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ChrisHibbert comments on How Much Thought - Less Wrong

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

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Comment author: ChrisHibbert 12 April 2009 05:55:58PM 2 points [-]

The metaphor of resource for both reason and willpower, while having some valuable implications, also seems to leave out an important element. With willpower, particularly, I find it more useful to think in terms of a muscle, rather than a limited resource. It's limited at any point in time, certainly, but the more you exercise it, the more is available later. I think the same is true, though possibly to a lesser extent, with reason.

If you think of both of them as depletable or renewable resources, your incentive is always to reduce your use to just those times that they're necessary. When you think of them as muscles, you realize that you need to use them regularly, and that finding new ways to exercise them makes them more valuable. Also like exercise, using them makes you tired, but if done correctly, it also makes you stronger.

Comment author: jimrandomh 13 April 2009 12:02:41AM 1 point [-]

The issue is not so much that reason and willpower need to be exercised, as that reason (time spent thinking) is lost if it isn't spent immediately (the time passes with no insights). Since thinking produces insights that feed into future insights, spending time not thinking about anything is like... <badanalogy>keeping money in an account that doesn't generate interest</badanalogy>.

Comment author: ChrisHibbert 13 April 2009 05:54:12AM 0 points [-]

I'm not getting the metaphor of "reason ... is lost if isn't spent immediately." Do you mean something like "wasted" or "unproductive"? Can you say the same thing again in more words?

Comment author: jimrandomh 14 April 2009 07:08:50PM 0 points [-]

I think the confusion stems from a conflict between my definition in the article (reason is time spent thinking) and some of the more common, but less precise definitions (reason is the output of thinking time, or reason is the efficiency or effectiveness of thinking time).

Under the definition that reason is time spent thinking, if you don't spend it by thinking about something, then that time wasn't reason at all, so it's 'lost'. This is different than spending time thinking but failing to produce any output.