Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Nirvana Myth

What do peopel mean when they talk about happiness?

I believe people think about this elusive eternal feeling of endless happiness.
Another approach is the story thing (concept rather than the feeling) [1] like knowing that at the end of life one will be able to say "this was a happy person" like that of Solon and many others (Solon told the king that he cannot be declared happy until his end, which is nonsense, if we look for momentary happiness, or even the story of every moment.)

In practice, we are fairly limited. We can improve many small things in life (so I hope). But these large gains are next to impossible.

When this fantasy takes precedence, one gives up any hope, at least practically.

Sleeping another half hour a day, does not sound an improvement for life. It sounds a small thing, a technicality. Nobosy cares if it will improve life quality. But I guess the main point is that it does not fit into the huge dream of happiness. It is not going to make you a prime minister, give you eternal bliss, or bring you ultimate love (another overstated dream).

PS. I can find rationalization for concentration on the big dreams. And life calculus are too complex to form an opinion. These are just my natural thuoghts. There are also complex topics on our subjective meanings and all kinds of psychologicval constructs. Just mentioning it to confuse you.

[1] story vs. feeling. Kahneman termed it "Living vs. thinking about it". (read the paper, it is provocative, althought I am informed that Kahneman has even more interesting surprises in store) We have an experience, and we have thoughts etc. Humans tend to take thoughts too seriousely. While much of life is about the espeience, not the story.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Unhappy Socrates and the happy pig. Is Socrates indeed better? and other tales

John Stuart Mill says that
"It is better to be unhappy Socrates than a happy pig"
Why indeed?

Mill claims that there is asymmatric information. The philosopher knows what it is like being "high minded" but the pig does not know the alternative. We have two judges of which only one knows both options.

This logic, however, is not convincing.
1) The philosopher actually does not know what it is to be a happy non-philosopher. At best he may observe it from afar throught other people. (I assume philosophers are born - not made. Even if made people tend to forget and distort their past experience).
2) Ecology of judgement. Abstract knowledge of options is insufficient. It is the overal personality attitudes etc. that determines a person's ultimate opinion. Socrates experiences another kind of existence, but this very existence along with all his personal featuers etc. may have bent his opinions toward valuing this kind of existence.

There is also a selection bias in the professional philosopher making a judgement. There may have been others who experienced Socrates for awhile and retired back into moviegoers. They tried both options, made the choice, but you do not name them for philosophers who knew.....

Sour grapes. When the fox cannot reach the higher grapes, he says they are sour. When the philosopher is too nerdish to practially enjoy life (fill in yourself), he invent a story where wisdom is more improtant.

Misleading statement.
"happy pig" sounds bad + it is extreme (ad absurdum problem - Reductio de absurdum proves only that the rule is not extremey absollute, it says nothing about the rule itself in normal conditions).
i.e. Maybe we would prefer to be a unhappy Socrates rather then a happy pig. But pig is an extreme. We may still prefer happy regular person over unhappy Socrates.

PS. It took relatively long time to write it. Because I preffered to go to the beach, chat with freinds etc. (happy pig). Only when I decided that this writing has a happy pig side to it (social attention, and joy of writing) I resolved to go into writing.
I hope the reader got some material joy from reading this.... I love only happy pig, not frowning philosophers.

We should also remember the aesthetic bias and the "prominence" distortion.
Aeatheic is that we consider certain ways of livign and thinking as nicer. We automaically translate it to better. A mistake. I tend to have an especiay good intuition about the life quality and wisdom of sexy women. Took me long to realize that since I see beauty first, I a misleading myself seriousely (kahneman did forma work proving that).

"prominence" distorion is that we want to be smart and sound smart. After we have some intuition about what terms are more prominent in whatever sense, we give them more essential attributes. After a series of self cheating and distortions, we end up really beleivinig these smart sounding things. (Same for morality. Long story by itself how morality distort opinion).

Off-topic. Experience vs. story
An important feature of this is the experience vs. story question. We experience one thing moment by moment. But remember it in a different way. Also the story we have in head about our whole life and certaini experiences, is many times altogether different from actual experience. People care a great deal about their story (kahneman).
Is story central? or experience central?
I feel kahneman's approach is the right one. That is, people want actual experience AND story. I still do not feel clear about the the topic, however.

more references.
Loewenstein 2008 what makes life worthwhile
measurements issues 1999 WB volume

Monday, November 10, 2008

WWDNGH4 Psychology vs. material stuff

Money and simple materialism is relatively simple.
That is why improvement in material life quality is simple.
But it is not everything, and it is somewhat capped above. You cannot improve materialistic state endlessly and still gain much. So you are stuck with what people feel psychologically.

Psychological feelings etc. are much more complex.
Either satisfaction with one's job, life, and social situation.
Self perception. Relationships.
Occupying oneself with things that produce good feeling.
self actualization (sounds psychological nonsense. But it can be very important)
feeling of autonomy and freedom.
Not being flooded and overwhelmed with these feelings.
etc. etc. many more dimensions.

A few barriers for psychological improvement.

Complexity. As above it is not a summary of things. It is rather very complex.

Unseen. Much of psychology is unseen. i.e. even if resulting feelings are somehow the goal (at least part thereof), the psychological dynamics leading to them is very opaque, and many findings show that we have a very bad understanding of our own psych. {to whihc extent?}
Even feelings themselves are highly unclear.We may be more or less aware of ceratin feelings. (very very awareness changes the very meaning of a feeling. But it still counts. Like forgotten "objective experience" that should be counted)

Hard to apply. Changing psychological features of a person is hard. It is not as buying a new car.

No efficient market for psychological stuff.
Many material things have a market. Even when most people are inefficient, a few efficient people can make money on optimizing the tradable goods.

In psychology, nobody makes money from making me/you happier. Therefore, the only way for improvement is doing it ourselves.

A related observation is that certain trends in our subjective psychology are negative. i.e. contrary to economics where there is generally an improvement (suppose). In psychology certain trends are clearly negative.
These trends are sometimes social and cultural dynamics that sometimes move to the worse. There is no ulterior manager that makes all trends to the better.
A good read is "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled--and More Miserable Than Ever Before". I cannot guarantee all conclusions, but there are clearly dynamics in the culture that are bad of our psychological well-being

Favorite qoute: All is psychology. jobs, philosophies, rationalities, incentives, moralities, are all names presumed to escape our child-like souls. Kahneman/Baumeister more important than Einstein.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Enjoying life in the good and in the bad

I will enjoy life when I will just have this little nap, recover from illness, get my acts together, fix the relationship trouble etc.

Makes sense. You can indeed feel better when things will fall on place (maybe. Your bad feelings can come from a different source and you are mistakenly attributing it to these things).

But you got to enjoy life meanwhile. Much of life is spent before we got things right. Even staying in line or waiting in airports.

Multi-strategy in life management.
Having a single strategy that is limited to only part of life is not good. It means that when the situation is not suitabgle to your strategy you stay a sucker. "If I am too tired I feel bad no matter what" means balatantly giving up.

A set of strategies for varying circumstances is more realistic.

What counts in life, is what difference we can make. Possibly, one can improve feelings in bad times even more than good times (then you feel good anyway). But what counts is the difference, and a difference there is is bad times, too.

See also:
trouble gets superimposed on us. Why? Any escape? (linked above under "Even staying in line or waiting in airports")

Monday, October 6, 2008

Humanity and sale persons

I tried to cancel an old internet connection.

Contrary to my personal preferences, the internet company has a torture procedure to the criminal wishing to leave their service. It is done "nicely".

First, the customer service guy is not in charge of cancellations. There is another department for that "customer conservations".

The guy is probably a nice person trying to make his hourly going rate by sitting in the call center. I felt ashamed by getting angry. I clarified to him. "I have nothing against you personally, but I am terribly angry for the company forcing on me this torture. They are cynically exploiting my time and energy".

Anyway, he tried to talk me into deals, until I got tired and in the middle of his sentence told him "let me free, cancel the thing".
He got offended (I guess it is a game. But who knows). "Will not you let me finish the sentence?"

I appreciate that the person was so nice as to let me close it that way. But it left me in an unease feeling.

Dillema: this guy is exploiting my time unfairly. I owe him nothing. But it is hardly his initiation. It is like beating the cop in a Sovietic Gulag. He may have been forced to arrest me, and will suffer tredemously if I escape.
Also, the guy has his emotional system sensitive. The fact that I am not willing - justically - to spend another second with him can feel still painful for him emotionaly.
He is also followed. The calls are recorded. If he tries to be human and is not to torture me to the maximum, he can get fired.

OTOH, I do not buy the notion that you can send innocent folks to torture me, and I will have to behave nicely toward them. Collaborators of crime cannot expect mercy.
Expecting me to show mercy is taking the cinycism of agency problem [1] to new heights. Not only can you steal my time and energy throught your workers, you also want me to behave. I would round the ball, and torture your workers. At least people will be not be happy to work in an ugly enterprise.
But this logic feels theoretical and inhuman. This sorry young persons who tortured me is a sentient human, and it has to be taken into account.

personal biases: 1) I am more annoyed by talking over the phone especially sale persons. 2) I value these offers much less than an average person. These considerations tip teh balance strongly into the negative area.
But do not imagine that my exceptionality is why it hurts me. It hurts everybody, but people are used to bend their head below the disaster whihle I am not shy.

[1] Agency problem. When An agent is deciding for you. The interests of the agent are differenct from yours, whihc leads to decisions and actions that are bad for you.
This problem is worse as the complexity of actions and decisions grow, like in modern life. A good example of agency is when bank managers take risks with shareholders money. The managers can only win (the yearly bonus). The long term risk is on shareholders, and one can guess that the personal interests on managers take precedence in many cases.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Latent potentials

Every cell in the body had the potential to become liver/muscle/eye/neuron. Everything.
But it exhibits only one.

Your mind can load old scenes and feel the related emotions. It can concentrate on a technical text. It can analyze a social setting, meditate. Endless possibilities. 
Now it does only one thing (that is reading this exciting text without an ability to wander to more boring stuff)
It has many *potentials* but only one realization.

We mistake the potential to represent some "inner" things. So if you can cry you have a little cry inside, only you do not express it. Boring mistake! you may have a potential to cry but now that you do not cry, you are possibly very happy (with this exciting text)
Because this is not always intuitive, we fall in many traps.

Psychology. Many think that rehashing traumatic events will cure them. Alas, research shows that forgetting is many times much more effective. The idea that "you must talk about it", comes partly from thinking that the potential has to be handled. Forgetting that potential may better stay as a dormant potential evil.

One can understand same for positive potentials. We all have many potentials to enjoy and to be more successful. Not being there just says that potentials have not been evoked (but do not be naive...... do not risk your savings/emotional life on "unrealized potential"

I am just reading by Thomas Gilovich ("why we don't know what isn't so") that a central reason for pursuing bad strategies is because we never try alternative strategies (he speaks about interpersonal stuff). So there are many latent strategies we can use. We just never tried them.

Closely related: Extreme and special cases and causes (Static vs. dynamic causes of phenomenons Latent possible effects may always be there Inference form extreme/artificial cases is problematic)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Probability of being right

Opinion * probability of being right.

The above probability is crucial for the value of every opinion we have. Every opinion/perception/understanding we have is probabilistic by nature. 90% 99.9% or more usually mere 40-70%.

Overestimation is very common in gauging this probability.

Ignoring it altogether is no less common. "That is my opinion". Where is the error rate?

The components of which he final conclusion is based are no immune. Every part and parcel of your thinking process has its own susceptibility for mistakes.

Bottom line: Probability of mistakes = product of mistake probabilities for all partial understandings whose opinion builds crucially on + (i.e. multiply by) probability of error in the final conclusion + probability of error in way the thinking process went (i.e. you can define in many ways: Either the problem itself, or the logical struture you walk throught to the solution, or the attention (weight) you give to every part of the process)

errors in the aformentioned probabiity guesses
errors I have not thought about

The color of an understanding is crucial for its meaning. i.e. what exactly did you mean. + context. i.e. under which conditions does it work. understanding limits and level of idea. How far it goes and to which effect.

How you know the reliability of your thinking process? Usually it is done intuitively. I guess earlier mistakes are calibrating these intuitions. So ignoring our mistakes is not just a local problem, it distorts our whole reality perception. Reminds me of Warren Buffet "I hate managers that lie. Not because I will not kkn0ow what is going on. Rather, a manager who lies to investors is liikely to lie for himself. hene he is a bad manger"

After reading this Buffet words, I realized that it is rational to avoid lying, which seems to make me lying less. That is, if you are naive enough to believe me.

Another way is by using meta-rules of reliability. Here, too you have to deal with the reliability of the reliability rule and the reliability of its application.

If you do not feel confused I recommend re-reading.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How different are you?

Estimate your variance (i.e. how normal you are)

Most what we know is about averages. General wisodm, as well as modern learned science.
The value of the above depends on the average + your deviation from the average. there is a randmo component in this. But everyone is different in how unusual he is (how much variance to expect). the less usual the person the less vaue of common knowledge, and more on other methods of learning (personal experience, or other forms of educarted guesses. Accepting lack of knowlwdge i.e. acting with knowing that you do not know).

Practicaly, estimate how your are usual of different in various areas.
Correct for bias! Since we tend to see ourselves as more unusual than we really are, you have to adjust your estimate by adding the usual error in this estimate... (on average people thing they are lss average than they really are. We tend to be nomre usual than we subjectively perceive). I wanted to add that some people can somehow guess more realistically. But this would make every reader thinking he is of this kind.

Daniel Gilbert ("Stumbling on Happiness") offers that we should learn from others (from the outside you can perceive emotional results more accurately) and surrogate decisions to others (they are not involved emotionally and biased). He claims - with interesting data - that people are more similar than we subjectively judge.Surrogating decisions and learning from others, builds on the common between people and is not good for differences. The usefulness of it is crucially dependent on how average you are. The less average - the less use you get from studying average folks.

If you are truly far from average, remember:
1) Learn from weired persons. Stories of unusual folks may be much more relevant for your personal life than than average stuff. Either personal - get to know. or via books etc. The weired the better.
2) Tolstoy says that all happy families are happy alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Not to make the weired unhappy, but every weired paerson can be weired in his own way.There are still similarities between many weired people, and between subclasses of them.

Good luck in the fascinating jungle of the weired!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The academic bias

Assume a person who believes that testable ideas are the most interesting ones. Or (weaker form) that stuff that can be laid down in a very neat and logical way or is testable has a strong superiority.

He will devote all his time etc. to this kind of questions, thereby creating a whole body of knowledge that has been selected not on the basis of importance, utility, reality & truth, but on the basis of what meets the technical criteria.

This may create a very distorted world view. and a off the mark body of knowledge.

Even more extreme oddities will emerge in the dynamics of knowledge and learning. When there is more literature and more people talking about a minor question that happened to fit the "science" criteria. Now other people will develop their life, perception and research in this direction, deviating even more form the more relevant issues that do not fit into technical handling.

These dynamics may create a very biased world view. As examplified elsewhere, small innitial biases may contribute to great deviation in the end.

A great example can be seen with happiness research. Put aside what is "correct" for happiness, it seems plausible that even just because some happiness measures are more "neat" and handy, they become "the currency of trade" in the research community.
AFTER they have become "the currency" of the research, they have several advantages including "framing" (i.e. they are written on the wall of the mind all the time as happiness strengthning their imagined relavance). The other advantage of is that even if you disagree with the idea, you will use it just because there is so much research based on that.

On balance, we have many reasons to value technically collected research. We should as well remember that our goal is not being technically correct. We want certain things from life, and should remember that technical science and logic can handle only part of reality.

Reality is there as it is. It does not care what we want it to be. Sometimes, reality even fights back to those trying to ignore it.

On Balance - Importance of an encompassing opinion

Understanding things on balane. Not just narrow opinions!

It is relatively easy to say a highly confined statement (it is cheaper to drive this way).Harder when more considerations come into play (include cost of driving. time. emotional effects. etc.)

Because it is hard to have clear cut evidence about the "on balance" issues, it is easy to build contradicting opinions + finding evidence upon request to satisfy whatever needs/interests you have.

The opinion that is general_all_summed_in is what counts in real life.Alas, it is harder. Hard to feel sure about. Complex.

Reality is that. Reality never apologizes and leaves no prisoners. Admit it, or escape into the territory of delusion. It dreams much better out there......

See my piece above on "the academic bias", regarding how being technically right absolutely can drive your attention to narrow/irelevant places.

I bought a newspaper

because I got seduced at the grocery store.

On the way, I realized what a mistake it was. I threw it to the garbage before entering my house. It is better to lose the buck I already paid for the paper, than lose a chunk of brain and some time.

Unhealthy food, should be thrown away as soon as you realize that it is negative to eat it. "Do not waste it" is irrational and unethical. The Talmud recognized it two millenia ago, when saying that the prohibition of wasting stuff, is irelevant when the body is the counter party. "The waste of the body is more important".

There has been times when it was crucial to keep food. Nowadays our trouble is the opposite and attitudes should be adjusted accordingly.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Metaphor of Mean-Variance

Sitting on the beach with a friend, we discussed the eternal topic of how much beauty one should look for. It is known that for the same "price" you will get either more beautiful and less smart and vice versa. Those with beauty and wits, will look for a higher quality lad than you.

Friend says that everyone looks for different kinds of beauty.
But there is a common element!

There is no contradiction. If you ask different people to rate beauty, you will find some correlation between them.
Common element + individual/deviant element.

Mean-variance is very relevant to every knowledge. All we know is partial, and depends on conditions (the correlation between the beauty in my eyes an African man is lower than between me and other Israelis, I guess. But there also there is a strong correlation! again. three quantities: common to all, more common for Israelis alone, and variable). It can go on...

Intuition can be true. However, without thinking it out, we suspect it a little. Its reliability is probabilistic (any knowledge is probabilistic. Anyone not understanding it should see a doctor). On average ("mean") it has certain chance to be right, but a good probability to be a mistake = unknown

Many controversies come about because of not understanding. Evidence to an effect does not say it is exclusive, and the same for counter examples. Many counter examples disprove just the generality of the rule, there may still be a partial generality (sometimes a generality is dependent on various conditions and other problems. Long story).

The mind does not like half truths, continuous gradients of stuff, etc.
Baumeister (the cultural animal) explains: Most decisions and actions in life are discreet. You either order the cake or not. tell the joke or.... tell first three words and see reactions.... (this is the continuous way, but most do not use it). Our mind May have a adapted to this reality.
Simplification of information is another reason. I surmise that both explanations are right.

PS. To make Nassim Taleb happy, I state that variance can be a crazy distribution/fractal/unknown/jumpy or whatever. In another sense, the idea of mean and variance above, reflects the idea of commonalities between things, while there are differences and possibly big ones. Sorry reader. It is not me complicating matters. It is reality that is opaque making our minds dizzy.

Jump to achieve/change

Our options are limited. We try to choose the best one (assume).

But we can create new interesting options.
For me, driving involves so much effort, that having a car is useless. But if I engage in driving for a long time, driving will become automatic. Then having a car may improve my life.

There are endless ways we can have better options by engaging a certain amount of negative/effortful experience.
Those endless possibilities do not occur naturally. They occur only when you forget everything you know about your own

life and experience. Questioning even the smallest basic assumption about how you feel, function, mind working, wants, etc.
Beware, that even with much effort, you will see only a minority of hidden options in your life. The scope of potential

possibilities is never seen fully.


1) Over optimism. We expect life to get better after the change becoming natural. We are usually overestimating the

expected improvement. We may not learn the skill/get used to the situation. The very usefulness of the learned stuff can be illusory. Adaptation, that is human's tendency to get used to everything, cancels out various supposedly improvements of life.

2) Gamble. Skewed bets (like lottery, but with maybe positive expectation). Sometimes, the cost is relatively low, but the possible progress is enormous. No big loss if useless. But the change in life can be forever. Other changes to life are long investment, but small improvement for a little while only.
Life is short!

A change starts negatively, where we lose immediately from it. The trick is that sometimes, the later value is large. The farther the positive value, the larger the effort invested, the less worth it seems to be.

Hidden options are endless. It is a complex territory, sometimes worth the trouble.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Darwin's Epistemological insight: Unreliability of probabilities.

What are the probabilities of our existence?

OK. There could have been many "existence" so the question should be asked "what is the probability of an existence that is 'interesting'" or something like that.

Technically, we cannot calculate, because we have no knowledge about the variety of processes that could have happen.
But we may try intuitively, with some understanding of the space of possibilities, to gauge. Where are the odds going to land?

In short, I see that it feels that the probability is very low. Not 1 / 1 ^ infinite zeros. But rather 1 / 1 ^ very many zeros.

Darwin killed 99.9999% of the improbability of existence.

But I believe, that while we may (and have to) intuit about these probabilities, we should learn from this experience is how far our estimates can be from the ultimate numbers.

Before Darwin, if asked what are the odds for this world, reply would be infinitely low. Because the probabilities for all these species and their complexity and efficiency is so impossible.

One good algorithm of Darwin (gradual process of evolutionary selection) dumped the probabilities infinitely. They still seem low, but in relation to the odds we had before Darwin, the odds are infinitely more probable.

Statistically, Darwin taught us how a not thought of process can change dramatically our subjective probability assessments.

We Know that our estimates are terribly unreliable. That is, after Darwin

Epistemologically, that is Darwin's most important lesson!

Monday, June 30, 2008

The problem of being gifted

Geniuses are able to invent explanations on all fronts with no apparent difficulty. When those guys come up with a nice theory, be skeptic. They have the capability of making up endless kinds of theories explanation and combinations thereof. That is a big problem.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tricking conflicting wants

Much of trouble we face comes from the fact the many of our wants are confliting with each other [1: examles].

Some of these are unavoidable in a complex reality whihc is not built to fulfill our wants.
Other conflicts are only apparant conflicts. They arise because in the default state of things they are conflicting. But there are ways around.

Finding ways around conflicts (i.e. learning how to eat the cake and have it, too) may hold a big promise to improve lfie quality. I would guess that people just do not explore all space of ways to put things together.

Caveat: I may prove wrong. THnking too much, tricking things, etc., and getting used to eat the cake etc. may prove negative on balance. I hope I am right.

[1: examples] Baumeister holds that over half of self-defeating behavriors are actually trade-offs. Alcohol abuse come from wanting the joy of alcohol but neglecting the consequences. and so on.

There are more examples, whihc I may add later.

Three degrees of rationality in Economics

I believe that economical decisions can be roughly divided into three levels with rationality decreasing: Outside arbitrage. Big consequences. Small consequences.

1) Outside arbitrage. Where a few rational individuals can make money out of other’s inconsistencies. Example put/call parity in options.Here the market is almost always rational. Because it is enough to have very few rational guys to rationalize it. These rationalizing the market should be have an interest in rationalizing the market. E.g. making money of other's irrationality

2) Big consequences refers to where irrational decisions are going to be exposed no matter how careless people are. Example: The very idea of saving for pension.
While single individuals ignore saving many times, there is public awareness to the need, and society makes an effort to rationalize behavior.Other examples relate to financial decisions that many people know they have to consult about. The big consequences ultimately insert rationality in the system, via various routes.

3) Small things. Here I see no doubt that human nature is quite capricious. There are so many examples about this.

I believe that rejecting an even chance bet of winning 200 and losing 100 is strictly irrational. Many reject such a gamble. But this is a small decision. The direct consequences of this irrationality are not that big to make society aware on them.

I never saw this distinction written, but it looks obvious. Anyone saw these definitions stated somewhere?

PS. Definition of small/big
When I talk about big decisions, I am not talking about the effect of the decision itself. I am sure people make irrational decisions about huge decisions.
My category of “big” talks about mistakes that are repeated many times, and their effect is disastrous. This may lead to correction from various places. Not taxing car entrance to the city centers can be said irrational, and one city at least reacted, while other tried. It can be seen that rationality emerges when the effects are severe enough. Even then rationality does not rule.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A very personal approach about finding a partner

A very personal approach about finding a partner
"personal" because of the sophistication problem. Sophisticated stretegies are very risky and can be a great way to fool oneself to rationalize the most stupid decisions. beaware!

1) "so-so" relationships are mediocore and bad. (see detailed sources for that at the end) I am not looking for these (except for the short-term to manage day to day emotionally)

2) goal = really good relationship.

3) skewed bets strategy. Crucial for finding a mate.

3.1) payoff is skewed. cost of a cheap try is uncomparable to value of finding something good.

3.2) must keep bettting costs low. You are not hanging out for weeks with every possible mate. You make a quick check, maybe an enjoyable date and think whether there is a chance for the really impressive thing. If you get dragged into every bet you cannot accumulate bets. and the betting costs get heeavy on your budget (energy time etc.)

3.3) Be humanistic with the people you gamble about. The innocent girl in the station should not suffer because of your sophisticated gambles. Do not make others suffer in the process. Eventually, you will find the process much more successful and joyful when being considerate.

3.4) "If you look for rare and moving elephants you should always carry a gun" (Beloved Warren Buffet). checking for a rer opportunity involves the mindset of being able to move the wheel 180 degrees and pul the engine fast when an opportunity arises. If you see something with a good probability for a lifetime success you should be able to pursue it strongly at any time with needing ltos of preperation "the right time for dating" etc. etc. You can even do maximum effort to find someone who feels to be a really good bet.

3.5) It is so expected that finding a good match requires lots of checking. Because there is a lot of personal variability tastes and different valuing of different qualities. there are mates who will value your qualities much more than others, and those are the folks you should look for. If you look for getting your "self"s worth.
This try a lot is a strategy that is irrationaly underrated in dating. I know many that could have get good things just by rying enough. So many just do not invest in trying. It is either because they forget about skewness, ignoring a bet that is less than 50% chance. Or because of paying dearly for every gamble, which in exhausting.

4) Looking for the really good thing (aka "no cap strategy") means that it may take a long time to find. It implies one must have short-term solutions/alternatives in terms of emotional social needs and maybe sexuality. If you feel desperate you 1: feel bad, AND 2: you tend to get dragged into mediocre relationships. Must have social network enough to keep "above the water".

Note. 1: all we have in real life here and now is the short-term, so working out short-term solutions is highly important. 2: In western soceities most spent long years without a "serious" mate, so short-term tricks etc. are crucial to have a good life.

So-so relationships are bad. because:
you lose the option of getting a really good relationship.
according to a happiness research that tracked people over many years, the average married person is not much happier than the single in the long run. But there is a subgroup of really happy marriages that make people happy for the really long term. Such kind of marriage you should be looking for, not the one that is hardly better than being single.
Getting stuck in a bad relationship and divorcing is much worse for happiness than what the averegae marriage is making happy. I am not sure it is worthwhile on balance. Moreover, looking at the long term data I realized that the overall expected value of marriage in happiness terms is slightly negative. When one starts a gamble (i.e. a relationship, whihc is always kind of gamble) he shoulod look for positive expected value when all possible eventualities are summed up.
a relationship involves investing quite a bit. I am strongly against investing energy etc. for getting almost the same overally. I am only for good deals. Against all kind of mediocre deals where you are struggling to convince yourself it is worthy.

Additional reading
1) John Gottman made extremely intereting research on relationships. His idea is that somehow there are a few very simple positive dynamics that make good relationships work. He manage to predict with 90% accuracy which couples will remain together 15 years in advance!!!!!, a prediciton that was based on analyzing a 15 minutes chat between the couple.
His stuff is surely worth reading, and using. One may even try to think about his relationships via Gottman glasses, maybe knowing more in advance can help avoid much painful mistakes.

2) The book "Simple Heuristics that make us smart" contains a chapter descussing the optimal rules for mate searching. I have not studied this chapter seriousely, but the book it good, and the idea of a rule of thumb in mate finding is appalling.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The selfish opinion

John Bargh [1] is now pushing the idea of "The Selfish goal" where our mind is composed of various half-independent goals each of whihc is actually caring on its own, and that our actions and behavior is the composite of all this.

It made me thinking about "selfish opinions" implying that we have multiple competing opinions perceptions etc. which create the final opinion by aggregation. Just like Bargh's goals theory.

That way overstated "irrational" intuitions may combine to an optimal aggregated opinion.
Compatible with what we know that people are quite overreacting with specific questions (like stereotypes or heuristics generally). But these opinions are usually reality compatible (most stereotypes are true says literature).

When one makes a decision his mind sum up a bunch of overstated discrete-like opinions, and the decision is their (kind of) sum. An extreme statement when mixed with twenty other opinions may turn out quite representing reality. (The overstated opinion is actually diluted to 5% and in this amount it corresponds to the real values).

Generally this is compatible with the idea of ecological rationality of Greg Gigerenzer and dan Goldstein. In this view, heuristics that may not be "correct" in laboratory settings (like in Kahneman & Tversky's experiments) may still be very efficient for real life situations, because in the complexity of life there are various parameters etc. that make our seemingly incorrect intuitions reasonably efficient.

[1] (father of the research showing the enormous power of the unconsciousness in making us do things taht look exactly the same as if we did them consciousely + showing how easy it is to make people do things by unconscious means like showing flags (Hassin) putting a suitcase mnear the door or giving them to play with words)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The illusion of suboptimality and irrationality

Many times we feel that the world is highly irational and suboptimal (i.e. things can be done is a much better way). This is sometimes the case, but maybe less than as it seems. Our eyes are very misleading about it.

The reason is because the hypothetical reality (that is before any decision has been made) contains a hugte space of possibilities. The decision and actions people take are usually relatively good among the overal space of possibilities.

But the decisions people take may not be the absolute optimum. That is they are not the very best set of decisions. But they are still very good.

After the fact thinking will start off with what decisions already made, and try to look for alternatives based on this optimized decision. Insofar that the decision was not the absolute optimal it will look like there are better decisions and the decision maker was a fool.

Suppose there are a billion possible compositions one can lead to by various combinations of decisions. Suppose further that we sort them throught a single measure. If the actual decision ranked 100th, it should be a great decision, but starting from there one will see that it is the worst out of hundred possibilities.

This mistake has various kinds.:
Ignoring the fact that there were a lot of worse decisions.
Perceiving the "better" decisions as many and forgetting that among the original set of possibilities these super optimal decisions were a tiny unseen minority.
Forgetting possible drawbacks of the super-optimal decisions that just seem irelevant from a current point of view.

Intuitively it feels that there is a deeper side to it. Focusing on theis ex-post space seriousely distorts the whole situation.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Making progress on happiness: Practical ruminations

After thinking and reading so much about happiness, I still feel so stupid. Rather, utterly stupid.

Pretending scholar and intellectual I can. But that is useless. The respected idea is to have something useful. Practically useful oprogress is the *only* thing that count!

A. I need to first have some useful insights about how people can get happier.
B. Practically applicable ideas. "do meditation two hours a day" maybe a terrific idea. nobody going do it. Something that real people can realistically do and get their life better off.
C. "Sell" it. Making people aware of the ideas to the level that they will use them. Reach "clients". Convince them about it. And they have to use it in reality. Not just buy a book and tell everybody how smart it is......

This whole list feels almost unpenetrable..... but because it feels hard does not mean one has to look after low level cleaning jobs.

ps. do not take me saintly. I love status, and I run after it... I also run after girls in the street. I just do not find these activities extremely important.