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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