Saving the world in 80 days: Epilogue

80 days ago, I started a pro­duc­tivity sprint for be­ing use­ful in the field of AI al­ign­ment. My main goal was to have a bet­ter self-model in or­der to push my­self with­out burn­ing out. I’ll sep­a­rate this into knowl­edge, emo­tions, health, and notic­ing.

Knowledge

I’ve felt my mind ex­pand more in these past 80 days than any semester in col­lege due to read­ing these dense, no-fluff text­books. How To Prove It, Jayne’s Prob­a­bil­ity The­ory, & Tao’s “Anal­y­sis I” have grown me a LOT (I read 4 chap­ters of Jayne’s as recom­mended in Miri’s re­search guide, and I’m cur­rently on ch. 5 on Tao’s).

I’ve no­tice a ten­dency in my­self to get im­pa­tient and de­sire to skip the ex­er­cises, and that screwed me over when try­ing to get through Lin­ear Alge­bra Done Right where I only made it to ch. 4. So, as an ex­er­cise for the reader, don’t skip the ex­er­cises for the reader, or you’ll be weak sauce.

Emotions

Every­thing was go­ing great un­til 40 days ago: I lost a friend, had to fire a friend, moved, de­con­verted from Chris­ti­an­ity, ex­pe­rienced ex­treme ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship un­cer­tainty, and just felt lonely. I’ve read and re-read Valen­tine’s griev­ing well, and Squir­re­lin­hell’s ex­pla­na­tion of Gendlin’s fo­cus­ing and more gen­eral emo­tional tun­ing. They’ve helped a lot. I’m definitely still deal­ing with feel­ing lonely, but I feel like I’m mostly through the rest which is re­as­sur­ing.

I’ve no­ticed the ten­dency to dis­tract my­self away from the pain with fic­tion, but the proper re­sponse is to look into the pain, ac­knowl­edg­ing that it ex­ists, that it’s part of re­al­ity, that it’s still true even if I dis­tract my­self from it.

Health

I used to eat out a lot and get pay­days (a candy bar) from the vend­ing ma­chine. I no­ticed I’d get a pay­day when work would get tough. It was a form of pica for me like read­ing fic­tion is now. ~50 days ago, I started eat­ing meal squares for lunch, and eat­ing an uber large, very fatty salad for din­ner. I’ve felt very sa­ti­ated, and I’ve saved money and time de­spite eat­ing bet­ter qual­ity food and prepar­ing din­ner. Plus! I can make a mean salad that leaves oth­ers green with envy. (Did you read 1 pun, or 2?)

I’ve also no­ticed that I drink more and more coffee over a cou­ple weeks un­til I’m an anx­ious mess, quit coffee, wait a week, rinse, re­peat. Now I drink ~6 cups of de­caf green tea in­stead which fixed that prob­lem!

I’ve also, also no­ticed that I have less en­ergy if I haven’t danced in a few days. I usu­ally dance right af­ter work, but some­times work lasts till 6 and that gets skipped. Shift­ing my evening sched­ule might help, but also just leav­ing work at 5 pm would fix it too.

Noticing

Med­i­tat­ing re­ally boot­strapped my abil­ity to no­tice my im­me­di­ate re­ac­tions such as flinch­ing away from pain. I’ve mostly done Squir­re­lin­hell’s sense your body with ex­treme clar­ity, and while do­ing that I’d no­tice my back hurt­ing & want­ing to stop med­i­tat­ing. I would just switch my fo­cus to the pain in my back and just watch it. The pain would wa­ver for like 5 sec­onds and then stop. Same with fo­cus­ing on “want­ing to stop med­i­tat­ing”. This skill helped a lot with the emo­tional sec­tion, and I’m glad I med­i­tated.

Fu­ture work

Study­ing & med­i­tat­ing will con­tinue to be a fo­cus for me, and I’m go­ing to spend this week­end work­ing out feel­ing lonely. I’m go­ing to go through An­drew Ng’s ma­chine learn­ing course for a week to see if it’s a low spoons ac­tivity for me (I very much en­joy pro­gram­ming, so I pre­dict it will be).


[1] The 80 days is over, and yes, I know, I didn’t save the world (darn!). It was mainly a play on “Around the world in 80 days”, lol.