Re: Instructions for Life

Anders Sandberg (
12 Jan 1999 13:51:30 +0100 writes:

> A friend sent this to me, thought I'd pass it on.

I have a rule of not passing on replicating net-packets, regardless of how good their contents are. A bit of memetic gardening.


Overall, the idea of gathering together useful heuristics is good, no need to reinvent the wheel all the time. But packaging them as easily spreadable memes, as saying or spams, has the risk of putting a selection pressure on them for replication rather than truth or usability.

> 1. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

>From a game theoretical point of view, this can be useful *sometimes*;
it can help set up mutual cooperation by showing that you are willing (and able) to give away good stuff. The drawback is that you make exploiters aware of the potential victim. Psychologically it is probably rather healthy, both individually and socially, but one should remember the exploiter caveat.

> 2. Memorize your favourite poem.

This is good advice. Both a bit of memory training, a way of exploring it further and a way of having something beautiful to say. My latin teacher asked us to memorize two quotes to each lesson - it isn't very hard, and after the course one at least has a large number of quotes.

> 5. When you say, "I'm sorry", look the person in the eye.

A good psychological trick.

> 7. Believe in love at first sight.

Why? What is the advantage in this romantic idea? Perhaps to give people hope. But it is really a very cultural thing.

> 14. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

Do they always? I think the greatest achievements are those that are so well done they are unstoppable. Of course, they are rare.

> 15. Call your mom.

An interesting idea to explore is to extend the mom idea of a supporter/nurturer/adviser into business. Maybe many small companies (and even more networks) would become more efficient if they hired a corporate mom.

> 16. Say "bless you" when you hear someone sneeze.

It is amusing that this is in the same list as the other semi-christian advice since it is really a roman superstition about getting rid of demons. (In swedish we say "prosit", which is a shortening of the latin "pro bonum sit", "may it be for good").

> 17. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

Probably one of the most important heuristics around. Once you start to see even mistakes as learning experiences, their sting fades and you become more alert.

> 18. Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for
> others; Responsibility for all your actions.

Another good point. Amazing how many people don't apply it.

> 20. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immeiate steps
> to correct it.

Good time management; leaving mistakes for tomorrow starts a vicious circle of guilt and procrastination.

> 21. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in >
your voice.

Actually true. Very interesting.

> 28. Trust in God but lock your car. (And learn Kung-Fu).

"Woe to the unarmed prophets", as somebody said. Also, knowing how to defend oneself has good effects on self-esteem.

> 32. Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.

On this list it can be literal :-) (The shareware version Anders will ship Real Soon Now, right after the Singularity :-)

> 34. Pray. There's immeasurable power in it.

The interesting thing is of course that the psychological benefits of praying doesn't seem to be linked to any religion; does anybody have any references to comparative studies? Some of the most quoted prayer studies have however been found to be flawed, so caveat lector.

> 35. Never interrupt when you are being flattered.

The problem is of course what attitude to take.

> 37. Don't trust a man/woman who doesn't close his eyes when you
> kiss him/her.

Another interesting insight, since closing one's eyes seems to be part of the plasure/smile response; if they don't close their eyes, they are likely not enjoying it as much as they should, or have other hidden emotions.

> 38. Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.

Also good advice. New experiences make the synapses grow.

> 41. Learn the rules then break some.

And: you can't break the rules until you learn them.

> 44. Remember that your character is your destiny.

Of course, character can be changed. Maybe we should look for the neurobiological and psychological basis of willpower?

> Send this to at least 5 people and your life will improve
> 0-4 people: Your life will improve slightly.
> 5-9 people: Your life will improve to your liking.
> 9-14 people: You will have at least 5 surprises in the next 3 weeks.
> 15 & above: Your life will improve drastically and everything you ever
> dreamed of will begin to take shape.

This is of course the hook of the meme, but it embodies (despite the hyperbole) an insight into network economy. The more people implementing a few of these heuristics, the nicer things will be - especially for others with the heuristics.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y