Reader Joe Geneva sent this to me via email, I thought it was quite good and he kindly let me share it -
Hi Sebastian, just wanted to remark upon something I've seen lately. The sheer amount of opportunity around me.
In any given day there's more opportunity then you will ever have time for, probably more then anyone one person can use. Yet we don't use it. We procrastinate or rationalize, we make excuses for ourselves and for others, and talk among ourselves about why we can't achieve things, or put ourselves down. We never truly seem to recognize how much sheer opportunity there is to be taken.
I often hear people remarking about being bored. This irritates the hell out of me, especially when I'm somewhere where i know for a fact there's 20 easily found activities to do. Why do people seem totally oblivious to this... do they have no motivation to improve themselves, or think they are already perfect or something.. It seems a bit mystifying why people don't constantly look for ways to get better at things.
Now after all this criticism its time to talk about myself a bit, and touch on another subject. Why is it so hard to improve ourselves? I don't mean improve our productive time or finding things to learn, i mean why is the desire to get better so hard to achieve, and especially see the big picture. For example, if you give it some thought, you can take any problem, break it into its basic components, figure out what you need to learn, then Google it. It's that easy (for those of us with internet). Yet we don't do it nearly as much as we should. I could list about 20 things off the top of my head to Google right now, information that might alter my life immediately. Yet its really hard to go through with it... As though we were actively holding back ourselves.
I know you've already written extensively about getting things done in general, but I figured I would bring this point up, as I don't remember this specific part of it addressed..
Good stuff, Joe... that was dense with good insights. Lots of opportunity. Improving things is a great solution to boredom. Self-training in the Age of Google is easier than ever before. Very good stuff - thanks for sharing this with us.
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.
###Note: This post is admittedly shitty. I wasn't going to post it. Reason why I did at the bottom. Enjoy! Or don't. Whatever. :)
It's a quarter to three in the afternoon, January 1st. Last night, the simultaneous sounds of fireworks and ambulance sirens made me laugh for some reason.
I just came home from walking the dog. Holy shit there were a lot of people on the running trail. Go figure. Most of them won't be there in a month.
Every year, billions of people see the new year as a chance to start over. Do it better. Achieve their goals, lose weight, make money, start meditating, whatever.
The only reason Jan 1st has any significance is because billions of people have universally agreed that it does. In other words, it's completely irrational. I know this, and at least in a rational sense, most other people do to. There's nothing inherently magical about January 1st. And yet... I feel it all the same. Like, wow, it's 2014. Let's do some epic shit this year!