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Cold Hands

A question was posted to FI about having unpleasantly cold hands when walking to the car in the morning to go to work. Here are some thoughts about how to think about problem solving in a TCS way. With approaches like these, all problems are soluble and no one need ever suffer.

people bothered by cold hands imagine alternatives like warm hands. they have had warm hands. they know of summer and gloves and heaters.

if the laws of physics didn't allow for other temperatures, most people wouldn't be sad about their cold hands. they couldn't imagine any different, so they wouldn't see a problem.

suppose they were somehow bothered by cold hands that were IMPOSSIBLE to change. a rational person would then go "well i can't change my hand temperature, but i can change my attitude to it." they'd focus their problem solving on their interpretation so the cold feels neutral or good to them.

suppose i had an issue with cold hands in the real world. i don't wanna go to my car to go to work b/c my hands will be too cold. i don't own any gloves or hand warmers. ( http://www.amazon.com/HotHands-Hand-Warmers/dp/B00PX20LO0 )

i also don't want to miss work.

i had bad foresight.

what do i do?

i come up with a plan for how to proceed from here that sounds good to me. it will involve getting gloves (maybe 2 pairs to layer) and HotHands, and perhaps some other things (like a warmer jacket, or a car with a stronger heater, or a portable heater that can be used in a car).

if i really don't wanna have cold hands, i'll call in sick, get the solutions, and go to work tomorrow.

or maybe i'll decide i don't wanna miss work and i can deal with cold hands one more time, given that i'll make sure it doesn't happen again.

i won't want the impossible like that i had better foresight in the past. i'll focus on productive ways forward and come up with a plan that i have no criticisms of. my poor foresight in the past isn't a criticism of my plan since no plan can change it. the poor past foresight could be used to criticize plans that don't correct it. repeating that mistake would be bad. but plans which deal with stuff well going forward won't necessarily have any criticism of them.

Elliot Temple on April 3, 2016

Comments (16)

i'm getting those hand warmers next winter. :)

Anonymous at 7:06 AM on April 6, 2016 | #5103

What would Ayn Rand say to this?

Ayn Rand would know better than you or anyone.

Socrates at 12:17 AM on April 10, 2016 | #5104
Could you tell me more about your idea that "you shouldn’t want the impossible" (https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/9263)? Does this mean that you think things are bad or not bad depending on whether you can change them? In this example, do you think dealing with cold hands today, which you can’t change, is not bad, but you’ll take the trouble to prevent having cold hands tomorrow, because you think there’d be something bad about having cold hands tomorrow?

Julia at 7:32 AM on April 11, 2016 | #5106
the laws of physics require us to go slow. we can never win a fair race with a photon. we can never go faster than c (299792458 meters per second). we can travel at most one lightyear PER YEAR. if you want to go somewhere 20 lightyears away, you have to travel for a last 20 years. that's so long!

very sad? damn laws of physics?

is there something impossible that you actually want, that you think is a problem?

Anonymous at 12:08 PM on April 11, 2016 | #5107
typo. i meant "at least" not "a last". for at least 20 years.

Anonymous at 12:09 PM on April 11, 2016 | #5108
A longer quote from Elliot’s message says: “you shouldn’t want the impossible (impossible to you, which is a matter of what you can control). that’s irrational.” As far as I understand this, it means that the laws of physics aren’t the only things that can make something impossible *to someone*.

Anyway, for example, I think it’s a problem that currently not all diseases can be cured, and people are dying of diseases and old age. Based partly on an idea I’ve heard: if it wouldn’t always be equally good to die around age 120 as to die only when the universe ends, if ever (if we could live that long, then we could consider it a problem if someone was involuntarily killed at age 120), then does the fact that people do die around age 120 *make* this equally good?

I also see problems in the past, but changing the past could mean that at least some currently existing people didn’t come into existence, and that could be considered a serious disadvantage. Or perhaps not, depending on one’s views?

Julia at 12:51 PM on April 14, 2016 | #5116
you didn't answer my question.

you're mixing up issues. something being good or bad, and being coerced by it, are different things.

it'd be better if we cured more diseases. but you don't have to be coerced by the situation.

Anonymous at 1:35 PM on April 14, 2016 | #5117
you should think more carefully about what you want. do you want a cure for cancer? yes?

*how*?

if you would like a cure for cancer in some vague "it'd be a nice goal to work on" way, no problem. cool. me too.

do you want a cure for cancer tomorrow? maybe you're being unreasonable. how do you want a cure for cancer to be created by tomorrow? by what methods? what are you really asking for to happen?

Anonymous at 1:38 PM on April 14, 2016 | #5118
I’m not sure what you’re asking. I’m not exactly asking humans to create a cure for cancer tomorrow, I don’t think it’s really possible. That’s my question: do you think the fact that something’s impossible is a reason not to want it, a reason not to be sad about not having it? And if so, how do you think one could achieve that?

I don’t know how people who’ve lost a (young) loved one to cancer could live without any suffering. I especially don’t know how they could do that while still thinking not only thoughts like “death is bad” and “so I’ll drive carefully”, but also thoughts like “death is so bad that it’s *very important* to drive carefully”.

I’m not sure how Elliot’s essay “What is Coercion?” (http://fallibleideas.com/coercion) applies to situations where someone knows that what he wants is impossible to him, and that the only path open to him is one he doesn’t want. For example, if someone’s lost a loved one, he might prefer a way forward to all other ways forward, but I don’t see how this could stop his suffering. Someone about to lose a loved one in the near future, or about to die (at a young age) himself might also prefer a plan for his own actions to all other plans for his own actions, given this situation, and he can still be unhappy about the situation itself.

Julia at 6:11 AM on April 15, 2016 | #5119
are you saying you want a cure for cancer, tomorrow? and that you want this regardless of how it would come about? you want it as a vague wish without caring to know what it involves? you want MAGIC? and you're sad about the lack of MAGIC? you're sad because we don't live in a world with totally different laws of physics where you have a totally different life? no, you just didn't think about that. your problem is wanting stuff you are unwilling to think about.

people suffer like you're talking about because they refuse to think about what they actually want. they prefer something else other than reality. and they don't carefully think through what it is and find out it doesn't make any sense. if they thought about it more, and actually understood what they meant, and realized it made no damn sense, it'd lose its appeal.

Anonymous at 2:22 PM on April 15, 2016 | #5120
You could say that I want magic, though I don’t want it at all costs.

When you say “it doesn’t make any sense”, do you just mean “it’s impossible”, or are you talking about some additional characteristic of (some) impossible things? Or something else?

I’m not particularly sad myself, but when I think about “something else other than reality”—like everyone having the option to live forever and experience only their favorite things—the fact that I don’t think it’s possible (tomorrow) doesn’t in itself make me like it less. When I mentioned another impossible thing: changing the past, then it was a particular feature of that thing that made me like it less: that perhaps even magic couldn’t undo past tragedies while keeping all good things the same, or if it could, that process could have unwanted effects of its own. Do you think that all kinds of magic would have some unwanted effects? Or that a cure for cancer tomorrow (or even a magical healing of one particular patient) would have the same kinds of logical problems as changing the past?

And what if what someone wants is not different laws of physics, but different choices by other people? For example, if someone wants all drunk driving to more or less end tomorrow? Or perhaps this gets into the question of how much the laws of physics determine people’s future choices?

Julia at 7:20 AM on April 19, 2016 | #5121
> You could say that I want magic

that's dumb. that's your problem.

you should start living in, and dealing with, reality. haters and evaders of reality never prosper.

> different choices by other people

by what methods? magic? persuade them!

Anonymous at 3:49 PM on April 19, 2016 | #5122
By “deal with”, do you mean “react to”, or “accept without any suffering”, or both, or neither…? I think someone can work on solving a problem while being sad that the problem exists in the first place and is unlikely to be solved tomorrow.

> persuade them!

If Alice tries to persuade Bob not to do something that (potentially) hurts her, someone she knows, or a stranger, but she doesn’t succeed, then do you think Alice shouldn’t be sad about what Bob does?

Julia at 2:27 PM on April 20, 2016 | #5123
dealing with reality means trying to figure out stuff to do in your life that'll actually work in reality. instead of all your plans relying on magic and therefore failing. face reality and decide what to do about it! wanting magic or other non-reality won't get you anywhere in life.

i don't see what the point of being sad is. what's the upside? why do it? what's the benefit? what problem(s) is it trying to solve?

anyway, try to get on with your life and do some stuff that makes sense *in reality* (not only in magic fantasies), regardless of whether you're sad or not.

Anonymous at 3:00 PM on April 20, 2016 | #5124
*Wishing* something was true doesn’t have to mean *believing* it is in fact true, and relying on it in one’s plans. Actually, I think that there's a big difference between being sad because you know that reality is very different from your wishes, and believing that reality is as you wish (and so not being sad). And while I don’t know much about extremely bad situations, I think that reacting to them realistically and being sad about them can often go together. In the example of wishing for a cure for cancer: an oncologist actively trying to find a cure might be even sadder than average about not having one yet, if his job includes personally treating patients and getting to know them through long illnesses.

I don’t know if it is even possible to feel neutral or good about everything, at least while “getting on with your life” and not living in “artificial paradise” (see below). And if you think that’s possible, then do you also think that a life that includes *any* joy can be worth living *overall*? And do you think it’s possible to live so that no one can cause you any suffering, no matter what they might do?

I’ve read that future technology might be able to eliminate all suffering and greatly increase the maximum happiness possible, but today’s technology doesn’t work well for that purpose yet, so, for example, (constantly) getting high on recreational drugs is a bad idea. So I think one reason people might want to keep sadness for the time being could be a wish to have a wide range of emotions about things they see as extremely different, wider than what is between indifference and the maximum happiness possible today. Having a wide range of emotions might motivate people to work towards the goals they want.

Do you think people can think their current situation—like losing their young child—is extremely bad, but not feel any suffering? And if so, do you think it’s also possible in those moments when they’re actively thinking about their current situation and how it’s extremely bad?

Julia at 11:15 PM on May 3, 2016 | #5173
it would really help if you wrote shorter and simpler stuff. your comment is all over the place.

and make it a lot clearer what problems/questions you're trying to talk about and what your answers are and why. the purpose of many statements is unclear.

> Do you think people can think their current situation—like losing their young child—is extremely bad, but not feel any suffering? And if so, do you think it’s also possible in those moments when they’re actively thinking about their current situation and how it’s extremely bad?

yes it's possible. but you asked the wrong question and won't be satisfied with this answer. you don't care what's possible. you care more about something like: what's more realistically achievable by people today.

is it realistically achievable by people today? maybe. hard to tell. it's somewhere around the borderline.

i can tell you it's NOT realistically achievable without understanding Popper, Rand, TCS and FI. if someone is way behind on current philosophy knowledge then they won't manage it. it's too hard for conventional people.

Anonymous at 12:16 AM on May 13, 2016 | #5231

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)