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Comment author: disconnect 15 August 2017 01:36:15PM 0 points [-]

People who become passionate about meditation tend to say that the hardest part is encountering "dark things in your mind".

What do meditators mean by this?

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 18 August 2017 06:11:27PM 0 points [-]

There are stages in meditation when painful thoughts and memories might come bubbling up. If you're just sitting still with your mind and have nothing to distract you, you may occasionally end up facing some past trauma, especially if you've previously avoided dealing with it and have e.g. tried to just distract yourself from it whenever it came up.

(This is not necessarily a negative anything in the long run, since facing those negative thoughts can help in getting over them.)

Comment author: entirelyuseless 29 July 2017 02:18:26PM 0 points [-]

I agree it is not a common outcome in practice, although that is largely because people identify as "someone who does things," or at least as "someone who ought to do things," without identifying as something else that would actually drive them to do things. That is a recipe for making yourself miserable. It may be, too, that "someone who ought to do things" is enough of a natural identity, so to speak, that it is very hard for someone not to identify in that way, even if they think they are not doing so.

I suspect that if you're not an expert Buddhist meditator and basically living in a monastery, you'll just fail at this

This is probably right. Fortunately for me, that is not too far off from describing my life.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 29 July 2017 06:35:35PM 0 points [-]

largely because people identify as "someone who does things," or at least as "someone who ought to do things,"

(either that, or people identify as "someone who doesn't do things", and find that to be a concept with negative value)

Comment author: entirelyuseless 29 July 2017 01:58:57PM 0 points [-]

So if you do keep your identity small, you might not have a very strong motivation to actually ever do anything.

This is true, but on the other hand, if you actually succeed in keeping it small, as opposed to thinking wishfully about doing that, you will also actually not mind not doing anything.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 29 July 2017 02:04:22PM 0 points [-]

I'm skeptical of whether this is a particularly common outcome in practice. I suspect that if you're not an expert Buddhist meditator and basically living in a monastery, you'll just fail at this, and you'd have a much easier time achieving happiness by actually having a strong identity.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 29 July 2017 02:01:31PM 6 points [-]

This was really cool. Trust and betrayal, social cohesion, evolutionary game theory, cute music and graphics, and a wonderful message at the end.


Comment author: moridinamael 28 July 2017 01:23:39PM 2 points [-]

That makes sense. I can see how a deep felt certainty that you're already awesome and perfect exactly as you are could have pathological consequences. I'll be careful. =)

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 29 July 2017 01:32:23PM *  0 points [-]

Based on my reading of the book, I guess the main suggestions that I'd make to anyone interested in playing around with creating new self-concepts would be:

  • Use lots of diverse examples. E.g. if you're creating a self-concept of kindness, look for memories of both large and small acts of kindness. The memories contained within your self-concept serve as kind of templates to match various experiences against; the more diverse the database of templates, the more likely it is that different actions will be correctly identified. (Machine learning folks might say that this avoids overfitting.)
    • You can try to explicitly include memories from different years of life, as well as covering both short and long time periods (e.g. if you hold the door open to someone, that's an act of kindness lasting for a few seconds; if you have a friend who you've been helping with their troubles for the last several years, that can be thought of either as a big set of short acts or a single long-lasting act).
  • See if you can include counterexamples as well, maybe doing a negative-positive reframe to turn them into examples, or including qualifiers with them. Again the template matching thing: if your self-concept for a quality contains instances of occasions when you failed to act according to the quality, then that allows you to recognize future occasions when you're not acting in accordance to the quality. This helps avoid unrealistic overconfidence in the quality.

(And for anyone interested in doing this seriously, I much recommend the book for lots and lots of practical examples and tips.)

Comment author: Elo 29 July 2017 06:24:51AM 1 point [-]

I am concerned that keeping lots of identities - be them good or bad is a problem. If you have no choice but to have them obviously have the ones you prefer. But otherwise keep your identity small?

For example generous/careful are two identities that have different optimums in different situations.

Another conflict might be deep/thoughtful and adventurous/social. If you hold these identities too strong they become your prison.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 29 July 2017 01:20:57PM 5 points [-]

Something that's very strongly implied - if not necessarily ever explicitly stated - by the book is that identities drive motivation and behavior. So if you do keep your identity small, you might not have a very strong motivation to actually ever do anything. Worse, trying to keep your identity small might cause you to define yourself through what you're not (e.g. "I'm not the kind of a person who would have a strong identity"), which is a self-concept by itself: but one which predominantly guides you to avoid taking specific actions, but it doesn't guide you to take any actions in particular.

I've long suspected (even before reading the book) that the desire of many rationalists to keep their identity small, is directly linked to the seemingly high levels of akrasia among rationalists.

That said, it's true that different identities may conflict with each other (which was what I pointed out), but on the other hand, "if you hold these identities too strong they become your prison" sounds like the kind of a thing that could be avoided by having lots of identities rather than few ones? The more identities you have, the more freely you can choose between them to find one that's a good match for the situation that you're in.

Comment author: moridinamael 27 July 2017 08:58:50PM 3 points [-]

For example, I immediately copied over the list of positive affects that it's theoretically possible to have toward yourself and started planning how to systematically install all of them, one by one.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 27 July 2017 10:53:04PM 3 points [-]

Something like that should be possible and indeed the book devotes time to discussing ways of creating new positive self-concepts; there's also discussion about taking existing positive concepts and making them stronger.

That said, something one may consider is that the claim is that concepts also create behavior - so if there is any concept that you think has positive affect but which you wouldn't necessarily want to actively be like, you may want to be cautious about installing it. (especially since it may conflict with existing self-concepts; there's a bit of discussion about "congruence checks" you might want to do before changing your concepts. When I was thinking of inserting the memory with the ring into a self-concept of kindness, there was that initial resistance - a failed congruence check suggesting I should fix the existing conflicting content first)

Comment author: moridinamael 27 July 2017 02:00:20PM 3 points [-]

Did anybody else immediately start trying to think of how to munchkin/minmax this technique?

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 27 July 2017 05:15:59PM 1 point [-]

The book has tips on that too. :-) (though I was more interested in fixing my problems rather than going for yet another self-improvement thing, so didn't pay them very much attention)

Comment author: lifelonglearner 21 July 2017 04:13:42AM 1 point [-]

Update on Instrumental Rationality sequence: about 40% done with a Habits 101 post. Turns out habits are denser than planning and have more intricacies. Plus, the techniques for creating / breaking habits are less well-defined and not as strong, so I'm still trying to "technique-ify" some of the more conceptual pieces.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 25 July 2017 10:16:35AM 0 points [-]

You might already be aware of them / their contents, but I found these two papers useful in creating a habit workshop:

Comment author: turchin 18 July 2017 08:22:17PM 1 point [-]

What worries me is that if ransomware virus could own money, it could pay some human to install itself on others people computers, and also pay programmers for finding new exploits and even for the improvement of the virus.

But for such development legal personhood is not needed, only illegal.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 24 July 2017 07:12:45PM 0 points [-]

Malware developers already invest in R&D and buying exploits; I'm not sure what key difference it makes whether the malware or its owners does the investing.

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