Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2023-11-21T21:30:56Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com November 21. http://ranprieur.com/#81a0f790c25fc27e0f3ca97c4bd15a33b16bee45 2023-11-21T21:30:56Z November 21. Today I was planning to write about science, and how some people believe in it like a religion. Maybe another time. Instead, I want to apply multi-level knowing to motivation. Chris tells the story of how he struggled for years to go to the gym, and now, after making multiple changes to make it easier, he looks forward to it.

I now "know" going to the gym is good, whereas before I just didn't. Previously, I hadn't truly internalized why or how going to the gym was good, nor that it was realistic for me. Now that I've actually started doing it, it's no longer possible for me to avoid "knowing" that going to the gym is good. The results speak for themselves.

Three weeks ago I described self-discipline as internalizing the dominator, splitting yourself into two, where one forces the other to do stuff. But highly productive people are not actually doing that, or they would get burned out. I wrote about this in 2019 in this post, Why willpower is overrated.

The other way to get yourself to do stuff, is to have an expanded sense of self, such that you know that what you're doing will help you. But propositional knowing doesn't work. At best it just gives you fuel for self-domination. And deeper understanding, that what you're doing will help your larger self, is really hard -- at least for me. I forced myself to floss for over 20 years before I started to enjoy it, and only because, in that time, I skipped two nights and lost two teeth.

Related: We're watching a new TV show called The Curse. It's painfully dark and relentlessly awkward, but well done, with great music and a timely theme. It's about a young wealthy couple who gentrify a neighborhood while making a TV show about it. On the propositional level, they totally care about poor people and want to help them. But on a deeper level, they're selfish and so clueless that they make things worse. My point is, choosing what to think is easy; understanding is really hard.

November 19. http://ranprieur.com/#2cf87aed58e3eaac89f9a6b1182190416fc6ef9a 2023-11-19T19:10:50Z November 19. I have more to say about belief. First, zooming out from the original question: Why would you want to make yourself believe something? It has to be because you want to do something, and you think belief will help. Will it?

Now I want to bring in John Vervaeke's concept of the four kinds of knowing, which I summarized in this post in 2020. Here, my point is that one kind of knowing, propositional knowing, is so overrated by modern culture, that we forget about other kinds of knowing.

In 2019 I struggled to define confidence, and concluded that it's not the intellectual belief that you will succeed, but something deeper, which I described as "your energy leaning forward". Now I would say: to the extent that confidence is helpful, it is not propositional, but you could still call it a "belief" on another level.

I wonder about the New Age idea that beliefs create reality. It's clearly false, but maybe that's only because we're believing propositionally, and if you can get down to the sub-propositional level, your beliefs have real power. Consider the non-human world, which is full of miracles and totally devoid of propositional knowing.

The internet is full of rational arguments, acting like they're in charge, but usually people decide what to believe for non-rational reasons, and then cook up the argument. My point is, your propositional mind is mainly just along for the ride. At worst it can block you from the right move. At best it can tell you where to put your energy. It can navigate, and maybe steer, but not push.

If you're my age, you might remember a cartoon called The Adventures of Gulliver. Gulliver is a regular sized guy who runs around an island of tiny people, who often cling to his shoulders as he tries to do things. One of them is a pessimist named Glum, whose catch phrase is "We'll never make it." Gulliver could listen to Glum, and give up, or he could listen to a tiny person who is saying something more encouraging. But in the end, he doesn't have to listen to any of them. He just has to do the thing.

November 17. http://ranprieur.com/#a874e3a9dee83ccc618edafe1dba310350f74aee 2023-11-17T17:50:55Z November 17. I get a lot of ideas for this blog from readers. A week ago I met Conner for coffee, and he gave me a good hard question: How do you make yourself believe something?

After some thinking, this is my answer. First, you have to want the belief. Then, you have to feed it. You could feed it intellectually, by reading and thinking about it. You could feed it socially, by hanging out with people who believe it. You could feed it with sense experience, by noticing when it matches the belief. Or you could feed it with emotions, just by feeling good about it.

Loosely related, The Truth is Always Made of Details. It's about the value of zooming in, something you can easily do with your senses, and you can also do it with ideas. But...

The Information Age is clearly pushing us towards low-res conclusions on questions that warrant deep, long, high-res consideration. Consider our poor hominid brains, trying to form a coherent worldview out of monetized feeds made of low-resolution takes on the most complex topics imaginable.... Unsurprisingly, amidst the incredible volume of information coming at us, there's been a surge in low-res, ideologically-driven views.

And some music for the weekend, a really nice new indie folk album, forestlike.

November 15. http://ranprieur.com/#ac37e0c1db0d7a0ab05042fc73adcf479773ea6b 2023-11-15T15:30:17Z November 15. Today's subject is religion. I've tried to define it in other posts, and last week I got a couple emails from a reader who took a shot at defining it, and he included something that never occurred to me: A religion almost always has a special person at the center, Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad. I still don't want to make that a necessary part of my definition, because thinking that way about a human would be a big turnoff if I were to join a spiritual community.

Lately a lot of people are reporting having an existential crisis. From that article:

Existential crises are often seen as a phenomenon associated specifically with modern society. One important factor in this context is that various sources of meaning, such as religion or being grounded in one's local culture and immediate social environment, are less important in the contemporary context.

I'm not sure what I'm grounded in, something inside me I guess. I see my internal world as friendly and the human-made world as hostile. My anxiety is about people getting mad at me for doing it wrong, which has happened many times, or my money running out and having to be inauthentic to beg for a job.

Thanks Andy for sending this new paywalled piece, Where Does Religion Come From? This is a radical statement for the NY Times: "that atheist materialism is too weak a base upon which to ground Western liberalism in a world where it's increasingly beset." The author, Ross Douthat, distinguishes three aspects of religion: 1) the personal desire for meaning; 2) "the societal need for a unifying moral-metaphysical structure"; 3) the mysterious origin of religion in uncanny experience.

One way to get at this weirdness is to look at situations where there's a supernatural experience without a pre-existing tradition that makes sense of people's experiences and shapes their interpretations. By this I mean that if you have a mystical experience in the context of, say, a Pentecostalist faith-healing service or a Roman Catholic Mass, you are likely to interpret it in light of existing Christian theology. But if you have a religious experience "in the wild," as it were, the sheer strangeness is more likely to come through.

From there, he goes into UFO sightings! UFOs are not exactly in the wild, but in the firm context of the modern story of outer space as the realm of the unknown. A good book on this subject is Passport to Magonia by Jacques Vallee, and there's a promising book I haven't read yet, UFOs: Reframing the Debate.

November 13. http://ranprieur.com/#195b13452cb9a12c20aae670c4067d2a22aeb05a 2023-11-13T13:10:04Z November 13. A few quick health links, starting with mental health. This subreddit post references a post I made in 2020, and adds a new report about talking to the subconscious.

Why You Should Talk to Yourself in the Third Person

Why walking backwards can be good for your health and brain

And the unexpected benefits of sun exposure. The basic advice is to get moderate sun and avoid burning.

November 10. http://ranprieur.com/#a52c4913ee0e31c824aaee66fd24f528612e1f80 2023-11-10T22:40:49Z November 10. Trippy stuff for the weekend. Earlier this week was probably the thread of the year on Reddit, For those who have careers that keep them out at sea for long periods of time, what is the creepiest thing you've seen out in the water?

Hilarious r/psychonaut thread, Has anyone actually tripped on nutmeg? "Wasn't fun, spent 3 days in hospital for the equivalent high you'd get from being a house over from a guy watching a Snoop Dogg video."

And I've posted this before, from 2005, Rudy Rucker's mind-blowing Reality is a Novel theory:

If we fully know everything about the Now moment, we know the entire past and future. With this in mind, explaining any given draft of the universe becomes a matter of explaining the contents of a single Now moment of that draft. This in turn means that we can view the evolution of the successive drafts as an evolution of different versions of a particular Now moment.

I disagree with his assumption that physics is deterministic. Reality might be deterministic on a level deeper than physics, but physics itself says no such thing. Not only is quantum physics non-deterministic, but this article, The Dome, expains how "even quite simple Newtonian systems can harbor uncaused events."

November 8. http://ranprieur.com/#b4dc3027e48738872beac9aca82d1dbd0e83f127 2023-11-08T20:20:39Z November 8. Monday's post was inspired by a book I just read, Hospicing Modernity by Vanessa Machado de Oliveira. Now I'm wondering about the difference between the critique of "modernity" and the critique of "civilization". I don't think we're talking about two different things, but two different semantic strategies for talking about the same thing.

Calling it civilization turns our attention to things that are thousands of years old: cities, money, violent conquest. Anti-civ discussions are often hypothetical and puritanical: What would we have to give up -- or force other people to give up -- in order to save the world?

Calling it modernity turns our attention to cognitive habits that are only a few hundred years old, and invites us to examine and change our own ways of thinking. Morris Berman has written some great books on this subject, starting with The Re-enchantment of the World.

A key quote from Hospicing Modernity: "The end of modernity may not manifest primarily as economic or ecological collapse, but as a global mental health crisis where the structures of modernity within us start to crumble."

I think the crumbling started 250 years ago with Romanticism, which rejected modernity's rationalism, while intensifying its individualism. So we're not looking at one monolithic thing, but an ongoing negotiation among a bunch of things. I don't see the future as a return to the past, or a transcendence to a new level, but a continuing exploration of the landscape of the human potential.

November 6. http://ranprieur.com/#ee8686e6c12d4bdbb7e1258cae2437b1589a9471 2023-11-06T18:00:37Z November 6. Today's subject, modernity and doom. We have used too many levels of abstractions and now the future looks bleak. It's not well written but it makes an important point:

In e.g. software development, too many specialists have been abstracted away and replaced by tools and automation and fewer and fewer people understand anything even one layer directly beneath the layer they are working on. This is a major problem because we will eventually reach a point in which very few people can fix anything in the layers below.

My rude-ass car is about all the new features that are supposed to make cars more safe and convenient, and instead they make the driving experience frustrating.

China's Age of Malaise is a long article mainly about how bad their dictator is, and while this is true, America is also in an age of malaise and we don't even have a dictator yet.

Great Reddit thread, Is there anywhere in the world someone can just live for free? What people mean by "live for free" is the same thing I mean when I say my highest value is free time. I want to have fewer relationships with modern society.

For the last few hundred years, humans have been experimenting with a radical new way of thinking and living, based on individualism, competition, number and measure, predictability and control, linear progress, and naive ideas about quality of life. Life is getting better in the most simple-minded and obvious ways, at the expense of many subtle ways that life is getting worse, and because our culture doesn't show us these things, we don't know why we're unhappy.

The mainstream left is completely blind to this. The right can feel it, but they don't know how to think about it, and they're unable to imagine any alternative except strong leaders backed by violence. So we're going to get more of those, as shit falls apart.

November 3. http://ranprieur.com/#7a93653ae83da51c7c57ff05312170afa3ebf6da 2023-11-03T15:30:23Z November 3. Stray links, starting with an interesting thread from r/psychonaut, Why is the lonely god thing so commonly experienced? The consensus is, because it's true, but we're still not quite understanding it from our limited perspective.

Some good news, the US community that banned cars, a new housing development outside Phoenix, that's designed so you can realistically live there without a car.

A nice thread on Ask Reddit, What is something you think Gen Z is doing right?

And a super-fun video that I discovered through bibliomancy, when my finger landed on the word "Lindy": Lindy Hop JnJ Finals. If you want more, here's the Lindy Hop scene from the 1941 movie Hellzapoppin.

November 1. http://ranprieur.com/#d8a2fc539447315a9c762fa958c3c95c0ab6e2b9 2023-11-01T13:10:40Z November 1. Despite Monday's post, I actually do a lot of self-improvement, especially when I'm high. I like to walk around trying different ways of focusing my attention, and the latest thing I've learned is how to dodge people on the sidewalk. This happens a lot in the city: Someone is coming the other way, and it's not totally clear who's going to take which side. I've discovered that if I put the center of my vision somewhere else, and watch them with my peripheral vision, it's a lot easier to get it right.

Why has no one ever told me this? Probably other people are doing it subconsciously. My particular kind of brain damage is that my body has no autopilot. This makes me think back to P.E. class, in which I got no physical education whatsoever. I don't remember a single instruction about how to angle a body part, not even how to flip my wrist to throw harder, something a friend taught me when I was 30 years old, in ten minutes.

Imagine it's your first day of math class. The teacher says, instead of doing boring math instruction, we're just going to go straight to the test. Everyone else in the class is a math genius, and they're all like, woo-hoo, a test! They're breezing through it and you're staring at the symbols completely clueless. At least they're not mean. They watch awkwardly and give you a decent grade for effort. This happens every day for ten years.

Now I walk past homeless people and wonder, how much better would they be doing, if they had got the right kind of basic personal attention when they were five years old, instead of being put through the meat grinder of public schooling? Related: a Hacker News thread on Home schooling.

Anyway, now that I'm old, I have to give a lot of attention to body mechanics to stay ahead of chronic injuries. I finally worked out the formula for good posture, and it's not at all intuitive: firm stomach and tucked chin. The tucked chin forces me to keep my breastbone raised.

I also practice basic moves with my arms or legs, and I've noticed a difference between the two sides of my body. My left side is like a guy in a suit of armor, confident but stiff and clumsy; my right side is like a wounded cat, agile but wavery and hesitant. So I'll alternate a move between the left and right, and try to work out the best of both.