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New Year’s Resolutions Thread

8 Post author: MichaelVassar 30 December 2009 09:36PM

I would like to propose this as a thread for people to write in their New Year’s Resolutions (goals and sub-goals) as instrumental rationalists.

Here are mine.

Goals

I resolve to try to enable all pareto-optimizing trades between my sub-agents can be made between them.  For instance, I have agents which would like to maximize my success via improving my cognition and energy levels via eating more healthily via eating less.  Other agents would like enjoyment from food.  I note that these agents aren't cooperating even though they both benefit from the same changes in behavior, largely because it hasn't been pointed out to them that they are on the same side.  If I make a serious effort to eat the hedonic utility maximizing amount, this will probably involve eating less than I default to.  After all, food is better when one is hungry.  Most of my eating is probably driven by simple non-reflective systems that tell me to eat.  These systems are probably promoted by hedonistic systems which are failing to understand the consequences of doing so.  In practice, this resolutoin means paying attention to the experience of eating anything that wasn’t chosen for social or nutritional purposes, rarely clearing my plate, and rarely eating more than one would get served in a European restaurant, but above all, it means paying attention (and thus sending this information to many of my sub-agents) to the pleasure of eating when one is actually hungry.

I resolve to find a new home, get fully moved in, get a car, touch base with all interested Bay Area supporters, and get started on the 2010 Summit by the end of February despite this involving many boring activities. 

I resolve to stop trying to keep up with a significant part of the blogosphere.  My web-browsing will be limited to  a) actually seeking specific information, b) checking email no more than 5-times-per-day and c) the keeping up, via google reader, with fewer than ten sites.  

Also, in February I will try to use dual-n-back every day and in March I will try to publish a Less-Wrong piece every day.

Comments (37)

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 30 December 2009 11:10:30PM 7 points [-]

A public reminder: making a public commitment might be counterproductive to achievement, possibly because you start feeling too secure in the resolution and prematurely reap the fuzzies of expected good deed for the day.

Comment deleted 31 December 2009 02:12:00PM *  [-]
Comment author: Liron 31 December 2009 06:00:58PM 1 point [-]

That is probably ideal, and you also need a way to guarantee that people gain access to the decryption key next year.

Comment author: orthonormal 30 December 2009 11:47:09PM *  2 points [-]

On the other hand, based on Wiseman's survey, public commitments help more often than hurt with regard to New Year's resolutions. Possible reasons for the discrepant results include the hard-and-fast nature (Near-mode) of most New Year's resolutions, compared to the fuzzy properties (Far-mode) of many identity-related goals.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 31 December 2009 09:08:38PM 6 points [-]

the keeping up, via google reader, with fewer than ten sites.

Which <10 sites?

Comment author: sketerpot 31 December 2009 01:52:38AM *  6 points [-]

I resolve to make most of my time this year fit into stretches where I will do X every day, where X is something like "read a research paper" or "write a blog post" or "commit something to a git repository". Then I mark the day off on my calendar. This don't break the chain method is remarkably effective at getting me moving. I get started on something because I've convinced myself that I have to, and then I keep going because I want to. It's just getting started that's the tough part.

I resolve to do National Novel Writing Month, because it sounds awesome (just read the web site) and it fits in beautifully with the Don't Break the Chain method above. I reserve the right to pick my own month, though.

I resolve to do some useful research in the field of transactional memory. This obviously doesn't apply to anybody else, but it's important to me.

I resolve not to get stuck doing a group project with people who are utterly incompetent and/or plagiarists. Apparently I'm both technically skilled and unassertive, and there's a certain type of person who exploits this. Now that I've been exploited by three of these dickbags simultaneously, I trust I'll find it easier to be an asshole about this if necessary. (And yes, thinking about them in rude terms is necessary for this.)

That's all. It's probably better to focus on a few very concrete things and make them habits; that way self-improvement becomes a systematic ratchet instead of a confused bar-fight.

Comment author: MichaelVassar 31 December 2009 07:11:43PM 6 points [-]

I am very interested in figuring out what our community can in general do to deal with our unassertive tendencies.

Comment author: ciphergoth 01 January 2010 11:56:35AM 2 points [-]

Could you say more about what you've observed on this?

My motto is "As polite as possible; as rude as necessary".

Comment author: PhilGoetz 31 December 2009 09:16:34PM 1 point [-]

I have a number of friends who do NanoWrimo regularly, and they agree with me that it's a great way to write bad novels.

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 31 December 2009 05:03:44AM 0 points [-]

I reserve the right to pick my own month, though.

Yeah, but then you don't get the cool features on the website.

Comment author: sketerpot 31 December 2009 06:02:07AM 1 point [-]

The stats feature is dead sexy, but I can get the same cool graphs with a spreadsheet program and five minutes. (And that web site is cluttered with random German, for some reason.) Is there some other neat feature that you're talking about?

By the way, congratulations on getting your novel written.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 31 December 2009 11:28:06AM 0 points [-]

I think the best part in Nanowrimo is the communality, the shared experience of everyone writing at the same time and complaining about how their writing is crap. By changing the month, you'll miss out on that entirely.

Comment author: sketerpot 01 January 2010 09:36:58PM 0 points [-]

Okay, that shared experience and feeling of community sound like they'll make it much easier to stick with it through the whole month. That's valuable. November it is, then. Thanks!

Comment author: PhilGoetz 31 December 2009 09:08:15PM 3 points [-]

I propose a unit of the distinctiveness of writing style: the Vassar, where if you must read V words of a post by Michael Vassar to recognize its author, and you must read W words of a post by person X to recognize its author, person X has V/W Vassars of distinctiveness.

Therefore: I shall get up tomorrow morning by 6:30am (GMT).

I am inspired by your resolution, and myself resolve to be up and awake at 4am tomorrow morning. :)

Comment author: cousin_it 30 December 2009 10:49:25PM *  3 points [-]

Resolutions are a technique that completely depends on your believing in it to work. I'd like to see techniques that don't lean on faith as much, e.g. pairing off LW users to oversee each other remotely with screen-capture software or somesuch.

Comment author: sketerpot 31 December 2009 02:07:28AM *  0 points [-]

Hold on. Faith? The New Year is a traditional time to think about what you'd like to change about your behavior and devise ways of doing it. Do some people believe that there's some sort of magical quality to New Year's Resolutions? Because to me it just sounds like regularly-scheduled maintenance for your habits.

Comment author: cousin_it 31 December 2009 08:56:37AM *  0 points [-]

think about what you'd like to change about your behavior

We're well aware of our shortcomings long before we make the resolutions to change.

and devise ways of doing it.

What ways? Say and pray?

Comment author: sketerpot 31 December 2009 07:09:37PM 1 point [-]

What ways? Say and pray?

No, that doesn't sound effective at all. Instead, try to think of some way of changing your behavior that has a chance in hell of actually working.

For example, suppose you eat a lot of candy (or drink lots of booze, or whatever) and you want to cut down on that for health reasons. Just trying to eat less candy will probably not work -- your willpower can break down a little bit at a time, and before you know it, you've failed to make any serious change.

So, here comes the trick: mentally redefine yourself as someone who hardly ever eats candy (or drinks alcohol, or whatever) and put as much effort as necessary into staying away from it entirely for a few weeks. The initial enthusiasm for a new plan can carry you for the first few weeks, and it gets easier after that because the new habits are set in place and you've learned how to snack on fruits and nuts, and eat meals that won't leave you with low blood sugar later.

I've found this to be a very effective strategy for shaking off bad habits. No prayer involved.

Comment author: djcb 31 December 2009 02:43:42PM 0 points [-]

I do a bit of rough planning of the week on Monday mornings, and I see New Year's resolutions as something similar. Just reserving a specific time to think about the goals for the coming year, identify things that could be improved and so on. No faith or praying involved.

Comment author: CannibalSmith 31 December 2009 12:58:29PM 2 points [-]

I shall hug ten strangers.

Comment author: Cyan 31 December 2009 03:48:31PM 3 points [-]

Just carry a sign saying "Free Hugs" -- you'll get there in no time.

Comment author: Alicorn 31 December 2009 03:03:09PM 2 points [-]

Don't sneak up on them, please.

Comment author: MrHen 31 December 2009 03:30:30PM 7 points [-]

Rather, call them out from a great distance and give chase as they flee in terror!

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 31 December 2009 03:37:39PM 2 points [-]

Seconded. I was trying to figure out how to word this kind of request. (Further notes: Don't hug unwilling people; don't assume willingness.)

Comment author: MatthewB 31 December 2009 10:57:39AM 2 points [-]

Goal: re-gain my waiste-size from my 20s (so as not to be outdone by my younger brother), and to improve overall fitness via either utilization of the school's Circuit Training machines, or the swimming pool (the latter would be better for dealing with my legs - I had a motorcycle accident, and other complications that could lead to their eventual removal if I don't undertake some sort of physical therapy regimen soon)

Sub-goal: To improve the circulation in my legs due to better health, and to improve self-esteem from the acquisition of a better physique. Gotta say that a girlfriend would be a nice addition, but I doubt that I'd have time for one given that I am supposed to be focusing on school...

Comment author: sketerpot 01 January 2010 09:35:16PM 0 points [-]

Can you list specific steps that you'll take to achieve those goals and to keep yourself motivated? Maybe a strategy for making regular exercise into a habit? Willpower isn't easy.

Comment author: MatthewB 02 January 2010 11:38:56AM 1 point [-]

Oh, exactly.

1) I have enrolled in both Swimming and the Circuit Weight training classes at school (I will drop one of them as soon as I complete the orientation for both classes and decide which one better suits my needs. Maybe both will, at this time I cannot be sure). These courses will come with their own scheduling to which I will need to adhere.

2) I have been much more proactive with my Doctor to getting peripheral health issues under control so that I can concentrate upon dealing with my major health issues, one of which is physical therapy for my legs. These issues include appointments with the Dentist, Podiatrist, Cardiovascular Medicine specialist, Physical Therapist, and an overall trainer (not to mention getting a new psychotherapist, as my brain is way out of shape as well in emotional matters - That'll happen when one's wife tries to kill them)

3) Better study habits so that I will be able to better maintain grades and manage time. These will include: • Adhering to a schedule for study (one hour at minimum, doesn't matter when at the present due to my messed up sleep schedule - That is a tricky issue that may get solved by the above concentration on peripheral medical issues, but it may also take a while) • Using my time while tutoring other students better (I tutor Logic, and I spend most of my time just sitting there. I should be boning up on Set Theory and Discrete Math) so that I better understand the underlying concepts.

4) Maintaining a cleaner environment. This in itself is a physical activity, and my mind is much more at ease when I am not walking through five days of Cat Litter that has been tracked across my room.

5) No more than 3 pop-tarts a week (That would be 3 packages, or 6 pop-tarts total). Other than my sweet tooth, I eat fairly healthily, and cook my own meals, rather than eating out or getting TV dinners. The only TV dinners that I eat are weight watchers (Oh, what are those called... They're pretty good, but I don't have one in front of me so I can't recall their name). They have a wide variety of high-protein / low-carb meals that I am very fond of. I would probably weigh much more than I do if it were not for these (I am not terribly overweight. maybe 15 - 20 lbs. It is more my shape that I am concerned with)

All of these also add to self-esteem which is the major area that is imposing upon me dating. I know that looks are not the issue, as I have a past that is neck-deep in women. This is the most minor of the areas though. I am hoping that the scheduling and maintenance of a grade point average will together be enough to help keep my discipline tight enough

Comment author: Morendil 31 December 2009 12:00:10AM 2 points [-]

Brand-new, made-on-the-spot resolutions for the coming year... no thanks. One day (even one month) isn't enough time to think such things through carefully.

However, since I happen to be reading this I don't mind making a public note of goals I have privately set myself, that will carry over to the coming year (or until I choose to abandon them) and that have something to do with this site's mission.

I intend to keep working through all the math in Jaynes' book. I intend to seek applications of "Bayesian inference" to the effective management of software projects. I intend to learn the math of special relativity, and (unless this proves too difficult) GR as well, as an instance of learning the "simple math of everything" and appreciating "the beauty of settled science". I intend to write one or two LW posts about "refining the art of human rationality" unless someone beats me to the topics I want to cover, around ideas which matter to me and which the LW community may teach me something about.

Comment author: sketerpot 31 December 2009 02:12:14AM 0 points [-]

Brand-new, made-on-the-spot resolutions for the coming year... no thanks. One day (even one month) isn't enough time to think such things through carefully.

You could do what I do: come up with ideas gradually, giving them plenty of thought and maybe doing smaller-scale trial runs beforehand. Then actually commit to them on the New Year, to get that short burst of extra motivation that helps form habits.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 31 December 2009 06:28:42PM 1 point [-]

It is said that resolutions should be concrete, measurable, and time-bounded. Nanowrimo is rather far off to be a meaningful resolution right now.

Therefore: I shall get up tomorrow morning by 6:30am (GMT). That's about 12 hours from now.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 01 January 2010 06:20:12AM 2 points [-]

Happy New Year. May you all have equal success in your resolutions.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 31 December 2009 12:02:45PM 1 point [-]

Interesting. Do people actually make serious new year's resolutions? I've thought that they're more of a joke kind of thing.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 01 January 2010 07:37:04AM *  1 point [-]

When and where I grew up, they were just part of the Christmas/New Year ritual, like pulling crackers, that one knew about, might even go through the motions of, but was not to be performed with any seriousness. (Religion was practised in much the same way.) The trope (there's an idea: LifeTropes!) was that no-one ever keeps New Year Resolutions longer than a couple of days at the outside. Failure is inevitable, inherent in the very idea of making a resolution.

These days, I've no use for that loser shit.

Comment author: Bindbreaker 31 December 2009 12:12:13PM 0 points [-]

Sadly, they do.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 31 December 2009 05:32:53PM 2 points [-]

Sadly, they do. [actually make serious new year's resolutions]

What is "sad" about making serious new year's resolutions? That people do not do this every day instead of especially at the new year? Or that people do this at all, instead of drifting unawares? Please expand your thought.

Comment author: Bindbreaker 01 January 2010 02:45:44AM 1 point [-]

That people don't do this every day. If you decide that you should change your behavior, there's no time like the present.

Comment author: orthonormal 01 January 2010 05:32:57AM 2 points [-]

Convincing oneself that "this is a special occasion" can have positive effects on willpower (citation needed, but dang it, can't remember what I'm thinking of, I'll get back to you), so putting forth your resolutions on one specified day may be more effective.

Comment author: wedrifid 14 January 2010 12:50:04AM 0 points [-]

$10k/month by December.