it seems like our emotions can't really handle magnitude -- a very embarrassing moment on an important trivial thing feels like a bigger deal and gets more thought than something quite big and high potential that's going right.
There's probably no easy answer to this -- we're hardwired to flag certain emotions and situations as more important than others. The brain's natural configuration seems to geared towards minimizing loss, holding on to what we've got, avoiding the unfamiliar and unknown, coming to answers rather than questions, and avoiding confusion.
And it can't handle magnitude. If you're reaching out for partners or distributors in business, and get 40 negative reactions (that feel bad) and one new company joining up with you, it could make a huge positive difference. But the brain can't handle it; in fact, the 40 negative reactions might each individually cut a little harder than the single win feels good.
Yet -- that's how you win, by doing things with minimal downside and shrugging off the bad feelings, while gaining high upside things. There it is, that's the way. Ain't easy, though.
Related to: Rationalists Should Win, Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate, Can Humanism Match Religion's Output?, Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic, Paul Graham's "Why Nerds Are Unpopular"
The "Prisoner's Dilemma" refers to a game theory problem developed in the 1950's. Two prisoners are taken and interrogated separately. If either of them confesses and betrays the other person - "defecting" - they'll receive a reduced sentence, and their partner will get a greater sentence. However, if both defect, then they'll both receive higher sentences than if neither of them confessed.
This brings the prisoner to a strange problem. The best solution individually is to defect. But if both take the individually best solution, then they'll be worst off overall. This has wide ranging implications for international relations, negotiation, politics, and many other fields.
Members of LessWrong are incredibly smart people who tend to like game theory, and debate and explore and try to understand problems like this. But, does knowing game theory actually make you more effective in real life?
I think the answer is yes, with a caveat - you need the basic social skills to implement your game theory solution. The worst-case scenario in an interrogation would be to "defect by accident" - meaning that you'd just blurt out something stupidly because you didn't think it through before speaking. This might result in you and your partner both receiving higher sentences... a very bad situation. Game theory doesn't take over until basic skill conditions are met, so that you could actually execute any plan you come up with.
My friend and fellow blogger Cam Chardukian writes in on The Downfall of Video Games:
For example it took almost no effort for me to quit watching television. I've also gone from eating the unhealthiest diet imaginable to literally not having eaten a single desert in 3-4 years and actually finding artificial/processed foods to be disgusting.
Why on the other hand have I been able to make progress in things like socializing or nofap, but ultimately been unable to achieve similar levels of success in them?