This is a genuine concern, and this may be particularly high-variance advice. However, a focus on avoiding mistakes over trying new "superstrategies" might also help some people with akrasia. It's easier to do what you know than seek some special trick. Personally, at least, I find akrasia is worst when it comes from not knowing what to do next. And while taking fewer actions in general is usually a bad idea, trying to avoid mistakes could also be used for "the next time I'm about to sit around and do nothing, instead I'll clean/program/reach out to a friend." This doesn't sound like it has to be about necessarily doing less.
Consider a charity providing malaria nets. Somebody has to make the nets. Somebody has to distribute them. These people need to eat, and would prefer to have shelter, goods, services and the like. That means that you need to convince people to give food, shelter, etc. to the net makers. If you give them money, they can simply buy their food.
This of course raises the question of why you can't simply ask other people to support the charity directly. But consider someone providing a service to the charity workers: even if they care passionately about fighting malaria, they do not want to run out of resources themselves! If you make food, and give it all to the netweavers, how can you get your own needs met? What happens when you need medical care, and the doctor in turn would love to treat a supporter of the anti-malaria fight, but wants to make sure he can get his car fixed?
In a nutshell, people want to make sure there will be resources available to us when we need them. Money allows us to keep track of those resources: if everyone treats money as valuable, we can be confident of having access to as many resources as our savings will buy at market rates. If we decide instead to have everyone be "generous" and give in the hopes that others will give to them in turn, it becomes impossible to keep track of who needs to do how much work or who can take how many resources without creating a shortage. You can't even solve that problem by having everyone decide to work hard and consume little; doing too much can be as harmful as doing too little, as resources get foregone. And of course, that's with everyone cooperating. If someone decides to defect in such a system, they can take and take while providing nothing in return. Thus, it is much easier to mange resources with money, despite it being "not real", even in the chase of charity. Giving money to a charity is a commitment to consume less (or to give up the right to consume as much as you possibly could, whether or not your actual current spending changes), freeing up resources that are then directed to the charity.
By that definition nothing is zero sum. "Zero sum" doesn't mean that literally all possible outcomes have equal total utility; it means that one person's gain is invariably another person's loss.
But Petrov was not a launch authority. The decision to launch or not was not up to him, it was up to the Politburo of the Soviet Union.
This is obviously true in terms of Soviet policy, but it sounds like you're making a moral claim. That the Politburo was morally entitled to decide whether or not to launch, and that no one else had that right. This is extremely questionable, to put it mildly.
We have to remember that when he chose to lie about the detection, by calling it a computer glitch when he didn't know for certain that it was one, Petrov was defecting against the system.
Indeed. But we do not cooperate in prisoners' dilemmas "just because"; we cooperate because doing so leads to higher utility. Petrov's defection led to a better outcome for every single person on the planet; assuming this was wrong because it was defection is an example of the non-central fallacy.
Is that the sort of behavior we really want to lionize?
If you will not honor literally saving the world, what will you honor? If we wanted to make a case against Petrov, we could say that by demonstrably not retaliating, he weakened deterrence (but deterrence would have helped no one if he had launched), or that the Soviets might have preferred destroying the world to dying alone, and thus might be upset with a missileer unwilling to strike. But it's hard to condemn him for a decision that predictably saved the West, and had a significant chance (which did in fact occur) of saving the Soviet Union.
This seems wrong.
The second law of thermodynamics isn't magic; it's simply the fact that when you have categories with many possible states that fit in them, and categories with only a few states that count, jumping randomly from state to state will tend to put you in the larger categories. Hence melting-arrange atoms randomly and it's more likely that you'll end up in a jumble than in one of the few arrangements that permit solidity. Hence heat equalizing-the kinetic energy of thermal motion can spread out in many ways, but remain concentrated in only a few; thus it tends to spread out. You can call that the universe hating order if you like, but it's a well-understood process that operates purely through small targets being harder to hit; not through a force actively pushing us towards chaos, making particles zig when they otherwise would have zagged so as to create more disorder.
This being the case, claiming that life exists for the purpose of wasting energy seems absurd. Evolution appears to explain the existence of life, and it is not an entropic process. Positing anything else being behind it requires evidence, something about life that evolution doesn't explain and entropy-driven life would. Also, remember, entropy doesn't think ahead. It is purely the difficulty of hitting small targets; a bullet isn't going to 'decide' to swerve into a bull's eye as part of a plan to miss more later! It would be very strange if this could somehow mold us into fearing both death and immortality as part of a plan to gather as much energy as we could, then waste it through our deaths.
This seems like academics seeking to be edgy much more than a coherent explanation of biology.
As for transhumanism being overly interested in good or evil, what would you suggest we do instead? It's rather self-defeating to suggest that losing interest in goodness would be a good idea.
So enlightenment is defragmentation, just like we do with hard drives?
That make a fair bit of sense. And what are your thoughts on work days? I get my work for my job done, but advice on improving productivity on chores and future planning would be appreciated. Also good point on pica!
Very interesting dichotomy! Definitely seems worth trying. I'm confused about the reading/screen time/video games distinction though. Why would reading seem appealing but being in front of a screen not? Watching TV is essentially identical to reading right? You're taking in a preset story either way. Admittedly you can read faster than TV characters can talk, so maybe that makes it more rewarding?
Also, while playing more video games while recovering and fewer while resting makes sense (they're an easy activity while low on energy, and thus will take up much of a recovery day, but less of a rest day), "just following my gut" can still lead to plenty of gaming. Does this mean that I should still play some on a rest day, just less? That I almost never have enough energy to rest instead of recover? That I'm too into gaming and this is skewing my gut such that a good rest day rule would be "follow your gut, except playing fewer/no games today"?
First off, you probably want to figure out if your nihilism is due to philosophy or depression. Would you normally enjoy and value things, but idea of finite life gets in the way? Or would you have difficulty seeing a point to things even if you were suddenly granted immortality and the heat death of the universe was averted?
Either way, it's difficult to give a definitive solution, as different things work for different people. That said, if the problem seems to be philosophy, it might be worth noting that the satisfaction found in a good moment isn't a function of anything that comes after it. If you enjoy something, or you help someone you love, or you do anything else that seems valuable to you, the fact of that moment is unchangeable. If the stars die in heaven, that cannot change the fact that you enjoyed something. Another possible solution would be trying to simply not think about it. I know that sounds horribly dismissive, but it's not meant to. In my own life there have been philosophical (and in my case religious) issues that I never managed to think my way out of... but when I stopped focusing on the problem it went away. I managed this only after getting a job that let my brain say "okay, worry about God later, we need to get this task done first!" If you think it would help, finding an activity that demands attention might help (if you feel that your brain will let you shift your attention; if not this might just be overly stressful).
If the problem seems to be depression, adrafinil and/or modafinil are extremely helpful for some people. Conventional treatments exist too of course (therapy and/or anti-depressants); I don't know anyone who has benefited from therapy (at least not that they've told me), but one of my friends had night and day improvement with an anti-depressant (sadly I don't remember which one; if you like I can check with her). Another aspect of overcoming depression is having friends in the moment and a plan for the future, not a plan you feel you should follow, but one you actively want to. I don't know your circumstances, but insofar as you can prioritize socialization and work for the future, that might help.
As for the actual question of self-improvement, people vary wildly. An old friend of mine found huge improvements in her life due to scheduling; I do markedly better without it. The best advice I can offer (and this very well might not help; drop it if it seems useless or harmful) is three things:
Don't do what you think you should do, do what you actually want to (if there isn't anything that you want, maybe don't force trying to find something too quickly either). People find motivation in pursuing goals they actually find worthwhile, but following a goal that sounds good but doesn't actually excite you is a recipe for burnout.
Make actionable plans-if there's something you want to do, try to break it down into steps that are small enough, familiar enough or straightforwards enough that you can execute the plan without feeling out of your depth. Personally, at least, I find there's a striking "oh, that's how I do that" feeling when a plan is made sufficiently explicit, a sense that I'm no longer blundering around in a fog.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, don't eliminate yourself. That is, don't abandon a goal because it looks difficult; make someone else eliminate you. This is essential because many tasks look impossible from the outside, especially if you are depressed. It's almost the mirror image of the planning fallacy-when people commit to doing something, it's all too easy to envision everything going right and not account for setbacks. But before you actually take the plunge, so to speak, it's easy to just assume you can't do anything, which is simply not true.
"To understand anatomy, dissect cadavers." That's less a deliberate study of an edge case, and more due to the fact that we can't ethically dissect living people!