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Wellness Wednesday for January 11, 2023

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

I am staying in Dnipro for a few weeks, and heard a loud "bam" several hours ago while being in my work office. Turns out, it was a result of a missile hitting an apartment block just by the riverside.

Maybe a thermal powerplant was the real target, there is one just a kilometer away, I don't know. Looks like Russia started to target not just substations, but generating capacities as well, this photo from the recent attack was published.

Also it's not far from a student dormitory where I used to live back in my student years. I wonder whether it is dangerous to work near the windows, as a strike near the office building would probably shatter them and make glass fly. But I generally don't take a lot of precautions — probably the danger to die from a missile strike in the rear areas is somewhat similar to the danger of being hit by a car (though the probability of the latter increased significantly, as power outages mean street and traffic lights not working occasionally). Or should I? It reminds me of COVID safety theater — everyone wearing masks, pouring antiseptics on their palms, but then abandoning most of it after a few months (at least it was like that here in Ukraine). The same with going to a shelter, or at least to your bathroom when the air raid siren starts ringing — almost no one does that. Maybe it would've saved people in this apartment block? But what about psyche of people, or damage to the economy if everyone went to a shelter several times a day?

Meanwhile I'll just focus on preparation for a couple of Azure exams that I need to pass if I'll be switching fields, even though I feel more motivated to keep working on my little pyGame project. Thankfully the war didn't affect me mentally too much.

In the thread down below memory palaces are discussed, but I wonder whether there any benefits to mastering mnemonics apart from getting good at memorizing vocabulary, learning trivia, and mastering some tricks like memorizing thousands of digits of pi, or decks of cards?

Most of mnemonic techniques use "encoding" — you associate whatever you want to memorize with an image, or a place. Some knowledge is easily encoded this way: kanjis, for example, can be split into "primitives", those "primitives" can be associated with images, and a story can be constructed around those images. For example, a kanji for "tea" (茶) can be split into "grass" (艹), "an umbrella" (个), and "a tree" (木). The same with the reading — it is phonetically (and in this case, etymologically) similar to "cha" — "tea" in multiple Slavic languages. But even if you don't know Slavic languages, you can associate it with a "chalice" (imagine drinking tea from a chalice), or any other word with "cha" syllable in it.

The same with lists (of presidents, or historical events, or bones in your body) — you construct a dictionary (key:value pair) of sorts, then link it through a story. There are alternative methods — like using acronyms (e.g. HOMES for Great Lakes — Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior), but they still use a hook of some sort.

Also digits — you can associate each one (or even a double-digit number) with an object, and then build a story with those objects. Cards. Names.

Less pliable are mathematical formulas, proofs, formulas of chemical compounds, programming syntax, general concepts and definitions. Sure, you can use the methods mentioned above for it — but it looks unnatural and just not practical; just look at some suggestions here

At some point you might start thinking whether it'd be worth to construct an intricate series of associations for a single formula, or just to spend 10 minutes over several months using Anki, or even — gasp! solving problems — though, to be honest, I couldn't even memorize the formula for the square or the cube of a binomial back in school despite using it a thousand times, I had to derive it every time. And many would criticize such methods for substituting understanding for rot memorization.

Of course, mathematics, chemistry, programming — all of them already deal with more or less structured information. Knowing that a carbon atom might form only 4 bonds in an organic compound is already sort of a mnemonic. Or the names for standard methods in programming — it's "insert()" and "pop()", not "sldhslfjgfoophs()" and "fhsjhdyfty()". Do you really need tricks to supplement those in-built mnemonics?

Besides, is any of it really relevant in the modern world (apart from learning languages, and maybe some trivia)? In the age of GitHub Copilot and Wikipedia? Sure, you need to memorize the core concepts, but it can be done in sufficient time through the regular studying, practice and spaced repetition. After that, one might think, the memorization brings only diminishing returns. Are successful people in their fields — do they use mnemonics and make a significant effort to memorize things (apart from doctors and lawyers preparing for their exams)?

What are your thoughts?

It's worth keeping in your mental toolbox because it allows you to restructure information into something more human-readable. This makes it easier to work with for overall knowledge management.

As you've noted, this is most critical for memorization tasks. You'll get the biggest band from your spaced-repetition buck if you're integrating mnemonics into good card design. For example, I'll never have to worry about mixing up the layers of the OSI model because I know to ask people Please Do Not Throw Sausage Pizza Away.

And if the fate of the world ever depends on reciting trig ratios I can repel the alien hordes by telling them Oscar Had Another Hit Of Acid.

Outside of exams and party-trick scenarios, there's still value to keeping strictly-curated local cache:

  • Memorizing your ID numbers and emergency contacts saves you a ton of grief if your hand-brain is ever lost/stolen/broken.

  • Memorizing work-related references lets you focus deeper and expands your ability at back-of-the-envelope evaluations.

  • Having bigger pool of disparate ideas to-hand expands the capacity of your unconscious to generate creative insights.

A general knowledge of mnemonic techniques is still useful for information that you don't intend to memorize, such as whatever is going into your note-taking system. Useful notes are, after all, not just a copy of raw information but a record of your understanding for later reference.

So we break things into chunks, turn sets into enumerations, drill down to atomized concepts, find and codify arbitrary connections to what we already know. Everything distilled to down to be maximally useful and readable by Future-You. As a bonus, if turns out this information would be worth memorizing, everything has been pre-encoded and we just need to plug it into our spaced-repetition system for retrieval practice.

Have you ever felt like a spectator in life? Like, I'm not even the protagonist of my own life but an extra. I'm not participating in history, I'm waiting to die. I do not really know where to go from here.

I see this sentiment often enough and I feel like there's a few places you can deconstruct this to possibly understand what's behind the feeling a little better.

"Protagonist" is obviously a term for a character in a story and doesn't really have an exact analog to actual real life. A story is a construction, and a protagonist is basically a post-hoc analysis of story structure, which refers to one or often more central characters the story focuses on.

So using that analysis I don't see why we "should" feel like it should be ideal to identify with this structural trope more or less. A novel is built around protagonists to fulfill its structural and thematic needs. The protagonist construct in itself does not have a moral valence, and there's no inherent reason one should strive to identify ourself with this construct.

And regarding being part of history, it's similarly comparing stories we tell to lives that are lived. It's not the same exact thing, and we all know that historical acts tend to be consolidated into much fewer lives when told as a story, and every movie or TV show will simplify and reduce these characters even further.

I think what has happened is basically that our culture, by being so story-focused, has failed us in preparing for what we should expect from our lives and the effect we have on the world, and what satisfaction we should take. At the same time we've seemingly lost perspective on how many people we are able to reach. 800 people have viewed this thread as I write this, and a good portion have presumably read your comment. That kind of reach with the accessibility we have is pretty historically profound. So I think a solution to this kind of malaise can be a combination of rejecting that our lives must look like the stories we read, while at the same time finding satisfaction in the actually pretty profound reach and influence we all have that is often invisible or veiled by our very high expectations.

Yes, I have and still do oftentimes. If it's anything like my case, it's dissociation. Everything looks like some kind of stage or simulation and I just happen to be there, at the mercy of whatever happens. I have come to learn that it's a result of too much stress.

Is it like that in your case, or a different experience?

Relative to history, we're all just spectators. Most of it is far beyond our cognizance, one way or another, and what little isn't is largely beyond our powers to influence anyways.

As for our own lives...yeah I do, but that's because I maneuvered myself into an impasse and I'm unwilling to make the sacrifices required to get out of it. Nothing to do but ride it out and die, and see what happens along the way. Nothing worth seeing, I suspect.

Sorry to hear you're feeling that way. Sounds like a miserable way to live. I don't know much about you or what you're into and this might not work for you. But personally I would ask myself what I really want. And listen to yourself truthfully and honestly, write about it in a private journal where no one else will ever read it. Come up with the most outlandish things that you can think of. And then ask yourself if it's possible to do it. Or see if you can take a day pretending to do that thing and live that life you wish you were living, instead of this spectator life you're living now. I went through many years of my life feeling disgusted with myself and my situation, but finally being able to lead myself out of it by being honest with myself about what I want, and having the dignity and self respect to provide it for myself, helped me be able to feel more in control of my own life and I'm much happier now than I used to be. Have the courage to stick up for yourself and not be bullied by the way you think others want you to live your life.

So I think I will start using the wellness Wednesday as a personal diary of sorts to process the goings on in my life. Of course external perspective is always welcome.

I have had chronic kidney disease since I was 12 or so. In the 4 months, after almost two decades I finally started dialysis. I am doing pretoneal dialysis. This for those don't know is not same as hemo. In hemo your blood is taken out of your body and filtered. In pd dialysis solution is pumped in to your abdomen through a permanent catheder. It "dwells" here for some time and the solutes are diffused due to the concentration gradient across the pretoneal membrane (everyone has this) then the fluid is flushed out and replaced with a new batch. This happens 6 times during the night at home. The advantage is your are dialysis almost constantly so diet restrictions are lower and you feel better as I heard with hemo as sessions between visits to the hospital are every two days or so there is a build up of toxins.

So currently feel wise I feel pretty fucking good. You cannot tell I am in organ failure. I do bouldering and currently I am stronger than I was before my kidneys failed. I am pushing around 6c+ which is around V5/V6? I can run etc. Of course if I push myself too much I get hurrendous cramps but other than that it's manageable. The golden lining here is I can still urinate. Which is huge. A lot of people of dialysis lose urination meaning they retain a lot of water. So they might need to go on a fluid diet. But overall for me, things can always be worse.

I am currently hoping for a transplant from my mother. Usually these days as long as the blood groups match the kidney will work particularly if it's from a live donor. But the healthcare system here is insanely slow. But I am hoping for April.

There are some things which trouble my mind. Acutely it's the catheder. I have this thing the length of my forearm (outside my body and more inside) that penetrates my abdomen. The exit site scabs and itches the catheder belt is a constant reminder of this alien appendage attached to my body. This vulnerable point of entry snaking its way around my torso in to my abdomen, keeping me alive. I suffer moment of disphoria and disgust at myself. I am highly vigilant when people approach me and I am quite gitterish.

On the more long term. I fear the "life of the kidney" as my fellow sufferers put it. Even with a transplant you always have the fear of it failing and even not the effects of long term immunosuppression are not nice. You are always on the shit end of things. I don't want to take this lying down. I am a fairly intelligent person with various accolades in my current chosen field. I hope to transition to a field that will allow me to fight.

Lastly I am young, I am in a long term releationship with a supportive partner. I want to make her happy and importantly I want to father children. All aims that are complicated by this thing thrust upon me. I hate to feel self pity and I don't most of the time but despite there existing some number of more unfortunate souls suffering much more than I, most people I interact with have no fucking idea the how much of a blessing their health is. So a bit of self pity sometimes is inevitable. But then again there is also a feeling of superiority that comes from out competing healthy people in the workplace and in sports.

One other thing that I worry about are my hobbies. I love climbing more specifically, alpinism. In the last stages of my disease even when I was severely anemic I was at the height of my alpine abilities. I don't want to stop here. I want to keep pushing my limits and rage against the verdict of fate and I shall.

It’s a bitch having a mild mental disorder.

I sit here remarkably sane by all outward appearances. I have a family that I take good care of and have good relationships with. I do well at my job. I am smart with my money and make good, responsible decisions. I get along with pretty much everybody. But inside I am constantly struggling with anxiety, and the fear that the anxiety will get so bad that all of this will fall apart. I am consumed by a fear of fear.

In the past, my main problem was panic attacks. I always had a fear in the back of my head that I might have another and it was quite distracting. But it didn’t really affect the course of my life. I would hear about people who become agoraphobic, or who do all kinds of OCD rituals, and I just couldn’t relate. I’ve never experienced anything like depression. I just walk around scared most of the time.

Getting on medication pretty much cured my panic disorder, and when I had my child I went off meds and a round of CBT kept me from relapsing. I’ve always had health anxiety, but that also fades into the background as long as nothing weird is going on with my body. I have been back on medication for the past couple of years, but it doesn’t seem to be helping nearly as much as it used to.

I always have the thought in the back of my head that my anxiety might get so bad that it will ruin my life. If I read about somebody with intense OCD or who develops DP/DR, I think “Why couldn’t that happen to me?” If these are just disorders of thinking, why wouldn’t my own brain go down that path? It causes a huge spike of anxiety, which eventually goes away and I return to my baseline. I basically live in a world of potential triggers.

My latest therapist was big into ACT, which stresses the importance of continuing to do the things that you really want to do, and just letting the anxiety come along for the ride. I already do that, but the anxiety prevents me from getting the most emotionally and mentally out of those things that I am doing.

One of the things that helps me most is to just understand that my brain is broken. I can’t trust the things it is telling me. That’s very difficult when in so many other places my brain has served me very well. In some sense, my fear of fear is entirely logical. It’s quite clear that anxiety can make you miserable so why shouldn’t I be afraid of it? It’s just an unfortunate reality that it causes this terrible cycle:

  1. I know being anxious is bad.

  2. I know anxiety is something that my own brain produces.

  3. I am afraid I won’t be able to stop my brain from producing more anxiety.

  4. Hence I am more anxious.

The weak spot in this seems to be point 3 - that actually there are ways to stop my brain from causing more anxiety. I’m just having a hard time developing trust in those. An added wrinkle is that I am afraid to examine my brain too much. The concept of consciousness is really scary to me. I am afraid there is a fundamental truth about reality out there that I don’t want to encounter.

I guess it just feels like I’ve hit the wall on what I can get out of therapy, and I’m going to have to always deal with an elevated, sub-clinical level of anxiety that bugs the hell out of me. Thanks, brain!

For what it's worth, I grew up with serious anxiety and Zen Buddhism helped me seriously negate it. Seems silly to some Westerners but the Buddha was surprisingly insightful on what we nowadays call depression and anxiety.

I think our modern framing of the problem is a big problem in itself. Alan Watts audio is a great, relaxing way to learn if you're curious.

My wife has that! It's bad for her, and her having it is bad for me. Hope you succeed in not dragging others down with it.

Eh, I wish I could say something positive.

I mean, like I say, I'm a pretty high-functioning anxious person. My guiding principle has always been to not let my anxiety dictate my behavior. I don't even mention my anxiety to my husband because he's already given me any advice he can.

This is a purely internal experience I'm dealing with, and I'm probably making it sound much worse than it actually is. It's just exhausting to have it there with me every day.

Edit: I do recall seeing a comment you made about your wife (your username always stood out to me for some reason!), and it sounds like she's really struggling. Has she ever gotten any professional help? It seems like CBT would be quite helpful, since she has external behavioral patterns that need to change. I guess the problem would be if she doesn't internally have the motivation to do that work.

One of the things that helps me most is to just understand that my brain is broken. I can’t trust the things it is telling me. That’s very difficult when in so many other places my brain has served me very well.

If your problem is anxiety, I think that dwelling on the notion that your brain or mind are broken is only going to make your anxiety worse. I find thoughts like that to be very distressing and create a lot of anxiety for myself.

I know being anxious is bad.

Why? If it's not affecting your work and your life, then what makes it bad? The rendered opinion of therapy cultists that Mental Health is Important? There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

If your problem is anxiety, I think that dwelling on the notion that your brain or mind are broken is only going to make your anxiety worse. I find thoughts like that to be very distressing and create a lot of anxiety for myself.

I think I explained this better in a follow-up comment, but it's really about accepting that my brain's danger alert system is broken. It's on a very high sensitivity setting and gives me too many false alarms. Understanding that I don't have to pay attention to every alarm has been very helpful.

Why? If it's not affecting your work and your life, then what makes it bad? The rendered opinion of therapy cultists that Mental Health is Important? There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

It's actually the therapists who are telling me that I should accept living with anxiety and it's not necessarily a bad thing. However, I find the visceral experience extremely unpleasant, and I don't understand how to come to peace with that. It's like trying to convince myself that a headache doesn't hurt. That's the big stumbling block I have hit.

Don't give up on changing the way your brain works. It is possible even if it takes a long time and hard work. Most therapists see anxiety as an unchangeable condition of the brain, and if you accept that premise it basically makes it impossible to change.

A lot of this sounds very familiar, especially this:

One of the things that helps me most is to just understand that my brain is broken. I can’t trust the things it is telling me.

Which I've literally said to myself, word for word (didn't help my anxiety in my case though).

I wish I had some advice or encouragement. I was holding out (faint) hope that I'd eventually get financially stable enough to work through it with a psychiatrist, but white-knuckling is the status quo for now.

Yeah, the full story there is that my brain is always sending me warnings that something is dangerous and I need to protect myself. My previous response was to buckle in and try to figure out more about the danger and what I needed to do, and only then decide if it was a real danger. I've come to realize that that's like taking a danger warning from a 2-year-old seriously. I'm just kind of an idiot in that regard, and it's helpful to recognize that.

Thinking about a change in career. I'm lucky that I have the financial ability to not have to worry about the impact on income. I'm a good banker but I will never be a great one. I could follow family into private equity but the business model is changing and it's less valuable in the specific area I'm interested in (and typically recruits a different kind of experience). I've very much enjoyed programming as a hobby over the last year but routes into tech aren't hugely interesting to me (I could try and transfer into TMT, which would be hard but is probably possible, and then move into business development in a bigtech or scaleup, or start completely from scratch, but I don't know that 'business development at Microsoft' is strictly superior to what I'm doing now). The alternative I've been thinking about is law school, but it would mean either committing to the UK (by doing a legal conversion and then a year of bar school, because I'd be aiming for a commercial law barrister position) or committing to the US (by doing the LSAT and then going to law school there), which is big for me. I don't know how invested I am in either of those options. The closest thing I've come to actually accepting is a position in financial comms/PR, but I don't really like the would-be boss in question and doing PR for hedge funds and PE clients feels like giving up on real employment. I would like a family, but as I approach thirty I also feel like ending work here (at least for a decade) and then restarting in some kind of dull middle or back office job when the kids are eight or ten or even five would be an immense surrender of my (admittedly likely imaginary) potential. Ideally I'd spend the next three years getting to a position where I can take a four-year break and then go back to something good. Like everyone else, I don't want to be an 'I coulda been a contenda'.

Have you made a big move in your career? Where's the best place for smart-ish high verbal IQ people these days?

Like everyone else, I don't want to be an 'I coulda been a contenda'.

Haven't you yourself admitted to not being very conscientious?

It sounds to me like going for something really high powered would be a miserable experience for you.

Have you made a big move in your career?

Not yet, but I might have to. I was a great tech lead and am an okay engineering manager, limited mostly by my people skills. No one wants to sponsor the immigration of an okay manager, and the language barrier downgrades me from a great tech lead to an okay tech lead in the vast majority of countries. I might have to go back to becoming an IC, but I need a shortcut to becoming a great one quickly.

Where's the best place for smart-ish high verbal IQ people these days?

Two years ago I would've said tech, but not in a technical role, since high verbal IQ would've allowed you to run circles around the nerds.

Switching from a career that is going ok in IB to law is insane. It's a lot of work to get the degree, you still have terrible work-life balance, it's unlikely to be more fulfilling, it's not going to improve your financial prospects, and you have many years of uncertainty as you try to make partner.

VC is probably more exciting and is more definitely more tech related than PE and people often switch into business roles at startups. Might need to do an MBA to break in though, and then realistically you can't drop out for four years right after.

Personally, I would focus on the family stuff over career ambitions beyond bringing in enough money to be happy.

Why do you want a career change?

It is increasingly popular for law firms and tech companies to have "back to work" programs for people (well, realistically, women) who have taken time out of the workforce to raise children. For example. Maybe something to take into consideration on your timeline. That said...

Have you made a big move in your career? Where's the best place for smart-ish high verbal IQ people these days?

Academia. I can't imagine anything else coming close.

Quitting law practice to teach easily slashed a million or two off my lifetime earning potential. I'd probably make the same choice again even if the difference was ten times that. I went from 60-80 hour weeks to... no longer knowing how many hours I put in most weeks, because literally no one keeps track or cares. When I bother to notice, I find I'm spending 30-50 hours "working" each week, but I rarely bother to notice. Most of it is just fun for me, and the worst part--grading--is pretty minor by comparison with the drudgery of doc review or similar lawyerly grunt work. I get about four months of vacation every year, if I want it.

The downsides are numerous and well-known. The pay is middling-to-garbage, especially given the cost of entry (a PhD, or at least a Master's for community colleges)--I'd make more money after a few years teaching in most blue state K-12 systems. Finding an actual job is exceedingly difficult, unless you're willing to teach as adjunct faculty, but adjuncting is even worse in terms of pay and workload. Pursuing tenure--and trying to get published for that--is annoying for many reasons, not least being that it's a stupid game everyone knows is a stupid game, but the whole enterprise is stuck in an inadequate equilibrium. University politics are kind of bonkers basically everywhere.

Yet in my experience all these problems are minor by comparison with the headaches I encountered in the law and corporate worlds. I think the academics most vocally complaining are those who never worked outside the ivory tower and, consequently, have no idea how good they really have it.

I don't usually recommend pursuing a PhD to anyone who can really see themselves doing anything else--but that's partly because the road is uncertain and the financial stability along the way is very, very poor. But it sounds like maybe you're in a position to weather that better than most. You probably can't do a PhD in four years, but an MA or MS can be done in 2-3 years, qualifies you to adjunct, and if you love it and are good at it, you can sometimes worm your way into a full time community college position--or even a university position if your local institution hires instructors or lecturers at the Master's level. I have many colleagues who completed a PhD while adjuncting or instructing, who became full-time faculty in their 40s or 50s.

What would you add to your emotional-motivational memory palace?

A memory palace is an imaginative, spatial arrangement of visual objects, usually taking the form of a predetermined walking route or the memorized layout of a building. It is a 2000+ year-old memory technique used throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages. With practice you can memorize thousands of “items” placed within a spatial arrangement, and keep them stored for longterm use.

I’ve been thinking about how this technique can be used for an emotional benefit. Let’s say you wanted to craft the perfect space for understanding your own life goals. You want to enter this space in order to remember all of the important whys and what fors of your life. You might also want a space where you can remember all of the why I must nots. What would you place within your space? You can put anything in there: a person, a book, an album cover or image which reminds you of a song, objects which remind you of experiences and scents, anything.

As an example, if your raison d’etre were running, the palace might include:

  • Signs and symbols of your favorite past running experiences and paths.

  • Some people who remind you of the joys of running, or people who are fit from frequent running.

  • Salient images of the glory of continued running. Maybe you imagine a collection of gold objects which signal your progress, and empty spots in a trophy room which signal your future accomplishments.

  • Symbols of your favorite fantasies to use while you run (fleeing from zombies, racing against the clock to deliver an important message, chasing a wild animal or an attractive woman).

  • Some metaphorical reminder that pain is fleeting and laziness is never worth it.

If anyone is curious about memory palaces, Moonwalking with Einstein is a great book.

I like others have tried many times to make a memory palace but fail to have an urgent reason for it. It seems an amazing idea but using software task managers seems easier.

I was thinking about learning this technique, but I cannot find uses for it. So as I understand, it's great for learning ordered lists, and typically the technique is illustrated by memorizing a list of some random words: "sausage", "typewriter", "ball" — a shopping list, essentially. But other than that...

You cannot use it for language learning — other mnemonic techniques are far more useful. Not for memorizing syntax of programming languages. Or mathematical formulas. Or scientific concepts. I guess you can memorize trivia like the list of British monarchs with it? "William II had red hair, so we place a red wig before the TV set, Henry I was titled 'Beauclerc' because he had good education, so we put an academic cap on the toilet seat..."

I understand that you said "emotional-motivational", but I am more interested in scholastic uses for it.

I believe the ancients used it to memorise speeches, which could still be useful today.

You can use it for these things. Whether it is most optimal for school is another matter.

For formulas, you can “signify” various applications of a formula and edge cases in a spatial representation, and then mentally walk through them when confronted with a problem. You can also visually signify things you usually forget regarding the formula. Memorizing a formula is actually an extremely simple application of the art of memory. Numbers are easily converted into images, as are math symbols. You would just need to know a number system, which is what most beginners focus on. The people who can memorize a deck of cards in 30 seconds are just converting the numbers into visuals through an encoding system.

It is ordered, yes, but you don’t need to traverse front to back. You can traverse it just like you’d traverse walking through your house.

As for languages, I think you can find some use by memorizing groups of nouns according to their phonetic similarity.

A friend calls the physical version of this an "I love me wall" where you can put all your awards, etc. I wouldn't call it a memory palace but I have some go-to memories for invoking emotional response, stoking gratitude, etc as required.

  • Some meditation related ones, particularly for 3rd Jhana (cold fall swim to an isolated island), 4th Jhana (particularly good 4th achieved on retreat).

  • Various race situations, some associated with actual pictures, including such classics as "I regret this decision", "lookit me all buff" and "hf I can't believe I finished that."

  • completion of thesis defence where I started slow then crushed it.

  • A bunch of memories generally involving lakes, solitude, nature

  • Memories of my family, particularly children.

I'm thinking more and more I want a tribe, but as a grown-ass adult, everyone seems so atomized, I don't know where to look.

What I mean by a tribe is: a group of people with common identity who meet over and over again non-competitively to accomplish a shared goal. Traditionally, this would be foraging food, but we obviously don't do that anymore. Defecting from a tribal group ranges from forbidden to frowned on. I think this type of group is ideal for human, or at least my, happiness.

Examples that persist in modern society:

  • Military units

  • Musical bands / performance arts troupes

  • School classes, especially if there are collaborative projects

  • Sports teams

  • Creative development teams (eg indie games studios)

  • Informal groups of neighbor parents who take care of each other kids. This lasts while the kids are still young.

  • Advocacy groups and volunteer groups.... sometimes. The ones I've been in don't feel like tribes because there's no shared rituals or pressure about backing out.

  • Church.... sometimes.

  • Work, but very rarely. For the most part everyone is gaming work for maximum personal gain, and are competing with their coworkers for resources, so it's not a tribe.

Am I mising any? Are there ways to predict which volunteer groups, churches, and working environments will be tribal rather than atomistic?

I've wanted to create my own tribe for quite a while, one which could probably best be described as a conspiracy. I think that with very high levels of effort/engagement, a small group of people (5-20) can do incredibly large things. A few people to make the money, a few people to build connections, and the rest leverage skills as needed to get stuff done.

As a random example (more unethical than what I'd want to do) let's say you want some ideas to make their way to the state governor. So you send a few people to move into the guy's neighborhood and join his church, a few more to track him and find spots he visits (maybe a favorite bar?), maybe you send a few people to befriend his kids or something. Then talk about those ideas within earshot, so that they sound like they're coming from all sorts of different sources and are something he should be thinking about.

I guess I'm just saying, I and many other people are more than smart enough to do something about politics rather than talking about it. My actual approach would probably be something like

  1. Build a highly successful business to get crazy amounts of money

  2. Go from there

I'm sure there would be quite interesting options once there, but right now I'd be interested in developing or promoting free school curriculums (Eureka Math in particular is terrible) and funding certain litigation. Step 1 is the hard part, of course.

I have no idea how to get this started. I've spent my whole life looking for people who fill the exact niche that I need with little success--people here on themotte are the closest so far. Seems like the real way to do this is to either get rich and fund an organization, or join an organization funded by 1 rich person.

I've wanted to create my own tribe for quite a while, one which could probably best be described as a conspiracy.

(1) Build a highly successful business to get crazy amounts of money

Step 1 is the hard part, of course.

Step 0 is actually the hardest part. Step 0 is finding the right group with the right shared memes that they won't defect, even when the tribe has lots of capital that can be siphoned off for individual ends. An unbelievable number of starry-eyed do-gooder organizations have completed Step 1, but became corrupt, full of sinecures, and spent most of their energy on self-perpetuation rather than their sticker goal.

Take Christianity in the second century, which looks like a kind of confederacy of tribes. Christianity took over the world because it instilled an ideology on its members where they would not defect, where they continued to tithe their spare income, spread the good news, and obey their pesbyteroi no matter what. They refused to compromise on doctrine. Even when Diocletion and Galerius forbid Christians from careers, tortured them, killed them they did not defect. This is the nature of conspiracy that completed Step 0 successfully, then took about 250 years to do Step 1.

I would recommend, if you want a tribe with the level of cohesion to change the world, you must first become a prophet. As for making such a tribe out of The Motte, that may be like herding cats. Contrarianism is good for perceiving truth, but it makes for easy defectors.

That said, tribing up with rationalists is interesting idea. But they're very spread out and tend to have good things going where they are.

Good point. I do think that it's much easier to change the world nowadays--those with intelligence have much larger levers than they used to. So hopefully step 0 will be made easier because the group will be so much smaller.

TBH I've pretty much given up on the dream, and am now hopeful to just grow rich myself and then go from there. I've been wanting to do a big effortpost on this for a while, but too busy getting rich lol. Seems like the modus operandi of billionaires is to surround themselves with intelligent people who help them manage everything, and that sounds like a perfect starting point to me, if sadly lacking in true loyalty and unity of purpose.

I wouldn't want to team up with rationalists so much as TheMotte rationalists in particular. I think the former has essentially lost to Berkeley (great essay btw if you haven't read it) and attempts to resurrect the original purpose now seem quite prone to entryism.

You missed co-living arrangements, from full on communes to lesser degrees of sharing and (edited to add) Monastic orders.

Modernity is corrosive to the sort of tribe you're interested in primarily because of the optionality of almost everything now. The glue of a tribe is commitment, and nothing leads to commitment like a lack of options. There was a common goal of survival against other tribes, starvation, wild animals, etc. There are plausible hand wavy arguments that the strong aversion to social exclusion is adaptive due to the likelihood of dying if you were shunned or banished. See also Robin Hanson's view on medicine. No doubt most such arrangements sucked in many ways, but the alternatives were far worse.

Back in the day, few had the option to leave due to cost and risk. Nowadays, bye bye I've moving to the Bay Area I hear the people there are cool.

Everyone wants the benefits of being part of a tribe, nobody wants the burden of it.

co-living arrangements

I used to live in a 9 people no-rules coliving house.

It was the best time. I almost tear up at the idea of how fucking amazing it was.

The rent was low, the house was massive, we had a garden & multiple parking spots in one of the US's densest cities. The house came furnished, it was fully stocked with everything you needed (because everyone brought a little bit). People have no idea how easy living logistics are when you have 9 responsible-adults working towards keeping their house nice.

We did trips together, parties together, watched movies or just chilled. You have At the same time, your room was your space, and within-room privacy was strongly preserved.

The most important part of making it work is to have really stringent interviews. We used to ask some intense questions to make sure everyone in the house was some level of open-minded, easy going, accommodating, independent & looking for community. And I want to be clear that this isn't about being liberal/blue coded. You had French Laïcité types, generic white dudes, hyper-liberal BLM organizers, anti-tribalist Motte contributors (me), a well-read communist, party girls & just good old pot heads. It helped that everyone in the house had a high enough social IQ to not go saying stupidly opinionated shit. But, other than that, such a structure is very doable as long as the basics fit.

After that, it has been hard to find a house that big again. So, I have lived in a house with 4 people, then 5 people, and will likely be living in a situation with 4 of us in 2023. Later houses have also been a little more homogenous (in race & profession). But, I'm hooked.

I just wish it was easier to find places like these. When I buy a house, I am totally buying a huge one and building a community like this. (It is very economically rewarding too.)

This sort of commune style living situation has always interested me, but I honestly think I don’t have the social chops to make such a thing work for me. Did it feel like there was any sort of hierarchy within your commune? Was there anyone who seemed/felt like an outcast? I suppose the interview process would take care of that sort of thing, but I am curious. I could see this being one helluva good time if everyone was on the same social status playing field. I also start to really get annoyed by people (even good friends) within a day or so, so that would also be an issue for me.

Thanks for the idea. That does get my blood flowing.

I suspect in the end @naraburns is correct that I'm pining for a family, but I feel I need some kind of... something to tide me over while that's in the hopper.

It sounds like what you're looking for is, first and foremost, a family. Family is the ultimate common identity; cohabiting and working together to maintain a household is the ultimate meeting and shared goal. Defection is deeply disapproved. This type of group is ideal for human happiness in all but the edgiest of edge cases. Even your example of "informal groups of neighbor parents" is a step or two removed from just having a bunch of kids and grandkids--which is, of course, what "tribe" largely connotes (plus or minus a degree of consanguinity here and there).

Such groups pose some threat to both the idealized atomism of contemporary liberalism and the apotheosis of government that rests at the heart of contemporary collectivism, so the fact that families continue to exist at all strikes me as strong proof of their being rooted in human biological reality.

If you haven't already got a close knit family, then making one takes a lot of patience and the cooperation of at least one other person--a spouse. In my experience, the most functional "ready made" tribes are probably church communities, due to the ease of joining and the (usually) clear conditions for good standing. Churches (provided they are not progressive-oriented churches) are also often good places to find people who value traditional family-style tribes, thus increasing your chances of finding a spouse, if you haven't already got one. The other groups you named can also function in this way, but you run the risk of being accused of misusing the group (workplace romances are often discouraged, people may complain that they didn't join the band/team/advocacy group to get hit on, etc.). But if you're not personally religious, of course, faking it for the benefits is also often frowned upon.

One thing that isn't explicitly on your list is just hobby groups, like board game groups or rationalist meetups. Another, perhaps less healthy version would just be "drinking buddies"--or, I suppose, some kind of organized crime (like a gang), if we're looking to make an exhaustive list.

But if it's at all possible for you, I personally do highly recommend the project of raising a bunch of children.

So the spinach, kale, chard, and even broccoli in my garden is all putting on new growth, which is incredible given that it was all under a foot of snow in 10F temps over Christmas, and the chard was literally a liquefied rotting mess.

I was about to tear out some flowering broccoli when a humming bird flew up and started slurping on it. In January!

Think I'm going to start my spring planting this weekend. Temps in the high 40s to low 50s. Should be able to throw enough cold frames together ahead of any freezing spells, which will probably happen in Feb after the la Nina stops pulling all this hot wind up from the south east.

Pasture has already put on 3-4", which is a miracle after a dry fall with no rebound. Was worried I hadn't put away enough hay, but maybe it'll be alright.

So the spinach, kale, chard, and even broccoli in my garden is all putting on new growth, which is incredible given that it was all under a foot of snow in 10F temps over Christmas.

Nice! Brassica is very resilient to cold temperatures. Parsley as well.