I've been around since the Overcoming Bias days. Original OB/LW was like finding an oasis in the desert. I write one long form history piece with actionable lessons every Thursday, you can check out here: Current major thing in life is building the company Ultraworking. We have free online training events and release new tools every month, click the link in my bio if you're interested. Don't be shy if there's anything on your mind, my personal email: sebastian -at-


Reveal Culture

Incredibly thought-provoking.

Thank you.

Reading this made me think about my own communication styles.


After some quick reflection, among people I know well I think actually oscillate between two — on the one hand, something very close to Ray Dalio's Bridgewater norms (think "radical honesty but with more technocracy, ++logos/--pathos").

On the other hand, a near-polar opposite in Ishin-denshin — a word that's so difficult to translate from Japanese that one of the standard "close enough" definitions for it is..... "telepathy."

No joke.

Almost impossible to explain briefly; heck, I'm not sure it could be explained in 7000 words if you hadn't immersed yourself in it at least a substantial amount and studied Japanese history and culture additionally after the immersion.

But it's really cool when it works.

Hmm... I've never really reasoned through how and why I utilize those two styles — which are so very different on the surface — but my quick guess is that they're both really, really efficient when running correctly. 

Downside — while both are easy and comfortable to maintain once built, they're expensive and sometimes perilous to build.

Some good insights in here for further refinement and thinking — grateful for this post, I'll give this a couple hours of thought at my favorite little coffee bar next weekend or something.

Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.)

> Very good post, highly educational, exactly what I love to see on LessWrong.

Likewise — I don't have anything substantial to add except that I'm grateful to the author. Very insightful.

Roll for Sanity

Interesting metaphor. Enjoyed it.

How to Find Sources in an Unreliable World

The quality I'm describing isn't quite "readability" — it overlaps, but that's not quite it. 

Feynman has it —

It's hard to nail down; it'd probably be a very long essay to even try.

And it's not a perfect predictor, alas — just evidence.

But I believe there's a certain way to spot "good reasoning" and "having thoroughly worked out the problem" from one's writing. It's not the smoothness of the words, nor the simplicity.

I's hard to describe, but it seems somewhat consistently recognizable. Yudkowsky has it, incidentally. 

How to Find Sources in an Unreliable World

I like to start by trying to find one author who has excellent thinking and see what they cite — this works for both papers and books with bibliographies, but increasingly other forms of media. 

For instance, Dan Carlin of the (exceptional and highly recommended) Hardcore History podcast cites all the sources he uses when he does a deep investigation of a historical era, which is a good jumping-off point if you want to go deep.

The hard part is finding that first excellent thinker, especially in a domain where you can't differentiate quality in a field yet. But there's some general conventions of how smart thinkers tend to write and reason that you can learn to spot. There's a certain amount of empathy, clarity, and — for lack of a better word — "good aesthetics" that, if they're present, the author tends to be smart and trustworthy. 

The opposite isn't necessarily the case — there are good thinkers who don't follow those practices and are hard to follow (say, Laozi or Wittgenstein maybe) — but when those factors are present, I tend to weight the thinking well.

Even if you have no technical background at all, this piece by Paul Graham looks credible (emphasis added) —

"What does addn look like in C?  You just can't write it.

You might be wondering, when does one ever want to do things like this?  Programming languages teach you not to want what they cannot provide.  You have to think in a language to write programs in it, and it's hard to want something you can't describe.  When I first started writing programs-- in Basic-- I didn't miss recursion, because I didn't know there was such a thing.  I thought in Basic. I could only conceive of iterative algorithms, so why should I miss recursion?

If you don't miss lexical closures (which is what's being made in the preceding example), take it on faith, for the time being, that Lisp programmers use them all the time.  It would be hard to find a Common Lisp program of any length that did not take advantage of closures.  By page 112 you will be using them yourself."

When I spot that level of empathy/clarity/aesthetics, I think, "Ok, this person likely knows what they're talking about."

So, me, I start by looking for someone like Paul Graham or Ray Dalio or Dan Carlin, and then I look at who they cite and reference when I want to go deeper.

A reply to Agnes Callard

Hi Agnes, I just wanted to say — much respect and regards for logging on to discuss and debate your views.

Regardless if we agree or not (personally, I'm in partial agreement with you) — regardless, if more people would create accounts and engage thoughtfully in different spaces after sharing a viewpoint, the world would be a much better place.

Salutations and welcome.

What's Your Cognitive Algorithm?

I think you'd probably like the work of John Boyd:

He's really interesting in that he worked on a mix of problems and areas with many different levels of complexity and rigor.

Notably, while he's usually talked about in terms of military strategy, he did some excellent work in physics that's fundamentally sound and still used in civilian and military aviation today:

He was a skilled fighter pilot, so he was able to both learn theory and convert into tactile performance.

Then, later, he explored challenges in organizational structures, bureaucracy, decision making, corruption, consensus, creativity, inventing, things like that.

There's a good biography on him called "Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War" - and then there's a variety of briefings, papers, and presentations he made floating around online. I went through a phase of studying them all; there's some gems there.

Notably, his "OODA" loop is often incorrectly summarized as a linear process but he defined it like this —

I think the most interesting part of it is under-discussed — the "Implicit Guidance and Control" aspect, where people can get into cycles of Observe/Act/Observe/Act rapidly without needing to intentionally orient themselves or formally make a decision.

Since he comes at it from a different mix of backgrounds with a different mix of ability to do formal mathematics or not, he provides a lot of insights. Some of his takeaways seem spot-on, but more interesting are the ways he can prime thinking on topics like these. I think you and he were probably interested in some similar veins of thought, so it might produce useful insights to dive in a bit.

Baking is Not a Ritual

Great post. 

I've seen recipes written in the precise ritualistic format many times, but rarely seen discussions on the chemistry patterns/etc — how do people typically learn the finer points?

I imagine there's some cookbooks / tutorials that go into the deeper mechanics — is it that, or learning from a knowledgeable baker that understands the mechanics, or...?

Why Science is slowing down, Universities and Maslow's hierarchy of needs


>I have a low prior they will show anything else other than "University is indeed confounded by IQ and/or IQ + income in money earning potential"

Probably also confounded by...

Networks (if you inherited a lot of social connections from your upbringing, university is less useful);

Exposure to certain types of ideas (we take the scientific method and "De Omnibus Dubitandum" for granted but there's people that only get these ideas first at university);

And most interestingly, whether particular institutions are good at helping students on rare habit formation (eg, MIT seems almost uniquely exceptional at inculcating "tinker with things quickly once you get an early understanding of them").

Actually, that last point — rare habit formation — might be where the lower Maslow's Hierarchy and higher Maslow's Hierarchy needs could meet each other. Alas, this seems an underexplored area that's arguably going in the wrong direction at many institutions...

Exercises in Comprehensive Information Gathering

Makes sense. This is probably worth a top level post? —

>People haven't had much time to figure out how to get lots of value out of the internet, and this is one example which I expect will become more popular over time.

Sounds obvious when put like that, but I think — as you implied — a lot of people haven't thought about it yet.

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