The Slack Double Crux, or how to negotiate with yourself

post by Thac0 · 2024-06-08T15:22:58.533Z · LW · GW · 2 comments

This is a post mostly about Slack. Slack in the sense of Zvi, Slack as the freedom to not be bound by an obligation to have to do anything. Slack is generally accepted to be good and worth pursuing. This post is about the phenomenon of actions which increase Slack also tending to decrease Slack, and what to do about that.
This post is also about IFS, because Internal Family Systems theory is, in my opinion, among the best psychotechnology available right now.
This is also my first post, I hope it is to someone's liking.

A very simple example for an action that both decreases and increases slack: Having certain days/hours in which you are not allowed to play video games. 
This increases slack, as long as you are addicted, aka got got by videogames, being able to not play them while you desire to, opens up a window in which you are free to do anything else, aka the desirable Slack. 

The problem however is that not being allowed to do something also naturally decreases Slack. Maybe playing a video game on this day, on this hour is already the perfect economic decision, something which Slack is supposed to help you achieve. Maybe you are so stressed that you need to decompress, and a video game is the perfect tool at your disposal. Maybe the video game is the artsy type, more Disco Elysium than Fortnite, and playing it will broaden your horizon, give you access to new culture or thought models, enrich your creativity, or do any of the other nice things that good art tends to do, and that option is superior to any of your other options at the time and fits you needs best.

So, it stands to reason, that most actions actually increase and decrease Slack at different rates and in different aspects. Every decision to modify your behaviour will set rules for you to follow, which will decrease Slack, but benefit you by culling negative behaviour, which increases Slack. Abolishing rules does the inverse. So now that the impact on every action on Slack is fuzzy and complicated, we need tools to decide wether the action or rule or behaviour consults in net Slack loss or Slack gain.

The best toolset for this job I have found is IFS. IFS - Internal Family Systems Therapy - is a new type of therapy that is taking the ratsphere by storm. Scott Alexander writes about it, Kaj Sotala writes [? · GW]about it, a bunch of other people write about it. It is hot right now. 
I also think it is very very good, can help with just about any sort of internal disagreement, among which Slack based negotiations are also a part. And the best hammer in the toolbox for this kind of disagreement is the Internal Double Crux [? · GW].

To very quickly retread ground I will explain what IFS and the Double Crux are.
In IFS you see yourself as a cluster of different agents, usually your emotions but also thoughts and (sometimes crony) beliefs. These agents all have their own agenda, and reason for being there. There are very complex agents, which tend to manage other agents or keep agents from the consciousness, but most agents are very simple. They want something from you, and want the collective to do it.
The sum of these agents is the subconscious. The conscious is like an empty stage. You call stuff into the conscious. And the best way to fuck around with your subconscious, to align the agents better, to mediate conflicts between them, and to get the whole system running with less friction, is just to beg two of them to enter the stage.
You summon two parts of you, one that wants to play videogames, and one that really does not, and let them talk it out. You, the conscious, are nothing, you are just a stage, your job is only to moderate this disagreement, so that one agent does not eviscerate the other, because this is usually bad and traumatic for you.
After both agents have (civilly) left the stage, they usually tend to have made some agreements, are less quarrelsome and more aligned now.
This works, at least for me and many others.

The Double Crux is a very efficient form of moderation. After you have seated both of the agents, you can ask both of them what would be necessary for them to change their mind. This is their respective crux. If you know for both how to change their mind, you have the double crux. Now the fencing can begin, because the agents will cease to make arguments which are far from the crux, and target the crux way more directly, in order to convince their sparring partner. This is quite similar to avoiding motte-and-bailey argumentation. But in general you can bring all concepts from mediation, argumentation and general logical discussion culture to the fight between your subminds. Just remember, it is not you who is fighting, you are the conscious, the nothing, you have to give each tool to both sides, no matter which you favour.

You can use the double crux for Slack based decision making. Identify what argument the part of your mind that wants an additional Slack related rule would need to be convinced, and identify what the part that wants to abolish that rule needs to be convinced. Then let them fight, and the chances of you getting your juicy delicious slack increase.

As a bonus here are some additional practises from my own vocation as a German law student for IFS mediation and Slack preservation:

I. Rules without exceptions are much more severe, and unless very well justified are generally unreasonable

II. Exceptions need to be loosely defined (have some Slack), but they should never become as open definitionally to be meaningless

III. It is good for most of the contract to be very strict and precise, with a few loose catch all terms for exceptions and to catch exploits

IV. If you define words for yourself, try to use a consistent definition. German law does not do this, and it makes some legislation hell.

That's it for my first post, hope it fits the quality standards of this place and is of use or interest to some!


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comment by Viliam · 2024-06-10T07:21:36.663Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Welcome! I like the article as it is, but I think it could be further improved by adding specific examples, for example of the last 4 points. It seems like you had some examples in your mind when you wrote this, that are not obvious to people who don't do IFS. (If you could add some examples to the article or in the comments, that would be nice, otherwise just maybe please remember this the next time.)

Replies from: Thac0
comment by Thac0 · 2024-06-10T12:32:56.174Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh sure! It is fairly abstract, and that could make it more concrete.

I will stick with the video gaming example. I am currently on a schedule that allows me to game 3 days a week, because I tend to get addicted to online card games if unregulated.
However that is a rule that reads (If it is not Monday/Thursday/Sunday, you can't ever game).
That functions, per se, you gain slack by not being compelled to game on these days, but lose it by not being able to game, even if it would be a good idea.

I was super stressed recently, to the point of some latent genetic mental health problems butting up, and I realised the easiest way to hammer down my stress beneath symptom onset would be just another run of Dream Quest. Also I had really really valuable Podcasts to listen to, which were highly relevant to my current interests with great signal/noise ratio, but I can't listen to Podcasts without doing anything else on the side like gaming.

So, a round of Dream Quest with the Podcast in the back ground was the perfect action for the situation, despite defying my rule which was generally good and beneficial. Because my rule lacked exceptions. It now has exceptions for mental health crisises.

The next point is exploit protection. I can also make an ammend to the rule that allows me to game when I have a valuable podcast to listen to, but given how long podcasts tend to be, that is a very easy rule to create exploits with, which would render the whole framework impossible. As such the rule also needs an exploit inhibitor for an exploitable exception.

The rule now looks something like 
"You can game on Monday/Thursday/Sunday, you can also game if you need the stress relief for emergency reasons. You can also game when you are listening to a really valuable podcast, you are not allowed to exploit the hunt for podcasts to game all day."

I had an example for the last point in my head, it had something to do with how emergency and valuable are subjective words and thus have a need for a definiton, and if you have multiple rules which have emergency or value clauses it is nice to have a set definition for emergency and value.
But I forgot the exact specifics, I suppose I should have written down the examples immediatly!

The important part is however how that rule formed. It started as a fairly straight up inhibition, and ended up as a reasonably complex cluster which functions well, and it is open for further evolution, because it is the subject of an ongoing negotiation in myself - between the part that really loves Card games and the part that tries to get shit done.