Sep 15, 2015 - Julia Galef

Insights from the alumni reunion

Is it my imagination, or is there something about being in windswept landscapes -- especially by the water -- that makes it so much easier to come up with new insights? Last month over 100 CFAR alumni from around the world converged on Asilomar State Beach, on the edge of Northern California, for our second annual reunion. And I know I wasn't the only one whose frequency of exclaiming, "Whoa!...

Aug 19, 2015 - Julia Galef

Why learning to fix little "bugs" can make a big difference

We spend a fair amount of time at CFAR workshops tackling "bugs" in our daily lives. But does learning to solve small problems really make a big difference? Recent CFAR alum and Oxford student, Ben Albert Pace, posted this thoughtful discussion of the "debugging" mindset on his personal blog. Excerpt below; read the whole thing here. ~ One criticism of the utility of getting better at solving these, is that...

May 8, 2015 - Julia Galef

Back from Boston

We're back from running our first-ever rationality workshop in Boston. (Well, actually, a rustic retreat in Harvard, MA, about 50 minutes outside of Boston). We usually try a few new things each time we run a workshop, while keeping most of our tried-and-true features constant. This workshop was no exception. For one, we had an unprecedentedly large cohort of participants: 38 instead of our typical 25, which seemed to work...

May 5, 2015 - Julia Galef

Q&A: Isn't self-deception sometimes productive?

We'll be taking people's questions about life, philosophy, and rationality, and giving them our best off-the-cuff answers here on the CFAR blog. Q: "How do we confront the fact that having false beliefs is sometimes more efficient and productive?" A: I'm willing to accept that, in principle, false beliefs can help you achieve your goals. But in practice, I think self-deception is rarely your best option. Basically, the problem with...

Mar 22, 2015 - Peter McIntyre

Taking control of your happiness and productivity

What's one thing you can do to improve your physical and mental health, be happier and more successful? Before I tell you the answer, first try answering these questions (interpretation in the footnotes [1]). For each question select the statement (a or b) that you agree with the most. a) Many of the unhappy things in people’s lives are partly due to bad luck. b) People’s misfortunes result from the...

Mar 2, 2015 - Peter McIntyre

Keep Your Identity Fluid

Keep your identity small? Why do some discussions involving smart and reasonable people generate such emotive responses and so often go nowhere? Why does this happen more often for politics and religion than for discussing, say, preferred sock colours? In Paul Graham’s essay Keep Your Identity Small, he suggests that these topics are often too close to our identities which can obscure the truth: Do religion and politics have something...