Mar 10, 2022

Yesterday I was talking about blogs with a friend over coffee, which prompted me to revisit a blog I used to read, Radimentary. Looking through some of his older content, I found my way to the LessWrong blog, which is more like a community that teaches rationality techniques. I decided to start their 30-day Hammertime program, because why not?

Starting maybe around a year ago, I started becoming more hesitant about approaching things “rationally.” I felt like I was using rationality in a toxic way and thus causing myself misery. And so, I pushed myself to do things more spontaneously, things that might sound like inefficient uses of time. Lo and behold, I felt like my day-to-day happiness was increasing. Was rationality the problem? Well, no. The problem was my inadequate definition of my goals. In many ways, this is reminiscent of the classic RL problem where the agent figures out how to break the game - be careful how you define your own reward function!

There’s a lot of useful information on LessWrong and Radimentary that I don’t want to repeat here, but I’ll summarize the main idea in the way I understood it: rationality is a tool that can be applied to everything, not just the things you typically associate with logic. I have, one thousand times over, fell into the trap of conflating “rational behavior” with “intellectual supremacism.” Perhaps my mistake can be summarized like this: maximize happiness, not knowledge. Now, for many people like me, knowledge and happiness are surely correlated, but that is all they are.

What I want to get to, too, is that in previous years, I felt like I was always trying to make the optimal decisions. But spending all of this time trying and not doing, I think, was certainly inefficient. Why not have confidence in myself and just do the things I want to do? It’s a hard habit to shake.