Notes from an Applied Rationality Workshop

I just came home from an Applied Rationality Workshop, which means I just spent four days talking about emotions, my emotions and other people’s emotions.

I exaggerate for effect, but only slightly. If your image of rationality is Plato’s image of the rational driver whipping the irrationally emotional horses, then you are not talking about the same things that are meant in this context.

This is not one part of your brain whipping another one sore, but having a conversation between so that they can work together as a team, with less whipping than most people are currently doing.

If you want the one-sentence version (or my one-sentence version): applied rationality is about getting your minds to be a good team [1].

A few random notes from the workshop:

It was even better than I expected. I had expected a positive experience, with more highs than lows (or I wouldn’t have made the investment of going to the workshop). In fact, everything was excellent. Even topics that I felt I already understood pretty well were often discussed in new ways, with new connections to other material.

All of the material is evidence-based to the best of current knowledge and there is a refreshing hesitancy to speculate and over-interpret. I have a bit of an urge to call it evidence-based New Age or something similarly contradictory to highlight the fact that there are many connections to that movement in terms of some of the goals, but with a scientific approach.

Everyone at CFAR is very smart and everyone is very different.

I learned a lot about teaching too. Explicitly from one of the sessions, but also tacitly from the way that the material was presented.

Having been away from Carnegie Mellon for a while, being back in such a completely nerdy environment gave a positive sense of nostalgia. The Riemann hypothesis was mentioned several times, metaphorically. Not all of the participants fit into the stereotype (and perhaps neither do I), but it was certainly clear and it certainly gave me a feeling of oh, I’m back here (naturally being back in the USA always gave me that feeling).

[1] and your body is one of your minds too.



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