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  1. Lock the door. Then check if the door is locked. Then wait two seconds, then check again if the door is locked. Then walk two steps away, then return and check if the door is locked. Then walk several steps away, then return and check if the door is locked. Repeat with further distances until you're so embarrassed by this process that you'll vividly remember the embarrassment, and also remember that your door is locked. This is especially effective if someone else sees you doing this. Or you could just write yourself a note saying that you locked the door, along with a time/date stamp.

  2. A generally useful technique is to carefully keep track of how many things you are currently trying to remember. That way, hopefully being aware that there is something that you're supposed to remember will make it easier to actually remember the thing. And if you do forget something, at least you'll know how many things you forgot, and you might suddenly remember it later. One technique for remembering how many things you're currently trying to remember is to hold out one finger for each thing you're trying to remember. So far, only twice have I ever had the count exceed 10 before I got a chance to write down the things I was trying to remember, but even then I just started over from one, and it was easy to remember that I restarted the count from one.

  3. Take 5 minutes to practice closing the door properly. Use exaggerated motions. Close the fridge door the way you imagine a professional fridge door closer would do, then make a show of pushing the door to make sure it's sealed. After each repetition, gradually use a more natural method, and experiment with different methods. Check if you can easily seal the door by leaning against it. Check if there is a way to make sure the door is sealed before you remove your hand from the door handle. Find at least one method that you find both effective and convenient. Then try closing the door without sealing it properly. If you're lucky, then this will now feel wrong to you, and you'll be able to notice this feeling of wrongness if you later make the mistake of closing the door without sealing it.

  4. Just write down the information, or at least write down enough hints for you to easily remember the rest. Don't try to remember more than seven things. Or if you somehow can't write down anything, then try using the technique of remembering how many points you are trying to remember, and using whatever other memory techniques you find most useful to remember the points. Spend more effort remembering the final items, since in this case you can safely forget the first items as you finish them. Count down the remaining items as you finish each one.

  5. Again, use the technique of keeping track of how many items you're trying to remember. In this case, it would be helpful to remember the number of each item, if the points need to be presented in a specific order. You could also try making an acronym or other mnemonic, composed of one-word reminders of each item. Or use whatever other memorization tricks you find most useful.

  6. Have a copy of the number someplace easily accessible. Put the card at the front of your wallet, so that you don't need to spend time searching for it in your wallet. Write the number on another piece of paper, preferably strong paper, that's more convenient to pull out than your wallet. Store the number on your cellphone in a place that's just one or two taps from the home screen. Write the number on your hand. Write the number on some other object you often look at. Use other memorization techniques for remembering numbers.

  7. Everyone should have a convenient way to write down ideas they think of in bed. I use an Evernote app on my cellphone, right on the home screen, and with no lock screen on the cellphone. If you're awake enough to think of ideas, then you're awake enough to write them down. Decide for yourself if the idea is important enough to be worth the hopefully trivial effort of writing it down. Or if you're really in brainstorming mode, and thinking of several ideas and don't want to pause to write them down, then use the technique of keeping track of how many points you're currently trying to remember, then when you're finished brainstorming and ready to write stuff down, you'll at least know how many things you've forgotten, and can try to remember them. If the light of the cellphone would interfere with your sleep, or if you don't have a cellphone, then you could try learning to write on paper without any light, and hope that whatever marks you made on the paper are enough to remind you of the idea. I previously tried using a TI-92+ graphing calculator, which has a full qwerty keyboard, with which I had enough experience to type unreliably in the text editor without the light on, but I found the uncertainty of whether I had typed it successfully to be more of a nuisance than turning on a light. Or you don't want to try any of these ideas, you can try to use the technique of remembering how many ideas you thought of, and hope that after you wake up you'll be able to remember the number, and also what the ideas were.

  8. I don't have anything especially helpful to say about this one. Just use whatever memorization techniques you find most helpful. Also try any anxiety-reducing techniques you find helpful.

  9. I don't have anything especially helpful to say about this one either. Though the first step is to stop panicking, so use whatever panic-reducing techniques you find most helpful. Maybe focus on making at least some progress, rather than becoming discouraged by how much there is to be done.


This reminded me of a dream I had the night before Sunday, Dec 2, 2012, which I posted to my livejournal blog the next day. I'm not sure what I expect to accomplish by posting this here, but I thought you might find it interesting. Here is what I wrote about that dream:

" A scene where I dreamt I was reading the next chapter of HPMOR. It was extremely vivid. As if I was there. Very clear image and sound. Even some dramatic music. Ominous countdown to doom music. At least 3 different instruments.

Quirrel's plan is revealed. He plans to destroy the universe and re-create it "in his own image". Simpler laws of physics, that grant him unlimited power just by physically being at the center of the new universe. The new universe also contains magic, the dream showed a simple two-gesture spell that would allow Quirrel to "become a sun god", allowing him to create, destroy, and manipulate stars.

Quirrel's plan involved some extremely powerful magic, beyond what anyone thought possible. It involved creating a sphere of ultra-condensed matter, energy, space, and time, just outside Hogwarts. Quirrel put his plan into action during the last moments of his life, but as he entered the sphere of "MEST compression", subjective time for him slowed down by orders of magnitude, and he had immense power, allowing him to create the massive structures required for his plan in what looked like just a few seconds to the world outside the sphere. And there were other sentient beings in the sphere with him. Harry was there, near the center of the sphere, tricked into believing that he was saving this universe, not helping to destroy it. Also some other characters, with a generic "shopkeeper" or "smith" personality, who were in charge of helping the construction of something that vaguely resembled a series of Large Hadron Colliders, enormous metal rings and other structures arranged in a precise 3d structure resembling an enormous lattice, or cage. Quirrel giving instructions to these assistants on how to assemble the structure. The dream showed some of their replies. "You're not going to believe this, but there's this giant metal tube floating towards me. It's exactly the shape you described, but Merlin it's huge! I cant even see the end of it! I'm standing by to attach it to the next piece, which is also floating this way now. This won't be easy."

And so Quirrel continued assembling the structure. Most of it went according to plan, but then one of the helpers, panicking, informed him that one of the pieces wasn't lining up correctly. Harry had figured out that something was wrong with Quirrel's plan. He deactivated the barrier around the sphere, and summoned McGonagall, who also earned immense power when she entered the sphere. Harry told her some of what was happening, and said that they needed to find a wristwatch that Quirrel had charmed, which was somehow controlling the time compression. McGonagall found the watch, and started to move it out of place, but then Quirrel found her. Quirrel was far to powerful to be killed directly, but if they could somehow delay his plans long enough, he was already dying. McGonagall didn't stand a chance in the battle, but Quirrel didn't destroy her entirely, he instead left her mostly powerless. He hadn't given up on regaining Harry's trust.

The scene ended on a cliffhanger. "Wait until next week when I'm finished writing the next chapter to find out what happens next" "

"You can't put a price on a human life."

"I agree, but unfortunately reality has already put a price on human life, and that price is much less than 5 million dollars. By refusing to accept this, you are only refusing to make an informed decision about which lives to purchase."

I like the idea. This is something that could be useful to anyone, not just as part of the Rationality Curriculum.

Here is a related idea I posted about before:

Another random idea I had was to make a text adventure game, where you participate in conversations, and sometimes need to interrupt a conversation to point out a logical fallacy, to prevent the conversation from going off-track and preventing you from getting the information you needed from the conversation.

See also The Less Wrong Video Game

One obvious idea for an exercise is MBlume's Positive Bias Test, which is available online.

But of course everyone taking the course would probably already be familiar with the standard example implemented in the app. I would suggest updating the app to have several different patterns, of varying degrees of complexity, and a way for the user to choose the difficulty level before starting the app. I would expect that to be not too hard to implement, and useful enough to be worth implementing.

downvote this comment if you want to balance out the karma from an upvote to the other comment.

Please upvote this comment if you would have at least some use for a "saving the world wiki"

"persuade other people to do it for me"? Don't you mean "persuade other people to do it with me"?

other than that, this is an awesome post! I totally want to be your ally! :)

Congratulations on your altruism! If you really are as altruistic as you claim to be.

I'm the person who mentioned there should be a "saving the world wiki", by the way. The main thing that's stopping me from going ahead and starting it myself is that noone else expressed any interest in actually using this wiki if I created it.

Also, I've already made some previous attempts to do something like this, and they were pretty much complete failures. Costly failures. Costing lots of time and money.

(sorry for not noticing this post until now)

I'm going to try to apply some Bayesian math to the question of whether it makes sense to believe "if you aren't sad about my bad situation then that means you don't care about me"

In this example, Person X is in a bad situation, and wants to know if Person Y cares about them.

To use Bayes' theorem, we are interested in the following probabilities:

P(A) is 'Person Y cares about Person X'

P(B) is 'Person Y feels sad about Person X's situation'

P(C) is 'Person Y expresses sadness about Person X's situation'

Let's use P(B) as an abbreviation for either P(B given C) or P(B given not C). Because we're doing these calculations after Person X already knows whether or not Person Y expressed sadness. In other words, I'm assuming that P(B) has already been updated on C.

Bayes' theorem says that P(A given B) is P(B given A) times P(A) over P(B).

P(B given A) and P(A) make it go up, P(B) makes it go down.

Bayes' theorem says that P(not A given not B) is P(not B given not A) times P(not A) over P(not B).

P(not B given not A) and P(not A) make it go up, P(not B) makes it go down.

So this tells us:

The more uncertain Person X is about whether Person Y cares about them, the more they'll worry about whether Person Y feels sad about any specific misfortune Person X is experiencing.

Different people probably have different beliefs about what P(A given B) is. Someone who thinks that this value is high will be more reassured by someone feeling sad about their situation, and someone who thinks this value is low will be less reassured. So this value will be different for a different person X, and also for a different person Y.

Different people probably have different beliefs about what P(not A given not B) is. Someone who thinks that this value is high will be more worried by someone not feeling sad about their situation, and someone who thinks this value is low will be less worried. So this value will be different for a different person X, and also for a different person Y.

If Person Y somehow feels equally sad about the misfortune of people e specifically cares about, and people e doesn't even know, then P(B given A) is equal to P(B), and whether they feel sad about any particular misfortune of Person X doesn't give any new information about whether Person Y cares about person X.

Similarly, if Person Y never feels sadness about anyone's misfortune, then P(B given A) is equal to P(B), and the fact that Person Y doesn't feel sad about any particular misfortune of Person X doesn't give any new information about whether Person Y cares about person X.

And if Person Y is somehow less likely to feel sad about the misfortunes of people e cares about, than people e doesn't care about... then all this would be reversed? This isn't really relevant anyway, so I won't bother checking the math.

I am very likely to have made a mistake somewhere in this comment. Halfway through writing this comment I started to get really fuzzyheaded.

Most of this was already obvious before doing the math, but I think there was at least some value to this exercise.

Also, I very strongly suspect that I'm completely missing the point of... something...

oh, right, I was trying to answer the question of whether it makes sense to believe "if you aren't sad about my bad situation then that means you don't care about me"

and the answer is... sometimes. It depends on the variables described in the math above.

To me, it still feels Wrong to not feel bad when bad things are happening. Especially when bad things are happening to the people you know and interact with.

I suspect that the reason why it feels Wrong is because I would assume that if someone you know was in a really bad situation, and they saw you not feeling bad about it, they would assume that you don't care about them. I was assuming that "feeling bad when bad things happen to someone" is part of the definition of what it means to care about someone. And I'm naturally reluctant to choose to not care.

oops, I just realized... if the rule is "only have emotions about situations that were within my immediate control", and you know that the other person will feel upset if they don't see you feeling bad about their situation, then that counts as something that's within your immediate control... though something about this seems like it doesn't quite fit... it feels like I'm interpreting the rule to mean something other than what was intended...

Also, I'll admit that I have almost no idea how many people believe "if you aren't sad about my bad situation then that means you don't care about me", and how many people don't believe this. I'm still not sure if I believe this, but I think I'm leaning towards "no".

but if you happen to have the "gift" of "sadness asymbolia", then you can go ahead and show sadness about other people's bad situations, and not experience the negative affect of this sadness. And of course it also has all those other benefits that Will mentioned.

"fear asymbolia" also seems like it would be extremely helpful.

Something also feels Wrong about enjoying sadness. If you happen to enjoy sadness, then you need to be really careful not to deliberately cause harmful things to happen to yourself or others, just for the sake of experiencing the sadness.

and yet somehow "nonjudgemental acceptance" doesn't feel wrong... these mindfulness techniques seem like an entirely good idea.

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