Focusing illusion illusion

Focusing illusion: nothing is as important as you think it is, while you think about.
Especially not the focusing illusion.

Previously seen: Availability heuristic heuristic.


The only reliable way to get rich by intraday trading

<<efficient market does its thing>>

The only reliable way to get rich by intraday trading is to create an on-line course about “The only reliable way to get rich by intraday trading”.

<<efficient market does its thing>>

The only reliable way to get rich by intraday trading is to create an on-line course about “How to create an on-line course about ‘The only reliable way to get rich by intraday trading'”.

Regret minimization as life strategy

Regret minimization (technically regret minmax – minimize maximal regret) is a useful mental model for decision making.

Recently Tyler Cowen discussed it in an excellent interview The Complacent Class, Sex Robots, and Deathbed Regrets: A Conversation with Tyler Cowen (skip to 49:45, but the whole thing is recommended).

There is no transcript so here are my loose citation notes:

If you lived an “optimal” life there would be a lot of regret at the end of it.

Regret minimization is not the best life strategy.

Your deathbed perspective is not the best/most relevant metric of anything:

you perception is at lowest
your cognition is at lowest
your memory is the worst
you are not responsible for anything

Compare with Jeff Bezos’ decision strategy:

“The framework I found, which made the decision incredibly easy, was what I called — which only a nerd would call — a “regret minimization framework.” So I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, “Okay, now I’m looking back on my life. I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have.” I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day, and so, when I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision.”

The same model is cast in different light. I think Cowen and Bezos would actually mostly agree – “local” regret minimization is premature optimization.

  Cowen Bezos
Apparently says that regret min strategy is… bad good
which regret he means experiential self: real-time regret remembered self – regret at life end
does the utility of
death-bed-me matter
not much yes

The only thing, that is not quite reconciled is – how much should you take into account your “death-bed” personas preferences?

Which reminds me of a famous quote:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do

— apparently NOT Mark Twain

Reading and publishing

One of the recurring topics of this blog is AI and automation. So it is only natural that I also automatized my blogging: I introduce you to my new blog:

It will collect various snippets that I’ve found interesting during my reading.

The blog is stochastic – every day it randomly decides if there will be a new post or not and then it randomly picks the snippet.

One aspect that I like about it is that it seamlessly integrates the act of reading with the act of publishing.

The other aspect that I like is that it might be actually good, unlike this blog 🙂

In any case I’ll subscribe to it – it will be nice to receive this random reminders from my past self.

Three Types of Symmetry

Past 6 months brought a lot of travel, relocation to a new city & country, new job…  now let’s try to get back into good habits like writing.

From 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School I finally understood the appeal of asymmetrical architecture and why is it so beloved by modern architects. This appreciation resonated with a 900 year old echo when we visited Angkor Wat.

1. Static symmetry

The most basic type of symmetry is the one we all imagine when one mentions “symmetry”. Invariance of shapes (or systems) under certain transformations (rotation, reflection, scaling) is deeply appealing to us. Like the layout of the Angkor Wat complex.


2. Symmetry, broken

The breaking of symmetry is however a quintessential physical mechanism that gives rise, among others, to replicating complex patterns balancing on the edge of chaos (aka “life”).

The breaking of symmetry between past and future gives rise to the arrow of time. And where is time there are stories – such as the The Battle of Kurukshetra. Static symmetry of the army formations is ultimately broken to be able to tell the story of the big battle.


3. Dynamic balance – the symmetry of asymetry

Finally, we arrive at the least obvious form of symmetry – the dynamical balance.

From 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School:

Balance is inherent in a symmetrical composition, but asymmetrical com-
positions can be either balanced or unbalanced. Consequently, asymmetry tends to
require a more complex and sophisticated understanding of wholeness.

An example – a dancer is in dynamic balance, yet the posture is not symmetrical in the static sense.


A spinning dancer is in dynamical balance. To keep with the Angkor Wat theme I could have showed a picture of dancing Apsaras. I found this optical illusion however extra interesting, because in addition to dynamical balance it demonstrates a dynamical clockwise/anti-clockwise symmetry in rotation.

This concept too hasn’t been unknown to the builders of Angkor Wat in the 11th century. My favourite bas relief is The Churning of Ocean of Milk.


It shows 92 gods and 88 demons fighting for the elixir of immortality and a snake caught up in the middle. The gods hold the tail, the demons hold the head, while the snake coils itself around Mt. Mandala. Each time the gods and demons pull from their sides, the mountain turns and the ocean churns.

There is a lot of static (translational) symmetry in the repeating figures. The symmetry is also broken (the head and tail of the world-snake, gods and demons, 92 vs. 88). But ultimately there is a dynamical balance, at least for the moment.

And to close the circle (another symmetry), my new “home” town is famous for its own version of a building in a dynamic equilibrium, that is inspired by dancers: The Dancing House.




Psychology of happiness 2: If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right

Continuing the research notes from the previous post, here is a summary If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right by Elizabeth W. Dunn et al. The author re-published this research in the book Happy Money.

My main qualm about the paper is, that it does not differentiate between the remembering vs. experiencing self distinction, so the advises are a tangle of both.


  • you want to:
    1. extend anticipation before
    2. diminish adaptation during
      • by making events smaller but more frequent
      • by introducing some uncertainty
    3. Prefer experiences to material goods
      • more reminiscence after
      • less externalities/secondary costs
    4. Make everything social
      • spend prosocially
      • share experiences


(1) Buy more experiences and fewer material goods

  • Advantages:
    • more anticipation before event, less adaptation during, more reminiscing after
      • reasons:
        • material goods more prone to focalism: you actually don’t think about them very often and therefore don’t get that much utils/hedons
        • material goods usually have more secondary effects, externalities, upkeep costs
      • experiences DO suffer from focalism too: how often do you reminiscence about your vacations – not much, but more than about your fancy hardwood floor
    • negative experiences are easier to forget (or turn to humor)
    • experiences are more often social
  • note: remember the trade-off between remembering / experiencing self

(2) Use their money to benefit others rather than themselves

  • prosocial spending

(3) Buy many small pleasures rather than fewer large ones

  • less adaptation and diminishing marginal utility
  • due duration neglect, higher frequency > longer duration
  • splitting facilitates anticipation
  • Example: massage chair
    • customers got either 180s massage or 2x 80s
    • the split experience was rated higher
  • Exploiting uncertainty
    • having surprises / some uncertainty about the reward increases anticipation (you think about it more due to uncertainty)
    • also diminishes adaptation because you don’t know what’s next what’s

(4) Eschew extended warranties and other forms of overpriced insurance

  • exploit loss aversion and endowment effect

(5) Delay consumption

  • pay upfront to remove sting, delay consumption for anticipation

(6) Consider how peripheral features of their purchases may affect their day-to-day lives

  • especially material goods have upkeep costs, secondary effects & externalities

(7) Beware of comparison shopping

  • it focuses you of easily comparable features
  • e.g. picking a flat: lots of parameters on the web comparison, but you don’t e.g. how is the community, atmosphere etc.

(8) Follow the Herd Instead Of Your Head

  • general ranking is usually a good estimate of your enjoyment, no need to over think it