Inner Space

When learning about a subject, especially a "self-development" one, it's tempting to think that just absorbing the information is enough for changing your life or becoming a better person.

Being knowledgeable about a topic doesn't translate into being able to integrate that knowledge into one's life, to embody its wisdom. This phenomenon is sometimes called "aboutism" and I see it prevalent in our culture. We're masters of consuming mountains of information, absorbing propositions and value statements about the world, but this rarely translates into personal growth or a more holistic understanding of reality.

I think a key reason why people confuse knowing about something with being able to integrate it into their lives, is a fundamental misunderstanding about how we, humans, work. Perhaps the school system plays a role in this confusion, because it over emphasizes facts over principles, passivity over active engagement. Children become information-spouting machines, without a hands-on experience with the subjects they learn about.

The over reliance on facts instead of a lived experience can lead to an impoverished life, one that doesn't have the depth of an embodied participation.

This mode of viewing the world affects us into adulthood, at our jobs and in our personal lives. A study published in Philosophical Psychology found that there was no significant difference in how ethics professors vs. non-ethics professors lived their lives. (They only used professors to avoid any discrepancies in salary or other life factors that might influence the results.) Although the former had higher standards of how one should behave, and a deeper understanding of what makes a behavior moral (they were teaching this stuff for a living, after all), there didn't actually follow through on their own principles. They were deeply engaged in the academic discussion of ethics, but that wasn't enough for the professors to lead a more ethical life than others.

Although it's fairly well understood that we need to be more engaged in how we approach learning new subjects and developing a better life, we still fall prey to the curse of knowledge: thinking that merely consuming information can bring about change.

Perhaps now it's a good time to reflect on your own behavior and determine whether there's any aspect of your life where you're over-reliant on passive information to the detriment of an embodied experience.

Timeless Content

A Nihilist's Guide To Meaning
Kevin Simler | 20 minute read
If you were given the choice between continuing your life in this reality, or plugging yourself to an "experience machine," a life simulator designed to make you happy and fulfilled, but you're basically in the Matrix, what would you choose?

This is one of the questions Kevin Simler, the author behind the Melting Asphalt blog, addresses in his article. He takes his readers on a journey of what meaning in life is and how we can cultivate it, from our jobs, to religion, to space colonization. It's an essay that tries to piece together different interpretations of where meaning comes from, ultimately teasing out a common denominator. He argues that a good metaphor is "meaning is pointing."

Tool for Thought

ChatGPT Prompts

In a previous newsletter, I talked about the now-famous ChatGPT, an incredibly powerful chatbot using language models to generate answers and sustain elaborate conversations. In the past weeks, I've seen countless ways in which people use this tool, from solving programming problems to school children delegating their homework (which led to New York banning the AI tool in its school networks).

But ChatGPT can be much more than a homework helper. The resource linked above is a repository of prompt examples that can be used with ChatGPT to aid you in various ways. They range from incredibly specific (like telling it to act as an Excel Sheet), to deeply personal (telling it to act like a Life Coach), to wildly fun (like telling it to act like your favorite movie/book character).

I, for example, just had a conversation with Sherlock Holmes and I was very impressed by ChatGPT's ability to mimic Sherlock's vocabulary and way of speaking.

Picture of the Week

I asked an AI tool to generate a Mondrian-style painting and this is one of the versions it came up with:
AI Art Mondrian style

Quote I'm reflecting on

Whoever wants music instead of noise, joy instead of pleasure, soul instead of gold, creative work instead of business, passion instead of foolery, finds no home in this trivial world of ours. (Herman Hesse)

Questions for you to ponder

What have you been avoiding lately?
Thank you for reading.

Until next time,
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