Men Have, Women Are

Note 1: I'm by default reluctant to write anything explicitly related to gender issues, because our society has a very special way of being stupid about that, and it doesn't feel like adding my voice to the mess would really be, you know, adding anything. I think in this case an exception is justified, because I might genuinely have things to say here which are so controversial that they probably haven't been said before.

Note 2: Yes, I know, it's very e...

Superhuman Meta Process

This is a more-or-less complete blueprint of the process I'm currently using to run my life on the meta level. It is organized around four major principles, each of which represents a non-trivial design decision. This means that you could negate each of them, and get something arguably sensible. The minor points serve to explain further, and to map out some consequences of taking the major principles seriously. For me, they are also cached thoughts that help me make dec...

Shell, Shield, Staff


There is a certain high-level pattern of progress seen in almost every human activity, which I like to call “growth triplets”. A growth triplet follows an archetypal sequence of three stages: naive, clever, and wise, with the exact meanings of these terms varying depending on the situation. The defining feature of the pattern is that the third stage has some unexpected similarities to the first one. Because of this, most people have to ...

Actionable Eisenhower

Note: This is a small peek into the kind of background model-building that goes into Be Well Tuned. I don't currently have resources to invest into writing, so the description is pretty bare-bones. On the positive side, I have changed the blog theme to black text on light background - I hope that makes it more readable.

The Eisenhower matrix is a (somewhat) useful high-level framing of a certain aspect of productivity...

Spontaneous Trumpeting

There are some things which after a period of contemplation acquire a definite "I want to trumpet this from the rooftops" quality, and which I end up not saying because the world doesn't seem to be listening anyway. I also don't have enough clarity and/or writing skill to force the world to listen.

Some of these thoughts come across in comments (for example on LessWrong 2.0), where I somehow feel l...

Notes on Mental Security

Note: these are some rough, preliminary notes on mental security, defined as the art and discipline of keeping one's mental software free from hostile external influence. Or in other words, having a mind able to achieve its own goals, rather than goals of, say, Moloch or other people which happened to be around. This is supposed to serve as a reference point for discussion and further thought...

Happiness Is a Chore

I've literally run out of cynicism.

Not so long ago, one of my long-term strategic projects felt especially close to my heart. The project could be summarized as something like "give happiness to people who already have rationality as a prerequisite".

In my rampaging naivety, I had thought the hard part was to figure out happiness. What was I thinking? To find out, follow this short imaginary conversation with my old self.


The Little Dragon is Dead


This is a story of my 2-year-long struggle with an unwanted habit of cracking my neck, which had gotten out of hand around 2013-2015. If it seems to you like it's not a serious problem, consider:

  • it's a serious health hazard (it seems that repeated strain of the neck area can eventually cause e.g. a stroke),

  • it made me look socially awkward, bordering on retarded at the peak of ...

You Too Can See Suffering

Content warning: the last part of this post is saying some things that might be uncomfortable to hear, in a sharp tone which you might not like.


I'm spending this week living in Airbnb with my partner. The host, a young Chinese woman, has a dog. Mixed-breed. Maybe half a year old. Underfed. Lonely. Mostly left alone for the day. It's a young dog goddamit, it wants to play. Or rather it must play! Play is needed to develop s...

Time to Exit the Sandbox


This will be short and to the point.

Sometimes when you are learning something, you reach a point when you are constrained by raw power. Think physics and particle accelerators.

You compensate by being better at interpreting subtle evidence. Even with low power, you can learn most of anything if you have good models, and do the hard work of extracting a weak signal from noise.

However if you find yourself in this situation, inc...

Understanding Policy Gradients


There are three stances one can take when dealing with a mathematical subject.

The first one is the engineering/practical/below math stance:

  • what works, works
  • mistakes can be avoided by doing empirical tests
  • math is difficult and scary

The second one is the symbolic/formal stance:

  • we can rely on what comes out of equations/proofs
  • mistake...

The Unyoga Manifesto


Yoga, as commonly taught, in a multitude of versions descended from the Indian tradition, gets some crucial things right. At the same time, it gets some other things terribly wrong.

One obvious thing it gets wrong is attaching metaphysical or religious meaning to all the teachings. But annoying as it can be, I do not consider it a deal breaker for anyone who has half-decent epistemic habits. It is fairly trivial to filter out the wordy noise a...

A Fearsome Rationality Technique

"I'm not weird. I'm just optimized."

This is a rare chance to learn some little-known rationality lore. Proceed cautiously, according to the instructions below.

Before you start, please remember -- never question a technique until you have mastered it. Your weak, human mind is certain to raise objections as you make progress on this path -- but this weakness will be overcome with time. Eventually, the technique will becom...

Real Languages Are Second Order

Note: this is a carrier class conceptual identification. What I'll write might superficially sound like postmodernist blathering. I assure you it is not, though I realize that there is no way to tell the difference... unless you already understand what I'm trying to say in this post. There is nothing I can do but try to say it anyway.

A musician wants you to appreciate their melodies. But their real pride is the emotions they are putting into the music....

Philosophical Parenthood

Note: In this post, I lay out a strong philosophical argument for rational and intelligent people to have children. Even if you are not interested in the topic itself, you might find some of the (tentative) mental models presented here useful.


Why would anyone ever use philosophical arguments to settle questions about parenthood? Well, to answer that, we'll need a good philosophical argument for acting on philosophical arguments....

The AI Alignment Problem Has Already Been Solved(?) Once

Hat tip: Owen posted about trying to one-man the AI control problem in 1 hour. What the heck, why not? In the worst case, it's a good exercise. But I might actually have come across something useful.


I will try to sell you on an idea that might prima facie appear to be quirky and maybe not that interesting. However, if you keep staring at it, you might find that it reaches into the s...

Make Your Observations Pay Rent


Elon Musk said during the panel at the Asilomar conference ("Beneficial AI 2017 Conference"):

[...] Everyone is already superhuman. And a cyborg. The limitation is one of bandwidth. We're bandwidth constrained, particularly on output. Our input is much better, but our output is extremely slow. If you want to be generous, you could say mayb...

Effects of carbon dioxide on health and cognition


  • Really high concentrations of CO2 (30,000 - 40,000 ppm) produce obvious and terribly bad physiological effects.

  • CO2 levels even in poorly ventilated buildings rarely exceed 3,000 - 5,000 ppm.

  • The evidence about those levels of CO2 directly affecting cognition remains inconclusive.

  • How...

Prediction Calibration - Doing It Right


To improve your skill at predicting the future, you work on two things - accuracy and calibration. There are well established and mathematically pretty ways to score accuracy. However, scoring calibration tends to be a mixture of eyeballing histograms and calculating fractions of failed predictions for arbitrary fixed ranges of confidence. This is not ideal.
First, let's talk a...

Applied Rationality Exercises

I was just about to run an introductory workshop around applied rationality, mindfulness, effective communication etc. in Warsaw, Poland when I got the flu, which forced me to stay in bed for a few days. A friend agreed to replace me at the event, and I wrote up the following notes for him.

The notes are not comprehensive, and do not include any background information or explanations. However, the availability of this kind of materials seems to be low, so there is a chance someon...

On Risk of Viral Infections from Chlorella


In November 2014, a certain study caused a great deal of panic. The study reported detecting traces of a Chlorella virus (ATCV-1) in samples from human throats, and finding a decrease of cognitive capacity in those infected with it. The authors of the study report that they had further verified their result by infecting mice with the same virus, and finding that they had lower performance on solving some puzzles versus mice in the control group.<...

Internal Race Conditions


You might be familiar with the concept of a 'bug', as introduced by CFAR. By using the computer programming analogy, it frames any problem you might have in your life as something fixable... even more - as something to be fixed, something such that fixing it or thinking about how to fix it is the first thing that comes to mind when you see such a problem, or 'bug'.
Let's try another analogy in the same style, with something called 'race conditio...

Neutralizing Physical Annoyances

Once in a while, I learn something about a seemingly unrelated topic - such as freediving - and I take away some trick that is well known and "obvious" in that topic, but is generally useful and NOT known by many people outside. Case in point, you can use equalization techniques from diving to remove pressure in your ears when you descend in a plane or a fast lift.


Reading about a few equalization techniques took me maybe 5 minutes...

Against Amazement


The feelings of wonder, awe, amazement. It's a very human experience, and it is processed in the brain as a type of pleasure. If fact, if we look at the number of "5 photos you wouldn't believe" and similar clickbait on the Internet, it functions as a mildly addictive drug.
If I proposed that there is something wrong with those feelings, I would soon be drowned in voices of critique, pointing out that I'm suggesting we all become straw Vulcans, and that...

Non-Fiction Book Reviews

These are fairly well known, however there is a chance you haven't read all of them - in which case, this might be helpful.

Good and Real - Gary Drescher ★★★★★
This is one of my top favorites from rationality-themed books. Goes over a lot of philosophy, while showing a lot of clear thinking and meta-thinking. Number one replacement for Eliezer's meta-philosophy, if it had not existed. The writing style and language is somew...

Geometric Bayesian Update

Today, I present to you Bayes theorem like you have never seen it before.
Take a moment to think about the equation in the Bayes theorem. How would you calculate it using only basic geometry?
Or, to state it more precisely: you are given the unit segment, as well as line segments of lengths equal to P(H), P(E | H) and P(E | ~H) (or the ratio of the last two, if you prefer). How do you get P(H | E) only by drawing straight lines on paper? Can you think of a way that would be po...

Abuse of Productivity Systems

Example 1.
Bob's dream had always been to learn French, and to live in France after he retires early from his high-paying management job. Recently, he used the flashcard program Anki to help him with learning French, and had considerable success with it.
In fact, he has learned French to complete fluency in around one and a half year, and he attributes much of this result to using Anki effectively. His habit of learning Anki every day is very strong, and he al...