I remember being struck with a particularly insightful quote from Eliezer Yudkowsky. It went something like, "If you're certain you'll have a belief in the future, you should probably adopt that belief now."
The basic idea is that a lot of times we know a particular way we're acting, peer group, set of cultural norms, etc, has worn out and isn't a fit any more. And we know we'll evolve past them and change.
But we haven't done it yet, for whatever reason -- maybe fear, or inertia.
If you can predict yourself in the future, you can think better right now.
Likewise, a fun thought experiment --
Have you ever looked back on a particularly crazy or hectic period of your life, and wish you'd enjoyed it more and relaxed more while it was happening? Or wish you'd saved more money, or taken more risks, or advertised more, or been more generous, or been less generous, or something?
Regrets are useless, but give this a try sometime:
Can you see yourself looking back on where you're at right now and being certain you'd think, "I wish I did more ____________."
Maybe it's relax more, or enjoy what you're doing more. (Probably.) Maybe it's resource-based (save and invest more), or behavior based (follow through more consistently).
Have a think. Do you see yourself ten years from now reminiscing about 2013, and thinking, "Interesting year. X and Y went great. Oh man, though, I wish I'd done _____________."
If yes, you can start doing that right now. And your life stands to be better for it.
Eliezer mentions that quote in various forms throughout the sequences and hpmor. Found the reference to two of them (the quote drawed my attention too):
"If you know your destination, you are already there." - from here (good piece on rationalization)
"It was an elementary theorem of probability that if you knew what your answer would be after updating on future evidence, you ought to adopt that answer right now. If you knew your destination, you were already there." (bold by me) - from here (best fiction ever written)
What if the expected future thing is something like "join a Buddhist monastery for 20 years and attempt to become Enlightened"? :)
My rational mind can generate a prediction like that, but it conflicts greatly with my current utility function. I guess therein lies the rub of why people do not exactly update to future beliefs post haste.
I can't quite get it right, even though I've been trying to for a while now. So I'll just scratch out the thoughts I can and publish anyways, because I think the topic is worth thinking about.
There is, roughly, something called a "thought cycle" - it's a series of a thought forming, the chains of thoughts that go from it, any actions that it spur you into, and the feedback from the actions.
Or something like that. I haven't defined it really well yet.
What's the length of a thought cycle? Well I suppose it depends, and goes between some sort of range. Most are very short (sometimes very short), and occasionally - rarely - they're somewhat longer.
It seems to me that everything that almost everything that humans do are created by thought cycles. To some extent, they're automatic and habitual and we don't pay attention to them. Something like blinking or breathing is automatic until you think about it. With training, you can even control your heart rate to some extent.
The best thing I've ever done is learned how to think. It allows me to catch myself at times when my brain automatically goes to a conclusion. In argument, I always have a backdrop of reasons for when I decide on a stance.
I have more control over myself and the rest of the world, just by using my brain. It's basically the ultimate superpower.
Thinking can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So, what are we talking about when we talk about thinking?
We're talking about thinking:
This will be used against yourself in decision-making, and if you wish, against others in argument or even simple communication. It will give you complete dominion over yourself and, if you wish, others.