We have the technology—developing effortless discipline for my 153 day challenge—toward a modest following—rapid impact with slow methods

We have the technology.

There is so much potential. We can do so much good.

What is perhaps most tragic is not merely that we waste so much technological potential*, but that we waste raw creative human potential in a way that is difficult to fathom.

(*e.g, consider how much better off we might be if we had used nuclear molten salt breeder reactors from the start, rather than the several hundred extra dangerous heaps of capital we have now)

You’ve probably heard that the next Einstein may be toiling in a factory somewhere, unawares of their promising mind, or worse, all too aware of it.

It is incumbent upon those of us who can to create emancipatory opportunity in the world.

The world as it is calls for all hands on deck.

Let’s catalyze that.

Developing effortless discipline for my 153 day challenge:

With a child on the way, I have several personally imposed deadlines for August 1. (The kiddo is due one month later.)

I’d like to start my first ever sabbatical then, and take my first ever actual vacation shortly thereafter. (I’ve always worked quite vigorously on my “vacations.”)

Before I can start a sabbatical, however, I have some rather hefty challenges that call for uncommon discipline:

  • Mastery of GTD

  • Many client projects

  • SPIGOT MVP and PMF

  • Generate enough passive cash flow to sustain the sabbatical

  • Move (back) to the country

  • Build a starter home (likely a prefab passive house)

  • Start Eudaimonia Labs

  • Start Eudaimonia Networks

  • Raise funds for a CAD + robotics in agriculture project

  • Get permanent residency

  • Lots of writing

  • Extended family resilience building

  • … and a few stealth projects

You know, this list doesn’t seem so bad.

Anyway, effortless discipline?

You’ve probably had an experience where you’ve intended to do something, but then you were distracted, right?

Maybe you’ve tried to adopt a new morning routine, including a new exercise regimen, writing practice, and so forth, yet it doesn’t stick more than a few weeks.

That’s happened with me so many times. It can be draining and demoralizing, especially if you’re trying to take on a lot of changes at once.

I’m developing SPIGOT partly so that I don’t need to draw on my willpower and inner resources so much while I am adopting new routines.

Its design is based on deep theory such as Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety, which means that, for example, as you are using SPIGOT, it will adapt to the circumstances and always help you to return attention to the task at hand, without requiring you to do any proactive recall of what it was you were doing.

There are nice tracking features, audiovisual cues, and so forth as well.

Did I mention it can literally help you to be evolutionary on a day to day basis?

It is currently in closed development with some very interesting applications beyond daily routines. If you’d like to learn more, reach out, and / or sign up for the Augmented Discipline newsletter at spigot.systems.

Toward a modest following

This article from Tim Ferriss scares the shit out of me.

I don’t want to be well-known like that.

If I’m going to be known to the public at all, I much prefer Patrick McKenzie’s ‘internet famous,’ and David Perell’s ‘niche fame.’

“People who are Niche Famous are well-known in a small circle of influence but virtually unknown outside of it.”

I’d like to keep the stalkers, death threats, and harassment to a minimum, among other things! This may sound like I’m full of myself to think I could even have those sorts of problems, when my current Twitter following is about 400, but hey, measure twice, cut once, you know?

If you have high ambitions that may garner a lot of attention, I highly recommend considering those three pieces linked here.

Rapid impact with slow methods

I’ve been thinking a lot about massively parallel complex experimentation lately.

There are some interested research methods in medical science that have a leg up on the traditional designs like double-blind studies. I think it’s quite warranted for us to consider how these methods might be bridged into other contexts.

Consider the just-in-time adaptive interventions materials at the PennState Methodology Center.

“Among the challenges faced by scientists is how and when to alter the course of treatment for participants in the intervention.”

(In traditional research designs, alterations are very coarse-grained and costly.)

“Adaptive interventions (also known as ‘adaptive treatment strategies’ or ‘dynamic treatment regimens’) change based on what is best for the patient at that time. Just-in-time adaptive interventions (JITAIs) are a special type of adaptive intervention where—thanks to mobile technology like activity sensors and smartphones—an intervention can be delivered when and where it is needed. Technically speaking, an adaptive intervention is a sequence of decision rules that specify how the intensity or type of treatment should change depending on the patient’s needs.”

What this brings to mind for me at the moment is the permaculture principle of using small, slow solutions, in the context of everyday routines and the technology I am developing with SPIGOT.

Imagine that you are quite depressed, and if we imagine your willpower meter, it’s basically at zero, so that all the things that might help you to bootstrap out of depression seem infinitely far away and inaccessible.

What if a friend of yours offered to make an agreement with you. Knowing that you hate to be an imposition, they set you up with a tool like SPIGOT that allows you to check-in with them when you do the one thing that you’ve agreed upon to do definitely do on a given day. It may be going for a walk, for example. Well, if you haven’t checked in by a certain time, the system could provide the just-in-time adaptive intervention that doesn’t just prod you with a notification but notifies your friend to call you. In this way, you could derive a lot of the benefits of social accountability without requiring anything of your friend beyond passive awareness. I’m thinking “out loud” here just for example, and in principle the applications could go much further than this of course.

Beyond getting someone to a baseline “absence of dis-ease,” the same tools might be useful for proactive applications of positive psychology, for example, helping people to care for their wellness with proven methods without requiring them to plan it out and remember to act on it.

At scale, this might be used to help lift a population out of sedentary lifestyles, sure, but it might also be adapted to light a fire under a new generation of writers, helping ot build and maintain momentum among groups of people who may want to carry out regular writing and criticism routines but aren’t sure where to start.

With access to general principles embodied in methods and technologies that can be applied in a variety of situations, we can catalyze innovation considerably. When we ensure the technologies themselves catalyze regular process design iteration amongst individuals and groups, we can actually instantiate evolutionary processes at scale among many people in ways that they understand and can steer toward their own purposes.

That’s what I’ll be up to for a while.

What I’m watching

Podcast appearances

My friend Aaron DiPrima started a new podcast called The KalamaZooKeeper, and I joined him to catch up and talk about the future of his show.

A photo to share

See you next time!

Truly, thanks for subscribing.

— Evan Driscoll, 2021-02-26