Sunday, November 22, 2015

Are you thinking of quitting FI?

Some people quit FI discussion group. They unsubscribe, so they stop getting FI emails.

They do it for different reasons.

Some do it because they misinterpreted things and think that someone on FI was angry at them. And they are scared of people getting angry at them. So they quit FI so that they don’t have to deal with their fear of the perceived “anger". Basically they mistook criticism for hostility. They do it because they interpret things using their win/lose worldview that interprets things that way.

Others quit FI because they’ve tried to implement FI ideas in their lives and failed and they feel that things got worse instead of better. But they didn't understand the ideas, so they shouldn't have put them into action yet. They were overreaching. FI advises against that.

Sometimes it’s a case where the person blames himself for not engaging with FI well.

Other times it’s a case where the person blames FI instead. They’ll say something like “I’m thinking of quitting fi because it caused more problems than it solved”.

But that’s a mistake. They are blaming fi for something that fi isn’t to blame for.

What’s to blame is the person's own ideas.

But there’s an upside. You can change your ideas!!

If you continue with fi, you'll have an infinitely better opportunity of changing your ideas because you'll get help from fi criticism, suggestions, and questions.

Rejecting fi means accepting a state of no progress on your problems. Accepting death. 
Guaranteeing failure.

Rejecting fi is not a solution. 

Rejecting fi is the same as rejecting hope. Embracing pessimism.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bad "science" that claims to explain laziness

This article claims that science explains laziness.

> There’s a neurological reason for apathy and laziness, according to new research. Inefficient connections between certain areas of the brain may make it harder for some people to decide to act.

well, worse ideas do make it harder for people to decide to act. 

i'm already expecting that the researchers ignored the role of ideas in decision making.

> In each round of the game, the researcher offered the subject a reward in return for some effort. Participants had to decide whether to accept the offer, based on whether the reward as worth the effort. Predictably, the participants who had already been identified as apathetic were much less likely to accept offers that required effort, even if the reward was large - but when apathetic subjects did choose to accept an offer, their MRIs showed much more activity in the pre-motor cortex, an area of the brain involved in taking actions, than in more motivated participants.

> That was the opposite of what researchers expected. They had assumed that lazy people’s pre-motor cortices would show less activity when deciding to take action.

Why did they think that? What was their explanation that they drew their prediction from? The article doesn't say.

If the researchers had no such explanation while making their prediction, then they aren't doing science. See _The Beginning of Infinity_ for explanation on why explanation-less "science" is not science.

> “We thought that this might be because their brain structure is less efficient, so it’s more of an effort for apathetic people to turn decisions into actions,” said lead researcher Masud Husain, a professor of neurology and cognitive neuroscience at Oxford University, in a statement. After further investigation, it turned out that people who identified as apathetic had less efficient connections between the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain involved in making decisions and anticipating rewards, and the supplementary motor area, a part of the brain that helps control movement.

> “The brain uses around a fifth of the energy you’re burning each day. If it takes more energy to plan an action, it becomes more costly for apathetic people to make actions,” explained Husain. “Their brains have to make more effort.” Husain and his team published their findings in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

Can having some ideas cause one to spend more energy to plan an action, as compared to having other ideas instead? Yes!

For example, if you have good ideas about how to make decisions, then you'll be more efficient at decision making. That means you'll be putting in less effort to make a decision, as compared to the same decision being made by somebody who has worse ideas about how to make decisions. Basically, having better ideas about decision making means running into less trouble when going through the process of making a decision.

What are good ideas about how to make decisions? To date, our best understanding of how to decide is the method known as Common Preference Finding. It's a method focussed on resolving active conflicting ideas, such that only one non-refuted idea remains, which is the one to be acted on. A person who doesn't understand how to resolve conflicts will have lots of trouble making decisions because he has conflicting options active in his mind while he doesn't know how to rule out all but one option. He doesn't know how to rule out options and decide on one.

People with bad ideas about how to decide, do a lot of wasteful thinking. Consider an example. Say a person with bad ideas about how to decide, has a decision to make. He knows of a couple of options he can act on, but he doesn't know which one he should act on. His method consists of choosing one of them, without ruling out the other. But how can he CHOOSE one over the other without a reason? Well, that's the point. He can't do it reasonably. He's doing it arbitrarily. 

He says to himself: Do I choose option A or option B? Well, I don't know which is best, but I have to choose one anyway. I'll choose A. No I'll choose B. No I'll choose A. No I'll choose B. Ok I'll act on B now. NO WAIT! I want to do A instead. Ok I'll act on A now. NO!!!

And he does that indefinitely until he finally chooses, but it's not a confident choice. He's still thinking that option B is in play while acting on option A, or vice versa.

Now imagine another person who has better ideas about how to decide. He knows the method known as Common Preference Finding. 

He says to himself: Do I choose option A or option B? What other options can I brainstorm? And what criticisms can I brainstorm that will rule out all but one option? (And then he does some brainstorming for more options and more criticisms.) Ok I found another option C to consider. And I found a criticism that rules out options B and C, leaving option A as the lone non-refuted option. So I'll choose option A to act on. Problem solved. Next problem.

The guy doing CPF spends less energy on his decision as compared to the guy not doing CPF.

Consider an analogy. People with bad ideas about how to decide are people who have their internal neuron-to-neuron communications using copper, while people with good ideas about how to decide are people who have their neuron-to-neuron communications using superconducting material. The result? Copper has lots of imperfections that cause most electrons to not flow smoothly through the copper — because they “bump” into the imperfections (atoms that ideally shouldn’t be there), which causes resistance, slowing the flow of electricity, and wasting lots of energy. Superconducting material, on the other hand, doesn't have those imperfections, and so electrons are not blocked from flowing smoothly through the material. So there's no resistance, and no dampening of the flow of electricity.

So, if you want a no-resistance brain, learn CPF. If you want a high-resistance brain, don’t learn CPF and just randomly and uncritically create your philosophy by picking up bits and pieces from your parents and society.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

You Can Change

It’s well known in Western culture that people can change. But some people have doubts. They doubt that some things about them are within their power to change, like their short temper or how intelligent they are.

But this is a mistake. Even these things are changeable. It’s not some static thing that is handed to us at birth. It’s well known that if you work at it, you can get better at learning/problem-solving, which is what intelligence is.

Some people know that they can get better at learning but they find it hard to do, and they feel bad about that.⁠1 So to avoid that bad feeling, some of them give up and accept that they can’t change. That gives them the feeling that they’re off the hook because if that’s true then it’s not their fault - not their responsibility. But the truth doesn’t depend on what they’d like the truth to be.

And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They fool themselves into believing that they can’t change. So then they don’t try to change. So then no change occurs. They use the fact that they didn’t change as evidence supporting the theory that they can’t change. But evidence doesn’t support theories - evidence only rules out theories. And the evidence that they didn’t change does not rule out the theory that they can change but didn’t because they didn’t try the right things to change.

Note that this book isn’t meant for them. I can’t persuade them of something while they’re making excuses about it. Nothing I could say would get through to them. Instead, I want to talk to the people that don’t want to make excuses.

I’m also only interested in people who are open to considering ideas different than their own. You should expect to find a bunch of cases where you disagree with me. And you shouldn’t assume that I’m wrong. Nor should you assume that you are wrong. You’ve got to come to your own conclusions according to your own independent judgment. 

Disagreements are good! They are opportunities to learn - for you to learn why you’re wrong, or for me to learn why I’m wrong, or both. This is how progress is made.

How Much Can We Change?

Now common sense says we can change, but it doesn’t explain to what extent we can change. To understand that, it helps to understand our best theory to date⁠2 explaining how the human mind works and explaining how that contrasts against how other animal minds work.⁠3

For a non-human animal, software is installed in its brain according to its genes, and then the animal acts according to its software (its mind), and it’s not able to change that installed software because that’s how the software is designed. This is analogous to how a computer chess program can’t learn checkers. It’s because the animal cannot change the software it was given.

But for a human, software is installed in his brain according to his genes, and then he has the ability to change any part of his software. He has this ability because his software is designed to be able to change itself. This implies that a person can learn anything, solve any problem, create any knowledge. This is the faculty of reason.

The only thing we can’t do is break the laws of nature. Everything else is within our reach. The key is knowledge.⁠4

And why should we do it? Why should we examine ourselves and look for areas of improvement? What’s the point? Because as the philosopher Socrates said over 2,400 years ago, the unexamined life is not worth living!

1 To understand why people feel bad in these situations, it helps to understand shame and static traditions. See
2 What do I mean by “best theory to date”? I answer that in the FAQ at the end of this book.
3 For details see meme theory in the book The Beginning of Infinity, by David Deutsch.
4 What do I mean by knowledge? See

This essay is the first chapter of my book Anger: And How to Change. You can purchase the book on amazon. If you like the book, and especially if you don't, please send me critical feedback or questions and I'll gladly review and reply. Thank you.