Software developer and mindhacking instructor. Interested in intelligent feedback (especially of the empirical testing variety) on my new (temporarily free) ebook, A Minute To Unlimit You.

Wiki Contributions


Thiseems a bit overkill when there are such things as bookmarks and pinning sites to your home page. Also if you have a bookmark manager app you can just make that your home page.

"many people believe that they can control others when they can't"

It seems like you read a very different article than what I wrote. Per the abstract:

The Curse of the Counterfactual is a side-effect of the way our brains process is-ought distinctions. It causes our brains to compare our past, present, and future to various counterfactual imaginings, and then blame and punish ourselves for the difference between reality, and whatever we just made up to replace it.

I do not understand how you got from this abstract to your summary - they seem utterly unrelated to me.

For example, if one is thinking "I should have done this sooner", how is that about controlling others?

Likewise, this isn't about conscious "belief": even when these things are directed at other people, we usually don't even realize we're trying to control anyone and would likely not say we believe we can control anyone. The way it feels from the inside is that something is wrong, in the sense of "someone is wrong on the internet" -- i.e. that there is some moral outrage occurring which must be stopped or at least punished or protested.

(And also the belief "you can't make yourself like anything", in the case of the person feeling guilty about unproductiveness.)

What does liking have to do with anything? I'm seriously confused here. Ingvar's scenario doesn't say anything about liking anything?

The issue being presented there is that the moral outrage feeling blocks us from thinking strategically, because actually useful or practical actions don't feel enough like they're punishing the perpetrator of our feeling of moral outrage. Once the outrage feeling was shut off, "Ingvar" (not anything like their real name) immediately began to think of practical solutions, solutions they could not think of just a few moments before, and that they admitted they would've rejected as irrelevant, useless, or even insulting had anyone proposed them prior to removing the feeling.

the "Nice Guy" bits do seem not derivable from the above?

The nice guy concept is presented as an instance of a class of counterfactuals: one in which we should live up to an unrealistic standard so then people should respond differently. Therefore (our brains assume), if people are not responding correctly, then we must have done something wrong... and so need to be punished. (Or alternately, if we believe we are performing correctly, then others must be punished for not being sufficiently nice in return.)

i.e., once again illustrating how:

(from the abstract): our brains compare our past, present, and future to various counterfactual imaginings, and then blame and punish ourselves for the difference between reality, and whatever we just made up to replace it.

This is the central theme of the article, and is merely illustrated by various examples to show some of the variety of ways this happens, and contrasting before-and-after thought processes to illustrate how our thinking is derailed and misdirected by the generated desire to blame and punish.

This is important to me because it's central to some rationality research I'm doing currently.

I'm not sure what "this" refers to here -- the entire article, or one or more of the specific subtopics you raised. In general, though, if you are going to relate this to rationality-adjacent subjects, the relevant topics would be how feelings of moral judgment or outrage hijack our reasoning and motivation in various ways -- that is literally all the article is about, aside from providing a lot of tips on how to switch the damn thing off.

On further reflection, I'm wondering if your confusion is actually related to this bit from the disclaimer:

To avoid confusion between object-level advice, and the meta-level issue of “how our moral judgment frames interfere with rational thinking”, I have intentionally omitted any description of how the fictionalized or composite clients actually solved the real-life problems implied by their stories. The examples in this article do not promote or recommend any specific object-level solutions for even those clients’ actual specific problems, let alone universal advice for people in similar situations.

That is, the things that you seem to be pulling from this sound like they could be projections of object-level advice or generic approaches to problems presented in the scenarios. But the scenarios don't actually contain any object-level approaches or advice, which would explain why your comment is so confusing to me. They sound like perhaps you read the scenarios, drew your own conclusions about the situation(s), and then projected those conclusions back onto the article as summaries, while entirely ignoring the explicitly-stated themes and conclusions.

In my mind the difference is that "for signalling purposes" contains an aspect of a voluntary decision (and thus blame-worthiness for the consequences),

I was attributing the purpose to our brain/genes, not our selves. i.e., the ability to have such moods is a hardwired adaptation to support (sincere-and-not-consciously-planned) social signaling.

It's not entirely divorced from consciousness, though, since you can realize you're doing it and convince the machinery that it's no longer of any benefit to keep doing it in response to a given trigger.

So it's not 100% involuntary, it's just a bit indirect, like the way we can't consciously control blood pressure but can change our breathing or meditate or whatever and affect it that way.

alternate version "most long-lasting negative emotions and moods are caused by our social cognition"

That phrasing seems to prompt a response of "So?" or "Yes, and?" It certainly wouldn't qualify as a fact most people aren't ready to accept. ;-)

That's not really therapeutic, except maybe insofar as it produces a more rewarding high than doing it by yourself. (Which is not really a benefit in terms of the overall system.)

To the extent it's useful, it's the part where evidence is provided that other people can know them and not be disgusted by whatever their perceived flaws are. But as per the problem of trapped priors, this doesn't always cause people to update, so individual results are not guaranteed.

The thing that actually fixes it is updates on one's rules regarding what forms, evidence, or conditions that currently lead to self-hatred should lead to being worthy of self-approval instead. Some people can do this themselves with lightweight support from another person, but quite a lot will never even get close to working on the actual thing that needs changing, without more-targeted support than just empathic listening or Rogerian reflection.

(As they are Instead working on how to make themselves perfect enough to avoid even the theoretical possibility of future self-hatred -- an impossible quest. It's not made any easier by the fact that our brains tend to take every opportunity they can to turn intentions like "work on changing my rules for approving of myself" into actions more suited for "work on better conforming to my existing rules and/or proving to others I have so conformed".)

Most long-lasting negative emotions and moods exist solely for social signaling purposes, without any direct benefit to the one experiencing them. (Even when it's in private with nobody else around.)

Feeling these emotions is reinforcing (in the learning sense), such that it can be vastly more immediately rewarding (in the dopamine/motivation sense) to stew in a funk criticizing one's self, than ever actually doing anything.

And an awful lot of chronic akrasia is just the above: huffing self-signaling fumes that say "I can't" or "I have to" or "I suck".

This lets us pretend we are in the process of virtuously overcoming our problems through willpower or cleverness, such that we don't have to pay any real attention to the parts of ourselves that we think "can't" or "have to" or "suck"... because those are the parts we disapprove of and are trying to signal ourselves "better than" in the first place.

In other words, fighting one's self is not a way out of this loop, it's the energy source that powers the loop.

(Disclaimer: this is not an argument that no other kinds of akrasia exist, btw -- this is just about the kind that manifests as lots of struggling with mood spirals or self-judgment and attempts at self-coercion. Also, bad moods can exist for purely "hardware" reasons, like S.A.D., poor nutrition, sleep, etc. etc.; this is about the ones that aren't that.)

  • I want to get in shape
  • we decided to make the event cooler
  • it doesn’t yet seem good enough

Notice that all of these goals are either socially focused, or at least sufficiently abstract as to allow for that interpretation. And this is almost certainly where the trouble begins.

For example, if the desire to "get in shape" is fundamentally about signaling (far thinking), rather than specific, concrete benefits we'll get from it (near thinking), then we'll be primed to think about the options in far-mode signaling terms.

And in signaling terms, "work out at home" wins if it means we're being "smart" or "frugal" as well as virtuously intending to "get in shape". So the apparently-irrational decision is actually a rational decision when our real motivation in the moment is to make ourselves feel virtuous right away. The "decision" to work out at home requires zero actual action, so it's the fastest way to feel virtuous -- which was our brain's primary intention all along!

(Notice, too, how in the other examples, the option chosen is the one that allows the most short-term virtuous feeling.)

Anyway, in order for the near-mode question of "will I actually do it" come into play, one has to be thinking in oncrete construal about the personal specifics of the goal, and what concrete benefits one will obtain that one actually cares about in near mode.

So e.g. "being healthier" is meaningless, but "having more energy" or "able to play tennis" or something else of that sort would work better. (Assuming one legitimately wants energy or to be able to play tennis, and those aren't just signifiers for another kind of social signaling!)

Anyway, as a general rule, the more abstract the original goal (in the sense of not being grounded by some specifiable + desirable future state of reality), the more likely our plans are to be hijacked by signaling considerations and largely divorced from the practicalities.

The rule of thumb I use with clients is the "mmm test" - if you can't picture it and feel good about it in the same way you'd feel good about a meal or sex or coming in from the cold (or heat) or plunking down in a comfy chair after hard work, the goal is one or more of:

  • too abstract,
  • focused on something you're only "supposed to" want (rather than what you actually want),
  • something you thnk will get you what you actually want,
  • a socially-acceptable cover for what you want,
  • the best you think you can get, etc. etc.

Has he tried over-the-counter stimulant supplements like tyrosine, PEA, or for that matter caffeine? The book The Mood Cure contains useful dosing and experimental guidelines for a very wide variety of easily available, non-prescription, mostly non-"drug" nutrients or herbal supplements that can have positive effects on concentration, productivity, creativity, and both physical and mental energy levels -- mostly with fewer and milder side-effects than prescription medications or controlled substances. The right supplementation can be life-changing on its own.

Other feature transfers:

  • If you like outlining, you probably also want the Outliner plugin, maybe the Zoom plugin, and to assign hotkeys for their various commands.
  • If you want to link/embed blocks, Copy Block Link, Block Reference Count, and others may be of interest

In general, searching the community plugins list for things related to blocks, outlines, and roam will find you potentially useful things.

You can fry eggs in the microwave. I use a disposable paper bowl, pour in a bit of oil (I use coconut), swirl it to coat the bottom and a bit of the sides (or use a cooking spray). Crack two eggs in, break yolks and puncture surface of the whites, then cover with folded paper towel, pop it in the microwave and hit "1". (Cooking time will vary by microwave, bowl size, etc. so you'll need to experiment.) Toss the bowl when you're done, and that's it for cleanup.

(Note: technically, the eggs are more being poached than fried, but the oil makes the taste and texture closer to fried eggs. There just won't be any browining.)

How can you read 2-3x faster than a person speaks (1x)?

From Wikipedia:

Subvocalization readers (Mental readers) generally read at approximately 250 words per minute, auditory readers at approximately 450 words per minute and visual readers at approximately 700 words per minute. Proficient readers are able to read 280–350 wpm without compromising comprehension.

Conversational speech is generally 100 to 180wpm, so even subvocalizing readers already have a leg up. "Proficient" readers by Wikipedia's definition are easily in the 2-3x range over this, and visual readers even more so.

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