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Comment by chairbender on Open Thread for January 8 - 16 2014 · 2014-01-10T07:22:44.629Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that productive tasks tend to be less enjoyable, but (at least for me) I still experience SOME positive emotions when I'm being productive, though (and when I'm reflecting on being productive). I just meant that it's possible to be productive and not feel miserable. I started getting more productive when I was able to use mindfulness to detach myself from an impulsive desire to experience happiness. I don't think that's a particularly harmful idea to suggest. I just think it's bad to discourage people from trying to find happiness and contentment in contributing to society (being productive) by implying that it's simply not possible. Also, from a utilitarian standpoint, spending time being productive (making a positive impact on the world) seems better than spending time pursuing individual happiness (to an extent, since you obviously are going to have a hard time being productive if you are miserable). If you value your personal happiness above others (like blacktrance), though, it totally makes sense that you would spend less time trying to make a positive impact on the world. I didn't realize people thought that way when I responded.

I felt sad when you called what I wrote "bullshit", though. I'm new to posting on LW and it makes me feel really depressed and rejected to have one of my first few discussions result in me being insulted like that.

Comment by chairbender on Open Thread for January 8 - 16 2014 · 2014-01-10T06:29:19.504Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I do not think that you comprehend the sequence if it makes you conclude that everyone should be selfish. Either way, I certainly don't want to interact with somebody who thinks that way because it really bums me out, so I'm gonna leave this conversation.

Comment by chairbender on Open Thread for January 8 - 16 2014 · 2014-01-10T04:31:51.349Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

but it is actually morally optimal, for a broad enough sense of "having fun". But I say this as an ethical egoist.

Just because you are an ethical egoist does not mean that ethical egoism is the system by which all moral claims ought to be judged. Have you read the metaethics sequence?

Comment by chairbender on Open Thread for January 8 - 16 2014 · 2014-01-10T03:05:20.195Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I find that doing fun things like web surfing makes unenjoyable work more bearable

If you learn mindfulness, you can learn to detach yourself from an impulsive desire to be entertained constantly, and find flow (and happiness, or at least contentment) in tasks you previously thought were unenjoyable.

Comment by chairbender on The mechanics of my recent productivity · 2014-01-10T03:03:31.125Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks very much for this. My primary motivation to be productive seems to come from seeing the stories of inspirational, productive people, so this is a big motivator to continue to work hard.

Comment by chairbender on Open Thread for January 8 - 16 2014 · 2014-01-10T02:57:24.663Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted for proposing a poisonous idea. You're implying a dichotomy between being productive and experiencing positive emotions. You can find productive tasks enjoyable. Hanging out with people is an important part of staying healthy, for example, and is generally enjoyable.

there's more to life than work - there's actually enjoying life, having fun, etc.

Having fun is certainly something that you can do, but that doesn't mean that it is obviously morally optimal.

Comment by chairbender on The mechanics of my recent productivity · 2014-01-09T20:22:00.542Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You should be cautious of that sort of self-evaluation. There's a sleep study that showed that people are very bad at evaluating how they are affected by not getting enough sleep.:

after just a few days, the four- and six-hour group reported that, yes, they were slightly sleepy. But they insisted they had adjusted to their new state. Even 14 days into the study, they said sleepiness was not affecting them. In fact, their performance had tanked. In other words, the sleep-deprived among us are lousy judges of our own sleep needs. We are not nearly as sharp as we think we are.

But, in that same study, the group that showed little or no cognitive decline slept for 8 hours, and I'm finding recommendations that say 7.5 hours is enough elsewhere, so I'm updating towards 7.5 hours of sleep and naps being all that's needed (as long as you have good sleep hygeine).

Thanks for indirectly prompting me to re-evaluate my sleep habits. I'm doing the same thing as you, basically (learning on my own), so it makes me very happy to discover that I could get more done each day!

Comment by chairbender on The mechanics of my recent productivity · 2014-01-09T20:00:03.066Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think you may have misread what I wrote. I pointed out in my original comment that, from what I've read, 7.5 hours seems to be not enough sleep. So it would follow that getting more sleep would increase performance. I know that excessive sleep also causes problems, but that's clearly not relevant here.

Comment by chairbender on The mechanics of my recent productivity · 2014-01-09T18:41:47.949Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Everything I've read suggests that that is not a sufficient amount of sleep to achieve peak performance. I would think that, if you're interested in learning as effectively as possible (especially such difficult material), it would be more effective to get more sleep. Is there some reason you decided that this was enough sleep?

EDIT: Looks like I may be wrong about this not being enough sleep, after doing some more searching.

Comment by chairbender on Tulpa References/Discussion · 2014-01-04T05:48:54.358Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

and imaginary friends can be useful for e.g. people who are lonely.

The instrumentally rational thing to do, when faced with loneliness, is to figure out how to be with real people. No evidence was presented in the original post that suggests that tulpas mitigate the very real risk factors associated with social isolation. Loneliness is actually a very serious problem, considering most of the research seems to indicate that the best way to be happy is to have meaningful social interactions. Proposing this as a viable alternative would require a very high amount of evidence. A post presenting that evidence would be something that belongs here.

Comment by chairbender on Tulpa References/Discussion · 2014-01-04T05:29:42.123Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What experimental test could you perform to determine that you have successfully learned "parallel tulpa processing"?

Comment by chairbender on Tulpa References/Discussion · 2014-01-04T05:27:04.897Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The general impression I got from reading a lot of the stuff that gets posted in the various tulpa communities leads me to believe it is, at its core, yet another group of people who gain status within that group by trying to impress each other with how different or special their situation is. Read almost any post where somebody is trying to describe their tulpa, and you'll see very obvious attempts to show how unique their tulpa is or how it falls into some unprecedented category or how they created it in some special way.

None of the sources posted offer any sort of good evidence that people who claim to have tulpas have any sort of advantages. It obviously has a low value of information for an aspiring rationalist. It's just people talking about imaginary friends. This discussion doesn't belong here.

Comment by chairbender on Open thread for December 24-31, 2013 · 2013-12-28T00:21:35.859Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is not a credible source. Yoga is less efficient in terms of the benefits you get out of it per time spent when compared to other activities (like high-intensity activities).

Comment by chairbender on Open thread for December 17-23, 2013 · 2013-12-19T02:43:36.334Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

What are your credentials w.r.t. nutrition?

Comment by chairbender on Group Rationality Diary, December 16-31 · 2013-12-17T02:05:12.708Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

After reading the latest willpower research from Kurzban, I tried to figure out a way to make use of the model it proposes to decrease impulsivity and increase the time I spend on productive tasks.

I've developed a habit that makes use of mindfulness skills (that I get from nightly mindfulness meditation) where I notice when I am feeling an aversive state in response to deciding what to do or evaluating what I'm doing and use that feeling as a reminder to be mindful of just the task I am working on (which has the effect of diminishing the aversive feeling). I've experienced success in that I end up not being influenced as much by the aversive states (due to inhibiting them using mindfulness), which leads to me feeling much more able to work on productive but not instantly gratifying things. I feel overall less "decision fatigue" or "mental exhaustion", which makes my day more pleasant without the cost of wasting time on immediately gratifying tasks (and I find that immediately gratifying tasks don't really "recharge" me anyway, which is consistent with Kurzban's model).

I'm taking a Data Analysis course via Coursera because I believe the skill of analyzing data will be generally useful. I'm also teaching myself cell biology via a textbook as part of an effort to learn neuroscience, because I hope to get involved with computational neuroscience at some point (and I think knowledge about how the world works can be generally useful). In both of these, I've been using Anki to create cards as I learn (and review them during my commute), and I've noticed that it's greatly improved my ability to recall what I've learned, which has made it easier for me to more quickly process new concepts as I learn.

Comment by chairbender on Kurzban et al. on opportunity cost models of mental fatigue and resource-based models of willpower · 2013-12-11T17:42:20.795Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Still, not quite. Basically, what Kurzban is saying is that that bad feeling that people attribute to "mental fatigue" is really just a residual feeling left over from the aversive-state votes of the monitoring mechanisms. It's not actually a way for your brain to try to communicate to you, at a conscious level, that you should do something different. You feeling that bad feeling is just a side-effect of that decision making process taking place (or, a decision that has already taken place). And, if I understand correctly, you'll feel that bad feeling more strongly when the votes from the monitoring mechanisms are more negative (which is why it generally feels harder to do things that are less immediately rewarding). If you are actually feeling like you need to sleep, though, I think that is a feeling that is actually not a part of this model.

Comment by chairbender on Kurzban et al. on opportunity cost models of mental fatigue and resource-based models of willpower · 2013-12-11T06:42:36.160Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

a) The best action you should be doing now is to sleep or at least to take a nap, so your brain would process the information it has now and prepare itself for new information

I don't think this is how Kurzban's model would explain it. In Kurzban's model, the "feeling of exhaustion" stems from one or more monitoring mechanisms causing aversive states (in response to trying to decide what to do). The monitoring mechanisms aren't causing the feeling of exhaustion so that you'll feel sleepy - they are just voting by causing aversive states, and Kaj_Sotala happens to interpret that feeling of the aversive states with the word "exhaustion" (which has certain unhelpful connotations and I think should be taboo'd in favor of "aversive state feelings").

c) Your brain is wrong. For reasons that might make sense living in a jungle millenia ago, your brain is convinced that you should do X, which in reality is not an option, or is a bad option. All meaningful options are penalized because your brain insists that you should do X instead. For example, if your job made you too exhausted, your brain may think the best action is to prevent going to the same job tomorrow. Which may be not realistic, or merely not what you want to think about.

I also don't think this applies the model correctly. The feeling of exhaustion would need to stem from aversive states from monitoring mechanisms that are working at the moment you get back from work and are deciding what to do next. Returning to work the next day is a very distant action, relative to all the activities your brain would be thinking about doing at that moment.

b) You are censoring the best action from your thoughts because it does not fit your idea of what you should be doing now. For example you feel that you should work on your personal projects, but your brain thinks you should drink some beer with your friends. When you say you are too exhausted to do anything, you are actually lying, because you are not too exhausted to drink beer with your friends; it is merely outside of your set of acceptable answers.

I think this is more how Kurzban's model would explain this situation. The bad feeling (which Kaj calls "exhaustion") would need to come from multiple monitoring mechanisms returning aversive states for evaluating various possible next actions (in this case, maybe working on projects, watching tv, browsing the internet, practicing, or studying).

It could be that there is no strong winner (so Kaj ends up feeling just the aversive states but not a clear idea of what to do next and has to spend more time feeling that exhaustion before a clear winner emerges). In this model, I think it would be possible for no strong winner to emerge even when there are immediately gratifying activities due to some monitoring mechanisms paying attention to some sort of executive function-centered value system (like "I should feel bad for doing "). If that were the case, I would think Kaj might feel a sort of "oscillation" between deciding to do something instantly gratifying (which is generally a quick judgement for a brain to make) but then deciding not to after the executive function/value system evaluation results are returned (which I think generally takes longer to get a result from).

It could also be that Kaj's brain did actually reach a conclusion on what to do next, but either wasn't introspective enough to figure out what that was and put it into words or they meant the phrase "not doing anything at all" to be a catch-all for some unproductive but instantly gratifying action.

W.r.t. this seeming to occur after "a long day at work", I'm not really clear what is meant by "a long day".

Comment by chairbender on Kurzban et al. on opportunity cost models of mental fatigue and resource-based models of willpower · 2013-12-11T05:24:22.480Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Developing mindfulness skills (via mindfulness meditation, for example) probably wouldn't be a waste of time, if you want to improve your focus and decrease impulsive task-switching (and make doing productive things less unpleasant). I suspect that, in Kurzban's model, that feeling of "boredom" stems from a monitoring mechanism giving a negative evaluation of whatever it is you're doing.

When you practice mindfulness, you're basically practicing focusing on just one thing (breathing) and learning to shrug off and silence whatever comes to conscious attention that isn't relevant to that one thing. Applying Kurzban's model to mindfulness, you could say that you are improving your ability to, at will, mute those monitoring mechanisms and the aversive states that correspond to their outputs.

With meditation, when you're first starting out, you just attempt to notice when you are distracted and then return your thoughts to breathing. When you feel emotions (like boredom, which is a common one), you are supposed to note how intense it is and how long it lasts, then return to focusing on breathing. As you do this over and over, you start to get really, really fast at doing that attention re-direction/distraction suppression to the point where the distracting thoughts and emotions don't rise to a high enough level of intensity to cause you to shift your attention from your breathing (the distraction suppression becomes a kind of intuitive process that happens almost automatically).

In my personal experience, I've felt like it's much easier to stay focused on things (and not feel horribly bored when there's less productive but instantly gratifying alternatives) when I've kept up a steady meditation habit and made an effort to be mindful throughout the day. I've been trying to be aware of my feelings and how they fit with this model as I go about my day (which involves forcing myself to do a lot of things that aren't instantly gratifying but are long-term rewarding), and I've definitely felt like the mindfulness habits I've picked up work to negate or mute that feeling of boredom (when I actually remember to use them). When I'm trying to get started on some productive task, I really feel the aversive state at first, but I can use mindfulness to help eliminate it or it fades as I start to focus more and more on what I'm doing. When I have a problem, though (like I make a mistake when playing piano or am struggling to figure out some programming bug), I start to feel those aversive states (made even stronger by frustration) if I don't continue to apply mindfulness.

At the very least, meditation seems like it has helped improve my awareness of what my brain is doing at a given moment. Having Kurzban's model in mind when applying that introspection seems like it could be very useful for debugging undesirable behavior.