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michael_vassar comments on Superstimuli and the Collapse of Western Civilization - Less Wrong

60 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 March 2007 06:10PM

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Comment author: michael_vassar 17 March 2007 07:48:57AM 12 points [-]

I suspect that many ancient forms of self-discipline and meditation are aimed at enhancing self-control, either by increasing the supply of the pool, or (especially in the case of Taoist techniques, though many others such as Feldenkrais discuss this) providing cognitive alternatives to using self control that do not deplete the pool. However, I am concerned that enhanced self-control may come with a social cost in terms of percieved degree of trustworthyness, desert of empathy etc. After all, drinking in high school correlates positively with later earnings. http://www.nber.org/papers/w12529

To me the most practically relevant question seems to be "what can we do to bias the production of addictive activities towards those which act as economic complements to productive or socially desirable activities, and as economic substitutes for destructive or socially undesirable activities". One possibility that I have been somewhat preoccupied with for some time is that of 'reputation markets'. It seems to me that these may tend to increase the degree to which life resembles a video game in so far as a person's reputation can ultimately constitute a set of dynamic visible scores that they can continually attempt to optimize under intermittant reinforcement.

On a related note, Wikinomics claims that in Star Wars Galaxies players build the 'medical' skill associated with their characters by providing diagnosis based on real medical data, thus developing real medical skills. I have long thought that games could teach foreign languages by making them practically necessary in the course of game play, but this might interfere with addictivity unless it was handled very skillfully.

Since this post seems to be a confessional, for me the only really addictive games are the Civilization series. My only 2 consecutive all-nighters ever were Alpha Centauri related, shortly after it's release.

Comment author: TimFreeman 20 April 2011 05:29:08PM 4 points [-]

I suspect that many ancient forms of self-discipline and meditation are aimed at enhancing self-control, either by increasing the supply of the pool, or (especially in the case of Taoist techniques, though many others such as Feldenkrais discuss this) providing cognitive alternatives to using self control that do not deplete the pool.

Can you provide a pointer to a Taoist method of self-control that does not deplete willpower?

Comment author: TimFreeman 25 April 2011 08:46:29PM 0 points [-]

Here's a candidate pointer. The author was humble enough to dress up his message in Internet-marketing-speak. I suppose that's consistent with his message.

http://www.howtodotaoism.com/taoism.htm

Comment author: TimFreeman 17 May 2011 04:34:57PM 1 point [-]

Can you provide a pointer to a Taoist method of self-control that does not deplete willpower?

Here's a candidate pointer: http://www.howtodotaoism.com/taoism.htm

I signed up and listened to some of his free audio, specifically including his lecture about Karma. Translating out of his jargon, he's saying that you can acquire the habit and skill of creating things ("positive karma"), the habit and skill of destroying things ("negative karma"), or the habit and skill of rearranging existing things so they interact on their own to achieve your purposes ("neutral karma"). You gain one or the other kind of karma depending on the actual consequences of your actions, not the intended consequences. If multiple people are involved, the person who makes the decision gets the karma, not the people who actually implemented it. He says these three alternatives are mutually exclusive, which makes sense if you think about cognitive dissonance and self-image.

That might be a useful distinction. I'll live with it for a while and report back if anything remarkable happens as a consequence.

I have no idea if this was the form of Taoist self-control Vassar was talking about in the GGP post. Since it's based on habit and skill, it does seem to fit the bill as a cognitive alternative to using self control, with the caveat that I don't know yet if it actually works.

Comment author: timtyler 27 April 2011 03:39:35PM 2 points [-]

The will is like a muscle - it gets stronger with use as well as weaker.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 May 2011 02:22:37PM *  11 points [-]

My only 2 consecutive all-nighters ever were Alpha Centauri related, shortly after it's release.

This is somewhat unrelated but, thinking back at my very young self I can't help but wonder how loaded Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is with memes that made me comfortable accepting LW thinking more than a decade later. Many of the same ideas and shibboleths are nearly omnipresent in science fiction but a certain attitude as well as a way of comparing and thinking about values and how one goes about "picking" them (prompted by the dystopian and utopian possibilities of nearly all the original faction's value system), where things I suspect I originally picked up there:

I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I'd settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice. -CEO Nwabudike Morgan, Morganlink 3D-Vision Interview

and

We hold life to be sacred, but we also know the foundation of life consists in a stream of codes not so different from the successive frames of a watchvid. Why then cannot we cut one code short here, and start another there? Is life so fragile that it can withstand no tampering? Does the sacred brook no improvement? -Chairman Sheng-ji Yang, "Looking God in the Eye"

or

Why do you insist that the human genetic code is "sacred" or "taboo"? It is a chemical process and nothing more. For that matter -we- are chemical processes and nothing more. If you deny yourself a useful tool simply because it reminds you uncomfortably of your mortality, you have uselessly and pointlessly crippled yourself. -Chairman Sheng-ji Yang, "Looking God in the Eye"