Monthly Archives: May 2015

Should you give your best now or later?

Cross posted at the effective altruism forum.

We can probably influence the the world in the near future, as well as in the far future, and both near and far seem to matter.

The point I want to convey here is that, unless you are living in a particularly unusual time of your personal history, the influence you can have on the world in the next 2 years is the most important influence you will have in any future pair of years. To do that I will use personal stories, as I did in my last post.

Let us assume for the time being that you care about the far future a substantial amount. This is a common trend that many though not all EAs have converged to after a few years of involvement with the movement. We are assuming this to steel-man the case against the importance of the next 2 years. If what matters is over a 100 years into the future, which difference could 2015 to 2017 make?

Why what I do now, relatively, doesn’t matter anymore

I believe the difference to be a lot. Continue reading Should you give your best now or later?

Effective Altruism as an intensional movement

Cross posted on the EA forum
This text grew out of discussions with some of EA global planners, many previous discussions with individuals considering if they want to identify as EAs and strategic considerations scattered around many EA articles. It is particularly related to Helen Toner Effective Altruism is a question, not an ideology.
 

A confusion I hear frequently from new EA’s working on movement building takes the following form:

1) Effective Altruism is a movement

2) Other movements have done this or that (say, accelerate movement growth using this technique X), should Effective Altruism be doing the same?

3) Other movements failed in thing Z and now most people in them are not sane, how can we avoid this?

These claims and questions rest on a reference class assumption that is false.

It is false that the reference class to reason about Effective Altruism is the movements class.

Not all movements are made alike. Although Continue reading Effective Altruism as an intensional movement

#41 Using a Positive Information Diet – for food!

I’ve been eating a lot of frogs recently, and I only have myself to blame. #42 Eat that frog couple has turned out to be an extremely efficient tool. So far I ate 29 of the 30 planned frogs, and have done things of unimaginable levels of Bureaucracy. This has been one of the most useful challenges so far, for fun and for productivity. If possible in the future I’ll try to make other things into a couple and see how it goes. Here are the frogs eaten thusfar, this was a specially bureaucratic month, both because bureaucracy is really aversive, and because there were high stakes:

1 Male – Solve long-versus short term crises

Female – Restart using blog for challenges

2 Male – Set up so I can freeze blood cells

Female – Finish writing Elon Musk Grant

3 Male – Fill in bureaucratic Phoebe System

Female – Set up dates for the near future

4 Male – Find out what happened to my Capes

Female – Pick I-20

5 Male – Fill in Phoebe with Adviser

Female – I-20 related document delivered to correct entity.

6 Male – Do all necessary Visa things

Female – Write the addendi for Musk Grant.

7 Male – Get foggy PDF to Indian guy to print, make Citi generate Checks on the fly

Female – Cause someone else to actually understand the grant system. (most likely Maite)

8 Male – Reorganize entire Wunderlist – (fail)

(Outdoors day lasted to 23:40, I believe the failure mode of not doing this after 23:40 was not using the computer to begin with, and having web access on my cell phone, which I fixed.)

Female – Have a delicious outdoors day.

9 Male – Reorganize entire Wunderlist

Female – First item of Wunderlist once done

10 Male  – Fix the phone payment

Female – Sleep early

11 Male – Get Cryonics stuff more organized

Female – Tackle reviewed problems with the proposal.

12 Male – Study grammar for an hour

Female – Have a beautiful encounter with a great human being

13 Male – Schedule Dentist, Doctor, and Have a plan for sleeping 8 hours straight at night.

Female – Learn Fourier transform

14 Male – Solve the Berkeley bureau-crisis

Female – Write down the next blog entry.

But eating frogs has an unintended consequence: I’ve been putting in a lot of weight. Ok, maybe that was correlation and not causation. Nevertheless, it’s been a while since I entered anything like a diet, and now I have a better model upon which to base a diet to begin with. Here is an instant gratification monkey from the model. There is one of these in your head, right now.

drunken-monkeys-funny

As long as the instant gratification monkey, that little guy who makes conscientious future-you never exist, and present-you never as focused is kept at bay somehow, preferably without the emergency mode panic monster,  we’re off to a good start.  Here is a gratuitous picture of Musk holding a panic monster.

Musk Panic Monster

Frequently people will try to establish a diet by the things they don’t want to want to eat. Like chocolate or cheesecake. There are many problems with that approach.

What is wrong with this attempt is that it ends up being a negative list. A list of what what I do not want to intake. Since possibilities are infinite, this will give me ridiculous cognitive load, and that is a problem. Another problem is that brains are not so good at processing negatives, so please don’t think of a white bear and don’t feel enticed by the fact that you cannot eat strawberry ice-cream.

Well, here is simple solution, which I used for a food diet before, and worked great:  Name not what you cannot do, but what you are allowed to do. Way fewer bits, way easier to check!

Food example: I’ll eat only plants, lean fish and chicken, nuts, fruits, whole pasta, beans and Chai Lattes.

We are better at checking for category inclusion than exclusion. There are so many available categories to exclude from that we don’t feel bad that we “forgot” to check for that one. Then after you let yourself indulge in a tiny one, a small one doesn’t seem that bad, and snowball effect does the rest. We sneak in connotations to make categories smaller, so our actions stay safely outside the scope of prohibition. Theoretically, we could do the reverse, but it is psychologically much harder. Just try to convince yourself that beef is “lean chicken” to see it.

So let us forget completely about the negative method. There is no kind or class of kinds to avoid. there is only G=Goal and P=Positive, and now there is also T=Time of enforcing, the time during which P is in force, since escape valves might be necessary to avoid “screw that” all-or-nothing effects.

#41 A positive information diet  adapted for food:

G=lose 5 kilos in a month. 

P=I’ll eat only plants, lean fish and chicken, nuts, fruits, whole pasta, beans and Chai Lattes.

T= All days but Friday

T=When I’m paying for the food

Now there is a simple to check list of things I want to do, I could be doing, and I’ll try to do until G arrives. I can only do those. If x doesn’t belong, don’t do it, that simple. I’m free on Friday or when there is free food to do whatever, thus I don’t feel enslaved by my past self – and the instant gratification monkey doesn’t take control easily.  No heavy cognitive load is burning my willpower candle (Shawn Achor 2010) by trying set theory gimmicks to get me to do the wrong thing.

Also, just for public commitment, I currently weight

X8 kilos

so the goal is to weight

X3 kilos.

So please, take your own variation of the:

          Positive Information Diet Challenge

Write your G’s (goals) P’s (positives) and T’s (times), and forget about your A’s (Avoids)  

I’ll eat only plants, lean fish and chicken, nuts, fruits, whole pasta, beans and Chai Lattes.

I’m doing this for food, you can use it for your information diet- all the emails, messages, news and comic strips. No one is thin enough information diet-wise.

Well let’s try this!

If you just arrived at diegocaleiro.com, take a look at the first challenge as it is the only one you have to go through to jump straight on to the current challenge. Do challenge yourself on the comment section, and every first of the month, I’ll start a challenge chosen by my readers, and ask how they are going at their own self-challenges. Every 15th, I’ll choose one for myself. If you want to give me a challenge, make a comment in the most recent post, which is where I’ll get them from every 1st of the month. To subscribe to diegocaleiro.com and keep track of your challenges, click on the blackish square on the bottom right that says follow.  If you are logged in a wordpress account, check the top left instead. – Diego

#42 Eat that frog couple!

Ah… that was a good interludeglad to be back to challenge-land! 

In case you forgot, this blog is in part a series of challenges, which were undergoing an interlude while my beam of motivation from moving to Berkeley in the Bay Area Rationalist community was strong.  That was a long bout of satisfying motivation and somewhat clear goals. 

Now we are back. Now I feel again that challenging myself and being challenged by you  could be very good for me .  If you want to leave a challenge suggestion, use the comment section below. Same if you want to challenge yourself and keep us posted. There are 42 challenges to go, and here is this month’s one: 

#42 Eat that frog couple! 

Rehashing that nice little book Eat that Frog, I’ll say that two frogs a day keeps the doctor away. This month I’ll begin each day selecting two frogs, one male – the most aversive activity that I would like to get done that day – one female – the most valuable activity I could get done that day.  And these frogs will be eaten in the morning, before interfacing with the internet. Then of course, I’ll post a list of the 60 frogs consumed in here.

If you decide to do the challenge yourself, Freedom, which blocks the web for predetermined time windows, may help you.

Owl frog

So let’s get going!

If you just arrived at diegocaleiro.com, take a look at the first challenge as it is the only one you have to go through to jump straight on to the current challenge. Do challenge yourself on the comment section, and every first of the month, I’ll start a challenge chosen by my readers, and ask how they are going at their own self-challenges. Every 15th, I’ll choose one for myself. If you want to give me a challenge, make a comment in the most recent post, which is where I’ll get them from every 1st of the month. To subscribe to diegocaleiro.com and keep track of your challenges, click on the blackish square on the bottom right that says follow.  If you are logged in a wordpress account, check the top left instead. – Diego