Bug Hunt 3

by radimentary

This is part 21 of 30 in the Hammertime Sequence. Click here for the intro.

I took a long break from Hammertime to check the fundamental question: am I actually better at achieving my values now?

The answer is a solid yes. Problems that used to live in the category of “not within my capabilities” disintegrated into so many puffs of malevolent smoke. Paper-writing got itself done. Fifteen hundred words of half-decent fiction got written every day. For the first time in my life, I live in such a thoughtfully decorated room I’ll actually miss it when I move away. I felt like a rationality Warlock:

A high-level Aversion appears…
Hah! With the power of FOCUSING, I’ll scry your true name, Demon!
“Status Regulation, Begone!”

This section feels impossible to write…
I know! I’ll do it in FIVE MINUTES!

I have no idea what my problem is…
Fear not! I’ll blast it with the magic of FRIENDSHIP!

So you’re stuck on a quest to save the world…
Have you tried REMOVING TRIVIAL INCONVENIENCES?

If you’re reading Hammertime simply for my scintillating wit, that’s completely fine! Just remember that these techniques might also help you achieve your values if you give them a chance.

Hammertime: The Third Cycle

Twice and thrice over, as they say, good is it to repeat and review what is good.
~ Plato.

The third cycle is ten days of review. On each day, we will attempt to tease out the unifying meta-principles behind each technique, taking them (and all the others) to the limit of their power. Here’s a tentative schedule:

  1. Bug Hunt 3
  2. Yoda Timers 3: Speed
  3. TAPs 3: Reductionism
  4. Design 3: Intentionality
  5. CoZE 3: Empiricism
  6. Growth Triplets
  7. Internal Double Crux: Duality
  8. Focusing 2: Fusion
  9. Murphyjitsu 2: Humility
  10. TDT 2: Post-Consequentialism

Day 21: Bug Hunt 3

Today we’re back to Bug Hunt with three more sets of prompts to help find the biggest bottlenecks in your life. After you read each, set a Yoda Timer to brainstorm bugs.

1. Getting Got

The world is Out to Get You. Social media. Capitalism. Your job. Your family. Your friends. Your hobbies. Everyone wants your time, money, and attention. How do you keep yourself from Getting Got all the time?

Do you know how to say no? If you don’t Get Gone regularly, you’re easy pickings. Things are often worse than they appear. Things deteriorate over time. Things want more and more of your soul. There’s no such thing as a one-hour game of Civ. Get Gone. You don’t owe anybody everything.

Do you know how to set boundaries? Some things can only be Worth It if you can draw a line in the sand. Set a budget. Or a timer. Get Compact and hold the line as if your life depends on it.

2. Hamming Problems

Background reading: Anxious Underconfidence and Status Regulation

What are the important problems of your field?
What important problems are you working on?
If what you are doing is not important, and if you don’t think it is going to lead to something important, why are you … working on it?

~ Richard Hamming.

To take an incremental approach: are there slightly more important problems you could be working on? Why aren’t you working on them?

Anxious Underconfidence is an artifact of an ancestral environment where every failure is fatal. Do you have Anxious Underconfidence? How often have you failed on a significant undertaking in the last year? Don’t maximize your percentage of wins. Maximize total number of wins. That’s what counts.

Do you use status as a proxy for competence? Do you believe that only people with tenure, wealth, age, or social capital have the right to work on important problems? Is your assessment of your own abilities a function of how others perceive you?

3. Fail Gracefully, Succeed with Abandon

Background reading: Failing with Abandon.

There’s a Chinese idiom, 破罐子破摔, which means: “might as well smash a cracked pot.” Failing with abandon is angrily smashing a pot with the slightest crack. “I didn’t like it anyway!”

Does that appeal to you?

Failing with Abandon ignores the fact that utility functions are usually continuous. Failing a little is OK. Keep at it. Something is better than nothing.

Failing with Abandon takes away valuable learning experiences. If the last homework can’t save your grade, do you still put in the same effort? If you’re twenty points down in a game of Go, do you still try your best? Or do you just go through the motions? Life is a very long iterated game, and Failing with Abandon is forfeiting the future.

On the flip side, do you always satisfice? Do you turn in the bare minimum to make a GPA? When you hit the target, do you run home to party? If you’re up twenty points in a game of Go, do you play improper but safe moves to secure the win? Satisficing is giving up an opportunity to reach your full potential.

Failing with Abandon and satisficing are both symptoms of near-sighted hyperbolic discounting.

Instead, fail gracefully. Succeed with abandon.

Daily Challenge

Are you better at achieving your values since Hammertime Day 1? If so, what helped?

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