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The lack of willpower is a heuristic which doesn’t require the brain to explicitly track & prioritize & schedule all possible tasks, by forcing it to regularly halt tasks—“like a timer that says, ‘Okay you’re done now.’”

If one could override fatigue at will, the consequences can be bad. Users of dopaminergic drugs like amphetamines often note issues with channeling the reduced fatigue into useful tasks rather than alphabetizing one’s bookcase.

In more extreme cases, if one could ignore fatigue entirely, then analogous to lack of pain, the consequences could be severe or fatal: ultra-endurance cyclist Jure Robič would cycle for thousands of kilometers, ignoring such problems ⁠as elaborate hallucinations⁠, and was eventually killed while cycling.

The ‘timer’ is implemented, among other things, as a gradual buildup of adenosine⁠, which creates sleep homeostatic drive pressure and possibly physical fatigue during exercise (Noakes 2012⁠, ⁠Martin et al 2018), leading to a gradually increasing subjectively perceived ‘cost’ of continuing with a task/​staying awake/​continuing athletic activities, which resets when one stops/​sleeps/​rests. (Glucose might work by gradually dropping over perceived time without rewards⁠.)

Since the human mind is too limited in its planning and monitoring ability, it cannot be allowed to ‘turn off’ opportunity cost warnings and engage in hyperfocus on potentially useless things at the neglect of all other things; procrastination here represents a psychic version of pain.


What causes us to sometimes try harder? I play chess once in a while, and I've noticed that sometimes I play half heartedly and end up losing. However, sometimes, I simply tell myself that I will try harder and end up doing really well. What's stopping me from trying hard all the time?

Bad question, but curious why it's called "mechanistic"?

Let me try to apply this approach to my views on economic progress.

To do that, I would look at the evidence in favour of economic progress being a moral imperative (e.g. improvements in wellbeing) and against it (development of powerful military technologies), and then make a level-headed assessment that's proportional to the evidence.

It takes a lot of effort to keep my beliefs proportional to the evidence, but no one said rationality is easy.

Do you notice your beliefs changing overtime to match whatever is most self-serving? I know that some of you enlightened LessWrong folks have already overcome your biases and biological propensities, but I notice that I haven't.

Four years ago, I was a poor university student struggling to make ends meet. I didn't have a high paying job lined up at the time, and I was very uncertain about the future. My beliefs were somewhat anti-big-business and anti-economic-growth.

However, now that I have a decent job, which I'm performing well at, my views have shifted towards pro-economic-growth. I notice myself finding Tyler Cowen's argument that economic growth is a moral imperative quite compelling because it justifies my current context.

Amazing. I look forward to getting myself a copy 😄

Will the Sequences Highlights become available in print on Amazon?

Have you come across the work of Yann LeCun on world models? LeCun is very interested in generality. He calls generality the "dark matter of intelligence". He thinks that to achieve a high degree of generality, the agent needs to construct world models.

Insects have highly simplified world models, and that could be part of the explanation for the high degree of generality exhibited by insects. For example, the fact the male Jewel Beetle fell in love with beer bottles mistaking them for females is strong evidence that beetles have highly simplified world models.

I see what you mean now. I like the example of insects. They certainly do have an extremely high degree of generality despite their very low level of intelligence.

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