this the flip side of the point I was making in this post. I see being effective as breaking down into two parts: Having realistic and well-calibrated standards for how much you can get done, and being effective at executing on what you can do.
Interesting, I’d be curious to hear more about which parts of this reminded you of classical rhetoric?
Anchoring the new set of intuitions with a succinct anchor phrase or image that ideally has conceptual hooks into the relevant problem domains so that the concept automatically gets triggered in the situations in which it is useful
Strongly agreed, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how valuable this approach is. I think having a clear label to important intuitions is one of the really valuable things I’ve gotten from the rationalist community. When writing blog posts, I try fairly hard to give clear labels to the key ideas and to put them in bold.
Creating a toy example of the core concept that has moving parts the student can then move themselves to see how other parts move (conceptually)
I’d be curious to see any examples of this you have in mind? I’m super excited about this as a form of learning, but struggle to imagine a specific example for anything I’ve tried teaching. This seems better suited to tutoring 1 on 1 than to larger groups/talks, I think?
Perhaps a distillation is that you can build intrinsic motivation in three ways: [...]
That’s a good distillation of half of the point I’m making. The other half is that, tasks are more or less intrinsically motivating because of traits they have. You can make guesses at these traits based on your understanding of yourself and past data, and then make future tasks be more like the good traits and less like the bad traits.
I think this is worth emphasising because “create your own intrinsic motivation” feels obviously reasonable to me, but doesn’t feel very actionable. So I was trying to also give a concrete starting point, with some prompts based on my personal experience (where I’d expect some to generalise, some to not)
This seems inauthentic, or else it just shifts more burden on the individual to make intolerable situations feel tolerable. Not only do you have hoops to jump through, you have to like it.
I think it’s a stable equilibrium to feel like I have a burden to make intolerable situations tolerable, and a stable equilibrium to find it fun to make intolerable situations tolerable. The first equilibrium sucks, the second one is great. But they’re both stable equilibria that it’s hard to escape from. I find I can sometimes pull off jumping to the good one, but not always, and definitely agree that it sucks to end up in the bad one.
I think being in the good equilibrium often happens because I feel a spark of whimsy to make things better and run with it, and the bad equilibrium is when I don’t feel that spark of whimsy and it instead comes from a place of obligation. So I think part of the skill is to notice those whims and nurture them. But I don’t have a great model here.
Are you sure that the excitement you feel is as strong and lasting as you claim? Are you sure it’s deriving from the activities you’ve listed? Why do you think these activities would help other people?
I’m pretty confident? I find excitement one of the easier emotions to introspect on. And a good chunk of this comes from looking back on my life and thinking about things where I’m really satisfied that they happened, so it feels obviously tied to the activity.
I don’t think it’s at all obvious that these activities would help other people—they were intended more as prompts and to give the flavour of what I was talking about, and I trust people to see what sounds like them and what doesn’t. The important part is noticing the traits that are common in worthwhile activities and the traits that are not. Eg, I’m extraverted and get a lot of joy from meeting cool new people, but that obviously doesn’t generalise.
Is it better to take time to optimize for excitement, or just to slog through as efficiently as possible and carve out more time to do thinks that you find exciting without having to artificially generate that emotion?
I feel a bit surprised at your framing of “artificially generate that emotion”. If I can successfully generate excitement, then it doesn’t matter that it’s artificial. If I can’t, then it’s not artificial, it’s just not there.
My logic is that, if I have to do the task anyway and it’ll take a fair amount of time, then it’s much nicer to feel excited when doing it. And, in practice, tasks I find fun often get done faster because I procrastinate less on them, even if I’m a bit less efficient. If you procrastinate less, that one doesn’t obviously generalise though.
I also think that “make the nonsense things you need to do anyway” into something fun is a skill—which is initially high effort, but can become much closer to a reflex (eg, make a checklist of what you need to get done, do it with a friend and joke about it the whole time, etc). And so you’re both investing time for short-term happiness and for long-term happiness, making it a much better trade
Are you sure that these practices aren’t just part of your normal workflow? Are you discovering something that is new and helpful to you, or just noticing an experience you’ve been having all along?
I’m a bit confused by this question—it feels like you’re pointing to a dichotomy between “did naturally” and “did artificially”, while I’m arguing more for “nudge yourself towards the things that you expect to work”. These are things I’ve tried over time, common trends I’ve noticed, and decided to double down on. Eg, I know from past experience that I find editing and being a massive perfectionist unpleasant, so for my month of daily blogging I had a rule of “publish a first draft ASAP, no editing”. This is a rule I might have come up with anyway without explicitly thinking through this process, but these thoughts nudged me towards it. And, in hindsight, it’s definitely made the project far better.
Thanks for all the questions, I found it interesting to think through answers!