Looking back at 2014

2014 was one of the best and worst years of my life.

It started with the worst: in the first three months or so, my girlfriend and I broke up, the part-time job I was doing started feeling unmotivating, and I realized I didn’t have the energy to both do the job and work on my thesis at the same time. Romance, work, studies: three major spheres of my life, all crashing down around the same time.

I mostly recovered from the breakup and put my thesis on a temporary hold, but work continued to be unmotivating. In the summer I went to see a psychiatrist, and was prescribed antidepressants. Thus started the better part of the year, as I realized that I’d been suffering from a mild depression for years without knowing it. The meds went a long way towards fixing that, and everything started looking brighter. There were still down periods, but even they were better than the down periods I was having before the meds.

Of the concrete things that happened, there are so many things I could cover.

I’ve definitely been becoming a lot more social and extroverted during the year. In April there was the first Less Wrong European Community Weekend in Berlin, which was a lot of fun by itself, and also led to me becoming close friends with several people. In November I attended the Center for Applied Rationality’s workshop in England, which led to me starting my own rationality workshops here in Finland, and also crafting a local, more tightly-knit community of people who would support each other in making each other’s lives awesome. The workshop also caused me to finally start organizing regular “come and hang out with me in a bar” evenings like I’d been intending to do for the last half a year. Also made and strengthened several other friendships in unrelated ways.

A large part of the boosts also came from the antidepressants, as well as reading several books which helped me considerably level up my social skills. The Charisma Myth was the first one, then followed by Non-Violent Communication which not only helped me resolve conflicts I’d been having with others but also make my own emotions clearer. In the last few days I’ve started reading Crucial Conversations, which has a lot of similarities with Non-Violent Communication but also covers many things which NVC didn’t.

I continued working on some academic papers on the side, kind of as a hobby. At the beginning of the year, “The errors, insights and lessons of famous AI predictions” by Stuart Armstrong, Sean Ó hÉigeartaigh, and me was published in the Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence. Around the end of the year, I had a paper accepted to an AAAI workshop on AI and ethics, and Physica Scripta formally published my and Roman Yampolskiy’s paper from 2013 that we’d only had up as a technical report so far. Google Scholar reports that there were 15 citations to my different papers in 2014, up from the 9 citations that I got in 2013.

On the topic of hobbies, I had for a long time liked the idea of game mastering role-playing games, but in practice rarely had the time or energy to do the necessary preparation for them. Now I finally managed to get into different RPGs which were designed to only require minimal advance preparation, and turned out to be a lot more fun to run than the old-style games. (E.g. different move engine games starting from Apocalypse World, and games like J Matias Kivikangas’s Here Be Dragons, which I unfortunately still haven’t gotten a chance to run. Soon!)

On a front that’s harder to describe, I started a large-scale restructuring of how I thought about ethics and morality. In a sense, I had ended up with a kind of an externalized sense of morality, which caused me a lot of guilt and stress. I started making a transition towards a more internalized morality, which had helped a lot.

Now as we enter 2015, a lot about my future is unclear. I’m intending to finally graduate with my MSc around summer, and I’m uncertain of what I will do after that. I’ve actually been feeling sufficiently extroverted as to start pondering whether I would actually prefer some kind of a career that involved being social and interacting with lots of different people on a daily basis, as opposed to the more introverted, technical kinds of careers that I’d been mostly thinking of before.

In any case, I feel that I’m now leveling up much faster than I was before, and am becoming far better positioned to tackle different challenges in life. Hopefully things will go well.

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