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Self Evolving Minds & Machines
The Social Brain
The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. (Robert Pirsig)
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    From Self-Evolving
    The Impact Bias: Future...
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    Mind - The need for a new...
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    Optimism is a political act
    Self-Evolving’s project
    The human species is rapidly and indisputably moving towards the technological singularity. The cadence of the flow of information and innovation in...
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    From Self-Evolving's personal cargo

    The Impact Bias: Future Happiness and Despair Never Live Up to Expectations
    Project: Polytopia
    The Impact Bias

    "Here's two different futures that I invite you to contemplate, and you can try to simulate them and tell me which one you think you might prefer. One of them is winning the lottery. This is about 314 million dollars. And the other is becoming paraplegic. So, just give it a moment of thought. You probably don't feel like you need a moment of thought.

    However, interestingly, there are data on these two groups of people, data on how happy they are. The fact is, that a year after losing the use of their legs, and a year after winning the lotto, lottery winners and paraplegics are equally happy with their lives [graphs of these data are shown in the video embedded below].

    Now, don't feel too bad about failing the first pop quiz, because everybody fails all of the pop quizzes all of the time. The research that my laboratory has been doing, that economists and psychologists around the country have been doing, have revealed something really quite startling to us. Something we call the impact bias, which is the tendency for your mental simulator to work badly. For the simulator to make you believe that different outcomes are more different than in fact they really are.

    From field studies to laboratory studies, we see that winning or losing an election, gaining or losing a romantic partner, getting or not getting a promotion, passing or not passing a college test, on and on, have far less impact, less intensity and much less duration than people expect them to have. In fact, a recent study — this almost floors me — a recent study showing how major life traumas affect people suggests that if it happened over three months ago, with only a few exceptions, it has no impact whatsoever on your happiness" (Dan Gilbert, TED talk 2006).

    One must wonder:

    What influence the Impact Bias has had on the intense futuristic theorizations meanderings, ruminations, and intellectual exchanges that is the SpaceCollective?

    Is it possible that a large portion of the posts on this dynamic infospheric platform are overblown, overreaching, and overprojected, as a result of this cognitive bias that is so robust that even those with the worst possible Amnesia (they always forget who they just met after 30 seconds or less) still fall victim to it?

    Are we overestimating the impact of the future here in the future of everything playground? Are ideas like the Noosphere and Singularity grand products of our overweighting of the importance of future events, and underweighting the significance of the present (or past)?

    Is the existence of this very site simply a product of a stilted reality perspective, a mindframe, that our implicit cognitions impose on our pre-frontal cortices to expect future events to give us more in affective as well as rational currency than it could ever possibly produce? Maybe.

    For more of Dan Gilbert's research on cognitive biases and happiness:

    Wed, Mar 24, 2010  Permanent link

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    johnrod     Wed, Mar 24, 2010  Permanent link
    Fiction tends to reveal hidden aspects through (universal) imagination of the real and unusual consequences of the human condition. As a plot for a story, can initially try to eliminate obvious cliche impressions of risk vs. reward, or decision dependancies, and try to make the best of this predicament. It is the inverse of a loanshark threat, i.e. forced to lose either money or limbs, then both. Would make a differernce if was birth defect, career runner event, or extortion of leadership to sway a key vote. There would be subtle details concerning who, what, where, why, when, and how. Similarly if one’s responsibilities were regulation, investigation, or justice. Consider complications of love, greed, fear, revenge, resignation, in this case not necessarily involving acts of treason. How put a price on anatomy, or experience for that matter? Observe the soldiers’ altruism, doctors’ rationalism, survivors’ remorse or interrogators’ techniques. In practice, there seems to be no specific future, and always uncertainty, so we try to cover bases, including social repercussions. These things can start trends where same events occur to many, leading to side-effects of scale. How is this evaluated on personal basis, e.g. by creating memory and evaluating possibilities and responses? In life, things pass, can now apply or trade-off solutions involving 3D worlds, pharma, nerve rewiring, prosthetics, new parts, regeneration, total recall, cyborgs, etc. Future can allow networked parts or bodies and natural and artificial constructs, through or around empathic structures, or can layer brain cells on most materials, so range of boundaries increased. Or happiness may literally be a commodity for corporate clones. In addition to future, tense can have alternate past or present, cycles, immortality, or rediscovery when appropriate, in the sense of a membrane between ideas and Intelligence or, at least, to punctuate instabilities. Thanks.
    XiXiDu     Fri, Mar 26, 2010  Permanent link
    If it has impact, we call it depression I guess? Naturally we can not effort depression. So where is the bias located? Evolutionary psychology is suggesting that we need to get back to concentrating on survival and reproduction after trauma. Or is the bias the, sometimes rational, deliberation how limiting being paraplegic would be versus 314 million dollars? I think the bias actually lies in the aftermath here.

    Anyway, here are a few posts that might interest you:
    A Much Better Life?
    The Fun Theory Sequence
    David Pearce on Hedonic Moral realism

    Evolutionary psychology* (of course)

    Also in the case of winning a lot of money, I think it is reasonable to assume that, seen in the light of evolution, we should never stay satisfied for long and always seek even more. Perpetual happiness being the analog reverse to depression.
    Self-Evolving     Sun, Mar 28, 2010  Permanent link
    I would pose you this question johnrod:

    Is perhaps this impact bias a manifestation, or rather, covert protestation, brought on by consciousness, against an implicit sense of choicelessness; that is, an unconscious grasping at straws to try to confirm a vicious sense of free will in the face of a powerful evidence to the contrary and despite the statistically unpredictable flow of person, group, world, molecular events? Two atoms can be in the same place at the same time – once atom can exist and not exist at the same time. We may not be in control of our fingertips or guitar strings or love affairs. But we, at least think on some level, we are in control of our reactions to touch, song, and bond; so it seems our ultimate freedom may lie – in our perception of our freedom. And, it is in the future that these perceptions are free to vary and reach heights of unbounded potency and unswerving complexity. Whether or not these projections someday semblance “real life” is irrelevant, because for all intents and purposes they are real life as soon as they 're conceived. In the future we never break the laws of physics because we are the laws of physics.

    The FUTURE is a crowbar with which humankind pries reality from itself.
    Self-Evolving     Tue, Mar 30, 2010  Permanent link
    Thanks for your comment XiXiDu, you raise some interesting points.

    Here is a short response to those points:

    The bias, I would surmise, is a process of automaticity, as are the majority, if not all, of our cognitive biases. For if they were deliberatively rendered humans would not have the same set of across-the-board biases (minus of course some mediating effects of culture, see Kitayama). Also, many of these biases disappear when we are made aware of them, at least temporarily, and contrariwise, they come back once we have forgotten about them (see, Kahneman & Tversky, 1982).

    Evolutionary psychology is a very useful theoretical tool with which to understand, human emotions in particular, however, it is not empirical it is all retro-speculative. I agree that perpetual happiness was not useful to our ancestors adapting to survive in multi-millennial old environs, and so it is unrealistic to pursue this now, when much of our emotional hardware is ancient. The most pragmatic emotion systems in our Darwinian development were fear, anger, and sadness; and so they pervade our lives today: Fear to recognize, internalize, and remember dangers, anger to deter dangers, and sadness to preserve valuable resources by avoiding the pursuance of futile goals.

    This is precisely why, the majority of research that has focused on emotions in psychology has typically been on the three I just mentioned, in addition to other negative affective states, such as disgust. However, there are researchers now that argue for the existence of a unique evolutionary-molded set of discrete positive emotions with specific adaptive functions as well (see Fredrickson, 1998; Fredrickson and Cohen, 2008). For instance, pride has been found to have a unique set of phenomenology, behavior, goals, and expressions and may serve its own survival functions, liking broadening cognition and attention, and stimulating resource building as well as opportunity seeking (Roseman et al, 2008; this paper is unpublished, but I have it if you are interested).

    I think as we learn more about positive human psychology new biases will come to the fore – glass is half full biases – that will give us a deeper appreciation of the adaptive systems that inhere in our genetic architecture and underlie the actions of even the most disciplined and deliberative human. The great thing is that although our biases limit our understanding of the world, and also, ironically, our understanding of our biases, we are in a position to discover and override them when they are no longer useful – taking our evolution into our own hands.