Three tools for changing your mindset

One of my earliest posts here was about different meanings of “habit”: there are … … intentional habits, things you regularly choose to do, … automatic habits, things you do on autopilot, and … mindset habits, your default ways of thinking. Intentional and automatic habits look very similar — the difference is how much mental effort you … More Three tools for changing your mindset

How to hope

Pessimism comes naturally to me. Choosing between optimism and pessimism is like asking whether I would rather be disappointed or pleasantly surprised; it just sounds safer to choose the latter. But over time, pessimism takes its toll on my mood and health, and I’ve been advised many times to be more hopeful. Until recently, I’ve had … More How to hope

More information doesn’t have to make you more certain

FiveThirtyEight recently posted a piece called “The Impeachment Hearings Just Confirmed Voters’ Preexisting Opinions”: the same wave of new information has just made everybody more convinced of what they already thought: One explanation of this phenomenon is “motivated reasoning”: a person finding data more reliable and arguments more convincing if they fit with what the … More More information doesn’t have to make you more certain

Cognitive Overfitting

It can be kind of fun, in a self-flagellating way, to read about cognitive biases like the availability heuristic or the Dunning-Kruger effect, or just to browse through big lists like this one. If only our brains could take into account all the information they have, process it instantly, and store it forever! But machine learning engineers know that … More Cognitive Overfitting

Ted Chiang on unspendable grief

Since I read Ted Chiang’s collection of short stories “Stories of your life and others,” including the marvelous title piece that inspired Arrival, I’ve been looking forward to his newly published collection “Exhalation.” The first story’s main character tells of his experience coping with the loss of his wife, and has this beautiful passage describing … More Ted Chiang on unspendable grief

What we can’t spend

Some things, like money, time, and effort, are scarce resources that need careful budgeting to be used optimally. Some of those, like effort and attention, can return stronger after resting from difficult use, as if they’ve been built up like a muscle through exercise, which makes the calculus of optimizing how much and when to … More What we can’t spend

What we spend

Ever since I learned that the Dutch word for “to spend” (besteden) is used not just with time and money, as in English, but also with attention, I’ve started to wonder what else we have that we spend, and could be spending more wisely. Here is an incomplete list I’ve compiled: Money (of course). Time. … More What we spend