stalling behaviour from mr hyde


Having set out to get that stupid theorem 4.1.1 finally covered and to read through the next part of the logical induction paper… it didn’t happen.

I was on Facebook, I made some memes but not in a high productivity way, there was a lot of just scrolling up and down involved. Now it might seem like covering every episode of procrastination is going to get dull and silly, but the fact remains… each one is a paradox.

It’s also possible that each can be explained by some kind of model. I’m not really sure but it’s worth taking a peek while it was still fresh in my mind to see what might have happened.

What it felt like, this time, was stalling behaviour. The “Mr. Hyde” part of me knew that the Dr. Mockito part was up to something, and just wanted to stall until whatever urge it was had gone away. Stall sufficiently far into Sunday night and whatever it was probably was safe from further attention for a whole nother week. I’d feel bad about it, but that’s Shame-2 which Mr. Hyde doesn’t care about or at least doesn’t optimize against.

It’s easy to imagine Mr. Hyde cackling away in the background while the rest of me is groaning in misery but in reality it’s not like that. I only have one set of emotions, as far as I know, that all parts of my mind get to share. Whatever sketchy stuff is going on in my mind is best viewed as an optimization process – it “wants” things in the sense that it will take actions that make them happen, but there doesn’t have to be a sense in which it “enjoys” the result.

OK but what does Mr H want this time? I thought he liked doing the math?

Well let’s consider the counterfactual, where I had finished writing up the notes around this theorem I was reading about, and maybe read a little way into the next one. I’m not picturing it as an all-night math binge, but something which I’m fundamentally in control of. When the math’s done I’d move on to the next thing, which would probably be something to do with organizing and getting things sorted.

In the present reality, where I’m scheduling what I’m “officially” working on in a first-in-first-out fashion, this can be avoided with some stalling. I’d still probably get around to the math but not the organizing tidy-up bit afterwards.

If Mr H were averse to organizing – for reasons which are not entirely clear at this point – then it would explain the stalling behaviour. If the icky task is the next one in the pipeline then the stalling becomes obvious. If it’s the next one after that then the stalling looks more mysterious but given this usual first-in-first-out behaviour it makes just as much sense.

(Mr. Hyde, despite the name, is not completely secretive. He seems happy to reveal little insights into his behaviour, such as this one, if he thinks I’m going to do something interesting with them).

So I could bypass the math, go straight to the organizing and maybe kind of win in the immediate term. But for me the more interesting question is: what’s so bad about organizing?

There are two obvious candidates, which I’ll put into the context of writing a to-do list.

  • Something would appear on the to-do list which sounds very sensible but which would actually be quite destructive to me. Actually discovering which task it is would be a painful insight but I know about it on some level. This makes the whole thought of writing out a to-do aversive.
  • The previous point isn’t actually true but I have some deep seated belief that it is, and this drives my behaviour.

I’ll need to muse on this and see if my brain wants to give up any information on it. The main candidates for what I’m talking about are sorting out paperwork (the most aversive task) and making big donations to an EA org (the most mysteriously aversive).

… nothing immediately came up, and then I got distracted again. Stay tuned for part 2.

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