If Yudkowsky had merely written that “we overestimate the degree to which other people understand our thoughts and folks in general overestimate how much they understand what the other person is saying” I wouldn’t have been very impressed.
But he elaborated on this advice with several posts (such as illusion of transparency, inferential distance, and double illusion of transparency) and explained in detail the underlying, general cognitive mechanisms which allowed me to develop a deeper understanding. Which in turn makes it more likely that I remember this advice and also use it.
This is the signature style I want to convey from all those posts that entangled cognitive science experiments and probability theory and epistemology with the practical advice—that practical advice actually becomes practically more powerful if you go out and read up on cognitive science experiments, or probability theory, or even materialist epistemology, and realize what you’re seeing. This is the brand that can distinguish LW from ten thousand other blogs purporting to offer advice.
…practical advice really, really does become a lot more powerful when it’s backed up by concrete experimental results, causal accounts that are actually true, and math validly interpreted.
29. Less Meta
Yudkowsky is afraid that the recent posts have gotten a bit too meta. Therefore he (contrary to Newsome 😉 ) recommends to talk about the object level, i.e. the boring and practical stuff.
(This is the last post of the last Sequence and boy, I’m glad it’s over! Don’t get me wrong, I mostly enjoyed reading the Sequences, but after a while writing comments and summaries really got on my nerves. 🙂 )
After he laid the groundwork, Yudkowsky hopes that others will be able to improve their rationality on their own, and maybe even create different styles and new rationality skills.
I suspect—you could even call it a guess—that there is a barrier to getting started, in this matter of rationality. Where by default, in the beginning, you don’t have enough to build on. Indeed so little that you don’t have a clue that more exists, that there is an Art to be found. And if you do begin to sense that more is possible—then you may just instantaneously go wrong. As David Stove observes—I’m not going to link it, because it deserves its own post—most “great thinkers” in philosophy, e.g. Hegel, are properly objects of pity. That’s what happens by default to anyone who sets out to develop the art of thinking; they develop fake answers.
…My last essay on having a secret identity was not well-received, so let me try again: I want people to go forth, but also to return. Or maybe even to go forth and stay simultaneously, because this is the Internet and we can get away with that sort of thing; I’ve learned some interesting things on Less Wrong, lately, and if continuing motivation over years is any sort of problem, talking to others (or even seeing that others are also trying) does often help.
But at any rate, if I have affected you at all, then I hope you will go forth and confront challenges, and achieve somewhere beyond your armchair, and create new Art; and then, remembering whence you came, radio back to tell others what you learned.
Step 1. Reading LessWrong.
Step 2. Rationality and stuff. Or something.
Step 3. Achieving godhood.
Easy as pie!