I'm a contrarian to the core, which is to say when I'm told something is, I immediately think about what it would be like if it isn't. I've thought long and hard about the merits of this, and I've decided to keep the habit.
A benefit of contrarianism is when an idea is presented, I think about all the other cases that seem possible if that idea weren't true. From there, I can go through all those cases and apply logic to filter out the ones that obviously don't work. I don't need to trust a person to weigh the merit of their idea, as this process allows me to locate issues quite quickly and inquire about them. They may be legitimate problems, or I may have been missing something, but either way, I'm led to more information, which runs through the same process. I'm able to understand things quite quickly, because, as I like to think of it, I'm "mapping" confusion to processes which help resolve that confusion.
A drawback of contrarianism is if I don't ask these questions to resolve confusion, I'm left with both the confused feeling and the last possible cases I've thought of. To resolve the confusion, it's easy to just choose the last possible cases, and error accrues. If I become depressed and do not feel like asking those questions, it's a very real possibility this level of error can accrue to magnificent levels. The same goes for distrusting others, but that tends to be a product of depression.
Over the past few months (and I could argue years), depression was always right behind my back, incurring chronic distrust. I didn't want to see any of my friends, so I didn't, and thus I didn't even have a chance to ask questions to resolve confusion. The cycle repeated and repeated, and my ability to apply contrarianism quickly and usefully suffered majorly.
A few days ago, a friend told me "you don't have to be right all the time for me to like you," and it broke the cycle. I'd been stuck with the confused feeling for so long that I developed a very complex system of logic to navigate it, accounting for error and defining processes to mitigate it. But since she answered the question I didn't ask, I've been doing the rational emotive behaviour therapy thing and the depression/confusion is quickly disappearing, so applying logic has become more automatic, and I need not rely on the complex system.
With its retreat, I'm amazed at my ability to think deeply and quickly. I used to "self-medicate" with DXM in the hopes that its serotonin-boosting properties would allow for thoughts to "stick" more easily (and it worked... for about 45 minutes, at which point I imagine the NMDA receptor antagonism became a driving force, and it became extremely hard to keep whole ideas around), and alcohol in the hopes its GABA emulation and dopamine increase would allow for thoughts to "stick" and be manipulated quite easily.
Alcohol always did the trick, and it still does, though I worry about its exaggerated effects of inhibition and excitation affecting how sober processing chooses paths... but as the removal of alcohol would clear both inhibitory and excitatory effects, and sleep with enough water would would remove the alcohol at roughly the same time, I do not think it has a chance to cause serious disruption.
Anyway, I want to talk some more about a method for training the mind to quickly learn new things with a low(er) level of error. It's what I like to fancy I use, but I don't keep as watchful an eye on my practice as I'd like in order to offer a level of confidence.
There are three main principles which seem to have led to the development of this practice:
- the mind can quickly test confidence of an idea (based on information previously learned)
- the mind can easily manipulate and test an idea it's confident in
- learning new manipulations and transformations of ideas takes a relatively long amount of time
Presuming those points, #3 is the only thing which takes a long (or unpredictable) amount of time, and is the thing which would benefit most from optimization, or at least mitigation. Wow, I really thought I had something novel when I began writing about this, but it seems the only usefulness is the attempt to provide concrete reasoning for why spending free time learning how others go about tackling problems is beneficial.
I suppose then it would be best to explain how I came to decide on those principles.
For #1, the mind can quickly test confidence of an idea (based on information previously learned), the very broad principle I use to quickly diminish the set of possibilities for how the brain could work is "the brain is a novelty detector", which essentially means it can somehow react when an input does not match what is expected. What's "expected" is dependent on what's previously been "learned", and the causes of that thought are "something that changes requires justification" (which in itself developed by considering "inertia") and "the mind continues thinking the same thought, unless something changes". Thus, "confidence" of an idea is defined as matching what the mind has previously learned, and "novelty" is not matching the same.
#2 (the mind can easily manipulate and test an idea it's confident in) is the same principle, but must also introduce the ability to test an idea which isn't immediately sensory input. In order for that to be possible, it must have some ability to emulate sensory input. Sensory input can only change state if there's a change in the external world. After all, how can event occur without a change (or, how can there be an effect without a cause)? As the brain functions basically through communication between neurons, neurons accept binary communication from dendrites filtered by a threshold value of electrical charge, and dendrites accept charge by action potentials, I figure sensory input can be boiled down to increases of action potentials coinciding with environmental changes. As certain neurotransmitters (namely serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) seem to increase the amount of action potentials (though I could not personally tell you why, so this may be a point of fallacy in this line of thought), I would argue they have the ability to emulate sensory input.
I'm not completely sure what causes these neurotransmitters to be emitted, and how that cause is caused, I'm basing my thoughts on my theory they're emitted given a relatively long chain of action potentials over a short amount of time (somewhat connected to "long-term potentiation"). As sensory input causes action potentials in a selective set of neurons, those which are predisposed to action potentials (which I theorize is due to some mechanism lowering the threshold for an action potential, possibly through quick re-ionization of channels after an action potential) are apt to cause the emission of these neurotransmitters. And thus, a sensory input can cause the same (or similar) effects elsewhere in the brain as if it were caused by a different sensory input.
Assuming that, the mind has the same ability to quickly test confidence of an idea which isn't immediately brought about by sensory input as it does an idea which is brought about by sensory input. The only difference would be the sensory input must occur before this non-sensory-caused idea can be tested, which takes "time".
#3 (learning new manipulations and transformations of ideas takes a relatively long amount of time) is a far more complex thought to explain, so let me begin with my conclusions through observation: I learn new things by deciding what I should be able to do (or immediately feel) if I've learned it, then trying anything which comes to mind and seeing if I'm able to do or immediately feel the thing I've decided on. As I can't be sure of what thing will actually satisfy my goal, my best option is to try anything I know, and this takes time... time I can't predict the length of, because time is the set of events which occur between state A and B, and I don't know which events are necessary to reach B, which is the goal I've decided on.
Essentially, I say "that guy is able to jump over a chair from a standing position" and use the first two principles over and over until I find something which allows me to jump over a chair from a standing position.
Well, I thought I was going to have to delve into my theories of the brain in order to explain that thought, but I got to define it in terms of #1 and #2, so my sense of laziness (er, "efficiency" or "optimization") is satisfied.
So, when I have free time, I spend it searching wherever I can for novel manipulations and transformations of data (or, put another way, optimizations of logic). Though, because these manipulations and transformations are connected in the mind to motor output, things like reading Hacker News and Reddit easily become a sort of loop. Sensory input leads to excitation by neurotransmitters, which leads to preferential excitement of already-excited neurons controlling motor output, which are the motor neurons leading to interaction with those sites (because they're already excited from choosing to visit those sites), so my use continues, promoted by the excitation had by visiting links which make me "happy" and causing neurotransmitter emission, leading to excitation with "preferential treatment" toward already excited neurons... And it continues.
It's not a horrible thing, as the loop itself is useful if it actually learns novel transformations and manipulations. But this must be paid attention to, as it need not actually learn these things and save time in the future.
There's at least 10 more pages pertaining to this subject, but I've already switched topics several times and done enough rambling. Till next time.