So I intend to make a biggish donation to the CEA and I am noticing what happens.
(this is something that I’ve been putting off for basically forever, and at the same time it feels like a yay thing instead of an ugh thing. This makes it a reasonable test bed for exploring some of my aversions, the ones that I won’t be too ashamed to even bring up)
There’s also a pressing object-level need to get this particular problem sorted out. I now have two (2) things predicated on this, employing a strategy of “hang other goodies after the end of this one particular annoying task, in a way that I can’t easily cheat on”. I can’t be more specific unfortunately, but dank memes may be involved.
So the noticing. (This is something I’m pretty sure I’m bad at, since it feels from the inside like there’s not a lot going on in my head, and that can’t be true or else I wouldn’t be able to function at all. It’s also something that I don’t think I would have an aversion to exploring, and yet don’t seem to really do, so something else interesting there but let’s not get too meta just yet).
The first thing I notice is an anxiety, somewhat manifested physically as gently sweating palms and shallow breathing. It wasn’t actually the first thing that I noticed, because after I noticed that first thing I started writing this, by which time the order in which things were present in my mind had swapped. But anyway. The other first thing that I notice is a lot of distractions available on my computer, distractions from the primary task of figuring out how to hand over a big lump of cache. And together with that is a strong urge to clean those distractions up right now (except for this one distraction of writing the blog, because I’m enjoying this).
Distraction number 2 that can’t easily be closed down like that is that WordPress is now telling me it’s failing to save drafts. Damn it word press. OK let’s see if that one’s maybe fixed for now.
I am trying to notice how I feel about all the open tabs and applications, gently resisting the urge to act on them. There’s a sense of urgency, and of disgust. There’s some sadness there and whatever the emotion is associated with clutter (which isn’t helped by my desk behind, which is full of much worse clutter including several icky things which need dealing with some time soon).
Each particular affordance available on my screen also had (because it’s gone right now), a feeling of some associated task which I was going to somehow forget how to get back to if it got closed down. That’s gone now, and I’m just left with the feeling that I need to shut them all down, especially now that Facebook has a numeral next to it. I’m assuming this is from some learned mistrust at my ability to carry out an aversive task while there are easy distractions lying all around it. The urge to close them all down is of course another example of succumbing to an urge without really thinking about it, but this point is too meta to have any strong feelings about.
I also have an urge to sip some water that’s over there but I don’t see anything wrong with that one since it’s not like I drink enough water, so I’ll act on that one at least.
So I have a more analytic noticing that I’ve been talking a lot about browser tabs and not about cold hard charity cash being prised from my wallet. So let’s return to intending to do that.
The next thing on intending to do that is a decision node, interestingly without quite being aware of what the available options are yet. As I sort of gently pressed on the intention and then held back, the image that came to mind was visiting the Centre for Effective Altruism’s website, and trying to find the donation page and see what it had to say about me. There was a sense that there were other things that I could do instead as a logical next action but they hadn’t materialized yet.
The next one to materialize was going over to Facebook chat to revisit where Michelle from CEA (or from GWWC if they’re a separate entity now, I can’t remember) had messaged me a few days ago and I hadn’t responded. She’s pretty awesome and apparently infinitely patient with me despite my apparent unwillingness to keep up with the pledge, so I’d look forward to such a chat if it was available. Unfortunately it’s bedtime in the UK so this course of action wouldn’t really make sense. Nevertheless, it occurred to me as an affordance before my mind immediately discarded it.
No other options are as yet presenting themselves, so I’ll start intending to visit the CEA website and see how that goes.
There’s a sort of dread or disgust feeling. I’m not sure where that comes from. It’s not like their website is that badly designed. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t contain the exact information on how I should pay them a lot of money right now, and instead says that in the case of larger donations I should go and talk to somebody or something. This bothers me, and I’m imagining it’s because that means waiting at least until tomorrow and possibly further waiting, and what I have now is a good feeling of really wanting to do something that I expect will be gone in the morning and I’ll just go about my routine of other stuff.
OK I think the sensible next step is still to check the website and see if it really does say what I recall it saying. Now that I’ve got this off my mind, is there anything else bothering me about this course of action? I notice myself looking to the distractions, particularly the “(1) Optimal Me..” facebook tab, and somewhat to Gmail and the Amazon reader next to it. Still an affordance that I should close all that stuff down, and a more analytic observation that I want to be the sort of person who can let these irrelevant things not affect me, and the fact they’re causing me very mild discomfort and annoyance is interesting on some level. Also that what I’m attempting isn’t exactly rocket science.
No further thoughts on visiting the website so let’s just do it and report back.
OK yes that’s more or less what it said. (Another analytic thought that maybe attaching all these vague emotional statements to my intentions is about trying to notice things, not about actually noticing things. Like we all sort of feel something about everything most of the time, I guess, and it doesn’t generally impede progress in any big way). Also forgot to mention that my secondary attention (I think?) was drawn to the pile of mess on my desk again.
Other thing on their website was a big executive summary of 2016 and plans for 2017 or something like that. Also anxious about this, because it implies a big ton of stuff I have to read and somehow put to some kind of critical speculation before I’m allowed to donate responsibly, or something, even though I know full well basically what the CEA does. I’m genuinely not completely sure whether to act on this though.
So the only thing left to do seems to be to ping Michelle tomorrow and email the other people too, and see where it goes from there. Definitely a feeling of disappointment here because I don’t feel like I really learned anything about anything and I’m not sure what distinguishes tomorrow morning from this morning in terms of how likely I am to do stuff. I mean, I was expecting (and got) a visitor today so that would have affected my eagerness to start on something complicated in the morning. But maybe tomorrow there’ll be some other excuse?
So… is that it?
No, because it’s not bedtime yet and there’s presumably some most optimal next action, and some other vague approximation to it that’s available as an affordance, that isn’t that. Writing that, the idea occurred to me that I can email people – and even Facebook chat them – while they are asleep and they’ll answer in the morning. Let’s explore that one.
Along with so many other things I hate writing emails. Let’s imagine what I would want to say and see how it goes.
Dear whoever it says on the website that I should email about these matters,
I am basically a humongous asshole who never keeps his GWWC pledge despite having signed up to it with the best of intentions. I would like to stop being an asshole right this second, not because anything particularly changed but just because the fact that I’ve been doing the obviously wrong thing isn’t a good reason to carry on doing that same obviously wrong thing. I would like to donate to your own organization rather than AMF or something because I don’t know the meta the better or whatever.
It’s either $10000 or £10000 take your pick. (No I still haven’t figured out this one). Please send me your bank information so I can get this done with right away before I have more time to think of a rationalization as to why it’s a bad idea or akrasia takes over again.
Love and kisses,
Let’s see how many things are wrong with this email.
I mean, nothing is obviously wrong with it. I doubt they get many emails written like that but they probably get occasional eccentric donors and it has the necessary information and if I’m offering money how picky will they be?
The main thing they are likely to be concerned about is that I’m sincere, of sound mind, not impersonating myself, etc. This adds a layer of difficulty (since the above email is already composed, and a more formal sounding one isn’t yet) but it may be worth it in terms of avoiding additional hassle later.
I think the things that need fixing, in order of priority are:
- My apparent inability to tell the difference between pounds and dollars, since I’m not sure what that signals about me but it can’t be anything good
- Calling myself an asshole, since that implies I’m motivated by self-negativity (and possibly quite serious self-negativity since people don’t normally write that in emails even if they feel that way in the moment)
- Tidy up my explanation of why I think CEA is awesome or leave it out altogether.
So yeah there are reasons we have to be all boring to each other. I feel slightly miserable about that, but whatever I don’t know why.
(In general it bothers me when rationality-minded people go and break some social norm and offer a ton of explanations as to why they’re doing such a great thing and don’t at the same time think up and address the counterarguments. So let’s not go and do exactly that this time).
How do I feel about a redraft? Anxiety again, since my free expression approach didn’t really work and my usual approach of very, very slowly composing something with lots of angst between each sentence takes ages and is awful. The alternative of taking what’s above and patching it might be worth a try. I’m out of interesting observations about how I feel about that, down to just “oh wait was that an emotion so I can write about it instead of actually doing the thing? No? What about that one?” so time to get to work.
Ok that was fast, like 2 minutes or so. My name obviously isn’t actually Deep Mockito so I needed to change that, and I wasn’t sure about love and kisses either. Otherwise I just did the literal bare minimum to fix the problems identified above, and what was left actually reads like an actual email now, if a somewhat tongue in cheek one.
The fact that it isn’t tongue-in-cheek, and basically just describes my exact motivations as accurately as I can perceive them, I don’t know quite what to make of that. Like is my own version of reality warped enough that when I try to describe it in a non-obfuscated way it sounds like humour? Or do I use humour as a defence mechanism? Not really sure.
(Damn it WordPress, I’m either going to have to pay you money or switch to a different platform, and I don’t like what that implies about your incentives).
I can’t tell, objectively, whether sending the email in its current form is a bad idea. It really feels like one though. I’m very conscious right now of the fact that, when you’ve been putting something off but maintaining the vague intention to do it some time, there’s no opportunity to make mistakes. Take action and you might immediately end up having done something really stupid. This is making me feel kind of anxious – and I don’t know why I’m using that word a lot, since I wouldn’t usually describe myself as an anxious person. It’s not background anxiety, it’s enough to feel like a warning that I should be careful about what I’m doing.
The email has some serious weaknesses in terms of the exact wording and being clear about what I’m asking for. From the outside it doesn’t seem like this should matter since I’m not trying to persuade anybody into something they’re not already very, very happy about. But I have a sense that “if they’re worth £10000, they’re also worth taking the time to write to properly”.
On the other hand… I know about the feeling of email perfectionism, which for me isn’t the good kind of perfectionism where you’re taking something great and taking the time to actually make it as close to perfect as you can. This is the kind where it feels like you’re swimming around in the ditches, nudging words around and adding extra sentences to turn one bad email into another, never making much progress or feeling happy with the result.
It seems like I can go through another iteration of identifying specific things that are wrong, doing the minimum to fix them and then getting a general feel for the result.