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Well, I've a chance to prove my commitment to cold, hard rationality, unswayed by emotional concerns... I'm just not sure which route really is the more rational (assuming a desire to stay healthy).
In doubt as to the most logical course of action, I thought I'd get some LessWrongian input. To back up a bit and explain: I opened a pill bottle and was shaking one out into my hand, and since I'm a klutz the upshot was three pills in the (thankfully flushed) toilet. I fished them out, because these are three out of my last four pills; I take half a tablet a day, and don't get a refill until a week from now.
Now they're sitting on a dish in front of me, soaking for a few minutes in 91% isopropyl alcohol. Does LessWrong think they'll be okay to take? The alcohol should kill most germs, but I know it doesn't get all of them. What about viruses? Should I attempt to scrub the tablets to remove them? I've also always enjoyed informing my friends about various surfaces with more germs than toilet water (keyboard, phone), but that doesn't mean toilet water isn't horrifically toxic...
You decide. I promise to abide by the collective decision of LessWrong in this matter: should I take the toilet pills?
The recent post (http://lesswrong.com/lw/5xx/overcoming_suffering_emotional_acceptance) by Kaj_Sotala is very reminiscent of Buddhism to me. Since no one has commented with similar sentiments, and since I get the impression Buddhism is not a common topic of discussion here, I thought I'd make a quick article for the curious. I'm not exactly a Buddhist myself, but I have a good few books about the topic and have experienced mild success with meditation.
Buddhism is one of the few religious belief systems not entirely repellent to me, for a couple of reasons. For one, Buddhism - or some traditions thereof, including the "original" (Theravada), I believe - encourages adherents to be skeptical. The emphasis is not on faith, gods, or symbolism, but rather on actual practice and experience: in other words, on obtaining evidence. You can see for yourself whether or not the system works, because the reward is not in another life. It is the cessation of suffering in this one.
For two, that emphasis on the problem of suffering seems very reasonable to me. Buddhism holds that the problem with this world is suffering, and that suffering can be alleviated by methods somewhat similar to the ones in Kaj_Sotala's post. (The choice of the word "mindfulness" - was that a coincidence, or a reference to the Buddhist concept of the same name?) The idea is that suffering results from unfulfilled desires, themselves a product of an uncontrolled mind. You become upset when the world is This Way, but you want it to be That Way; and even if you try to accept the world-as-it-is, your brain is rebellious. Unpleasant feelings arise, unbidden and unwelcome.
The solution, according to Buddhism, is meditation. There are many different types of meditation, both in technique and in topic meditated upon, but I won't go into them here. Meditation appears to be physically healthy just on its own; a quick Google search on "meditation brain" will bring up hundreds of articles about how it affects the thinking organ. However, the main goals of Buddhist meditation are a.) attaining control over your own mind (i.e., learning to separate sense impressions from emotions and values, so that harsh words or even blows cause no corresponding mental disturbance), and b.) attaining insight into Buddhist thought about subjects such as love, impermanence, mindfulness, or skillfulness.
Buddhist thought on some subjects (see next-to-final paragraph) I can leave, but mindfulness and skillfulness seem appropriate to LessWrong. As I understand it, the idea behind mindfulness is simply to be aware of what you're doing, rather than going through the motions - and to be aware of, and fix, cognitive biases. For beliefs and mental processes, failing to hit the "Explain" button (to steal from Mr. Yudkowsky) could be considered un-mindful. Things you don't think about are things you could be getting wrong. Skillfulness is related; it's not about skill at some particular task - it's about maximizing utility, to put it simply. The goal is no wasted or mistaken actions. Your actions should not result in unintended consequences, and your intended consequences should never fail to advance your goals in some way. Rationality is thus a very big part of Buddhism, since it is necessary to be rational to be mindful and skillful!
**One important note:** Buddhism has many traditions, and many, many different beliefs. A great deal of it is about as credible as any other religion. For instance, Buddhism holds that there is no "self", ultimately; however, it also holds that people are reincarnated... so what is it that is being reincarnated? I'm sure there is an apology for this somewhere, but the only explanation I've read made less sense than the question. Karma is also a silly idea, in my opinion. I've picked and chosen regarding Buddhist beliefs, and I'm no expert, so if it turns out what I've written isn't orthodox - well, I've warned you!
That's about all I have to say on the subject. Buddhist methods for overcoming suffering have served me well; it is from Buddhism that I first learned to fight depression over things I can do nothing about, and that regret is only useful insofar as it can inspire you to change, and that there is no excuse for being unskillful and unmindful even in the smallest task. I hope this post has served to impart some knowledge, and/or satisfy (or impart!) some curiosity.
I was linked to this on another forum. No instructions were given, apparently - just this picture. What's the deal?
It seems to me the answer is clearly C, not A as the test indicates; and the members in the original thread appear to agree. However, attempted justifications of A have been made, none of which are very convincing to me - mainly because if there are no instructions and an obvious answer, there's not really any benefit for them to reward a different interpretation, which would almost certainly involve arbitrary assumptions regarding the rules they really want you to apply.
Trick questions on exams seem to rely on failure to pay close attention to instructions, or insufficiently rigorously apply rules; when there are no instructions, what justification would anyone have for not choosing the most obvious interpretation? Any could be right!
What do the geniuses here at MoreRight think?
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