Rationality Freiburg

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'Trusting experts' & Hamming circle

Start: Friday, October 28, 2022 6:00 pm
End: Friday, October 28, 2022 8:30 pm
Location: coworking freiburg (directly above McDonald's), Kaiser-Joseph-Str. 254, 79098 Freiburg (Map, Coordinates: 47.99372, 7.84877)
This event on meetup.com
This event on lesswrong.com

Update 27.10

Some people reported that the “Trusting Experts” video was hard to follow. Just do your best, try to get what you can out of it and bring some of your own thoughts when and why it’s better to trust experts as opposed to your own judgement and vice versa.


You are worried you have nothing to contribute? No worries! Everyone is welcome!

We will decide on using German or English as the main language depending on the people who turn up. Just come, we will figure it out!

coworking freiburg entrance

coworking freiburg (source)


Video ‘Trusting Experts’

Watch the following video (1 hour) about ‘Trusting experts’

Prepare Hamming circle

Think about at least one problem or bottleneck you have in any area of your life that you might want to discuss with the group. Ideally something you might be willing to accept other people’s advice on, even though of course you have no obligation to do anything anyone suggests.

What will we do?

We will discuss each other’s thoughts on the above video ‘Trusting experts’.

Then we will do one or several rounds of Hamming circles.

A Hamming circle is a tool/process for making some kind of progress on some large, significant bottleneck.

This is slightly vague, because Hamming circles are versatile. Participants at CFAR workshops have brought, into their Hamming circles, all sorts of problems and questions and goals. A sampling:

  • How to find a spouse
  • What to do about my deteriorating relationship with my teenage child
  • Is it possible for me, specifically, to have a meaningful impact on existential risk
  • Something just isn’t right about my life
  • I need to secure $250,000 in seed funding for my startup
  • My partner and I keep having the same fight
  • Even though I know I need to exercise, I just keep not exercising
  • What if everything I’m doing is “fake” and I’m only doing it because I feel like I’m “supposed” to
  • I want to go on a trip. It feels important to go on a trip. But I don’t know why, and I don’t know where, and I don’t know what this trip should be
  • I think I want to quit grad school
  • I’m expected to speak at my father’s funeral and I have nothing but scathing, bitter, angry things to say

What happens in a Hamming circle is fairly similar to what happens in a pair debug, or even when you’re just working through your problems in your own mind. However, the problems tend to be larger or deeper or more confusing or intractable, with the hope being that people will bring their most pressing bottleneck.

(Though bringing something smaller is fine; there shouldn’t be moral pressure to shoulder a heavier problem than one feels ready to handle.)

The idea is that, for the duration of the circle, instead of having access to just one brain’s power, each participant will instead have 3-5x their usual working memory, 3-5x their usual wisdom and life experiences, 3-5x their usual perspective or field-of-view, 3-5x idea generators or problem solving strategies, etc.

There will be snacks and drinks.


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