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Here's my take on "something to protect" from personal experience:

Finding something to protect is likely quite difficult for many people. I was certainly headed in that direction, and making progress, but after having a child my "power" leveled up by orders of magnitude (if not my ability to wield it). I didn't have a child for this purpose, and the magnitude of this effect was not knowable in advance, even if the sign seemed likely.

The fact of having a child does not make me more rational. It does, however, provide a very large incentive to become more rational and to apply those gains to areas where they will earn the highest returns, and away from rationality as consumption. It's not simply that my priorities are different, but that I prioritize better, and strive for continuous improvement in this triage (or, I prioritize prioritizing) , because consequences are real and I have more to protect.

I also do not attempt to be rational about everything. That seems wrong headed, but another way to put it is that I prioritize my rationality expenditure. This is partly a willpower budget thing, partly a time budget thing. It's not they I am deliberately irrational about any one thing, but that unless I find a reason to evaluate something using the tools of reason, I don't - I assume the evolutionary reason for my carrying on as usual is good enough, so that I can get on with the business of doing stuff I have prioritized rationally.

When my toddler runs up to me, seemingly for no reason, wanting a hug, I don't think things like "What does he really want"? "What does this signal"? "The sensations I now feel, and the thoughts I am having, are not actually love - that is a social construct mapping to the the physiology evolved in order to protect the genes I have passed on... etc etc". Rather, I think something more like "Wow, it's so nice that he wants a hug from Dad. He's such a lovely boy" - because I do think those things, and the cause need not be investigated too deeply for my purposes. Then I can get back to the work of trying to make his future a good one, and that in his future more futures are good ones. It's a kind of meta-rational approach. This is an extreme case, of course, just to demonstrate the idea.

This approach demonstrates two important important issues for me. The first is that incentives matter, and aligning incentives matters. I want to minimise any principal-agent problems over my set of incentives. The second is that I've recognised that I have more power, gained from having something to protect. People often say things like "now that you have children you have to be more responsible". They often mean that you should work more, or play less, or now you have to conform to our values more (and signal it), or similar. I see it differently. The responsibility is not in doing a bunch of things, it is about working out what to do, and it was not just given to me, but is an internally generated desire for achieving good. It means that I think more carefully about goals and outcomes, and more easily disregard non-productive actions and plans. I certainly do this more than I did before having children, and likely more than I would otherwise have.

A couple of tangentially related things I find useful:

[ Don’t Be “Rationalist”]

[ "Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man."] -David Hume

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Many note taking apps allow you to attach a picture. You could take notes with a pen when it is inappropriate to use your phone, then take a picture of those notes and attach them to an entry in the app. Those notes are then digitally searchable.

Six months ago I reverted to carrying and using a notebook. Prior to that I'd been using OneNote on my phone, with some success. The main reasons I began using a notebook again are: 1) when thinking about a particular problem I like to attempt describe its features in words, with a graph, and with math, where possible; 2) I find that I think slightly more clearly when I have to use a pen, and tend to be able to recall it better - not sure why this is.

I use a notebook that is about one third wider, slighter longer, and around three times thicker than my phone. It's pocket-able in most scenarios. The note books I use have a hard cover, an elastic band attached (which I use to keep a bullet space pen attached horizontally along the top of the book for a perfect fit) and is 250 lined pages.

I begin using it from the front for general notes, and record quotes or specific segments of text from the back. Collecting quotes together makes them much easier to find when the pad begins to fill up. I also underline each use of the general notes so that topics are clearly demarcated, making each easier to find later on.

Another related habbit I've gotten into over this period is using a single document notepad in the form of a Google Docs file. I have headings for books and book chapters, journal articles, blog posts, other articles, quotes, theory snippets/examples. If I have had cause to read a journal article, for example, I'll take a few minutes to write up a summary and the full reference for later use, even if I had no intention at the time to use it later. This has been a tough habit to form, but has proven to be very beneficial over the few months that I've been doing it. Of course, if a blog post or newspaper article was semi interesting, but useful only as a consumption good, I'll usually not record it.

Between these two forms of general not taking I've found that most of my needs are covered. I lost the ability to attach photos when switching back to a pen, but I haven't missed it much. I still take the pictures, it just adds and extra step to collate them, but it is something I rarely do. Before putting a full notepad to rest on the bookcase, I'll go through it and add relevant entries to my general notes Google doc (I've usually already done this) or add them in expanded form to specific topic documents.

A drawback is the potential to lose the notebook at any given time, and this is where digital connected versions are vastly superior. When I can draw and write by hand on a widely used phone as easily as I can with a notebook, I'll switch. My solution to the words, graphs and maths note taking on the phone was to record the words by typing them into OneNote, then finding a pen and paper, drawing and writing the pictures and symbols, then taking pictures and adding them to the note. This was fine when a pen and paper were readily available, but they often weren't.

My impression is that you are now evading questions and being deliberately provocative; but I'll play...

If the rate economic growth were to increase by x35, would you think you were in a runaway scenario?

I did not mean to imply that situation in quote 1 would happen within the timeframe of quote 2, and I don't think i did. It's a thought experiment and I think that is clear.

And, by the way, understanding that you lost control is how you know you're in a runaway scenario.

There are examples of this in real history from smart people who thought we'd lost control - see Samuel Butler. We have, arguably. The extent to which machines are now integral to continued economic prosperity is irreversible without unbearable costs (people will die).

We are talking about a runaway scenario in a human civilization, aren't we?

I don't think that's possible. Do you? A runaway means a massive and ongoing boost in productivity. That seems achievable only by AI, full brain emulations, or transhumans that are much smarter and faster at doing stuff than humans can be.

So what does it mean?

I was agreeing (mostly). My point was that by that definition we could never predict, or even know that we are in the middle of, a runway scenario. I did pose it as a question and you did not reply with an answer. So what do you think? If the doubling time in economic output decreased by 35 times over the next 2, or even 4 decades, would you think we are in a runaway scenario?

Precisely! So focus on the middle of the distribution, not the extremes.

No reason? How about humans?

So we're talking about a human based runaway scenario? That's not gonna happen.

Um. Runaway progress does not stall by defintion -- think about what "runaway" means.

OK, that's what 'runaway' growth means. Can this even be predicted. I think not. How could you possibly ever know that you're in a runaway? The transition from agriculture to industry saw an increase in economic growth roughly 65 times faster. I think if we saw global output accelerate by even half that in the next 20 years most would be calling a runaway scenario.

I don't think this would be runaway technological progress

No reason to think it won't be runaway technological progress, depending on how you define runaway. The industrial revolution was runaway technological progress. Going from an economic output doubling time of 1000 years to 15 years is certainly runway. The rate of growth ultimately stalled but it was certainly runaway for that transitional period, even though there were stalls along the way.

Edited to add link.
If you haven't already seen a version of this talk by Robin Hanson, the first 20 minutes or so goes into this but it's interesting throughout if you have time.

I see. The demand side story. I suppose it is technically feasible but I find it unlikely in the extreme. There is nothing in history to suggest it and I don't think it fits with psychology. History is full of examples of how we won't want for anything after we have 'some foreseen progress'. We've had the luxury of being able to trade in some economic growth for more leisure, and still be better off than our grandparents, for a long time now, but haven't.

If the reasons are that we're running out of demand for improvement across the board, and people are more satisfied with their lives, and the technological low-hanging fruit are taken, then economic growth could be lower.

Do you mean lower than it is now? After a paradigm shift in advancement?

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