2019-20 New Year review

This is an annual post reviewing the last year and making resolutions and predictions for next year. This year’s edition features sleep tracking, intermittent fasting, overcommitment busting, and evaluating calibration for all annual predictions since 2014.

2019 review

AI safety research:

AI safety outreach:

  • Co-organized FLI’s Beneficial AGI conference in Puerto Rico, a more long-term focused sequel to the original Puerto Rico conference and the Asilomar conference. This year I was the program chair for the technical safety track of the conference.
  • Co-organized the ICLR AI safety workshop, Safe Machine Learning: Specification, Robustness and Assurance. This was my first time running a paper reviewing process.
  • Gave a talk at the IJCAI AI safety workshop on specification, robustness an assurance problems.
  • Took part in the DeepMind podcast episode on AI safety (“I, robot”).

Work effectiveness:

  • At the beginning of the year, I found myself overcommitted and kind of burned out. My previous efforts to reduce overcommitment had proved insufficient to not feel stressed and overwhelmed most of the time.
  • In February, I made a rule for myself to decline all non-research commitments that don’t seem like exceptional opportunities. The form that I made last year for evaluating commitments (which I have to fill out before accepting anything) has been helpful for enforcing this rule and avoiding impulsive decisions. The number of commitments went down from 24 in 2019 to 10 in 2019. This has been working well in terms of having more time for research and feeling better about life.
  • Organizing a conference and a workshop back to back was a bit much, and I feel done with organizing large events for a while.

and-now-my-watch-has-ended

  • Stopped using work cycles and pomodoros since I’ve been finding the structure a bit too restrictive. Might resume at some point.
  • Hours of “deep work” per month, as defined in the Deep Work book. This includes things like thinking about research problem, coding, reading and writing papers. It does not include email, organizing, most meetings, coding logistics (e.g. setup or running experiments), etc.

deep_work_2019

  • For comparison, deep work hours from 2018. My definition of deep work has somewhat broadened over time, but not enough to account for this difference.deep_work_2018

Health / self-care:

  • I had 7 colds this past year, which is a lot more than my usual rate of 1-2 per year. The first three were in Jan-Feb, which seemed related to the overcommitment burnout. Hopefully supplementing zinc will help.
  • Averaged 7.2 hours of sleep per night, excluding jetlag (compared to 6.9 hours in 2018).
  • About a 10% rate of insomnia (excluding jetlag), similar to the end of last year.
  • Tried the Oura ring and the Dreem headband for measuring sleep quality. The Oura ring consistently thinks I wake up many times per night (probably because I move around a lot) and predicts less than half an hour each of deep and REM sleep. The Dreem, which actually measures EEG signals, estimates that I get an average of 1.3 hours of deep sleep and 1.8 hours of REM sleep per night, which is more than I expected.
  • Started a relaxed form of intermittent fasting in March (aiming for a 10 hour eating window), mostly for longevity and to improve my circadian rhythm. My average eating window length over the year was 10.5 hours, so I wasn’t very strict about it (mostly just avoiding snacks after dinner). One surprising thing I learned was that I can fall asleep just fine while hungry, and am often less hungry when I wake up. My average hours of sleep went up from 6.96 in the 6 months before starting intermittent fasting to 7.32 in the 6 months after. I went to sleep 44 minutes earlier and waking up 20 minutes earlier on average, though the variance of my bedtime actually went up a bit. Overall it seems plausibly useful easy enough to continue next year.

Fun stuff:

  • Did a Caucasus hiking trek in Georgia with family, and consumed a lot of wild berries and hazelnuts along the way.

vika_berries

  • Did a road trip in southern Iceland (also with family), saw a ridiculous number of pretty waterfalls, and was in the same room with (artificial) lava.

waterfall

  • Took an advanced class in aerial silks for the first time (I felt a bit underqualified, but learned a lot of fun moves).
  • Ran a half-marathon along the coast in Devon on hilly terrain in 3 hours and 23 minutes.
  • Made some progress on handstands in yoga class (can hold it away from the wall for a few seconds)
  • Did two circling retreats (relational meditation)
  • Read books: The Divide, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, The Circadian Code, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Ending Aging (skimmed).
  • Got into Duolingo (brushed up my Spanish and learned a bit of Mandarin). Currently in a quasi-competition with Janos for studying each other’s languages.

2019 prediction outcomes

Resolutions:

  1. Author or coauthor two or more academic papers (50%) – yes (3 papers)
  2. Accept at most 17 non-research commitments (24 last year) (60%) – yes (10 commitments)
  3. Meditate on at least 250 days (60%) – yes (290 days)

Predictions:

  • Relative reachability paper accepted at a major conference, not counting workshops (60%) – no
  • Continue avoiding processed sugar for the next year (85%) – no (still have the intention and mostly follow it, but less strictly / consistently)
  • 1-2 housemate turnover at Deep End (2 last year) (80%) – yes (1 housemate moved in)
  • At least 5 rationality sessions will be hosted at Deep End (80%) – no

Calibration over all annual reviews:

  • 50-70% well-calibrated, 80-90% overconfident (66 predictions total)
  • Calibration is generally better in 2017-19 (23 predictions) than in 2014-16 (43 predictions). There were only 3 70% predictions in 2017-19, so the 100% accuracy is noisy.
  • Unsurprisingly, resolutions are more often correct than other predictions (72% vs 56% correct)

calibration_chart

2020 resolutions and predictions

Resolutions

  • Author or coauthor three or more academic papers (3 last year) (70%)
  • At most 12 non-research commitments (10 last year) (80%)
  • Meditate on at least 270 days (290 last year) (80%)
  • Read at least 7 books (5 last year) (70%)
  • At least 700 deep work hours (551 last year) (70%)

Predictions

  • I will write at least 5 blog posts (60%)
  • Eating window at most 11 hours on at least 240 days (228 last year) (70%)
  • I will visit at least 4 new cities with population over 100,000 (11 last year) (70%)
  • At most 1 housemate turnover at Deep End (70%)
  • I finish a language in Duolingo (60%)

Past new year reviews: 2018-19, 2017-182016-172015-162014-15.

 

2 thoughts on “2019-20 New Year review

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