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Accountability

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Accountability is a powerful idea. The greatest of governments and leadership are accountable to the people they government - it's a form of feedback that prevents corruption and enables focus. Without it, Democracy almost certainly fails - hence why Hong Kong is currently in so much trouble due to the actions by China's CCP.

The word accountability may possibly be the most important word in the English language. Without it, a civilised society simply isn't possible, empathy is meaningless, contracts cannot be conducted, even trade is not possible. The idea that actions have consequences is even fundamental to agency itself.

According to the Cambridge dictionary:

accountability

the fact of being responsible for what you do and able to give a satisfactory reason for it, or the degree to which this happens:

Accountability spoken in those contexts is about holding other people accountable for their actions. This type of accountability relies on a few things to be true:

  1. There is some observable actor that is capable of recognizing when your actions do not match some form of contract, whether that be a spoken contract, written contract, moral contract or something else.
  2. They witness a perceived break in that contract (although it is of course possible for the accuser to be wrong) and are able initiate some consequences as a result.

It provides meaningful structure - it introduces rules of a meaningful nature. Without accountability, we are unable to properly function as humans. For many young people, their first real introduction to accountability in a meaningful way will happen at the same time that they are first introduced to responsibility, which is usually when they choose to have children. Given that many people are choosing to have children at a later time in their lives (if at all), I suspect many young adults function without any real accountability 1.

The accountability I speak of now is self-accountability, you have to be the external observer for your own actions. You also need the ability to introduce some consequences for not abiding to a contract that you entered into with yourself.

Current

Why discuss this? Well, I want to hold myself accountable in my daily life. Recently I was thinking about writing on the topic of motivation, perhaps even depression, but actually I realised the real topic of interest was accountability.

In the following I will discuss some major points within my personal life and discuss how they are progressing.

Diet

Prior to starting the diet, I had low-accountability for myself. I would often lie to myself: "I'll buy this pizza on the deal that I work hard afterwards to justify it - with the amount of work I'm going to do, I have no time to cook!". Of course, this never actually translated to any real progress on work at all. There was never any real consequences as a result and deadlines continued to slip.

Worse still, my health continued to decline, and my actual ability to get work got massively worse. Towards the end, I was barely able to stay awake during the day, weighing in excess of 180kg and generally struggling to get enough oxygen into the brain - let alone think meaningfully. This lie I had told myself was certainly not paying off and there was nobody, not even myself, to hold me accountable.

Back in November 2020 I started to hold myself accountable with my diet and began a keto blog, which I have maintained even till today, having posted an update yesterday (September 2021). In that time of continued self-accountability, I have been updating regularly and have lost between 70-80kg as a result.

Work

And now towards my PhD, the main reason I let my health decline so far and my focus over the last few years. As I said previously, this did not pay off due to a massive lack of accountability. Prior to starting the diet, little to no progress was made since after the first year. That's hard to admit, but true. My health had simply declined to a point where I couldn't work at all.

During this time I had zero accountability, and one of the regrets of a supervisor was also not to insist more on holding me accountable. I believe this is an unfair burden they place on themselves. I think the failure was even more fundamental - I failed to hold myself accountable. I was tumbling for a long time with no real prospect of getting myself out.

I have been given multiple chances on this PhD and I am on my last life-line - the chances have run out and the funding is over, there is nowhere else to turn. If I can't dig deep and hold myself accountable, the past 5 years will amount to nothing. I really don't want that to be the case.

Projects

I am well-known for having billions of projects actively on the go. I am hopelessly optimistic about what can actually be achieved. I probably have enough active projects currently ongoing to easily spend the rest of my life working on them, and likely still not finish.

The problem is, even on these projects, I really struggle to hold myself accountable. Blogs can take months to write and even basic code projects can take months to complete. It's not a lack of capability, it's a lack of accountability.

Going Forwards

My largest failures appear to simply be the inability to hold myself accountable. I start something but tend not to finish it.

I read an article recently regarding daily journals - whilst I have no real interest in journals, the idea of writing something daily is interesting. I am thinking this could even make an interesting thing to public publicly. My thinking is to have the following format:

  1. Brief - A few sentences on what is in my head currently.
  2. TODO - A list of items I want to achieve that day, along with time estimates.
  3. Debrief - Discuss the number of tasks that were achieved, how accurate the estimations were and write some notes about what is in my head regarding the next day.

Starting with today, I will attempt to write a daily brief to attempt to introduce greater self-accountability into my life.


  1. Side note: This could be feeding the obesity crisis.