Day five

On reducing cognitive load.

When I moved to Vienna, five years ago, I realised that I owned way too many objects.
I started putting them away in a storage space, thinking that the old “out of sight, out of mind” saying would apply.

Guess what? It did not.

Partly because near me or far away, I was still in charge of these objects, which was reminded to me monthly by the self-storage facility bill. Partly because I had again filled the free space with new objects and gadgets.

I decided to get rid of the storage space, and sorted its content in three stacks:

  1. A large stack of stuff that had no interest for anyone, that I decided to throw away.
  2. A second, smaller stack, of stuff that had some value, that I sold or gave away.
  3. A last, tiny stack of items to keep, that I brought back home.

At the same time, I decided to stop buying things I don’t really need. It’s a long process, and still a work in progress; I am definitely not yet where I would like to be, which is to look around me, and for each single object I see, be able to say: “I really need that“.

Every single object we own comes at a cost, way more important than the money spent: the time and effort invested researching alternatives, the cost of missed opportunities for not buying another one, the cost represented by the shelf space and the care or maintenance it may require, and the cognitive cost of owning it, having to remember it’s place, purpose, mode of operation.
(Barry Schwartz talks about some ef these ideas in his excellent TED talk and book: The Paradox of Choice).

By owning fewer objects, I have freed important resources in my brain to learn new things.

I have decided to apply the same treatment to the long list of small things that I keep track to do “later, when I’ll have time”. As I have quite some time available these days, I am going through all these little things, and either making them happen, or deleting them once and forever.

I think I’d like to get to a place where I can look inside my brain, and for each single information I see, be able to say: “I really need that”.

Lucky me, I am not really able to control that…

Day four

One of my goals during the first half of my sabbatical is to reach Legend rank at Hearthstone.

I have been playing and enjoying the game for a while now, I am not the best player but I think I am reaching a decent level for the amount of practice I have.

And that’s the problem: the amount of time available, not only to practice but simply to play.

The principle is quite simple: you play a game against another player and either you win and get a star or lose and lose a star. When you win three games in a row, you enter a “streak” and from there each victory brings two stars until you lose one game.  There are 25 ranks to reach Legend, and each tier of five ranks becomes a bit harder:

  • 25-21: 2 stars per rank
  • 20-16: 3 stars per rank
  • 15-11: 4 stars per rank
  • 10-6: 5 stars per rank
  • 5-1: 5 stars per rank, no more streaks.

To reach rank five from 25 you need 70 stars, while to reach legend from rank five you need only 25. The streak system though means that from rank 25 to five you can make progress even if you only win 50% of your games, given that winning three in a row gets you four stars, and losing three then loses only three. With a 60% win rate (which is considered rather good for an amateur), and assuming you hit the streak a decent amount of time, my experience shows that you need to play about 130 games to reach rank 5.

From rank 5, no more streaks, which means that you absolutely need to win more than 50% of the time to progress. and also that with the same 60% win rate, you’ll need to play 125 games to win 75 (60%) and lose 50 for a differential of 25 stars won.

So, here’s why I have not been able to get to legend yet, and rarely past rank 5: playing 130 games in a month, or about 4 to 5 per day in average is something I can do, but twice as much so far has been impossible. Regardless of skill, Hearthstone is a game that rewards intensive play.

I reached rank 5 last night, let’s see how it goes…