By actually making a change to how I act and seeing the results of that change in the world I developed a lot of confidence (I was formerly very shy and uncomfortable with myself despite having a lot of things going for me).
I want to come back to the first point briefly as well. At the time I was reading LW it often felt like I was being productive. I'd think to myself "oh I just need to read this article on motivation and acrasia (the LW term for procrastination), and I'll never fail to do what I planned to do again. This caused me to spend my time preparing to do things that I never ended up doing, and it also set me up to feel angry with myself when I inevitably failed.
One thing that helped me a lot was accepting that on top of everything we humans have going for us we're really just animals, and we get upset, or jealous, or sad, or angry, just like any other animal. So rather than try to eliminate these negative emotions from my life I came to accept them as normal and try to structure my life so that they occur as infrequently as possible. I've found a few ways of doing this that work for me, and I can post some of what's worked if anyone's interested. I still have bad days or bad moments, but when I do I accept it as normal and try to see what I can learn from it to lessen the impact next time, rather than trying to over-optimize the life of an unpredictable, fallible human making most of the important decisions in his life based on emotion (hint: that's all of us).
The allure of LW is that we're perfectly rational or that we can at least make ourselves that we through sheer force of will. For better or for worse (I think for better) that's not the case.
What you describe sounds suspiciously similar to what Muehlhauser calls creating "success spirals" , which is coincidentally in the same sequence "The Science of Winning at Life".
> The allure of LW is that we're perfectly rational or that we can at least make ourselves that we through sheer force of will.
And to be fair, LW: does make a distinction between epistemic (ideal) rationality and instrumental (pragmatic) rationality ; is aware of its propensity for insight porn ; and has made progress towards bringing things in the stratosphere  back down to the object level (e.g. ).
Thinking about it some more... perhaps they don't warn you enough against over-optimizing. Like you said, there's a ton of advice about how to optimize a plethora of things. If you're going to do that, perhaps it's your responsibility to sufficiently warn against over-optimizing. But still, despite the fact that it could be overused, I think it's a really useful resource if used appropriately.
We have lost the art of teaching people how to have a philosophy of life. We teach people how to have a craft. We teach basic morals. In religious households you may even be taught a pretty comprehensive "life philosophy", but it is often underpinned by many practices that defy rationality, and I think, lead many to unhappiness.
A few years ago I stumbled on some pretty interesting reading about Stoicism and I have since read much of ancient greek philosophy and a bit of more modern stuff like Kant. It still sort of blows my mind just how insightful the ancient greek philosophers were about human nature. One of the key principles of Stoicism that has an analogue or similar set of features in many other philosophies is that it is essentially not things that happen to us that cause us pain/grief/sadness/unhappiness but our judgement and reaction to those things. It seems a little trite in a short post like this, and I can't sum up something as complex as an entire school of philosophical thought, but it has worked well for me.
I have been in conversations where life philosophies like Stoicism and other related ancient greek philosophies get dismissed out of hand. Only to have a conversation wind over our current empirical approach to happiness. This less wrong article is /exactly/ what I call this empirical approach to happiness. Study all of the correlates, take all the best modern science about which behaviors yield the most happiness and which yield the least happiness and optimize accordingly.
Yet, 1800+ years ago, ancient philosophers identified many of the same principles articles like this are encouraging us to apply to our lives. What is missing from this article, and I think that can often cause many people to fail at sticking with a plan, is a coherent and binding strategy for all of this disparate "strategies for happiness". The ancient philosophies are not perfect, us moderns have learned a thing or two since Socrates and Epictetus, but their insights on the human condition are too keen to ignore. We know a lot more about genetics, and I have witnessed the ravages of deep nearly incurable depression on my family. Even the ancient stoics knew of depression and how it could destroy rationality of the most adept philosophers. Outside of these parameters, I would argue, strongly, that we could all live with a little more Socrates and Epictetus in our life and a little less religious extremism and modern consumerism.
And this brings me to my main point, without a rational, modern, and scientifically palatable life philosophy for how to think and feel about /everything/ it is very easy to put yourself into negative emotional states. I have found with a system to judge and evaluate emotions, and a keen understanding of the basic tendencies of my nature, I don't need a lot of empirical scientific knowledge to stay happy, though it does inform my approach.
When I read your post it made me think of myself and my old strategy of decreasing pain/bad moments and increasing good moments where good feelings are more likely. Now, I proceed in a manner as I see fit and I simply accept that much of my feelings are up to me and that jealously, sadness, and anger are just my judgement or feelings about something. I have also, often found, that when properly analyzed, I am not truly sad about a situation, merely that my judgements were wrong. I have definitely embraced many stoic principles into my life, and when I continue to work at maintaining and improving my understanding and ability to apply the principles I have adopted, I stay very even keeled, neither greatly happy or greatly sad. Content. I try to stick close to my baseline and take joy in every day life (since most of life is every day life) :)
My judgements being wrong used to be a source of frustration for me too. Now I take them as a given. Being wrong is part of the process.
The biggest problem I have now is forgetting what strategy I had decided to follow. Mostly because there are too many things to decice. The process of me deciding doesn't ingrain each decision in me hard enough.
How do you deal with that?
Basically, I think you have to start by writing things down and learning about the elements of these ancient, and modern, philosophies to see the sort of systems they put in place to deal with every day life events and exceptional events. How should I think about X? And some very obvious patterns will emerge. Some elements of stoicism may be difficult to employ and Stoicism in general is a hard to follow (fully) philosophy. The key point Epictetus had was that very few of us have the ability to follow Stoicism (or any coherent, but challenging) philosophy to its fullest. However, we should still endeavor down this path of "progress". This is why Epictetus has stayed so popular. He didn't advocate perfection of philosophy, merely that you work at it.
Which brings me to my final thought for you to answer your question directly: write it all down. For example, Stoicism has a lot of great elements that resemble modern psychology CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). So you pull the elements of ancient philosophies that work, you augment it with snippets like this Less Wrong articles various things. And you write your own coherent philosophy of life. And then you work at following it. It is pretty easy to lay down ideals, and pretty hard to stick to them. So you have to work at it, almost every day. You have to work on mindfulness and staying present and ensuring you keep your philosophy in mind in every day situations and exceptional situations. And, and this is where it gets tricky if you have trouble with non-empirical elements, you just have to believe your philosophy works. You have to believe it enough to follow it, even if you can't explain all of it. Science has spent the last 2000+ years catching up to things the ancient greeks found to work.
Much like a running coach can't really tell you WHY, exactly, everything he is having you do is working, it just does. Physiology has slowly been providing more and more detail, in the mean time running coaches have learned through trial and error how to train very efficiently. Some day we will probably have an exact explanation for the mechanisms of physiological improvement. Until then we can use our very good heuristics. I would argue it is the same from psychological perspective. It is close enough. Trust in your system and intuition and work to make it better and progress as a human being. There is no "perfect system" for everyone, but I think we could all agree on some pretty broad ideals that count as forward progress as humans :)
Isn’t this allure extremely irrational then? (Since it’s a known fact that we are controlled by large parts by relicts of our primate ancestry.)
If you optimize a race car's engine for power, the engine will explode and you will lose the race. That's because you optimized for only one variable, and did not consider longevity. With complex systems this is an important concept to remember, as you may not even be aware of some of the variables, and inadvertently sacrifice them!
If you have time, please do :)
If I agree with the above, I can set aside the quest for ultimate measurement of absolute happiness (e.g. Solon's "Count no man happy until he be dead.") . However, I can still do things that affect relative happiness. When I stopped consulting for boring ERP software, my quality-of-life definitely improved. Again, I won't know if I'm ultimately "happy" until I'm lying on my deathbed. Nevertheless, it feels like I got a little victory from changes like that.
Science has consistently shown that good health and relationships correlate to happiness. It has even been shown that there is a causal effect (ie, if you start exercising you start feeling better).
Someone unaware of that fact may read a post like this and decide to exercise for 30 mins everyday.
The science of happiness (not their philosophy) is new and it is in a prehistoric stage. Think about the history of chemistry and the alchemist adventures!
The post doesn't invalidate your opinion, just reading and article doesn't make you happy except for a few enlightened ones. But, knowing the correlation using a lot of data can help you in this search.
Sure, it's possible that many of them suggest approaches to 'happiness' that do not apply to me, but I really don't know because I never took the time to actually spend, say, 30 days committing to their advice. And my impression is that this seems to be the case for most people who bother with 'self-improvement'.
(That said, I'm not disagreeing with you. Finding what makes specifically you happy is important.)
I've read books about it too, and not been helped that much beyond perhaps gaining some insight, or setting expectations of what happiness is like. But that doesn't invalidate the information in the books, it tells you that merely reading about happiness does not make it so. You can read all the books about how to be a great basketball player, but you won't improve until you actually get on a court and shoot some shots.
Citation needed. Preferably not a citation that can be countered by another, opposite, citation.
There are billion dollar industries built around selling happiness ( fashion industry, fitness industry, education industry and a million others), and yet, and yet most of happiness we are sold is a distant dream for the most of us. Why? . Why do we live in a constant conflict both within ourselves and conflict with the outer world. Do you want to live your life in this constant conflict ?
Most happiness peddling misses the important intricate relationship between happiness and pain/anxiety how they are the same feeling and pursuing one means pursuing the other. And yet most people are fooled into believing that we can somehow chase happiness while avoiding pain/anxiety. Even people who are very logical in every other parts of life buy into this absurdity.
Does this have to do anything with rise of western industrial power when marketing changed from 'buy this because you need it' to 'buy this because it will make you happy' 
One is a result of circumstances. If something bad happens, like you get a flat tire, then you're in some negative state of emotion. Most people are ruled by this, and since most circumstances are out of our control, we spend a large portion of our time in some state of unhappiness or frustration.
The other is trying to be at peace. If you're basically at peace then the flat tire doesn't ruin your day. It's just something to deal with. Things happen, you deal with them, life goes on, and you're mostly thankful for what you have.
The author's 20 minute comment, I suspect, is that he practices mindfulness meditation, and is therefore never longer than 20 minutes away from resetting his mind to a more balanced state.
Plus there is nothing new here. This is the ancient philosophy of stoicism. See "A Guide To The Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy"
What seems natural for most of us, though, is to become desensitized to what's good and feel only about the surprises, which eventually end up negative (mean-reversion and things over-enthusiastically taken for granted - I'll always win, they'll always love me, etc.)
I think knowing that helps a little. Just like it helps knowing that your blue mood when you're sick will pass on its own as you recover.
Some people are naturally more or less happy, I'm sure, in their baseline no-surprise state. I wouldn't worry about it until someone figures out how to change it. As long as you have energy to want+do things, you're ok.
The GPs hypothesis is perfectly reasonable, indeed in the very article you link to:
> The “pursuit of happiness” has led its own life in popular culture.
Now, it's difficult to say if there would be the same focus on happiness in the culture if the phrase has been "property" but that certainly doesn't invalidate the hypothesis.
Edits: Actually, reading the article fuller, this makes it even MORE interesting. Buying things, protecting products and property has always been tied up with happiness and the declaration. Fascinating!
"life, liberty ... and the possession of outward things"
I have no problem with the former. I think it's healthy to try to lead an enjoyable and happy life. And I don't think that's mutually exclusive with leading a productive and meaningful life either.
Well it has a long history going back before Christ eg.
And more recently has become established as a fairly respectable field of study kicked off with "Positive psychology began as a new area of psychology in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association" amongst other things. (from Wikipedia)
Personally I'd rather be happy than depressed and as an atheist would rather turn to science than religion for how to advice. Dunno if that's foolish.
I get angry and anxious reading my Facebook updates about weekend adventures that I wasn't part of, LinkedIn updates about undeserving acquaintances climbing the ladder higher than where I'm. I proceed to then practice mindful meditation to be fully conscious of my human nature to practice the dual art of sour grapes (e.g., "Going to law school given all of the articles I read is not worth it nowadays") and rationalization (e.g., "They may be richer, but I'm happier... as a maker."). Then I realize what a worthless person I'm but self-worthless transforms into the joy of masochism.
I overeat, overdrink, stay up late, sleep in, skip out of work, act out, make inappropriate propositions to friends or strangers when inebriated. Nursing the bad hangover the morning after, I pat myself in the back for getting free therapy sessions from unwilling acquaintances and for my courage to let myself go to practice authenticity.
> make inappropriate propositions to friends or strangers when inebriated
this is really really not good
8. Find your purpose and live it. One benefit of religion may be that it gives people a sense of meaning and purpose. Without a magical deity to give you purpose, though, you'll have to find out for yourself what drives you. It may take a while to find it though, and you may have to dip your hands and mind into many fields. But once you find a path that strongly motivates you and fulfills you, take it. (Of course, you might not find one purpose but many.) Having a strong sense of meaning and purpose has a wide range of positive effects.41 The 'find a purpose' recommendation also offers an illustration of how methods may differ in importance for people. 'Find a purpose' is not always emphasized in happiness literature, but for my own brain chemistry I suspect that finding motivating purposes has made more difference in my life than anything else on this list.
It's an experimental software development tool, largely inspired by Bret Victor's talks. It's similar to projects like Light Table, Zed editor, but it's nowhere near as complete and focuses on a single programming language (Go).
I worked on it full time for a year after finishing my master's degree, culminating in a first place winning demo submission to the LIVE 2013 contest .
By then, I ran out of money so I got a full time job and continue to work on Conception in my limited free time. By now, I'm working on a pure Go implementation of Conception , which is a lot more advanced in some ways, but is still needs a lot more work before it's actually usable and helpful to other people. Someday, when the time is right, I want to get back into it full time, because it really requires a lot of work.
As well, there unhappiness-producing currents in many "we are all so smart" commenting fora, but I expect most people can expect a positive or at least enlightening experience if they're wise enough to avoid ego-tussles.
If you find you're getting less out of a group than you used to, likely you've grown more than the group. You wouldn't necessarily have done better to avoid it in the first place.
Well, I don't feel intelligent or well educated enough to critique most of what they (EY and supporters) say point by point. However, one thing I recall seems indicative of some of the systemic problems with how he/they think about the world:
EY once wrote that he tried "exercise" (unspecified but presumably steady cardio) and found that it "didn't work". His conclusion was that he....inherently was unable to improve his physical fitness due to some genetic trait that a minority of the population was cursed by.
That is so breathtakingly arrogant and foolish that I was taken aback and it was one of the many small things that led me to question his 'rationality'.
Presumably, EY was a baby, and like all other babies, gradually developed increased muscular strength and coordination during the process of learning to walk. Thus, his muscles are capable of responding to stress and adapt to that stress by getting stronger. If EY had the grit to actually try rigorous training such as progressively loaded barbell squats I'm quite sure he would experience at least a modest, but measurable, increase in physical fitness. Instead, he rationalized his physical weakness and chose the easy road. Plenty of people do this, but they're not so 'rational' as to try and intellectually justify it on their own website publicly!
* I don't feel like searching LW to try and find a citation for this - but does anyone really doubt it? Just look at a picture of the guy.
It's important to study and understand human biases and it can be helpful in overcoming many struggles since most of the time, you're your own worst enemy, but the philosophy that you're inherently flawed and you should put up a constant effort to be "less wrong" is a recipe for disaster IMO.
Absolutely, take time every now and then to reflect on life and whether any biases and assumptions about the world is impairing your wellbeing and happiness and whether it might be worth changing that -- but in everyday life, listen to your impulses, intuition and feelings. Don't be blind, don't be stupid, but also don't constantly second-guess yourself.
I should totally write a self help book. Or at least make some inspirational Facebook cover photos.
The idea, if I understand it correctly, is that those are the things that are supposed to end up "less wrong." You're not supposed to be consciously thinking all the time about how your thinking is broken; you're supposed to practice a few tricks for a while, internalize them, and then your impulses/intuition/feelings will be (less) broken.
What I think is dangerous is adopting the underlying philosophy that your intuition is inherently wrong and in need of salvation from reason.
In this, as with every other area of human improvement, there's a balance to be struck between recognising your current state as "good enough" (even that has a derogatory ring to it) while not isolating you from the fact that there's almost always almost infinite room for improvement. And I think the cult of reason and LW in particular is bad at recognising and respecting a "good enough" state.
Or put another way, imagine if the most popular software engineering website was "YoureNotAsGoodAsJohnCarmack.com".
The use of the word "rational" apparently only applies to them so by criticizing LW, I assume that makes you irrational.
Is it useful for every human to overcome the biases on their list? Or are these just criticisms that one group can use to distinguish themselves from other people?  I don't even believe all of these biases exist but instead could be attributed to a discrepancy in definitions and usage of language in a formal and colloquial sense. Further, although possibly mentioned elsewhere, I think it is possible to suffer from a "cognitive bias" cognitive bias where belief about overcoming cognitive bias causes a new cognitive bias.
Check out this link , I think Harry Potter is associated with Eliezer himself.
In short, I don't think a bunch of people who claim to be rational are completely ego free.
edit: I don't mean this to sound as if I am arguing there is no such thing as cognitive bias or that nobody can really be rational but that ego can and has gotten in the way of discussion about it.
This is most of why LW has been pissed off about RationalWiki since it dared have an article about LW. They own that word, dammit.
(Now of course, it's because of an enormously popular article on one piece of LW's history. But it started really early.)
We are unhappy when we assign reasons to people's actions or words. When we think that others say or do things because they are "out to get me". That is a view and that is an incorrect view that will lead to all sorts of unhappiness and discontent in your life. Get rid of all of your views. Some things just happen. There is no grand plan.
"Do you want to be right, or happy?" - thich nhat hanh
Don't correct people or argue with them. It leads to unhappiness. Especially don't do this in front of others. It will only cause confrontation that hurts you just as much as the people you are correcting. Even if you are being wrongly accused, just be silent. There will be a better time later to correct the situation and set the record straight. This is much needed in corporations in America that have contentious meetings. People interrupt each other, openly demean and correct each other. Sit silently in these meetings and stay above it all. Everyone will notice and you'll be much happier and content.
There is much more we can learn from Eastern philosophy. When things cause stress and unhappiness in your life, examine them, be mindful of your words and deeds toward others, live only in the present and you'll forever be happy.
That is a pretty strong view! ;D
>>live only in the present and you'll forever be happy
Live only in the present and you will be happy, sad, angry, in love, sleepy, hungry etc, etc. Happiness is just a thing that happens, like all things. All things happen in the present. Can you experience a "past event" in the present?
Reversing stupidity isn't intelligence.
Well of course it is! No one ever meets the shy happy people because they never go out!
EDIT: Point 8 does touch on religion but does not (directly) endorse it.
Without a magical deity to give you purpose, though, you'll have to find out for yourself what drives you.
He's writing for atheists. Telling an atheist "in order to be happy you need to get religion" is like telling a recovering alcoholic "in order to fall asleep you need to have a few drinks."
However, there are also plenty of people who were raised religious who are now atheists. I've met many of them who have the same toxic relationship with religion that an alcoholic has with alcohol.
Nihilism has a similar issue.
As for purpose it isn't that hard to have one; it can be as simple as to having a little happiness and trying to make the world around you just a tiny bit better rather than worse.
There is also no reason why for most people days should be things in general to "suffer through".
The rest of your comment is still basically correct if you substitute the word introverted for shy, but this is a very common misconception about introversion I wanted to point out.
 Susan Cain did an op-ed in the WSJ or NYT explaining this distinction in more detail a while back. I'm on my phone but it should be easy to find online if you're interested.
I'm an introvert, for example, and generally very happy (but that's anecdotal evidence, which is also not helpful).
There's nothing wrong with feeling comfortable being alone (indeed that's a good skill to have, and not everyone has that). But there may come a time when you would like to be more extroverted occasionally & make more friends. If you don't build that skill now, you'll find it more difficult to be extroverted at the times when you need it.
I know some people that go stir crazy when there is no one to interact with. That seems sub-optimal if you want to be truly happy.
That said, it obviously depends on the person's situation. I don't think the advice is good for everyone. But it's probably good for most.
Edit: I found http://www.succeedsocially.com/allarticles to be really insightful and useful.
But for some personalities, there's a large opportunity cost when hanging out with others. Some people simply interface their optimal best with the world when they don't have to force themselves to socialize at whatever "normal" standards of frequent interaction expected by extroverts.
True story: When I was a kid, I was very happy with the rattling performance of my old Schneider PC. The sun was shining bright that day during the lunch break on the schoolyard, when a notoriously rich kid approached me with a grin on his face: "So you have a PC at home, huh? Want to see a real one?". A couple hours later we walked to his mansion. I took a seat in front of his PC. It looked new, and great. The monitor was very large. Very impressive. And then he turned it on. "It's a Pentium!". And he went on bragging about it. When I came back home and turned my PC on to continue working on my website, I was more aware than ever that my PC was slow. I knew it sucked, and from that moment on it depressed me. A couple years later I got a fast Dell. I was happy for a while. Until I got used to it.
Morale: Sometimes, not knowing what can make you happy means you stay happy.
Happiness = Perceived Actual Life / Expected Life --- (1)
Perceived Actual Life = Perception * Actual Life ----- (2)
Expected Life ∝ Perceived Life of Others ------------- (3)
Perceived Life of Others = Perception * Others' Actual Life -- (4)
Actual Life ∝ (1 / Happiness) * Skill * Circumstance - (5)
EDIT: corrected error in (1)
I think this stuff is really cool though, and I really like where you're going!
Do you have proposed units for the quantities in your equations?
Happiness = Perception * (1 / Happiness) * Skill * Circumstance / Others' Actual Life
Happiness^2 = Perception * Skill * Circumstance / Others' Actual Life
Happiness = +-sqrt(Perception * Skill * Circumstance / Others' Actual Life)
Also, as you mention we never defined the terms. I believe all of these are generally measured on self-administered surveys with "rate X" scales, and so are just percentages with no units.
Finally, the terms don't have any obvious correlations with the post, so I just stuck in the things that were mentioned that seemed relevant:
* Happiness - see eqn., you can't affect this directly
* Skill - conscientiousness, self-esteem, optimism, feelings of purpose and fulfillment
* Others' Actual Life - income and wealth
* Circumstance - genes (health?), extroversion, "flow"
* Perception - paying attention to your situation/actions/feelings and in particular adjusting your estimates of success/failure chance to match reality (humans deal very badly with probabilities) - includes "agreeableness" (understanding of others), "memory" (perceptions of self being happy), and "mindfulness" (perceptions of world)
If everyone was happy all the time we would probably still live in caves because there wouldn't have been the struggle that brings us to where we are.
This in my opinion may be why religion correlates with happiness. For the very same reason lobotomized people might be happy. Do you want to be happy or do you want to know how the world really works and what is certainly going to happen?
But... the dark cynicism of reality aside, I think happiness probably results very simply from good health, physical activity, strong social connections and a feeling of being important or succeeding. It's good to be happy sometimes. But I still think being happy all the time might not be the best thing for us personally, nor for us as a species. IMHOP.
It is possible to be happy and rational.
But if there isn't a problem in the first place there can't be a solution. And if you don't see the problem because you are busy "being positive" then you can't work on it.
I look at it like this... motion comes from polarity. Yin and Yang. Male and Female. Happiness and Misery. Just my opinion.
And yes... I find the cult of constant happiness a bit annoying and superficial. I do think it is good for people to be happy __most of the time... I'm happy most of the time, but I'm not happy all the time and neither is anyone else. Nor should they be unless they are mental patients or animals. That's my point.
Link is broken. :-(
Also nowhere in the list of happiness suggestions are volunteering and helping others to be found. Says to practice gratitude by appreciating all the good things you have, but never to actually help those less fortunate than you.
The message is happiness is easy, as long as you aren't living below the poverty line or dealing with major problems in your life. Well plenty of people are dealing with both and could really use your help. Helping others might fulfill the gratitude and 'meaningful job' portions of this vanity list too.
</div>Interpersonal: Give the people around you opportunities to be generous. Ask them for favors.
When it comes up, I quietly read it out loud to myself. I've found that seeing these cards often enough keeps their concepts on my mind, so when I go out with friends and someone offers to buy me a beer, I accept it and thank them, instead of refusing even to the point of awkwardness (as is my natural inclination).
1. Good health: when you are sick, nothing else matters
2. Money: it solves almost any solvable problem, and in case it doesn't, it helps
[Edit: that's not true, I felt happy before I downvoted, when I imagined downvoting.]
The HN readership had lots in common with LessWrong, but they were diluted and displaced by people who don't share their same, ahem, qualities.
. This would be somewhat... surprising.
Or maybe the $ is a typo and you mean the Christian notion of Hell? Is Hell a problem for the human race? Not likely as, even if it exists, it's only a problem in the after life. So again, your point escapes me.
You could use the same neural network with different inputs to do other stuff, like recognize characters, and all kind of pattern matching / classification.
1. Be like Water. Keep your mind like Water. Stateless. Formless. Keep flowing like water. Don't settle & Stop.
2. Fall in love with yourself more than anyone else.
Fall in love with your Passion, it already knows everything about you.
3. Try to Know Everything about your Previous life(life's).
Thus, know the purpose of your life & connect those dots. Get closer to your niche & Life purpose.
4. Surround yourself with Right people.
5. Be in a place(Create that place) for yourself, where you got more freedom & autonomy to think and live.
6. Finally to be happy, be happy, create Good, great & positive thoughts always.
What we think, we become. Its that simple!
Our thoughts = Key Life Formula.
All of this is not to discredit this specific article. And there are lots of very intelligent posters there. But I tend to take everything I read there with a massive grain of salt.
LessWrong is a discussion forum mostly pertaining to psychology, philosophy, cognitive biases, etc,. A frequent topic of discussion is artificial intelligence, but it is hardly centric. Saying that LessWrong is a hangout spot for "singularity cult members" (as you call them) is simply incorrect on multiple levels. Technological singularity is no more than a scientific hypothesis, and it's slightly dramatic to say it perhaps has cult members worshiping and breeding its realism. In actuality technological singularity just has scientists and researches observing/theorizing its stepping stones and outcomes. Maybe you meant transhumanists rather than "singularity cult members", which I suppose makes more since from your other statements.
>Eliezer Yudkowsky, is a secular humanist who is probably most well-known for his Harry Potter fanfiction
Yudkowsky is also a prominent researcher of a variety of artificial intelligence topics which is enhancing the field. Primarily he focuses not on developing a Strong AI (AGI), but rather focusing on safety issues that such a technology would pose.
>the most important thing we could possibly be doing right now is devoting all of our time developing a mathematical model of a "safe AI."
"friendly AI"* and I'm not sure what you're talking about when you say mathematical model, you should do more research it's mostly hypotheses and ideas for system transparency.
>But I tend to take everything I read there with a massive grain of salt.
Maybe you should visit LessWrong and read some articles about cognitive biases so you understand why someone saying "massive grain of salt" makes me want to kill innocent puppies.
That's absurd at worst, science fiction at best, akin to worrying about manned flight safety in the 1500's.
Nice defense on the other points. But no, Eliezer Yudkowsky has no peer reviewed publications, open source code, or really anything else to point to which provides any independent assessment of his contribution to the field of AI.
He has a couple of blog posts and self-published white papers. Forgive me for being skeptical.
> His core beliefs include that the obvious goal of the human race is immortality
"We should be allowed to live as long as we want to." Emphasis on the want. I don't find that very controversial.
> that it is justifiable to kill a man if it would remove a spec of dust from the eye of every other person on Earth
No, the setup was one person's torture for 50 years (not death), or specks of dust in the eyes of 3^^^3 people. How much is 3^^^3 people?
* 3^3 = 27.
* 3^^3 = (3^(3^3)) = 3^27 = 7625597484987.
* 3^^^3 = (3^^(3^^3)) = 3^^7625597484987 = (3^(3^(3^(... 7625597484987 times ...)))).
That's a monumentally different setup than mere 7 billion humans on Earth. And it's making a point about the cold cruel calculus of moral utilitarianism, a very common and popular ethical position. Your disgust is precisely his rhetorical point...
(Edit: ...about human heuristics and biases getting in the way of the moral calculus of utilitarianism. If you are a utilitarianist, there is some cutoff of X independent people -- for some very large X -- for which it is better to save that many people a slight inconvenience at the expense of 50 years of torture for one individual. This follows straight from the math of finite utilitarianism. Yudkowsky's position of trusting the math over intuition may not be intuitive for most people, but I'd be surprised if a HN reader did not agree at least with the methodology.)
Keep in mind that the 3^^^3 dust specks are spread across 3^^^3 people and their annoyance can't be simply added together.
EDIT: Serious question. If I save two lives that is twice as good as saving one, right? Why is this situation different?
Most people measure goodness and badness by how they feel about it, and for anyone who feels a significant amount of badness (grief, anger, whatever) at the death of a single person, it is physiologically impossible for them to feel a million times worse about the death of a million people. It's intuitively obvious to most people, therefore, that suffering, annoyance, life-saving, and so on, are not additive: they just have to check how they feel about the situation to know that.
In order to suggest that they are additive, and that N "people annoyed" can outweigh M "people suffering", you have to first convince someone that how their own internal measurement of goodness (how they feel about it) is not as accurate as some external measurement.
Which is true. But requires a willingness to counter one's own intuition when encountering contradictory evidence. Unfortunately the type of person that does that is uncommon.
"The only way to rectify our reasonings is to make them as tangible as those of the Mathematicians, so that we can find our error at a glance, and when there are disputes among persons, we can simply say: Let us calculate, without further ado, to see who is right." -Leibniz
Unfortunately we retain some ignorance on the correct nature of utility functions (finite? time-preference adjusted? etc.), and terminal values for humans are demonstrably arbitrary.
... then LW ends up with Roko's Basilisk.
Really, you're using that as your answer to "I don't disagree with what you actually said, but your choice of analogy suggests that you believe that questions of morality are settled and have obvious, objective answers." You can prove anything if you first make it an axiom.
You can't seriously claim that utilitarianism accurately captures human moral intuitions. Variations on the Repugnant Conclusion occur immediately to anyone told about utilitarianism, and are discussed in first-year philosophy right there when utilitarianism is introduced.
LessWrong routinely has discussion articles showing some ridiculous or horrible consequence of utilitarianism. The usual failure mode is to go "look, this circumstance leads to a weird conclusion and that's very important!" and not "gosh, perhaps naive utilitarianism taken to an extreme misses something important."
I think these are the two points that those skeptical of utilitarianism have trouble with: it's exactly that it doesn't seem to match experience that started this thread. Additionally, it doesn't actually seem to work well in practice: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2014/07/the_argument_fr_...
Each individual has a tolerance of what they can comfortably cope with. If 3^^^3 people were all experiencing a pain that is below that tolerance, nobody would be prevented from happiness. However in the other situation, the tortured individual clearly would be.
Empathic "strangers" help others, in many contexts, often at personal risk.
That's what separates humans from singularitarian quantum computing devices.
First day, let a speck of dust enter your eye, at noon. Before sleeping, write down how you feel about that event.
Next day, rip your balls off at noon. Before sleeping, write down how you feel about that.
Now notice that 1/8e9 of 3^^^3 is more people than have ever lived.
I don't think this is well enough established, though it seems plausible.
If time does play a role, you can spread out the 3^^^3 dust specks. (Obviously, we don't realistically have enough time, but then we don't realistically have enough space either).
If you personally torture someone, would that have any effect on you? Is that good, bad, utilitarian?
Is there a recursive relationship between observers and observed systems? If so, does the intention of an observation matter?
Having either my friend have dust in his eye or some stranger tortured are outcomes with less utility in my book than the counterfactual default. Actions which lead to these outcomes are bad, actions which prevent or provide restitution are good.
I don't know what you are getting at with a recursive relationship between observers and observed systems.
I'm asking if emotion (e.g. desire to help friend) has higher or lower utility.
> recursive relationship berween observers and observed systems
See page 2 onward in this cybernetics paper
Also from the wiki you linked 
> Some people familiar with the LessWrong memeplex have suffered serious psychological distress after contemplating basilisk-like ideas — even when they're fairly sure intellectually that it's a silly problem. The notion is taken sufficiently seriously by some LessWrong posters that they try to work out how to erase evidence of themselves so a future AI can't reconstruct a copy of them to torture
Wow either that article is hyperbolizing this or... wow.
 (reference from the quote) http://lesswrong.com/lw/fq3/open_thread_december_115_2012/80...
This is nonsense. It's an article posted to a curated community blog by some guy who happens to like reading tons of psychology papers and wanted to do some research into the state of scientific understanding of happiness. Is Wikipedia selling a cult too now?
 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happiness
...and is executive director of MIRI, the organization hosting and providing most of the content to Less Wrong.
Hmm... actually, that happens every now and then and is exactly as fair as the accusations against lukeprog and LessWrong.
Also, MIRI was created years after LessWrong.
You'll see me in the comments going "WHAT THE HELL, HERO."
Which is the actual purpose of the site. Singularity, consequentialism/utilitarianism, and so on are side effects.
 I'm guessing http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/bitwise/2014/07/rok... right?
As for nanotechnology. It is possible - biology is a proof of that - though some of the early visions may have been naive. It's likely that artificial systems can be created using a broader pallet than natural selection does, and that these technologies will be powerful.
>That it is justifiable to kill a man if it would remove a spec of dust from the eye of every other person on Earth
No, he wrote that it was justifiable to torture a man to prevent 3^^^3 dust specs from floating into 3^^^3 eyes. 3^^^3 is a mind-bogglingly large number - far far far far far more than everyone on earth.
A lot of us have ended up in places where they have tried to force their beliefs on us (a huge one being "debate is always the correct way to understand things, and is never inappropriate in any situation ever" - the concept of, say, cooperative discussion, or even caring about people's emotions and sense of self, seems to have never occurred to any of them that I have met).
It's rather understandable that many would see them as a cult, given the religious fervour that many of them have in forcing their beliefs on others.
But that's not relevant to a community focusing on rational discussion. And it's the exact opposite of what cults do - they try to shower their followers with love. Not caring too much about people's emotional attachments to their beliefs is appropriate on LessWrong. It is inappropriate outside of that context.
Yes. The issue is that many seem to have the complete inability to understand this. I don't care what they do in their own IRC channel or community; it's entirely inappropriate to attack somebody without their consent anywhere else, and yet they do.
Really? I guess 'they' being less wrong enthusiasts. I'm honestly curious where as I have not come across this stuff much.
There do seem to be a lot of extreme viewpoints on LessWrong, so I think it is justified to take those extreme viewpoints with a grain of salt. But I also think that the core beliefs/approaches are valid, and so that should be factored in to how big a grain of salt you take things with.
It's just a bunch of grumpy nerds with a somewhat hardline "rational" fanaticism, who love to spend late dark nights on the internet reasoning about stuff.
Maybe Eliezer has argued that too, but I doubt it. He has said it about a much, much, much larger number of people than everyone on Earth.
The exact number makes "the population of Earth" a tiny rounding error away from zero. Eliezer could be entirely right in his conclusion here ("core belief" is a gross mischaracterization - it follows from other things, not the other way around) and it could still be wrong to torture a man for a minute to spare dust specks in eyes of a billion Earths (and thats not even getting us much closer to the number in question).
That he would consider it at all differentiates his thinking only from those who don't think about these things. "What happens in the extreme?" is a useful question, when trying to pin down how systems work.
Possitive proof that IQ doesn't equal smartness, much less wisdom.
Sure. But I can't conceive ANY possible argumentation and further discussion that accepts the above points that is not also silly.
It's fair to evaluate and criticize opinions, but as maaku said upthread, one should play fair.