The Brexit

I swore to myself I wouldn't let this crap get into my head, but I am bombarded my brexit-ness in my daily life so I might as well write a bit about it. Is it a good idea? I have no fucking clue. I'm not allowed to vote, despite being a EU citizen who has lived in the UK for over five years already. I never bothered to do the required research about whether or not the UK leaving the EU is a good idea. My gut instinct says it's a bad idea, but I have not poured across the countless articles and documents describing what the effects of leaving versus staying would be. But I am really annoyed at how politicians and media are turning something that could be a purely rational decision based on empirical data and facts into one of bullshit propaganda and dumbing-down of the issue to appeal to the mass public. It utterly disgusts me how this turned out. A politician got stabbed because of her position on the brexit, other politicians are using it for their own personal gain and the more ignorant among the population are using it as an excuse to spew some generic anti-foreigner hate. Regardless of the final outcome, I already am not happy about how this turned out.

Seriously though, do people really see the world as a whole being a better place if the UK and the EU go their separate ways? Even if the UK gets stronger in the short term, I believe if you look at it in a timespan of 10-20 years, the UK won't be stronger from leaving. I have no hard arguments for this, it's all probabilities based on reading stuff on the internet and talking to people who know more about it than me. It might be the best game-theoretical decision to maximize your own benefits right now, and then later, as soon as you get more benefit from rejoining, get back in. But the whole would suffer from that, and the end result could be better for everyone involved if the UK stays in. In the long term.

Also, why the hell are votes not weighted? There should be a general political knowledge test to see how much a voter understands about politics in general, and then another specific one about whichever problem or party or thing being voted on. People who have more knowledge about the issues should be better able to predict what would be the best course of action, and they should get votes that weigh heavier than those of people who know nothing and just vote whatever their family or friends are voting. I seriously don't get why this is not a thing yet. Would love to hear counterarguments to this.

Posted in Daily Life , Thoughts

Lazy context switcher

I often hear programmers complain about being interrupted by people, breaking their concentration. Strangely enough I rarely have that issue. Every time people interrupt me my current context doesn't really get 'switched', rather I just do away with the interruption with the bare minimum of effort while keeping the context in my head. It takes a pretty big interruption to really disrupt my context, but as a consequence I probably seem a bit 'away' when responding to people while I'm trying to hold in the context. In some occasions when I've walked to the kitchen to get a drink, while concentrating on a difficult programming problem, I somehow lose the ability to have regular conversation, and I can only come up with standard replies to things. The same thing has happened to me in the elevator on the way out right after work, especially on days where I had to leave a problem unsolved. Oops. There's pros and cons to not being easily disruptable, I guess.

Posted in Daily Life , Thoughts

A day without a phone

The other day I wrote about how my opinion on mobile phones is shifting. I realize I'm not the first hipster to call out mobile phones on being too mainstream, but it's genuinely how my opinion seems to swing these days. During most days since I'm back from cycling I've tried to limit my usage, keeping it in my bag or facing down in silent mode so it can't disturb me. A few days ago I tried to go all radical and actually left my phone at home.

It's probably too short to form any serious opinion on this, but I can definitely say that it didn't feel quite as liberating as I imagined. It was quite easy to adjust to not having it in the morning; I just put on some nice music on my ipod classic and enjoyed a peaceful train ride in to work, and some pleasant mindwanderings that I wouldn't have had if I was reading Hacker News articles or if I was browsing 9gag.

But it was after the working day that I missed my phone the most, on the commute back. I didn't have much mental energy left and would quite have liked to do mindless activities on the phone. Somehow I've gotten so used to the phone that it costs more mental energy to not use it. That's definitely not right. In practical terms I did not 'miss out' on anything. No important messages were had, and they could have been delivered via email instead. My lack of 'connection' throughout the day did not result in a horrible social catastrophe like being too late to wish someone a happy birthday on Facebook. (By the way I don't do that).

Even on the way back, with a tired mind, I enjoyed more mindwanderings than usual, and felt more refreshed than usual when I got home. Not being preoccupied with the phone is likely a large factor in this, but also the fact that I used noise cancelling earphones to listen to music on the way home, something I never do when I'm playing around with my phone. I'm not sure if a combination of phone play and music is too much, but for the moment at least I don't feel the urge to use both.

Not having a phone with me for the day felt good, but I think it did cost me willpower. But then again, what  kind of self-improvement does not cost willpower? Worth a try.

Posted in Daily Life , Thoughts

Energy

The more things stay the same, the more I change. I'm back at work now. I felt quite energetic and fresh today, which I'm guessing is thanks to the weight loss and exercise. I really need to keep that up. Anyway, here's some short thoughts.

For the past year or so I have been coming completely around on my opinion about mobile phones. I hated my first Android phone, then got a Galaxy S4 which I still absolutely love, but now that I've gotten used to the presence of a reliable phone and internet access all the time, all I can think of is that I no longer want that any more. The mobile phone is a device that seemingly has the power to disturb you at any given moment. I don't give that right to nearly anyone or anything, and my mobile phone certainly does not deserve that privilege. It's merely a device of distraction that does not really better my life in any way, other than as a tool for navigation. I'm going to really try to avoid using it from now on. I might even leave it at home on some days.

Today was my first day back at the old workplace. I walked past the ugly building that I walk past every time on my way to work; the building that had come to represent the worst possible life I could imagine. But it has no power over me now. I no longer look it at with dread or disgust or any other kind of strong feeling. It's just a building now. I used to play with the thought that one day I too would have an apartment, a mortgage, a commute, a girlfriend/wife, a car, a 9-to-5 job and all the other things that I at the time thought would change my life from 'super fucking awesome' to 'normal'. That ugly building that I passed every morning represented that idea to me. I was in the process of gaining all those normal things that I thought would make my life meh-er, but the only reason my life ever was meh was because of my own attitude. I've become used to the change in lifestyle and have realized that at the end of it all I am still myself. The idea represented by the building has proven to be false. So now I walk past it without giving it a second thought. Except today, because I felt the need to blog about it. Feels good.

I've blogged before about my love-hate relationship with time. I had another good moment today on the overground, where instead of playing on my phone I decided to listen to some music instead, which always promotes good thoughts. I somehow ended up imagining how a particular situation that happened today could have played out a million times more awkwardly for me, and then I realized that even if that did happen, it wouldn't affect me negatively in any way whatsoever in the future. All that would remain is the strong memory a terrible day, which I'm starting to think is worth more than a weak memory of an average day. Relating this back to time - if you think about things this way, you can use the power of time to your advantage to get out of your comfort zone and do crazy things, knowing that after a while it'll just be a good, or bad, memory. But at least it'll be a strong one.

Perhaps the above paragraph sounds like obvious, maybe even cheesy life advice. I've heard or read something similar many times myself, but my brain needs to connects the dots for itself, it needs to relate the 'generic life lesson' to actual life experiences that I've had, and it's only after those experiences that everything really clicks into place. It's like you're pre-loading your brain with knowledge for later, to be unlocked once you gain experience, which turns the knowledge into wisdom. I wouldn't dare presume to call myself wise in any way, but the words sounds pleasantly descriptive for the concepts I'm describing.

Real life numbs. Keep stepping out of your comfort zone to slap yourself awake. I hope I can keep this post-holiday energy for as long as I can. Thanks everyone for telling me that you're reading this blog! That means a lot to me. I will keep writing for as long as my energy and mindset allows :)

Posted in Daily Life , Thoughts

Starting over

This week I'll restart my old job after a break period. It might have changed a bit, but I'll be working again with the people I love to work with. I'm genuinely happy about that, and I'm also looking forward to having the next real goal day. I've had plenty of side goals during my break period, but now that it's nearing its end it's pretty clear that the next big goal for me is to just get back to work again. I'm very ok with that. It was a good break, but now it's time to get some work done again. Before I do that though, here's some random thoughts to get out of my brain while I'm still in full awake mode.

I'm not sure if it's the break period, the cycling trip, the weight loss, finally having a decent apartment, or all of the above, but I am feeling supremely comfortable in my own head right now. More comfortable than I've felt in a long time. This current mental state is absolutely worth however long it takes to achieve it. My main goal for my break period was to lose weight; I've gotten started on that, but still have a long way to go. I can already feel the physical and mental effects. I get tired less quickly. I can hop on my bike and do a hill without too much effort. I'll need to keep up the cycling though, otherwise those muscles will disappear very quickly again. Mentally I feel more awake and aware, although that also slips when I don't exercise regularly. Still, I feel like I've made good progress over the past months.

Pursuing extreme emotions is a goal I've recently regained interest in. Apathy is my worst enemy, and when it hits me I don't even realize it. In retrospect, at this current moment of non-apathetic-ness, I can tell that I've been somewhat apathetic about my own life in the past. Not to the point where it affected my decisions; even if I feel less emotionally involved in something I'm still rational enough to make the same choice as I otherwise would have made with my emotions. But I recognize now that some moments in my past have felt more numb than they should have felt. I'm aware of that right now, and it feels like I'm catching up on all those previous experiences, which feels amazing. I hope I can hang on to this awareness. I wish I knew how to make some of the people I know aware of their apathy towards their own lives. But even if I told them, they couldn't care. It doesn't bother me as much as it should. I've never been much of an influencer of other people, and I don't lie awake at night worrying about it. It's everyone's responsibility to save themselves, you can't rely on others to do it for you.

Mind reset. Body reset. Time for the next thing. Epic new first times await.

 

(and epic new first second times, and epic new first third times, and..)

Posted in Daily Life , Thoughts

Experience

I've gotten reasonably 'good' at life. I've somehow managed to keep a job for quite some time, earn some money and even bought an apartment. The rate at which I'm learning and doing new things has declined a lot in the recent years, mainly because I find myself able to have a complete life with just the things I have already. So I focused on optimizing that which I already know, getting better and better at a limited set of things, making my life more and more efficient. Sometimes even without noticing it, I can't help but try to make things more efficient. I've become more rational, more logical, and ultimately incredibly more boring.

Efficiency, no matter how highly I hold it in regard, is without a shadow of a doubt the wrong metric to optimize your life for. You could have the most 'perfect', optimized, efficient lifestyle, but all you would get is a minuscule measure of satisfaction at your own efficiency, and nothing more. Life is made up of experiences. New experiences. Imperfect experiences. Sometimes uncomfortable experiences. But still: experiences.

Efficiency is a trap. It's a micro-optimization that lets you feel happy about your life without seeing the big picture. This doesn't necessarily mean that you can't have a happy life while being efficient, but it's very easy to succumb to efficiency and focus all your attention on it. (At least for me it is.)

New experiences are important, but the more you do something, even if you do it in a different way in a different place, eventually your brain will find a pattern. And once it finds a pattern it will start ranking the activity lower in terms of interest. The eight cycling trip in Japan will not be as exciting as the first one. The thirtieth cycling trip in insert-random-country-here will also not be as exciting as the first-ever cycling trip. This is a fact of life and the way our brains work. Eventually, everything gets boring. (Un)fortunately for us the world is chock full of exciting things to do, and we don't have nearly enough time to do all the things we want in the span of a normal human life.

New experiences aren't free, of course. A lot of us are not yet in a position where we can choose to experience any new thing at any new time. Personally, I need my day job to fund my new experiences, and that is not an ideal situation. But it's a hell of a lot better than it could have been, and I'm really grateful for that. At the same though, I am getting older, and I am starting to feel constrained. I'm training up for a new cycling trip at the moment and I can feel it getting harder to get into shape, comparing myself to the me of only a few years ago.

As I get older it seems that the intensity with which I like things, increases, but the spread of the things that I like, decreases. As I experience more and more things my mental model of how everything connects together becomes more and more populated. I see patterns that I never used to see before. In the same way that I grew out of childhood cartoons I find myself growing out of Hollywood movies. The tropes are all so well-known to me now that I can't help but analyze a movie as I watch it, which to me often diminishes the value of the movie, especially if it's badly done (which most are). There's still some brilliant movies out there that I love watching, and I've watching a few incredible new movies recently as well, but being exposed to so many movies and so many tropes throughout the years has greatly reduced the selection of movies I would enjoy watching.

This reduction of available material for enjoyment feels constricting. It's not just movies either; other hobbies are suffering the same fate: gaming, cycling, driving. Rather than settling for a broad spectrum of average quality experiences I end up focusing on a narrow range of higher-quality experiences. That quality is inevitably harder to find. It's the same kind of thing when I think about programming. I could learn yet another programming language or yet another database system, but what's the point really, if all it's going to do is power something that could easily run on any similar technology that I already know? There's still interesting challenges left, obviously, but rather than being excited about learning 10 random programming languages, I am now excited about learning 1 or 2 functional programming languages. The scope narrows, inevitably.

But that narrowing of the scope is in itself a consequence of trying to be more efficient. I'm trying to optimize my life into focusing on the things that I already know I like, skipping entirely the act of finding new things that I already know are not worth my time (with an increasing accuracy as I get older). Although it seems that to me this is the most rational thing to do, in this case I don't think it's the right thing to do. There is something to be said for coming out of your comfort zone every once in a while, trying something new, even if you've already decided beforehand that you probably won't like it. If you just keep doing the things that you know you like you'll end up in a self-confirmation loop, only becoming more and more who you already are, but you'll never be anything new. Sometimes the overall quality of your life will only increase if your local and immediate quality of life decreases. It's important to recognize that. Otherwise you'll get stuck.


I haven't blogged much lately, partly because I've 'optimized it away' out of my life. I intend to expose myself to a greater variety of experiences in the future. I think it's the best way for me to grow. It's something I should blog about - blogging has always been a great way for me to organize my thoughts and have an inner dialogue with myself. The fact that I've blogged less and less over the years is a testament to how optimized and efficient my life has become - there just wasn't anything new and exciting to blog about because I've been focusing only on existing things in my life. It's not something that'll change overnight, but the observation about my own life as I have written it in this post is something that has crystallized very clearly in my mind and will stay with me in the future.

Posted in Daily Life , Thoughts

Wanting things we don't want

Let's start off hedonistic and materialistic - there's two things I've always wanted in life: a sports car and my own living room with a massive TV. They were both things I always put off until later, either reasoning that I couldn't justify the expense or because my living situation wouldn't allow for it. Having a car in Japan was absolutely unnecessary, and I never really felt the need to pay more rent for a place with a nice living room while I was living by myself. Two years ago, when I decided I'd be in the UK for quite some time, I bought a car. Last year my girlfriend and I moved in together and I finally got my own living room with big-ass TV. Now it's time to reflect and realize that neither of those things were what I really wanted, and I did not get what I expected.

Often what's the ideal image of something in your mind turns out to be very far from the truth when you actually experience it in real life. For myself, I think that, as I strived for the ideals, I optimized my life in such a way that I ended up better off without them. Let's tackle the sports car first. I wanted one because as a kid I loved go-karting, racing games and watching F1. Getting a sports car and taking out onto a track would be the logical next step in that hobby. Plus, I loved to just drive around in the countryside, seeing new sights and exploring new roads. What better vehicle to do that in than a nice, grand touring sports car?

During the years that I didn't own a car I satisfied my driving needs in other ways: I kept playing racing simulations, getting ever more serious. And for the 'wanting-to-see-the-countryside-and-drive-around-bit', I settled on cycling. It might not have given me the range of driving, but any casual drive that'll take you out for a few hours at most can also be done on a bicycle if you take a day out for it. I found alternatives to owning a sports car and optimized my life to them. I got fitter, went on cycling trips, and spent hours on end trying to beat my best lap times in netKar. Then, years and years later, I finally bought a car.

After the initial excitement wore off I realized that what I wanted no longer corresponded to what I obtained. Or perhaps they were never the same and my mental image was always too idealized. Every time I would go out for a casual drive I would be stuck in traffic for the first 20-30 minutes trying to get out of Greater London, something I never had to worry about when on a bike. Any epic hill that would give me a great sense of accomplishment on a bicycle was just a quick drive up in the car, and nothing special. On my bicycle I can stop anywhere to take a picture, by car I need to find parking first. Mostly though, the car brought worry with it. Worry about damaging it, worry about not hitting things on the countryside roads that were the absolute best on a bicycle, but kind of narrow for a car. Also, worry about warping the brake discs on a track day and having to actually pay for parts that you damage, unlike in a racing sim. The ultimate hassle of owning a sports car was just nowhere near worth the satisfaction of having one. I didn't realize that as I was striving to finally own a car, I had already found better alternatives.

The same goes for the TV in the living room. I've hardly used it since I got it, because I'm always at my PC. I've got a dual monitor setup, with the second screen basically a reasonably-sized TV, so I get to watch movies as I do other things on my primary screen. The setup started out as a necessity because neither the room I had at my parent's place not the one-room apartment I lived in in Japan did not have space for both a TV corner and a desk space, so I optimized what was most important to me: the desk space. Now that I've got both of them separate I find that I miss the convenience of being able to do other things while watching TV shows or movies. There's still exceptions, of course; some movies or shows you just have to see on the big screen, giving them your full attention. But I found that for the majority of the things I watch, they're just as well enjoyed while also doing something else.

There's definitely a pattern here: it seems that any hedonistic expense I make ends up backfiring on me, or at the very least was not quite worth it. 'Spend your money on experiences, not objects', is the old saying, which everyone easily accepts as true, but sometimes it takes a personal experience to truly realize what it means. So I guess I'll add that to my list of 'feelings I've experienced personally and now internalized into my mental view of the world'. Lesson learned. The things that I used to think of as substitutes for the real thing ended up being better than the real thing, and I now have a new appreciation for them.

Posted in Daily Life , Thoughts

Funemployment

It's been a week since I started my self-chosen 'funemployment'. As a developer I like to tell myself that the field I work in is so in need of developers that I can expect to find a job any time, but I know that a large part of that is wishful thinking, especially after you've reached a certain number of years of experience (and expect the salary to go with it). It's not easy, and I am in the extremely fortunate position of knowing that there's a place for me to go back to later when I'm done funemploying. That said, I'm not getting paid for anything right now and work is completely out of my mind. It's an amazing feeling that I wish everyone could experience. The mental clarity is overwhelming.

I can't help but contrast this to how I felt when I did my cycling trip last October. I thought it at the time, but in retrospect it's blindingly obvious: I was unable to enjoy that trip properly because my mind was bogged down with stress and worries. When you're already stressed out and you go to a situation that you think should relax you, but it doesn't, it feels a bit like a very slow panic attack. You know you're supposed to breathe slower and relax to stop yourself from stressing out, but your mind just won't let you sometimes. It took until the very last day of that cycling trip for me to really regain that feeling of calmness. After entering funemployment it really hit me after the first full week and weekend of not-doing-work were over. It's the feeling of not being in a hurry, and not worrying that time is slipping away. Elusive.

So what am I doing with my free time? Well, mainly: cycling. Albeit indoors cycling on the exercise bike most of the time, I've set my primary goal for this time period to be to lose weight. I've proven time and again that I suck at accomplishing this as a secondary goal. When I work full-time, even if I try not to think of work as my primary goal, I'm thinking about work at least 8 hours a day. Work becomes my primary goal when I work, it's that simple. It's the only way I can deliver good quality work and be professional. But with that generally comes stress. Not a massive amount of stress, mind you. My work situation is probably one of the best ones in the country. But I am also a peculiar individual with way too many hobbies and a desire to spend a lot of my free time on them. If after work I exercise, I have less time for my hobbies and I feel more stressed out about not having enough time. It's a negative feedback loop; one that I am not happy about but have a very hard time avoiding.

Just cycling doesn't take up nearly as much of my time as work did when work was my primary goal, so I've got a lot of time for secondary goals, without any of the stress of not having enough time, so I get to be creative and experimentful. One of the major side goals I wanted to accomplish this period was to get all my old photos on shutterstock in the hopes of making some passive income. I have over 10 years worth of travel photos. Sadly, the first 2-3 years of my collection are useless because they were shot on a crappy camera and the next 2 years after that are crappy because I had no experience taking photos and all the shots are very poorly composed or lit. Yesterday I submitted a batch of about 20 photos taken more recently, all fairly well-composed (imho of course), well lit and quite tasteful (again imho). They were all disapproved. Compositions that I chose specifically because I liked them were disapproved because of composition, photos that I liked because of the lighting were disapproved because of the lighting. Others were disapproved because of potential trademark issues, not having a release for a person in the photo who can only vaguely be spotted in a corner and is clearly not the main subject, or simply for being unsharp. Clearly, in the venn diagram of photos I've taken that I deem good quality, versus the photos that stockphoto can accept and thinks are good quality, there is extremely little overlap. Now that I know I'm unlikely to earn any useful income from shutterstock, I've scratched it off my list.

Speaking of passive income, another thing I was thinking of doing is to write some technical articles/tutorials. I'm not sure if people would be willing to pay for content like that, though, and it'd be a lot of time spent on something I wouldn't do for fun. Maybe later.

There is one topic I always find myself coming back to for some reason: the stock market. Attempting to do some data analysis on historial stock prices and attempting to make some algorithms to predict stock values is something I'd do for fun, and something I'd go into without high expectations of great success. Yet if I did succeed somehow, it's something that would be very easily scaled up. If you've got the right algorithm, all you need to do to make more money is to insert more money. Of course the quest for the right algorithm is a never-ending practically-impossible one, but that's what makes it actually fun to play around with. I'm sure I'm likely to get discouraged as I learn more and things start getting more complicated, but for now I'm still in the absorbing-all-kinds-of-information phase, which is quite enjoyable. Plus, it's likely to be information that will be useful to me in the future, so it's a win-win.

I wasn't planning on doing another cycling trip any time soon, but I have to admit that the bike is calling out to me.. maybe it will happen.

Posted in Daily Life , Thoughts

Collected thoughts for a new year

It's been a while. 2015 has been a very quiet year for blogging, although I did end up taking more photos than some of the previous years. I've been writing down short notes in Google Keep for the purpose of eventually turning them into blog posts, but find myself just ending up with more and more notes and never in the right mood to blog. But rather than throw them away, I'll write them down here. They'll prove useful to future me.

In addition to the small thoughts, when I think back on 2015 I can clearly notice one massive.. let's call it 'deficiency' in my life: I have too many hobbies. I've reached the point where I've upped my quality of life so much that I need more real-life burdens to sustain myself. Or, to put it in real-life terms: bought a car, started living together with girlfriend, need to pay the mortgage. Thanks to the amazing apartment we bought I never have to complain about housemates or noisy neighbours again, but in return I need to keep it and all items in it clean and operational. 2015 is also the first full year that I owned a car - another maintenance burden. Adding all that newness to my old hobbies and combining it with a now more urgent need to earn income so I can pay the bills means that I have less time ever for just my old hobbies. Oh boohoo, #fwp..

It's the main thing I want to improve upon in 2016: I want to spread myself less thinly. Less hobbies, more in-depth enthusiasm. Some things will have to go, such as the car. Other hobbies may need to be put into perspective given how little time I've spent on them in the past year. But all in all, a reorganization of priorities is necessary. It's time to catch up to where I am in life.

That was the big thought. Here's some small ones. Think of it as me-to-me pep talk.

  • Being good at something might make it boring, but only if you're not careful.
  • A strong appreciation for things can only happen when you are not tired and if you are not worried about other things you could be doing with your time.
  • Pace yourself. Always go slower than you think you should.
  • You can't stuff new experiences into your brain bucket if your bucket is already overflowing. Vacate your brain first.
  • As the body weakens the comfort zone decreases. Keep your body in shape. At least a little.
  • You can't just receive absolute freedom and immediately know how to handle it.
  • Question: if you were in the position of someone who feels guilty about their lifestyle, wouldn't you want to be able to enjoy life without guilt if you were them?
  • Question: how, as a 30+ years old with a steady relationship, busy work and long commute, can one keep in touch with old friends and have a steady circle of people one loves to hang out with every week? I'll be thinking about this one for the rest of the year..
  • Home is the worst place to change yourself.
  • Don't go with the flow. Think for yourself.
  • Keep asking yourself: what is my goal right now?

Time for 2016!

Posted in Daily Life , Thoughts

The Limit

I previously wrote about limits. I don't think I did a very good job in conveying how much this vexes me in real life. Let's try again.

On a good day I come home from work, having worked less than 8 hours on stuff that entertains and activates the mind, and I read a good book, try out a new documentary or attempt something creative. On a bad day I come home from work, having worked more than 8 hours on complicated and/or tedious problems that have drained all my mental energy, and I end up watching Youtube videos for the rest of the evening. It's not that I'm unable to do more on those days, but a) it drains my willpower, and b) when I'm already drained I gain less enjoyment from the things that I love.

This is a problem, because I have many interests. There's a lot of games that I wish to play, a lot of good movies and TV shows that I still haven't watched yet, so many books that I just can't find the time for, and so on.. If I made a list of all the things that I know I am interested in at the moment, I am 100% sure that I would not have enough time to experience all of them.

So why does this bother me? I blame my slow learning and limited mental capacity. Because I only become aware of new things gradually, slowly, it takes a long time for me to really get interested in things. As a result I've built up my real interests quite slowly over the years. Back in Japan I had a very enjoyable social life, but I didn't actually ever spend a crazy amount of time on it. That, combined with the ridiculously short commute time and my still-limited area of interest, meant that I kind-of had 'enough' time to spend on my hobbies. I say kind-of because even then I was aware of the issue, it just seemed a lot more manageable.

Fast-forward to London. New country. New people. New hobbies. And a girlfriend! My girlfriend and my car are easily the biggest changes in my life here, because they inevitably end up at (or near) the top of my priority list. I'm really happy about that and I wouldn't change a thing, but at the same time it did clearly bump the issue of "I kind of have a lot of things I'm interested and that's cool" to "Oh shit! I could not possibly stay as mentally dedicated to all my favorite things as I previously was, and how do I deal with that?"

Intelligence is one issue. It helps you to meta-deal with an area of interest. Take movies, for example. My tolerance for bad movies has definitely gone down over the years. Because I've been exposed to so many movies I can detect common tropes and patterns, and I can recognize the difference between a stylistic masterpiece and a pretentious piece of shit. Within limits, of course. But my point is: because I have 'learned' from watching movies, I can immediately dismiss a subset of movies because I know they are likely to not give me the mental stimulation I want. And here's the thing: if I was smarter, it would take me less time and effort to detect the patterns, and I would grok the genre as a whole much sooner, leaving me with less interest in movies altogether and more time to spend on other things.

I'm not sure if intelligence would help me solve this particular issue, though. If I was smarter I'd probably just end up having more complicated hobbies. Or meta-hobbies. I still want to get into cognitive science and artificial life, but I know that, with my current life and my current priority list, I would have to sacrifice a lot in order to be able to do that. It's not a matter of "just spend one hour a day studying a cogsci book". If I ran my brain at full power for one hour, trying to comprehend something as complicated as cogsci or AI, I would have to spend the next three hours watching stupid youtube videos to recharge. I have reached my limits in intelligence and time, and this bothers me a lot.

 

So is there a solution? In terms of actually tackling the problem: no, there isn't. tDSC was something I thought could help preserve my mental charge, maybe allowing me to spend that hour studying without needing 3 hours of recharge time. But recent studies have either only proved a minor effect, or actually proved that it's detrimental to IQ.

There is a workaround, of sorts: just be zen as fuck. That's the solution. Really. Discard all your electronics, all your exposure to media and information, and go on a long trip, preferably involving lots of physical activity. Live in the moment and travel from A to B with a clear goal in mind. This will not solve any of the problems I discussed in this post, but that will not bother you. You won't care that you're missing out on a really education book on a subject you're interested in. You won't care about the knowledge and experience you're not cramming in your brain by doing the trip because you've overloaded your senses and your body to a point where you can't afford to care. It's a different kind of limit, and in my experience one that's much easier and much more satisfying to live with.

There must be a better way..

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