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Never Update Your Priors

Having ambition is hard.

You want to be famous but you realize that the closest thing you have to a talent is the ability to come up with 4-level-deep-meta-jokes.

You want to become unimaginably rich but you realize that to achieve that you either need 420 iq or utter unscrupulousness and lots and lots of luck.

You want to create great art but you realize that God probably isn’t using your mind and body to communicate with our benighted world.

You want to change the world but you realize that the chances of this happening are about the same of God finally deciding to use your body to communicate with our benighted world.

So you stop trying. Why bother when there’s twitter and videogames. You didn’t want much anyways.

Here’s how not to give up: don’t update on evidence. The problem is the word realize in each of the sentences above.

Every one of them is true and yet it shouldn’t matter. The instinct to update is almost irresistible and any appeal to faith is taken as a personal offence. The problem with not updating on evidence is the possiblity for your model of the world to become completely decoupled from the actual world. The benefit is a sort of a soft wireheading.

In fact, this is why epistemic rationality is not just useless but is actively harmful. If you’re a depressive type, you will systematically update too much on negative information, too little on positive and will give up too early.

There are two ways to avoid this: (1) recursively change the most fundamental patterns of your cognition to either avoid or properly discount the biases, or (2) to believe that you’re special. As in believe in magick. As in believe in God.

Updating on evidence will make you depressed and useless. Having blind faith will probably make you just as useless, but at least you will have a chance.


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