comment by TheOtherDave ·
2010-12-02T18:01:11.610Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
The emotional half of my brain would like to be more successful, but the "logical" part of my brain explains (condescendingly) that the poor odds don't justify the extra effort. Which is right?
I find it more useful to think about this sort of thing in terms of opposed valuations.
That is: I want pie, and I want to be slim. The pie-wanting parts of my brain suggest that I eat more pie, the slim-wanting parts of my brain suggest that I eat less pie.
Which is right? The question is ill-formed. I just want inconsistent things, and that's just the way it is. "Right" doesn't have a consistent meaning across the entirety of my brain.
So what should I do? Well, that's a trickier question.
Ideally, find a way to eat lots of pie and be slim... then I can be right regardless of which meaning of "right" we use, and the difference stops mattering.
Failing that, my answer is: negotiate compromises. More or less, the same thing I do when dealing with two different people who want inconsistent things.
That said, I do acknowledge that this answer does, in the extreme, lead to my choosing to eat yummy babies, and I'm not really OK with that either.
So I'm still working on this.
I don't understand the people around me who are working so very hard to succeed. It strikes me as irrational.
I find it useful to separate different categories of people, when thinking about this. For example:
People who value success at X, where X genuinely requires hard work, more than they negatively value the work, and therefore work hard to succeed at X. This strikes me as perfectly rational.
People who value working hard, and therefore work hard at whatever X comes along. I'm not really sure what I believe about this... I'm not entirely convinced that there are any such people, although there are certainly people who claim to be.
People who work hard to achieve results even though they negatively value the work more than they value the results. Here, too, I'm not sure there really are any such people, though there sure do seem to be.
People who are not fully aware of what they value, or who have inconsistent valuations, or whose valuations change over time, and who consequently do things -- including work hard, but also including slack off -- that get them less of what they want. This is, I agree, irrational. I think most people fall in this category.
It often gets hard to talk about this stuff, because the categories get lumped together, and a lot of assumptions go unexplored.
For example, many discussions of akrasia depend on the assumption that, when I have inconsistent valuations such that I both do things like say "I really should go work on project X instead of posting LW comments" and do things like post LW comments instead of working on project X, that the first valuation is privileged over the second... that is, the discussion assumes that the goal is to find sustainable ways to go work on project X.
That's fine... every discussion makes some assumptions, and they aren't always explicit. But if you don't make that assumption, the discussion is largely irrelevant. And if you don't recognize the assumption, that can get frustrating. (There's a reason I don't get involved in akrasia discussions.)
With respect to your friend... the idea that it's maximally valuable to amass status and resources is a pervasive cached belief; a lot of people use that valuation without being fully aware of it.
It sounds like she is in the process of deciding whether to keep using that valuation, and thus devote lots of hard work to maximizing her chances of increasing her income, or discard that valuation. (That is, she's not considering some other job that has a 2 in 50 chance of doubling her income for the same amount of work, for example, she's considering whether to work harder for more income at all.)
Again, neither answer is irrational. What is irrational is failing to understand what one's valuations are, and how they relate to the choices one has.