Feb 18, 2016

My First Book

The site is not yet 100% finished, and the book and instruction manual have not yet hit the press, but check it all out at www.FrictionlessMastery.com. You can sign up to receive notification when the products come out by entering your email here.

Feb 16, 2016

Socionics Residue

It's been three years since I officially renounced socionics. I still subscribe to everything I wrote at the time. I no longer place any importance on socionics types — particularly my own. I disagree with the theory and believe it is fundamentally, hopelessly flawed.

At yet I find myself passively typing people on some subconscious level, even though I don't even care. I've had a number of relationships over the past couple years, and I've pursued women based on romantic attraction alone. It truly makes zero difference to me what type someone is or whether I can even identify their type. I never stop and think, "I wonder what her or his type is."

If I'm in a relationship with someone and it occurs to me that she is an IEI, it makes no practical difference to me. There are attractive and unattractive IEIs, nice ones and not-so-nice, compatible and incompatible. I never attribute "success" or "failure" in a relationship to type. There are always better, more immediate explanations: I am or am not what she is looking for at this stage in life, the attraction between us is deep or merely situational, etc.

On a conscious level I think more about a person's hormones and neurotransmitters, their aims and values, the type of energy that exists between us, and what I am bringing to the table. That is the intellectual framework that has replaced socionics.

Nonetheless, if I dig up the subconscious typing that is going on, I see some interesting patterns:

  • most of my guy friends are intuiters 
  • I go almost exclusively for irrational women
  • it seems I have a slight romantic preference for ethical types or have no preference either way (roughly 70% of women are ethical)
  • it makes no difference to me whether a girl is sensing or intuitive
  • I never go for IEEs (presumably my own type, though I obviously don't care), at least IEEs who have a similar brain chemistry to my own
  • I prefer for a romantic partner to be more introverted and less dominant than I
I'm currently taking singing lessons from a female SLE who is clearly attracted to me. It's a lot easier than working with a male SLE guitar teacher was. Things got better still when the female SLE teacher had me start attending lessons at a music school where she holds lessons together with an IEI accompanist. With the good energy between the two of them it is very comfortable working with the SLE. I see no reason to believe that our interaction will turn sour. It feels very stable. 

My male SLE guitar teacher was (is) married to an IEI who was often in the house when I came over for lessons. Nonetheless, I had the feeling that there was some tension between them and that the IEI was not exactly happy. The SLE had a difficult personality, smoked incessantly, and was 25 years older than his wife. Eventually she left. But then she came back. I had a major personality clash with the SLE. But was it about his socionic type, which is, after all, just an abstraction? Or was it about his intolerable smoking, his domineering personality, inability to listen, or his tendency to talk off topic? 

I have two male friends — IEI and LIE — with whom I meet regularly to discuss self-improvement and practical philosophy. A couple months ago I introduced them to each other. Afterwards the LIE complained extensively to me of how the IEI talked on and on without getting to the point and showed no interest in maintaining contact. I hadn't clearly seen this problem area in my IEI friend until this moment. Since then it has been annoying me as well.

Feb 10, 2016

Socionics.us moved to a new address again

I no longer write on socionics, at least for the time being. At first I preserved my defunct site Socionics.us by putting it into a sub-folder of my personal site, rickdelong.com. Now I am in the [slow] process of moving my personal site onto the Blogger platform, so the socionics section has disappeared again. Here is the new address at which you can find everything:


Aug 10, 2015

Braverman Test and Compatibility

I came across the Braverman test (Edge Effect Quiz) recently and would like to recommend it to readers. You can easily find it online. Here are my results:

Acetylocholine — 40
Dopamine — 29
GABA — 22
Serotonin — 20

Dopamine — 2
Acetylocholine — 6
Serotonin — 6
GABA — 12

I interpret this to mean that I am a highly creative individual with plenty of motivation to get things done who experiences a somewhat systematic lack of stability and occasional bouts of not-enough-pleasure.

I've thought about the type of women I'm most drawn to (thinking of specific people here, not some kind of ideal) and how they might score on this test. I would surmise they are also high in Acetylocholine, noticeably lower than me on Dopamine, and noticeably higher on Serotonin and GABA without being too high on either.

What this means to me is the following: someone who enjoys learning things to a similar degree as me (I rarely meet people as learning oriented as myself) but is noticeably less dominant than me, better at enjoying simple pleasures without being too pleasure oriented (I can't relate to that mindset), and enjoying a bit more stability in life without having a stability mindset (which I can't relate to).

The Dopamine issue is important. I surmise that in most couples the man would need to have a higher Dopamine output (focus, nature) than the woman to preserve sexual polarity. Exceptions would be couples where the polarities are switched (a masculine, high-Dopamine woman with a feminine, low-Dopamine man). But that is not my case. I prefer women who are lower in Dopamine than I, whom I can "dominate" (guide, motivate, make plans for, etc.).

I'm curious about readers' hypotheses on compatibility issues after taking the test.

Why I don't Write Much Online Anymore

I haven't posted much here or on any other of my websites for quite a while, and I wanted to explain why. Back in 2002 when I began writing online, there was a dearth of information and the Internet was still fairly new. Over the next 7 years I produced hundreds of articles on different subjects and designed and maintained several different websites.

As a dearth of information turned into a glut, I gradually lost my interest in writing online. I saw the average amount of time spent on my most commercial website drop from 3 minutes per visitor years back to a half a minute or less. People no longer bookmark websites or read through them like they once did. It matters less and less where information is posted; search engine algorithms allow people to find what they are looking for faster than ever.

Furthermore, mega-sites like Wikipedia or Lonely Planet (many fields have a mega-site, or several, that dominate a subject matter) continue to gain influence while niche sites like my own have to look for ever smaller niches to develop a market in.

Another issue is the global trend of spending more and more time online and on computers or smart phones. I don't know about you, but I don't wish to spend any more time in front of a computer screen than I currently do. My healthy maximum is roughly five hours a day. Of this approximately two hours is online. Many people are spending a lot more than this. While I was developing my larger websites, I routinely spent far more than this.

If I have five hours day to spend on computers, that means I have to ration my time. There is always pressure to spend much more than that. I try to spend 2-3 hours writing and force everything else I need to do into the remaining time. The only way for me to get that much writing done is to not have Internet at home, where I do almost all my writing.

Now that everyone has a blog (often more than one) and is posting on Facebook and tweeting on Twitter, I have lost interest in being a part of this online world of quick information "injections" and have switched my effort to writing books and to building offline communities with a very modest online presence. I believe I'm at the head of a new trend, so watch for more people like me.

At least where I live, there is increasing demand for meaningful, structured, face-to-face interaction. That's what I specialize in. I'm the organizer of a popular language club here in Tbilisi where people meet on different nights of the week to converse in different foreign languages. I take people backpacking into the mountains. And I'm doing more and more music-related activities.

I'm also in the process of writing two books that — I hope — will seduce people into sitting down and reading carefully for hours on end.

Dec 15, 2014

My New Book: Frictionless Foreign Language Mastery

Yes, I'm coming out with my first book in a matter of weeks or months! The subject is not socionics, but I think many readers of my blog will find it interesting.

My book is about foreign language mastery — how to gain the most skills in the least time with the least effort and develop a sustainable long-term language mastery practice. As some readers may know, I have been speaking foreign languages for many years and have a near-native command of Russian. In total I speak 9 languages, and a typical day involves communication in 3-5 of these.

What's most interesting to me about the book, however, are the general principles that carry over to all kinds of skill acquisition and life changes. This is what really gets me excited. With the tools in the book you will be able to think critically about your efforts to learn a foreign language or any other skill or habit and make specific improvements to your method to make your practice more frictionless and rewarding (potent + fun).

The material in the book is 100% original and includes a theoretical apparatus that is intuitive and derived from 20 years of practice and observation. I go into depth on not often discussed subjects such as honing the physical technique of a skill (in this case sound articulation).

What makes my approach particularly practical is a simple algorithm (list of steps to be repeated over and over) for language learning that can take you from beginner all the way to near-native proficiency with no changes in the method itself. This is how I mastered Russian, and I now do this with all my languages except English.

The book was supposed to be under 150 pages, but it's growing to nearly 200.

I'll be self-publishing the book with a dedicated website and a print-on-demand option for those who want a hard copy. Some of these details remain to be determined.

If you want to be notified when the book comes out, let me know here in the comments, or send me a personal note, etc. 

Sep 8, 2014

Committing to Lifelong Work Activities

I want to share with readers a thought process that I have found to be very productive when considering long-term professional and personal goals. Recently this helped me to formulate with near-perfect clarity what I consider to be my "work" and how each of my four main branches of activities should be developed over the next N years.

The most important part was to identify activities that I am deeply committed to — things that I want to be permanent fixtures of my lifestyle. If there is a way to turn these activities into a livelihood, then they can (and should — at least in my case) become lines of work.

The process of developing a de facto commitment to something and then incorporating it into a conscious worldview has taken me many years. Many people develop amazing skills in their youth, only to neglect them entirely as they move into their adult years. When you see people doing amazing things in their early 20s, you can rarely be sure that they'll still be at it a few years from now.

Without going into too much personal detail, here is a list of my four main branches of activity and the ages at which I began, developed a de facto commitment, formulated my commitment, and began earning money through the activity.

23; 26; 36; 27

14; 19; 33 (arguably 19); 21

11; twice: 17 and again at about 28; 30; 36

16 (arguably 6); 21; 34; 37 (probable)

To summarize, it seems that my childhood and teens were a time to discover my main interests. My early adulthood (mid teens to mid 20s) was the time to try working hard at different types of activities without making a firm commitment to one or the other. My 30s have been the time to select the activities that I hope to do for the rest of my life and make them a part of my identity.

I view this step as a transition from young adulthood to mature adulthood. It's like I am finally staking out my territory and saying, "this is mine." In my case the territory is mostly ephemeral (skills, activities, and opportunities), but for some people it could be quite a bit more concrete (property).

What happens when you realize that you are in something for the long haul? It's almost like flipping a mental switch. You start thinking about investing in tools that will help you become as effective as possible at your chosen activity, including: special training, high-quality equipment, routines to maximize your productivity, marketing and branding, etc.

In my case, each of my four branches of activity is a world of its own that has very little to do with the other three branches. I don't know how unusual that is. In any case, making a commitment to these branches has always involved considerable action and investments beyond my previous level of dedication.

As I thought about my activities, I came to recognize that each of them involved the following dimensions: ways of earning money one product or service at a time for a specific customer ("active income"), ways of earning passive income (royalties, advertising, scalable systems, etc.), and a social community surrounding the activity that I enjoyed interacting with and being at or near the center of.

Thus, I ended up with a kind of chart with my branches of work, active and passive income channels, and community development. Cells in the chart where I am currently doing little or nothing show me the large steps to be taken in the next few years. In cells where I am already doing something, in the coming years I simply need to take the "next logical step," whatever that happens to be.

I found this process incredibly satisfying and thought some of my readers might find it useful as well.

Jul 1, 2014

A Constructive Approach to Strength and Weaknesses

At certain times in life, for many people, I think it can be very constructive to view strengths and weaknesses as integral parts of one's personality. Socionics can help with this. It can be useful to stop trying to identify with or overcome one's weak areas and focus instead on strengths. I think this is especially important during the active formation of one's self-identify, typically during one's late teens and early twenties.

At other times, brushing off character flaws or overstating one's strengths — especially using some socionics (or other psychological) pseudo-explanation — may be counter-productive. It can keep you from addressing important issues that could improve your quality of life and level of happiness.

Different moments in life present different challenges and require different approaches. There is a time and a place for imbalance as well as for balance.

As one matures, however, one must find a balance where one neither dwells on areas of weakness nor ignores them.

Here's how I've come to view strengths and weaknesses that I used to associate with specific socionics functions and saw as less fluid than I do now.

Basically, I think in terms of "best practices" and "skill acquisition." Every conceivable area of life has its "best practices," be it professional development, housekeeping, or emotional health. You simply happen to know or to not know these practices.

And whether you realize it or not, you already employ certain practices (habits) in every area of life. Your practices may range from "horrific" in one area to "top-notch" in another.

While personality/socionic type may be somewhat predictive of your skill profile, I think it eventually becomes unproductive to dwell on it. You still have to work on your habits, and that's an entirely different process altogether.

It's important to realize that a) almost everything you do is an ingrained habit that is almost entirely automated, and b) neuroplasticity allows for new habit formation, which can be directed through conscious control, though our conscious resources are limited (but they can be grown, too).

Instead of thinking, "I'm just not good at X," you can think, "I currently have low-quality X habits." Then improving this area becomes a matter of finding out some best practices and finding a way to incorporate them. I suspect the best way to do this is through repetitive exercises designed to create automatic habits.

Now, let's talk about "best practices." These tend to be quick-and-dirty solutions that give you 80% of possible results for 20% of the possible effort.

People who, for instance, truly love cooking, may put in a 100% effort to get all 100% of the results. And it's these people who tend to write the cookbooks. Cookbooks don't actually contain the best practices the vast majority of people need to improve their food consumption habits and skills. So don't necessarily count on recognized pros to give you the practices you need.

Constantly concocting complex dishes that stimulate every possible taste receptor in your mouth and nose may be a "best practice" for a chef, but not for a nonprofessional whose goal is optimization of health and well-being.

In other words, best practices for total mastery and best practices for maintenance will take you in different directions.

If "maintenance" is your aim, some of the best role models are people who are clearly above-average in a certain area while appearing to invest uncommonly little effort. Most likely, the way they do this is by applying very specific, tried-and-true algorithms that require a minimum of effort once turned into habits.

When you look at things this way, you may discover that you indulge in many of your areas of strength for purely recreational purposes. Could that actually be unconstructive? Is the value of that recreation greater than the value of developing a different set of habits and skills? Something to think about.

Probably the most effective and painless way to improve a skill is to copy someone who clearly does it much better than you. In the absence of such a person, you may have to look much harder for best practices, searching online, in books, or asking around.

Once you think you have identified a best (or "better") practice that is compatible with your lifestyle and values, it is time to work on habit formation. Depending on the skill, this might mean committing to a daily practice requiring anywhere from one minute to hours of effort. The more willpower and concentration necessary for the task, the more likely that you will need to do it in the morning soon after waking.

In my view, skills — even mental ones — are basically just composed of mechanical habits. "When X, do Y." For instance, "when you sit down at the computer, start your timer. When 20 minutes have passed, get up and walk around." "When a team player near you opens for a pass, start opening for a pass yourself so that he has someone to pass to immediately." "When you feel yourself becoming negative, stop to remember the good things that have happened recently, and why they happened."

With as little as a few days or weeks of conscious effort, you may be able to establish a habit that noticeably changes your life for the better.

Jun 29, 2014

Rick's Self-Improvement Cheat Sheet

Just some notes...

Have trouble focusing on one task, following through on plans, and reaching goals?

You probably need to work on developing your brain's executive functions.


Mindfulness meditation (at least 5-10 minutes every day); going for walks; aerobic exercise; positive social interactions; reading; intellectual skill development; dealing with temptations and addictions; improve sleep quality and quantity.

How to be productive?

Focus on one task at a time; develop executive functions; remove or limit distractions (Internet is a common one); focus on most important goals requiring high concentration first thing in the morning. Experiment with developing a daily (especially morning) routine as you become committed to a particular professional path or skill set.

How to overcome Internet time wasters?

Mild: "Freedom" and other apps that limit your online activity and can be set and reset each time. Moderate: "Intego Family Protector" app (can be set up to only allow you Internet access for certain hours of the day, as long as you give the password to someone else). Extreme: have no Internet at home and find somewhere else to work online.

How to improve outlook and overcome negativity bias?

Practice "what went well" reflection exercise at the end of each day, or some variation thereof. Personally, I spend 10 minutes remembering how I spent the day, the constructive motives behind my actions (even if they were not as successful as I wanted), and the happy moments and feelings of pride and satisfaction, and basically try to empathize with myself. This really seems to work for me, and the efficacy of the technique has been repeatedly proven in experiments.

Top diet improvements?

Cut out all refined sugars and flours. Replace with whole foods. Learn a few simple food preparation techniques in order to be able to maintain a healthy diet. Treat food preparation as a habit formation exercise.

Top fitness improvements?

Integrate walking or cycling or other moderate aerobic activity into your everyday life. Begin a bare minimum strength training routine and either focus on explosiveness or maxing out on reps, which gives you the best hormonal response. Stand, walk, or lie down instead of sitting so much. Extreme: get rid of your car and move to a part of town where you can get everywhere you need to go by foot, bicycle, or public transportation.

Top happiness improvements? 

Supportive friendships, emotional support on a daily basis, meditation and positive psychology practices, basic physical health and nutrition, sun exposure (for some people), hormonal correction (generally attainable through diet, exercise, and stress reduction), improving sleep quality/quantity (for many people).

Down in the dumps and need a happiness injection? 

My personal favorite is to go backpacking with a friend or friends, or even alone. This affects me on all levels and almost invariably does the trick. Find your individual recipe that provides you with a change of pace or scenery and physical, emotional, and mental stimulation.

My favorite sources of information to "keep my finger on the pulse?" 

The Long Now Foundation talks, selected TED talks, Tim Ferriss Podcast.

Jun 11, 2014

Commercial Socionics Project. 1 Person Needed.

I know some people who are looking for someone to fulfill an important role in a commercial socionics project.

This is for a person who sees their future in business, consulting, marketing, and networking, and who is passionate about socionics and its applications.

You'll need to be able to write fluidly and coherently about socionics, help make videos on the subject, and answer people's questions related to a socionics product. You'll need to have demonstrated your ability to do this.

At first this will mostly entail independent work from a computer, helping putting information materials together and doing marketing. As time goes on it will likely involve travel to conferences and events and possibly to colleges and businesses. Public speaking would be involved. Being located in the U.S., Canada, or U.K. is a plus.

The team you'll be coordinating your work with combines people with experience using socionics in consulting and people experienced in software development and startups.

Contact me at gmail address delong dot rick if you think you are a good candidate.

May 2, 2014

The Coming Lifestyle Revolution

It appears quite likely that the next 5 years will see the beginnings of a major lifestyle revolution in the developed world. The drivers are the usual ones: science, technology, and computing.

It is rapidly becoming feasible to measure biomarkers (which reflect physiological processes) in real time through noninvasive means similar to the wearing of a nicotine patch. The technology will be able to show blood sugar, heart rate, etc. From these and other markers much information can be inferred.

Many if not most of the early adopters of this technology will be tech-savvy Quantified Self practitioners — people who quantify certain aspects of their day-to-day functioning for self-improvement purposes. The technology will give them continual access to data they normally would receive only every few weeks or months through bloodwork, etc., allowing them to measure the physiological effects of specific actions and situations.

It will soon become apparent that many practices embedded by our modern lifestyle compromise our health and performance not just in the abstract "long term," but on an hour-to-hour timescale. Poor eating practicies, poor sleep, sitting and hunched-over poses, stresses from travel and other sources, etc. will prove to compromise optimal functioning in quantifiable ways.

Many people know these things already, but having numbers to look at in real time will vastly speed up the process of discovery and experimentation. Many of the numbers will confirm our intuitions, helping us to tune in more to our inner sensations. But there will also be many surprises, as is always the case.

Self-Quantifiers will generally be in a position to modify their lifestyles to optimize the signals they're receiving from the devices. A tweak here, a tweak there — and now you've got higher-quality sleep and the improved metabolic and hormonal function that comes with it. Some creative new poses and regimens for using the computer — and now you've gotten rid of 80% of its negative effects. Integrate walking and movement into normally stationary, sedentary activities — and now you're feeling measurably sharper throughout the day.

The numbers will provide the justification. People will grow bolder, even militant about optimizing their wellness in the face of societal pressures. It will start with the QS crowd and soon begin leaking into other segments of the population.

Software will be developed to integrate with the hardware and interpret and track the results for users. One day you may be sitting at the computer for a while, and your smartphone sends you an alert: "Your X has deteriorated Y%. Are you by chance doing ___ or ___?" You tap the screen to answer, and the software gives you some recommendations to alleviate the situation. Or, after you download the software, your smartphone may repeatedly ask how you're feeling in order to calibrate its calculations to your individual personality and physiology. The software will quickly learn what is your own personal optimum.

At first lifestyle optimization will be a hobby of the modern urban individualists — intelligent, fitness conscious, and tech-savvy young and middle-aged people. But it will inevitably bleed over into public life. First, elite schools will introduce radical changes in practices to keep kids functioning at the highest levels. Movement, standing, and walking will be integrated into learning activities, and sitting at desks will be reserved for writing tasks only. The kids' health and performance indicators will jump measurably, prompting other schools to follow suit.

Eventually changes will bleed over into healthcare, urban planning, commerce, and the workplace. The new health findings will be increasingly embraced by the wealthy, successful, and entrepreneurial, and markets will shift direction accordingly. Naturally, many backwaters will be slow to adopt the new practices, but eventually governments may begin to systematically extend the benefits to all communities as improved well-being comes to be seen as a kind of basic human right.

Health-tracking technology will affect human relationships as well. People will more clearly see the pros and cons of their various relationships and start optimizing them for improved well-being. This will likely hasten the ongoing breakdown of traditional relationship forms, which are ill-suited to the lifestyle of hyper-connected, individualistic urbanites. Partners and friends will focus more on doing things that improve their sense of well-being together in the moment. People will increasingly make relationship decisions based on concern for their health. The range of possibilities will be much wider than "to be together or not."

Again, the numbers will provide the justification. People will be looking for ways to improve their numbers, which are closely calibrated to their mood and sense of well-being. Relationships will become more flexible to allow people to take breaks from each other, share activities and experiences in new ways, and otherwise maximize relationship benefits while minimizing stress.

Not that long ago it seemed that technology was leading us towards a Matrix-esque future, where devitalized blobs of human bodies would sit motionless at their computers, immersed in a virtual reality more titillating than the real world. But surprisingly, technology will actually begin to enhance human physicality rather than suppress it. We will soon be well on our way towards an intermeshing of organic life and computation.

In as little as a decade, the image of a person hunched over in front of a computer screen into the wee hours of the morning may seem as archaic as images from the 1950s of young, radiant housewives in knee-length dresses and aprons exhuberantly washing the dishes.

Apr 21, 2014

Functional Spirituality

There is a fascinating trend in western societies that I refer to as "functional spirituality": using techniques from religions and spiritual traditions to achieve specific psychological results in the absence of religious faith.

Functional spirituality has become possible due to advances in neuroscience and accumulating research on mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Today there is an increasing number of exercises one can perform to improve one's well-being in specific ways that have been proven to work:

  • calm anxiety through meditation, visualization exercises such as "responsibility transfer," and body language manipulation
  • feel connectedness to other people through visualization exercises that activate oxytocin production 
  • improve outlook and mood through gratitude and other mental exercises and through manipulation of facial expressions and body language 
  • recover from illnesses by applying proven placebo methods

Thanks to science, it is now possible to isolate the specific benefits and techniques of various spiritual practices and reduce them to their essential components. Pareto's Law can now be applied to obtain 80% of the benefits from 20% of the effort. This was possible in the past to a degree, before anyone knew anything about neurochemicals and brain waves, but it required a great degree of experience and intuition.

Furthermore, it was very difficult to test different approaches and determine which was better. Few people went from religion to religion to test the efficacy of different prayer and meditation techniques. There was so much "other stuff" that came along with religions that one could not easily isolate the techniques from the dogmas and the social conventions.

Today, with more and more knowledge of the effects of different practices on human well-being, one can theoretically put together an effective, individualized spiritual practice based on one's personal needs and life situation. For those with a degree of conscious control over their lives, it would seem we are entering a golden age of personal spirituality.

Today it is conceivable to establish social groups that perform certain rituals together for the express purpose of obtaining the psychological benefits associated with religious activity — without any religious subtext. However, if the group espoused a particular ideology that they discussed in the context of their practice — such as "we follow the best practices offered by science" — then over time it could certainly develop into a quasi-religious organization.

But one does not have to believe in anything supernatural to do any of this. If science demonstrates that belief in the supernatural is psychologically beneficial due to "responsibility transfer," then one can simply engage in "benevolent Universe" or "benevolent supernatural Being" visualizations to obtain those benefits. One might even say, "I practice belief in order to lower my anxiety levels." The triumph of Reason over Faith is now so complete that virtually all the advantages of faith can be incorporated into a reason-based existence.

Apr 18, 2014

Everything that can be automated will be automated

When I look at how technology and society are evolving, a few simple trends stand out.

Everything that can be automated will be automated. 

Everything that can be digitized is being digitized. 

The people who seem to be making the most money are those who are contributing to the increasing digitization and automation of things. A simple way to find business opportunities is simply to take note of things that could be better automated or digitized. Then find a team, do the marketing, create the product, etc.

There are still a million things left to digitize and automate as we transition to a data and algorithm controlled world. We’re not even close to halfway there yet.

Just look at government. Governance in the future could be reduced to a set of complex computer programs that gather and process data from millions of different sensors and data sources and produce decisions and systems that can then be reviewed by a committee of humans.

Virtually all human interaction with government can be digitized and automated. Even the bulk of law-enforcement and the penitentiary system. Taxation could be fully automated.

Thanks to automation, bureaucracy may soon become a thing of the past. Hundreds of thousands of government office workers will be free to pursue arts and crafts, gardening, and yoga (joke).

I think that digitization and automation can bring wonderful results in manufacturing, governance, logistics, education, and research. These activities engage newer, more analytical parts of the human brain.

What is less clear is how to deal with many risks to individual health and welfare that this trend brings with it on an emotional and physical level. To name a few:

  • wrist/hand, eye/facial, and musculoskeletal problems and pain due to imperfect ergonomics and computer screen technology
  • compulsive use of electronic devices, the Internet, and communications technology and technology related addictions
  • social isolation and psychosocial problems related to replacing person-to-person interaction with online interaction
  • sleep disturbances due to disruption of melatonin production and compulsive use of electronics 
  • hormonal disturbances and negative changes in brain chemistry due to any of the above 

There have been many times in the past when a new technology, product, or system was forced upon people with little thought to their well-being. Perhaps the best example is the Industrial Revolution, which caused (forced) people to move to the cities and submit to many privations — extremely cramped living quarters, 14-15-hour work days, child labor, constant supervision, etc. Eventually, social conscience and humaneness were introduced into the system, and the most extreme ill effects were eliminated.

There are many more examples. Cigarettes now have filters, automobiles produce less harmful exhaust than they used to, convenient but nutrient-poor processed foods are now fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Damage is first made tolerable, then gradually reduced further in proportion to society’s degree of enlightenment.

There is an excellent TED talk called "The Long Reach of Reason" which illustrates how societies have progressively become more humane through the application of both ethics and reason — but with most of the credit going to reason.

Reason makes it clear that inhumane treatment, the infliction of unnecessary pain, and overexploitation of any important resource are ultimately counterproductive. But it often takes a while for reason to catch up with culture and technology.

The current global trend towards automation and digitization is also leading to forms of pain and exploitation that society is just beginning to recognize. People are still very much enamoured of computers and the Internet and are relatively blind to their negative side-effects and unsympathetic towards those who experience them. Others see the side-effects as a minor nuisance that people just need to learn to deal with.

I strongly disagree. To me, the way so many of us use our computers and Internet today can be likened to smoking filterless cigarettes, eating unfortified processed foods, or breathing unfiltered exhaust. Things could be so much better. It's mainly a question of product design.

Let’s exercise our imagination a bit. I don't think anyone would disagree that personal electronics should ideally:

  • help people become more knowledgeable and more intellectually capable
  • help them feel more connected (not just informationally, but emotionally) to others
  • help them learn faster
  • not fragment a person's focus or cause them to multi-task constantly
  • not interfere with their ability and desire to move around and interact with their physical environment
  • not cause them undue pain or distress
  • not interfere with getting deep sleep 
  • not disrupt their hormonal state or promote addictive behaviors or depression
  • not inhibit their desire and ability to pursue romantic relationships

This may sound unrealistic, and some readers may deny the problem in the first place. Others will lay the responsibility for these things upon the user alone ("The Internet itself doesn't harm people; people's choice of how to use the Internet does." "It's not the job of tech companies or the government to force people to use their products in a certain way.").

Let's remember that people once worked 15-hour workdays, breathed poisonous air, and even sold their own children into slavery. In each case a host of logical arguments could have been produced to explain why things "had to be" that way and were unlikely to ever change. The truth is, things can be any way people decide they should be (if there are people left to decide).

As doctors and researchers increasingly document negative side-effects of the technology we use, and innovators come up with new technical solutions, I believe that more and more tools will become available for people to avoid potential detriments to their physical and emotional health by technology.

I can imagine:

  • computer monitors that cause no more eye stress than reading a book
  • screens that change as night comes on to not inhibit melatonin production and can be set to turn off and help you get away from your computer screens at a predetermined time
  • connective technology that doesn't cause the subtle damage that current wireless technologies can (look up "sperm count and cell phone kept in pocket")
  • software that is responsive to your psychological state and adapts the environment (interface) and suggests tasks that are most conducive to preserving a balanced state of mind
  • software that stops you and asks you questions when it detects behaviors that go against your stated goals
  • software that allows you to customize your virtual environment in order to avoid getting sucked in to things you don't want to do
  • software that can be told to leave you alone unless X or Y happens (e.g. an important e-mail, etc.)
  • Internet interfaces that, rather than always offering you more information that you might be interested in, limit this new information to only a bare minimum 
  • fully customizable social media networks where you can choose the functionality you want and disable or minimize what you don't want (like Facebook's news feed and other features that prompt compulsive online social behaviors for those who are inclined to such problems)
  • technology that distills what you want to know from social media networks, e-mail, news, etc. into audio so that you can keep track of what you're interested in on the go, without staring at a screen (as we know, people's visual channel is more powerful than audio and thus more potentially engaging and addictive)
  • technology that allows you to respond to the above types of messages verbally and have it converted into text for the other person if necessary, all without looking at a screen

These ideas are tailored to the needs of self-employed creative professionals like me. People working in offices may have other needs as well. The basic idea is that technology should become almost fully customizable so that people can decide what they want to use it for and have it do just that.

What we currently have is computer and Internet technology that is still largely one-size-fits-all and contains very many potentially addicting elements. These elements seem to make good business sense for software and hardware makers, but they may ultimately prove counterproductive. Once a technology begins inhibiting its user's productivity and personal effectiveness, it has become counterproductive. The producer may continue to profit from the user's compulsive behaviors, but society as a whole suffers as users' productivity and general fitness declines.

If less addictive options become available and people start to choose them over the alternatives, producers will be forced to compete for the consumer segment that is opting out of traditional designs and interfaces. If people quit Facebook in significant numbers because of certain features or the lack thereof, it might make good business sense to embed the functionality that would persuade "deserters" to come back.

Obviously, the ideas I've suggested above will bring fresh new problems with them. People will become used to and dependent upon omniscient, omnipresent software that allows them to find out anything and connect with anyone at any moment. This could become a kind of "god" to people, eliciting a psychological and emotional attachment.

We already have this now to some degree, but only if you're in front of a screen. Getting rid of that limitation will allow people to be more physically active again without sacrificing interconnectedness. It could also allow software to penetrate our lives even more deeply.

One of the ways to overcome the social isolation that increasing Internet use often brings is to live in more compact settlements where people can get around on food and visit a variety of public spaces and interesting venues where they can interact with both like-minded people and strangers face to face.

Fortunately, this trend is already underway in overly suburbanized societies and is called "New Urbanism." The natural complement to an increasingly data-oriented society with high levels of computer and Internet use is an urban environment that facilitates face-to-face social interaction and physical exercise and play to the greatest degree possible. These should be default behaviors by design.

Personally, I look forward to technological advancements in computing and connectivity, provided they do not undermine proper human functioning. There is so much good that can come out of electronics and computing.

Digitization and automation could allow us to continually monitor and respond to ecological changes. Wars could become less and less likely because people feel emotionally connected to the whole world. People could become more rational and knowledgeable given their ability to access factual knowledge in a second or less. Long-standing “tragedies of the commons” could be overcome through computer-aided communications.

I also hope this will be a world of healthy, active, passionate, and socially integrated people.

Apr 6, 2014

Some Thoughts on Relationships and Socionics

The last 9 months have been very good for me. My life has been steadily getting better and better, and I think I understand enough about why the changes have been taking place to maintain them indefinitely. I'm referring to all sorts of changes relating to nutrition, exercise, sleep, hormones, and neurotransmitters, and also to relationships, social life, work, life strategy, and inner development.

Along the way, I have begun to think about socionics again at times. The first time was when I was pursuing a girl who seemed responsive and interested, but the interaction seemed chronically unstable and off-kilter. After a few frustrating weeks of this, I had the thought, "I wonder what socionics could say about this?" I'll admit that making a good guess at identifying her type (a LIE with a high degree of interpersonal sensitivity) brought some clarity and helped explain the imbalances in the interaction.

Since then I've occasionally (but not automatically) referred to socionics when thinking about other relationships. Experiences with other girls, however, have not exactly fit the socionics model. For instance, I had a fulfilling short-term relationship with an EIE ("quasi-identity"). Luckily, I no longer take socionics very seriously and do not let it influence my romantic choices before the fact. If I did, I might limit myself and fail to obtain experience that conflicts with the socionics model. I think I did this in the past.

Interestingly — as with any idea system — the people who engage in developing socionics are precisely those who take it very seriously... This introduces biases and ideological "overshoot" that the less interested may notice, but rarely take seriously enough to do anything about. Within socionics, as soon as people start to strongly doubt the model, they usually leave the community or become less active and just complain about the discrepancies in the background. Naturally, this is a more or less universal characteristic of schools of thought.

I now believe — as a kind of personal rule — that any relationship can or should be pursued if there is passionate interest. 100% interest and sincerity seems to be a much better predicter of having a really positive experience than socionic factors. However, this assumes that you have the maturity and wisdom to not overstep the natural bounds of the relationship and to not force it to be something that it cannot.

Some people (a lot of men) experience strong romantic interest on a daily or weekly basis. They have to find different rules and formulas for deciding how to pursue relationships and may not relate well to my ideas.

Another observation I've had is that a person may go through stages where they become more or less receptive to different kinds of interaction. For instance, when I am in a "socialite" stage focused mostly on my external social life — going out, meeting people, and doing things with others — the whole type thing can be more or less irrelevant. However, if I enter a more work-focused stage with a lot of focused solitary activity, my need for closer and more "high-quality" relationships increases.

I'm suggesting that in some circumstances a person can be perfectly happy without any dual relations or even any close tet-a-tet relationships. As a person's activities become more focused and idiosyncratic, the need for focused and idiosyncratic relationships seems to rise as well.

In the hunter-gatherer societies that produced modern homo sapiens, people experienced much tighter group relationships and less individualized tet-a-tet relationships. The idea of finding "soul mates" in such circumstances becomes largely irrelevant. I believe that a failure to understand or even think about the relationship structure of primitive societies has led to many of the erroneous ideas contained in socionics. As some readers may know, Augusta Augustinavichute believed humans were a pair-forming species and examined their relationships in a modern (actually, Soviet command economy) context only.

I've had the chance to mingle in a lot of different groups of late. Certainly, different groups have their different "feel," and socionic quadras is one way to look at it. However, some of us are used to feeling like outsiders in virtually every group we find ourselves. Thus, using comfort level as a way to identify quadras may lead to never finding one's own quadra because every group is uncomfortable — just to different degrees. For such people, the idea of quadras and their defining role in establishing the culture of a group can be pretty much irrelevant.

In a "socialite" period of life, you may flit from group to group with ease, but few of the groups are particularly well-established or display any set rules and "quadra flavor." As your life becomes more work-focused, you will probably find yourself spending time in more well-established groups. Obviously, the longer a group has existed and the more fixed its membership, the more rigid the culture of the group will be. I think there's much value in belonging to such a group(s) at some point in life.

I often return to the concept of "highly sensitive people" and observe how these people systematically do not fit into socionic type and relation models. They might as well be a different ype, and can be divided into extraverts (roughly 1/4 of HSPs) and introverts (roughly 3/4). Most are intuitive types, but there are also some introverted sensers among them.

I really strongly doubt that an HSP IEI's ideal match will be any kind of SLE, though many aspects of the relationship may be comfortable and convenient. But an HSP is subject to some kinds of feelings and experiences (states of sensitivity, solitude, loneliness, restriction of sensory stimulation, etc.) to a much greater degree than non-HSPs, and will need to find others who can relate to this "deeper" level. If an HSP lacks a deeper sensitivity-based connection with his partner, he may experience loneliness and even alienation.

I find that HSPs tend to have a mixture of intuitive and sensing qualities and often logical and ethical qualities that perhaps make it less important to have a partner who is at the opposite end of these axes (particularly intuition/sensing).

I'm not sure these axes are even a good way to think about relationship compatibility anymore. One of the reasons they enjoy popularity it because they give people them something to think about before the relationship has occurred. It can actually be akin to voyeurism. By thinking about your compatibility or incompatibility (or that of other people) with someone before a relationship has actually begun, you can 1) fantasize about a relationship that does not yet exist, 2) fantasize about other people's relationship (this is more of a female thing), and 3) justify your own inaction in pursuing someone you are attracted to.

I have a lot more to say on the subject of relationships and well-being, but it is all unrelated to socionics, so I will just abruptly end this post here.

Dec 18, 2013

Lifestyle, Routines, and Creative Output

I've been writing now for 12 years, ever since I was 24 years old (before that I kept journals). Much or most of the writing has been done in bursts of up to several thousand words on a nearly daily basis for weeks at a time. Sometimes I've gone weeks and months without writing anything "productive" at all.

During my better periods the writing has gone into some larger project such as a website or a future book. During less productive periods I'll still continue to write, but in the form of essays or pieces that almost no one will read. It seems that during such periods I lack the will and purposefulness to work on large-scale endeavors and simply continue to write because thoughts and impressions build up in my mind.

Lately I've been building up a lot of momentum in life and seem to have begun a new highly productive phase where I'm working on projects that are going somewhere. It feels great to have overcome the doldrums and doubts of the past few years.

What's different this time around is that my lifestyle and routines are entirely self-crafted. I live alone and have no committed relationship that would require making compromises. It appears I've managed — finally — to find that odd combination of factors that keeps me in good spirits and allows for sustained high creative output. As I've mentioned in past posts, my particular formula includes nutrition, exercise, walking, and a variety of shared activities and often intense socializing.

Due to my high sensitivity, I also prefer to protect myself from sensory and information overload by limiting Internet access, shunning media entertainment, and spending large amounts of time alone. I find I (and probably other highly sensitive people) don't do very well in standard conditions, but flourish in special conditions.

Since my current lifestyle fills my needs well and is almost entirely immune to the most common types of external shakeups (relationship turmoil, job changes, addictive behaviors, etc.), I see no reason why I shouldn't be able to continue living this way for another 1, 5, 10, or 50 years. Indeed, there is a new sense of permanence that I haven't experienced for a long time, if ever.

Then I come across this book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. The book contains descriptions of the daily routines of over 150 well-known creative individuals who lived in during the past 400 years.

The typical creative person spends 2-4 hours a day engaging in the most important — and demanding — aspect of the creative process: writing, composing, drafting, or creating original work. This is usually done in complete isolation with no distractions. There are exceptions, but they are few. The creative work is usually done first thing in the day, before errands and socializing. If the creative person has a regular job, it is almost always something that doesn't tax the mind, leaving the person free to think their own thoughts.

Productive creative people also usually "self-medicate" in order to keep their mind in shape for their work. Tools used include: alcohol, nicotine, caffein, amphetamines, and sleeping pills. Other mechanisms include: exercise, meditation, long walks, and sex. I apparently am in a minority with my rejection of addictive substances, but I too do a number of things to influence my hormones and neurotransmitters in a particular way: I engage in near-daily varied exercise, I strip down and take sunbaths during the colder part of the year, and I swear by my fermented cod-liver oil with butter oil.

Another universal among productive creative people is that all of them have a lifestyle that satisfies their needs for communication and socializing on a daily basis. I've come to see this as perhaps the most crucial element of personal productivity. While socializing needs vary from person to person, there were almost no creative people who didn't need a hefty dose of interpersonal communication every single day.

Typically, to sustain creative output people need both someone to bounce ideas off of and share impressions with a regular basis (usually daily or on most days) and unstructured or unpredictable socializing (generally daily). This mirrors what I discovered from long-distance hiking: a good day includes conversation with a friend, a number of interactions with strangers or acquaintances, and at least some group interaction. It can all total up to as little as two hours. Productive artists have found ways to get these three components of communication in a high-quality form on a daily or near-daily basis.

For some more introverted types, it seems that some of this meaningful interaction can be had online. That definitely doesn't work for me or for most other people.

Recharged from an evening of socializing, boozing, card-playing, or whatever she finds relaxing, the productive artist goes to bed and wakes up the next day to continue the thing that their life revolves around — their creative work. They see it as their primary activity and move everything out of the way in order to engage in it.

It seems that creativity, like willpower, is a limited resource. In order to be highly creative in one part of life, one needs to automate other areas. This could mean taking a maid or a cook (yep, I've done that) or putting in the effort to learn those skills oneself and turn them into routines (I've done that, too). It could mean paying the bills through work that one doesn't have to think about much (my favorite was packing Pepsi-cola) or by doing work that is closely related to one's primary creative work.

Doing creative work requires a lot of planning and coordination of complex components, whether parts in a symphony, characters and plot in a novel, or elements of a building design. After straining his brain's executive functions for several hours, the artist may wish to let them rest for the remainder of the day. Having to plan, manage, coordinate, and execute logistics in one's everyday life almost always uses up energy that might have been spent on one's creative product. Developing near-fixed daily routines (i.e. planning once and then just following that plan) and outsourcing management are typical ways that artists maintain their productivity.

While there are a few basic commonalities in the lives of all productive artists, each has found a lifestyle formula that is well-suited to her personality and physical constitution. What works in one's youth may not work in one's maturity. In any case, the would-be artist must come to know himself and have the courage to craft a life that works for him.

Oct 2, 2013

Donations and Commenting Platform for Cyberstalkers

This blog is frequented by a cyberstalker who likes to leave strange, even obscene comments. Strange, but true!

Stalker, please use this blog post for your comments. Everyone else, just ignore this and read the other posts of this blog. I apologize for the strange and obscene comments. I can do nothing about them except mark them as "spam" and hope that the Blogger platform will eventually figure out that they are to be deleted automatically. I can't wait for the day!

Recently, the stalker has begun sending me money by PayPal. To continue this practice, please use the "Donate" button above, since using payment buttons on one of my other sites suggests that you are asking for the provision of a service. To avoid misunderstandings, use only this "Donate" button here, since I have no intention of providing you services of any kind.

UPDATE 10/07/2013

I have found a clever way to keep the cyberstalker from posting on my blog that allows me not to have to read her messages. But this means that from now on all blog comments will be moderated.

History (for the curious) 
I have never met the cyberstalker in person and have had no contact with her other than e-mail (briefly, before her stalking behavior emerged, over 2 years ago) and some exasperated exchanges on the16types.info forum (which I left in part due to the harassment, but also for other reasons) and in blog comments. I never had any intention of pursuing a relationship of any kind with her and never gave her any encouragement in pursuing me further that a rational person would interpret as encouragement. She actually called me once on my cell phone, to which I answered, "I have no intention of talking to you" and hung up. I consider her to be mentally ill, probably suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Luckily, she is very low on funds and will likely never have the money to attempt to visit me in person. For a long time I simply ignored and then deleted comments on my blog, but then I decided to change tactics and systematically respond with aggressive derision and sarcasm, since the image of me that attracted her in the first place was that of a tolerant and understanding person. I hoped that by causing her mental and emotional pain she would stop associating me with something positive and be able to give up her attachment. For a while it seemed like this might be working, but ultimately it became clear that I would have to invest much more time and energy in attacking her then I cared to put in. So I have decided to retreat to my former strategy of ignoring, deleting, and not responding to anything, since it requires the smallest effort from me. The stalker also apparently sends me emails, but they are immediately deleted by my email filter. 

Sep 4, 2013

Optimizing for Happiness

I like using the concept of "optimization." Optimization is central to any serious endeavor. For example, in competitive long-distance hiking and cycling, one must optimize a lot of different things simultaneously: gear weight, gear functionality given probable risks and wear and tear, personal conditioning, diet, habits of energy expenditure and personal upkeep (both physical and mental/emotional).

But there is one category of optimization that trumps the rest: optimization of time needed to get from start to finish. One may choose to take slightly heavier equipment if it cuts down on maintenance time, if the sleep quality will be better, if it will improve emotional well-being and resilience, etc., because each of these things in turn will have an effect on the total time needed to reach the finish line.

One may avoid going "all out" in favor of a pace that is right at the threshold of sustainability. One may look for just the right amount of sleep that allows one to walk or cycle as long as possible while still retaining most of the restorative benefits of sleep. And one will develop habits that keep all systems functioning at a sustainable level without significant dips in performance that would require a longer restorative period and thus hurt the finishing time.

In our lives we also try to optimize many things at once: health, fitness, attractiveness, professional success, finances, quality of childcare, acquisition of important skills, relaxation quality, relationship health, and general life satisfaction.

Each of these things is very important. But is there one category of optimization that trumps the others, as in competitive sports (finishing time, points, etc.) or big business (the balance sheet)? I believe there is — or can be, — and that is to optimize for happiness.

In the past I've written about the somewhat conflicting goals of pursuing happiness versus pursuing biological success. I've found it useful to view biological urges and various personal tendencies as being important to happiness, but as having a life of their own. If given free reign, they quickly become destructive (lead to unhappiness), but if too tightly controlled, another kind of unhappiness results. The way to find the happy medium and optimal expression of one's different parts and mechanisms is to make maximizing happiness one's goal.

What would your life look like if you optimized for maximum happiness? Where and with whom would you live? Where, how, with whom, and how much would you work? What, where, and how would you eat? How would you balance your needs for privacy, companionship, and community?

These questions might sound reminiscent of mundane questions like "what would your dream job be?" or "if you could do anything and get paid for it, what would it be?" The answers to questions like these tend to be things like "travel the world" and "work on a laptop from a Bali beach" and other things that people commonly dream of.

But is what you dream of what would actually make you happy? Psychological research suggests not. People are notoriously bad at predicting how different events will affect their contentment. I suppose people's dreams are more geared towards achieving some variety of biological success than towards happiness.

Now imagine you are participating in a competition. A massive prize goes to the person who achieves the highest average happiness level over a year-long period as measured by some objective metric. You have now turned into a professional happiness seeker; instead of being one of many things you are trying to achieve at the same time, achieving objectively measurable high levels of happiness has become your single most important goal.

Now how would you approach the pursuit of happiness? I'll bet you'd obtain some kind of "happiness meter" and keep track of it on a regular basis during the day. Maybe you'd take notes on what things seem to cause the peaks and valleys. Perhaps there are some tricks to avoid the dips in happiness you are used to experiencing. Maybe, with an idiosyncratic set of tweaks arrived at by trial and error, you can maintain your happiness at a consistently high level over a long period of time.

Somewhere up there is your theoretical personal happiness ceiling, determined by genes and psychological makeup. "Extreme" happiness levels probably express themselves quite differently in different people.

This is just a thought experiment, but I think this is a worthwhile pursuit — perhaps the most worthwhile pursuit a person can undertake. I suspect that most of the things that make us happy are quite close to home and can be achieved with some important tweaks here and there.

Something to think about: do happy people reproduce as much as those who pursue biological success?

Aug 29, 2013

Am I a Body or a Mind?

At the moment I'm experiencing a really satisfying and upbeat period in my life. I have a pretty clear idea about why I feel so good.

I am physically active and engage in some kind of group and individual sports on a daily basis, including table tennis, indoor rock climbing, ultimate frisbee, a brief set of high-intensity exercises, and frequent backpacking trips. As opposed to an individual fitness regimen, I do these activities with or around other people and can't wait for the next session. The social benefits and camaraderie are substantial and increasing as time goes on. I am in great shape, but it's really my body's functionality and health that I'm developing, not just my external physique. The better shape my body is in, the more I feel like using it whenever I have the chance. I look for opportunities to immerse myself in ice-cold mountain streams, something that would have made me cringe two years ago. I enjoy climbing over obstacles and hanging on tree branches. Not long ago, I went canyoning with a group of 10 people. The physical challenges and bonding made for a powerful experience, and I had that rare feeling: this is what we were made to do.

I have finally put in the critical mass of effort to turn cooking for myself into a stable, nearly automatic habit. For the most part, I know what to eat and why. The food I eat tends to be highly nutritious, and I rarely let myself get very hungry like I have been prone to do in the past. I am taking a supplement that is delivering some of the vitamins and nutrients I was low in, and my vitamin D levels are approaching optimal values. I can tell my stress hormones are down and my serotonin and confidence are way up. From the different blood tests I've taken in the past two years, it is safe to assume my vitamin and mineral levels are up and my endocrine system is in a lot better shape (I won't be able to test them for another few months). My levels of alertness are much better; my body feels rested and I no longer fret so much about getting enough sleep.

My mind is clear and sharp, and I once more feel like tackling hard work requiring extended focus and concentration. I love being able to fully concentrate on projects and skill acquisition once again. I feel like I'm finally moving forward in life rather than trying to catch up to where I once was. I've managed to finally set up a great living situation that I expect to maintain long-term. Crucially, instead of having Internet at home, I have 2 places within a 6 minute walk that I regularly visit for online work. One is a hostel with wi-fi that has allowed me to use their wi-fi for a reasonable by-the-hour price. Naturally, I'm writing this post at home where I can fully concentrate on my thoughts without distraction.

I went through some hard times in the past 3 years, including the end of a relationship, adjusting to life in a new country with a new culture and language and no friends, loneliness and loss of motivation, depressed immune function and frequent illness, passing out and narrowly escaping death from carbon monoxide poisoning, changing residence multiple times, living with transient foreigners while trying to establish myself long-term in a new country, banking on a big new project and seeing it fail completely before ever really starting, facing imminent financial problems, and waffling over important decisions. That is the period I came out of this summer.

There are other good things currently going on besides what I've mentioned, but I really feel the main story is about my body and the improvements in my physical life. I was reflecting about this today when I realized that back when I first began studying socionics deeply, I was in a very different state of mind. Whereas now I am very focused on my body, back then at age 23-26 I identified intensely with my mind. What was most important to my self-identity were functions and preferences embedded in my brain and discerning how they expressed themselves and interacted with those of other people.

Now I am firmly in a stage where I identify with my body. All those powers of observation and discernment that were once focused on mental functions and interaction patterns are now directed at physiology. I now study and internalize information about neurotransmitters, hormones, nutrients, and physical processes just like I once mulled over socionics. Well, maybe not quite as much.

When I let on to people the degree to which I've studied my own physical functioning, I find that some are turned off and think there's something unnatural or counterproductive about thinking so much about these things. This reminds me of people's reactions to socionics. People imagine themselves doing what I'm doing and thinking what I'm thinking and sense that it would throw things off balance in their lives. But I'm different from them and it's perfectly okay for me. Self-study for me is like watching a good movie for someone else. I derive great satisfaction and insight from my deep study and self-tracking practice and increasingly have that feeling of possessing a kind of secret esoteric weapon that I had during the period I was most focused on socionics.

I love knowing that I possess accurate, objective knowledge about the different components of my life and how I feel. I love being able to know that this month is objectively better than the previous one and in what ways, and that I have not felt this good this long for well over two years. And I know which areas contribute most to this feeling and which areas are deficient and can be corrected to further improve my life.

For now at least, I am definitely a body. I look forward to continuing to develop its potential and optimize for health and happiness.

Aug 9, 2013

Living Well — Catalog of Sources

I've realized recently that my study of psychology (including socionics), physiology, nutrition, etc. is all based on an interest in living well. By "living well" I am talking not about standard of living or material success, but achieving as high a degree of happiness and contentment as is possible.

Different facets of good living have interested me at different times. Perhaps due to upbringing, my interest in mental and interpersonal aspects initially far outstripped my awareness of influences from the body and nutrition. Now these last two have become very important, and I am slowly becoming something of an expert on them and have had a fair bit of success implementing my knowledge of them in my day-to-day life.

Here is a kind of catalog of good and very good books I have read recently that may be of interest to readers. Following each book I assign it a category in parenthesis and give a very short summary. I heartily recommend all these books.

Rick's "Living Well" Catalog

(last update Aug. 9, 2013)

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (psychology, lifestyle) — proven contributors to happiness according to scientific research, plus some philosophy

The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions (general psychology) — the seven basic emotional systems, their origins and operations

The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal (lifestyle) — what to do to get your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual engines running properly

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It (general psychology) — facts and studies that illuminate how our minds work and how we are able to concentrate and focus our will

The Highly Sensitive Person (psychology) — people who are prone to overarousal, the challenges they face, and the individualistic lifestyles they lead

The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! (skill acquisition) — the principles and practice of skill acquisition with a number of practical examples

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman (physiology) — developing our bodies' potential through wise nutrition, training, and technique, supported by abundant research and self-experimentation

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (nutrition) — study of traditional societies, their overall health, and what they ate

Apr 19, 2013

Interesting Video about Jungian Types and Math Learning

A link to this TEDx presentation was recently posted by Jonathan in the comments of my "Fooled by Socionics" post.


My critique of this video will be similar to what I've been saying about typology for a long time.

It's really interesting to hear about individual differences that affect learning, and I will be excited to hear more about this. On the surface it would seem that the research conducted supports Jungian typology. Students are divided into types, and far-reaching differences in learning processes are discovered.

What this proves is that whatever algorithm was used to divide the students into groups (types) was to some degree predictive of their behavior when learning math. What is not clear is:

  • The relationship between the algorithm used and the theory of Jungian typology. In other words, what assumptions were made in producing the algorithm that do not necessarily directly derive from the theory?

    What I'm hinting at here is that the researchers' explanations of types may differ from those of other Jungian typologists, because the theory is basically unquantifiable. Different researchers might therefore end up with different divisions of schoolchildren with higher or lower predictive value.

  • Is the algorithm used by the researchers actually the best possible one for the purposes of this study? In other words, is there another way of dividing up the children that would be even more predictive of their behavior when learning math?

Occasionally socionists in Ukraine and Russia produce similar kinds of studies which are often tantalizing, but always inconclusive. For typologists in general, the focus is to generate empirical support for the theory rather than the best possible predictive outcome. I don't have much respect for this approach anymore. Maybe it's okay for the early investigation stage of new hypotheses, but it's not okay for a mature theory.

What I mean is that if we have a method "A" that we suppose influences outcome "B," then what typologists always do is — "let's apply our A and see what B we get." They never focus on maximizing the outcome! That would be — "let's see what A will maximize B."

This is probably the single most important idea to take away from my recent posts about why I have left socionics behind. This is what science is all about, and typologists — some bluntly, others more subtly — resist it for whatever reason (laziness and boredom, overconfidence, lack of acceptance of such research among their reference group, lack of research funds, etc.).

Going back to the TEDx video, let's imagine the research was not to "see what this way of applying Jungian Typology can predict" but to "see what method we can find for grouping children into learning groups with the greatest predictive power."

They could even start off using their existing typological method just to get things going. Then, they would look at how these children responded to different math learning methods and environments. Then they would consider whether they might move some children from one group to another based on their observed behavior, or whether there were large enough differences within a single group to justify dividing it further. Then they would try to formulate the key characteristics separating one group from another. They would have to decide whether these characteristics were more discrete or continuous and at what threshold level a person might be switched from one group to another. Finally, they would work on developing the most effective method for dividing children into these learning groups.

At some point, they would have to deal with the problem of the 99 percentile and 1 percentile math students who learn so much faster or slower than the other people with their supposed learning style that it is simply impractical to leave them in the same group.

The method produced might be a 5-minute test instead of a hours-long talking session on the differences between types. Or it might be a brain scan or physiological test done while performing different tasks. Maybe the behavior of interest is so complex that, for now, the only way to confidently identify it is in the classroom, over a longer time span. This might even lead researchers to say — "let's just use our talking session on Jungian types plus the following additional tweaks."

At any rate, the method would be optimized for enhancing math learning and would not necessarily predict any of the other things that Jungian typology is supposed to predict. But it would be rock-solid and other researchers could take it and build upon it.