Thanks for this writeup. Could you share a bit more about how you got into using Vim and why you’ve found it to improve speed so much? I occasionally need to use vi when there’s nothing else installed on a system, but the clunkiness and high barrier to entry has never made me tempted to use Vim as my primary editor.
An update to this comment: there is now some evidence to suggest the rates of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis are substantially different in UK recipients of the two vaccines. It is a very low rate (30 in 28 million), but there does seem to be a real difference there.
From Twitter, it looks like the rates of clotting-related issues in UK recipients of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are essentially indistinguishable.
The new Apple M1-based mac mini appears to be able to do 2.6 teraflops on a power consumption of 39 W. That comes out to 0.000066 W/petaflop, or ~4x the efficiency of Fugaku.
Your comment about Crystal Nights makes sense. I guess humans have evolved in a word based on one set of physical laws, but we’re general purpose intelligences that can do things like play videogames really well even when the game’s physics don’t match the real world’s.
Really interesting post, I appreciate the thought experiment. I have one comment on it related to the Crystal Nights and Skunkworks sections, based on my own experience in the aerospace world. There are lots of problems that I deal with today where the limiting factor is the existence of high-quality experimental data (for example, propellant slosh dynamics in zero-g). This has two implications:
For the “Crystal Nights” example, I think that our current ability to build virtual worlds that are useful for evolutionarily creating truly transformative AIs may be more limited than you might think. A standard physics simulation-based environment is likely to not be that good a map of the real world. And a truly “bottom-up” simulation environment that recreated physics by simulating down at the molecular level would require a few orders of magnitude more computing power (and may run into similar issues with fidelity training data for modeling molecular interactions, though alphafold is evidence that this is not as great a limitation).
For the “Skunkworks” example, I think that you may run into similar problems where the returns to more computing power are greatly limited by the fidelity of the training data.
Now if fidelity of training data was the only thing holding Google et al. from making trillions off of AI in this world, there would be a very strong push to gather the necessary data. But that kind of work in the physical world tends to move more slowly and could well push the timelines required for these two applications past the 4-year mark. I couldn’t find similar objections to the other three.
I finally got around to making these! I was very pleased with the result, they were tasty and distinct from anything I’ve had before. While I thought they were about as delicious as most homemade cookies, my partner who is not generally a huge fan of cookies liked them much more than previous cookie attempts and kept coming back for more.
I agree with the other commenters who’ve suggested that like with most homemade cookies, they’re better than store-bought cookies because they don’t have to last for months on a store shelf. But I am surprised it’s not a more popular home recipe in the US as it’s about the easiest recipe for tasty cookies I’ve come across.
This comment (and the whole discussion) really resonated with me. I think a hard part of this is that if I try and totally remove the activities that allow for opting out of being (video games, mindless reddit scrolling etc.), it tends to only work for a short time before I relapse all at once into them. It seems like this is a case where moderation might be the answer for me personally rather than abstinence.
One unexpected positive of Hammertime is that I’ve noticed my desire to play video games gradually decreasing over the last month. This might be an interesting case where the solution to the problem is to solve other life problems, at which point the desire to cease to exist simply fades away.
Overestimation: Interacting with external reviewers/customers at work. I thought I had useful things to contribute to discussions with external folks starting maybe 4-5 months into my job. I didn’t understand how to handle those interactions tactfully (and overestimated the chillness of by bosses) and got slapped down pretty hard.
Underestimation: Research ability as an undergrad. I kept thinking I was a fraud and doing terrible work right up until the day I won the research top prize in my department.
Done well: I really like the daily prompts to comment, I think they’ve done a lot to encourage me to stick with it. They’ve also been nice because I get to see everyone else’s responses.
Done badly: I wish more days had direct connections to the bug list (i.e. more challenges directly of the form “pick a bug from the bug list and apply today’s technique to it”). It’s harder to motivate myself to tackle challenges on the bug list when it’s implicit that today’s technique can be applied to them than it is when it’s explicit.
I applied the method of exhaustion to my course final project this semester, breaking it into 9 steps. It was a fun exercise, and I appreciated it!
It’s interesting, you definitely see failure rates that look logarithmic in marriages and bankruptcies, but I do think that some of that is what tcheasdfjkl said—some of that is just from the fact that things that fail early don’t get a chance to fail later. In my personal experience, I think there are two big places where my plans fail: before they start and at the first major setback. I think that usually if I can get started on something and keep going past the first time there’s a problem, I can usually overcome future problems. But sometimes the first setback is enough to make me set something aside, and I just never end up coming back.
It can be a little hit-or-miss, but I think Coursera partially fits the bill of what you’re looking for. Generally the courses will have a mix of lectures, reading material, assessment quizzes, and a project. The downside is that the assessments are very closely tailored to the material that’s being taught, so they may not be the best way to check your general learning in an area.
I’ve only used Coursera for a few things, so I can’t offer a ton of recommendations, but I took this sequence on spacecraft attitude control to improve on some skills before grad school and found it excellent.
Interestingly enough, five minutes wasn’t enough for me to get any improvement in typeracer or the arithmetic game. I started at 80 WPM and got results both above and below that on my subsequent tries. Similarly I got 20 on my first attempt at the arithmetic game, 23 on the second attempt, and 17 on the third. I don’t think that makes speed impossible to train, it just suggests that it’ll take longer than 5 minutes!
Here are some of my proudest speed records:
Performance on exams when time is tight. For example, I had an undergraduate materials science exam where the professor had grossly underestimated the required time, making it a pure game of speed. I got a 93 when the average was in the low 60s.
Finishing an anomaly investigation at work. I was assigned to lead the investigation and resolution efforts to a significant issue found in one of our systems. I found the root cause, came up with a corrective action, and got agreement from our customer and independent reviewers in less than 1⁄2 the time it had taken on an earlier similar issue that been assigned to another engineer.
Cooking breakfast! I’m a master at all-out speed maximization on making breakfast burritos, avocado toast, eggs etc. I’ve gotten really good at prepping absolutely no more than is needed before I start the longest-cooking item going, then using the time when things are toasting and cooking to get everything together in just a few minutes.
I do think I’ve gotten better at achieving my values over the course of Hammertime. the biggest way that’s manifested has been in how I’m spending my time. I’m spending more time reading books and talking to friends rather than aimlessly browsing the internet or playing videogames. Interestingly enough, I’ve actually been spending less time working, which I wasn’t consciously trying to do but I think is positive, as I generally work somewhat too hard.
Reflecting back on the bug list for the second time, I only came up with a modest number of additional bugs. The list currently stands at 132 bugs, of which I’ve solved 38. My favorite bug solve was to finally get around to hanging some art in the empty space near my desk.
This was a great post, and I fully agree with the idea that working to make our interactions with others positive is an important part of making life good. I found that a good additional exercise to go with this post was to set a Yoda timer and reach out to friends who I haven’t talked to in a bit.
I like your weakened version of TDT, it feels like it does really capture something salient about human decision-making. I recognize that the exact number isn’t really important, but I think I’d describe it as close to a one-percent shift than a ten-percent shift for myself. I feel like I personally have taken a very long time to go from the first few times I do something to that thing feeling natural. I wonder if that’s something that tends to differ a lot between people or different kinds of actions.
I like Noah Smith and enjoyed that post, but I’m not sure I agree with the conclusions. I think I agree more with the critique from Applied Divinity Studies than I do with Noah. There are definitely areas for optimism, but I haven’t seen anything that looks like we’re actually getting increases in productivity growth in the US or similar countries. Moreover, I have seen no indications that cost disease has slowed (see healthcare costs for example, other than the decrease in care due to COVID lockdowns, there’s no real evidence of a slowdown). And beyond all that, the ineffective response to COVID in the US has shown just how badly our state capacity for effectively confronting problems has deteriorated.
I would really, really like stagnation to be over (and I do my best to support to efforts to make that happen!), but I don’t yet feel very hopeful.
Here’s what I came up with goal factoring “do Hammertime:”
Goal: Feel like I’m “moving forward,” not just treading water
Subgoal: Feel like I’m learning new skills and making progress towards a job that’s a better long-term fit
Subgoal: Feel like my relationship is getting stronger and more beneficial
Subgoal: Feel like I’m developing intellectually
Goal: Improve health
Subgoal: Make progress on health issues that are annoying/concerning
Subgoal: Do a better job at exercising
Goal: Improve day-to-day life
Subgoal: Enjoy more quality activities, rather than filler activities
Subgoal: Enjoy my space more
Subgoal: Improve friendships, overcome anxieties about social activities
Aversion: Not totally confident rationality/CFAR techniques are good self-improvement methods
Aversion: Partner is not a big fan of rationality, worried they won’t be supportive (They have in fact been supportive so far!)
Aversion: I’m not always good at sticking with things, worried I’ll drop it
Aversion: Concerned that this is actually entertainment, rather than beneficial self-improvement.
In general, I have been very happy with Hammertime so far. I do think my last aversion is the most salient—much of the progress I’ve made so far is on the little stuff rather than toward the really big stuff. But I’m hopeful that sticking with it and continuing to practice the techniques and work my way up the bug list will yield results.
There’s a very particular kind of anxious feeling I get, a kind of catch in the throat and knot in my stomach, that means “your current plan has a major failure mode that you’re totally undefended against.” I deeply aspire to reach a point in my life where this feeling is no longer regularly present.
Listing all of the times I’ve improved rapidly in the past was a very interesting exercise. Many of the times where I made a really big improvement stemmed from making a decision that was hard to make in the moment, but locked me into a path toward something good. That’s very much in line with the basic principle is “take advantage of willpower now to put yourself on a course in which you don’t need willpower to do the right thing later.”
Another idea that seems common to a number of the examples I can come up with is an idea that I might call “seize the moment.” It’s very similar to the first one but perhaps just slightly distinct. The basic idea is if you do one hard thing and it works, you may find that lots of other hard things suddenly seem easier, at least momentarily. I’ve had times where I was able to get on a roll of compounding improvements that way, and I think it can be surprisingly successful at allowing you to make big changes.