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Comment author: 05 June 2015 04:16:48PM *  0 points [-]

A mathematical model of what this might look like: you might have a candidate class of formal models U that you think of as "all GAI" such that you know of no "reasonably computable"(which you might hope to define) member of the class (corresponding to an implementable GAI). Maybe you can find a subclass F in U that you think models Friendly AI. You can reason about these classes without knowing any examples of reasonably computable members of either. Perhaps you could even give an algorithm for taking an arbitrary example in U and transforming it via reasonable computation into an example of F. Then, once you actually construct an arbitrary GAI, you already know how to transform it into an FAI.

So the problem may be factorable such that you can solve a later part before solving the first part.

So, I'd agree it might be hard to understand F without understanding U as a class of objects. And lets leave aside how you would find and become certain of such definitions. If you could, though, you might hope that you can define them and work with them without ever constructing an example. Patterns not far off from this occur in mathematical practice, for example families of graphs with certain properties known to exist via probabilistic methods, but with no constructed examples.

Does that help, or did I misunderstand somewhere?

(edit: I don't claim an eventual solution would fit the above description, this is just I hope a sufficient example that such things are mathematically possible)

Comment author: 05 June 2015 04:32:01PM 1 point [-]

That sounds plausible, but how do you start to reason about such models of computation if they haven't even been properly defined yet?

Comment author: 04 July 2014 05:10:11PM 1 point [-]

So on the one hand, abstract thinking improves your self control: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19493322

On the other hand, abstract thinking leads to procrastination: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/19/12/1308

And vice versa for concrete thinking (lower self control but no procrastination).

But according to Piers Steel, procrastination is caused by giving in to impulses! Higher control SHOULD lead to lower procrastination, shouldn't it?

So the findings seem to contradict each other. How can you have more self control AND procrastinate more? And conversely, how can you be more impulsive AND procrastinate less? Is analysis paralysis a real thing?

I'd really like to hear some opinions on this apparent contradiction.

Comment author: 01 June 2014 10:30:45PM 17 points [-]

An even more recent study has failed to replicate the glucose effect entirely, too: Lange, F., & Eggert, F. (2014). Sweet delusion. Glucose drinks fail to counteract ego depletion. Appetite, 75, 54-63 <-- This one also has an interesting survey of the methodological flaws in similar studies.

Also, there's some evidence (still preliminary) that ego depletion effects decline with age: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0026351 <-- free access paper if anyone wants to read it. It basically looks at a meta-analysis by Hagger done about 2010? I think, and shows a significantly higher effect for younger people (which, being psyc and reliant on college students most of the time, is most of them) - then conducted their own study and found the same (using groups of <25 vs. 40-65). Since 25 is approximately when the pre-frontal cortex is fully finished maturing, maybe the effect has something to do with that.

Also, in terms of the 'out of willpower' and giving up thing... several studies have shown that with sufficient incentive (money, being told the research will help develop Alzheimer's therapies) the ego depletion effect goes away (but then comes back triple-fold on a third non-motivated task). Also, people tend to conserve willpower when they expect to need it later. So you don't have to give up, it might just be a bit harder - but if a few dollars (literally what it was) can motivate someone out of it then you can probably motivate yourself out of it for anything important. This is where the muscle analogy comes into play, like an athlete resting for a big match then pushing through discomfort during it.

^Ref for the last paragraph: Muraven, M., Slessareva, E. (2003). Mechanisms of Self-Control Failure: Motivation and Limited Resources. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(7), 894-906

All in all, I'm not convinced one of those things is going on, because there's no explanation there as to why they would happen more for a task that requires self-control than one that doesn't. Most ego-depletion studies match up tasks to make them the same domain, often the same length and tediousness. Why would a task requiring more self-control give you more physical discomfort, hunger, thirst or indignation? The anxiety about willpower depletion I can get behind, but that's only for people who know what they're being tested on.

Comment author: 02 July 2014 08:16:54PM 1 point [-]

There was also a 2011 article by Kurzban that argues against glucose depletion being the cause behind the "Ego depletion" effects seen in Baumeister's studies.

Comment author: 17 October 2013 02:18:47AM *  6 points [-]

Tools I use to help achieve #1: LeechBlock (Firefox) or Chrome Nanny (Chrome).

Tool I use to help achieve #2: Beeminder.

Tools I use to help achieve #3: Focus@Will and Coffitivity.

Comment author: 04 May 2014 12:18:31PM 0 points [-]

Leechblock can be disabled so what's the point

Comment author: 04 May 2014 09:28:29AM *  0 points [-]

All good in theory but how would you apply this equation to procrastinating on something like exam revision?

• Increase your expectancy of success.

This isn't relevant in most cases of procrastination. I already know I can successfully revise for exams, I've done it before, it's just too boring, so I don't feel like doing it. It's the same with say, washing the dishes - I know I can do it, but it's just boring. And revision requires a lot more mental effort than washing the dishes.

• Increase the task's value (make it more pleasant and rewarding).

Flow - You misunderstood the concept of boredom. Boredom doesn't happen ONLY when you find the task too easy, it also happens when you find the task too difficult. Most people probably find maths boring because it's too hard for them, their competence level is too low for the task. Same with learning languages - people find languages boring because it's new and therefore difficult for them. From wikipedia: "In a learning environment, a common cause of boredom is lack of understanding; for instance, if one is not following or connecting to the material in a class or lecture, it will usually seem boring. "

Flow isn't about difficulty, it's about matching your competence level to the difficulty level of the task. If you find it too easy, then make it harder. If you find it too hard, then make it easier. On the other hand, when you are learning concepts that are fundamentally new to you, it is necessarily hard. What makes learning fun is not the process itself, as in playing video games or driving a car or playing musical instruments is rewarding in itself, but the OUTCOME of it. In other words, people are not intrinsically motivated to learn, as they are for video games, but they are extrinsically motivated to do learning and revision.

How do you make exam revision more rewarding without an external partner to administer rewards? Self-administering rewards is impractical because you can easily and will just give yourself the reward without doing the work. If you don't have someone overseeing you this is not a practical solution. The system reinforces cheating and punishes proper behavior by design.

• Decrease your impulsiveness.

How do you do this without meditation or medication? I know what you mean by precommitting but technically that isn't reducing impulsivity, it just makes giving into temptation much more costly. Leaving aside the philosophical objection that this option takes away your individual freedom and makes you dependent on external compulsion, how would you do this in a way that isn't easily reversible without external help? Unplugging your router - you can just plug it back in again. Also what if you need internet for revision. Blocking websites - you can just unblock them. So precommitment isn't practical most of the time.

My point is that these solutions are only good in theory and not useful in reality for common problems such as procrastination on exam revision or studying. Learning is fundamentally difficult, and you can only increase your competence level by learning, so it's a catch-22 situation. Momentum doesn't apply in this kind of situation because learning is self-punishing or self-weakening. The more you learn, the more you don't feel like learning as your mind wanders because it is not in a state of flow.

Most of the solutions you mentioned skirt around the outside of the issue and don't address the root cause of the problem, which is lack of flow. Indeed, if tasks like studying and revision created flow, there wouldn't be any procrastination associated.

Anyways, I'd like to read a point-by-point counterargument to the points I've made because I don't feel my criticism is productive in itself since I'm still looking for the solution to procrastination.

In response to Morality open thread
Comment author: [deleted] 08 July 2012 08:16:23PM 4 points [-]

I have a question: what is akrasia exactly?

Say I have to finish a paper, but I also enjoy wasting time on the internet. All things considered, I decide it would be better for me to finish the paper than for me to waste time on the internet. And yet I waste time on the internet. What's going on there? It can't just be a reflex or a tick: my reflexes aren't that sophisticated. Given how complicated wasting time on the internet is, and that I decidedly enjoy it, it looks like an intentional action, something which is the result of my reasoning. Yet I reasoned that I shouldn't go on the internet, so it can't really be an intentional action. My intention was exactly not to go on the internet.

Maybe I'm just being hypocritical, and I actually value the internet more than finishing a paper?

In response to comment by [deleted] on Morality open thread
Comment author: 23 April 2014 01:59:54PM *  0 points [-]

A bit late but I just want to chime in that the consensus is that akratic action is intentional. You CAN act intentionally against your better judgment, and your example of wasting time on the internet is almost certainly an intentional rather than reflex action.