Ben_Harack

Topic Contributions

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What are effective ways to help Ukrainians right now?

This is a legit suggestion, so I'm going to strongly upvote the comment. Not sure why the downvotes are coming in, other than, as you say, perhaps indicating that people think that the Red Cross is ineffective, or that Canadian-specific multipliers aren't highly relevant for this discussion.

As an independent researcher, how do you stay or become motivated, productive, and impactful?

Most of these are pithy statements that serve as reminders of much more complicated and nuanced ideas. This is a mix of recitation types, only some of which are explicitly related to motivation. I've summarized, rephrased, and expanded most of these for clarity, and cut entire sections that are too esoteric. Also, something I'd love to try, but haven't, is putting some of these into a spaced repetition practice (I use Anki), since I've heard surprisingly positive things about how well that works.

  1. Be ruthlessly efficient today
  2. <Specific reminder about a habit that I'm seeking to break>
  3. Brainstorm, then execute
  4. If you don't have a plan for it, it isn't going to happen.
  5. A long list of things that you want to do is no excuse for not doing any of them.
  6. Make an extraordinary effort.
  7. <Reminders about particular physical/emotional needs that are not adequately covered by existing habits>
  8. Remember the spheres of control: Total control. Some control. No control. For more info, see here: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Sphere-of-control-FF.pdf
  9. Every problem is an opportunity
  10. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. (might be from Heartsill Wilson)
  11. Think about what isn't being said, but needs to be.
  12. Get results
  13. Life is finite; pursue your cares.
  14. The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression. (paraphrased from Simon Sutton-Smith)
  15. Move gently
  16. Weighted version of "shortest processing time" scheduling algorithm is close to optimal on all metrics. (from "Algorithms to live by")
  17. Exponential backoff for relationships: finite investment, infinite patience. (from "Algorithms to live by")
  18. Doing things right vs doing the right thing.
  19. 10-10-10. (Reference to the technique of thinking about how a decision would be viewed 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years in the future. Modify at your discretion.)
  20. Bookending (think of extreme cases of what you are trying to predict)
  21. Triage - nowadays I'd tell people to go read Holly Elmore's writeup on this, with an emphasis on "We are always in triage. I fervently hope that one day we will be able to save everyone. In the meantime, it is irresponsible to pretend that we aren’t making life and death decisions with the allocation of our resources. Pretending there is no choice only makes our decisions worse."
  22. <several reminders about how I want to act in my relationships>
  23. Change expectations and you change people, including yourself.
  24. What you see is all there is. (Fallacy explained by Philip Tetlock)
  25. The bait and switch - replacing a hard question with an easy one. (Fallacy explained by Philip Tetlock)
  26. Reverse the phrasing of questions and statements (a standard technique for testing the credibility / reasonableness / usefulness of statements or questions)
  27. Destroy your fear of criticism.
  28. Constructive critiques are precious.
  29. <Various personal techniques for de-stressing>
  30. Use counterfactuals.
  31. Mental parliament. (Also see related Moral Parliament or "personal board of directors" ideas.)
  32. Try hard for five minutes. (Reference to Yudkowsky's techniques of this sort.)
  33. The 80-20 rule. Focus on doing 80% of the good.
  34. Deep work.
  35. Every moment is practice. What are you practicing?
  36. Murphyjitsu.
  37. Remember that it is the "experiencing self" who has to execute any plan you make.
  38. Do your work in a way that allows other people to follow you.
  39. Clairvoyance test (Another Tetlock idea: if you passed the question to someone who could see the future, they could give you the answer without having to come back for a re-specification of what the question actually is.)
  40. When you reach the end of what you can comprehend, you probably haven't found nature's limits, but your own.
  41. Wittgenstein's ruler (Unless you have confidence in the ruler's reliability, if you use a ruler to measure a table you may also be using the table to measure the ruler.)
     
As an independent researcher, what are the biggest bottlenecks (if any) to your motivation, productivity, or impact?

For me what leaps to mind is all of the in-between stuff, like proofreading, LateX issues, graphics, plots, etc. Of course, I've also tried to hire help on some of these fronts with very mixed results (generally negative). So I guess I'd say that fundamentally, independent work can really suffer from its independence (not having various supports and connections that would make it better). Building relationships and collaborations that alleviate these problems is part of being an effective independent researcher.

As an independent researcher, how do you stay or become motivated, productive, and impactful?

Prioritize ruthlessly. Very few ideas can even be examined, let alone pursued.

As an independent researcher, how do you stay or become motivated, productive, and impactful?

Productivity + meta: Learn to be an effective Red Team, and use this ability on your own ideas and plans. 

As an independent researcher, how do you stay or become motivated, productive, and impactful?

Motivation: Find a way to remind yourself about what you care about (and if needed, why you care about it). This could manifest in any way that works for your. A post-it could be useful. A calendar notification. A standing meeting with colleagues where you do a moment of reflection (a technique that I've seen used to great effect at the Human Diagnosis Project). A list of recitations embedded among TODO list items (my personal technique). 

As an independent researcher, how do you stay or become motivated, productive, and impactful?

Allocate some time to "meta", like studying habit formation and self-management. For starters I might recommend Atomic Habits and some of Cal Newport's work.

The Future Fund’s Project Ideas Competition

Sad that I missed this! Only saw this the day after it closed.

Towards an EA Governance?

I agree that there's a lot to like about this vision. Some of my own work aims in this direction (see Ruling Ourselves if you're interested). Tractability is a major concern however. Major changes like these may very well be possible, but it's very difficult to demonstrate (huge burden of proof) that particular actions can create a world like this. To develop these ideas further, I suggest taking the part of this vision that excites you most (perhaps part that seems more important and tractable than the rest) and really dig deep for a while. It is really useful to understand why a particular governance system has ended up in the equilibrium that it's in. This kind of insight can enable effective work.

Is there an umbrella organization for small EA-ish nonprofits in the US?

(I'm not a lawyer. I'm commenting based on some experience doing similar things in the U.S.)

It depends on what area you are working on. There are a variety of orgs whose mandates span large parts of EA-space. If you know what area you're working on, I suggest focusing on orgs that are closely related to that area. I think that nonprofits have to be able to show how their activities relate to their declared mandate/mission.

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