Writing this post as rationality case study

[Before I begin: If you don’t like this post, please let me know why. Even just few words like boring/​off-topic/​poorly-written may give me something to work with.]

I wish to share a late struggle I have with rationality, because I think that it touches some interesting points. But more importantly—because I think that it is important to think about rationality in the context of concrete day-to-day decisions. This post is going to be messy and have no specific “point” or definite conclusion—like real life decisions.

Like many, I am attracted to content creation. I like to think about stuff and share my insights and patterns of thoughts, and like the idea that one day I will be able to spread them far and wide. To begin moving in that direction, I lately published two posts. The first was ignored, and the second heavily downvoted. Then I stopped to think.

Why do I want that really? The immediate flattering answer is that I value good ideas and view their creation as the highest public service. The less flattering answer is that I like prestige and want more of it. The interesting answer is that the will to create content is not that different from the will to have children: The memes that ended up inhabiting my brain are those who successfully spread themselves across society—often by convincing their host that meme-spreading is a good idea. It mean that I should expect exactly what I see—that the will to spread memes will be wide-spread, and therefore highly competitive. That people put extraordinary effort into writing books with very small success rates, when the positive black swans are just not big enough to justify it (if money was the sole consideration).

I first thought about it as a bias for content-creation, and wanted to write a post about that, but I probably don’t endorse this framing anymore. Let’s say that I buy that analysis—does it really mean that I shouldn’t pursue that goal? It seem less respectable now, for sure. It seem less likely to maximize my happiness or my contribution to society, but it doesn’t make me not want it. Is it a terminal value of mine, or just a tool that I refuse to put down when I see it don’t work? How would I tell? Does the distinction even make sense given that I’m not an ideal agent?

When did all those thoughts come up anyway? When I saw the downvotes and wanted to shy away. Downvotes which I pretty much expected, and which should therefore not have cause a significant update. Motivated reasoning my way out of difficult situation. So… what? What should I do when I find an argument convincing, but know that it was generated by flawed motivations?

Now I think those where all the wrong questions, or maybe the right questions in the wrong time—big, and abstract, and all inside my brain. It will make sense to ask whether my goal is worth extraordinary effort, and how extraordinary exactly it would have to be—after I make some ordinary effort. No point to worry about it after I was merely trying to try, and found out that trying is hard...