Saving the world in 80 days: Epilogue

by elriggs 1y28th Jul 201814 comments

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80 days ago, I started a productivity sprint for being useful in the field of AI alignment. My main goal was to have a better self-model in order to push myself without burning out. I'll separate this into knowledge, emotions, health, and noticing.

Knowledge

I've felt my mind expand more in these past 80 days than any semester in college due to reading these dense, no-fluff textbooks. How To Prove It, Jayne's Probability Theory, & Tao's "Analysis I" have grown me a LOT (I read 4 chapters of Jayne's as recommended in Miri's research guide, and I'm currently on ch. 5 on Tao's).

I've notice a tendency in myself to get impatient and desire to skip the exercises, and that screwed me over when trying to get through Linear Algebra Done Right where I only made it to ch. 4. So, as an exercise for the reader, don't skip the exercises for the reader, or you'll be weak sauce.

Emotions

Everything was going great until 40 days ago: I lost a friend, had to fire a friend, moved, deconverted from Christianity, experienced extreme romantic relationship uncertainty, and just felt lonely. I've read and re-read Valentine's grieving well, and Squirrelinhell's explanation of Gendlin's focusing and more general emotional tuning. They've helped a lot. I'm definitely still dealing with feeling lonely, but I feel like I'm mostly through the rest which is reassuring.

I've noticed the tendency to distract myself away from the pain with fiction, but the proper response is to look into the pain, acknowledging that it exists, that it's part of reality, that it's still true even if I distract myself from it.

Health

I used to eat out a lot and get paydays (a candy bar) from the vending machine. I noticed I'd get a payday when work would get tough. It was a form of pica for me like reading fiction is now. ~50 days ago, I started eating meal squares for lunch, and eating an uber large, very fatty salad for dinner. I've felt very satiated, and I've saved money and time despite eating better quality food and preparing dinner. Plus! I can make a mean salad that leaves others green with envy. (Did you read 1 pun, or 2?)

I've also noticed that I drink more and more coffee over a couple weeks until I'm an anxious mess, quit coffee, wait a week, rinse, repeat. Now I drink ~6 cups of decaf green tea instead which fixed that problem!

I've also, also noticed that I have less energy if I haven't danced in a few days. I usually dance right after work, but sometimes work lasts till 6 and that gets skipped. Shifting my evening schedule might help, but also just leaving work at 5 pm would fix it too.

Noticing

Meditating really bootstrapped my ability to notice my immediate reactions such as flinching away from pain. I've mostly done Squirrelinhell's sense your body with extreme clarity, and while doing that I'd notice my back hurting & wanting to stop meditating. I would just switch my focus to the pain in my back and just watch it. The pain would waver for like 5 seconds and then stop. Same with focusing on "wanting to stop meditating". This skill helped a lot with the emotional section, and I'm glad I meditated.

Future work

Studying & meditating will continue to be a focus for me, and I'm going to spend this weekend working out feeling lonely. I'm going to go through Andrew Ng's machine learning course for a week to see if it's a low spoons activity for me (I very much enjoy programming, so I predict it will be).


[1] The 80 days is over, and yes, I know, I didn't save the world (darn!). It was mainly a play on "Around the world in 80 days", lol.

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