Calculated Clairvoyance

by Space L Clottey2 min read9th Aug 20214 comments

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(Crosspost: spacelutt.com/cal)

In Steven Universe, there is a character called Sapphire who has the ability to see into the future. For the entirety of the show, it is presented to us as an innate ability which Sapphire can do naturally.

But in one of the final episodes of the show, Sapphire, while supposedly teaching a class on predictions, is seen to be explicitly discussing multiplications of probability to arrive at estimates of the future.

This reflects a larger problem I see with advice: people giving reasons and philosophies for things that can make you happy that are entirely separate from the reasons and philosophies they used themselves to become happy.

The post Life can be better than you think is a great example of this, where the author was severely depressed until they began taking anti-depressants, but a large part of the post is dedicated to explaining his life philosophy of happiness.

But which came first: the life philosophy, or the happiness?

Battling an energy disorder, my own life provides frequent examples of this: whenever I am tired, my thoughts tend towards pessimism and misery, but whenever I have energy they tend towards optimism and joy. It becomes second nature to list out long stretches of philosophical reasoning that justify being happy, but in truth I know the reasoning isn't the reason why I feel happy. I feel happy because I have energy.

Any other reason is a type of fake justification; it may be a way to become happy, but is certainty not what caused me be to be happy in the first place.

Sure, maybe it's possible to become happy just from integrating these long chains of reasoning. This may have been what Naval Ravikant did (or, probably more likely, his low-level interventions — like sleep, working out, and improving relationships — led to better high-level realisations.)

Maybe it's useless and unhelpful to encourage scepticism on people's advice on being happy. Ideas should be discussed on their own first, after all, before you make a single statement about the states of mind that brought about the idea.

But I think, if you're really trying to be happy, what caused the state of mind to bring about any optimistic philosophy is the most important factor, and the thing to try first. Be it better sleep, antidepressants if you need them, better friends, or more meaningful work.

Whatever brings about the states of mind that bring about the philosophy is what you really want, not necessarily the philosophy itself.

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Somewhat relevant old EY post: Existential Angst Factory.

Oh yes of course, perfect, thank you.

I like this post's idea, and reversing the causal arrow. Most people think that life philosophy causes life outcome, so they look for the right life philosophy, but if it were the opposite you should be chasing the life outcome, and then you will end up with the life philosophy.

I don't get the first two paragraphs at all, though. Are you trying to say that Sapphire was doing something that everyone could learn how to do, but disguised it behind a mystic pretense, and that was bad? I don't think I fully get how it ties into the rest of the post (although I haven't seen the show, so I may be missing something).

I think what I'm getting at is a desire for better self-awareness in people giving advice. I think it's fine to give the alternative, brute force  methodology version (step-by-step philosophy to happiness / probability theory) as a way to artifically make up for it in the absence of the original way of acquiring the skill (of happiness / future vision). So I think what Saphire's doing is fine, except if it's under the pretense that that's how you actual acquired the skill in the first place, which I think reflects lack of self awareness.