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Modern Rationality

Edit: Some of the below links don't work, they just take you back to this page. For the ones where that is the case, I have tried to add the urls in parentheses afterwords. If you find one where that is not the case, please let me know.

This will probably sound like several ideas, but it all ties together really well into a single, coherent worldview. Much more coherent and applicable to living in the real world than any other one that I've encountered. This post isn't intended to teach all of these concepts, this is basically just me explaining myself. Because of that, the way I'm going to structure this is by splitting it up into a few sections and explaining the views I used to hold and contrasting them with the views that I hold nowadays.

If you want to actually learn all this stuff, read the Sequences on Less Wrong. They're really poorly laid out, extremely long, and very, very valuable. I do strongly recommend them to anyone who is at all interested in having accurate beliefs, being effective at whatever it is you choose to do, having an interesting life, and last and certainly least, philosophy. If this ends up being super incredibly valuable sounding, you might also want to check out the Center for Applied Rationality, who run week long intensive workshops on this, which will get you up to speed much quicker than reading blog posts, most likely. I was in the first of their attempts at that, back when it was 9 weeks long.

I'll try to include the appropriate links at the appropriate moments so that if you want to read more on a specific subject you can just click through to the Less Wrong article on it. I'm sure to miss some, though, and there's a lot more content there, so I again recommend reading the Sequences. If you want a more easygoing, fictional read, then even though I cringe to write this sentence, I do recommend reading the fan fiction Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. HPMoR and the Sequences are written by the same person, Eliezer Yudkowsky.

Rationality

The First Distraction

On Tynan

Right now I'm waiting to start a video interview. I called in early, but my friend who is doing the interview wasn't ready, so I've got five or ten minutes to kill before we get started. My first inclination was to catch up on email. I only had a couple to write, so I finished them quickly. Still some time to kill. I took a look at a SETT bug that's high priority, but the solution wasn't the obvious one that I thought it might be. I'll have to take a deeper look when I have more time. Still have a few minutes before we start. May as well write a blog post.

I think that there are two basic modes that a productive person's mind can be in. There's that mode where you're going to get your work done, but you'll fight yourself every step of the way. When you're in that mode, your reticular activation system, the part of your brain that is constantly scanning, looks for non-work things to do. Ooh, five minutes before the call-- why don't you browse Facebook? I call this the distraction-first mode.

I've been in distraction-first mode plenty of times, probably spent most of my life there, but today I'm not, so when I have a few minutes of downtime, my default is to find something productive to do. Email, SETT, blog post. Productivity-first mode. It's not that I force myself to fill these minutes with something productive, it's that it's what I actually want to do. That's the magic of it.

Being in productivity-first mode is beautiful. It's like living your life in a flow state, executing task after task without the mental toll of having to cheerlead yourself into doing. Emails finished, open up my code editor with no hesistation and start poring through the source code. Determine that it needs more time than I have, and before I can even think, I'm two sentences into this blog post.

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