January, 2011

Jan 11

The Mind Projection Fallacy


Sugar is not inherently sweet. We only think it is.

The chemicals in sugar interact with our taste buds which send signals to our brain that we interpret as the concept of sweet.

Along with sugar, the Mind Projection fallacy shows up in our thoughts concerning all sorts of things.

Less Wrong’s wiki has a brief write up about it.

Reading about this reminds me of one of the first times that I understood what being color-blind really meant. Some people see colors differently than how I see them.

And forget the whole solipsistic, reality-is-all-just-in-our-heads aspect of it. I found the fact that my interpretation of reality not being the absolute truth to be fascinating.

Probably too fascinating.

Questioning my interpretation of reality is like an addiction.

What is the real truth? Is this really how this thing works? Is there something more behind all this?

These are good questions to have. I just can’t let them take over.

Action with Uncertainty.

Photo courtesy of Uwe Hermann 

Jan 11

Mindfulness on the Brain

Neon BrainI must confess. I have relapsed. I have been reading news sites again.

I know, I know. After all the talk about information cleansing. And all the talk about being efficient. I end up just browsing the web on occasion.

Well, at least I kept it up for over two months. And the nice thing is that I don’t read the news as often as I did before.

I just need to make sure that I keep it all in check. I should be able to, now that I am tracking my efficiency. I know how much time I spend browsing the web vs. working. And everything is looking reasonable.

But that is not the point of this post. I only mention the web browsing habit because it actually led me to an interesting article and discussion on meditation’s effect on the brain.

The article describes how 16 study participants saw distinct changes in their brain over an 8 week period of practicing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Increased density in the hippocampus. Decreased density in amygdala. And more.

It is an interesting find, but it’s nothing too earth shattering. The reddit link contains a bunch of comments linking to other studies finding similar changes in the brain of mindfulness practitioners. I think the reason why the studies make the news and get passed around blogs is because mindfulness is such a different way of thinking than westerners are used to.

People need science applied to mindfulness because it is such a foreign concept to wrap our brains around. And as I said before, mindfulness is so interesting to us, partly, because it is foreign.

But I found the most interesting thing were the comments that people left about how mindfulness helped them in their life. Help with ADD, depression, stress, concentration, etc. Normal people talking about real experiences with real results. Exciting stuff.

Photo courtesy of dierk schaefer. 

Jan 11

The Best Way to Learn is to Act

Some points that I attempt to make within this blog may get lost within its anecdotal entries. This post is an attempt to extract one key point that I wanted to emphasize.

The best way to learn is to act.

And by ‘act’ I mean to take action. To do. Initiate. etc.

When the pieces of that gate clicked into place, I knew that the model that I had in my head was correct. I had come to an understanding of the gate, its instructions and the process of putting it together.

So many times, my anticipations are incorrect. It takes action to put them to the test.

Yet, I find myself avoiding action. There are a number of reasons why. Over-thinking, perfectionism, uncertainty.

But as I wrote in Action with Uncertainty, I should not let uncertainty stop me from gaining more certainty.

So, how does one get oneself to act?

Here are a few rules. Many of them match up with what I found in Getting Things Done.

And if you keep the complexity down but keep the challenge high enough, you can achieve a state of flow.

Where you will be fluidly moving from one action to another. All the time, learning along the way.

Jan 11

Visualizing Productive Hours


Analysis is not only crunching numbers. Insight comes from visualizing your data also.

Two ideas popped into my mind once I looked at the chart above:

  1. In general, I am less productive than I expected.
  2. Regardless of the number of hours I work in a week, there is always one day where I don’t do much work at all.

With regards to number 1, I am going to try to avoid being judgmental. Maybe my productivity was low because of the holidays. As a matter of fact, I removed two weeks of data because they were during the holidays and were not indicative of my regular work patterns. Or maybe it is because the projects at work are not that interesting to me right now. Who knows? I don’t think this data is going to give me that answer. I will have to look elsewhere for why that is.

The second observation was much more interesting. Every week, there was always one day where I did less than 2 hours worth of work. I would have never figured that out if I was just looking at the raw data. Visualizing the data gave me that insight.

Given this knowledge, I have new expectations. 3 to 5 hours of work done per day. 1 day per week where I am not productive at all.

I am fine with the 1 day break every week. I think that is acceptable.

I am going to find out more about the average number of hours of work per day.

Jan 11

The Texture of Thoughts

“There is a difference between being aware of a thought and thinking a thought. That difference is very subtle. It is primarily a matter of feeling or texture. A thought you are simply aware of with bare attention feels light in texture; there is a sense of distance between that thought and the awareness viewing it. It arises lightly like a bubble, and it passes away without necessarily giving rise to the next thought in that chain. Normal conscious thought is much heavier in texture. It is ponderous, commanding, and compulsive. It sucks you in and grabs control of consciousness. By its very nature it is obsessional, and it leads straight to the next thought in the chain, apparently with no gap between them.”

- Mindfulness in Plain English