Taking the Hammertime Final Exam

[alk­jash just finished his su­perb Ham­mer­time se­quence. I’m tak­ing him up on his Ham­mer­time Fi­nal Exam to come up with:

  • an in­stru­men­tal ra­tio­nal­ity technique

  • a con­cept /​ framework

  • a cog­ni­tive bias

with just 5 min­utes of brain­storm­ing + 5 min­utes of writ­ing for each. The re­sults are be­low.]

Box Your Brain:

Some­times, your brain will come up with re­ally great rea­sons to do re­ally stupid things. Well, maybe they’re not to­tally stupid, but you don’t have the time to do some sort of fancy in-depth anal­y­sis to see what’s up. Or, you know that your Sys­tem 1 is com­pro­mised. In those cases, just Box Your Brain.

Okay, so box­ing AIs doesn’t seem to work that well. Un­less you pre­com­mit, of course, such that you can’t your­self boxed. That’s the same idea here. You know that you know that you know…(and all the way up) that you’re run­ning off faulty hard­ware.

So just tell your­self, “Nope, box­ing my brain right now.” And go off and do the Vir­tu­ous Thing that you already know is Good and Cor­rect. It’s your brain, and you can use it how you want. Some­times the right thing to do is to stop listen­ing and run with your meta-knowl­edge.

Ex­cep­tions All The Way Down:

You know how the right thing to do is always listen to your gut? Ex­cept for when your gut’s wrong?

You know how the right thing to do is always to write stuff down? Ex­cept for when writ­ing stuff down isn’t helpful?

Yeah, so there’s this thing here that’s sort of like the meta­con­trar­ian cy­cle hap­pen­ing in ra­tio­nal­ity. At least a good third of ra­tio­nal­ity is try­ing to draw gen­er­al­iza­tions around things. We love to work off ab­strac­tion. This is go­ing to lead to quite valuable heuris­tics; and of course there will be lots of edge cases.

Rules aren’t ab­solute. Some­times they get bro­ken. So what does that leave us with? Well, one thing is we can get spe­cific down to the situ­a­tion to make our judg­ments, much like the way you can still tell that cer­tain moral de­ci­sions are re­pug­nant, even if The Sys­tem de­clares that said de­ci­sion is the “right one”.

No Do-overs:

Here’s a thing I think at least some peo­ple are averse to: do­ing things again. Imag­ine you’re chat­ting with a stranger. The con­ver­sa­tion finishes, and the two of you part ways. Then, BAM! You re­mem­ber some­thing cool that’d be great to bring up.

I pos­tu­late that the aver­sion you feel to­wards run­ning back to the other per­son and bring­ing up said piece of cool­ness grows faster than your abil­ity to run. That is, there will be a point where it will be in the­ory pos­si­ble to catch up to the other party—and it’ll also feel Bad.

This feels like the same rea­son that some­one might feel Bad fol­low­ing up again to ask some­one for di­rec­tions, af­ter already hav­ing asked them for di­rec­tions a few min­utes prior. There’s some­thing about “go­ing back and try­ing to redo the same in­ter­ac­tion” that I think feels bad.

And I also think it shouldn’t.

Some­thing some­thing about so­cial roles and how in­ter­ac­tions are “sup­posed” to gen­er­ally fol­low some as­sump­tions about how of­ten they hap­pen, and two in­ter­ac­tions in rapid suc­ces­sion feels weird.

Ex­cept that I think most peo­ple are fine with mul­ti­ple in­ter­ac­tions de­spite the weird­ness. Or, at least, there are good ways to do this well.

So leave that Bad­ness be­hind.

Do it again!

(And again! And again!)