ryan wong

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Using books to prime behavior

Primarily biographies(to see how the world looks like from someone whom you admire), business, and psychology books. These tend to provide techniques that seem unusually enlightening at the start, but require conscious application over the long term for one to reap real benefits.

Using books to prime behavior

Good question. I used to read for the love of books and building a fictional world in my head. I do enjoy that from time to time now, but the nature of the value I derive from reading has shifted.

Using your analogy, it's just that instead of frequenting art museums like I had before, now I have expanded my interests to business presentations, hackathons. Both generally provide audiovisual material, but we go to each of them for very different reasons.

Using books to prime behavior

Yes that does sound like a promising system for retaining useful techniques. Will try it out.

Thoughts as open tabs

That, sir, might just have saved me ~10 years of work. Let me try to understand this better.


I took all of the tools that had been effective for overcoming procrastination, put them into the array, and then went to interview people to find the parts of the array that I was missing:

Are the text in the Experimental Array image a template for inputing these tools/"putting the pieces in place"? Could you point me to the source where the Array was formulated so as to better understand specifically how to fill in the text with my particular internal vocabulary/idiosyncrasies?


NLP state change techniques  and sports psychology techniques didn't take into account your current state, which is fine for a short burst of energy during a sports match, but is fundamentally unsustainable. This led me to developing the "Nearest Meaningful State" and "Nearest Playful State" techniques to make sure I could continue to use them forever.

This is definitely a new insight for me. It puts Play Maker and Meaning Maker into perspective and clarifies their purpose.


Lastly, the YouTube link leads to a "video unavailable" page. Does it have to do with the Virtual Habit Coach? It certainly looks like a complex and nuanced model that has potential huge upside if implemented correctly.

Thoughts as open tabs
To go back to the metaphor of this post, forcing myself to close every tab that is not directly in use is one of the best productivity hack I learned.

I fully agree with this, and that is where my problem lies. I find it difficult to re-create the 'inspired' state of mind when I first conceived about the idea just by reading the notes I took down at that time. I have this nagging suspicion that I'm missing something important. The best solution I have for now is to work on those ideas to re-create as much context as I can through association, but that doesn't work as often as I'd like.

Thoughts as open tabs

That looks like an extremely well-thought out model, and I'm curious as to how it can be adapted from person to person?

I have had experience working with NLP and sports psychology techniques to set goals and change states. These techniques involve mental shifts similar to the system listed above. While I had bursts of insight and behavioral changes at first, these changes were more often than not short-lived, and I find that introspective techniques tend to have diminishing benefits, because there are no 'tangible' results I can point to mark progress.

Of course, I did all of the above without external guidance or feedback, so it might very well be that I was missing out steps.

Because of the above reasons, I have shifted more towards outward, non-introspective activity to directly impact my state through biochemistry, activities such as intense exercise or meditation or ingesting strong doses of coffee. However, I found that these have their own trade-offs as well.

My current model for effective next steps is to change my neural circuits/habits entirely using a combination of physical activities and introspection. The idea is to make the automatic cue-response pattern more effective and goal-striving, such that I'll be able to unconsciously make the right actions even when my state is unideal/do not have useful thoughts as open tabs. I will be grateful for any feedback on the plausibility of this idea and how to make it happen.

Personal experience of coffee as nootropic

Yes, I've tried meditation but it doesn't lead to the marked increase in energy I'm looking for, just less emotional reactivity and a certain level of cognitive detachment that's useful in thinking within conversations. Both useful, but serves different purposes in my experience.

I've heard of Yerba mate but haven't actually tried it before. Curious to see how it compares to other teas, especially black/higher-caffeine ones.

ryan wong's Shortform

Something that has always puzzled me about high school, is why students are required to memorize very specific definitions of terms in the physical sciences. Why is such a high percentage of marks rewarded for being able to recite, word-for-word, that electric potential, refers, specifically, to the work done per unit charge by an external force in bringing a small positive charge from infinity to a point in a E-field without a change in kinetic energy? There are five italicized keywords/terms there which will result in an entire lost mark if missed out.

I hypothesize it's because scientists need to know what something refers to specifically, or there will be a clash in terms. Words are the map to the territory of the natural world, and no large-scale effort to advance science can ever be possible if the millions of scientists around the world were operating on different definitions. Most things are very specific. Important fundamental processes - such as the Haber process for the manufacture of ammonia, which allowed for mass production of fertilizers - occurred the exact same way every single time given the same inputs.

In contrast, because of the complexity of the human mind, social scientists often find themselves having differing opinions on a topic. An example that comes to mind is willpower. A popular psychology book might argue(with research) that willpower is limited and will deplete when used. Another might argue that willpower is only limited if the individual thinks that it is. This has implications for important areas such as time management, relationship-building, and even weight loss. In this case, which framework does one then use in his/her daily life?

Is this why the social sciences, synonymous with "soft sciences", are generally less respected than natural sciences like physics or biology? Is it because there are little empirical, causal answers? Is it because it has much less predicting ability, and therefore less probability to generate real-world results?

More importantly, as someone with a passion in individual and group psychology, what can we do to change that? Is the scientific method suited for the social sciences, or are we forcing the method to fit the field? Is there another way of going about really understanding psychology and developing useful technology with it?

ryan wong's Shortform

Ah, now I've got what you mean. Thanks for referring me to that thought experiment, I don't have much prior knowledge on the field of AI so that was definitely a new insight for me.

I see now that my original shortform did not explicitly state that my terminal value was indeed the fulfillment of important goals. I was reflecting more on the distinction between pleasurable feelings that led to distraction & bad habits, vs ones that led to the actual fulfillment of goals. It was a personal reminder to experience the latter in place of the former, as much as I can.

Now, I hold the view that pleasure can be a useful tool in the pursuit of my goals. It is a means to that end. An important caveat that your response reminded me of, though, is that sometimes pursuing goals might not be immediately pleasurable, so it might be wise not to naïvely expect pleasure from every part of that process.

ryan wong's Shortform

As an add-on, I found this LW article today that captures the essence of "first pleasure"

clippy interjects from the balcony: like number of paperclips created!

I'm not quite sure I got this part, could you please elaborate on it?

why seek pleasure at all? Wouldn't it be better to measure success directly based on meeting long-term goals

Here, I would argue that the feeling of the second pleasure is essential to meeting long-term goals. Feeling good about accomplishing sub-tasks will keep someone working towards an important goal, especially if it requires a long period of sustained effort.

Thus, meeting short-term goal -> success -> second pleasure -> working on next short-term goal; with enough iterations, that will lead to the meeting of long-term goals and thus success.

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