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AndrewH comments on Are wireheads happy? - Less Wrong

109 Post author: Yvain 01 January 2010 04:41PM

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Comment author: AndrewH 25 January 2010 08:05:37PM 3 points [-]

I don't smoke, but I made the mistake of starting a can of Pringles yesterday. If you >asked me my favorite food, there are dozens of things I would say before "Pringles". >Right now, and for the vast majority of my life, I feel no desire to go and get Pringles. >But once I've had that first chip, my motivation for a second chip goes through the >roof, without my subjective assessment of how tasty Pringles are changing one bit.

What is missing from this is the effort (which eats up the limited willpower budget) required to get the second Pringle chip. Your motivation for a second Pringle chip would be much lower if you only brought one bag of Pringle chips, and all bags contained one chip. However, your motivation to have another classof(Pringle) = potato chip no doubt rises -- due to the fact that chips are on your thoughts rather than iPhones.

Talking about effort allows us to bring in habits into the discussion, which you might define as sets of actions that, due to their frequent use, are much less effort to perform.

The difference between enjoyment and motivation provides an argument that could >rescue these people. It may be that a person really does enjoy spending time with >their family more than they enjoy their iPhone, but they're more motivated to work >and buy iPhones than they are to spend time with their family.

Alternatively, for potentially good reasons before (working hard to buy a house for said family), work has become habitual while spending time with the family has not. Hence, work is the default set of actions, the default no-effort state, and anything that takes time off work requires effort. Spending time with the family could do this, yet buying an iPhone with the tons of money this person has would not.

A way of summarizing the effect of effort is that it is a function of a particular persons set of no-effort (no willpower) actions. This function defines how much 'wanting' is required to do that action -- less effort actions of the same amount of 'wanting' are more 'desirable' to be done.

Willpower plays a big role in this in that you can spend willpower to pull yourself out of the default state (a default state such as being in New York), but it only last so long.