[Link] Research as a Stochastic Decision Process

post by arikr · 2019-09-10T22:25:24.651Z · score: 29 (11 votes) · EA · GW · 3 comments


Via Gwern.

In this post I will talk about an approach to research (and other projects that involve high uncertainty) that has substantially improved my productivity. Before implementing this approach, I made little research progress for over a year; afterwards, I completed one project every four months on average. Other changes also contributed, but I expect the ideas here to at least double your productivity if you aren't already employing a similar process.

Many EA type activities could benefit from this framework!


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2019-09-12T22:09:57.354Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Even smart people will often intuitively (that is to say, without realizing it, or only dimly realize it) shy away from the part of the project that would provide information that would tell them they're doing the wrong thing. This is part of the value of things like gantt charts and other project maps in that even though the plans they are typically used to generate fail when colliding with reality, they can alert you to ways you are fooling yourself about the most uncertain parts of a project.

comment by ishi · 2019-09-15T14:38:10.625Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · EA · GW

My own approach i describe as multiobjective optimization but more based on simulated annealing/statistical mechanics) and deals with 'stopping times' rather than 'fail rates' though they are closely connected. I think maybe many EA affiliated people will not go through that whole paper--at least the few i've met. (I was told to get a CS degree either at UCSF where i had a job in theoretical biology or stanford, so i chose the 'stopping time' or 'fail rate'. I was pretty succesful at failing. Completed failing at 4 projects in 4 months. Condoleeza Rice also teaches at Stanford now---she helped win the war in Afghanistsan, Iraq, etc. No, good deed goes unrewarded.

comment by arikr · 2019-09-17T05:25:33.462Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Could you please elaborate on how I could apply this? Or where can I learn more?