Monday, 13 June 2011

Mind Charting

We are spending this week "charting our minds". This seems like quite a useful exercise: essentially we are trying to draw causal diagrams of our actions and beliefs. It has been accompanied with what seems like an extremely shaky theory of psychology called "connection theory".

You can read about the theory here.
the following is a statement of the core of Connection Theory:
  1. Every mind is such that its beliefs at a moment are determined entirely by it updating its beliefs in the most elegant possible way, given the restriction that it believe that each of its intrinsic goods will be permanently achieved.
  2. Every mind is such that at every moment it exists, it acts exactly in the way it believes will lead to each of its intrinsic goods being permanently achieved
I find the theory entirely unconvincing for a variety of reasons: I won't go into them here, as they are not relevant to whether or not the exercise works, but it has made implementing the exercise perhaps more difficult than it should have.

I am trying my hardest to implement Anna's advice from her comment on my post yesterday:

buy your learning separately from your input into what's useful.

This is certainly a skill that I need to practice, and one that I haven't had too much practice with in the past. Luckily, I have a whole week to attempt to figure out how best to do it, and this was certainly my biggest challenge today. (I almost wonder if this entire week has been set up deliberately as an exercise in practising this skill...)

I've been trying hard to spend as much of my time as possible actually doing the exercise, which consists essentially of writing down an action that you take, then writing down all of the reasons for these actions, and eventually drawing something like a causal network containing beliefs. So far, not much has surprised me about the network (which, nevertheless, I am somewhat unwilling to share with the world), however, the exercise has been interesting if not illuminating, and I'm trying my hardest to give it a shot - there are four more days of this, and hopefully I will be able to report positive results at the end.

I am still struggling to convince myself to plunge into this exercise: one argument I keep giving myself is that if the claims Geoff makes are true then I have a lot to gain from trying the exercise properly. I have not much to lose, so it should be a pretty clear decision, but so far it seems that some part of me remains unconvinced. Hopefully I will manage to convince it over the next few days.


  1. Hi, can you elaborate with some examples about drawing something like a casual network containing beliefs? I'm not sure what that means.

    P.S. Please keep writing these posts, they're very helpful!

  2. Oscar - there's an example of what I mean on page 6 of the second pdf on the page I linked to (3 examples, in fact). Essentially, the game is: pick an action, ask yourself why you do this action; write this down, ask yourself why you want this thing, etc, etc. The idea is that many of these things bottom out in similar final goals, then referred to as Intrinsic Goods by the theory. (the theory refers to these things as Intrinsic Goods... I'm still trying my hardest not to worry too much about the theory, as I'm trying to actually implement the exercise, and thinking about the theory makes this much harder for me).

  3. After reading a pdf about the connection theory I think I understand what you meant about drawig a network of beliefs. It looks like an interesting experiment to make.