Monday 4 November 2013

How do I predict the value (to me) of things which I have not experienced? (Getting colder... Getting warmer...)


How can I predict what is right for me, what has value to me? A job, a relationship, a church?

In life it is impossible to try everything in order to find out what it is like, and even if you have tried something then you always need to try it for longer or with greater commitment before knowing what it is really like.

Given the number of things that might be tried, and that most of these things are harmful in one way or another - clearly it is neither possible nor desirable to try everything.

Trying things is costly.


I have a way of evaluating things which I am considering, which is a bit like the game of "Getting warmer... Getting colder..." when something has been hidden in a room, and another child comes in to search for it, and if they get closer you say "Getting warmer..." but if they are getting further from it you say "Getting colder...".

What I do is to starting finding-out about the thing - reading about it, paying visits, talking with people, trying it out and so on.

When I do so either I like it more and more, the more I find out (Getting warmer...); or the more I find out, the less I like it - the more bored, repelled, oppressed I feel (Getting colder...).

I use this test to discover whether I should go ahead with it or not.


For example with jobs. If I was considering applying for a job somewhere I would read about it, talk to people it, and if possible visit the workplace.

Of course, I have no way of knowing whether it really works - since once a decision is made there is no counter-factual; and the method has not stopped me making errors.

And I have a sense that the method is asymmetrical - and that Getting-colder is more a more reliable guide than Getting-warmer.

For example, with respect to jobs, I have often felt a repulsion which got stronger the more I learned about it, the further I got into the application process. I have seldom felt anything positive as strongly as that repulsion - but this probably reflects the reality of jobs, and careers. 

Plus, there may have been nothing sensed but varying degrees of coldness, so I was not choosing warmth so much as minimizing chill. The 'best' job was often the least-worst job.


This is also what I have done about Christian denominations since I became a Christian.

I have explored different churches through reading, conversations, visits... and reflected on the resulting degree of warmth.

Was warmth, interest, joy increasing, or was it draining-away?... Or was there a deepening chill/ closing-in constriction/ crushing sense of oppression?

Was it a case of the more I knew the worse it seemed. Or, the more I knew the better and the stronger were the feelings of warmth?


And when I felt a growing warmth as I investigated; was this from contemplation of the past of that denomination; was it from considering another time, another place and different kinds of people than myself?

Or, in contrast, was the warmth from that church associated with contemplating it as it is now; in my society, with people like me?


This 'warmer-colder' procedure is, at any rate, the basic evaluation mechanism I generally use for strategic choosing.


Matthew C. said...

I pray for guidance. I ask the Holy Spirit to show me the way forward to serve God. When I need things, I ask God to help me with that need so I can live my life in His purpose. I trust that if my heart is sincere, God will guide me towards a life of meaningful service. I read the Scriptures every morning and evening.

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a guide unto my path."

Bruce Charlton said...

@MC - Yes indeed. But I suppose I was implicitly thinking about people who had not got that far, spiritually; including those who were not (or not yet) Christians.

ajb said...

I hear that Idaho Falls is a nice place. :)

Adam G. said...

At least for me, I have had to work to separate out 'getting colder' from my own inborn reluctance to do new things. Sort of a generalized, non-specific fear.

heaviside said...

I guess it's just too impractical to take second and third derivatives into account.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - I don't get it. But when I looked up the place in Wiki the photo included a beautiful LDS temple - is the joke something to do with that?

@AG - me too. But then that may be a perfectly valid instinctive mind-set for most people through most of history, although it seems strange in the modern West.

@h - I don't get that either... Do you mean something like the secondary and tertiary consequences of a decision?

Kenneth Lloyd Anderson said...

I like this: You seem to be using your whole self, your three brains, the primitive of which is more powerful than your rational mind, to help you make the best
decisions--that seems like a good way to integrate your rational brain into the whole, rather than trying to get-all-rational-wid-it and close off everything else.

Luqman said...

`And I have a sense that the method is asymmetrical - and that Getting-colder is more a more reliable guide than Getting-warmer.`

Could this possibly be due to the nature of your personality rather than asymmetry in the method? It may be easier for you to settle on what is not right rather than what is, stereotyped as the Myers-Briggs INTP.

heaviside said...


I just meant that it might be difficult to pay attention to the rate of change of "getting colder".