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My Personality

Most personality tests are bullshit. Even the Big-5 are a bit overhyped. Take it from the experts:

"Personality scales tend to show longterm retest correlations from .30 to .80 over intervals of up to 30 years." [1]

".30 to .80" sounds good until you remember that even the upper limit means the first test score explains only about 64% of the variance in later test scores. At the median retest correlation of .57, almost 70% of your personality is explained by something other than your continuity of existence. Granted, these numbers are great by the standards of psychology, but they're rather dismal for any substantive field.

As for the rest: Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, and RIASEC... it's total nonsense. It's still fun — maybe even useful as a vague suggestion of behavioral flavor frozen in time — but ultimately such hogwash that it raises the question, "why take the time to publish this?"

The Big 5+1

aka: "OCEAN", "HEXACO"

Myers-Briggs

ENTJ-A (Commander)

Enneagram

Holland Types

aka: "RIASEC"

2022-Q2

I fell off the wagon.

This was supposed to be the year of the quantified self. I set out to track every minute of my time across several dozen goals in thirteen categories.

The effort began strong. For three months I was off of social media, exercising super consistently, timing mostly everything, and on track towards my goals.

Then... something happened.

Between April and July — the tracking vanished. I returned to my vices, and if anything, I became more distractible than I've been in ages. Not a second of tracking, and all hopes of achieving my goals in the trash.

What happened?

My leading theory is that it was moving-related. In February, I moved to Brasília for two months. In April, I moved back to the US, and by June, I was back in the Netherlands.

Brasília was in many ways a delight: great weather, amazing fruit, a sauna and gym two minutes from my door, and everything extremely affordable. Other things were less than great: the internet speeds (at least at first), my workstation (I appropriated a low-res TV for a monitor on a minuscule kitchen table), no AC.

These things seem minor, but they add up over time. If it takes 60 seconds to install a new package, you open up Hacker News and end up wasting five minutes. Each five session chips at your attentional capacity. The frustration builds and burns you out. DX matters.

Still, mostly I was on track.

What probably caused the discipline to falter was the disruption of coming back. Moves are great opportunities to change behaviors, but this works in either direction, and the asymmetry of habit formation means you have to be extra careful.

When you're moving a bunch in a short period of time, you have to be even more careful because Ego depletion1 comes into play. You exhaust your willpower and become more susceptible to developing bad habits with each successive move.

Seasoned digital nomads probably have their tricks to get around this, but that's not me yet. Lesson learned.

A few other problems at play:

  • My Obsidian has again become a disordered wreck. I keep on trying to impose fragile top-down hierarchies on the notes, and it ends up breaking everything.
  • In a related vein, I've come to the conclusion that using Obsidian for both task management and knowledge management is bad practice. Tasks should vanish when done. If they linger around they'll muck up your access to the more important persistent knowledge. I've moved to trying out Linear instead.
  • Tracking was much too manual. I was tracking in Obsidian, which proved too unstructured (similar concern to "not using Obsidian for task management"), so I moved on to Google Sheets, which is a nightmare (as you know). This time, I'm going to give Airtable a shot (which takes inspiration & validation from the professionals).
  • At the start of the year, I redesigned my website, because using Next.js for a static site was overkill, but then I went too far in the opposite direction (towards raw, uncut html). The problem with this is that regularly publishing is the best for me to orient my review and tracking processes. When that output process becomes too unergonomic, it clogs up the rest of the pipeline. I'm now using Astro with a custom, simplified export pipeline (a successor to my previous solution & a set of plugins to recreate Obsidian-flavored markdown in the Unified.js ecosystem). This isn't public yet, but it will be when I've ironed out the kinks.

Whatever the reason, it's in the past, and every day is a chance to start fresh.

Let's try again

We've still got basically half a year left. What can we recover?

  1. 🛑 No more scrolling (YouTube, Reddit, Porn, etc.):
    • Right. That failed miserably — I even ended up caving and finally getting on Twitter. 🤷‍♂️ I still agree with the intent but can't deny the value of being up to date with Hacker News, tech Twitter, and edu-Youtube.
    • My idea of a solution was using Inoreader. There, the problem was that it was filling much too quickly and that much of it was low quality. This time around I need to be more diligent in removing feeds that don't serve me.
    • I'm going to try again. This time, I'll allow myself a dash of Hacker News a day — call it part of the job requirements. Youtube, I'll get through Inoreader, and the rest, hopefully never. (I may relax this further, and allow myself some maximum amount of time per day on these trash platforms.)
  2. 🚪 Screen time:
    • I'm scrapping the limit for desktop (because programming is my job).
    • The main obstacle to actually tracking this was that I was manually copying the information every week. This is a perfect opportunity for automation (there is fortunately an API, but you have to call it on device). Until I get access to the data, I'm not going to require myself to track this, but the goal stands: Less than an hour a day as a baseline; less than two as a stretch.
  3. Self-monitoring:
    • Toggl was easy and intuitive; my main obstacle was that I had defined too many different projects and types of tasks.
    • Time to simplify: Only three projects (work, personal, misc). Only a handful of allowed labels: programming, reading, watching, wasting time, organizing, meeting, writing.
    • Also, no more manual copying stuff over. I'm a programmer and should know better. Same for Apple Health information about exercise.
  4. 📚 Books (1 book per week):
    • I'm a bit behind schedule. 19 books in fact. But that's ok, there's plenty of time to catch up. That said, I am scrapping all of the specific goals like read X books in French, Y by this author. I'll just read what I want to read.
  5. 🗃 PKM:
    • I'm going to remove all specific goals and just commit to regularly maintenance.
  6. ✍️ Writing:
    • I haven't been writing, but I have plenty of room to catch up with my goal of 6 articles.
    • I missed M4-M7 & Q1, but whatever. For the rest of the year, I'm forbidding myself from including any quantitative result in my reviews that I haven't automated.
  7. 🗣 Languages:
    • I'm scrapping this goal. It was too ambitious from the start. I do want to catch up again, but I have one or two tools I want to finish up before I actually start learning Chinese.
    • My main goal in this category is to just catch up on Anki again & to have no overdue cards in any of my principal decks (General, French, Portuguese, Dutch). Stretch goal if I can work in Italian and German.
  8. 🏃 Moving
    • Subjectively, I'm happy enough with my movement. I'm going to avoid setting quantitative goals until I've automated the information capture.
  9. 🍽 Fasting
    • When I fell off the productivity wagon, I also fell off the IF wagon for the first time in 5 years (but I'm back again).
    • This has fallen by the wayside but it's totally recoverable. I'm going to start committing to one day (Monday) a week for the rest of the year.
  10. 🌏 Diet:
    • I was tracking meat & alcohol consumption. In hindsight, it required a bit too much input. I'm going to drop this until next year.
  11. 👓 Myopia:
    • The initial progress I've made seems to have been undone by staring at the computer screen for ungodly amounts of time. We'll fix this at some future point
  12. 👥 Relationships:
    • Mentorship & community: I'd actually say that I've achieved these goals though not in the way originally envisioned. I've found my mentors in the right software development streamers & my community in the right discords. 2022, eh? I'm crossing this off as completed.
  13. 💰 Money:
    • We moved back to the cheap Netherlands, and I got a side-job for about one day a week, and we're golden. It's a lot easier if you decide you don't have to live in the US.

Footnotes

  1. I've read this has been somewhat debunked, so take it with the proper grain of salt.

2022-M2

Key:

  • When appropriate, a goal will have (baseline|stretch goal) next to it.
  • ✅: baseline
  • ✅ ✅: stretch
  • ❌: neither

Goals:

  1. 🛑 No more scrolling (YouTube, Reddit, Porn, etc.): ✅
    • I've had one or two lapses this month — not quite scrolling, but more like following a video vortex. Curating my own feed via Inoreader isn't quite the saving grace I imagined it to be. It still ends up quickly saturating with way too much info and there's plenty of low quality content that slips through the cracks.
  2. 🚪 Screen time (12|9h per day): 10h5m ✅ (=)
    • Phone (2|1h): 82m ✅ (+28m)
    • Computer (12|10h): 9h48m ✅ (-8m)
    • I've increased my allowed computer time goal by two hours because I have to accept that working on the computer is my job.
  3. Self-monitoring: ✅
    • I've started tracking my workday in much more detail and may start releasing more precise time for each subarea.
  4. 📚 Books (1 book per week): 4b ✅
  5. 🗃 PKM: Nothing to say here for this month, except that I'm working on a set of "starting vaults" for LessWrong and 80,000 hours. Stay tuned.
  6. ✍️ Writing: ✅
    • Articles (1 article every 2 months | every month): ✅ I've been writing, but I haven't been publishing -> in waiting for further improvements to my site.
    • Reflections (1 reflection per month | and a newsletter): ✅ You're reading it.
  7. 🗣 Languages (1000|2000 cards per month): 644 ❌ (-356) (506 cards behind).
    • While in Brazil, I'm actually spending less time making new cards (and more time talking with people). But I could be doing more. This is a chance to rededicate my efforts. Specifically to aim for 50 new cards per day. By the end of the month, I'll have about caught up.
  8. 🏃 Moving
    • Rings (85|95% of the time): 86% ✅
    1. Steps (5k|10k): 7.9k ✅
    • Skills: ❌ I told myself I would start doing this this month but I didn't. So my goal to get on track is to start tracking my handstand time at least once a week.
  9. 🍽 Fasting (1x36h per month): ❌ Skipped fasting this week (also haven't been intermittent fasting while in Brazil), so I'm going to squeeze in two fasts this coming month (and make one of them a three-day fast.
  10. 🌏 Diet: ✅
    • Meat (8x|4x 🍗; 1x per month | per two months 🥩🥓...): 8x🍗 ✅
    • Alcohol (8x|4x 🍷): 1x ✅✅
  11. 👓 Myopia: (-.25|-0.25 diopters) ❌
    • I should have been more skeptical last month. Much of the improvements I noted then have subsided. This could be evidence of biased measurements in the past and sampling error, or maybe it's that I've spent way too much time this month behind the computer. Either way, I need to double down and make sure I'm working at blur distance.
  12. 👥 Relationships:
    • Mentorship. ✅ (80,000 Hours career-coaching)
      • I've now finished The Precipice and am almost done with 80,000 hour's Career-Planning Process, so this month, I'm aiming to arrange my first coaching call.
      • I met with James Norris of Upgradable, which seemed like a promising fit, but probably won't work out. James is the kind of person whose opinion I'm likely to value too much. I already carry the weight of the world and don't want another set of expectations to carry. This reflects less on James than it does me. But it does help me clarify what I'm looking for in a mentor.
    • Community. ✅ (Open Principles Fellowship)
      • The Open Principles introduced me to several people I'll be staying in contact with, but it's already done, so my quest continues.
  13. 💰 Money:
    • No change.

2022-M3

Wasn't my best month — I've fallen behind in a few areas and need a concerted push to catch up again. Shit happens.

Key:

  • When appropriate, a goal will have (baseline|stretch goal) next to it.
  • ✅: baseline
  • ✅ ✅: stretch
  • ❌: neither

Goals:

  1. 🛑 No more scrolling (YouTube, Reddit, Porn, etc.): ✅
    • I had a few slips with YouTube this month. Watching a video on my phone and following the funnel. Something to double down on next month.
  2. 🚪 Screen time (12|9h per day): 10h15m ✅ (+10m)
    • Phone (2|1h): 95m ✅ (+13m)
    • Computer (12|10h): 8h59m ✅ (-49m)
    • Last month I wanted to increase my computer time because I thought I would be going over, but this is proving an unnecessary change.
  3. Self-monitoring: Need another month or two before I'll share this info
  4. 📚 Books (1 book per week): 1b ❌
    • I'm going to count Mad Investor Chaos as a — in total — 5 book deal (when completed).
  5. 🗃 PKM PKM: Haven't made enough progress on my starting vaults since last month. This deserves more attention.
  6. ✍️ Writing: ✅
    • Articles (1 article every 2 months | every month): ❌ Writing has taken a back seat.
    • Reflections (1 reflection per month | and a newsletter): ✅
  7. 🗣 Languages (1000|2000 cards per month): 700 ❌ (-300) (856 cards behind). So I didn't catch up like I had planned to last month. In fact, I've fallen behind even just on my Anki reviews. I'm aiming this month to close some of the gap, so I'm only 500 cards behind at the end of it. This means keeping close to a target of 50 new cards a day.
  8. 🏃 Moving
    • Rings (85|95% of the time): 82% ❌
    1. Steps (7.5k|10k):2k ✅
    • Skills: ❌
  9. 🍽 Fasting (1x36h per month): ❌
  10. 🌏 Diet: ✅
    • Meat (8x|4x 🍗; 1x per month | per two months 🥩🥓...): 9x🍗 ❌ 6x other ❌ This was mostly inadvertent (in ordering the wrong thing in a language I'm not super familiar with), but it means I'll have to keep the next four months clear of non-poultry.
    • Alcohol (8x|4x 🍷): 2x ✅✅
  11. 👓 Myopia: (-.25|-0.25 diopters) Skipping measurement this month because I lacked access to a measuring tape.
  12. 👥 Relationships: Has taken a bit of back-burner (though I did meet lots of wonderful Brazilians at the sauna) - just these relationships are less professional than personal.
    • Mentorship. ❌
    • Community. ❌
  13. 💰 Money: ❌

We need a taxonomy for principles

When you start collecting principles, a natural question arises: how to organize these principles? Clear organization is not just useful for quicker access but — when the collecting is crowd-sourced — critical to ensuring that the database of principles grows healthily and sustainably. We need a balance between the extremes of hairballs and orphan principles.

Now, there are books written on this subject, knowledge management (I promise, it's not nearly as dull (or settled) a subject as you might think). That said, one thing at a time. In this post, all I want to do is propose a few dimensions I think might be useful for classifying principles in the future.

Here they are:

  • Normative vs. Descriptive
  • Universal vs. Situational (or "First" and "Derived")
  • Deterministic vs. Stochastic

Normative and Descriptive.

There's a big difference between principles that tell you how the world *is* and how it (or you) *should be*. The former are the domain of the traditional sciences. It's what we mean when we talk about principles and postulates in physics. The latter are the domain of decision theory/philosophy/etc.

There's a bridging principle between the two in that accomplishing any normative goals requires you to have an accurate descriptive view of how the world is. Still, in general, we can make a pretty clean break between these categories.

Universal and Situational ("First" and "Derived")

The universe looks different at different length scales: the discrete, quantum atoms in Angströms give rise to continuous, classical fluids at meter scales and might yet contain continuous strings at Planck-lengths.

Physics gives us a formal way to linking the descriptive principles of one length scale to those of another—the "the Renormalization Group". This is a (meta-)principled approach to constructing "coarse-grained", higher order principles out of base principles. In this way, the postulates of quantum gravity would give rise to those of classical mechanics, but also those of chemistry, in turn biology, psychology, etc.

The same is true on the normative end. "Do no harm" can look very different in different situations, and the Golden Rule has more subtleties and gradations than I can count.

In general, the "first principles" in these chains of deduction tend to be more universal (and apply across a wider range of phenomena). Evolution doesn't just apply to biological systems but to any replicators, be it cultures, cancers, or memes. 1

Final Project — Anthropology of Science and Tech through …|700

Deterministic and Stochastic

One of the main failure modes of a "principles-driven approach" is becoming overly rigid—seeing principles as ironclad laws that never change or break.

I believe one of the main reasons for this is error that we tend to think of principles as deterministic "rules". We tend to omit qualifiers like "usually", "sometimes", "occasionally" from our principles because they sound weaker. But randomness has a perfectly important role in description (the quantum randomness of measurement or the effective randomness of chaotic systems) and in prescription (e.g., divination rituals may have evolved as a randomizing device to improve decision-making).

So we shouldn't shy away from statements like "play tit-for-tat with 5% leakiness". But also less precise statements like "avoid refined sugars, but, hey, it's okay if you have a cheat day every once in a while because hey you also deserve to take it easy on yourself."

A Few Examples

Using these classifications, we can make more thorough sense of the initial set of Open Principles divisions:

"Generic"/"situational" principles and "mental models" are descriptive principles that differ in how universal they are. "Values" and "virtues" are universal normative principles with "habits" as their derived counterparts. "Biases" are a specific type of derived descriptive principle reserved to the domain of agents.

A few more examples:

500

Call to Action

A few things that might help us keep the Open Principles healthy:

  • Decide what not to include as a principle. Constraints can be wonderfully liberating.
  • Define and contrast terms like axioms, postulates, laws, hypotheses, heuristics, biases, fallacies, aphorisms, adages, maxims, platitudes, etc.
  • Read up on Knowledge Management. Wikipedia is an excellent starting point. In particular, I think we might benefit from a more faceted approach.
  • Vigorously disagree with everything I just wrote to start a bit of antifragilizing debate.

Cheers, Jesse

Footnotes

  1. This isn't always true: the real world is not very quantum mechanic. But it's probably a good enough starting point for now.