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Notes | Tutorial 45

Date: 2020-10-02


  • wiggle room
    • criteria for difference between good and bad run
    • corners easy to lose


  • could try reading in small chunks on purpose
    • e.g. 2 or 5 min chuck
      • get used to chunks
      • figure out minimum size that’s useful

thoughts on short term goals in general

  • meditation
    • (I have some experience btw)
    • maybe morning routine
      • some meditation
      • goals + reflection + daily planning
    • ET: try 5-10 min sessions
    • MK: need to set up morning routine
  • (okayish, book) meditation for fidgety skeptics
    • emotions essay
      • breakpoint: figure out what you want to do faster than being able to react
  • practice doing things calm/detached

not wasting time on bottleneck / not wasting bottleneck time.

genes and direct influence on thoughts

  • thinking someone’s implying something via a long chain of reasoning (e.g. 10 steps) is high risk.

I think at this point it’s up to me to come up with some other causal mechanism?

That’s an option.

I have a few ideas for casual mechanisms:

  • genes encode some ideas which are ‘given’ to us early in life
    • so there could be flow on effects
      • this isn’t really a direct influence on thoughts, though.
  • or maybe: ideas have different classes of components e.g. like ideas about ‘relationships between people’ are one of those possible components. if there are optimisations the brain has that directly relate to some phenotype (like volume of that brain-part) then the weighting between generation of idea-components could differ thus ppl with certain genes are more likely to think of certain stuff.
    • note, after I wrote “ideas have different classes of components” I strongly questioned why I wrote that, I don’t think I have a good reason. I think that is reflected in the following 2 points:
    • but we don’t know anything about these idea-component things
    • so this ‘causal mechanism’ just kicking the can down the road by introducing another unknown casual relationship as part of this explanation

So I don’t think I have any good ideas for casual mechanisms.

I don’t think I could convince myself that genes have a direct influence over our thoughts. But I can’t convince myself they don’t, either. I can convince myself that I shouldn’t believe they do.

I’m open to other ways to move the conversation forward if you have ideas.

  • not clear on initial ideas in brain and significance to topic
  • counterexample re ~symbols of attractiveness

I don’t think the initial ideas in the brain matter a lot.

for clarity: so you think it is possible we have ideas encoded in genes that are given to ~everyone during prenatal development (or shortly after birth, w/e)?

the idea that the initial ideas in the brain don’t have any long term significance on our thoughts (and genes can give us some initial ideas) is a stronger and different position than I thought you had.

I think I might have some counterexample to the idea that genes don’t play a significant role in thoughts. It’s part of a bigger idea, though. I’ll try and outline parts of it.

  • Lindybeige has a theory on why women have breasts
  • He explains why other theories aren’t sufficient (e.g. there’s one idea that women have breasts to signal fertility, etc, and that theory compares humans to other animals like primates; this is refuted b/c other species have no permanent signs of fertility)
  • There’s a bit about the EEA and evolutionary context / selection pressures / social dynamics at the time (social dynamics here means like ‘dynamics of hunter gatherer society’)
  • There’s a (conjectured) chain of reasoning and events he goes through in early (modern) homo sapien development involving secret menstruation and how sexes would ‘react’ for evolutionary advantage
  • part of that conjecture is male reaction to sexual signals ~flipping to avoid being unattracted to fertile women
  • and this eventually ends with women having permanent breasts

It’s that second to last part about male reaction ~flipping that I think might be a counter example.

The video:

The reason I think it’s a counter example is that this would be a way genes significantly changed thoughts. (assuming ideas like ‘she’s attractive’ and ‘she’s not attractive’ fit the bill for what we’re considering.)

I’m not sure about the causal mechanism, just that this is an effect and it’s argued that it happened via evolution at the gene-level.

The idea of ~flipping is roughly:

  • animals are attracted to symbols like swollen breasts / butt, particular inflammations, temporary colouring, etc.
  • animals (all but humans) don’t have breasts when they don’t need them. They only grow them when necessary, and they’re not swollen at other times
  • modern women have ~swollen breasts all the time (there’s some difference between lactating/not lactating but it’s minor compared to other animals) – maintaining breasts costs resources, there’s an evolutionary reason not to do it
  • the male reaction to swollen breasts is to not be attracted b/c it means the female isn’t fertile (this is true in other animals)
  • human males around the time women developed permanent breasts had this reaction too (along with other things like fatter -> good -> more resources / better chance of children surviving)
  • one evolutionary reaction could have been to like fix the ‘pattern’ for what males found attractive (e.g. breasts -> good now, fatter -> still good)
  • but the simplest change necessary is just a binary ‘not’ - i.e. things that weren’t attractive now are, and things that were attractive aren’t – admittedly (thinking about it now) why didn’t humans die out because malnourished women were selected over non-malnourished?
  • so males had this gene flipped by evolution and breasts were attractive now

This sounds like a way genes had (and have) a significant role in thoughts.

Possible criticism: this is just an idea we get when we’re young and some people change it, some don’t, but it doesn’t mean genes have a substantial role in affecting thoughts, just that like this one inborn(?) idea is different.

I marked inborn with a (?) because I’m not sure I’m using it right.

The reason I think it’s a counter example is that this would be a way genes significantly changed thoughts.

It’s useful to think through what sorts of genetic effects on thoughts are important and why.

In this case I think Lloyd (lindybeige) is claiming

what is the criteria for calling a conversation done?

  • todo
    • work on discussion tree to see what state of the conversation is
    • there are standard ideas on this, could I answer them?

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