Friday, December 25, 2009

Why logic is useless

I started living with a roomate. Naturally, she has her bunch of stories, reflections, etc.

Naturally (....) I am having y analysis, advice and words of wisdom.

I realized that many times, while logically, philosophically, and intellectually brilliant, I am entirely useless and out of hte point. Thanks god I am holding my tounge at times.

We can frame the world people, experiences, etc. in endless ways. Every way does have some merit. But what coutns is relevance in context (is your comment going to provide your freind with fun and future useful understanding, or it is a useless pain in the ass?).

Logic is not handling context at all. It just follows the given question.

The main issue in real life is what is the right question, and with which glasses to look at things and issues. Logic is useless in this. (aside from that it is very easy to fall prey to it. Because it is flawless)

Monday, December 21, 2009

calibration is useless and dangerous

We have a tendency to want to know exactly. What is the exact value of this action? how much effort is too much for this end etc.
Even in feelings. How much do I want to care on X? etc.

Usually we have quite an idea about the amount more or less, but then some tend to want to know exactly.

Yet knowuing exactly is usually impossible. Because of hte complexity of things and so on.

Moreover, the utility of finding out the exact is deteriorating, while the cost of finding the exact go up.

PS. there is another cost of closing the mind with having a clear cut number. Also, see Jon Elster about people preferring to rely on rationality.

Friday, December 11, 2009

No single solution for life

There is an utopic fantasy that a single formula/trick solution/ approach will make life good and all will be fine and dandy.

This is not going to work in real life.

There are multiple aspcts to life and endless challenges.

Some good ideas will be useful. Maybe even very useful. But there is no such a thing as a single idea that will solve everything and let you not think, not fight and not make effort. There will always be the need for ad-hoc thinking. For looking at what happens and attend to the various aspects and challenges that come throught.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fine distinctions

What we consider bluntness/stupidity is sometimes a rough optimum.

Without delicate distinctions it is sometimes better to go by the blunt rule.

Delicate distinctions allow for flexible behavior and thinkuing. SOmetimes you do that way sometimes opposite.

It is a good rule to be nice. If this is a single rule for social interactins it is good. If you are more astute, you know when to be nice and when to be strong. Even more: to be nice and strong together.

But if you do not have the ability to distinguish, you maybe actually be better off with a blunt generaliation.

There are always advatages of the blunt and simple. Less effort (unless it is easier for you to handle the effortful interesting over the boring). Simplicity has its virtues. You will also be able to act more automatically that way. Mauybe the saved attention can be used for more useful things.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Keep the fun

our level of fun and interest in activities changes for many reasons.

If you find yourself enjoying something, keep going. Give up anything else if you get now enough fun.

We tend to think that "enough is enough" etc. but if you really enjoy something there is no reason in the world to stop. Keep going.

Got the idea from Nassim Taleb's stuff.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Multiple causes and routes for change

The linear way of looking at life holds that there a list of causes, and a "situation" with which one got to cope/handle. You have what there is, and from there with the known causes you play what you can to change the situation.

But it does not work that way.

There are various interconnected dynamics in life. Each one affecting the others. In principle one can change hte system from various direcitons.

You can effect enormous change in the system by playing some obscure parameter. If you change something enough and use it as a level to reap its rewards you may be able to change everything without fighting the main obstacles.

And I have not started talking on creatiung new combinations of changes etc., which is quite interesting etc.

The idea is that with the endless effects and dynamics one can approahc life from various angles, and indeed with enough strenght and sophistication very many tricks may work. There is no one "situation + casuse" with which one got to work. There maybe endless tricks

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Criticism from involved parties

When a person who did not got form you what he wnats, tells you negative thigns about yourself, do not be naive. He is whinning (or manipulating) about not getting his interests.

He may call you egoistic, mannerless, etc. all because he did not got what he wants.

Still, do not be naive. These self interested parties may say right things. Just do not take them at face value.

Especially on the moralistic side and that of fairness, remember that your critics are as self interested in criticising as their subject of criticism.

It is funny that people not getting what they want are egoistic enough to accuse with egoism......

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Natural vs. artificial joys

Joy is joy. Its source irelevant.

If you learn to enjoy (forthcoming post). If you create artificially something that makes you have fun - so good.

There is an aesthetic tendency to see artificial joys as inferior. It exist more by some and less by others. I deem it irrational. (See Against delicate taste)

Natural joys do have advantages. It is usually more ecological (i.e. comes more naturally, and fits better with other things nad with emotional and practical needs). But that it is.

Same for actions.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The ironic meaning of "no free will"

1)The free will controversy includes a logical problem.

There are many levels to look at phenomenon. As I am typing these letters, there are atoms involved. There are words, and there are ideas. You can look on different stages and details of what happens. Every way of looking depicts different phenomenons and details.

There is a phenomenon of something within the human brain that plays a role in making things happen. In a sense, this program is created by genetic instructions, outer experience etc. But at every given moment there is something in the mind that is part of making things happen. (another rather psychological controversy is how much is this program involved and how much are other processes, but this is an empirical issue which I am not handling here. See Bandura's chapter in the volume "are we free" references below for a presentation in favor of more free will in doing).

This program of dynamic in the human brain is influenced by endless factors, no doubt. No one claims it to be a pure soul that makes decisions. Now, there is a confusion about the levels of causation. The fact that there is a higher level of causes that influences the "self" program, does not means the self does not exists. It also seems reasonable that the self is having it own procedures now. Even if earlier these procedures and tendencies where coming from outer sources, they do exist now.
It may feel strange psychologically that what I call "my" self is created from outer influences. But this psychological discomfort does not reduce the existence of the self, it may merely reduce its aesthetic appeal. In a sense the effect comes from a naive psychological want to it to be purely "my", fully initiated by oneself. We are clearly strongly influenced from the outside at the origin. But now, we exist and we have an effect.

2) The ironic game of beliefs in free will.
The self acts differently when he believes or does not believe in free will.
In reality, the argument about free will is which belief to feed the "machine". It is not just about truth, it is about which aspect will be fed into the machine. Here one may want to ask what effect will this belief have vs. this belief. (There is interesting research in Baumeister laboratory showing that when people believe in free will, they are happier, more efficient at work and nicer towards others).

Ultimately, the sides fight on how the self will act and feel rather than just about a philosophical claim. Practically, they want the machine to act so or so.

One may talk about truth. But truth lies with both sides, since what matters is the meaning of free will rather than its technical (so called "philosophical" truth). Truth is how people understand and perceive the statement, rather than its legal meaning. Since most discussions of free will ignore the meaning problems mentioned above, the talk about truth is empty. Truth is with the ultimate meaning of what you talk about, not in being technically right but wrong in the implications and common understanding. (aside of that, having a better life and world is clearly more important for normal persons than "truth").

Bandura A. (2008). Reconstrual of "free will" From the Agentic Perspective of Social Cognitive Theory in Baer J., Kaufman J. C., Baumeister R. F. (Eds.) Are We Free? Psychology and Free Will New York, Oxford University Press.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Inquiring others about foregone options

(and about their lives in general)

I am curious about how people manage their life and make decisions.

Curiousity brings me to wonder about the choices my freinds have taken. Would they fare better had they choosen differently? Would have this freind happier would he marry this women that he left for seemingly stupid reasons, only to take a worse one?

But the very asking would be bad to this person's happiness. If I am right and he was mistaken back then, he can get quite sad about his current situation.

So I cannot ask people about historical choices they have made, lest it make them unhappy.

But I can still post aobut it, and aside from venting, it makes me look like a very considerate person. And who knows, maybe some wiser choices would come my way......

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Looking clearly at our mistakes

I am finding myself doing many mistakes.

The more painful part is that I am catching myself almost online. A second after acting, up pops up the exact ensemble of gestures and actions that would have been much better.

It poses a dillema. Avoid these thoughts? Look at them? be happy or sad about that?

happiness or sadness about these, are partly out of our control. I have doubvts about "making oneself happy" intentionally. But I have no clear idea about that.

Yet looking at our mitakes can indeed teach us a lot. Doing a mistake and knowing the right way of action has good odds for a voiding the mistake another time.

There are a few caveats, however.
First, sometimes what we deem "the right way" is not realistic. knowing hte right way that it out of our realistic practical ability is of no use.
Second, simce we are bound to make mistkaes, much of what we need to learn is about how to handle life with our given behaviors. Not merely knowing hte optimal way of acting.
There is a lot of practical wisdom in learnig to handle our life given our weaknesses and stupidity.

Still I feel that knowing our mistakes has great value (and if one feels it inherently, he may enjoy much the process of thinking about the bettere ways to act upon every mistake he does). Let's hope I am not mistaken.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Indulgence strategy

Jerome Kagan has a priod of serious depression. As a result he says,

"I took a private oath to make each day as beautiful as possible. Family, freinds, forests, reading, tennis, and exploring rich corpora of data have been effective defenses against the recurrence of that deep, dark melancholia"

It is a big wonder why this oath is not common to all people. Probably, rationality is not enough. Only a strong and effective experience makes people to invest in enjoying life.

Indulgence means to do things one truly enjoys for their own sake. Feeling free to move to the thing that is fun, and stopping at the moment it does not feel like fun. It is not work, it is fun.

Everyone has some free time, where he is having the technical ability to simply indulge in fun activities. One got to act upon it. Also, one must have a wide spectrum of things that he enjoys. Because moods and energy change. So that one can always truly enjoy the free time.

It may not happen on its own. For some people, having fun cannot be left for chance. (nor can one let fun be technically managed. It is a balance that is different between people and between days/situations)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Listening to advice

1) When a friend advices me on something, I tend to ask why. Then I tend to think whether his reason is ocnvincing.

This is not so good. Advice represents also the friends' more general opinion about what I should do, which cannot be reduced to the reason he is giving.
I must take into account that my friend thinks so, regardless to his specific reason.

Note also that when we analyze the friends reasons, we go back to our own opinion....

2) Another reason for taking a friends advice as it is, is that the very opinion of a friend is informative even when we do not think so. Reality is not within our own opinion, but can be different from what we think.

3) Against advice. A problem with advice for personal life in general, is that life is complex, and advice must be compatible with one's life. Many times advice does not really take into account the advicee way of life, constraints, strategies etc.
See my post How different are you?

Ultimately, one got to be smart. There are no simple and clear technical rules

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rough (variable in texture) thinking

thinking can vary in texture. The emphasis and centrality of various things to take very different levels.

A conversation can take place with a flat and constant level of attention. This is what people name "full attention", the listener listens with almost the same vigor to the sneezing as to the most central aspect. He is "attentive" but not very attuned to the content.

A rough listener, will have his atention changing according to how much relevance he sees. He may not see spelling errors, because he does not look for them. He may get awakened fiercely by a highly relevant comment, and so on. This is the guy who will spring out out of what looks like sleeping and say "deal!"

Reality is rough. Things are not distributed evenly. 80% of the content of a conversation may lie in 20% of the time.

Roughness applies on many dimensions.
Attention to details. Every detail has some value. A true rough attender may somehow attend in a shallow way to seemingly irelevant details, without really thinking about them, but somewhere knowing that they have a very low level, but they are worth this low level.

The certainty of statements by him will never be binary, i.e. of 1/0 variety. They will be a continous mark that maybe 97% or 2% or many other values.

The meaning of things for him are never as clear as in the dictionary. They have complex meanings and connections. and their meaning do change according to the context.

The rough thinker will not be a careful nor a careless person. He will almost ignore the small things, but will be very serious and thoughtful in the big things. He will not, however, ignore the small things altogether, he will give them a little attention, but no more.

This is a theoretical portrait. A truly smart person will take into account the limits of the human mind. Not of the human mind, but of his own mind. We cannot be perfect and we can only make our mind smart so much. We got to be technical at times, but not too much. We must remember that the real world is not built the way our mind finds most practical to think about. Even if we give up and think in a flat way, it is a shortcut, a map. And we must not confuse the map with the territoty

When the heart has a strong tendency toward a certain decision of opinion, the rough thinker becomes especially attentive. He starts thinking a littel technically. He understands that with open mindedness, the heart has a lot of leeway to get his wants. It is much easier to fool oneself when thinking is rough. (although many managed to fool themselves no less with technical thnking and closed mindedness)

Indeed, rough thinking is a rough business.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Extreme strategies and tricks

Unusual combinations of people. Strange kinds of businesses. Unconventional thoughts, ideas and plans.

These harbor great potential. Because the usual is usually exploited.
They are also more interesting, and intriguing.

But one should be overly careful with these ways. Usually they do not work.
We do not have experience or advice from others about these crazy ways.
One got to be very smart, and open eyed with these.

Another strategy (Borrowed from Taleb) is to insure against catastrophe and then act more relaxed. Once your risk is capped from above, you are no longer afraid of failure and you can play freely.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Selective skepticism

Everything has many aspcets. One can easily delude himself to his wanted conclusion, and invoke good logical arguments.

Skepticism is also used as a route for self delusion.
When you want to avoid seeing something inconvenient, you go to "I do not know" and you are saved.

I must admit to using myself skepticism for self delusional purposes.

I suggest that one looks at what he wnats to think. When you want to conclude one way or another, take care to check the arguments that correspond to your heart's wise with more care.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

If it's good take it

our culture of optimizaiton tells us to make things better and better.
Fear of mistakes leads to the search for the best possible way to do things.

Rationally, looking for the best is a huge hinderance in realistic doing. It is like weights on one's hands when doing or planning.

The rule is simple. A good deal should be taken.

The main question is whether one acts out of the willingness to get his wants, or out of fear of making a mistake or losing some bette (imagined) option.

Acting out of fear, is irrational and suboptimal, too.

The enemy of the good is the best. Hesitation for fear of maybe there is a better way, is a losing strategy in my mind and experience.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rational optimism and positive thinking

It is always a feeling of conflict between being rational and thinking positively, and optimistically.

To an extent, the conflict is there. And one may be better of fooling himself in the right places, than being always 100% rational.

Rationality can bring positive thinking to our life, too.

Most things that do happen to us, have two sides, and in every thing that we would have rather not have, there are positives. Being aware to these actual positives can bring a lot of happiness to our lives.

There is also a practical side to it. We can only get progress in life in the current. Seeing the good sides of every current situation, can help very much in seizing every opportunity we have at this cery moment. We cannot progress by seizing yesterday's opportunities.

Life is highly variable. The advantage player acts every moment to maximize what he can get from what he has now. SOmetimes it is those positives of the current situations that are the best opportunities to pursue.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Consult with the successful, and avoid taking advi e from the failures

Same principle as in Consult with happy people.

If someone is a failure, you may learn from him ways to fail. Given the ecology of advice, quesitons, etc. you cannot say I will just ocnsult about a part of life. You get the effect in the ways a failing person frames a questions, in the ideas he proposes, in the direcitons he moves your attention.

An opposite possibility is if you are a failure yourself, maybe the more relevant advice for you is that of weak and failing individuals.
I am not convinced in this. I beleive you should go for the smarter happier and more successful when needing advice.

small mistakes versus continouos pieces of a big thing

We should care about the big things and probably got to allow for mistakes in the small.

Certain small mistakes, however, must be avoided. One can nimble endlessly, and consider each bit a "small" mistake.

An interesting point is why not consider every small mistake as part of the accumulation of things in life. Certainly, it is good to do the right thing every time. But it must be assigned the right weight. There is more to it, but no mood to think now.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Consult with happy people

Intuition says that advice is for whatever it is inherently worth.

But advice contains a worldview. It has the effect of channeling your attention towards better or worse aspects of reality.

I suspect it is better to take advice from happy people. It is not just the quality of advice, but rather the approach that makes the difference.

I wonder what should one do when he feels that a depressed freind has mroe relevant and practical advice than the happy one.
Certainly, reality has value. But it is less than it seems. Because the energy element and positivity you get when talking with happy people versus the depression self-reproach and negativity you get from depressed ones, that may be much more crucial than the reality gained from a depressed "smart" guy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Theories and perceptions. Why false can be true

The words and systems we use to arrange our mind and analyze things can be wrong. Our conclusions can still be right.

Because much information can be arranged under headlines that are not exact and still be useful.

Religious people term much of their knowledge in religion related terms. "do so and so and god will help". A naive observer will think that the advice depends on beleif in god, but in reality it maybe entirely independent. He thinks this is the right thing to do, and thinks there is good chance for success. God here may mean luck.

Generally, knowledge can be stored, arranged and presented in many ways. Knowledge can be real and useful, even if its format seems fictitious and unreal.

Learn to distinguish essense from form and content form the way it is presented with.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Rational rationality

Looking around, if I distinguish between the very raitonal folks and the very irraitonal, a feeling emerges that both are inferior.

Many "rational" are living quite rtechnically. Many have a storng need for control, whihc makes them acting raitonal. But htier rationality is at least partly for other emotional reasons as the need to feel that they do always the right thing and the feeling of fully ocntrolling their lives.

But the main problem is the cost that obsessive rationality has. It makes life very effortful, and also avoids and depresses natural behavior and the expression and knowledge aobut one's emotions.

This is not rational. Because the idea of raitonality is to be rational because this is the best way ot get to one;s goals, not because one has side motives.

Others enjoy the ease of not looking for control. But pay the price with not being always rational, whihc may bear a truly heavy price.

Theoretically, it is possible to be rational in the right amount. That is not trying to control everything, but for the important things to be rational (or to be moderately rational on the smaller things. That is rational with the level of thoughts and effort compatible with the issue at hand, a challenging calibration).

There are ceratinly people with more balanced kinds of rationality.

But when a person tries delibarately to be more rational, or someone wants to teach others to be rational, one must consider this complexity. That sometimes being rational comes in a toxic way.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Big thinkers, big mistakes

I have wondered many years ago, how come that certain really smart and genius people managed to have really big and clear mistakes. I got a theory.

The human mind is limited. Knowledgeable people and smart thinkers must have shortcuts and coding systems to make their brain able to handle so much information.
These coding systems, I suspect are not like the thinking of regular person.

Now, like all optimizations, these have costs. And they may easily lead to some grand mistakes that can even sound amusing to the regular person.

Another facet. Being unusual, generally means having a very different brain, a different life experience, tendencies, and attending to very different aspects of life. This ultimately creates a very different world, and at times makes the big thinkers not to see what the regular person sees easily and obvviously.

PS. It is somehwat of an exaggaration. Many of these big thinkers' mistakes are realtively small, and reading my text too literally makes injustice to some, althought it may be too gentle to some other really stupid "big thinkers".

PS2. brings to mind Milan Kundera's observations about the professor who wanted to to out from his library and books to live in "the real world"
"but he did not understood that his real world is with the books"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Against "delicate taste".

Since all kind of things that cause us enjoyment are mere means, there is no point in having "high quality" tastes.
It can be means for social status, or another psychological mechanism that makes some people happy. But there is no essentail value in it.

PS. Certain kinds of tastes that are considered "delicate" have actual features that make the experience more
interesting. Like when it is a more complex experience and similar things. Then, one should consider the usefulness of the tastes on the instrumental basis and not on the purported "delicate" value itself.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Negligible things we find important

It sometimes seems that small things play a very central role in our lives.

Has not I had this small phone call of this annoying person, my mood would have nto worsen.

Have not I eaten this cookie, I would have not felt so bad about myself.

If not this sad song in the radio, I would have not gone so badly.

It is very impossible to manage many little things (although we some times got to).
But this is not the point.

If you find yourself bothering about the small things, you have not got the point.
There are many times bigger issues that you do not know or ignore. Concentrating on the small things is NOT a solution. It is many times a delusion

PS. This is rationally. In terms of experience, many people derive great satisfaction from "doing it right" which works even for very very small things. For others it creates a feeling of order and coherence. (like when cutting the cake exactly may creates some joy)

The confusing effect of small things

Small things do change the course of life and history.

Random encounters. Situational factors that made you happier of angrier and driving a social connection to excellence or to extinction.

The state of mood one got (the garbage machine woke you up at 5:30 am) exactly in the day when a great idea came by, and it went to the garbage can for moody reasons.

The phone call that interrupted writing and cut your strain of thoughts. It can lead to even other and better ideas, or to despair.

Dynamics are even more vicious. Missing the train makes you exhausted, you come with less energy, get an idea you would not get in calm times and so it goes. It may change your whole life.

Small vs. big effects. The non small things have their strong effects, too. They are just less determinal and less general than one thinks.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Central points of life, is multiple and variable

Life is complex, especially psychological life.

The most important problems and solutions for life quality, change significantly between people.

It makes it very hard to give any advice, as the most important point differs significantly.

Moreover, certain issues show opposite effects.
Self control, for example, can be destructive, when one is addicted to control and his trouble is being stressed out of control searching.

So some people need to have more self control, while others need to learn to relinquish control.

Others need money, or friends, or to have more fun, more change or more stability, or endless other things.

Are there generalized focal points about happiness and life management?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Reverse imitation of yourself

When you see a mistake, you can get smarter by way of reverse imitation. Learn to do the opposite.

This apply to our own mistakes. We can take notice and decide to do the opposite.

It requires stamina and wit.
Stamina, to accept that we did a mistake. And instead of self-defending, getting smarter for next time.

Wit. 1) maybe it is not a mistake. It is tricky to know which actions are smart and which are not. Sometimes, what seems stupid has some reason.
2) Not every mistake has to be avoided. Our ability to act wisely is limited, and we ought to "manage" ourselves in a smart way. Not just correcting every mistake. Sometimes it is overwhelming.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

localized vs. generalized views of causations

Looking local means that you say "I am not eating now, because I am scheduled to eat later"

Generalized outlook looks at why I am not thinking about changing my plans, why I am not considering eating now and later, and so on.
It will be lack of openness, laziness, not willing to reconsider plans etc.

The local cause is easy to argue about and change.
The generalized cause is way more complex. Harder to understand, and much harder to argue about change.

You can convince a person to change his local plans. But saying that his rigidity is not good, is harder to show (maybe he is better off staying rigid and planned and so on. The value of a trait for a specific person is not easy to gauge).

When you look at life as a whole is indeed hard to decide what is good as a trait. Very hard to think about which constellation of customs etc. is best.

But this is actually a reason to favor local outlook. Because in the local one can easily decide, and manage his life for the better. Still, generalized understanding is relevant. One cannot ignore it. Only the small scale strategy has its value, which does not permit us to be stupid of the facet called global outlook. I only guess that the generalized aspect is generally less crucial than it seems and functionally it is good to focus on the local (without totally forgetting the general).

Generalized is less known. We may know more on local relationships than on global and complex ones.
Thinking about generalized stuff takes more energy. Emotionally, any generalized thinking is way more taxing. Thinking about oneself in a generalized way (self reflecting) is linked to a variety of negative side effects (see "the curse of the self" for a review about these effects)

PS. see Wegner and vallacher research on "Action Identification". Every activity can be looked at from a very generalized view (I want to be a millionaire) to the very local (I got to write this letter (in the check)). They say that too generalized a view is many times less functional than focusing on the lower level. It is after all the very small steps about which we go to concentrate many times in order to get things done.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Personal biasing of what happniess is. And it maybe rational

DIfferent people define happiness differently.
Some of it maybe because personal experience differs, and for every person and situation there are different aspects of life people concentrate about. And different ways people think about themselves.

It can be rational for some to concentrate on pleasures of the mind. If that is where they can find happiness or where they feel comfortable about.
Others feel comfortable only alone. They concentrate of these things.

Others concentrate on doing the right thing.

These tendencies may be mistaken or right. But they maybe practically the right way to manage life and getting the best of it for the individual person.

PS. Much more subtleties can be found in details of emotional attention, and various aspects of self and experiences people do have.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Improving life by changing and eliminating goals.

The common question people ask is how do I achieve my given goals.

But sometimes the better route for a good life is having other goals.

Sometimes giving up on certain goals can make life better.

Many of our goals are unconscious. Knowing these goals and sometimes changing them is even a bigger challenge.

Sometimes, pursuing the goals "the way we want them" is plainly irrational.
Even not by our own standards. It is many times either stubbornness, or lack of thinking. But there are more emotional and cognitive structures that cause us to get stuck with only certain goals and ways to do things.

Certainly, we sometimes want the things that are good for us. We may not always know the exact way they are good for us. But the heart knows things the mind does not.
Sometimes it is the idiosyncrasy way of things that gives them special taste.

But the idea stays.

1) Changing goals can be the way to improve life.
2) Our goals and the good life are not always compatible.

PS. Some believe that the fact that we want something makes it worthy of pursuit.
This sounds tautological for me. Especially when we see people pursue goals that are quite clearly destructive.
I do not believe that personal goals are above reason and criticism (criticism in the common sense meaning). Our goals are not exempt from being stupid.

Update. I see there is research showing that disengagement from unattainable goals is linked ot better health and well-being.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Nozick's experience machine

Robert Nozick holds that people want real experience and not the subjective one.

I used to think he is entirely mistaken. It just sounds bad. It depends on how you phrase the question + most people cannot realistically understand the question.

Now I have two more points.
1) In line with the idea that many of our intuitions are rational as general decisions rules (Gigerenzer "ecological rationality" and "simple heuristics that make us smart").
Possibly we have a strong intuition against false deals and fake stuff. The whole experience machine sounds like cheating. If taken to its logical conclusion, it is a good deal when taken seriously, but most people are following their thinking rules, yielding a strong no. Would they be able to truly comprehend it they would have liked it.

2) Goals are another fancy issue. Do we want to feel good? or do we want status, sex and food?
It sounds contradictory, but human motivation need not be defined in feeling good. Humans seem to have in fact multiple motivations, and not all of them are always compatible, nor can we say that people know how to trade off between different goals.
If the evolutionary embedded goals are specific, we can understand why people refuse the experience machine. We have in mind the embedded goal of food not of its experience.

Does it imply that it is not experience that matters? surely not. Because it is quite possible that in a sense people prefer the good experience to the real stuff.
In a sense the want to feel good has better rational justifications, and is more coherent when looking at life, than when taking the various goals themselves seriously.

[PS. goals as means: Sometimes, these goals bring the good life indirectly, as when being immersed in an "important" task makes a person happy. He must truly believe in the essentially valuableness of the goal in order to have the experience.

If goals are means for the good life, than they will tell us to refuse the experience machine, but it will be misleading. Since they are means and the experience of the machine is the very end.]

Some will say that it is not good, since we need a way to determine what people want. How will we determine preferences, wants and goals, if people are so unreliable?
The question is mis-defined. Because it is very possible that we do not have a way to ascertain what people want. Maybe people themselves do not know.

This is also not contradictory to the idea that we should use certain rules for practical purposes, because even without knowing "really" and "for sure", we may take the rules that seem best for us.

But I believe that if we want to know what people want we got to look at the variety of people actions AND related thoughts. Analyzing actions and preferences in light of what people think and know when they decide and act. This is very subtle and unreliable. Smart skeptics will say impossible. But we have a glimpse.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ego, stubbornness and what we want from life

I found myself to be quite stubborn and caring for my ego.
I wondered who should about these things.

OK. First of all these are psychological realities. This is how we function, no matter whether it is utilitarian, smart or not.

These have also utilitarian functions. Some derive utility from their very ego and being stubborn.

There are indirect positives of these. We all have lots of experiences and knowledge about ourselves that others lack. Being stubborn may mean caring for oneself with one's intimate knowledge.

BUT! our goal in life is having a good life. Which means that foregoing stubbornness can be very smart at times. Ego is irrelevant for its own sake.

This is a huge challenge. Especially if you are stubborn with a huge ego.

Friday, July 3, 2009

fixating most parameters vs. playing the whole system

There are two basic ways to play one's life.

1) Accepting almost all current conditions, no matter how much we like or dislike them, and then optimizing life accordingly. If we have a tendency to get annoyed easily, we will accept it and manage our life as to avoid getting annoyed.

This can be very effective way to make life better. It sounds depressing, but it is very rational and efficient.
As sad as it is to accept the realities of life, we may do much better that way.

2) Playing the assumptions.
Sometimes, basic assumptions about life are central in making life worse. It is wise in that case to change the basics.
This is tough. Starting to play life anew is risky and dealing with unknown things. (avoiding the unknown, is not just ambiguity aversion, we may not handle them as good as the known).

Actually, there are very many things in life that can theoretically be changed. We usually do not even start thinking about them. There are so many hidden assumptions in our lives. So many glasses and filters with which we filter and look at life.

Alternative plans, stability and being detached

We need to eat at times, we need love, we need a million other things.

Many times, no disaster will follow if we forgo the needed. But there is a psychological feeling that we must have this and this thing. This feeling will create a very negative feeling (even a physical one) if we do not get what we want. It also prevents us from thinking open mindedly about alternatives.

Stability comes from being able to be alive feel good being able to make decisions etc. at different states. Making oneself emotionally prepared to lack of want satisfaction brings stability, as the dependence on the actual satisfaction of needs is lowered. More stability is created by thinking on alternative plans for the need, which may bring real and good solutions.

I am wondering whether this is causing detachment from what one does or from the people one is related to. It is also unclear whether and when detachment is good (Meditation tradition praises detachment from various things, but promotes a certain feeling of connectedness. There is a lot to think about that).
Generally, I believe that having alternatives is very different from being detached. One can be fully there and related abnd still having other options. Still there are trade-ofs. It is hard to evaluate the meaning value and consequences of these. No free lunch. But there may be tricks to combine things throught maybe better emotional framing.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Global life management vs. various good tricks

managing life on the whole is complex, cognitively and emotionally costly, and alienating at times. (it is good at times, too. I am just noticing the negatives.....)
The problem is that getting one's whole life into a rubric and so on is unnatural, and is not necessarily positive.

But there are localized tricks. When you say that sleeping well is very good for the good life, you are not entangled in the whole math of life. It will surely have to be done with care and in the right context. But the change (i.e. sleeping more) is not inherently dependent on the right calculation about one's whole life.

It is probably good in that context to find the tricks that are very efficient. things where the value of change is high relative to the status quo. I believe in the idea of doing extremely profitable things.

The cost of knowing there are more options

I went to the sea. Thought about the many hidden tricks there is that have a potential to make life even better.

Then realized that those wandering in the water having fun.
Are they losing for not looking for more tricks? Certainly not. They have fun. Even if there are theoretical ways to improve life over what they do, they maybe better of without thinking about that.

Ultimately it is the cost of thinking and how much latent potential there is and how practical it is (in reality of doing it, not in theory)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Why do not we sleep more?

Most Westerns seem to be sleep deprived.

Being tired is negative for many aspects of life.
It makes feeling worse, reduces working and living effectiveness and more.

Are people that stupid?

I have an escape. As I find it hard to fall asleep on command, I cannot be accused for not going to sleep on time. I have relatively less control on it (I still may do tricks, but forgive me, I am superhuman with intelligent excuses)

1) Too "low" in value and salience?
Many see life in terms of their larger goals, namely, their paychecks, social status, family, philosophical ruminations, etc.
Having more sleep is too human, and low level to consider a central goal to fight about. (if something is not important enough, is has lower chance to get throught)
This is compatible with research by Danny Kahneman about moment to moment happiness.
When you ask people "how happy are you?" the response is not very correlated with how much sleep they get.
If you track their day by the hour, however, you will find that sleep has a strong effect.
Sleep affects our actual experience moment to moment. But it does not reflect in our general evaluation of our live (then we look at our paycheck, family status etc.).

2) Another problem is self-control. It takes quite some willpower to put oneself to sleep when an interesting book, TV, or simple laziness whispers us to stay awake.

Controlling oneself is far from simple, or easy.

3) Personal time.
Not all hours in a day are made equal.
A 9 hours worker who spends the first 12 hours of the day in waking up, preparing, commuting, etc. etc. may be free to himself only after 12-13 hours. Then one may even take some time to relax and get some energy and focus.
Ultimately, the last hour he stole from sleep, may have increase his free time from 4 to five hours, or maybe even from 2 to 3. Which is a huge change.

It is arguable how much do we value the experience at work, etc. etc. But the point is true.

4) The complexity of emotional energy, and getting relaxed.
For some people it may take some time or activities inorer to get into a sleep mood and phisiological relaxation.
These procedures are complex and for many unconscious.
So when deciding "I go to sleep on 11 pm". Most will not take it as staying at home from 9 pm on to relax. But rather in an appointment style, meaning that at 11:00 they will say to themselves "now sleep". As if one can go to sleep in an instant.

5) What do we want form life?
While it seems intuitive that people want to feel good, it is not clear that this is what we are inclined to do naturally.
Our evolutionary heritage may have programmed us towards wanting power, status, sex. Not necessarily towards happiness.
If our life is geared towards these other goals, it is no wonder if we fail to sleep enough. It is simply not on the agenda.

Monday, June 8, 2009

aircondition story

Hot over here. The air condition remote control can easily switch to "fan" mode giving a false impression of working.

I stay in bed, cannot sleep. Try to handle my thoughts, my emotions, my body.. for no avail.

Only after of wandering and ultimately falling asleep, I discovered it.

Go talk about mistakes in causation.....

sixteen years ago. A few days I felt unable to clear my mind, and felt strange physically. Then, a friend muttered then, "how hot it is now!, how are you able to cope with that?". I looked at him in amazement. and he was even more amazed at my puzzled look......

Take home: actions and outer circumstances can be key in life. The trick is how to mange the whole cacophony. Next post about that.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Management of life with many goals, and why sceintists may get it wrong

Life is complex with multiple goals.

Most humans handle simultenously, money, relationships, friends, physical state (food, sleep, exercise), and other goals.

Much of the problems of life management, are related to the overload of various goals.
Some would find it possible to be quite rational if they got only one goal in life. But there are many, and juggling all balls at once is much of the problem.

Science may contribute to this misunderstanding. By accident, actually.

Much of research is done by isolating a single problem and either finding extreme cases, or creating extreme situations experimentally.

Now as I explained, the inference from extreme case to the regular is not always reliable.
But in the general management of life it is much worse. If much of the problem is how to juggle all balls at once, how can we even start talking about isolated things?
We can learn about the mechanisms, we can learn tricks. But we much admit That much of the management problems is in the whole rather than the parts.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Two problems in tricking our psych

Our experience, attention and functioning is affected by endless prameters (examples: expectations, framing, level of experiencing various aspects of a situation, etc.)

There are even more ways to manipulate experience and attention. Many of them quite effective when taken to the extreme. And various manipulations seem to lead into desirable ends.

Why not use all these tricks? (we already use some without thinking of with. But it sounds an open vault to improve life)

1) Management costs. Nothing happens on its own. It takes attention and actions (at least mental actions). We are not always rich in these. Sometimes attention is needed to more stressing needs.

2) Complexities. Every approach in life and the like is related and involved in a wide variety of activities and cognitions. It is not so obvious what other effects and shortages is created by every change of approach.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Expectations versus experience

Expectations play a big role in human experience.
Expectations shape our experiences.

My intuition is that the experience itself as it is is most relevant, and more interesting/lively entertaining. (one may disagree, this is my feeling).

Expectations are necessary for making decisions and managing life.

So expectations are about the: Average expectation - there is a lot of variance. based on our limited knowledge (past and theories). Ignores change. Does incorporate any recent changes in approach/way of doing/experiencing.

Once decided, we got to forget our expectations altogether. We should get wholeheatedly into experiencing what there is as it is.

1) You are alive.
2) You see things as they are, and have much more management and decision power. You can always act as appropriate to the changing circumstances.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tricks to improve life in context

There are tricks that have the power to seriously improve one's life.
Certainly one got to check first about seriousness etc. but we speak with smart people who talk about practically relevant tricks.

Two mistakes are common and must be corrected.

1) Not maximizing the effect. Do not be "realistic" or conservative. Some new things you learn have the power to transform life for good.
Take it to the max (with prudence, for sure).

Many times there is way more potential than we think. We just have to be naive kids and take it to the most power possible.

2) Do not forget other things because of the new trick.
We collect through life lots of experience, decision rules, understandings etc.
It sounds tempting to think, that if for example we have a new trick to reduce stress, we can afford stress freely, or ignore other things to do to relax.

We must leave in place the good things we know etc.
Only after time and experience, we may use the new tricks to dispense of things that are no longer relevant.

Post Script
If you change, it has effects all over the board.
There is a lot of dependency in life.
Much of our rules, understanding etc. are based on our experiences expectations about our behavior, expectations about experience and so on.

Once we change, we may take a quick look at our whole inventory and look whether everything is still relevant. Some things may no longer be useful, or are harmful now.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Effort problem of realism, and the skeptic's solution

Thinking logically is effortful[1].

Reality does not care. Parts of life which you cannot easily understand will not go away. One may tend to automatically ..............

But a few tenets of skepticism can be remembered.
That much of the world - especially underlying processes - is unknown.
That every time we look at things we look via certain glasses. We see only via this thinking glass. There are other facets/
That what seems certain and simple can be as misleading as anything.

Just getting used to remember these basics may help a person to be more realistic even at times without energy. Remembering basics is easier than analyzing.

Let's hope I am right.

PS. It seems we cannot learn. But we can. All of us know effortlessly many unnatural learned facts and heuristics. Skepticism must not be different.

[1] It has been technically proven by Baumeister and colleagues. When people are "depleted" that is after making some effort ful self control, they can no longer think on deep logical questions.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Collecting utility

Life can be seen through big plans. When we progress our big plans, so good. When not, when there is no mood/opportunity, we are bound to do nothing. Maybe even feel sad for it.

Another approach is seeing life as lots of atomic actions, opportunities and experiences. We can many time find small things to improve our life/plans. We can many times find small ways to enjoy the moment. and so on.

I have a list of things whose doing is good for me. I am not even thinking about them. But in the corner of the mind I know that whne bored unoccupied I can always get some progress on these things.

Small exercises when staying in line in an example.
An opportunity to do something useful.

Not for the obsessed. I am not in the work ethic etc. I am about seeing available opportunities. (the disclaimer does not necessarily help. But this is life. I am writing something, discovering there are other sides to it, and writing the qualification not to appear dumb. As for truth usefulness etc. - who cares?)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Deciding / acting, and experiencing

decisions, actions, perceptions and the experience of life.

Life has two aspects which differ on many counts.
Decision making, acting.

Deciding needs realism. Long terms calculations. Cynicism? (you want to see clearly what will happen on every action - sentimentalism distorts realism). Rationality.

Experience is immediate, folds moment by moment. Irrational. Emotions are important.

One cannot get away avoiding rationality in decision making. You want to get your goals in actual reality. At least for practically important goals (getting your bread, shelter, healing yourself etc.).

So far no problem? We experience life as it is, and we care for our goals. But there are many contradictions.

Attention is a powerful force. When we focus on details of the world that are relevant for actions and for our goals, we may ignore other aspect of life.
Especially for the inner experiental aspects of life.

One comes to a painful trade off. Looking at the realistic technical sides of the world, may help in managing life and attending our goals, but brings a cost in the experience of life. You see the practical you may lose your experience.
It has many other experiental effects.

Deciding "should" essentially go by expected results. Ends are the only thing in mind, and everything else is instrumental. There is no heart to the decider. What is best achieving my goal.

Experience is life. "Life is what happens when we plan other things".

Problem in my view is when the decision making side gets hold on the whole person.
When the mind is full of what is "right" to do. and cares all day long about what and how to do, and so on. Then, the person has no life other than his plans and future prospects. There is no present. There is no experience (aside from the experience of stress.... - ok maybe some minor emotions too)

But not living emotionally one's plans etc. can lead to forgetting them.
I hate thinking about all these needed actions and tradeoffs. But the terrible trade-off is between caring and paying the price of caring, and not caring thereby no doing. There is no decisive claim for either (except in the extremes). But whatever you do you win and lose.

Theoretically, one can have his psych caring with less cost, in various ways. For example: Having a "to care" list but forgetting it and experiencing life without lingering worry. But until one manages to move into this psych state, he has the above trade off.

Realistic understanding of the world is considered by some as "cynical". They are right. Real life is heartless. The processes that make things happen do not have a heart. We have feelings for them. But the underlying process is inhuman. It is there.
Humanism is about feelings we have towards people and things. Realism is about how they operate.

There can be a contradiction of sorts. When you attend to the underlying process, you feel differently towards it.
I had a good friend who was using me emotionally (i.e. without giving back fairly). I am not sure I can easily analyze her actions logically and feel emotionally the same.
Realistically, avoiding analysis leads to being taken advantage of.

A pragmatic thinker (who thinks he can decide whetehr to attend to reality or not...) would say that there is an optimal trade-off point. i.e. attend to reality to some extent but no more (i.e. optimal for happiness or for some other measure)

Another approach is to change glasses. sometimes you entertain reality, for practical purposes. Sometimes you just experience it.

Reconciliation is the most interesting in my view. Not sure how realistic it is. You can see clearly the self interest of your counter-party and still feel he is human and have empathy to him. I think some of it is being approached in meditation traditions. You are supposed to be fully awake to what happens, and still have compassion to others. Even compassion to difficult persons is praised there.

These methods relate to a wiseful kind of thinking that we can plan our lives. We cannot so easily. We may have to accept the idea that we are what we are. And that we generally ought to treat the trade off s they are. i.e. there is a cost. You cannot easily eat the cake and have it.

Example. Music, novels, and movies are fun. The experience is enjoyable for many.
There is a mental cost. These medium promote bad perceptions about love and life. The rehearsal of these stupid things is bound to change your mind in a way that may have a negative effect both on your decisions in life and on your experience.
You get experience and you lose some of the quality of future decisions and experience.

If you are obsessive aobut not having mistakes in your mind, you will avoid all of these. Is the cost worth it? Probably not. Hours and hours of good experience are worth to get somehwat less smart.

There is much to think about this example. But the idea is the point. It is worth to lose some of our "wisdom" to enjoy life. I wise I had the guts to fulheartedly follow this route.

1) There are aspects of our goals where delusional progress is relevant. Whenever the goals are psychological in nature and the warm glow comes from our thinking we make progress, one may side with delusional progress and goals. But if and when the truth comes out, it can fire back (but not always)

2) Experience is composed of many parts (goal acheivement, involvement, meaning and stories, body, emotions, more).
Some are related to decision making, others to result, and otehrs are stand alone (bodily sensations, moods, ........ )

Some kinds of experience are related to thinking and perceiving. Many of these are ultimately about experience that is independent of the thoughts. When meaningful thoughts lead into a bad mood, we care usually about the bad mood rather than about the meanings themselves. One can theorize and argue more about that. At any rate, much of experience is about experience - the feeling.

PS. Interestiglly people do actually act similarly in self-enhancement. unrealistic self-enhancement is good for well-being and mood, but may harm decisions. It turns out that people actually self-enhance most of the time, but become more realistic when they near a decisions!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Laziness can be optimal

If one has the motivation to act only on very good deals.

The optimality stems from not spending energy/time on average stuff.

It assumes very uneven distribution of deals. That one is not lazy when a good deal comes by.

(It also depends on whether resting gives energy or takes. Whether one explores actively or not. and other considerations)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Doing smart things for stupid reasons. The intermedia for doing things.

In A future post.... I showed the idea of ways of action that are best for achieving our goals. I like to name these actions "positive expectation dids". actions which result are expected to be good.

But people do not act just via these simple calculations. They may do the right thing with other constructs of reasoning. These constructs may guide towards desirable ends, but without actors being aware of the actual logic.

Exercising the eyes seems to me a very rational activity. relaxed and strong eyes are a great thing for me. Computer addict. Reader. and with sensitive eyes that pain at times.

I am doing these exercises next to a friend. He stares at me "you are out of your mind. Who is doing these shit?"

I wondered. This guy goes to the gym to inflate his muscles, action with less clear value. How in the world doe she find exercising the eyes strange?

OK. He has culturalized terms of what makes sense and what is normal.
Gym is manly etc. exercising the eyes is inexplicable.

But inflating one's muscles is not really stupid. It helps to get laid. It is rational. Similar to the reason of exercising the eyes.

But the guy does not think with ultimate utility in mind. He thinks with how things look like. Somehow, gym is great. Other strange things with stories attached are ........

Still, his gym time can be rational, even if he does not think clearly the calculations. Even if his line of reasoning has nothing to do with common sense.

Good action can come about via strange routes. This is how humans act and think. reasoning may be less common than we philosophers fantasize.

1) It does not always make sense to eradicate stories and customs that do not have inner logical validity. They maybe useful without being inherently true.
2) Seeing people acting correctly, does not show that they know what they are doing.
3) Beware the process.
4) More implications I do not have on my tongue now.

PS. example was a little blown out of proportions. The guy may have made some clever calculation about his gym time. He just may have not understood my strange things. Not understanding my logic, does not imply there was no logic in his actions.
My point is still valid at times. People do things that are good for them, for reasons and thoughts that are only indirectly related to the usefulness logic.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

how smart are you?

We tend to judge ourselves smart when being right on something.

The trouble is that issues judgments and opinions are very diverse.
Being right on one thing is a weak evidence for being right in another.

(that aside from the strong random variable, that can make you right by pure chance)

Be careful.

PS. Similarly for mistakes, we tend to over punish ourselves for mistakes. If yo can learn from a mistake, ok. But feeling entirely stupid for a single mistake is unwarranted.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ad-hoc but relevant

Some scientists and many regular folks believe that "ad-hoc" solutions are uninteresting.

In artistic terms they have a point. Art is subjective, and if someone beleives that green color is better than orange, who am I to argue?

In practice, waht coutns are results, not elegance.

A good freind of me is consulting me about his various personal and financial troubles. I am usually listening confusingly, trying to illuminate a point, suggesting what feels for me a straight-forward idea, or, at times, suggesting a trick out of my magic hat.

It happened that I helped this guy immensely. And with those simplistic half thought-out advice. Nothing spectacular. Just a compatible idea in the right time.

In many areas there is already lots of knowledge. What is needed is good application. Finding the right values for the parameters (i.e. how much anger is optimal when you are brain washed with ad-hoc theories of me, all aspects and long term dynamics factored in).

relevance is what counts. Nobody cares about how "smart" a theory is. We care about its usefulness. Ad-hoc tricking is frequently the best thing to do by far.

Humans care about what they care about, and allow elegance and fiction to take care on itself.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Why does not everybody practice meditation?

Fact 1: Everybody I know who tried meditation has only praise for it. "It is good" "Great" "The best thing I did in my life" and so on.
My experience has been the same. It was so much calming and energizing that I wonder why I ever stopped after I started a few years ago.

Fact 2: Scientific experiments have shown one after the other that meditation improves mood. Decreases anxiety and depression and various other good outcomes.
There were significant effects from meditation.

Puzzle: why only 1% of the population (in Israel) practices meditation?

It sounds one of the greatest irrationalities in life management. There is almost no better deal I know of.

Yet people ignore it largely. Probably showing that humans management of life is far from what reason would expect.

Acting out of weakness

We do things because we are weak.

We sometimes feel that if we would have just more energy and will power we would have done X and Y and Z. This and this and this would have been different.

But many times what we call weakness is in a sense a wisdom of our gut feeling. We may lose because of weakness, but we win many times out of weakness. Being strong willed may mean suffering too much for useless or unrealistic goals. At times, the goals are not worth the trouble. Our smartness says it is. But weakness of will, saves us from being zealous toward the unworthy of effort.

Our "well thought out goals" are many times grudging efforts to acheive goals that are coming not so much from wisdom but form other people's interests, all kinds of psychological constructs and so on. Failing may mean avoiding throwing energy away. [1]

Considering weakness when managing life
Realistically, it does not always matter what would have happened if we would have acted with stronger will. Our weakness and and idiosyncraticas, are there to be taken into consideration.
True, we have some power to change at times. But many times we do not. Even if we can in theory, we may be the kind of person who usually does not exercise such a strong will power.
For regular management of life, it may be wise to take our usual will power into account.
Generally, maanging life out of theoretical possibilities or of our teachers of strong people is not smart. We manage life by our own means and tendencies.

[1] Randolph Nesse claims here that the evolutionary source of depression is either to make us able to sumbit to those stronger of us, or to abandom unfeasible goals.

PS. scholars have shown that having generally more self-regulation ability helps in various domains of life. Self-regulation capacity can actually be increases by exercising in self-regulation. But it does not always work.
These scholastic works, makes me feeling strange about this post. I certainly have my points. But do I give them too much emphasis because I want to believe in these aspects of being weak?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Empathy and biases

Kahneman showed that people tend to think on their life in terms of generalization that are inaccurate if we look at their actual moment to moment experience.

If you ask someone "how happy are you" he will look much more at his salary than at his amount of annoyance at work. He looks of the story "how good is my job?" and not at the relevant experience on a momentary base.

Same problem applies to the understanding of other's experience.
We tend to define a situation in generalized terms.

A trip to Paris must be a great experience. Working at the supermarket as a cashier sounds negative.

The experience does not follow our streotypes. Some people have quite a nice time at the cashier desk. A trip when you are atressed as hell can be a terrible experience.

But nobody understands you when your feelings are out of the stereotyped response.
A vacation is fun. Point blank. Go argue.......

A person may even not understand himself in these cases.
Why have I suffered in this party? Something is wrong with me. I should try it again.
But why is the supposed fun of the party of any relevance?
Because we beleive these generalization and stories too much.

Life is the experience. And experience is not fixed by situations. Different people can feel very differently in the same activities. And between different times.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The block of multi-parameter optimizations

Assuming there are good ways to improve life, that almost nobody follows. Why?

People are not entirely stupid (they are, but that is a different story).

A person moves through life from choice to choice and by all kinds of circumstances and decisions he is getting a whole life put in place with various preferences, learned wisdom (which is mostly depending on his own situations), obligations, etc.

The guy may have his life truly optimized, if we are watching one parameter at a time, and asking what other levels for this specific parameter would be right. For every single thing the person looks at he finds that his current preference is about optimal.

What we perceive as a possible unrealized optimization potential that is different from what the lad does, involves usually changing several things in life together (a perception of things, priorities, and anything else that is under an individual's control).

This is a very different story. Objectively, it is much harder to optimize and even check all various combinations of changes in a system.

A person does not - and cannot - check all possible combinations to find what theoretical mix would be better than the status quo.
Then, we will have both things true.

1) Every parameter in this life is optimal. i.e. No other value state is better.

2) There are unexploited states that are better. These are made of combinations of several at once.

This brings about a very intriguing state. The better options are quite hidden because they involve complex changes. These combined changes, are states we know much less about because they are far from the status quo.

PS. Risks and rewards of changing several things together

We know less about what will happen.

You cannot understand properly what happened. If you have changed more than one thing in your life and you see changes in how you feel and function, you cannot know which change has caused the change in feeling. I had a similar situation when I changed four central things in life together and life became horrible. It was hard to truly know what part every single thing has. With less knowledge, you can manage life less effectively (assuming you manage life, you know to manage life, and that it is good that you manage your life [1])

A person learns a lot about himself throught life. Much knowledge and practical know-how, are based on his regular way of living. When life changes significantly, older habits and knowledge become less relevant, which implies a loss whihc is serious at times.

Some will say that changing makes a person younger, and maybe even makes life worthwhile living (why?).

Living vs. feeling good. Some philosophers believe that being alive is more important than feeling good. changing etc. can make a person more alive. I disagree that anything can be more important than feeling good. But the claim is relevant to the question. I am not sure what people think/act in this regard (i.e. feeling goood vs. "being alive").

[1] If you do not like this comment, it is based on more complex stuff not introduced here.

Related posts:

The illusion of suboptimality and irrationality That by looking only at better options, we get the illusion that the current state is suboptimal. We ignore the whole picture whihc contains a lot of much worse options.

Jump to achieve/change That sometimes a change is costly short term, but worth it long term.

Latent potentials That there are various unseen potential in things. You see only the realized. Unrealized potential can come by incidently or intentionaly. the true space of possibilities is much wider than what we see.

WWDNGH 5: Technical optimization and human beings That humans are not optimizing their life technically. We are - for some unknown reasons - not optimization machines.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The problem of optimization

Optimization sounds the best thing in the world. Getting more of what we want.

Moreover, as will be shown in next post, optimizaiton is central in many modern institutions and systems.

But in most cases, optimization involves optimizing for a specified parameter, thought to be most important, while indirectly damaging to a certain extent some other parameters.

Miscalibrating of your target parameter is a central problem. Suppose, you optimize your life for money, for example, and you may lose many other things (you may win other things, too, but the point is that when you aim vehemently toward a single thing you lose some others in the way).
The known saying says "life is what happens when we are busy doing other things".

A company optimizing for quarterly reports may sacrifise long term goals for this.
Nassim Taleb shows, that much of the 2008 financial meltdown is a result of vehement optimization.
There were endless more and more sophisticated structuring of things, until some miscalibration misfired. But the damage of the seemingly docile ooptimization and sohistication lead to disaster.

Problem 2: Other people's optimization.

When others optimize for you, we do not expect them to live up my wants and interests.
But when the company trying to grab my attention is optimizing, I am much more of a victim. They fight me optimally. Their sale persons, attend highly op0timized courses on how to exploit every psychological quirk I have to enslave me (or at least annoy me optimally)
An interaction between any optimized system and a natural less optimized individual, may create a big difference in power by the sheer force of optimization by the stronger party.
A small difference may create a bigger different in results.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The fictitious world of the mind that always knows

"Yechezkel, you are living in a dream. Your opinions are in big part fallacious. The reliability of your 'scholarly' judgements are way inferior than what you feel"

Silence. Nobody listens. Nobody even reacts. Nobody home?

"This is serious stuff, Yechezkel. How come will all your pomposity, you cannot even take seriously this problem?"

No reaction.

I start getting alarmed. Am I so close to reality? Why I feel that these basic facts of life cannot reach my inner mind?

Euroka! I guess I got it.

For the mind, its beliefs are true by definition. This is what there is for it.
The map is the territory for the the Atlas book. This is the only thing he knows.

Saying "I do not know" is self-contradictory to the mind, whihc lives in the world of its own thoughts.

Let us remember this.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Run to stay in place. Red qeeun in life management

I am realizing that many spend most of their energy and attention just to stay in place. i.e. not to lose ground to whatever troubles and obstacles come to make our life worse.

It may explain why so many lives do not improve. How can one improve when he fights not to fall in trouble? (see, however, Enjoying life in the good and in the bad about that trying to enjoy life in times we do not like makes much sense)

Theoretically, one may want to invest less in fighting various small fights to have the resources and attention available to the most important issues in life. There are however, a bunch of caveats:
That "saving" effort does not make the person even weaker. Sleepingness of laziness (although I beleive we are so intoctrinated that working hard is useful, that we should beleive by default that laziness is good)
That we know the "more important things" and they are indeed more important. It is very common to have fallacious theories about what is important and what will make sus happier.
That we do not fall prey to other optimization problems. When acting powerfully, every mistake and miscalibrating is more harmful.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

WWDNGH 5: Technical optimization and human beings

I am having these points in mind for a long time. I tried to clarify them for myself for no avail. So I am posting the thoughts as they are. If any reader can add an idea/explanation/thought it would be greatly valued.

I suspect that humans are not built for technically optimizing and managing the lives.

I used to ask people why not try to use Gottman method to predict relationship future (he was able to predict marital satisfaction and happiness with 90% accuracy)
Nobody was willing to think about the idea. But people surely discuss with freinds whether to get married, they do other things to decide and think.
Somehow, an optimal method is not being used. Is technical the term? Or because it does not arises to mind and action in a natural way? (quite plausible).

There may be more to that. And the whole idea of technical things is unclear to me.

That is why certain optimizations of life is not being used. You can get happier by doing meditation, but it involves donig something out of the ordinary, mechanical, and unnatural.
No convincing reason either. You got only the technically csounding claim that "practicing meditation is improving happiness significantly". This is a dry and unnatural reason.

Tell a male skeptic that there are pretty girls in the course and he will run on all four. *this* is a natural motivator.