Archive for Seriously

How to Be Happy, According to Kant

The topic of happiness is one that fascinates me. Maybe because I discovered the secret happiness a few years ago.

Immanuel Kant also said stuff about happiness:

The more a cultivated reason gives itself over to the aim of enjoying life and happiness, the further the human being falls short of true contentment.

It’s true, you know. Stop hoping to be happy and just be happy.



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Should You Worry? Here’s a Flowchart That Answers That Question

Worrying sucks. The good news is you can do something about it.

Simply follow this flowchart:

Via LifeHacker



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Sponsored Video: A Leap of Faith / قفزة ثقة

[Sponsored video]

مرض شلل الأطفال معد وخطير، ويمكن أن يصيب الصغار والكبار. يسعى فيلم قفزة ثقة إلى نشر الوعي حول شلل الأطفال وجهود التطعيم في باكستان. احموا أطفالكم من شلل الأطفال والأمراض الأخرى. شجاعتكم ستحافظ على صحتهم

Polio is a preventable disease that affects young children and adults. Leap of Faith seeks to raise awareness of polio and vaccination efforts in Pakistan. Protect your children from polio and other preventable diseases. Your courage will keep them healthy.

مرض شلل الأطفال معد وخطير، ويمكن أن يصيب الصغار والكبار. يسعى فيلم قفزة ثقة إلى نشر الوعي حول شلل الأطفال وجهود التطعيم في باكستان. احموا أطفالكم من شلل الأطفال والأمراض الأخرى. شجاعتكم ستحافظ على صحتهم

Polio is a preventable disease that affects young children and adults. Leap of Faith seeks to raise awareness of polio and vaccination efforts in Pakistan. Protect your children from polio and other preventable diseases. Your courage will keep them healthy.



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Are you a rational person? Here’s a checklist to remind you to be

You know, it’s actually really difficult to be rational. I am always conscious of my brain trying to be stupid. I learned that in my first year in art school. It took me a year of yelling at my brain to STOP SEEING THINGS WRONG. Our preconceptions often screw with the way we perceive objects, leading us to distort them when we put pencil to paper. It’s even worse with thoughts, ideas, and concepts.

Your brain is stupid. And this is why this rationality checklist is really useful. In its simplicity, it’s a bit surprising. Go through this list and ask yourself “When did I last use this habit?”

This list is from Rationality.org. They provide examples in the link for each item that I did not include in list below for the sake of brevity.

1. When I see something odd – something that doesn’t fit with what I’d ordinarily expect, given my other beliefs – I successfully notice, promote it to conscious attention and think “I notice that I am confused”

2. When somebody says something that isn’t clear, I notice and ask for examples.

3. I notice when my mind is arguing for a side (instead of evaluating which side to choose), and flag this as an error mode.

4. I notice my mind flinching away from a thought; and when I notice, I flag that area as requiring more deliberate exploration.

5. I consciously attempt to welcome bad news, or at least not push it away.

6. I notice when I’m not being curious.

7. I look for the actual, historical causes of my beliefs, emotions, and habits; and when doing so, I can suppress my mind’s search for justifications, or set aside justifications that weren’t the actual, historical causes of my thoughts.

8. I try to think of a concrete example that I can use to follow abstract arguments or proof steps.

9. When I’m trying to distinguish between two (or more) hypotheses using a piece of evidence, I visualize the world where hypothesis #1 holds, and try to consider the prior probability I’d have assigned to the evidence in that world, then visualize the world where hypothesis #2 holds; and see if the evidence seems more likely or more specifically predicted in one world than the other (Historical example: During the Amanda Knox murder case, after many hours of police interrogation, Amanda Knox turned some cartwheels in her cell. The prosecutor argued that she was celebrating the murder. Would you, confronted with this argument, try to come up with a way to make the same evidence fit her innocence? Or would you first try visualizing an innocent detainee, then a guilty detainee, to ask with what frequency you think such people turn cartwheels during detention, to see if the likelihoods were skewed in one direction or the other?)

10. I try to consciously assess prior probabilities and compare them to the apparent strength of evidence.

11. When I encounter evidence that’s insufficient to make me “change my mind” (substantially change beliefs/policies), but is still more likely to occur in world X than world Y, I try to update my probabilities at least a little.

12. Handling inner conflicts; when different parts of you are pulling in different directions, you want different things that seem incompatible; responses to stress.

13. I notice when I and my brain seem to believe different things (a belief-vs-anticipation divergence), and when this happens I pause and ask which of us is right.

14. When facing a difficult decision, I try to reframe it in a way that will reduce, or at least switch around, the biases that might be influencing it.

15. When facing a difficult decision, I check which considerations are consequentialist – which considerations are actually about future consequences.

16. I try to find a concrete prediction that the different beliefs, or different people, definitely disagree about, just to make sure the disagreement is real/empirical.

17. I try to come up with an experimental test, whose possible results would either satisfy me (if it’s an internal argument) or that my friends can agree on (if it’s a group discussion).

18. If I find my thoughts circling around a particular word, I try to taboo the word, i.e., think without using that word or any of its synonyms or equivalent concepts. (E.g. wondering whether you’re “smart enough”, whether your partner is “inconsiderate”, or if you’re “trying to do the right thing”.)

19. I consciously think about information-value when deciding whether to try something new, or investigate something that I’m doubtful about.

20. I quantify consequences—how often, how long, how intense.

21. I notice when something is negatively reinforcing a behavior I want to repeat.

22. I talk to my friends or deliberately use other social commitment mechanisms on myself.

23. To establish a new habit, I reward my inner pigeon for executing the habit.

24. I try not to treat myself as if I have magic free will; I try to set up influences (habits, situations, etc.) on the way I behave, not just rely on my will to make it so.

25. I use the outside view on myself.



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Isaac Asimov on Zionism

Isaac Asimov was born in Russia to an Orthodox Jewish family in 1920.

In his autobiography, he says: “When Israel was founded in 1948 and all my Jewish friends were jubilant, I was the skeleton at the feast. I said, “We are building ourselves a ghetto. We will be surrounded by tens of millions of Muslims who will never forgive, never forget and never go away. I was laughed at, but I was right. I can’t help but feel that the Jews didn’t really have the right to appropriate a territory only because 2000 years ago, people they consider their ancestors, were living there. History moves on and you can’t really turn it back. … But don’t Jews deserve a homeland? Actually, I feel that no human group deserves a “homeland” in the usual sense of the word…. I am not a Zionist, then, because I don’t believe in nations, and Zionism merely sets up one more nation to trouble the world.”

Asimov, Isaac (1994). I, Asimov: A Memoir. New York: Doubleday. p. 380.



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Behind Every Man Alive

Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. Since the dawn of time, roughly a hundred billion human beings have walked the planet Earth.

Now this is an interesting number, for by a curious coincidence there are approximately a hundred billion stars in our local universe, the Milky Way. So for every man who has ever lived, in this Universe there shines a star.

But every one of those stars is a sun, often far more brilliant and glorious than the small, nearby star we call the Sun. And many–perhaps most–of those alien suns have planets circling them. So almost certainly there is enough land in the sky to give every member of the human species, back to the first ape-man, his own private, world-sized heaven–or hell.

How many of those potential heavens and hells are now inhabited, and by what manner of creatures, we have no way of guessing; the very nearest is a million times farther away than Mars or Venus, those still remote goals of the next generation. But the barriers of distance are crumbling; one day we shall meet our equals, or our masters, among the stars.

Men have been slow to face this prospect; some still hope that it may never become reality. Increasing numbers, however are asking; ‘Why have such meetings not occurred already, since we ourselves are about to venture into space?’

― Qyote from Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey



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