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Proper posture for mental arts

As a judoka, this really spoke to me and was a useful analogy - thankyou very much for it!

My own idea of what good mental posture looks like includes some idea of the way you model yourself. One of my biggest failure modes is when I slip into seeing myself as 'random useless seventeen-year-old' and therefore acting as I expect a random useless seventeen year old to act (ineffectively) or waiting to get permission before I do things. When I manage to change into seeing-myself-as-agent mode, my productivity and rationality gets supercharged compared to the aforementioned state. It has funny side effects - for instance, I notice I walk faster and tend to spin on my heels and clap my hands together when I'm being agenty, whereas I stroll and gesture vaguely when I'm being useless. I speak more precisely when I'm in agenty-mode, and replace 'um/er/uh' with silent pauses or 'hmm'. This indicates to me that it's not just a single mental action, but a whole different stance.

I think it's similar to what is spoken about in HPMOR with most people just playing a role and doing what they think someone in that role should do, but others genuinely optimising - but I don't think I've escaped the mode of playing a role, I just sometimes manage to play the role of an agenty person rather than the role of a useless person. It turns out that if you play the role of someone who optimises everything and Gets Stuff Done, you get stuff done. (Sometimes.)

This definitely feels like two very different mental postures. I'm not actually sure how I induce the agenty state from the ineffective state, but I have identified a number of things that might have to do with it, from social pressure, to bright lights, to having a solid idea of what agentyness looks like from observing good role models. The last idea (watching a role model and knowing what agentyness looks like) was reinforced in my mind when I heard a friend saying similar things recently, so to improve my mental posture I'm going to try and watch more awesome people work so I get an idea of what awesomeness looks like, and then try to play that role more and the 'useless kid' role less. I also really like your suggestions!

Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014)

Ooh, yay, free knowledge and links! Thankyou, you're awesome!

The linked study was a fun read. I was originally a bit skeptical - it feels like songs are sufficiently subjective that you'll just like what your friends like or is 'cool', but what subjects you choose to study ought to be the topic of a little more research and numbers - but after further reflection the dynamics are probably the same, since often the reason you listen to a song at all is because your friend recommended it, and the reason you research a potential career in something is because your careers guidance counselor or your form tutor or someone told you to. And among people who've not encountered 80k hours or EA, career choice is often seen as a subjective thing. It'd be like with Asch's conformity experiments where participants aren't even aware that they're conforming because it's subconscious, except even worse because it's subconscious and seen as subjective...

That seems like a very plausible explanation. There could easily be a kind of self-reinforcing loop, as well, like, "I didn't learn fluid dynamics in school and there aren't any fluid dynamics Nobel prize winners, therefore fluid dynamics isn't very cool, therefore let's not award it any prizes or put it into the curriculum..."

At its heart, this is starting to seem like a sanity-waterline problem like almost everything else. Decrease the amount that people irrationally go for novelty and specific prizes and "application is for peasants" type stuff, and increase the amount they go for saner things like the actual interest level and usefulness of the field, and prestige will start being allocated to fields in a more sensible way. Fluid dynamics sounds really really interesting, by the way.

Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014)

I do think that some kind of organisational cooperative structure would be needed even if everyone were friends - provided there are dragons left to slay. If people need to work together on dragonfighting, then just being friends won't cut it - there will need to be some kind of team, and some people delegating different tasks to team members and coordinating efforts. Of course, if there aren't dragons to slay, then there's no need for us to work together and people can do whatever they like.

And yeah - the tradeoff would definitely need to be considered. If the AI told me, "Sorry, but I need to solve negentropy and if you try and help me you're just going to slow me down to the point at which it becomes more likely that everyone dies", I guess I would just have to deal with it. Making it more likely that everyone dies in the slow heat death of the universe is a terribly large price to pay for indulging my desire to fight things. It could be a tradeoff worth making, though, if it turns out that a significant number of people are aimless and unhappy unless they have a cause to fight for - we can explore the galaxy and fight negentropy and this will allow people like me to continue being motivated and fulfilled by our burning desire to fix things. It depends on whether people like me, with aforementioned burning desire, are a minority or a large majority. If a large majority of the human race feels listless and sad unless they have a quest to do, then it may be worthwhile letting us help even if it impedes the effort slightly.

And yeah - I'm not sure that just giving me more processor power and memory without changing my code counts as death, but simultaneously giving a human more processor power and more memory and not increasing their rationality sounds... silly and maybe not safe, so I guess it'll have to be a gradual upgrade process in all of us. I quite like that idea though - it's like having a second childhood, except this time you're learning to remember every book in the library and fly with your jetpack-including robot feet, instead of just learning to walk and talk. I am totally up for that.

Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014)

You make me suddenly, intensely curious to find out what a Reynolds number is and why it can make streamlining increase drag. I am also abruptly realising that I know less than I thought about STEM fields, given I just kind of assumed that astrophysicists were the official People Who Know About Space and therefore rocketry must be part of their domain. I don't know whether I want to ask if you can recommend any good fluid dynamics introductions, or whether I don't want to add to the several feet high pile of books next to my bed...

Okay - so why do you think quantum mechanics became more "cool" than fluid dynamics? Was there a time when fluid dynamics held the equivalent prestige and mystery that quantum mechanics has today? It clearly seems to be more useful, and something that you could easily become curious about just from everyday events like carrying a cup of tea upstairs and pondering how near-impossible it is not to spill a few drops if you've overfilled it.

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