I maybe should have clarified that when I say CDT I’m referring to a steel-man CDT which would use some notion of logical causality. I don’t think the physical counterfactuals are a live hypothesis in our circles, but several people advocate reasoning which looks like logical causality.
Implementability asserts that you should think of yourself as logico-causally controlling your clone when it is a perfect copy.
I have been thinking a bit about evolutionarily stable equilibria, now. Two things seem interesting (perhaps only as analogies, not literal applications of the evolutionarily stable equilibria concept):
The motivation for evolutionary equilibria involves dumb selection, rather than rational reasoning. This cuts the tricky knots of recursion. It also makes the myopic learning, which only pays attention to how well things perform in of round, seem more reasonable. Perhaps there’s something to be said about rational learning algorithms needing to cut the knots of recursion somehow, such that the evolutionary equilibrium concept holds a lesson for more reflective agents.
The idea of evolutionary stability is interesting because it mixes the game and the metagame together a little bit: the players should do what is good for them, but the resulting solution should also be self-enforcing, which means consideration is given to how the solution shapes the future dynamics of learning. This seems like a necessary feature of a solution.
Meta comment: are your upvotes worth 7 points?
Seems that way. I don’t know what the exact formula is, but it is based on karma.
Ah, I wouldn’t have expected that. Good to know!
Thinking about your framing from TMI, perhaps I’m supposed to put my awareness but not my attention on the distracting thoughts. The reason it is tempting to do more than this is to “fully integrate the part of me that wants to not be doing this”—IE, put full awareness onto it to dialogue with it, and decide what I really want to do with the fullness of what I want right now.
In your experience, is it enough to have awareness on the stubbed toe, or is it necessary to put attention on it? You describe your attention going to the toe.
From my past experience, when I had more awareness I felt like I was way worse at things. I noticed every time I forgot something, and saw lots of dumb thoughts. But it seems likely to me now that that’s just how things have always been, and that was one of the few times I was aware of it. Do you say your productivity was worse because you actually got fewer things done, or just because you noticed lots of awkward gaps and tangents that might’ve always been there, previously unnoticed?
I got less done.
The Power of Now is not very gears-y. It does get a litte gears-y when it talks about concrete practices which aim to help you live in the now, but only a little. You have to fill in gears. I generated very charitable interpretations as I was reading. it. It’s definitely a soft skills book.
It sounds like in your comment, you’re saying one of these two things:
The comment you’re referring to was making a more philosophical point that moments are only meaningful in their connection to other moments. I could have made the same point by pointing out that there is always a delay from when one neuron fires to when another fires in response. I was pushing against the strong Now-ish ontology in the power of now. Nonetheless, you response is not irrelevant, because part of what I was claiming was that one should do something much like “checking in” as you describe it, in order to see whether they were really conscious/aware/attentive of what was happening in the previous moment.
I would expect it to decrease your attention and increase your peripheral awareness. And more specifically to decrease your attention on thoughts, and increase your peripheral awareness of external senses. Does that sound right?
I think this is part of it, but another part of it is that The Power of Now recommends something like directly facing your suffering in order to transmute it into consciousness. This led me to nonlinguistically focus on any distracting feelings such as not wanting to be doing what I was doing and wanting to procrastinate instead. This was somewhat interesting, but disruptive of productivity.
Rationality realism seems like a good thing to point out which might be a crux for a lot of people, but it doesn’t seem to be a crux for me.
I don’t think there’s a true rationality out there in the world, or a true decision theory out there in the world, or even a true notion of intelligence out there in the world. I work on agent foundations because there’s still something I’m confused about even after that, and furthermore, AI safety work seems fairly hopeless while still so radically confused about the-phenomena-which-we-use-intelligence-and-rationality-and-agency-and-decision-theory-to-describe. And, as you say, “from a historical point of view I’m quite optimistic about using maths to describe things in general”.
I agree that “functional time” makes sense, but somehow, I like “logical time” better. It brings out the paradox: logical truth is timeless, but any logical system must have a proof ordering, which brings out a notion of time based on what follows from what.
Since recently reading The Power of Now, which thoroughly and viscerally describes the perspective in which track-back would be harmful (because it distracts from the now), I want to elaborate on this some more.
Tho Power of Now did something interesting to my moment-to-moment awareness, but at least in the short term, it seemed to wreck my productivity. Returning to the track-back movement rather than the “now” type movement seems to help bring me back quite a bit.
No moment exists in isolation; anything which you can mentally label as a moment is an extended moment. Furthermore, although you can cultivate what feels like heightened states of awareness (as in The Power of Now), the only way to verify awareness is by checking whether you perceive more detail, and remember more accurately. To simultaneously be the observer and the observed is an illusion; you are always only observing a previous self, even if the delay is very slight.
So, checking whether you can remember what happened in your head over the past few seconds is a check of awareness. Furthermore, Shinzen Young suggests that awareness after-the-fact is in some sense as good for your practice, and more compatible with intellectual work. Furthermore, I find that paying attention to the train of thought/feeling which led to distraction is really helpful for maintaining focus and motivation.
I’m phrasing this as in opposition to “being in the now”, but, I’m not sure to what extent I really mean that. I do think I learned things from The Power of Now; and, I’m not deeply experienced in either style.
If you have no memory, how can you learn? I recognize that you can draw a formal distinction, allowing learning without allowing the strategies being learned to depend on the previous games. But, you are still allowing the agent itself to depend on the previous games, which means that “learning” methods wich bake in more strategy will perform better. For example, a learning method could learn to always go straight in a game of chicken by checking to see whether going straight causes the other player to learn to swerve. IE, it doesn’t seem like a principled distinction.
Furthermore, I don’t see the motivation for trying to do well in a single-shot game via iterated play. What kind of situation is it trying to model? This is discussed extensively in the paper I mentioned in the post, “If multi-agent learning is the answer, what is the question?”
Yeah, one might think I’m going against the grain, recommending something that more experienced meditators warn against. On the other hand (and imho), we could take it as a warning against ordinary distractedness and ordinary unmindful involvement in thoughts. Focusing intentionally on one specific mental motion is very different.
Of course, that’s for the goal of the book, which is about mindfulness meditation, which involves stabilizing your attention and strengthening your peripheral awareness.
The goal of mindfulness might be interpreted in different ways (and I haven’t read that book yet), but ender the interpretation of defusion, I think there’s nothing particularly harmful about the track-back exercise. It is possible that it can get you caught up in history and therefore fused with the thoughts, but it is also possible that looking at the history helps put thoughts at a little distance.
For example, someone using mindfulness to deal with cigarette cravings (trying to quit) is supposed to pay mindful attention to the craving, and “ride the wave” until the craving is over. It is possible that tracking back to what gave rise to the craving helps contextualize it and thus put it at a remove (“I was stressed just now, and then I started having the craving”). It is also possible that it takes you away from moment-to-moment presence, and the next thing you know, you find yourself reaching for a cigarette. I don’t know for sure.
If your goal is related to debiasing, though, I think it’s a pretty good form of mindfulness: the question “why did I have that thought?” is closely related to epistemic hygiene. “Why am I thinking this plan is bad? Ah, I started out being annoyed at Ellen for her bad driving, and then she mentioned this plan. But, her driving is unrelated to this plan...”
This is similar to, but slightly different from, the story in Bowling Alone. (Disclaimer: I haven’t read Bowling Alone, only had several discussions about it with someone who has.)
One very interesting question is: why were good citizenship norms at their peak in the 1930s-1950s?
According to Bowling Alone the answer is that there was a massive club-formation burst from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. These clubs created the strong social fabric which allowed trust in the society overall to be high.
Why was there a burst of club creation? I don’t know.