"Epiphany addiction"

My vague impression is that it's closely related to distrust of authority. If one trusts authority, any change takes you farther away from a trusted safe state and thus carries a large hidden cost.

On the other hand, unless you have the enormously rare constellation of talent and circumstances to give you a realistic chance to rise to the very top, too little trust in authority leads to a state of frightened paralysis or downright self-destruction. What you need for success is the instinct to recognize when you should obey the powers-that-be with your he... (read more)

It seems to me that the decision theory generally favors acting as if one has rare talent and circumstances, as opposed to the alternative, more likely hypothesis, which is probably the contrarian hypothesis of being a simulation in any event. Attempts to justify common sense, treated honestly, generally end up as justifications of novel contrarian hypotheses instead.

Also, one who tries to conform to official norms rather than to ubiquitous surrounding behavioral patterns will rapidly find oneself under attack, nominally for violating official norms. ... (read more)

4gwern8yOne of my favorite quotes from Hamming's 'You and Your Research' [http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/YouAndYourResearch.html] was on just this topic (C-f the sections around 'Another personality defect is ego assertion').

"Epiphany addiction"

by cousin_it 1 min read3rd Aug 201294 comments


LW doesn't seem to have a discussion of the article Epiphany Addiction, by Chris at succeedsocially. First paragraph:

"Epiphany Addiction" is an informal little term I came up with to describe a process that I've observed happen to people who try to work on their personal issues. How it works is that someone will be trying to solve a problem they have, say a lack of confidence around other people. Somehow they'll come across a piece of advice or a motivational snippet that will make them have an epiphany or a profound realization. This often happens when people are reading self-help materials and they come across something that stands out to them. People can also come up with epiphanies themselves if they're doing a lot of writing and reflecting in an attempt to try and analyze their problems.

I like that article because it describes a dangerous failure mode of smart people. One example was the self-help blog of Phillip Eby (pjeby), where each new post seemed to bring new amazing insights, and after a while you became jaded. An even better, though controversial, example could be Eliezer's Sequences, if you view them as a series of epiphanies about AI research that didn't lead to much tangible progress. (Please don't make that statement the sole focus of discussion!)

The underlying problem seems to be that people get a rush of power from neat-sounding realizations, and mistake that feeling for actual power. I don't know any good remedy for that, but being aware of the problem could help.