Memory Repository 🧠

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The Hedonic Treadmill - Why we can never be constantly happier

Reading time: 2-3 min

Throughout quite a few of my posts, I explored ways in which we can increase our happiness. I recently came by a notable theory, relevant to happiness.

The Hedonic Treadmill

The "hedonic treadmill", coined by Brickman and Campbell (1971) describes how humans rapidly return to a 'baseline' state of happiness, even after significant positive or negative events.

This is illustrated by two examples by this source (Oxford Reference), on winning the lottery and accident victims:

"In a classic article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1978), Brickman and two colleagues provided evidence showing that, a short while after the events that changed their lives, lottery winners are not substantially happier, and accident victims who have become paraplegic are not substantially less happy, than other people."

Significance to prior posts

This could explain something I described in this post.

"But by the time our future selves experience this supposed stepped-up happiness or success, we desire more. Our achievements only ever give us fleeting happiness and fulfilment. Eventually, the delight from achieving what we desired will fade and further goals will be set."

The happiness we gain from recent achievements are quickly lost, and we return to a baseline state of happiness, and then we desire more. This produces an endless cycle of pursuing happiness, and wanting 'more' in our lives.

I wonder how this observation affects an argument I noted here, on how removing all negative memories may possibly remove the contrast between happy and sad times. If we, by default, quickly re-enter a neutral state of happiness regardless of recent happy or sad events, does this 'contrast' argument still stand?

Further thoughts:

As noted here, I once came by this claim of

"...consistent gratitude will raise happiness to the same degree of doubling income."

(Although I never found a source for it.)

Does gratitude increase our happiness by a consistent amount above our baseline as long as we persist with administering gratitude in our life, or does it cause a temporary increase, and then our happiness gradually or rapidly falls back to baseline soon after?

Also, I made it past 100 days of code day 4. Slow, but progress is progress.

Making commitments publicly for accountability and for like-minded people to join you - 100 Days Of Code (kind of)

Reading time: 1 min

100 days of code (kind of) to learn Python

I started the 100 days of code challenge for python 3 days ago. Currently on day 3.

Python is something I wanted to learn for a long time as I think it'll be useful in the future, but I never seriously got past beginner syntax or found applications for it.

Now, I found something I can follow along to start building up my skills. I don't think I can strictly commit to 1 hour every single day, but a few minutes every single day or a few hours a week is definitely something doable. I've proven this to myself in the past two months, taking an extra online course on pharmaceutical drug development for hours each week.

Why commit publicly?

I think committing to things publicly will give some degree of accountability to a commitment. Certainly more than just a purely self-enforced "I'll do it" commitment. At least progress, a timeline, and your reflections along the way can be visibly seen on a public record.

It's also a good way to reduce the feeling of going alone on a journey. There'll be others also doing a similar challenge and hoping to find others on the way. Perhaps there'll be someone in the same position I was in (wanted to learn but never got started or never figured out where to start), and this might give them the push they need.

Also, thank you whoever commented on my guestbook. Really makes my day. :)

Role of QR Codes Entailing Genetic Tests and Medical Records

Reading time: 3-4 mins

Response to @MindThink, 'What If -> The Pandemic is a Distraction?'

It's been a while since I visited Listed.to. This is my 100th non-unlinked post, I believe.

I happened to read this post about assigning unique QR codes to every single person for mass tracking, with the examples listed being "medical records, bank account, shopping information, DNA".

As someone with specialised knowledge in health and healthcare, I want to comment on medical records and DNA in particular.


Having medical records and (pharmaco-)genetic test results as a QR code that you can choose to present to your healthcare provider is not necessarily a bad idea.

I understand that this can be a slippery slope with implications in privacy, personal choice, and surveillance. But there are legitimate reasons this can be beneficial to individuals.

I will give a case where such a system will bring benefits to healthcare.

Example 1: Codeine Metabolism and Dose

For example, each of us metabolise (deactivate or activate, depending on the drug) the medications we take into our bodies at a different rate (speed), depending on our genetic code.

As a result, the same medication dose can work vastly differently in different people- a person who metabolises a particular medicine quickly might experience no therapeutic effect due to their body breaking the drug molecule down too quickly, before it reaches a high enough concentration in our body to take effect clinically. A person who metabolises a particular medicine very slowly might experience toxicity (overdose side effects) with the same dose.

This is negligible for most over-the-counter medicines, but may be significant for prescription medicines.

Codeine is a good, well-established example of this. It's a painkiller, but is metabolised (activated) in our bodies into stronger compounds (including morphine, a much stronger painkiller). The CYP2D6 gene can vary (exhibit polymorphism) among different individuals, resulting in differents extents of codeine activation in different individuals. Someone who is genetically a poor metaboliser (poor activator) of codeine might get little to no painkilling effect. Someone who is genetically a rapid metaboliser (rapid activator) might overdose from typical codeine doses, resulting in morphine toxicity (bringing severe consequences, including death).

Example 2: Talazoparib and Breast Cancer Cell Susceptibility

Aside from metabolism and dose considerations, genetic testing can also determine whether particular medicines work for your condition.

Breast cancer, is a disease where therapy options have advanced far over the past two centuries. From surgical removal, to radiation, to less invasive surgery, to the first drugs, to the first targeted therapy options (specifically targets cancer cells), to now genetic testing to identify which type of drug or biologic (combination) works best against a particular individual's breast cancer.

Talazoparib (brand name Talzenna) is a drug that requires genetic testing to show that the patient has one or more particular breast cancer gene mutations (BRCA1 and/or BRCA2). Breast cancer cells with such mutations are susceptible to the action of this drug.


I haven't specifically touched on the importance of medical records and medical history as they were not the intended focus of this piece, but they are implicated in drug-drug interactions, drug allergies, etc., things that can be either negligible or life-threatening depending on the drug. Either way...

Instead of having each healthcare provider you come across run a pharmacogenetic test on you (for your own medicine safety), wasting precious and limited time and human/monetary/environmental resources, the patient could choose instead to provide a QR code that provides their verified genetic data and medical records to the healthcare provider, to allow for easier, safe prescription of a particular medicine.

How one accomplishes this in a private and secure manner is another issue, one which I am not an expert on. However, I'm confident that if implemented with privacy by design, such a system can bring benefits to many around the world.








NFTs and blockchains for vaccines

Work off a calendar for efficient work

Reading time: 1 min

I saw a video arguing how high-level, efficient work surrounds working off a calendar rather than a to-do list.

While I didn't see the specifics of what exactly was on the calendar, an educated guess leads me to think that they are all tasks. The person in the video time blocked his entire week out, assigning a task into every available free work hour of the day.

I do this via a non-calendar app (Sorted 3) when I have a ton of work waiting for me and limited time or when I feel completely overburdened (and/or my main task manager (Things 3) is failing me due to having too many tasks and insufficient time spent organising).

Perhaps I should try out this method for the next month and a half. I do want to get back to efficient work.

Spreading your goals and priorities too far apart, and next theme: Laser Focus

Reading time: 2 min

Well, the results for academic results came out and I did not get the outcome I wanted. Even though it wasn't unexpected.

In such cases, which ask: Why? What factors contributed to this outcome?

After reflecting on the outcome of every single course, both the strong and weak performers, my answer this time around was:

I worked on my assignments and other goals and commitments every day rather than studying every day. Many of these other commitments do align with the ideals of my present and future self. Yet, I've spread my goals and priorities too far apart, and these other priorities became detrimental to my academic priorities.

Now, I've sufficiently met enough of my other goals such that I am satisfied. It's now time to converge and focus. To exceed at a particular goal, we must be laser focused on achieving that goal.

Therefore, my theme for the next tertile of the year will be:

Laser Focus. (On academics).

To start cutting out commitments and focus on my now-main goal and priority, my academic results. A lot of other good things happened this year and a lot of other goals have been met this year but now, this takes priority.

Motivation to myself:
I've done it before. I've achieved the exact result I need now just a year and a half ago. I can do it.

To future self:
Role of imagination/framing on achievement?

Do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior, Anki (and consistency)?

Out Of The Quarantine 8: Isolation Encourages Creativity Tasks?

Reading time: 1 min

I've been focusing on rest and creative projects in quarantine. I did some designing and publishing in addition to resting and playing games, while putting off mindless tasks during my time in isolation

Out of quarantine, I focused on 'life admin' tasks (getting my life back in order in the real world outside of my quarantine room) and menial writing assignments. Stuff that does not require too much creativity.

Interesting. I can't tell if isolation encourages creativity tasks or this is pure coincidence. I wonder if it has something to do with my brain needing more stimulating when there was insufficient stimulation in my quarantine room and therefore I do a lot more thinking and idea/art generation than when I have more stimulation in the outside world.

Out Of The Quarantine 7: UV Light Exposure and Ageing

Reading time: 1 min

When we expose ourselves to sunlight, we expose ourselves to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Prolonged exposure to UV exposure induces skin wrinkling and skin cancer, arguably signs of accelerated ageing (by DNA damage).

UV radiation damages our DNA, accelerating ageing via the DNA damage theory of ageing, where over time, alterations to our DNA accumulate to the point where we either experience ageing, or that our DNA is sufficiently damage so that our DNA repair mechanisms do not function well enough to have slow, normal ageing.

Because our DNA accumulates damage every day, our genome can be used to identify how long we've been born. This is the epigenetic clock.

Wear sunscreen, clothing and minimise sun exposure. Unless you reside in a place/live a life with too little exposure resulting in a deficiency in vitamin D, in which case consider some sunlight every day (a good 20 minutes is reasonable) and supplements. (This vitamin is important for our immune system. For example, vitamin D deficiency is linked to atopic dermatitis, aka eczema).

Further reading: Review article, Atopic dermatitis and vitamin D: facts and controversies*

There are studies that show a positive and inverse correlation between vitamin D deficiency and atopic dermatitis. However, the author of the review does caution about other factors that may lead to the inverse correlation. More evidence does seem to point towards deficiency is linked to atopic diseases.

In The Quarantine 6: Conscious forgetting

Reading time: 2 min

Following up on this (In The Quarantine 5: Would you delete haunting memories?).

I talked about a "what-if" scenario for deleting memories.

On further reflection, it's not as far fetched as it might seem. For almost all of us, memory is fleeting. It's lossy and details change every time we recall it. (Every time we recall a memory, we're recalling our most recent recollection of the memory, not the first, original impression of the memory itself (or at least I remember reading around two years ago)). Most of the things we encounter are forgotten very quickly (see the forgetting curve).

Yet, why is it that some memories are hard to forget, including those that give us significant grief or otherwise sadness?

"Active recall" is a highly effective study method if you want to commit something to your long-term memory. It's the act of recalling what you want to remember, from memory. Whenever we think about (or actively recall) the memory that resulted in negative emotions, we strengthen the connections in our brain (to some extent physically and chemically), imprinting the memory in our minds more strongly.

One strategy I use to forget things (e.g. if I'm asked to or I want to) is to consciously not think about it. By consciously avoiding the topic, not letting your monkey brain reading out topic, and not specifically recalling any of the details of the event, it is possible to slowly, over time, weaken the connections in your brain sufficiently to specifically and consciously forget things.

Not letting your inner voice read out the topic (e.g. by immediately thinking about something else or emptying your mind) is important as this prevents you from recalling the topic when you're consciously avoiding the topic/details.

I say "in the" quarantine. Not really anymore. I'm free.

In The Quarantine 5: Would you delete haunting memories?

Reading time: 1 min

If we could remove memories from our mind, would you or should you remove the saddest memories that repeatedly haunt you?

I thought about this for a while today and could not come to a sound answer. To an extent, I really want to say yes, I would want a particular memory to be deleted as it causes me a lot of recurrent grief and sadness.

However, we also lose the lessons learned as a result of the resolutions or outcomes from the event. Another consideration (not sure whether I agree or not though) is the argument of losing the 'contrast' between happy and sad times.

Could we still feel happiness (or at least relative happiness?) if we deleted all semblance of negative memories? I would like to say yes, although I cannot quantify this or back it up with evidence. Maybe there is sound research done on this as of current time that I am unaware of.

Although, does the contrast argument stand? See:

The Hedonic Treadmill - Why we can never be constantly happier

In The Quarantine 4: Plastic-consuming bacteria

Interesting share. Reading time: 1 min

Read this article today, after this topic came up while chatting: A bacterium that degrades and assimilates poly(ethylene terephthalate)

Ideonella sakaiensis is a bacteria newly identified in 2016, found in polyethylene terephthalate (PET, a plastic)-contaminated sediment.

It is capable of specifically breaking down PET plastic via an its PET hydrolase (also PETase) enzyme to be eventually taken up and 'consumed' by itself and other bacteria to acquire carbon to produce organic molecules to sustain life.

Interesting. Nature is evolving a solution for organisms to digest our garbage.

Plastic is a magical material with amazing properties... It's only been around for just over a century. Probably not the best to frame it as 'garbage', although excessive production of plastic around the world has resulted in plastic becoming garbage.

In The Quarantine 3: Present Happiness vs Future Happiness

Reading time: 2 min

How does one optimise the balance between present happiness and future happiness?

Delayed gratification is arguably delaying current happiness in with the view of gaining further happiness in the future.

(Taking a materialistic example,)
I could, with my money, purchase an item that would grant me great utility and convenience, thereby freeing more of my time to do things I enjoy. This would increase my current happiness.

I could, alternatively, invest my money and allow my future self to have more money than what I initially put in. This would increase my future happiness.

With the first option, my future self might become less happy due to having less resources or regretting that I didn't invest my money.

With the latter option, my current self might become less happy due to not having the same utility, time or delight I would have otherwise gained with the purchase.

How does one optimise this?

But by the time our future selves experience this supposed stepped-up happiness or success, we desire more. Our achievements only ever give us fleeting happiness and fulfilment. Eventually, the delight from achieving what we desired will fade and further goals will be set.

The alternative method of seeing things is to always be grateful, happy and fulfilled with our current achievements and possessions.

Extension thoughts:

"Eventually, the delight from achieving what we desired will fade and further goals will be set. "
(Is it possible to stop this cycle?)

"The alternative method of seeing things is to always be grateful, happy and fulfilled with our current achievements and possessions."
(But then how would one seek improvement? Or rather, what will be the motivation improvement if we are constantly happy our current situation? Perhaps that's the wrong way to view it. It's to be grateful for what we have, but also look forward to greater happiness?)

A relevant note:
Aligning the values of your current self with your future self

In The Quarantine 2: Gaining an hour is a delightful feeling

Reading time: 1 min

Something that gave me delight during my quarantine experience:

Thinking that it was an hour later than it actually was. This results in a sense of delight of suddenly getting another hour to do whatever I want.

If only this also conveniently applies when I'm looking to not procrastinate: "Hey, I finished my work early, and suddenly I gained an hour of free time!"

No, I'm not sick. Calm down.

Quarantine Journal #1 - Stroke

Reading time: 1 min

Unfortunate event. Family/relative experienced a stroke.

Took 1.5 hours from symptom start to hospital admission.
Blood thinner drug (likely tPA, alteplase) administered as treatment, with poor response.

Please be familiar with "FAST".
This allows patients at risk to be rushed to the hospital as quickly as possible, for time is the deciding factor for stroke prognosis.

Culture vs Strategy in Performance

Reading time: 1 min

A lecture I recently attended noted the following:

Organisational culture is x8 more influential than strategy in performance variance.

Perhaps this demonstrates that attitude towards studying is more important than the strategy of studying.

Studies have indicated that some study methods are more time-effective than others at committing items to memory. I wonder if studies have been done to indicate any cause or correlation between attitude towards academics and academic outcome. I'd like to think there is and I haven't looked them up yet.

I would like to think attitude is important in success in life as well.

Upon further inspection of the x8 statistic, I couldn't find a source to back it up. Brilliant.

Did a bit of reading on this "Corporate culture and organizational performance"; don't think it discusses strategy though.

NFTs and blockchains for vaccines

Reading time: 1 min

The application of NFTs and blockchains to vaccines is certainly an interesting concept.

Readily keeping track of logistics, storage conditions, manufacturing quality, identifying unregistered/counterfeit vaccines, adverse reactions and distributing information across healthcare providers and health authorities via this technology would likely result in better safety and efficacy for the end users of the vaccines.

Modifying and delivering faulty information would be more readily visible.

Some companies and health systems seem to already have piloted this.

I wonder what the implications and consequences of this are. Should do further reading.

Write down your readings if you think they are potentially anywhere remotely useful

A reflection. Reading time: 1 min

I realize that I occasionally discuss gratitude in my writing, but never really went into details about what benefits it brings. There's a statement (and associated statistic/study) floating around indicating that consistent gratitude will raise happiness to the same degree of doubling income.

I wanted to look into this today but I forgot the source and am having trouble finding the relevant statistics and conclusions from a reliable source.

Note down what you read, or at least the source, as long as you think it'll be anywhere remotely useful in your future.

(For future self to look into.)

Also see:
The Hedonic Treadmill - Why we can never be constantly happier