Write Down Your Process

Previously: Help Us Find Your Blog (and others)

Mark Rosewater is the lead designer of the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. This means he is part of Magic’s R&D department, one of the world’s few pockets of cooperation, sanity and competence. They are not explicit rationalists as such, but they embody many of the most important virtues we aspire to, and by doing so they manage to create an amazing game and community with a far-too-small team on a shoestring budget.

One of the game’s and department’s best features is its openness. While work on future card sets and future decisions need to be kept secret, a tradition has developed that the thinking process used by R&D is shared freely with the world, as are the stories surrounding past card sets and decisions. Competitive Magic players have also developed the tradition of sharing their methods and ideas with the world whenever possible via articles and free discussion, only working in secret for brief periods before major competitions.

This is insanely great. Writing down your history, mental models and thought process makes you understand them better, helps others understand and learn from them, and those others respond to help you improve.

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Posted in Facebook Sequence, Good Advice, Magic: The Gathering, Personal Experience, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Choices are Bad

Epistemic Status: Spent way too long deciding what to put here

Kind of a Follow-Up to: Change is Bad

Will Hopefully Lead To, But No Promises: Some combination of, when and if I write them: Complexity is Bad, Choices Are Really Bad, Frontload Choices, Delay Choices, Avoid Choices, Simplify Choices, Destroy Choices, Make Good Choices, On Choice Algorithms

Note that the title is not: Against Choices

We all know about The Paradox of Choice. There have been posts and lectures, and a book by that name.

It’s even two of the ten principles of economics, as is explained here:

I recommend it. It’s quite fun and is more insightful than you would think. I’ll assume below that you’ve watched at least the explanation of the first two laws.

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Posted in Rationality, Reference, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Change Is Bad

Epistemic Status: Public service reminder (I want to be able to link to this in the future)

Leads to: Choices are BadChoices Are Really BadComplexity Is Bad

Almost all changes are bad.

Image result for i want things to be different oh no

People forget that. They say they want change. They say things like:

At the end of the day, I want to see change come about, whatever it would take. Whatever it would take to see change come about, I would welcome. – Chumbawamba, Be With You

What they actually want one of those rare, carefully chosen good, friendly changes. They do exist within change space.

Change space, like mind space, is deep and wide. Friendly change space isn’t quite to change space what friendly mind space is to mind space, but before you apply any filters of common sense, it’s remarkably close.

The more optimized things currently are, the less likely any given change is to be good.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

On the Seattle Minimum Wage Study (part 2)

Previously: On the Seattle Minimum Wage Study (part 1)

Epistemic Status: If My Calculation Are Correct…


Some links:

Link to Paper: Original Working Paper

National Review: Critics Have Study Wrong

Forbes: Both Sides Might Be Right

Washington Post: $15 Minimum Wage Might Not Help Workers

Also Washington Post: Maine Tipped Workers Don’t Want Minimum Wage Increase

Bryan Caplan: No One’s Mind Will Change

Arnold Kling: Response to Caplan to Not Give Up

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Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

On the Seattle Minimum Wage Study (part 1)

Epistemic Status (written before I looked at the paper): This new paper confirms all of my priors.

(Which is no longer the epistemic status because things started looking weird, but one step at a time). I’m publishing part 1 now because I don’t want things to drag on forever, and the calculation I just did looks weird enough that it’s a decent stopping point.


Seattle has raised its minimum wage to $13 an hour ($12 for small employers) and will soon raise it to $15. Armed with a unique data set, a new working paper claims that even the increase so far has had a big enough effect on low-wage employment that it has backfired on low-wage employees, costing them more in hours than they have gained in pay. Many of the details I read about made the paper and its conclusions appear highly credible, but some of the numbers involved seemed to naively imply crazy things, so I decided it would be worthwhile to read the actual paper.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Just Saying What You Mean is Impossible

Response to: Conversation Deliberately Skirts the Border of Incomprehensibility (SlateStarCodex)

“Why don’t people just say what they mean?”

They can’t.

I don’t mean they don’t want to. I don’t mean that they choose not to. I don’t even mean they have been socially conditioned not to. I mean they literally have no way to do the thing. 

I don’t even mean that they don’t know how in some sense, that they have not realized the possibility. It is literally impossible to “just” say what you mean. With work, you can mostly just say what you mean, but even that is hard. 

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Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

On Dragon Army

Analysis Of: Dragon Army: Theory & Charter (30 Minute Read)

Epistemic Status: Varies all over the map from point to point

Length Status: In theory I suppose it could be longer

This is a long post is long post responding to a almost as long (and several weeks and several controversy cycles old, because life comes at you fast on the internet) post, which includes extensive quoting from the original post and assumes you have already read the original. If you are not interested in a very long analysis of another person’s proposal for a rationalist group house, given that life is short, you can (and probably should) safely skip this one.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments