I think the example with the lightbulbs and SAD is very important because it illustrates well that in areas that humanity is not prioritizing especially, one is much more justified in expecting civilizational inadequacy.
I think a large portion of the judgment of whether one should expect that inadequacy should be a function of how much work and money is being spent on a particular subject.
This seems largely correct to me, although I think hyperbolic discounting of rewards/punishments over time may be less pronounced in human conditioning as compared to animals being conditioned by humans. Humans can think “I’m now rewarding myself for Action A I took earlier” or “I’m being punished for Action B” which can seems, at least in my experience, to decrease the effect of the temporal distance whereas animals seem less able to conceptualize the connection over time. Because of this difference, I think the temporal difference of reward/punishment is less important in people for conditioning as long as the individual is mentally associating the stimulus with the action, although it is still significant.
Also what’s the name of the paper for the monkeys and juice study? I’d like to look at it because the result did surprise me.
I think the metaphor of “fast-forwarding” is a very useful way to view a lot of my behavior. Having thought about this for a while though, I’m not sure fast-forwarding is always a bad thing. I find it can be mentally rejuvenating in a way that introspection is not (e.g. if I’ve been working for a long period and my brain is getting tired I can often quickly replenish my mental resources by watching a short video or reading a chapter of a fantasy novel after which I’m able to begin working again, whereas I find sitting and reflecting to still require some mental energy).
Of course, this is an important habit to keep an eye on. I sometimes find myself almost unconsciously opening youtube when I don’t actually need a break which I’ve been trying to get myself to stop doing.
Favorite technique: Argue with yourself about your conclusions.
By which I mean if I have any reasonable doubt about some idea, belief, or plan I split my mind into two debaters who take opposite sides of the issue, each of which wants to win and I use my natural competitiveness to drive insight into an issue.
I think the accustomed use of this would be investigating my deeply held beliefs and trying to get to their real weak points, but it is also useful for:
Examining my favored explanation of a set of data
Figuring out whether I need to change the way I’m presenting a set of data after I have already sunk costs into making the visualizations
Understanding my partner’s perspective after an argument.
Preparing for expected real life arguments
Force myself to understand an issue better, even when I don’t expect I will change my mind about it.
Questioning whether the way I acted in a situation was acceptable.
An exercise in analytic thinking.
Evaluating two plausible arguments I’ve heard but don’t have any particularly strong feelings on
Deciding whether to make a purchase
Comparing two alternative plans
I think a very interesting aspect of this idea is that it explains why it can be so hard to come up with truly original ideas, while it is much easier to copy or slightly tweak the ideas of other people. Slight tweaks were probably less likely to get you killed, whereas doing something completely novel could be very dangerous. And while it might have a huge payoff, everyone else in the group could then copy you (due to imitation being our greatest strength as a species) so the original idea creator would not have gained much of a comparative advantage in most cases.
I think these are very important points. I have noticed some issues with having the right responses for social situations (especially laughing when it’s not entirely appropriate), which is something I’ve been working on remedying by paying closer attention to when people expect a serious reaction.
The issue of ignoring problems also seems like something to look out for. Just because something does not make you feel bad should not mean you fail to learn from it. I think there is a fine balance between learning from mistakes and dwelling on them, which is another, related skill.
Losing risk aversion and motivation seem unlikely to be problems for me personally, as what you’re calling the stoic mindset seems to push those towards a more ideal spot from my natural inclinations. However, I suspect this advice may be critical for others, though they would never have occurred to me as associated problems. This is why I always feel hesitant to give self-help advice.
Great sequence, I’ve really enjoyed it.
And I definitely agree with this view of rationality, I think the idea of incremental successes enphasizes the need to track successes and failures over time so that you can see where you did well and where you did poorly and plan to make the coin come up heads more often in the future.
Yeah, I think the biggest problem for me was that I felt deficient for failing to live up to the standard I set for myself. I sort of shunted those emotions aside and I really fell out of a lot of habits of self-improvement and hard work for a time. So I would say the emotional fallout lead to the most damaging part (of losing good habits in the aftermath). Thinking about tradeoffs in terms of tasks completed is a good idea as well, I’ll try doing that more explicitly.
I find myself doing this a great deal when deciding whether to criticize somebody. I model most people I know as not being able to productively use direct criticism. The criticism, however well meant it may be, will hurt their pride, and they will not change. Indeed, the attempt will probably create some bad feeling towards me. It is just better not to try to help them in such a direct way. There are more tactful ways of getting across the same point, but they are often more difficult and not always practical in every situation.
The people I do directly criticize are generally the people I respect the most, because I expect that it will actually be useful to them because they will be able to overcome the impulse to become defensive and actually consider the critique.
I suppose your question indicates that I should try criticizing people more often, as I have gotten into the habit of presuming that people will be unable to productively receive criticism. But, at the same time, criticism is quite socially risky and I am quite confident that the vast majority of people will not handle it well.
In the book Gendlin says that the steps are really just to help people learn, they aren’t at all necessary to the process, so I think Gendlin would himself agree with that.
I think the idea is that you can learn rationality techniques that can be applied to politics much more easily by using examples that are not political.
This was very interesting. There seems to be a trade off for these people between their increased happiness and the ability to analyze their mistakes and improve, so I am not sure I find it entirely attractive. I think there is balance there, with some of the people studied being too happy to be maximally effective (assuming they have goals more important to them than their own happiness)
You don’t build strength while you’re lifting weight. You build strength while you’re resting.
I think this phrase is particularly helpful as something to repeat to yourself when feeling the impulse to push through exhaustion when you know that you really ought to rest. I’ll almost certainly be using it for that purpose when I’m feeling tempted to forget what I’ve learned.
I definitely have had the experience of trying to live up to a standard and it feeling awful, which then inhibits the desire to make future attempts. I think that feeling indicates a need to investigate whether you’re making things difficult on yourself. For example, I would often attempt to learn too many things at once and do too much work at once because I thought the ideal person would basically be learning and working all the time. Then, when I felt myself breaking down it sent my stress levels through the roof because if I couldn’t keep going that meant I was just unable to be the ideal I wanted to be. Instead of asking, “okay, the way I’m doing this is clearly unsustainable, but the standard is still worthwhile, how do I change my way of thinking or going about this thing?”, I would just try to force myself to continue on, feeling constantly stressed about not failing.
But when I began to ask the question, I saw that I could decrease the work I was putting on myself to something I could actually manage all the time and that would be actually most productive in the long run. And I recognized that sometimes I’ll just be exhausted and unable to do something and that doesn’t make my whole attempt to live up to the standard a failure. This, it became easier to live up to the standard, or rather, my ideal standard shifted organically to the standard of how I think I can become the best me instead of the standard I ascribed to an unspecified ideal person who I am just not capable of being.