Venkatesh Rao Profile picture
15 Sep, 24 tweets, 4 min read
Suppose you operate at 100 watts basal metabolism, and 50 watts for comfortable work.

You plan to do two 4-hour things today, task A in the morning and B in the afternoon

A can go right and take 25w for 4 hours, or go wrong and take 30w for 8 hours. 50-50

B takes 25w...
Your best case power output expectation is 25w for 8 hours. Comfy.

Your worst case is 30w for 4 hours, 55w for the next 4 (assuming you continue to do A and B in parallel)

So your stress level will be in response to 5w output beyond “comfortable”
If you apply this reasoning to everything you vaguely think you’re going to do in the short term, your expected uncomfortable power output = distress level in anticipation

It’s not power output level that causes stress but uncertainty in power output level. Here range is 25-55.
You can expect a variable but deterministic power output profile above basal. For example, sedentary 25w for 4h, gentle walking at 100w for an hour, exercise at 200w for 30 minutes... etc

But it’s the uncertainty band that matters.
Comes in 2 flavors.

Eustress is good uncertainty like the unpredictable power output in a sport.

Distress is bad uncertainty like a fight.

This distinction is not very satisfying. It would be nice to define stress in more basic terms.
I think eustress is not actually different. It is just downside-capped distress expectation. Like playing a sport with safety gear means serious injury probability is pretty low and you can dismiss it. What’s left is “exciting” rather than stressful.
“Bad” expectations are like unlimited downside = unlimited energy demand, all the way to fatal.

That’s why a serious medical diagnosis is way more stressful even though there is very little active immediate energy demand.
Hmm. I think the difference might be reversibility.

The prospect of jogging for 30min at 200 watts (= 360 kJ = 86 calories) is merely eustressful because you expect any muscle wear to be easily repaired through normal rest.

The prospect of breaking a leg otoh... distressful
Why... because you expect a much higher energy load in healing, and possibly never healing perfectly, so the energy demands of the rest of life go up. You can expect everything to be a bit harder. Your base life power rate goes up. And this is without even the pain expectation.
Though, not all irreversible increases in rest-of-life power output are distressful. If good things happen, so that your life becomes more worth living, you might enjoy living it more energetically.

Hmm. So gotta calculate quality of life in terms of the desired power output.
Okay, so final... you recursively back up the energy equation for steady-state life conditions (watts to live, watts that are fun) from deathbed, via irreversible changes. The net rate of irreversible changes that lead to better/worse lives (= “growth”/“decline”?) is the key.
Feels like I’m sketching out an energy version of Schmidhuber interestingness/compression progress type argument.

Stress is the second derivative of rate of irreversible energy[expectation changes or something.
The difference here I think is that the information is not the primitive, energy is. Information can regulate uncertainty and thereby modulate energy expenditure expectations.
Maybe we can define psychological death as an expectation of system-breaking energy surge you know you cannot produce.

As in, “I can’t outrun the lion” sort of thing. All you can do is turn Buddhist extremely fast before the lion pounces.
Happily ever after = terminal boundary condition

= zero watts state of death

But via big maxed-out failed spike, Iike death convulsions

Hmm, macabre thought, what’s the energy load of various ways to die? I think I’d like to glide smoothly to zero.
Energy of course is just one variable in a bodily response. I expect fatal acute respiratory distress isn’t particularly high energy, but the distress will come from the fact that the energetic response (willed+automatic) won’t regulate the pain signal.
Okay, new twist: agency. If energetic actions actually affect the pain/pleasure and expectations thereof, it’s “good” energy output. It’s good if you’re closing a gap, bad if the gap is widening anyway. If you can actually outrun the lion, it becomes a game.
Imagine someone approaching death. Most of the events on the horizon are predictable (tests, medicines, strange hospital environment with strange nurses and doctors poking/prodding you, growing discomfort, increasingly aggressive body envelope violation with tubes/needles...)
But by definition, dying will mean more and more of the tests will come back with bad news and trigger more discomfort and activity. Your overall sense of well-being will decline even as energy output by you and on your behalf goes up, with falling effectiveness. Lion catching up
At some point the ultimate irreversible event horizon will appear. This way, at 49% likelihood, lies a chaotic, energetic struggle and recovery. That way, at 51%, lies the Game Over.

The uncertainty regulation here will break down discontinuously. The mortality singularity.
Well that thread landed in a grim place

💀💀💀

Memento mori
Hmm. I think I’ve uncovered a conceptual question: what’s the difference between regular irreversibility and death?

Answer is approximately “there is nothing it’s like to look back and feel loss from the other side because there’s no continuous I-self making the transition”
Irreversibility assumes a continuous perspective looking backward and forward in time.
Straggling thought. Exercise lowers stress because it recalibrates your sense of how much power you can output. A cognitive “pump” effect that temporarily makes your uncertainty regulation band larger.

Of course it doesn’t last so many just turn into gym addicts.

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More from @vgr

22 Sep
Losing just makes people sad and depressed. What really makes people mad is winning but still failing to get what they thought they were fighting for.
Trump can turn on a dime when it comes to facts and narratives but he has zero ability to pivot emotionally even when it benefits him. He can only intensify whatever he’s channeling.

Sad, depressed loser 2015 energy is now angry winner energy.
Distortions aside, the vote for him is the sad-turned-angry vote. Owning the libs for 4 years straight didn’t make their lives suck less. They had to invent a series of fictional adversaries stopping them from _really_ winning. While saving face with a “we’re winning” narrative.
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21 Sep
If something is worth doing for free, it’s worth doing nerd-out obsessively-compulsively for free.

“Free” implies the purest kind of surplus leisure energy. It should be unshackled from ordinary ROI thinking. You’ve *already* accepted zero returns. So why hold back?
I don’t mean doing it with excellence. Excellence only applies to non-free things. It’s a point on a price performance curve.

True free things (not free samples or loss leaders or freemium or charity) don’t belong on that curve.

Nerd-OCD = qualitatively absurd level of caring.
Anybody who would only do something comparable for money should react like “I wouldn’t put that much effort into this if I were being paid a million dollars”

Money cannot but nerd-OCD levels of caring about a thing. In fact it will discourage it. You’d be caring too much.
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21 Sep
Reactjis need better theorizing as a post-verbal media phenomenon. All I can find is lazy listicles like this. google.com/amp/s/www.vox.…
I have notes on postverbal human condition, but don’t feel like writing it up as a post.

Hmm. Is that ironic or merely consistent. 🤔

The number of things for which there are no German words doubles every 18 months.

Most of the popular reaction gifs have no emotion-word names.
The only one I can label is the Nathan Fillion one. This is the emotion of speechlessness. Now this I’m sure is ironic for my thesis.
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20 Sep
Rewatching Matrix Revolutions. Realizing something has always bothered me. The squid-like machines move like they’re underwater rather than in the air. They’re in underground air but aren’t underwater. But dynamics look lighter-than-medium. Avengers I has the same problem.
I’m not sure of my details, but most marine animals are either neutrally buoyant are they? I imagine the air-breathing mammals and birds like whales and penguins do some buoyancy regulation? Even if they’re heavier than water they’re not THAT much heavier.
Anti-gravity is a fair point, but then why are they “swimming” tentacularly for propulsion? Even underwater thrust+control is more efficient. In air, it’s a lousy way to move. It just doesn’t look right.
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20 Sep
The older you are the less time you have

The less time you have the smaller your largest future project

The smaller your largest future project the less you must know

The less you must know the fewer the details that can trip you up

So you can pay less attention as you age!
This is why people gradually check out as they age. It is very rare for someone’s life to have increasing significance with age past a point. There really is a “hill” that you will be over eventually unless external factors make you increasingly significant with age like RBG
For most people your significance is entirely a function of a) your talents b) the magnitude of your realistic ambitions. Unlike scotus justices or founders of increasingly valuable companies like Steve Jobs, few of us have lives of naturally increasing structural significance.
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20 Sep
Complex systems are sometimes complex only because the cost of caring about them enough to figure them out is too high. Even people capable of nerding out over almost anything can’t find a rewarding pathway to caring. There is no learning curve that’s satisfying to climb.
Like the railroad system is only somewhat less complex than the healthcare system but it offers a vastly more rewarding nerdgramming API. Build/collect models, learn to identify all the types of equipment, learn the history, etc. This pathway is much less fun for healthcare.
I assume there’s at least a few healthcare nerds who build model hospitals, put pill photos in albums, and read insurance policies for “fun” but I doubt it’s a huge hobbyist subculture like railroads.

If there’s a fun hobby there (not quantified self) I’m not seeing it
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