Unyielding Yoda Timers: Taking the Hammertime Final Exam

The Ham­mer­time Fi­nal Exam

Difficulty: Vor­pal Dragon­scale Sledge­ham­mer of the Whale

Write all three. For each es­say, give your­self five min­utes to brain­storm and five min­utes to write.


De­sign an in­stru­men­tal ra­tio­nal­ity tech­nique.

I have one “spirit” which I re­gard as be­ing the best ver­sion of my­self and which I can trust to re­li­ably make good choices. Un­for­tu­nately, when I’m mak­ing de­ci­sions, an­other spirit is of­ten more or less in charge. One ap­proach to miti­gat­ing this is mak­ing a TAP wherein you simu­late my post facto opinion of the (usu­ally bad) choice you’re about to make. This in­ter­po­lates be­tween your cur­rent spirit and the nor­ma­tively-cor­rect one. Pre­tend­ing to be some­one else /​ an­other ver­sion of your­self is, in my ex­pe­rience, sur­pris­ingly effec­tive.

Con­fu­sion Identification

In­tro­duce a ra­tio­nal­ity frame­work.

You’re do­ing your home­work, and you’re stuck. You don’t know what to do next.

One ap­proach is to set a Yoda Timer for 5 min­utes; write down a broad-strokes ex­pla­na­tion of the prob­lem, where you are presently, and what a solu­tion would look like. Then go to a friend (or, if you’re alone, an imag­i­nary friend) and ex­plain it. They don’t have to un­der­stand, but you have to un­der­stand what you’re say­ing while you’re say­ing it. You don’t have to have a gears-level un­der­stand­ing of the solu­tion (yet), but you should have a Sys­tem 1 un­der­stand­ing of your out­line.

Be on the look­out for any men­tal bumps, any ar­eas you gloss over with a trace of dis­com­fort. Th­ese dark crevices beckon to you; into them you must de­scend if you are to emerge solu­tion in hand.

Emo­tion Propagation

De­scribe a cog­ni­tive defect.

At my un­der­grad­u­ate in­sti­tu­tion, I was in­cred­ibly so­cial—I ea­gerly crossed cliques to make new friends wher­ever I went. This de­meanor car­ried over to my first trimester of grad­u­ate school; then, I be­came de­pressed.

After tak­ing a few months leave, I man­aged to fully re­cover. I re­turned to my grad­u­ate in­sti­tu­tion and found my de­sire to so­cial­ize was neutered. This prob­lem plagued me for nearly a year; it is only within the last month that I pin­pointed the cause. My at­ti­tude to­wards in­ter­per­sonal in­ter­ac­tion never left the state.

Just as the hu­man mind doesn’t en­force be­lief con­sis­tency, it won’t nec­es­sar­ily prop­a­gate at­ti­tu­di­nal changes to rele­vant ar­eas of your life. Do you cur­rently value ev­ery­thing as you would re­flec­tively pre­fer, or are there holdovers from the past?

Sev­eral ad­di­tional min­utes were taken for for­mat­ting.