I, too, will take the Hammertime Final Exam.


  1. Design an instrumental rationality technique.
  2. Introduce a rationality principle or framework.
  3. Describe a cognitive defect, bias, or blindspot.

1. Partner

I suspect that most people don't even need willpower if you have a partner to work with.

If you want to write more fiction, find a writing buddy and agree that you'll send them X pieces of fiction of minimum length Y every interval Z, and they'll do the same. Also commit to giving each other primate-reaffirming feedback at every success.

If you like the idea of doing a podcast and wish you could start one, find a partner to do it with.

Many, if not most goals can be broken down this way and made into a mutually supporting partnership. Challenge yourself and see if your goals can be framed in this way. Not everything lends itself to a project you could share with a partner, but with a little creativity you can get pretty far.

2. Upholders, Obligers, Questioners, Rebels

Gretchen Rubin puts forth a decent fake framework of dividing people into Upholders, Obligers, Questioners and Rebels according to their intrinsic nature.

Upholders generally meet both inner and outer expectations, meaning they don't let others or themselves down.
Questioners meet only inner expectations. They push back against and question all expectations. Above all, they do something only if they think it makes sense — they hate anything arbitrary.
Obligers meet outer expectations but not always inner ones. In other words, they usually need some form of external accountability.
Rebels resist both inner and outer expectations. They value authenticity and self-determination.

Under this fake framework, the reason why I've been so successful with partners and so mediocre when relying on my own willpower is that I'm an Obliger. I find external obligations intrinsically motivating, and don't find inner commitments at all compelling.

I have a friend who is a very successful Questioner. Never does anything he's told, but is now a professor.

It seems that being an Upholder is the most desirable classification. At least, I would like to become that way. But I haven't had any luck changing my nature in this regard, and it has actually helped me a lot to just embrace my Obligerness and get other people involved with any and all things that I want to actually accomplish.

3. Social Animals

You may be detecting a theme by now.

Five years ago I probably would have described humans as thinking beings with tendencies slanting us toward social behavior. Now I think we're social animals with some marginal, unreliable thinking capacity that accidentally emerged a few evolutionary eyeblinks ago.

The closer you get to an objective look at yourself, you more you perceive that everything you do (that is to say, everything you actually do, not including things that you believe it would be virtuous to do, but never quite get around to) is motivated by monkey-brain considerations of survival and status.

In other words, we don't have biases, we are biases. Not an original thought, but a thought that bears ruminating on.

This can seem demotivating and nihilistic until you realize that it applies to everyone else across human history and yet we still manage to do worthwhile things sometimes. The trick is to not sail against the wind. Do your best. Reach out to other monkeys with whom you can be mutually supportive. If you have the opportunity to make small monkeys, consider doing that. Go easy on yourself, and go easy on other monkeys. We're all very confused, but generally we want to help each other. Worry about making your monkeyself happy before you worry about pinning down the True Nature of eudaimonia.


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2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 3:12 PM

This is awesome! It's nice that you tied all three together.

Since you shared your buttons and asked my monkey brain to press them, I can't resist. I hereby EXPECT to see you post some fiction every Tuesday, and commit to giving no negative criticism. =P

Minor comment: since multiple people are doing final exams as blogposts, seems a bit more user-friendly to give the post a proper name and then have [Hammertime Exam] in brackets or something.

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