“My educational journey into Cognitive Science shattered beliefs and made me stumble into a crisis about what science even is. But ultimately, my Master’s degree in Cognitive Science was the most rewarding experience I could have wished for and fundamentally reconceptualized how I see the world.
I was already reading books on cognitive psychology during my psychology bachelor’s degree at the University of Vienna. So I started off in the MEi:CogSci program in Cognitive Science with the belief that I already knew most of it. And, boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
What even is cognitive science? Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary, scientific study of the mind and its processes and is located at the intersection of various disciplines like psychology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence (and computer science), philosophy, linguistics, economics, education, and anthropology. One example of cognitive science is the perceptron developed by Frank Rosenblatt in 1958, who implemented the information-processing properties of a neuron in a machine. Today’s deep learning and advances in AI are all based on this invention.
The MEi:CogSci program includes a disciplinary, a methodological, and an integrative part. We learned what interdisciplinary means, had a diverse lecture series and even visited various labs all across Austria, ranging from neuroimaging in children to behavioral studies of animal cognition. Did you know some birds can coordinate in a group to solve challenging tasks? I didn’t! But we saw that in vivo at the Kea Lab.
In my Erasmus exchange at the University of Bratislava, I noticed I still didn’t feel like I fully understood what cognitive science really was. So I decided to create a Historical Map of (the) cognitive science(s), which shows the different paradigms, subdisciplines, and publications. It got upvoted to the Frontpage of HackerNews and was hot on the Subreddit Cognitive Science, which allowed me to have a discussion with international researchers in the field. My take away was that part of the field’s strength is precisely its diverse viewpoints. If we already knew „the one right answer and approach,“ we could stop doing research. I am grateful for this journey and I am eager to find out what awaits me after graduation!” – Anna Riedl
Anna studies Cognitive Science at the University of Vienna.
Have you seen this self portrait by Ernst Mach from first person perspective from the left eye before? (I slightly edited it)
I love it as a reminder how eyes are doors into the same world. With multitudes of internal worlds behind them and unique perspectives onto the outside world.
I made a minimal version of it, keeping the structure but eliminating the content.
Anyone can use it to fill in
I'd love to make an art project of collectively collecting multiple attempts on catching this glimpse of subjective reality visually. Please send yours to me and I'll publish it here.
Here you see my attempt at filling in my perspective.
And of course you can download a blank version here.
One of the main advances of the Prospect Theory by Kahneman and Tversky was, that it proved the former ideas about utility wrong. Before Prospect Theory, utility (subjective value) was believed to be about objective states in the world (e.g. having two million being double as good as one million). Prospect Theory showed it is actually about changes from a reference point. One could say it is "the theory of relativity of psychology" (this is a joke). What it means is: Two million is terrible if you were a billionaire the day before. It is crazy positive if you had an average income before. It also showed that experiences of losses are more painful than subjective gains are positive. And both gains and losses follow the classical psychophysics effect of diminishing sensitivity. Meaning that double a stimulus doesn't have double the effect.
So how does stoicism fit into that picture?
What we learned from Framing effects is that people passively accept a given wording and therefore what's relevant about an situation and reason from that given framing. They also passively accept the status quo as their reference point.
Stoicism uses mental effort to create an alternative reference point instead of passively accepting one. It is about actively and effortfully computing alternative worlds to set a different reference point and be happy about what you have and surf the waves of uncertainty. This also helps to overcome hedonic treatmill and stay continuously awake and aware about all the blessings you have on a daily basis.
From this mental state the ups and downs of daily life are experienced from a constant gratitude and joy about what is. It achieves tranquility and lessens negative experiences.
We are adapting very quickly to what currently is and get blind towards it. Stoicism means to open you eyes again.
I recommend the book "The Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy" which explains how stoicism is not about banning emotions but experiencing joy and the techniques to get there.
Synonyms: Data Visualisation, Infographic, (Scientific) Diagrams, Information Mapping
BOOKS (About and containing Information Design)
more to be added
Podcasts are a beautiful invention and I understand their appeal especially in recent years. I spend too many hours every day looking at monitors which don’t just show me something but also block my view of the world around me. Having a stream of information coming through my ear, while I can still interact with my environment, is a game-changer. My typical times for listening to podcasts are while doing household chores or while going for a walk or while drawing. As I regularly get asked for which ones I can recommend, I decided to publish a list of my favorites.
Here are the ones I love and listen to regularly:
Rationally Speaking with Julia Galef
“Rationally Speaking is the official podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join Julia Galef and guests as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely and unlikely, science and pseudoscience. Rationally Speaking was co-created with Massimo Pigliucci.”
Making Sense with Sam Harris
“Join Sam Harris — neuroscientist, philosopher, and best-selling author — as he explores some of the most important questions about the human mind, society, and current events.”
The 80.000 Hours Podcast with Rob Wiblin
“The 80,000 Hours Podcast features unusually in-depth conversations about the world’s most pressing problems and how you can use your career to solve them. We invite guests pursuing a wide range of career paths — from academics and activists to entrepreneurs and policymakers — to analyze the case for working on different issues, and provide concrete ways to help.”
I am so humbled by being friends with you, Rob, this podcast is a masterpiece!
Favorite recent episode:
The AI Podcast by Lex Fridman
"Artificial Intelligence podcast (AI podcast) is a series of conversations about technology, science, and the human condition hosted by Lex Fridman."
Same of my favorite episodes so far:
Econ Talk by Russ Roberts
“EconTalk is a weekly economics podcast hosted by Russ Roberts. Roberts, formerly an economics professor at George Mason University, is a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. On the podcast, Roberts typically interviews a single guest — often professional economists — on topics in economics.”
Behind the Tech with Kevin Scott
"Join Chief Technology Officer Kevin Scott for Behind the Tech, a podcast that goes behind-the-scenes with today’s most innovative tech leaders."
Favorite Episode so far:
The Portal by Eric Weinstein
“Welcome to The Portal. This podcast does something different.
Favorite Episode so far:
The Jim Rutt Show
“The Jim Rutt Show is an interview podcast series examining cutting-edge thinking in science and technology and the future of our economic, political and social systems and institutions. New episodes are released weekly, more or less.”
Ologies by Alie Ward
"Volcanoes. Trees. Drunk butterflies. Mars missions. Slug sex. Death. Beauty standards. Anxiety busters. Beer science. Bee drama. Take away a pocket full of science knowledge and charming, bizarre stories about what fuels these professional -ologists' obsessions. Humorist and science correspondent Alie Ward asks smart people stupid questions and the answers might change your life."
I love how bubbly, excited, intimately honest about the human and her condition and so much more, Alie Ward is. And I love the idea for the title and concept!
The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish
“The Knowledge Project Podcast with Shane Parrish helps you master the best of what other people have already figured out. Let’s Listen and Learn.”
The Tim Ferriss Show
“Tim Ferriss is a self-experimenter and bestselling author. In this show, he deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas.”
“Here are the ones where I have listened to at least one very good episode or like for other reasons:
LSE IQ Podcast
“Welcome to LSE’s award-winning podcast, LSE IQ, where we ask leading social scientists and other experts to answer an intelligent question.”
Favorite episode so far:
Erklär mir die Welt von Andreas Sator
“Was ist „Erklär mir die Welt“? Ein Podcast, mit dem du die Welt jede Woche ein bisschen besser verstehen sollst. Themen werden von Grund auf erklärt.”
A Mindful Mess by Daria Daria
“In diesem Podcast von dariadaria geht es um Persönlichkeitsentwicklung und nachhaltiges Leben.”
Andersmacher von Dr. Aaron Brückner
“Menschen und Marken, die in keine Schublade passen”
Lieblingsepisoden bisher: Max Scharpenack und Daniel Jung
The Mating Grounds Podcast with Tucker Max and Dr. Geoffrey Miller
“The Mating Grounds Podcast is a collaboration between #1 bestselling author, Tucker Max, and renowned evolutionary psychologist, Professor Geoffrey Miller, to teach men how to be successful with women, dating, and relationships. Through discussions and interviews with the worlds leading experts in human sexuality, psychology, animal behavior, genetics, and behavioral studies, they explain in clear and actionable terms precisely what men need to know about sex, dating, relationships, and women, and how to improve yourself in all of those areas. Plainly put: this is the advice that men wish they had heard when they were 16, that teaches them all the important lessons about sex and dating they are desperate to learn.”
“When our existing ways of thinking break down, it’s the rebels and the renegades, those who dare to think differently, who need to reboot the system.”
"Future Thinkers is a media platform, community, and education portal dedicated to the evolution of society, technology, and consciousness. By hosts Mike Gilliland and Euvie Ivanova."
Favorite episodes so far:
Honourable further mentions:
- The Behavior Change Podcast
- Complexity by the Santa Fe Institute
- Found My Fitness
- Friendly Atheist Podcast
- How I Built This
- Intelligence Squared
- Long Now Seminars
- Risky Conversations
- Joe Rogan Experience
- Sigma Nutrition Radio
- TED Talks Daily
- TED Radio Hour
- future of life Institute
- The Infinite Monkey Cage
- The Partially Examined Life
I am excited to discuss episodes or to hear your thoughts on them.
"Who are Your People?"
Santino Maguire inspired me by asking me the excellent question "Who are your people?" and (roughly) "what communities are they associated with or to find in?"
Thinking further about this question resulted in immense gratitude as actually today is one of the days where I interact with all three communities in Vienna, that are "my tribes":
(Today's talk there is by Mirta Galesic from the Santa Fe Institute about this topic: https://www.santafe.edu/rese…/projects/science-belief-change)
"The Global Shapers Community is a network of young people driving dialogue, action and change."
Locally this community also has a big overlap with the animal rights and vegan community, and, yes, surprisingly, the strength training community.
Yes, all three groups are fallible in some ways. There are people in the science and rationality community, who neither think very rational (or have a straw Vulcan conceptualisation of it) nor have ethical values I agree with. In the Global Shapers Community, I see both people who have values I don't agree with as well as a lack of epistemic responsibility. And in the effective altruism community, there are people who either lack the evidence-based/science-based part or completely neglect to take any action (no, reading books and writing Facebook posts/blogs and having internal meetings is not taking action).
Why do I stick around?
“When a wise man points at the moon
I think together they point in the right direction.
They try to approximate the right goals in the right way. And I am incredibly happy to have them.
They are "my people".
Who are YOUR people?
24 Books that have profoundly Changed me
In no particular order
To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. - RALPH WALDO EMERSON
“You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.”
― Robert M. Pirsig
“In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
― Robert M. Pirsig
“The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you actually don’t know.”
― Robert M. Pirsig
“The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality. The tree that you are aware of intellectually, because of that small time lag, is always in the past and therefore is always unreal. Any intellectually conceived object is always in the past and therefore unreal. Reality is always the moment of vision before the intellectualization takes place. There is no other reality.”
― Robert Pirsig
On "The Elephant in the brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life" by Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler
"According to the reciprocal-exchange theory, conversations should be free to bounce around willy-nilly, as speakers take turns sharing new, unrelated information with each other. [...] Either listener might ask follow-up questions, of course. But as soon as their curiosity had been satisfied, they might be expected to turn around and share some new information of their own, regardless of whether it pertained to the previous discussion.
But this is not what human conversation looks like. Instead, we find that speakers are tightly constrained by the criterion of relevance. In general, whatever we say needs to relate to the topic or task at hand. Conversations can meander, of course, but the ideal is to meander gracefully. Speakers who change the topic too frequently or too abruptly are considered rude, even if[…]”
“And so it is with conversation. Participants evaluate each other not just as trading partners, but also as potential allies. Speakers are eager to impress listeners by saying new and useful things, but the facts themselves can be secondary. Instead, it’s more important for speakers to demonstrate that they have abilities that are attractive in an ally. In other words, speakers are eager to show off their backpacks.”
“If we return to the backpack analogy, we can see why relevance is so important. If you’re interested primarily in trading, you might ask, “What do you have in your backpack that could be useful to me?” And if your partner produces a tool that you’ve never seen, you’ll be grateful to have it (and you’ll try to return the favor). But anyone can produce a curiosity or two. The real test is whether your ally can consistently produce tools that are both new to you and relevant to the situations you face. [...] His backpack, you infer, must be chock-full of useful stuff. And while you could—and will—continue to engage him[…]”
the "criterion of relevance" as a constraint to signalling in conversations is not a proxy (signal) for the "size of the backpack" but instead shows a very concrete and rare skill: the ability to transfer and use knowledge one has to someone's benefit. I don't care about the number of tools someone has if he lacks the ability to use the appropriate tool in a given situation. The usefulness of someone's backpack is the product of the size of the backpack and the ability of the person to hand me and use the needed tool in a given situation. To produce relevant content is not just a signal, but a skill. I think Hanson and Simler took the signaling hypothesis too far in this case.
Look at my amazing abs!* And now that I have your attention, let me tell you why you should start to lift weights. Heavy ones. Especially as a women. Or at least why or how well it works for me.
If I could go back ten years in time and transport one idea to my former self, I would have a hard time to decide what words to pass through. What would have the biggest impact on my well-being, life satisfaction or personal development if I had known it earlier? First, a lot of abstract concepts come to mind: “rationality” or “philosophy of science” or “effective altruism”. They changed my perception of the world drastically. But in terms of happiness and self mastery I definitely would say “quit cardio, start lifting heavy” or even simpler “fall in love with getting strong”. (Thanks to Valentin Tambosi for the phrase)
Before: Losing weight
For years I was running, cycling, worrying about calories, massively reducing my food intake (alternating with extreme cravings) and was going through periods of quick weight loss and gain. Not only didn’t I reach my goals long-term: it also was unhealthy, took big parts of my attention and time as well as caused self-doubt and suffering. Because despite following harsh plans I was not able to realise my goals. Neither in terms of appearance, nor in terms of subjective fitness and physical well-being. In theory it is so easy: Lose weight by burning more calories than you eat. But, well, it wasn’t.
Heuristic for success: strength
After a year of more or less constant working out with (for me) heavy weights and being happy with the results like never before, I can summarise what made the difference for me:
The attempt to make the answer short has two parts, a mental and a physical one:
1. Mentally to focus on strength changes my mindset rigorously.
When I define weight loss and reducing body weight as my goal, the thoughts that will pop up on this path focus on how to reduce and burn body fat and therefore prioritise reducing calories and food intake. The framing is more negative, it focuses on what I want to get rid of instead of what I want to reach.
Strength mentally puts muscle growth in the center. This implies to healthily nourish the body to allow the muscles to grow and it is more positive. Even if there are still things you would want to change or get rid of, there is something getting bigger and better that you can be proud of. Also it is more long-term, because muscles only grow slowly with constant stimulus, but also need breaks and the right circumstances like nutrition and sleep. The goal of getting strong does not tempt you to do extreme things (like starting a crash diet), because it is more apparent, that it will not work and takes time.
2. Physically a focus on strength also makes sense.
Gaining muscle mass will (more or less independent from body weight) make you look slimmer (the same kg of muscles have way less volume than body fat) and on a daily basis add to your basic metabolic rate (calories burned). Without (at least in my case!) increasing hunger or leading to cravings.
I can not tell this myself ten years ago, but I share this out of hope that I will spare or shorten someone else the long process of learning these lessons!