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.


Anonymous said...

Hello, i have been thinking in that, because i want to learn calculus and more math, i already bought the book but guess what? seems that i do not want to sit and read a book and work on it, my instint is better play chess on yahoo, or drink a beer while watching tv, or someting else, let say leisure things but no read a matematical book or a physics book even when i know that it will improve my life, so that is weird, i am thinking in that, i want to know if is general or particular for some people.

Yechezkel Zilber said...

These phenomena are indeed human and very common way more common than you think.

Reasons for such kinds of conflict are many, I will list a few and leave the rest for your own imagination.
1) Are you sure your calculation is right? Is the long term expected benefits from the math book higher than from short term fun?
I believe we ought to take fun and the short term much more seriously.
It happens, that what seems irrational has good reasons.

2) Energy and emotional resources.
Doing something effortful takes energy. It may exert the mind and even taking control of oneself is an effort.
It may happen that a person does not have the energy at certain times. Entertainment is not just fun, but sometimes a crucial natural need.

A good idea is to take the study leisurely. One has the book at his reach, reads a little until it gets tiresome, maybe a tiny bit more and than goes off to chess/beer/sex.
This playful approach can be very optimal and fun to live with.

3) There are various kinds of feelings and preferences. We want success, we want positive feelings, we want sex, we want to feel relaxed, we want to avoid effort.
It is never possible to satisfy all our wants, so we play a game of choosing between them, trading off between one want and another etc.
Our wants and order of preferences are also changing all the time, making our job even harder.

In my intuition, the want to learn and get smarter includes emotional feelings of "doing something useful" exerting our potential etc, and tangible material calculations.
other things can be more fun.
It creates a conflict, which is very human and natural.

I believe that one should find the ways how to enjoy his sophisticated pursuits of life.

Suffering decades in doing "smart" things and then getting the Nobel prize, is extremely stupid.

Play around and play around until you can enjoy the interestnig things you want to do and learn.