Abandoning Cached Selves to Re-Write My Source Code Partially, I've Become Unstable

by diegocaleiro2 min read10th Oct 2012102 comments

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Personal Blog

For very long I've been caring a lot for the preferences of my past selves. 

Rules I established in childhood became sacred, much like laws are (can't find post in the sequences in which Yudkowsky is amazed by the fact that some things are good just because they are old), and that caused interesting unusual life choices, such as not wearing formal shoes and suits. 

I was spending more and more time doing what my previous selves thought I should, in a sense, I was composed mostly of something akin to what Anna Salomon and Steve Rayhawk called Cached Selves.

That meant more dedication to long term issues (Longevity, Cryonics, Immortality). More dedication to spacially vast issues (Singularity, X-risk, Transhumanism).   

Less dedication to the parts of one's self that have a shorter life-span.  Such as the instantaneous gratification of philosophical traditions of the east (buddhism, hinduism) and some hedonistic traditions of the west (psychedelism, selfish instantaneous hedonism, sex and masturbation-ism, drugs-isms, thrill-isms). 

Also less dedication to time spans such as three months. Personal projects visible, completable and doable in such scales. 

This process of letting your past decisions trump your current decisions/feelings/emotions/intuitions was very fruitful for me, and for very long I thought (and still think) it made my life greater than the life of most around me (schoolmates, university peers, theater friends etc... not necessarily the people I choose to hang out with, after all, I selected those!). 

At some point more recently, and I'm afraid this might happen to the Effective Altruist community and the immortalist community of Less Wrong, I started feeling overwhelmed, a slave of "past me". Even though a lot of "past me" orders were along the lines of "maximize other people's utility, help everyone the most regardless of what those around you are doing".

Then the whole edifice crumbled, and I took 2 days off of all of life to go to a hotel in the woods and think/write alone to figure out what my current values are. 

I wrote several pages, thought about a lot of things. More importantly, I quantified the importance I give to different time-spans of my self (say 30 points to life-goals, 16 points to instantaneous gratification, 23 points to 3MonthGoals etc...). I also quantified differently sized circles of altruism/empathy  (X points for immediate family, Y points for extended family, Z points for near friends, T points for smart people around the globe, U points for the bottom billion, K points for aliens, A points for animals etc...). 

Knowing my past commitment to past selves, I'd expect these new quantificatonal regulatory forces I had just created to take over me, and cause me to spend my time in proportion to their now known quantities. In other words, I allowed myself a major change, a rewriting which dug deeper into my source code than previous re-writings. And I expected the consequences to be of the same kind than those previous re-writings. 

Seems I was wrong. I've become unstable. Trying to give an outside description the algorithm as it feels from the inside, it seems that the natural order of attention allocation which I had, like a blacksmith, annealed over the years, has crumbled. Instead, I find myself being prone to an evolutionary fight between several distinct desires of internal selves. A mix of George Ainslie's piconomics and plain neural darwinism/multiple drafts. 

Such instability, if not for anything else, for hormonal reasons, is bound not to last long. But thus far it carried me into Existentialism audiobooks, considering Vagabonding lifestyle as an alternative to a Utilitarian lifestyle, and considering allowing a personality dissolution into whatever is left of one's personality when we "allow it" (emotionally) to dissolve and reforge itself. 

The instability doesn't cause anxiety, sadness, fear or any negative emotion (though I'm at the extreme tail of the happiness setpoint, the equivalent in happiness of having an IQ 145, or three standard deviations). Contrarywise. It is refreshing and gives a sense of freedom and choice. 

This post can be taken to be several distinct things for different readers. 

1) A warning for utilitarian life-style people that allowing deep changes causes an instability which you don't want to let your future self do. 

2) A tale of a self free of past enslavery (if only for a short period of time), who is feeling well and relieved and open to new experiences. That is, a kind of unusual suggestion for unusual people who are in an unusual time of their lives. 

(Note: because of the unusual set-point thing, positive psychology advice should be discarded as a basis for arguments, I've already achieved ~0 marginal returns after 2000pgs of it)

3) This is the original intention of writing: I wanted to know the arguments in favor of a selfish vagabonding lifestyle, versus the arguments in favor of the Utilitarian lifestyle, because this is a particularly open-minded moment in my life, and I feel less biased than in most other times. For next semester, assume money is not an issue (both Vagabond and Utililtarian are cheap, as opposed to "you have a million dollars"). So, what are the arguments you'd use to decide that yourself? 

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I am reminded of Eliezer's refrain that "Consequentialism is what's correct; virtue ethics is what works for humans."

As you've learned, it's important not to over-estimate the level of your own agenty-ness, even if you're trying to become more agenty.

I've greatly benefited from purchasing fuzzies and utilons separately — not just in charity but in all of life.

That's all for now. Best of luck, friend.

5Eliezer Yudkowsky8yTo be precise, "Good people are consequentialists, but virtue ethics is what works."
5Mestroyer8ySo if you can choose to change yourself between a consequentialist and a virtue ethicist, a consequentialist will abandon their goodness for what works and become more virtue ethicist, but a virtue ethicist will persue goodness and become more consequentialist? If we thought of this as a chemical reaction, would it have the same equilibrium constant for everybody? What could change it? Maybe an inaccurate self-image, because if you thought you were more consequentialist than you were, you would be less inclined to actually become more consequentialist, and stay more virtue ethicist?
1diegocaleiro8yThe intertwining of awesomeness and practical absurdity of this comment amuses me immensely.
1diegocaleiro8yto this day, it still does.
2diegocaleiro8yGood points. Classic, and good, posts. I'd like to comment one of them: "but imagine what one of them could do if such a thing existed: a real agent with the power to reliably do things it believed would fulfill its desires. It could change its diet, work out each morning, and maximize its health and physical attractiveness." I fear that in this phrases lies one of the big issues I have with the rationalist people I've met thusfar. Why would there be a "one" agent, with "its" desires, that would be fulfilled. Agents are composed of different time-spans. Some time-spans do not desire to diet. Others do (all above some ammount of time). Who is to say that the "agent" is the set that would be benefitted by those acts, not the set that would be harmed by it. My view is that piconomics is just half the story. In this video, I talk about piconomics from 7:00 to 13:20 I'd suggest to take a look at what I say at 13:20-18:00 and 20:35-23:55 , a pyramidal structure of selfs, or agents.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RQC7jAWl_o [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RQC7jAWl_o]

A year ago, I thought honestly about my long term and short term goals. I concluded that "utilitarian concern for global human flourishing" was something like maybe 5-10% of my personal utility function. The rest is a combination of desire for personal happiness, and artistic development. Included with the "personal happiness" includes feeling like a good person, which I track separately from the "actually being a good person according to utilitarian ethics." (It's a lot easier to feel like a good person than be a good person. This is true even when I know that I'm only feeling like a good person)

I think utilitarian types need to be honest about what their values are. It lets you make more informed choices about what courses of action are long-term sustainable. And then decide either to craft a longterm plan you can manage (in which you continuously do reasonably good things for the world), or figure out how to spend your life going on various "binges" (i.e. spend a few months working full-time on an Effective Altruist project, then spend a few months vagabonding, or whathaveyou).

One my primary goals is to grow the Effective Altruist communi... (read more)

7drethelin8yI strongly approve of this. I think you can get way more value from a larger number of people who stick with being good to a smaller extent than from a tiny number who burn out.
6NancyLebovitz8yEspecially considering that other people might notice the burnouts and decide to not try being good.
0Giles8yCan you dissolve/unpack this a little? One related thing I would have benefited from in the past (and possibly still would) is being more honest about how difficult it would be to put my values into practice.
0Raemon8yValues is a tricky word (so tricky, in fact, that I think it would be reasonable to say that "values" aren't actually a real thing in the first place). I'm using it approximately to mean "things that you care about." I want humanity to flourish and un-necessary suffering to end. But there's a limit to my caring energy, and I have to divide it between "universal utilitarian good" and "things I personally want for myself." Right now, UUG gets about 5-10% of my caring energy. I would take a pill that increased UUG to getting 15-20% of my caring energy. (And in real life, this takes the form of investing myself in altruist communities, which reinforces my self-image as someone who does good things). But I honestly don't have interest in becoming 100% altruist. Part of me wants to be able to say "I'd take a pill that makes me 100% altruist, so that I only feel motivation to do the bare minimum of selfish-things to survive, and otherwise direct my energy to whatever accomplishes the most good." It's a nice thought to believe that about myself. But it's not true. (If I became 5% more altruist, I might want to become an additional 5% more altruist, and maybe the cycle would repeated. Not sure. But if I got to take exactly one pill and then there would be no more pills after, I don't think I'd choose to become more than 50% altruist). That is also important, and slightly different.
0Giles8yThanks - your comment implied a concrete example of what I was after: someone who thinks that they would take the 100% altruism pill when in fact they wouldn't, isn't being honest about their values. I found this helpful. I'd hazard a guess that calling it something different doesn't make it any realer, but we don't need to get into that right now ;-) EDIT: what I meant by "concrete" in this case was "without reifying values/preferences/caring etc."
0diegocaleiro8yThat is how I feel. I choose to test for two months how does it feel to be the maximum percent altruist. I got nearly 70%. But after the precommitment of two months ended, the whole story of this post was starting to emerge. Now 0% and 80% sound emotionally alike, because I dug too deep.

Usually, the feelings I have as I am shifting due to personal growth are intense, yet temporary - and I've changed myself a lot of times, so the temporary nature of those feelings seems to be a pretty well-established pattern to me. And the way that my ideas settle is always unexpected at first. Making a major decision during a transition could end you up somewhere you don't want to be later.

I once read the story of a person who decided to become a vagabond. She thought it would be good for her, but people treated her like a homeless person, and she was... (read more)

0diegocaleiro8y"Warning: If you quit your job and stay jobless for more than, say, a month, you will probably be discriminated against when you go looking for a job in the future. Some people who have an employment gap find it impossible to get employed no matter what they do, and employers are not going to take "I was trying out being a traveler" as a good reason for a gap." I would hate to live in a world in which this was true. If this in your opinion is true about our world, consider it an www.nickbostrom.com/information-hazards.pdf information hazard. Thank goodness it isn't true. Also, if it is true where you live, run, run fast, run far. I can stand a world without a god, and with the kludgy, tinkered weird ways of blind evolution. I cannot stand the world described above.

I performed a nearly identical set of operations for the first time when I was 23. I would recommend the following:

  1. Allow your new networks to re-stabilize. This can take up to a few weeks or even a few months if you haven't recently experienced massive emotional trauma, or a few years if you have.

  2. Once you've re-stabilized, run some internal simulations of potential situations you're likely to encounter in the real world, and how you think the "new you" will respond to those simulations. Do this for about a week, preferably choosing simulation

... (read more)

You sound like a fellow who could find a lot to relate to in Stirner about now. Maybe not quite yet. Maybe in another month.

In his terms, your old values had become somewhat fixed ideas, starting to feel like ties and fetters instead of your own will, and now you've turned a frostier eye to them as a valuer judging these values. You are creating yourself anew, feeling free to do so each day, and feel a sense of liberation thereby.

You did so explicitly at first, writing a new plan for yourself - The King is Dead! Long live the King! - but you were surprise... (read more)

(can't find post in the sequences in which Yudkowsky is amazed by the fact that some things are good just because they are old), and that caused interesting unusual life choices, such as not wearing formal shoes and suits.

Wearing formal shoes and suits is not good because it's an old tradition, it's good because people tend to do it in social contexts where other people expect them to do it. Even if dressing codes are arbitrary to a large extent, there can be significant social costs in not adhering to them.

Think of right-hand vs left-hand traffic rul... (read more)

(Not particularly related to the post, a technical quibble.)

Past beliefs/priorities/moral judgments are not the same thing as preferences of a past self. A past self can be easily mistaken with respect to its own preferences, so even closely following past self's preferences benefits from revising its conclusions. Cached thoughts pose a problem because they don't take new arguments and evidence into account, because they constitute a fixed understanding of a goal, not because they represent a fixed goal.

0diegocaleiro8yAgreed. I'd still like to note that on a practical level, a post like this is useful because it increases the probability that people will make the distinction you just drew, when reflecting about "Why did I think differently about cached thoughts being good when reading the original post, and this one?" It would have been more useful it if contained your comment though.

It's probably best to experiment for a bit and fall into the existential crisis till you come out the other side. It seems to happen to a lot of people. If things get rough, remember that people in this circumstance tend to get better in a few years.

Transhumanist altruism - e.g. the attempt to make life extension possible for everyone - burns out when you see that most people don't want this "help". In the beginning it's not a pure self-disinterested altruism anyway. It starts with individuals who want immortality for themselves and who want to share it with other people. Eventually it dawns on them that other people are living with a completely different sense of expectations and priorities; resigned to their finitude in the here and now, or just hoping to get their personal eternity handed... (read more)

1V_V8yChristian altruism - e.g. the attempt to make heaven possible for everyone - burns out when you see that most people don't want this "help". In the beginning it's not a pure self-disinterested altruism anyway. It starts with individuals who want immortality for themselves and who want to share it with other people. Eventually it dawns on them that other people are living with a completely different sense of expectations and priorities; resigned to their finitude in the here and now, or just hoping to get their personal eternity handed to them by technology in the material world. Are you sure?
2Mitchell_Porter8yThe guy is dedicated to cryonics and "existential risk", among other things. Those are extremely uncommon interests, so just in terms of cognitive content, he is clearly in a minority. On the other hand, it could be a bit ostentatious to claim to be a "cognitive minority" just because you believe uncommon things. To me, "cognitive minority" suggests that your process of thought is unusual, not just its contents. (Although the two aren't completely separate; unusual cognitive content can have consequences for process, if you regularly end up arriving at unusual conclusions because of your unusual premises.) Now maybe the point of your religious/transhumanist analogy is that the "burnout of a transhumanist altruist" is not as unique as it sounds; that it's just a secular manifestation of a weariness with saving the world and spreading the good news, that might affect anyone with utopian or transcendent aspirations that society refuses to support. I will concede this much, that the same feeling might be felt by an exhausted Christian evangelist, or by an exhausted Marxist evangelist. But the basis of the specific hopes does make a difference. The Christian hope is based on emotion, coincidence, a sense that the soul is distinct from the body, rumors of miracles, and faith in authority. The Marxist hope is based on the excitement of revolution, belief in progress, the theory of history as class struggle, and optimism about the nature of life in high-tech collectivist societies. The transhumanist hope is based on science and technology. In its individual flavors it may be naively optimistic, naive about politics, wrong about human psychology, wrong about specific scenarios. But the progress of science and technology is giving us a lot of reason to think that something like rejuvenation is materially possible. I can't say the same for the Second Coming of Christ, or the moneyless harmony of the Venus Project.
-1V_V8yThat's what transhumanists like to tell themselves, much like Marxists talking about "scientific socialism [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_socialism] ", or some brands of Christians with their "creation science" and "intelligent design". Transhumanists are the spiritual grandchildren of the sixteenth century (edited) alchemists who tried to make the Philosopher's stone [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosopher_stone] and the Homunculus [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homunculus#Alchemy]. They can dress it with scientific-sounding language and speculative technology, but the irrational cognitive processes that underlay the formation and maintenance of such beliefs are the same of other religious or religious-like belief systems. Sure, but that falls in the scope of medical science: My grandma had walking difficulties because her knee had worn out with age. So her knee was replaced by an artificial one, and now she walks like when she was younger. Is she a transhuman cyborg? When a medical procedure of proven effectiveness becomes available, it is applied without much fuss. This has nothing to do with freezing corpses and dreaming of brain uploads and godlike AIs.
4Mitchell_Porter8yWe have space travel, robots, instant communication with the other side of the world, instant access to most art and most writing ever produced, weapons based on the reactions that power the stars, systems of wires that transmit an invisible energy that makes our mechanical slaves operate, face transplants, X-rays, cloning... and you think those people were irrational?
-5V_V8y

Seems like a fancy geeky way to say that you are having a(n early) midlife crisis. You'll get your stability back once it's over.

The "criticism" section of the wiki article suggests that a midlife crisis is basically just a regular crisis that happens to occur in midlife, and that people can have crises whenever.

So it's really just a regular crisis!

0diegocaleiro8y"A midlife crisis is experienced by many people during the midlife transition when they realize that life may be more than halfway over." I love to laugh at my internal model of an evidential decision theorist, updating the likelihood that I'll live less than 52years now.
[-][anonymous]8y 1

good just because they are old

You're thinking of Free To Optimize, which says that keeping old laws has the benefit of making the legal system more predictable, so that people know the legal consequences of their actions / decisions. A little different frrom what you were doing.

As to point three, I don't have a very good memory for my past thoughts, plans, or valuations, so my analogue of abandoning a cached-self would be deleting, deprecating, or archiving the external records I do have, like daily journals, school papers, or internet profiles. Cutting... (read more)

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The secret of happiness is: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.

-- Daniel Dennet

I think it's possible that a utility-maximizing lifestyle can actually be fairly hedon-maximizing, especially if you take periodic breaks and vacations (which are optimal for achieving high energy and motivation anyway, in my experience).

I think the real thing to keep in mind re: fuzzies and utilons may not be that you should always purchase them separately. (What's wrong with a package deal?) Rather, I think it's that you should operate... (read more)

0Viliam_Bur8yI thought the article about fuzzies and utilons [http://lesswrong.com/lw/6z/purchase_fuzzies_and_utilons_separately/] was essentially a warning that, at least for the author of the article, package deals are strictly worse. Which may be different for different people. The reasons is that mere checking for utilon-efficiency of the package deal kills some of the fuzzies. By mere checking whether your package deal is utilon-good, you are making it fuzzies-worse. On the other hand, if you don't check it, it could be utilon-worse, and you wouldn't know it. That's why the recommended solution is to buy a greater thoroughly examined utilon component, and a lesser unexamined fuzzies component separately.
-2Eugine_Nier8yThe problem is that this is true whether the cause makes the world better or worse.
1diegocaleiro8yTo quote Dennett on Happiness is a kind of practical joke I guess. Dennett is magnificent, brilliant, engaging, fully white bearded, santa-claus like. The one thing he is not is a happiness expert, specially a first person happiness expert. In fact, of my intelectual idols (Chronologically listed): Nietzsche, Russell, Woody Allen, Miyazaki, Dennett, Roger Waters, Bostrom, Yudkoskwy. I would consider only Russell and Allen have interesting linguistic lessons with regards to happiness.
0John_Maxwell8yIt was only supposed to be a data point. I definitely think you should try to take some kind of vacation soon, regardless of your plans for after that.

Whenever this happens (and I get antsy if I go too long without it) I start thinking in terms of my future self's preferences. My past self, who made up whatever rules/habits I'm currently living by did this too, but he was farther away from my future self and thus had less data.

I like the recipe you used for unpacking your current preferences from your past commitments, based on layers of scope (personal -> impersonal) and time (now -> 3 months -> long term).

Vagabonding is a form of making your self as small as possible, so to be able to update your model of the world based on what is actually available to you now.

You're walking down a dangerous path, letting go of major parts of the pattern.

Keep in mind that the genetic differences separating us and our caveman ancestors are very minor, to judge the importance and impact of our mind-programming.

Deconstructing the past does unconstrain your present self - but is that a gain of options, or are you set aloof like a leaf in the wind? This moment's present is the next moment's past ("You have just begun reading the sentence that you have just finished reading"). What remains that will tether you to the common ... (read more)

1diegocaleiro8yWise reflections. A little too late. (It's not a project. it is a fact that happened to me already) But Yoda-like nevertheless.

In my experience of similar appearing shifts of person, what you are experiencing is the "instability" that is to become your new (and more) "stable" state. It will provide advantages and disadvantages and is, in my finding, a more optimal but longer term strategy for the living of life.

Remember:

  1. You exist (i.e. "you think, therefore you are" - thank you Descartes)
  2. Item 1. above provides at least one example of an indisputable truth that you may know. As a result, truth exists whether you know what that truth is or no
... (read more)
4wedrifid8yI'm not at all impressed with the Descartes thought, and it isn't an especially powerful or indisputable premise. It doesn't really do anything except beg the question while adding a detail about the definition of 'you'. It certainly isn't nearly powerful enough to be used the way he used it.
1erikerikson8yA reference to further reading I should do would be likewise appreciated.
-2erikerikson8yI would merely suggest, qualitative assignments aside, that it is enough to deny nihilistic mind states that can occur as one possible result of abandoning cached selves. I am curious if there is a link or further explanation you can provide to help me understand your objections and why you have them more easily. I'm not interested in defending Descartes or his body of work but his is one of the earliest and better known accounts I have encountered (being relatively not-well-read) of that particular strain of thought that was itself an important part of my formative years. Care to provide?
4wedrifid8yI perhaps should clarify that I am impressed with Descartes' work relative to his cultural context. But right now he is a tad behind the times. When we consider Tegmark Multiverses, simulations by hostile entities, counterfactuals and mathemetical analysis of parts of mindspace without actually simulating them , "You think therefore you are" becomes downright misleading.
2Jayson_Virissimo8yUh...what? Descartes' cogito ergo sum is a paraphrase of Saint Augustine [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/augustine/]'s argument in De Civitate Dei (published in the Early Middle Ages [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_middle_ages]). Hell, Aristotle makes almost the same argument in the Nicomachean Ethics.
3wedrifid8yAre you suggesting that Descartes' wasn't even particularly impressive in his own time? I'd be willing to take the word of others on that because I certainly have no interest in spending time rummaging through obsolete philosophical writings to more precisely calculate situation-dependent merit.
2Jayson_Virissimo8yNo, not at all. His work in math and physics was very impressive for his time. I am merely pointing out that paraphrasing a thousand year old argument (which he was almost certainly introduced to during his scholastic training) isn't a good example of his impressiveness (I'm guessing a majority of his classmates could have done the same).
1[anonymous]8yEr... [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_demon]
0wedrifid8yNot so much "Err" as exactly the point. Exposure to (some of) what Descartes has said regarding thinking with such entities around was what prompted me to include that example when listing times when related, cached, Descartes thoughts are just going to be misleading.
0Mitchell_Porter8yDescartes' argument is valid. Those are only counterexamples if you confuse yourself about the meaning of existence. In every case, the possible thinking beings (and their thoughts) either exist or they don't, and the argument remains valid.
1wedrifid8yDepending on how the terms are resolved and which additional premises [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogito_ergo_sum#Criticisms] the definition makes necessary the argument resolves to somewhere between tautological and circular. It is vaguely helpful to counter a particular kind of insanity but not much more. They aren't presented as counterexamples. Merely cases where the line of reasoning and the baggage that comes with it is more likely to detrimental than useful.
0erikerikson8yAs wedrifid appeared to intone in the original reply, the actually discovered "there is cognitive activity present" from the given link is the key knowledge of pertinence to open the exploration of what is self. Thanks for the further context. I was originally impressed (and continue to be) by diegocaleiro's open self presentation (awesome!) and hoped to merely provide, in its greatest hope, a possible sense of dependable enough structure for accelerated progression beyond pitfalls that I had previously slowed within. While the analytical ideation is pleasant, relevant, and useful, the emotive or experiential consequences seem relevant and vital as catalyst that can either grow or inhibit the evolution we are attempting to partake in for the artifact of sentience. We can chose our preferential modes or aspects but it does not deny that our persons are more broad or that each has strengths to provide and weaknesses to avoid.

Please help me see my way around a contradiction inherent in your request. Stripping away the labels you have chosen to use, you appear to be asking for arguments in favor of an amoral lifestyle over a moral lifestyle. Almost by definition, I can't give consequentialist reasons why you should choose to let go of consequentialist reasoning. I can point out that "vagabonding" might be really fun and you could gain some life experience, or something.

If you accept the reality of happiness setpoints, it is probably already clear to you that you wil... (read more)

1diegocaleiro8yYes, thanks for noticing the seeming contradiction. The argument you mentioned based on happiness is the only one that occured to me so far. And It was part of my reasoning for the past choice towards consequentialism anyway. I was looking for a "third alternative" for someone who could do what Quine did when he created a way of discussion ontology by setting at least language as ground in "On What There Is". I wanted someone to give me an argument which didn't depend on any moral view, which would open a whole new field of inquiry, orthogonal to current morality. My wishes, or standards, it seems, are highly demanding.

Warning about the vagabond idea: If you quit your job and stay jobless for more than, say, a month, you will probably be discriminated against when you go looking for a job in the future.

Why I think this

  1. I know a person who was having difficulty getting employed and did everything they could to get a job. Nothing worked. Then, they tried re-explaining an employment gap and they were employed quickly. The person speaks English and has a degree. This person had the type of skills that are useful in various industries and had applied in a wide variety

... (read more)
4aelephant8yI think the reality is that having an employment gap probably does have some effect, but your post blows it way out of proportion. And some people without an employment gap also find it impossible to get employment no matter what they do. Should read "some employers". And some will take it as a good reason for a gap. Do you know how easy it is to get an address? Have you ever known or heard of anyone with a college education & fluent in English working in a sweatshop?
0Epiphany8yBlows it way out of proportion according to whom? Have you ever talked with recruiters or known someone with an employment gap? I have BOTH types of experience. I am talking from experience here. I made the mistake of not mentioning that in the comment, figuring that what I had to say would seem like common sense, but I mentioned it when questioned in a different comment (and just updated the original). Have you got something to base your "blowing this out of proportion" claim on? Red herring. If you had phrased it as "How are you sure it was an employment gap rather than some other problem?" that would have been a great challenge. Since it was so close to the wording that would have been a really good challenge, I decided to answer the challenge anyway, and I updated my original comment to add a couple paragraphs under "Why I think this" [http://lesswrong.com/lw/evl/abandoning_cached_selves_to_rewrite_my_source/7lzl] I didn't say "all employers", so "some employers" should already be assumed. I shouldn't have to put "some" just to prevent people from making a hasty generalization out of it. Regardless of how easy or hard it is to get an address, if you don't consider whether they might discriminate against you due to things like not providing an address or trying to use a P.O. box on your resume (unsure if they discriminate for that, but I would not be surprised), you may end up discriminated against without knowing why. This point was not intended as "If you're homeless there's no way to make yourself look like you have a home." it was intended as a "Here's a potential problem you might not have thought of." and it's appropriate in the context of my point which is "Consider this very carefully." You seem to be arguing against the straw man "You will end up in a sweatshop." but I said "I'm not sure what kind of job you might end up with." It's meant to get them thinking about the risks, not convince them that they'll end up in a sweatshop. In the event that I
0aelephant8yIt seems blown out of proportion based on the way you phrased your original comment. Your comment implied to me that having any gap in your employment history for any reason will lead to insurmountable difficulties, potentially ending you up in a sweatshop. I had an employment gap personally & had absolutely no difficulty finding a job. Your comments seem to be based on 1 case of someone having problems (availability bias?) & a sample of recruiters who told you that their clients don't want people with "significant" employment gaps. What qualifies as a "significant" gap? Might one client's "significant" be another client's "insignificant"? I also think you have a problem understanding language. Does the statement "Cats are mammals." imply that SOME cats are mammals or ALL cats are mammals?
1Epiphany8yThat's interesting because I am in the habit of intentionally using phrasings that show my uncertainty, and that post includes phrasings like "probably", "some people", "you might" and "I don't know" for a reason. So, the question is why did you ignore those words? Okay. Since it would be foolish of them to make a hasty generalization and assume they won't have a problem based on you not having a problem, especially after I explained about the problems I have seen, I say this does nothing to counter my point which was "Consider this very carefully." If you were arguing with somebody who had said "No matter what you do if there's an employment gap you won't be hired." then your statement would be a counterargument. It appears that you're arguing with a strawman. Of course. If I remember right, some begin discriminating at the one month point. Does the statement: "Coconut milk is delicious." imply that it never goes rotten? Does "Cars are a means of transportation." include cars in junkyards that are beyond repair? People frequently say statements like these because it would be time consuming and awkward to phrase everything the way you suggest. Also, if anybody ever phrases things without the word "all", while not intending a hasty generalization (probably just about everyone) it's probably better not to expect what they're saying to be "all". This isn't a problem with understanding language, I'm simply not assuming something that wasn't specified and don't expect others to, either. I think you're having an emotional reaction to my posts. This is understandable, but I think it might be influencing the way you interpreted me.
1aelephant8yI'm not really interested in arguing any further. My point was that your comment seemed overblown to me. You're not going to argue me out of my feeling & you can't exactly prove it wrong either. I agree that the OP should consider the risks, so on that important point we agree. Maybe our communication styles are just so different that it is tough to grok one another in a satisfying way. Looking over your original comment, I do see that you used those words. Although "probably" is less uncertain than "certainly", it seems to me that neither of us is really qualified to, based on our anecdotal evidence, produce a true estimate of the likelihood of the OP having a problem finding employment due to a gap in his employment history. To me, "probably" implies that something is, "more likely than not" -- I try to use "possibly" instead if I'm not sure because it implies that it could really go either way. I don't feel very emotional about this discussion, but I also feel a bit like just disengaging. I said I'm not interested in arguing anymore, but I'm still going on, so who knows. How are you feeling?
-2Epiphany8yThank you for realizing this. I think the problem might just be that I think it's likely the OP will be discriminated against with an employment gap and you don't, or that IMO the consequences are more likely to be severe (being jobless for a long time or ending up in some horrible workplace). I agree with this and I think I see where you're coming from - you just don't feel that these problems are as likely as I think they are. Maybe all your experiences support it. That's understandable. It can be hard to determine the exact probability of things. I didn't see any research on this, so unless there is some that I failed to locate, there's not a good way for either of us to support our side. It seems like you want a conclusion and perhaps to end on a friendly note rather than an argumentative one. I also feel like not arguing further, and I'd prefer to end friendly than unfriendly. My reasoning for not wanting to argue is that you don't seem to be very familiar with logical fallacies. It always takes a lot more energy for me to disagree with a person if they're not. Often, I won't bother to argue at all after I see enough logical fallacies. I made an exception this time because not defending my point might have meant that someone was influenced to do something risky without really considering the risk. I feel pretty satisfied that I have supported my "be careful" point adequately, so I am content to stop arguing.
0aelephant8yI am familiar with logical fallacies & I feel a little bit insulted by the fact that you think I'm not, but I can live with it. I think you might be right about my motivation (wanting closure & to be on friendly terms). You seem to have a good sense about people. I feel better now, because I feel more understood. My main motivation for responding to your comment was to expose the OP to a bit of discussion coming from both sides (well actually, I think we are both really near the middle -- one side would be, "no matter what, an employment gap will always cause insurmountable difficulties" & the other would be "an employment gap never causes any kind of problems whatsoever", but those are ridiculous positions anyway). Anyhoo, thanks for your insight & patience. Cheers!
1TimS8yYou make a good point, but it can be tempered very slightly by noting that having a later job of sufficient quality will whitewash the issue. In other words, if one takes a long break, then gets a decent job but wants a better one, one's current job of sufficient tenure (probably greater than 18 mth) should prevent too much questioning about the break - assuming that the current job is sufficient professional (i.e. engineer or paralegal OK, barista at Starbucks NO). But as you say, getting the first job of sufficient quality will be a giant headache.
0Eugine_Nier8yThat depends on the state of the economy, the industry and your skills.
8gwern8yIn what state of the economy or in what industry is the effect of a gap in employment history either strictly neutral or an outright positive? (As opposed to a negative factor which one hopes will be small enough that it is outweighed by high demand for one's particular skill set and will not affect one's job offers or compensation at the margin?)
0Eugine_Nier8yI agree that a gap is (almost) always a negative. I was merely saying that depending on demand the effect isn't necessarily strong enough to keep you from getting a job. The example I had in mind was silicon valley at the height of the tech boom.
-1Epiphany8yConsidering that you view your "it depends" statement as being valid only during rare events which do not necessarily affect every industry, do you really think it's appropriate to soften reality with "it depends"?
-1diegocaleiro8y"Warning: If you quit your job and stay jobless for more than, say, a month, you will probably be discriminated against when you go looking for a job in the future. Some people who have an employment gap find it impossible to get employed no matter what they do, and employers are not going to take "I was trying out being a traveler" as a good reason for a gap." I would hate to live in a world in which this was true. If this in your opinion is true about our world, consider it an www.nickbostrom.com/information-hazards.pdf information hazard. Thank goodness it isn't true. Also, if it is true where you live, run, run fast, run far. I can stand a world without a god, and with the kludgy, tinkered weird ways of blind evolution. I cannot stand the world described above.
1Epiphany8yIt's definitely true. I don't know where you live, but I definitely wouldn't try taking time off from work in the USA without some plans for how you're going to get back into the job market. If you are an altruist, and it sounds like you might be, you're going to have to do a lot of work to understand greedy people in order to navigate this world. It's very hard to predict what they're thinking when you don't think like they do. For instance: they think there's something dreadfully wrong with you if you're not greedy, they can't understand taking time off from work. If you aren't able to understand them, do everything you can to get inside their heads. I've felt exactly the same way, that I couldn't stand the greed in the world. Surround yourself with people who care and want to make a difference. I need it, you probably do, too. Edit: The word capitalist was replaced because it had been juxtaposed with altruist in a way that makes it look like I think they're opposites. I chose the word "greedy" because it was more accurate to my meaning.
-2diegocaleiro8yI'm sorry, I didn't make myself clear. I'm not asking if it is true. I'm telling you it isn't. This is an Affective Death Spiral. Back away while you can! Also, if capitalistic minds are the awful thing you described (I don't think they are, but assuming) then the last thing you want to do is get inside their heads! I mean it. Run, run fast, run far..... You can live on $10.000 dollars for a year in asia, or central and south america, and a bit more money than that in Europe. Start by couchsurfing.org . We'll talk when you are back, and we'll take it from there! Warm regards, and please, please, run! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlT6owR5Ytg&feature=related [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlT6owR5Ytg&feature=related]
3Epiphany8yWhat? I have seen this first hand. I've talked with people who recruit. [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/evl/abandoning_cached_selves_to_rewrite_my_source/7lzl] They do it, they know other people consider it discrimination, and they do it anyway. Consider this: You JUST said you would hate to live in a world in which this is true. Might denial be affecting you? Might you be suffering from selection bias in the methods you use to tell yourself it isn't true? If you haven't looked for evidence supporting my conclusion, as well as evidence against, you haven't really objectively looked at this. I can't say whether you'd have problems with an employment gap in any country but this one. But I can tell you most certainly do not try having an employment gap in the USA without some sort of really good plan. Wrong. These guys run everything. If you don't understand the people in power, you don't understand your own situation. I'm here to be rational. I won't run from information. Neither should you.
3joaolkf8yMaybe having months or even years gaps in your CV can make it harder for you to have a perfect career path. But in Brazil, it doesn't count as something so serious. If you are graduated or if you speak English, you WILL get a job with 99% certainty -I'm not saying it will be a job you like - no matter what. If you have both, then turning your CV public will make you receive 1 to 2 job proposals a day, for 3 to 4 weeks, no matter how many gaps you have. Jealous? Maybe diegocaleiro have a empty bedroom for rent.... Although it's hard to believe the situation in US is that different.
0Epiphany8yIt really is that different. I elaborated a bit [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/evl/abandoning_cached_selves_to_rewrite_my_source/7lzl] about why I think this is true in the USA. I'm lucky enough to have skills that are in demand, so I am not particularly jealous. My reaction is more like ... I have a hard time believing that business people anywhere don't discriminate against candidates with an employment gap. Maybe the culture is so different in other places that they really don't. I don't know. That's interesting though.
0diegocaleiro8ySorry for the harsh tone up there. But it just seems unbelievable that there may be a place on earth were smart educated multilingual, lesswrong-level people can't find a job. Even if they are paraplegic, old, and didn't work for 10 years in a row to pursue meditation in tibet. The shock caused me to think "well, this person's life could be immensely improved if living elsewhere, somewhere where those rules don't apply, and people are free to come and go." Try to keep in mind that such places exist. Also, teaching english is somenthing most anglophones can do, anywhere in the world were it is not a first language.
0Epiphany8yThat's alright. You remind me of myself when I was younger and didn't know these things. Your reaction was more or less how I would have reacted to the same thing. If they have bad social skills, a noticeable mental disorder, don't know how to dress for an interview, forget to check the spelling in their resume, or do any number of minor things wrong when it comes to "playing the game" they may have trouble. Nothing is a silver bullet in life, not even a good mind. Yeah, maybe. I haven't really thought about the effects of working constantly, but I bet it would be better if I could take three month vacations. I heard Europeans take very long vacations like that and that their children don't attend school for a full 8 hours a day. What is it like in your country? I have thought about living somewhere other than the US, for numerous reasons, but I'm not convinced that humans are any less of a mess elsewhere.
-2Eugine_Nier8yI interpret joaolkf as saying that being able to speak English is sufficiently demand (relative to supply) in Brazil.
0Epiphany8yAnd remember - the greedy people and their perspectives are likely to be over-represented in your perceptions. This is because they stand out more. Who makes the commercials? The people with millions of dollars, or the poor school teachers who just want kids to learn? Let's say a rich person does something heinous today. A good person does something wonderful. Which are you more likely to hear about on the news? They tend to hook with morbid fascination, so the heinous act is more likely to get attention. :/ And it's not popular to talk about altruistic things one has done. It SHOULD be (Overcoming Bias just put out an article on that, which is worth reading) but there's a taboo against it. At least in America. (Christian people think that if you talk about good deeds that you "got your reward on earth" and won't receive a reward in heaven - so that may be why.) A lot of what is good is hidden.