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MendelSchmiedekamp comments on How Much Thought - Less Wrong

37 Post author: jimrandomh 12 April 2009 04:56AM

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Comment author: MendelSchmiedekamp 12 April 2009 02:17:19PM 2 points [-]

I have a fairly high degree of conscious control over how much time and effort I put into thinking. Which especially helps, when I'm trying to solve multiple problems at once or free up serious effort for long term (multi-day or even multi-year) cogntive problems. The exception is when I'm emotionally charged about something, and haven't had a chance to utilized cognitive and emotional medititation techniques well enough.

Patience is a supremely useful thing, it's vital not to get frustrated with lack of progress and to label a problem too early as insovlable or impossible. Thinking laterally, and routing around emotional or cognitive distress can be vital. as well as periodic doubts on assumptions of varying levels of severity (which as a whole subsumes most of the techniques discussed here and at OB). And a willingness to revise your goals, as you learn more about what is possible and you think more deeply about the situation.

The critical resource is often time spent with dimensions of the problem simultaneously available for mutual consideration. This feels like cognitive expansion as the problem is being fitted in a too small thinking space. It has some resemblence to multi-tasking in a half-dozen directions, but on the same task. It's not unpleasant, but it has a definite willpower cost and becomes much more taxing when I suffer a migraine (which can be as often as half the time).

Beyond that, I can work with my subconscious to handle some less immediate computations more precisely, but these will always require conscious mediation before they become a course of action.

These modes of thinking are essential, because for droping a standard heuristic to be fully beneficial on the decision's outcome means taking into account the dimension which the heuristic was replacing. The alternative, which is not nearly as helpful, but cheaper, is to replace the heuristic with a conditional, but better heuristic.

Or to put it in my language, when you question an assumption, and find it lacking, you should not simply replace it with another assumption. Instead you need to consider the added complexity that it brings to the problem.

So, in short, my economy of willpower, thinking, and health are not a simple management problem on their own.