Discussion Trees With Example

When you have a discussion, it’s important to understand what is a reply to what, and what didn’t receive a reply (especially direct questions that aren’t answered).

To track this, draw a tree diagram. Put the initial thing someone said on top, then connect replies below it. Then for the each reply, put replies to it below it and connect them. And so on. It looks like this (real discussion, then tree):

Use abbreviated versions of what was said. Treat this like an overview, outline or notes. Make it condensed so it’s easier to see the whole discussion at once. Notes (text that doesn’t represent what someone said) can be put in square brackets. The tree helps show the structure of the discussion while having only short notes about what was said.

If it gets too complicated, you can split it into multiple diagrams. Write “subtree [name]” as a reply, then make a second diagram with that name which represents that part of the tree. It’s just the same as if you had one giant diagram except you took a part of it and moved it to a separate piece of paper or computer document. You can make documents that zoom in on specific parts of the overall discussion tree. You can also make an extra-abbreviated summary tree which leaves a lot out, then make some more detailed trees for some parts.

You should do something to indicate who said what, e.g. put their initials or use different colors.

It’s good to mark what didn’t get a reply and non sequiturs (comments that aren’t responsive, don’t engage with what they reply to). You could also mark direct questions, or at least direction questions that weren’t answered.

In my example, a green outline is Jack Dorsey, red is me, and black is an anonymous poster named A. Bold indicates a direct question (I paraphrased some things as questions but only bolded if it was a question in the original text). Dotted lines are non sequiturs. Ovals are statements that were replied to and rectangles are statements that were not replied to.

You can keep a tree in chronological order if you extend the lines between replies. Each row can be a message someone sent. If someone replies to an old point, draw a long line from it down to the current row. You can draw horizontal lines the show the rows. This will help with complicated discussions. Look at how my example tree is organized in rows. You never see claims from the same person in the same row, and every row corresponds to a specific message (I wrote three messages in the discussion and I have three rows, same for A).

Trees help you understand the discussions you have. Practice making trees for many of your discussions until it’s easy. Also practice doing it with other people's discussions. (If other people's discussions are easier because you're less emotionally involved or biased, start there; if it's harder because you understand what's being said less, start with your own.) Mentally keeping track of trees like this is what people who are good at discussions do (except when they actually write notes). If you write them down a bunch of times, you’ll get way better at remembering them.

When you have a difficult discussion with someone, if you both share your tree diagrams, you can compare and see where you view the discussion differently. This helps clear up misunderstandings and other problems.

Tree Analysis

The tree diagram makes it easy to see that A wasn’t responding to most of what I said (look for the red rectangles and the dotted lines). You can also see the two things from A that I didn’t reply to. And you can see what happened with direct questions: first, no real answer, just a vaguely implied answer that doesn’t make sense (I asked the point of what he was saying and he implied no point) and then a non sequitur reply, that does not answer the question, to my followup question trying to ask the same thing again.

It’s hard to perfectly represent discussions as summary trees but you can represent a lot of information this way. It’s useful even if it’s not 100% complete. In this case, the tree leaves out an issue that helps explain why I didn’t reply to the claim that debates are irrational.

I said:

You haven't given reasons nor any way for me to learn that you're right and change my mind.

And A replied criticizing me for mentioning debate, saying:

learning from each other is what matters.

I had just complained about the lack of any opportunity to learn from him, and then he criticized me because, allegedly, I wanted to debate in a non-learning way. That’s unreasonable and it’s part of a pattern where he didn’t engage with any substantive thing I said (look at all the square rectangles, plus what happened with my direct questions).

Discussion trees are literally and technically equivalent to bullet point outlines with nesting (indenting). You nest/indent replies under what they reply to. That represents the identical information as a tree with lines indicating what is a reply to what. If you don’t understand this, practice creating both the tree and the outline until you do understand.

Making Trees

You can make tree diagrams with pencil and paper, art apps (FYI vector art apps like Affinity Designer make more sense than pixel or photo based apps like Photoshop, and more basic tools can work too, and there are mind mapping and diagramming apps), OmniGraffle, or Graphviz. For info on generating tree diagrams from s-expressions, see my email reply to Justin (who found a website which does it), sharing my Ruby script which converts s-expressions to Graphviz files. Here’s the s-expression I used to create the example tree:

("No political ads on Twitter"
    ("social status, favors, friends, pull"
        ("money shouldn't buy influence"
            "no info that could change my mind")
        (disagree
            "no reasons"
            ("debate?"
                "debates are irrational, aren't you a Popperian?")
            ("point?"
                ("[implied] there is no point"
                    ("purpose of contradicting me?"
                        "opinions are allowed here")))))
    "Less upward mobility"
    "Can't put money where mouth is"
    "Read Atlas Shrugged")

It’s worth learning to write trees as s-expressions. s-expressions are a general purpose intellectual tool. They’re a way of representing structured information/data.


Update:

See the Discussion Trees blog category for more tree examples.

See Mind Map software review for software choices.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (42)

Getting Elliot’s Attention

How do I allocate attention? Here are some things I look for.

I prefer public, asynchronous, unmoderated, text discussion with permanent archives and no editing messages. This is available on my curi website and Fallible Ideas email discussion group. Discord, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and personal emails don’t qualify. This facilitates discussion over time. I don't want recency biases or discussions that automatically end in a day or two.

I prefer non-parochial discussion. That means I’m writing something of general interest. It’s best if the topic is general interest and what I say about the topic is easy to share, or easy for someone else to read, rather than mixed up in a bunch of back-and-forth discussion. I prefer discussion formats where I can easily link to things I wrote and can easily copy/paste parts of the discussion without the formatting being screwed up.

I prefer productive discussion with people who are making an honest, friendly, serious effort over time (e.g. 2+ months of regularly working on learning something and sharing what they’re doing so I can see the effort for myself and can critically comment on it).

I prefer discussing with high-initiative, independent people who have their own motor. I prefer people who are going to learn whether I help or not, and who will guide themselves. Then my help or comments are an extra bonus. I dislike helpless behaviors.

I prefer people who will brainstorm a bunch of ways of making progress, and try them. I don’t like people who get stuck easily and don’t have any ideas to get unstuck. It’s best if you’re self-sufficient enough that my comments can help you do better at what you’re already doing (and sometimes reconsider it and change projects), rather than my comments needing to somehow get you unstuck. It’s OK if you’re getting low on great ideas about how to proceed and starting to try some more marginal ideas and you want help. It’s bad if you have no ideas for proceeding on your own and gave up.

I prefer paying attention to people who have a significant writing or discussion history, e.g. a blog or dozens of past, reasonable, effortful messages. If you’re posting anonymously and have no past reputation, you should put some extra effort into making your message clearly worthwhile and nice to engage with. I also generally like people with websites, and people who write public things which are meant to still be read years in the future.

If you want to post anonymously, I prefer that you pick a pseudonym and use it for at least an entire conversation, preferably longer.

I prefer people who use quotes effectively (such as including relevant context so that their message is self-contained, while also excluding irrelevant text), format their posts well, respond to what I actually said, don’t talk past me, don’t put words in my mouth, don’t misquote me, don’t respond to something different than what I said, don’t straw man me, and don’t reply with non sequiturs.

I prefer talking with people who don’t do social pressure behaviors. I dislike people who treat discussion as a popularity contest and pander to the non-participating audience.

I prefer good questions which talk about what you already did to solve your own problem and where/how/why you got stuck. I prefer questions which build on something that’s already written (e.g. by me or Rand). I don’t like vague questions. I generally like questions that explain your perspective.

If you don’t ask a question, I can write about a topic without you. I can create my own generic writing prompts and questions without you. Your questions, to be useful, need to have an advantage over that. They need to add some upside for me. There are two main ways to do that. First, you can include information about your perspective, what you tried, how you got stuck and your own experience with the problem. Suppose you have a question about capitalism. You can e.g. tell me which specific sentences you didn’t understand from one of my articles about capitalism, and what’s confusing about them for you. That’s more useful to me than the question “So, how does capitalism work?”, which I already thought of myself and wrote about. Second, you can write a high effort, detailed, organized question. You can e.g. write about the current state of the field, what are the open questions, what is already answered and how, etc. You can do research or think about the best way to approach the issues. In that case, the upside for me is that you put work into the topic. So, to make a good question, give me information I don’t already have – either info related to your personal learning or info from doing some good thinking about the issue.

I don’t like questions which essentially ask me to start over and explain the issue from scratch in cases where I (or someone else like David Deutsch) already wrote a one-size-fits-many, generic explanation addressing the matter from scratch.

I don’t like being asked questions that I preemptively answered in an article or in a previous discussion message. I understand that you had trouble understanding, but be more specific than “I don’t get it” or “How does X work?”. It’s important to give me some information about what you don’t get – which part of my explanation don’t you get, what’s the problem, what do you think it says in your words, what’s your best guess at what it means, what seems wrong about it to you, what criticism of it do you see no way to deal with, something.

I prefer cooperative discussion. Adversarial debates are overrated. The main benefit of them is that they’re better than no discussion at all.

If you want an adversarial debate, it helps if you communicate your background and why you think you have the skill to keep up and potentially win. Even better, bring up stakes or tests – e.g. if you’re wrong about X (something relatively easy to objectively evaluate the correctness of, e.g. a factual matter), then you’ll do Y (concede some points, read and comment on some books and FI articles, be extremely appreciative, impressed, surprised, pay me money, behave differently in your career, whatever – the more the better). It’s important to have clear criteria for what’d satisfy you in a debate, to have clarity about what it’d take for you to concede, and to have ways to objectively test who is right instead of it all being evaluated with freeform judgment. And it’s important that there be consequences to the debate, something actually happens if a conclusion is reached (it should be something that has value for me if I’m right). It’s also good to say why the issue you want to debate is important, why it matters, why it’s worth debating. And tell me how I would benefit from being corrected about this.

For all discussions, and especially debates, I prefer people who are persistent about reaching a conclusion. And people who will slow down and stop skipping steps or jumping to conclusions, will clarify things, will put effort into making the discussion organized, and will deal with tangents and sub-issues.

Communicate goals you have that I’ll appreciate, e.g. to debate to a conclusion, or to learn philosophy. If your question is the first of 20+ questions you plan to ask over a period of months, that’s a good thing, tell me that. I don’t like the people who ask one question, get their answer, and leave with no comment. I prefer helping people with bigger goals than to get one answer to one thing. (The one thing is almost never very important on its own, it’s just good as a step towards bigger stuff.)

Don’t try to have it both ways with being a beginner who wants leeway and also an expert who is challenging my ideas and expects to win debates with me. You can’t simultaneously be both. And, in general, pick one and say which it is. If you think you’re my peer or intellectual equal, say so, and then I’ll hold you to the same standards I hold my own work to. If you don’t think you’re my peer and don’t want to be held to the standards for my own work, say that. If your thinking and claims are not being held to the same quality standards as mine, and it looks to you like I’m wrong, your default assumption should be that you’re missing something (or, at least, there was a misunderstanding), because your ideas are less rigorous than mine. If you don’t have a comparable amount of learning and studying activity in your past (compared to me), including public writing exposed to criticism, then you shouldn’t expect that the criticism or critical question you just thought of is new to me. It’s not literally impossible, but it’s a bad default assumption because I’ve already heard or thought of so many ideas before.

I like talking to reasonable, smart, knowledgeable people. And honest, especially honest. I dislike talking with people who assume I don’t have enough information to make judgments about them that I’ve made. I have a lot of knowledge about how to judge discussion statements which have been exposed to a lot of critical commentary and tested extensively. Lots of your behavior, which you’re blind to, is expressed in your words and is easy for me to judge as e.g. dishonest.

I like when people talk to people other than me and have discussions that I can comment on. I don’t like being a major participant in 90% of discussions at my forums. Practice discussing with others (both on my forums and elsewhere), try things out, share what happened, and ask for help with problems.

I prefer people who answer my questions or, in the alternative, say why they aren’t answering. It’s hard to deal with people who ignore direct questions. I also dislike ambiguous answers, including giving one answer to three questions (and not even specifying which one is being answered). I also want direct answers like “yes” or “no” when possible – if you want to explain your answer with nuance, you should generally give a direct answer as the first sentence of your answer, then give extra information after.

I also prefer people who ask clear, direct questions. If you say some stuff with no question, I’m less inclined to answer. Tell me what you want. Don’t imply them or hint. Don’t think a key part of your message goes without saying. Even a generic comment like “Does anyone have criticism of this?” or “I’d like criticism of this.” (which is fine despite not being a question or request) is much better than nothing. It takes away wiggle room (both honest and dishonest) where you could later say you didn’t actually think what you said was true, or weren’t looking for criticism, or some other excuse for why you don’t appreciate the criticism you received. Even better is to say something less generic about what you think or want.

I like people who care about errors instead of making excuses about why those errors aren’t important. I find people dramatically underestimate what errors matter and don’t understand how they matter, and mostly don’t ask or want to know, either.

If you value my attention, say so explicitly and act accordingly. Or pay for it (contributions, consulting, digital educational products). Money is good. Money is actually a lot easier to come by and provide to me than high-quality discussion messages are. I don’t mind helping some people who are bad at stuff, and paying customers have priority there (as do friendly, cooperative, honest people who appreciate the help).

It’s good to share your goals, intentions and plans for a discussion or for your learning. And how much do you care? What will you do about it? What resources are you allocating to this project and what will you do with them? What resources do you estimate the project needs to succeed? How hard a project is it? What have you done to build up to being ready to do it by doing a series of easier project successfully and sharing the results publicly on your blog? These are areas you should be interested in critical feedback on. Many learning projects fail because of project planning errors, e.g. people think something is a much smaller project than it is. Many people start discussions and quickly drop out. They weren’t really interested in the topic they asked about, don’t want to think or talk about it much, don’t want to take actions to learn more such as reading an article, and don’t want to discuss and learn from their error either.

I dislike when people ask for my help with a project which is already in progress and they won’t share or revisit the project planning. They want my help with goals they already decided, using an approach they already decided, but they want to exclude me from discussing or criticizing that stuff. Lame!

The more you do the above things, the more attention you’ll get. If you don’t do them, don’t expect much attention.

I wrote this post partly to help people deal with me better and partly to clarify this for myself. I’m trying to change to better follow these guidelines. Expect me to be less responsive than I’ve been in the past if you don’t follow the above advice. I plan to ignore more stuff that I think is low value.

But what if I make a mistake and ignore something important? What if I’m biased? What about Paths Forward? My Paths Forward Policy is still in effect as a backup so that mistakes can be corrected – it can be used if I don’t allocate attention to something that you think I should. And, along with this post, I’ve just written introductory questions people can use, made a How To Discuss blog post category, written an explanation of how debates and impasses work and how to conclude a debate, and written a new debating policy.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (31)

Introductory Questions

Are you looking for one reply, a small discussion, a big discussion, or a series of discussions?

Are you looking for help or to correct me? Are you trying or expecting to learn from me, or to win a debate with me?

Do you believe you’re a beginner, a skilled and knowledgable person, or my equal or peer?

How many relevant online articles have you written? How many words is that? Link your website with them. 5+ articles is preferred for beginners, 20+ is preferred for knowledgeable people, and 20+ is a hard requirement for peers (100+ preferred). I’m flexible if you have a good written substitute for online articles, e.g. a published book. Writing should be on your own website (either your own domain or your own account at something like WordPress, Blogger, or Medium, not Reddit comments, Quora answers, etc.)

What resources have you allocated to this project? The main ones are time (e.g. 1 hour, 20 hours, or 7 hours/week indefinitely) and money. If your allocations of both time and money are low, it’s hard to make much progress.

If you want to debate, are you planning to pursue the matter to a conclusion? And if you lose the debate (in your own opinion) will you thank me, pay me, or do anything else about it? If you want to learn, are you planning to pursue the matter until you’ve succeeded, or will you stop and try something else if it’s not quick and easy?

What have you already done to learn about this matter or develop the skills to deal with it effectively? Read books or articles (about the topic itself or about how to learn, think, discuss, study, etc.)? Studied them? Written notes? Discussed them? (Publicly? Link?) Watched YouTube videos? Read Wikipedia? Listened to podcasts? Asked experts? Gotten a degree? Worked in the field? Do you have much discussion or debate history/practice (link?)?

I ask these questions first because they’re relevant context for the discussion and second because they are areas where people commonly behave/communicate ambiguously or dishonestly.

Generally you can answer these questions just once and it’ll be fine for many discussions. People usually have similar answers for most or all of their discussions. But if the answers change significantly, you should communicate that.

I like long discussions or debates. You’re welcome to ask for that. Just say so. I don’t like e.g. people who try to debate me, anonymously, and they may stop replying at any moment (I have no idea), but before that they always demand I give them more answers or else they call me an irrational evader. Short questions are OK too if they’re clear about what they are, and they’re good, effortful questions. I don’t like people who bring up a topic so that it looks like the start of a substantial discussion but then don’t continue after they get an initial answer. The questions above help me know what to expect from a discussion.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (5)

Chat Highlights

This is a successful philosophy discussion, mostly with StEmperorAugustine. There's a brief discussion about dishonesty, then an extended discussion about whether people's interests are objective or subjective. PDF. (I cropped out some irrelevant parts. Depending on the software you use to view the PDF, you may see whitespace for partial-page removed sections. It's not broken.)

And this is a discussion about eating, calories and fatness. It was kind of a mess between JustinCEO and CallmeBigPopper (it's instructive to see what people do wrong in discussions and consider what you would do differently – and then actually test yourself in discussions), but then I wrote some good explanations at the end which everyone agreed with and which I wanted to share. PDF.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (7)

Kira Peikoff Is a Bad Writer

I read 5 chapters (17%) of No Time to Die by Kira Peikoff (KLP). Her father is Leonard Peikoff the Objectivist philosopher. She was named for Kira from Ayn Rand's novel We The Living.

The novel is unreadably bad. I'm not going to read further. And it has nothing to do with Objectivism. The acknowledgments (accurately, I guess) don't mention Ayn Rand, Objectivism, or Leonard Peikoff. They don't mention her mother either. I looked at KLP's website and also didn't see anything about Rand, Objectivism or her father.

KLP was homeschooled initially but then went to high school and university.

KLP did not read Atlas Shrugged until she was at college. Source:

Book that changed your life:

Atlas Shrugged. I read it in college, when I was living away from home for the first time and deciding whether to embrace the philosophy I was raised with. It was always important to me--and to my parents--that I come to my own independent conclusions. After I finished the book, I finally knew the answer.

How can you be "raised with" Objectivism but not read Atlas Shrugged until age 18+? And I see no signs of Objectivist thought in her novel. And in the same interview, the book she wants to be an evangelist for is Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson, a thriller involving amnesia and trust (and a bunch of sex fantasies, according to a negative Amazon review). She apparently doesn't want to be an evangelist for Objectivism.

What about the book, No Time to Die? The unlikeable main character wants to be normal and fit in, quit university over teasing, has mean parents, has a nice grandfather, and gets stressed or fearful easily. She's second-handed and nothing like Roark. She routinely tells social lies. She has a medical condition which turns out to be she stopped physically aging at age 14 (she's now 20, and the book has some sort of plot about anti-aging science). The scientific rigor level of the book appears to be that if you say that genes did it, that's intelligent science instead of fantasy magic. Meanwhile there is a criminal conspiracy to kidnap scientists for some reason.

The foreshadowing and setting up where the book is going are awful. I can't tell why most of the material in the book is relevant. It seems there will be some anti-aging science stuff but then we get a bunch of seemingly-pointless stuff about the main character personally.

On finding out she's physically (but not mentally) 14, the protagonist starts thinking of herself as 14 in ways that don't make sense. She just wants to grow up normally. Even the genius doctor makes a comment about getting parental consent because she's under 18. My takeaway is that the author of the book is unintelligent. Contrast it with David Deutsch's intelligent comments on a similar scenario in The Final Prejudice.

This post could use some book quotes to illustrate what it's like, but the book is unimportant and bad and I don't want to do that. What interested me most was that KLP was allegedly raised with Objectivist philosophy, but actually didn't read Atlas Shrugged until college ... at which point she claimed to embrace it, but didn't. I looked into it because of reversion to the mean. Leonoard Peikoff (LP) is far worse than his teacher, Ayn Rand, but still exceptional in many ways. And KLP is far worse than LP, she's normal, there are no signs of greatness.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (16)

Rational Discussion Tips

Be clear and direct about questions or requests.

When asking a question, ask for the information you want. E.g. don’t ask “why” unless you want to know why. Give some basic, simple thought to what your question is and directly say it.

Saying, “If you do X, I will do Y” is not a request that the person do X. It’s giving them information about their options.

Saying “I want X” is not literally a request, even if X has to do with another person. Sometimes that wording may be clear enough, but other times it won’t be, and it’s hard to tell the difference, so don’t rely on it. A clear request is “Please do X”. Requests are often phrased as questions, e.g. “Will you do X?” When in doubt, say “I request (that you) X”. (The parentheses indicate optional words that fit some scenarios but not others.)

Use question marks for your questions. Do not use question marks on non-questions.

Don’t skip steps. E.g. don’t ask “Why do you think X?” if the person has not said they think X. Instead ask “Do you think X?”

Don’t ask a question which is answered by the words “yes” or “no” unless you want a yes or no answer.

If someone asks a question with a yes or no answer, start your answer with “yes” or “no”. If you want to say something else, say it after giving the direct answer. Don’t leave out the clear, direct answer.

In general with all questions, start your answer with the answer. Your first sentence should clearly and directly answer the question. If you want to explain extra details, put those after the answer. Don’t use “But” for the extra details. Don’t contradict your original answer. Phrase the answer to be correct on its own. You can add minor/tiny exceptions in the details (“unless zombie Hitler shows up and points a gun to my head”), but if your answer requires a major exception, your answer is wrong and you should change it. E.g. say “often” instead of “almost always” in your original answer if there are some major exceptions.

When you use strong words like “always”, “never”, “all”, “none”, consider if they are actually, literally true (don’t say it if it’s false) and consider if you have a reason to make such a strong claim. In general, when you want to make a strong claim like that, you shouldn’t. Instead, remove the qualifier. E.g. instead of saying “All cats have hair” say “Cats have hair”. Adding the “all” is a way of saying “there are absolutely no exceptions” which is false (in this example and in many cases) and is generally an unnecessary/irrelevant claim. Don’t say “Some cats have hair” either, that’s too weak and defensive, there’s no need to limit it to “some”, that doesn’t represent reality well (more than “some” cats have hair, it’s more common than that).

Don’t use intensifiers without a big reason. In general, just delete it every time you write “very”.

Don’t assert things which other people should judge for themselves or which are being debated in the discussion. E.g. don’t call one of your arguments “good” when 1) it’s other people’s job and privilege to decide if it’s good or not 2) you’re debating with someone who you can expect to disagree with your evaluation of how good it is. Instead, simply call it an argument.

Don’t assert things, without giving an argument, which other people will disagree with. In particular this comes up with claims about people. E.g. if Joe claims Sue is angry and gives some reasoning related to what she wrote, Sue saying “I am not angry” is not a counter-argument, it’s an unargued assertion. Sue should not assume her beliefs about herself are true. Sue shouldn’t expect Joe to believe her claims about her emotions, thoughts, motivations, and so on, just because she says so. Further, Sue herself shouldn’t believe her claims about herself unless she has arguments.

Don’t respond to questions with counter-questions. Don’t respond to arguments by raising new topics. Engage with what people say.

Occasionally you may switch to a higher level meta issue with logical priority. E.g. suppose you’re debating politics. If someone asks you a question about your views on government-run healthcare, or makes an argument about that, don’t respond with a question or argument about immigration or border walls. Don’t change the topic to something else about politics. However, it can be appropriate to change the topic to something non-political like “Hold on, the discussion is getting really chaotic. Let’s try to organize it and go one thing at a time. OK?” Or you could say you were losing interest and suggest dropping it or discussing why it’s interesting, important and productive enough to continue. Those tangents make sense because those issues come before and govern the political discussion. But switching from one political issue to another is non-responsive to what the person said and is a way people avoid explaining their position.

To a first approximation, all mistakes matter. Try not to make mistakes. When you do make a mistake, don’t make the excuse of saying you weren’t really trying. Take responsibility for your error and try to fix it and figure out what caused the error.

Be prepared for discussion topics to change from e.g. politics to non-politics like the thought processes behind the mistake you made about politics.

Be prepared to discuss how you think rational discussion works. Be prepared to disagree with people about that and have to explain your thinking. Don’t expect the methods of productive discussion to be something everyone agrees on and which goes without saying.

Be prepared for people to say things you consider rude, impolite, etc. If they do, it means they disagree with you about how to discuss. You can argue your case or be tolerant and broad-minded and not mind.

Be prepared to use references and for other people to use them. You don’t have to write out every idea you have. Some have already been written down (or audio or video was recorded), in the past, by you or by someone else. You can link, cite or quote stuff to avoid repeating.

Consider, when you claim something, if you think it’s a new, original idea, an uncommon idea, a reasonably well known idea, or an extremely popular idea. If you don’t know which it is, or where you got it, that’s a problem. That indicates you don’t know much about your own idea. If you do know basic info about the idea’s status in the world, that is relevant in some ways. E.g. if an idea is very popular and widely accepted, then someone should have already written the idea down in a good, high quality way. So quote that instead of writing shoddy, half-assed new arguments. If you can’t or won’t do that, why not? What’s going on? Wanting to practice explaining things yourself is one answer. Another thing that can be going on is that millions of people believed it without ever caring whether anyone ever wrote good arguments explaining the matter, which would be an important and relevant fact about the idea.

If you don’t know the purpose of every word you read, you don’t understand it. Don’t ignore or skip some words. Don’t try to give counter-arguments when you don’t understand it (at least not without a warning that you don’t understand it but you’re going to try to say something anyway, so people know the situation – lots of stuff that’s normally bad to do becomes OK if you clearly state what’s going on so no one will be misled). Try to figure it out and/or ask what the text means.

Rational truth-seeking discussion is about figuring out decisive answers to resolve issues. E.g. criticisms that refute, not weaken, ideas. It’s not about scoring points, it’s about finding (contextually) conclusive answers.

Try to keep track of your discussion so that you know which ideas have been refuted by which arguments, which are not-refuted, which ideas conflict with each other, what questions are open and unanswered, etc.

Discussion is cooperative. Don’t be biased. Don’t argue for “your” side. Contribute arguments, questions and ideas for all sides in an effort to find the truth. And feel free to ask for help from the other guy about anything – he’s your ally, not your enemy.

If something is too hard or confusing or overwhelming, just stop and slow down. State the problem and propose something to do about it or ask for suggestions on what to do about it.

When in doubt, deal with the doubt. Don’t ignore problems. Don’t try to focus on the main topic like physics or immigration. Bring up the problem with the discussion. Ignoring the problem will only break the discussion and confuse the other person who you hid the problem from. Hiding the problem from your discussion partner(s) is dishonest and it sabotages the discussion.

If you’re emotional, take a break from discussing or pause the main topic and communicate about the problem. (Unless the emotions are clearly and significantly positive, that’s OK. But don’t make the excuse that you don’t feel “bad” or it’s not “negative” emotions – if it’s anywhere near neutral plus strong enough that you’re noticing it, it’s a significant concern and you shouldn’t be confident of your understanding of it.) Like other problems, getting emotional during discussions is not something to try to ignore or hide. Do something to solve the problem yourself and take responsibility for it working or ask for help.

Don’t rush. Take as much time as you need. Don’t sit there worrying endlessly for no clear reason either. Take reasonable steps that aren’t careless and which follow your thinking and discussing methods. No more, no less.

It’s easiest to organize and keep track of a discussion, and follow up over time, on the curi forum. That’s easier than FI because you don't have to learn to use and format emails and because it puts the whole discussion on one page. And it’s easier than Discord because it’s easy to find and refer to everything instead of it getting scrolled way up.

Plan to follow up on your discussions over time until they reach a conclusion of some sort. Don’t just end them for no reason because you went to sleep or 24 hours passed or whatever. You can end discussions when you reach answers about the topic or when you have some reason to, e.g. you feel like you learned enough for now. When you end a discussion, explain your reason and be prepared to consider and discuss criticism of your reasoning.

Try to be extremely honest and expect others to be honest too.

Don’t form negative judgments of people until at least one negative claim about them has objectively reached a conclusion in discussion. E.g. you argued your case fully and completely and you think it’s adequate, covered everything, and there are no substantive counter arguments that you haven’t addressed (all the replies are just distractions and bullshit like the person putting effort into misunderstanding what you said, which you covered as a general category but not for each one individually). If you’ve never quoted someone’s error, explained a criticism, and addressed questions and counter-arguments in a way you think is objectively conclusive (should satisfy and persuade any rational person, including the person criticized, who is only resisting the claim due to bias, irrationality, dishonesty, evasion, etc.) then don’t be judgmental. Give people the benefit of the doubt and act with good will and in good faith until there is at least one clearly established reason to do otherwise.

If you don’t like something and don’t say anything about it, you are the one behaving badly, not them. If you just assume it’s bad, you’re dealing with a disagreement (they don’t think what they did is bad) by assuming you’re right, without arguing your case. That’s an irrational, not truth-seeking, way to handle disagreements.

See also these other discussion tips including more in the comments there.

PS This is all related to epistemology because thinking and discussing are largely equivalent. Rational discussion is externalized rational thinking, and rational thinking is internalized rational discussion. For a truth-seeking process that deals with disagreements between ideas, the number of people involved (one, two, more) and the format (text, voice, thoughts in your head) do not fundamentally change what makes it rational and effective.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (44)

Blizzard's Speech Suppression

Blizzard Gives 6-Month Ban To College Team That Held Up 'Free Hong Kong' Sign

Blizzard banned some US college Hearthstone players from competitions for 6 months after they held up a sign reading "FREE HONG KONG, BOYCOTT BLIZZ”. They did this on purpose, as a statement, after Blizzard banned a Hong Kong Hearthstone player for a year, and made him forfeit like 10k of prize money, for a pro Hong Kong statement, and also fired the two casters involved.

Blizzard wasn’t sure what to do at first and delayed a decision, but has now decided that it does want to punish Americans for their political speech in America that is in agreement with American values in general. It’s not even offensive speech in America, it’s just offensive to foreign communists.

Blizzard’s justification for the bans is:

a general rule that states the company can punish players for “engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.”

This is an extremely generic, subjective rule. One can’t predict in advance what will be punished or how much it will be punished. A government with laws like this would be an oppressive tyranny. This is rule of man, not rule of law.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fuck China

Free Hong Kong. Free the Muslim Uighurs from Chinese oppression.

Fuck Apple for removing the HKmap.live app and lying about why. Fuck the NBA's appeasement of China. Fuck Blizzard for banning the Hong Kong Hearthstone player. Fuck Chinese censorship and its Western accomplices.

Fuck the Chinese government. They are tyrannical communists. Mao Zedong was evil. The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre was evil.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (13)

curi's Progress

This topic is for posting what I write about in the comments. Topic, word count, and maybe date if I'm posting it late. I may also mention other activities.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (51)

Dishonest Thinking About Sex with Minors

In Defense of Richard Stallman is a decent article on recent events. Stallman lost several jobs because the SJW, fake-news media fraudulently misquoted him. Too few people wanted to stand up to the lies, or bothered to think enough to know it was lies.

Stallman said of his friend Marvin Minsky (allegedly) fucking an underage girl on Jeffrey Epstein's pedophile island:

the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates.

and then the media lied like:

Stallman wrote that “the most plausible scenario” for Giuffre’s accusations was that she was, in actuality, “entirely willing.”

This is a major evil. It's dangerous. And it's complicated: it involves the activists, the lying media, and also, most of all, the much larger group of people who go along with it, who aren't SJW activists but do choose to accept the media's lies.

While I don't think Stallman should have been fired for this, I don't agree with him either. Here's how I view it (assuming the allegation is true):

Minsky was 73. She was 17. He was in a weird situation on a private island. What did he think her motivation was? Did he think he was physically attractive to her? Did he think she didn't have better options for recreational sex? Did he think she was an educated fan of his work? Was she trying to gold dig and get a relationship, money, even marriage, from the married Minsky? Did she have a fetish for old guys? Was she trying to social climb in Minsky's social circle? Was she going to ask for favors later like a higher grade (she wasn't in his class), a preface to her book by Minsky, or introductions to important people?

Did Minsky ask her anything about her motivation? Or did he choose not to consider it, not to ask, and to engage in dishonest, biased, wishful thinking?

Why did Minsky want to engage in statutory rape? Or did he not bother to find out her age, and not care? Or did he figure they weren't in the US, so breaking US laws didn't matter, and he thinks it's a bad law which should be repealed (something he's never said a word about in his life, certainly never advocated, he just wanted it not to exist this one time for him)?

I don't know anything. My analysis is all made up. But I think it's much more plausible than Stallman's suggestion that Minsky was duped. You can't really dupe an honest man like this. They have to go along with it. If they were trying not to be duped, they'd have a bunch of questions and there wouldn't be convincing answers.

Sex and sexual consent are things to be careful with. Sex in unusual situations (like on a private island, in a foreign country, with a large age gap, or with someone outside of one's regular social circle), where your regular intuition may not be appropriate, is something to be extra careful with. Sex with especially young girls, who are generally less experienced and responsible, is something to be extra careful with. Was Minsky extra careful? Doubtful. How could he have been careful and ended up going through with it when there wouldn't actually have been good answers to skeptical questions? If he started expressing a bunch of doubts and concerns, would the girl really have been able to come up with persuasive lies to cover every issue? Was she so much cleverer than Minsky that she could fool him despite the facts being heavily against her?

This is like an extreme version of a guy who believes a bunch of flattery – without really questioning it or thinking critically – from a pretty woman he just met. Except this time, instead of manipulating him to get a favor, she was just offering sex for nothing, for no apparent reason, not even a free drink. At that point, an honest, old, unattractive man is normally wondering things like whether she's a prostitute, because what else could it be? If Minsky did wonder, it would have led to not having sex with her, and if he didn't wonder then he did something badly wrong.

Apparently Stallman and Geoff Greer (who wrote the defense of Stallman article linked above) didn't think of any of this, either. That's bad. And the media, rather than making these reasonable arguments, lied, which suggests to me that, despite their posturing as defenders of women, maybe they don't know this stuff either. (Disclaimer: I didn't read many articles about this. If you can find one which makes arguments similar to mine, especially from the mainstream media, please link it in the comments, I'd like to see it.).


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (16)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

Social Rules

Social rules are one of the most powerful enemies of reason.

They aren’t all bad. They have some useful purposes. But, regardless of the upsides, they have huge, irrational downsides.

The useful purposes are helping structure or organize how people interact. This gives people more of an idea of what to expect. People don’t realize what it’d be like dealing with a stranger with no customs to guide the interaction. That’s actually a really hard problem. Our social rules handle it pretty well.

When people are “anti-social”, it’s often only a small portion of social rules which they violate. For example, they say taboo words like “retard” or they say something bluntly (directly and honestly) which you’re supposed to tell “white lies” about or avoid saying anything about.

People who violate those rules still use many social customs such as greetings (“hi”), farewells (“bye”), or understanding and using the conversational dynamic of questions and answers.

The small portion of social rules which are commonly violated are not very important. The really important stuff is pretty uncontroversial. Particularly in intellectual conversations. In those conversations, people may be rude or insulting, but it’s basically nothing like trying to talk with a savage or barbarian who is ignorant of civilized modes of interaction.

Politeness helps reduce violence among semi-civilized people. But we’re so civilized today in America that we really expect people to be able to refrain from violence even if they are insulted. We think it’s barbaric to duel over honor.

Social communication rules limit what you say. This limiting makes it much harder to say certain ideas. Some of those ideas are true. Being able to speak freely lets you better focus on speaking the truth without worrying about other factors.

Some truths are very hard to say politely because, socially, you’re just not supposed to say them. For example, people lie all the time but you’re not supposed to point it out. Thinking people lied is common but saying so is considered an aggressive attack (regardless of whether it’s true). What if you want to point out lies so that people can learn to stop lying? What if the goal is improving in many ways including integrity? Then social rules make that hard.

Social rules cause people to take offense rather than rationally analyze what was said. Social rule following involves a way of evaluating statements as polite or rude, which people do before and often instead of evaluating whether the statement is true. This is contrary to truth-seeking. It causes people not to think about whether a criticism is true or not if they find it personally offensive.

There is an interesting issue about what to blame. Did the social rules teach people to get offended by “insults”? Or were they already offended by insults and the social rules just help avoid triggering that underlying flaw? Regardless, one can group it all together under the general heading “social dynamics” or “social rules related issues” and say there is a problem there.

Many problems occur because social rules are unwritten rules which people treat as an automatic, expected default. They won’t say what offends them or what rules they want to be treated by. Actually they often pretend they are willing to hear any criticism, but still expect social rules prohibiting some criticism to be followed.

If people said “I am fragile and get offended by things I perceive as insults. We need to somehow accommodate this flaw of mine in our discussions.” then they’d be easier to deal with. But people don’t honestly face the reality of their situation.

The main things that offend people are criticisms that imply they are bad in some way. This includes being incompetent at something where the social expectation (the general, default expectation of our society or culture) is that adults are competent at it. It also includes being dishonest, being bad at thinking, having immoral ideas, being dumb, not understanding something that people think only a dumb person wouldn’t understand, making dumb mistakes (dumb according to social perception, not objectively), and being irrational.

But people are irrational, dishonest, dumb or incompetent (because our culture’s expectations about skill are actually unrealistic and high in some ways (and low in other ways, they are not very accurate)). Those are crucially important issues for anyone trying to be a rational thinker. People need criticism of those issues. They need to get better at those things, not avoid discussing them. So social rules block intellectual progress.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (14)

TheWorldOfParmenides Reddit Conversation

TheWorldOfParmenides is a reddit user who liked and posted some of my material. His name is a Karl Popper book title. He was talking with people hostile to Popper. I talked with him briefly, suggesting he might like to discuss on the Fallible Ideas (FI) forum and expose his ideas to criticism. Two weeks later he got back to me about the FI forum. Here is the conversation:

TheWorldOfParmenides: I saw the email discussion group. Decided against participating. Looks like what is discussed is not of interest to me at this time. I appreciate the invitation but grammar, Rand, Apple and image analysis are not interesting to me.

Your email group is not what I am looking for at this time. Good luck to you.

curi: You can start topics.

TheWorldOfParmenides: Looks like you also violate people's privacy and post their emails publicly if they ever leave your little group.

You also attacked David Deutsch in defense of a shoddy Philosopher like Rand.

Lot of downsides, no real upsides. Thanks again but no thanks.

curi: Well, let me know if you develop any counter-arguments to anything I said, or to Objectivism, instead of just ad hominems.

Also I didn't violate anyone's privacy. When you email to a public email group, your email is publicly available to anyone. There are archives of all the emails, whether someone left or not, which include the email addresses that sent every email. People can use an email address that isn't attached to your real name (many people do).

TheWorldOfParmenides: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

You should read what an ad-hominem is before you talk about things you don't understand.

Better yet, spend 2 years as intellectual historian and read actual philosophers and realize that Objectivism stole from some of the best and Rand added her own poorly thought out ideas.

There is a reason that Rand is not taken seriously by professional Philosophers.

The fact that you thought what I said was ad-hom. Typically, (don't feel too bad this is very common) Randians have a very hard time separating ideas from people. If you do embark in an intellectual journey you'll quickly realize this.

Good luck!


I posted this to document what people are like. I want to be able to refer to it as an example later. This kind of stuff is pretty typical. It's a major problem with the world. It's hard to find any halfway rational thinkers. Also I suggest that people try analyzing the discussion in comments.


Update: He messaged me again after I posted this:

You immediately proved my point by you posting a private conversation on your website.

You Randians are so predictable. I say jump and you ask how high.

I don't know why he thinks messaging strangers on Reddit is private conversation. It's not.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (36)

FI Posting Tips

Tips for new people using the Fallible Ideas discussion group:

  • If you think a criticism is irrelevant, say so and give your reasoning. The person who posted it thought it was relevant. You disagree with me. Discuss your disagreement instead of assuming he’s stupid or acting in bad faith.
  • If you think a criticism is unimportant, say so and give your reasoning. For example, you can point out a small change to your idea which solves the criticized problem and which you think your critic should have been able to think of himself. Then ask if he disagrees with that analysis – maybe he sees a problem with that alternative or there was a reason he didn’t want to put words in your mouth by assuming that is the adjustment you’d want to make. (Putting words in your mouth without saying them out loud, just in his own head, is in general worse, not better because it’s more prone to lead to confusion and misunderstanding. It doesn’t have the social problems of attributing his dumb ideas to you, but in terms or having an effective discussion if he thinks you mean something you don’t mean, and he doesn’t say this out loud, it can get really confusing.)
  • If you think a criticism is pointlessly picky, pedantic, or hair splitting, say so and give your reasoning. Don’t think it’s obviously so and the person did it on purpose. They disagree with you. You may be right, but you can’t change their mind without giving some sort of explanation/argument/reason that is new information to them.
  • If you think someone does something mean, rude or bad, say so and give your reasoning. You may have misunderstood something. They may thank you for the critical feedback and apologize. If you don’t communicate about the problem you perceive, you are preventing problem solving, and anything bad that happens (e.g. you holding a grudge or forming a negative opinion of someone) is your fault and your error. Sarcasm or any sort of insulting joke is considered mean -- don’t post it, and do say something if you think someone did it to you.
  • If you have a problem of any kind with FI, say so and give your reasoning. That’s how truth seeking works.
  • Never use quotes when something isn’t an exact quote. Never manually type quotes, only copy/paste. (An exception is you can manually type in quotes from a paper book, but be careful to copy the exact words and review it for typos. Another exception is typing in quotes from a video or audio recording.)
  • Try to answer questions with clear, direct answers.
  • Try hard not to lie. Expect that you will lie anyway. Be open to criticism of your lying which can help you learn about your lying. If someone thinks you’re lying, that is productive criticism, it’s not a personal attack. If you don’t understand their reasoning, ask questions. And read this article about lying.
  • Try to understand things really clearly. Raise your standards for what you regard as actually understanding something. When in doubt, ask questions. If you’re not sure if you should ask a question, ask it.
  • “I don’t understand” is a bad question. Don’t say that. Which part don’t you understand? What issue are you having with it? When asking a question, or asking for help, you have to give some new information. People can’t give you a better answer without some kind of info about what the problem you’re having is. If you don’t give new info to let them customize what they say for you, they are in the same situation they were in originally when they first wrote it for a general audience, and they already wrote their generic answer for that.
  • When you want help, give information about what you tried. What is your problem? And what have you already done to try to solve the problem? And why didn’t those problem solving attempts work? What went wrong with them? Info about how/why/where you got stuck, what’s going wrong, is crucial for people to help you.
  • Keep your posts pretty short and have at most 3 sections (3 different quotes that you respond to). Most of your posts should have only one section – just reply at the bottom to the overall point instead of reply to details like specific sentences. Knowing how and when to reply to small parts is a skill which is hard and you shouldn’t worry about it for months. If your discussion is too complicated to write one reply at the bottom – if you feel like you need to reply to a bunch of details – then ask for help about how to simplify it.
  • Only post when calm. If you’re even a little bit emotional, don’t post. (BTW, your emotionalness can be divided into two categories: the stuff you’re aware of and the stuff you’re not aware of. So you’re basically always more emotional than you realize. For most people, the part they aren’t aware of is the majority.)
  • If you have negative emotions in reaction to a post, that is your choice. That is something you are doing to yourself. It’s about you, not the post. It’s your error. You could learn better and change. Don’t blame the other guy. Even if he was rude, your emotions are your responsibility. And, as above, don’t assume he was rude without a rational discussion where you explain reasoning and so does he.
  • Because you can and should ask for help with any problem at FI, then all your problems are your own fault, unless you actually raised the problem, discussed it calmly and reasonably (including answering clarifying questions), and then explained why you find the help inadequate and explained what you think is the source of the problem (e.g. you think something about FI’s design is bad, and you think it should be changed in a certain way, but people just refuse for no reason – which wouldn’t happen, but that is the sort of thing it takes for your problems to stop being your own fault.)
  • Be really careful with your preconceptions. FI has lots of unconventional ideas. It has something to offend everyone. You have to be tolerant, patient and interested, rather than just assuming that different ideas are bad ideas. Some different ideas are bad, but why? Consider and share your reasoning. We’ve probably heard it before and already written answers.

Update: See also my newer post Rational Discussion Tips


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (13)

List of Fallible Ideas Evaders

This is a guest post by Alan Forrester.


This is a list of ppl who had discussion contact with FI and then quit/evaded/lied/etc. It focuses on ppl who claimed some interest in FI, Poppper, reason, etc. It has a short summary of what happened with each person. It would be good to find patterns about what goes wrong. That would help people find out what the common mistakes are and avoid making them, and it'd help with organizing discussion to avoid some of the problems.

Ron Garret

ron@flownet.com

Interest: David Deutsch

Garret had a blog post discussing David Deutsch’s book “The Fabric of Reality” and criticising chapter 2 of the book. https://blog.rongarret.info/2015/03/why-some-assumptions-are-better-than.html

Elliot offered to criticise Garret’s post. Garret posted on FI between 13 and 15 May 2019. During the discussion he posted misquotes. When posters criticised him for misquoting he stopped posting. A quote from Garret’s last post:

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fallible-ideas/r9KDPJUwg88/QeMz7sJGAAAJ

You have misquoted people and said you’re careless. These are substantive problems. If you think they’re not substantive problems that in itself is a substantive disagreement. And for reasons pointed out above, these problems would make discussion of other problems more difficult. So fixing your carelessness and misquoting is more important int eh current context than your views on other topics.

I didn’t misquote people, I misquoted myself. And the “misquote” was substituting the word “dispute” for “deny” (or maybe it was the other way around, I don’t recall, and I don’t feel like looking it up). If you think the difference between “dispute” and “deny” is substantive, well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree about that. I intended them to be synonyms.

We’re having a substantive disagreement about the importance of accurate quoting.

No, we are having a stupid disagreement about whether or not “deny” and “dispute” mean the same thing. I neither deny nor dispute that accurate quoting is important in general. I deny and dispute that it matters in this particular instance.

You know what? This is a waste of time. I’m done.

Fred Welf

fwelfar@gmail.com
Interest: David Deutsch

Welf posted to the Beginning of Infinity Group about liberalism between 13 and 15 June 2017 claiming that liberalism led to bad policies. His posts were criticised and he stopped posting.

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/beginning-of-infinity/jCRJad0SNWY/7a_q0kPdAAAJ

A quote from Welf’s last post:

These are some of the nonsense consequences which were directly stated in my initial post. I wonder if you decided they were not stated as if you had read carefully or were blinded by your own overreaction to the first few sentences!!

Welf has posted some material about banks on the internet without discussing it with FI or the BoI group, see

https://tc.academia.edu/FredWelf


David Winslow

Davidwin@TDS.net
Interest: Objectivism

David Winslow can to the Fallible Ideas list from the Harry Binswanger list.

A quote from one of Winslow’s posts:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/19334

The combination here of there being a purpose to believing
something exists (explains sightings of apple trees, explains how apples are
produced, etc. and also no criticism of claiming it exists is adequate to say
it exists.

Your consensus methodology has little to do with either a scientific or
philosophical proof.

Existence is covered in more detail in DD's books. http://beginningofinfinity.com/books

I have no interest in hearsay.

Blue Yogin

blue.yogin@gmail.com
Interest: behavioural genetics

Blue Yogin posted to the FI list in December 2013 and January 2014. He tried to promote human behavioural genetics. A quote from one of his posts:

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fallible-ideas/8_RLCxNQ_LI/EwgBx3JIcacJ

Hi. I am the original asker of this question, and I'm new to the list. Happy to be here. Some of the context was lost here - we had been talking about the heritability upper and lower bounds for some common phenotypes, chief among them intelligence. (Or, if you prefer, "the ability to do well on IQ tests"). Whenever I talk about this I try to switch to sports analogies as quickly as possible. I think we have better intuitions about athletic ability than about mental ability, and they have the same basic statistical properties, so it's easy to switch between them.

So your approach to the subject is to stop considering it, and start arguing by analogy, as quickly as possible?

Yes.

To make this question harder and to avoid sneaking away from the pain I'm trying to inflict, allow me to add another proviso. Suppose that any good idea in football can be quickly copied by other teams.

How will supposing something vague, and seemingly false, get us anywhere?

Thus, though individual coaches might have some good ideas about how to train better or play better, whenever a good idea like that is shown to be successful, it quickly sweeps the entire league, and the game returns to an equilibrium state in which every team employs the best training and playing strategies, so that the only difference between teams are physical differences that can't be easily copied.

So you only want to approach the subject via unrealistic analogy?

It's not unrealistic. Strategies in football are in actual fact routinely copied whenever they work. Major league teams employ scouts whose full-time job is to figure out what training routines and play strategies the other teams are practicing. Trainers and coaches routinely switch from team to team and cross-pollinate their institutional knowledge. Whenever a team loses to a significantly new strategy, everyone in the entire league studies that play on their iPads in the week after the game and either adopts or develops a counter strategy.

One day he just stopped replying to posts.

Tom Robinson

tmt637@googlemail.com

Interest: TCS

Tom Robinson vaguely hung around the TCS/ FI scene for years.

His last post in March 2015 rejected FI without offering any way to make progress on disagreements:

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/beginning-of-infinity/fRVLfpN8jDc/IgNgCaWwpW4J

I watched the first 10 seconds and it looks super annoying to watch and really trendy, and screams unseriousness. Which fits with the 2 million views.
[...]
If you’re guessing why, instead of him knowing something more than an assertion, I’m not impressed.
[...]
it doesn’t matter if he’s the 10th best person in the world, it wouldn’t be good enough.

When I wrote that post I was interested in memes and writing mainly for my own benefit. By comparison, issues about how to make videos, who is impressed and who is the best at philosophy are boring and off-topic. They don't lie at The Beginning of Infinity. To paraphrase Ayn Rand, the proper business of man is the conquest of nature, not the conquest of other men.

Richard Crawley

crawleyfiesta@gmail.com

Richard posted from late May 2018 to September 2018. One of Crawley’s friends informed him of the list cuz Crawley was interested in addiction. He stopped replying to messages without saying why he stopped. A quote from his last message:

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fallible-ideas/2HlwpBFm4ME/TMmNRKVkCQAJ

Minimum wage laws are a price control on the price of labor. Any comment on those?

I have no problem with a minimum wage. I'm not sure I's call it the
"price of labour" in that way as that sounds like work is a commodity to
be sold, like a tin of beans, whereas in fact the operation is the other
way round.

The minimum wage was introduced to ensure that workers didn't get ripped
off. Unfortunately, the labour market isn't such that if you don't like
one employer you can just go and get another; despite what the
governments tell us, there are not swathes of companies desparate for
employees.

King of kings

kingofkings_woodz@hotmail.com

This person posted two messages and didn’t reply to criticisms at all.

A representative quote from one of his messages:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/topics/1655

We become the caretakers and defenders of all life as we know it thus far. We knw life is always at risk on the micro scale here on earth one species to the next. Whether they be plants, animal, or cell life. All life.

Kevin

work.kvollmer@gmail.com

Kevin posted twice in September 2013, asking about how to deal with criticism. A representative quote:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/topics/1340

When you come up with a new idea, the first thing you would do is consider if this actually solves the problem you have. If your idea doesn't solve the problem, you can always think some more about why it doesn't and make alterations to it until it does.

Suppose you think the idea might solve the problem. Do you then look for external criticisms to the idea? Or do you come up with your own criticisms of the idea to see if it does indeed work?

When you're consciously thinking about an idea, you've already criticized it and rejected many variants. The idea couldn't be any good otherwise. Criticism is necessary to get halfway decent ideas.

People would typically call this "unconscious criticism" or maybe "subconscious criticism". I don't think most thinking on those topics is very good. Maybe a better concept would be: criticism that you weren't paying active attention to. I don't think that's perfect either but it has advantages.

So in this context, the issue is more like: there is a constant stream of internal criticism going on and at what point do you try to add in some external criticism? And at what point do you pay more active "conscious" attention to the internal criticism?

There isn't a one size fits all non-contextual answer to that. But as a rule of thumb, if you're wondering whether to get an idea some external criticism, then the answer is that you should.

What if I want external criticisms a lot? What if I keep thinking my ideas aren't very good, and I should keep looking for more available criticisms?

anurnimuss

anurnimuss@yahoo.com

anurnimuss posted a few messages to the FI group in February 2014 and then stopped. A short sample of his writing:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/topics/2253

Is there a rational way of deciding whether someone should be allowed to acquire control of a dangerous object that belongs to a particular class of destructive capability?

I think that as a weapon or object becomes more dangerous to more people, we should become proportionately more critical of who has signaled an interest in taking control of it. This implies that we should scrutinize would-be knife owners less than gun owners, and gun owners less than bomb owners, and bomb owners less than missile owners, etc.

Matjaž Leonardis

sidranoel.zajtam@gmail.com

Interest: TCS

Leonardis posted on the BoI group from 2011 to 2012. He stopped posting with no explanation. A short sample of his writing:

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/beginning-of-infinity/cpi1SAqJEO0/jPSWqTeUmFgJ

Universality is when a particular solution solves all of the problems in a given domain. So, for example, the Arabic numeral system is universal for doing addition, subtraction and multiplication with positive integers. By contrast, tally marks are useless for doing those things except for very small numbers.

But you can do multiplication, addition and subtraction between positive integers with tally marks.

When you add you concatenate the two strings together, when you subtract you shorten the first string by the length of the second, and when you multiply you concatenate one copy of the first string for each tally mark in the second.

There is no reason why you can't do this (in principle) with arbitrary large integers.

It is true that the Arabic system is way more efficient but even it becomes useless for sufficiently large integers.

So I'm not 100% clear what exactly is the domain where the Arabic system is universal and the tally mark system isn't.

Leonardis posts on Twitter, including a post about a woman being fascinating based solely on a single photo:

https://twitter.com/MatjazLeonardis/status/1137422078590803968

Jude Stull

aspecaspect_of_reality@yahoo.com

Jude posted to the FI group in June and July 2013 and stopped posting without any explanation. A sample of Jude’s writing:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/355

2) instead of giving out direct contact info, have some public email list, discussion group, forum, or whatever, which you monitor. you do not have to read everything there. let other people discuss it. then look over the topics that get the most attention, that your allies don't know how to fully answer, that your allies think have merit, and so on.

what are "allies"?

If we are truly in the business of constructing a greater truth by openly proffering and then vetting fallible ideas, why would we need "allies"?

If allies reflexively side with you in the event of a debate with a non-allied outsider, wouldn't this sully the potential of the debate to attain truth?

zyn evam

zynevam@gmail.com

zynevam posted in the FI group from November 2011 to May 2018. A short sample of his writing:

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fallible-ideas/mCSmFn87daU/pVMu_wRRBQAJ

2017-05-26 22:25 GMT+01:00 Elliot Temple curi@curi.us [fallible-ideas]
fallible-ideas@yahoogroups.com:

On May 26, 2017, at 1:59 PM, Zyn Evam zynevam@gmail.com [fallible-ideas] fallible-ideas@yahoogroups.com wrote:

2017-05-26 20:29 GMT+01:00 Elliot Temple curi@curi.us [fallible-ideas]
fallible-ideas@yahoogroups.com:

On May 26, 2017, at 11:55 AM, Zyn Evam zynevam@gmail.com wrote:

2017-05-25 23:54 GMT+01:00 Elliot Temple curi@curi.us wrote:

On May 25, 2017, at 3:45 PM, Zyn Evam zynevam@gmail.com wrote:

Is FI the best place to make progress in solving AI?

FI is crucial for this, and for critical discussion generally.

for AI to work it'll have to be Popperian.

This is what I would like to implement: popperian epistemology applied
in the context of neural nets.

Then my guess is you should learn way more epistemology.

I guess that is so too.

Also you shouldn't start with a preconceived notion that Popperian epistemology will apply to some existing AI programming paradigm like neural nets.

Yes, that could be so. However in terms of knowledge representation I
think neural nets work really well. The problem is knowledge creation,
which neural nets do not really do at all. In supervised learning
paradigms we feed all the knowledge to the nets, they do not create
new knowledge, just good representations to do the particular tasks we
want them to do. I haven't done much in reinforement learning though.
But still there we specify what we want the neural nets to learn. It
is still us who specify which score the neural nets shall maximize.

i think the really hard problem is criticism. until you figure out how to deal with criticism, you don't know what knowledge representations are good. you need a knowledge representation that facilitates your approach to criticism.

in supervised learning settings humans have to supply the information (criticism) which enables error correction. for instance in image recognition humans have to label images as belonging to different categories. in imagenet (http://image-net.org/challenges/LSVRC/2017/) for instance there are 1000 categories with 1000 examples each. a neural net starts with randomly initialized weights (analogous to synapses which will store knowledge) and receives raw pixel values (e.g. 0s and 1s) as inputs. as activation runs through its weights given an input sample it produces a random guess initially. then we have to tell the network if its guess has been correct or not (hence we need labels). based on this the network changes its weights so that next time its guess will be closer to the correct output. in the end we test it on 150,000 images it has never seen.

all of this requires 0 human knowledge going into the design of the network (we initialize the weights randomly). the only point where human knowledge feeds into it is that we have to tell what is the correct output. the error correction afterward is general and automatic.

the reason I mentioned knowledge representation is solved with neural nets, is that with the exact same method can be applied to any domain, such as speech recognition, text classification, odor classification, or whatever you can think of.

Larry Mason

mason@email.unc.edu

Larry Mason posted on the BoI list from April to May 2013. He stopped posting with no explanation. A sample of his writing:

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/beginning-of-infinity/SUUPbUWAnNw/hhhiJ9qhyioJ

In my system when a luxury is bought, the money ceases to exist. The producers of the luxury will receive some money soon (within a month?) for that benefit and may receive more later if other benefits become apparent later.

Adding a month delay to many financial transactions would be an economic catastrophe. (Plus the uncertainty about how much you will be paid.)

In my system, financial transactions are purchases of luxuries. Hardly something that can cause an economic catastrophe. But with physical object money financial transactions are the heart and soul of most economic catastrophes.

In my system, only your luxury income is at risk. With physical object money, how much you will be paid is not only unknown but if huge importance. (Just ask those folks who don't know whether they'll have a job next month or those who have lost their jobs.)

The more you write the more you make the case that physical object money economics is a horror show.

He has a website at https://nopomstuff.info/

Rafe Champion

rchamp@bigpond.net.au
Interest Karl Popper

Rafe Champion was a critical rationalist who posted on the FI group from June 2013 to October 2014. A sample of his writing:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/222

A problem that is identified becomes a problem that can be worked on. Taking one issue at a time and having the same struggle each time suggests that he was not getting the STRUCTURE of the ideas so that each one he mastered should have made it easier to take the next steps.

An example would be in cooking where you don't understand that the different kinds of cooking - boiling, frying, baking are all based on a similar process to get from a raw product to a cooked product by applying heat in different ways.

Similarly in languages where you try to learn without any grasp of grammar that enables you to take something from one language to the next (in the same linguistic family).

And the problem of getting justificationists to see that the same intractable problems turn up in each situation where they take that approach rather than the alternative.

He left the FI group without giving an explanation. Elliot Temple discussed some of his problems in this email:

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fallible-ideas/WPMaB2kAr8g/EXc_51ppQWQJ

His website is here

http://www.the-rathouse.com/

Damián Gil

damiangil@gmail.com

Gill was on the BoI list from July to August 2017 arguing against Yes or No Philosophy:

https://yesornophilosophy.com/

A sample of his writing:

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/beginning-of-infinity/qxmi02BkTiU/W5gMfAq9AQAJ

What do you care about "more degree of confidence" or "the more confidence you'll have that the man is cheating and the die is not fair"? (These quotes are from the post included below.) Is it an imprecise statement about what bets you would and wouldn't take?

Remember I'm not a native english speaker. I don't know if "what do you care about" is a slang phrase or something. Talking literally, what I care about is no one's business. The relevant thing is that the degree of confidence can increase or decrease, not if I care much about it or not.

The confidence someone has in a statement can be very imprecise, like in the case of a common man treating a difficult problem; or very precise, like in the case of a bayesian statistician treating a very simple problem, like the hypothetical die. A statistician can state his degree of confidence in a very precise, numerical way. For example, he can assume initially that the die is fair, and the proportion of sixes must be 1/6. Each time the die is rolled, the statistician can give you the exact posterior odds ratio. Say he calculates it after quite a lot of sixes and the result is 5:1. That means that, given his current knowledge (I insist that probability is subjective, it depends of the state of knowledge of the observer, so different observers can precisely calculate different probabilities for the same event) cheating is exactly five times more probable than innocence. But all of this is irrelevant. The degree of confidence in a statement can be vague or precise, but the point is that it exists. It's not illogical to talk about it.

Logan Chipkin

chipkin.logan@gmail.com

Chipken posted a few times in March 2019 and stopped without giving any reason. A sample of his writing:

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fallible-ideas/gWCrQqS2XBM/bPREYAC2BQAJ

A study from Harvard University found that, once contextual factors are taken into account, no racial differences emerged in the data on lethal shootings. As the author notes, “In the end, however, without randomly assigning race, we have no definitive proof of discrimination”.

I don't think one quote from an unnamed study, and a statement of the
conclusion, without a citation, is convincing enough. It's not
presenting them with a bunch of counter evidence.

So I thought the article hyped up data but then didn't have a lot. Too
much setting the stage and conclusions, and too little of what I thought
would be the main course or meat of the article, IMO.

He has a twitter account where he has posted more recently https://twitter.com/chipkinlogan

Abraham Lewis

abrahamwl@gmail.com

Lewis posted on the FI list once in 2017. A sample of his writing:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/19868

I was using understanding your ideas about marriage as an example and saying that in spite of the fact that it's very important with lots of value to be had, it can still be rational and good that people don't pursue it, because of opportunity cost.

i'm not aware of any actual cases where the opportunity cost makes it not worth it. i'm sure you could invent some with e.g. a married couple who are both 105 years old and about to die of cancer, so there isn't time to make progress and then benefit from that progress. but in normal situations for people with decades ahead of them, i don't see the case that this stuff isn't worth the cost.

But that's from the vantage point of someone who already accepts its
value. Other people are surrounded by people claiming to have ideas or
criticisms that will help them improve their marriage. Depending on
the person, it is highly likely that most wont. The opportunity cost
to pursue all of those avenues, let alone every other area in which
people are claiming to have good ideas that will improve them is very
high.

Bruce Nielson

brucenielson1@gmail.com

Nielson posted on the FI list from July to October 2018 and then stopped without explanation. A sample of his writing:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/28392

I don't think that e.g. Marxism or environmentalism spread by offering value or by rational persuasion. They're irrational movements which pressure and manipulate people.

Hmmm... I actually said "meaning" not "value." I'm suggesting the Left is very good at creating meaning for people (like religion does). I'm not claiming that the meaning being created is valuable to anyone but (perhaps) the individual it created meaning for.

Meaning is valuable to people. Even if it's only valuable to one person, that's still offering value to that person, from his perspective.

I've rolled this discussion back to before it went off the rails. It took me forever to even find the right spot to jump back in. I tried to respond back in September but couldn't find the right spot to fix the conversation.

Anon, I have a concern here. I'm reading you a certain way and I'm struggling to read you a different way. The problem is that it really seems to me like I said something that makes sense and that your response must somehow misunderstand it. But maybe you really and truly understood me and were appropriately responding back to me.

I'm making the following claims -- very limited claims:
1. There are people that find "Leftism" personally meaningful. And by that I mean very specifically "they get meaning internally over it in a subjective way."
2. I wasn't insisting that we call "meaning" the same as "valuable" since the word "valuable" has a range of meanings that may or may not
include the sort of short term value that one gets out of 'personal meaning.'

Does that make sense?

I'm not claiming anything else here.

I screwed up the quoting really back back when we had this exchange.But let me recreate it here to illustrate my concern with your response:

Bruce: So it's not at all clear why 'the religion of the left' even works in the first place as a way of creating such strong meaning for people as a replacement for traditional religion. Thus this is the mystery I'm trying to solve for myself. Also, I want to know this because I'm convinced once I know how the Left is creating so much meaning for people, I'll know how to counter it without destroying the parts of the Left that I appreciate and like.

Captain Buckwheat

captainbuckwheat@gmail.com

Buckwheat posted on the FI list from August 2013 to March 2014. A sample of his writing:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/1652

FH:

But there were men who were impressed by the simple fact that Roark had built a place which made money for owners who didn’t want to make money; this was more convincing than abstract artistic discussions. And there was the one-tenth who understood. In the year after Monadnock Valley Roark built two private homes in Connecticut, a movie theater in Chicago, a hotel in Philadelphia.

Why does AR think it's one-tenth? Does she ever argue for that anywhere? Do you think it's one-tenth? If not, what's a more accurate figure?

I don't quite see what she meant there. One-tenth of what? I guess it could mean Roark's ratio of actual clients to potential clients in a given year. This doesn't make sense, though, because it means that one-tenth of people looking to build something in that year preferred to have it built by Roark. Surely more than 40 new buildings were erected that year, so that would mean Roark was turning away clients who "understood". This isn't mentioned in the book.

For comparison, an optimistic guess is that 1/1000 people each year buy a book by Ayn Rand. (*) Buying a book is a lot less of a commitment than buying a house, so we can take that as an upper bound on Roark's ratio of potential clients to actual clients. The actual figure would have been much smaller, maybe 1/10,000 or 1/100,000.

(*) Atlas Shrugged sold 7,000,000 copies in the 56 years since it was first published in 1957, which averages out to 125,000 per year. The US population averaged around 250 million people over that time, so if we optimistically assume all the sales were in the US, that's 1/2000 people each year. If we count all her books, the number of sales each year might double (again being very optimistic), which would work out to 1/1000.

I think Ayn Rand meant 1/10 of 1/4 of those who read the article that Austen Heller wrote about Roark. Just three paragraphs before the quote mentioned above it reads:

”Howard," Mallory said one day, some months later, "you're famous." "Yes," said Roark, "I suppose so."
“Three-quarters of them don't know what it's all about, but they've heard the other one-quarter fighting over your name and so now they feel they must pronounce it with respect. Of the fighting quarter, four-tenths are those who hate you, three-tenths are those who feel they must express an opinion in any controversy, two-tenths are those who play safe and herald any 'discovery,' and one-tenth are those who understand. But they've all found out suddenly that there is a Howard Roark and that he's an architect..."

Destructivist

deductivist@yahoo.com

Interest:critical rationalism

Destructivist posted on the FI list from June 2013 to January 2016 and then stopped without explanation.

A sample of his writing:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/topics/13819

God is a bad explanation. If you want to explain some issue X using god, then there are two possibilities. Either X is the way it is just because god says so, in which case we might as well say “shit happens”. Or X is the way it is because god has a reason Y for liking it that way. In that case, any mechanism that respects the principle Y will do just as well as god, so god is not necessary. For example, if god happens to favour the existence of genes that copy themselves in their environment, then natural selection explains the attributes of genes better than god. So god can be rejected since it is no good as an explanation. Since god can be eliminated from any worthwhile explanation, god is a bad explanation and we can do without god. So the objective truth is that god doesn’t exist.

You say "for example", but I don't see how the example conforms to what you talked about before. Let's consider the situation where god has a reason Y for liking X to be a certain way. Your example says that god happens to favor the existence of genes that copy themselves in their environment. So that's the way he likes them. Cool. But where (in your example) do you give his reason for liking them to be that way?

Max Kaye

m@xk.io

Max Kaye posted on the FI list from January 2018 to January 2019. A sample of his writing:

when ppl ask questions, usually they barely care. so if i think about
it much, or put much energy into the issue, i get out of sync with
them. they don’t keep up.

they do not label their questions as “barely care”, which is
dishonest of them.

How would people know if they really care? If it's shown by long term
action, research, persistence through indirection, etc, then most people
don't really care about anything.

I agree it's dishonest, but it feels like honesty is a really hard skill
to learn (for an adult in our society). Most ppl think it's just "don't
lie", but it's clear to me (particularly after reading FH) that this is
only the most superficial way to look at it.

If they're not able to be honest more generally, how could they label
their questions accurately or even know if they really do care or not?

My guess is the main thing they're not able or willing to do is estimate
up-front how much time, energy, and indirection they're willing to put
in/tolerate to answer a question. These are hard skills to learn! And
it's much easier to be a little dishonest (this is how it seems to them)
than acknowledge they lack these skills and can't give a good answer.

He stopped discussing without saying why.

Brett Hall

brhalluk@hotmail.com

Brett Hall posted on the FI list from June to August 2015. He posted about a variety of topics including AI. A sample of his writing:

Don't you TEACH epistemology – so it's your job to know it better? (That's what your twitter says: https://twitter.com/tokteacher ).

I teach what is called "Theory of Knowledge". Which should be epistemology. It's actually philosophy-lite with lots of lefty relativism and other nonsense. Which you would expect: from a standard curriculum.

So, you teach bad ideas, from a position of authority, to vulnerable students. Fuck you.

Not all schools are alike. The students know what I think of the bad ideas. Typically they come away from discussions about those ideas with better ideas. Better than they would have, if someone else was trying to present that material.

Richard Fine

richard.fine@gmail.com

Interest: TCS

Richard Fine posted on the FI group from July 2013 to June 2016 and he was on the TCS list before that.. A sample of his writing:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/16380

How do guns work?

you press the trigger and it swings a piece of metal at the back of the bullet. the back of the bullet is gunpowder which blows up. the explosion pushes the rest of the bullet forward. the bullet is in a metal tube (barrel of gun) which controls what direction the bullet goes. (normally if you just had an explosion it'd be hard to control the direction it makes stuff go.)

BTW the idea of 'explosion' + 'tube to control the direction' is also how car engines work.

Instead of hitting gunpowder with metal to make the explosion, they set gasoline on fire with an electric spark; and instead of the explosion pushing a bullet, it pushes a big chunk of metal (a piston) along a tube. The piston is connected to mechanisms (a crankshaft) that turn the pushing motion into a turning motion for the wheels. Then the piston moves back along the tube to be 'fired' again by another explosion. When the car's going fast, this is happening many times a second.

I think it's pretty cool that the same idea that makes guns work also makes cars work.

Lulie Tanett

luliet@gmail.com

Interest: TCS

Lulie posted on the FI list from August 2013 to January 2016 and she was on the TCS list before that.. A short sample of her writing:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/3103

If you have unconventional views on relationships/friendships, like that it's good to act on mutual self-interest rather than altruism, how do you manage the clash of different expectations?

Like, it's reasonable to expect people will usually behave according to society standard. Most people don't know of other ways of behaving.

Or they think that you can either agree with them or be a bad person. So if you seem like a good person, people think that you're just doing the conventional thing.

Even if you tell them you believe in selfishness, they typically have no idea what that means (unless they've read Ayn Rand or similar). So they assume you just follow convention but say fancy things which don't make a difference in practice.

Do you have to just be super aware of when they might be doing things contrary to your views -- like self-sacrifice, assuming obligations, etc. -- and avoid or stop the problem interaction?

Sounds like a lot of effort thinking about convention. But how else can you avoid being misleading to people?

Even if you didn't have a responsibility to not be misleading to people, if you're often misleading then problems will come up. (People will be like, hey I've been super selfless, why aren't you repaying me with selflessness?)

The problem is that saying explicitly that you don't believe in obligations, self-sacrifice, etc. won't help because they simply won't understand what you're referring to without learning a lot about the subject.

stop doing tons of conventional social signalling and most of the
problems go away

if you don't signal you are normal, people won't expect you to act
normal so much

What is conventional social signalling and how do you not do it?

Wouldn't acting weird make the problem worse, because then people
won't know what to expect of you and won't like that? Would be accused
of things like "hard to read" or "hard work"?

Lulie still likes to write, but she doesn’t like criticism:

https://conjecturesandrefutations.com/2019/03/16/lulie-tanett-vs-critical-rationalism/

Michael Smithson

michael.r.smithson1@gmail.com

Michael Smithson posted from May 2013 to March 2014. A sample of his writing:

On Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 12:33 AM, Elliot Temple curi@curi.us wrote:

On Feb 12, 2014, at 9:16 PM, Michael Smithson michael.r.smithson1@gmail.com wrote:

On Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 11:32 PM, Elliot Temple curi@curi.us wrote:

http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

What scares me is that there are moral fashions too. They're just as arbitrary, and just as invisible to most people. But they're much more dangerous. Fashion is mistaken for good design; moral fashion is mistaken for good. Dressing oddly gets you laughed at. Violating moral fashions can get you fired, ostracized, imprisoned, or even killed.

The man who wrote this is responsible for censoring me today when I criticized a moral fashion. [0]

I refer to the psychiatry discussion here (I'm xenophanes): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7227820

I suppose one can only be grateful for the fact that "lynch mob" has a
mostly metaphorical use these days.

ya. that makes PG's cowardice all the more damning, btw. sure i got in trouble, got punished, but it's OK, i'm safe. not real physical danger. the dangers are things like feeling bad because people sad bad things about me, and having a worse reputation with bad people.

You know what I think is interesting? I think there's some number of
people who would die to promote their values but won't live for
them.
What I mean is, if say Nazis the Sequel came to rule Europe, they'd
risk their personal safety to hide Jews, but they won't be too
critical with someone at a cocktail party over a mild anti-semitic
remark.

What do you think? Do some people act as if the disapproval of randoms
is a fate worse than death? If so, why?

Becky Moon

beckyam@gmail.com

Interest: TCS

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/topics/495

Becky Moon posted to the FI group between June and July 2013 and she was on the TCS list before that.. A sample of her writing:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/504

David once gave me a simple counter-example about what's wrong with induction - something along the lines of a chicken being fed every day by a farmer and expecting to continue being fed but then one day ends up being the farmer's dinner.

That is Bertrand Russell's example. One Russell quote googling turns up is, “The man who has fed the chicken every day throughout its life at last wrings its neck instead, showing that more refined views as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken.”

I have read a little Bertrand Russell. I can't remember whether I ran across the example there as well. David may have even mentioned where he got the story. It was 8 or more years ago. :P

While I agree that induction isn't preferable to a good explanatorytheory, I still think it might frequently be useful.

The way I'm thinking of it, though, might have a different term that applies and might not really be what people mean by induction...

I think of it as a sort of pre-theory knowledge - noticing that there is a pattern.

Noticing which pattern(s)?

It was meant generally. There are a lot of patterns - as I see you mention
below.

The sun appears to rise and set daily. The moon appears to rise and set most evenings. The weather tends to get warmer overall and then cooler overall. I've heard in some places there are even distinct seasons - winter, spring, summer, fall. ;) If plants don't receive water, eventually, they dry up and stop growing. Animals (and people) tend to start off small and get bigger over time and then seem to level off. If one lets go of an object in midair, it usually tends to fall although there are a few unusual items that don't fall or fall very very slowly (balloons, feathers). Water when exposed to certain cold enough temperatures seems to become a solid. I could go on indefinitely with examples.

Dan Frank

danjfrank@gmail.com

Dan Frank posted on the FI list from June 2013 to August 2014 and he was on other BoI related lists before that. A sample of his writing:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/1305

On Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 5:46 PM, Elliot Temple curi@curi.us wrote:

On Sep 9, 2013, at 3:29 PM, Dan Frank danjfrank@gmail.com wrote:

On Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 11:09 AM, Elliot Temple curi@curi.us wrote:

On Sep 9, 2013, at 6:15 AM, Anontwo Too anontwotoo@gmail.com wrote:

On Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 12:59 PM, Jordan Talcot jordan.talcot@gmail.com wrote:

On Sep 9, 2013, at 1:33 AM, Anontwo Too anontwotoo@gmail.com wrote:

Won't they [children] be interested at one point [in letters and reading], when they notice that they are
useful to people?

There are a lot of things that are useful to people. Why are you assuming that all children will notice that letters in particular are useful? Do you think that all children will notice ALL useful things? Do you think that there is something in the letters themselves that will make children notice them?

Because letters are very fucking useful. A big deal. Not just a tiny bit useful.

It's like a girl getting a period and not finding tampons or sanitary
towels useful. "Oh, I'm not bothered, I'll just bleed over the place."

Or like most people making philosophical mistakes that massively fuck up most of their lives, and not finding philosophy useful and interesting? "Oh, I'm not bothered, I'll have a string of failures for my life."

Except, that happens... That is what most people actually do.

Just because some knowledge would be extremely valuable to someone, and they have a pressing need of it, and it's available, does NOT mean they will automatically find it, want it, value it, figure out how to learn it, learn it, etc, etc

They need to be persuaded by something that this knowledge is actually
valuable to them. In our culture, though, there is some knowledge
that is much more "obviously" valuable than others. e.g. here is a
good way to deal with a cut on your hand: stop the bleeding with
something like a paper towel or a napkin or gauze, and then maybe
putting some antiseptic and/or bandage on it if it is a large enough
cut. Or doing the first part and then going to an emergency room to
get it stitched if it's even larger. Is this controversial?

It's unclear to me that that that knowledge is particularly valuable to personally, individually have.

First of all, how often do you cut your hand? Big enough to need to do anything?

Second, if you are incompetent about hand cuts, so what? Someone will help you. Maybe you're alone and can't quickly get someone (but still who cares, no problem, google it or phone someone to tell you what to do). But most people most of the time have reasonably quick access to someone IRL who would help them with a cut.

You can be like "omg i cut my hand. omg omg wtf do i do? it hurts it hurts!! please help me" and people will be like "don't worry, just calm down, it'll be fine. here let me wash that off for you and get you a bandaid" or whatever. people are nice and helpful about that kind of thing, so you don't really have to know much yourself.

I do think some knowledge about this is worth having yourself but I could easily see someone disagreeing, and I don't think it makes that much difference either way.

Interesting. I think that our culture makes it pretty easy-to-get
info and the cost of learning it is very low, so it's worth getting
(including getting knowledge like "I don't know much about what is a
bad cut or not, but this is still bleeding a lot after five minutes so
I'm going to go to an expert just in case," which is a form of
knowledge about cuts that I'm talking about).

Even if you don't cut your hand often. Like the way that knowledge
about what to do if someone steals your car is really easy to get in
our culture (call 911.) even though you don't often need it.

(And there's also the issue of when to learn it. I think many people delay learning about how to handle cuts until after having more than one cut. Then they end up learning it cause they go through the process multiple times and remember some stuff or ask questions about what's happening, not because they ever decided that today is the day to go spend 15 minutes studying how to deal with hand cuts)

Agreed. People can begin learning to read the same way, can't they?
Even in mainstream coercive culture isn't this a common way people
learn some reading? e.g. "read this book to me." and then they
remember some stuff and on the fifteenth or hundredth time they ask
some questions about what's happening and then they learn a bit. They
don't have to decide "today is the day" to go spend 15 minutes
learning to read.

Not too long after this they are typically coerced to do just that, of
course. But even in many conventional households the other way of
learning reading often happens first, for a year or two at least.
Maybe not in the really hardcore "you must read by age 4" households
or whatever? But it's not uncommon.

Guilherme Neto

guuinetto@gmail.com

Guilherme Neto posted on the FI group from April 2018 to November 2018. A sample of his writing:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/28710

http://curi.us/1443-children-dont-exist

When a child doesn't like school, it certainly never occurs to parents that they are dealing with a person who has a preference and a life, and perhaps should have some control over his life.

Parents do think that kids will eventually have preferences and a
life. Its like kids are only potential people.

Instead, all that exists to them is a ball of clay which has the potential to be an adult with the skill to run its own life, and will get there not by practicing doing that but by molding.

Its interesting how parents expects their kids to be independent and
how the road to it is not only centered on dependency but averse to
independence.

People are supposed to became capable of running their own life by
spending their first years ignoring their own judgment and following
the orders of authorities.

The Bitty Guy

letmedisposeofthis@gmail.com

The Bitty Guy posted on the FI group from April 2014 to January 2018. The following message by Elliot Temple shows some representative quotes from The Bitty Guy:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/conversations/messages/3246

On Apr 30, 2014, at 6:49 PM, The Bitty Guy letmedisposeofthis@gmail.com wrote:

On Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 7:24 PM, Elliot Temple curi@curi.us wrote:

On Apr 30, 2014, at 6:56 AM, The Bitty Guy letmedisposeofthis@gmail.com wrote:

Why is it at all necessary to call me, or my ideas, 'left-wing' or 'antisemitic'?

If I showed you a factually accurate map of the Middle east, would you
call that antisemitic as well?

No.

Although the jury is out as to whether your posts qualify as 'high quality', they are still definitely above average; among the best I have yet to find, in the limited time I have to look.

In all events, I do respect the time and discipline devoted to this listserve/blog. For now, at least (until I can find that elusive place in the bloggosphere that categorically discourages all personal attacks, ad hominem and otherwise), I value this one.

Importantly, having my 'talking points' accepted by any of my readers, with or without debate, is not my primary purpose for being here. I am open to changing my opinions, and, with participation in the realm of ideas, hope to learn a thing or two that will improve my philosophy and knowledge of world events.

Furthermore, despite your unfortunate attacks,

i'm not sure what attacks you're referring to.

Are you really, honestly not aware that inserting anti-semite into the
dialogue constitutes an attack? Maybe it would help to remind you if
you used the word "anti-jew bigot" instead.

It is the Anti-Semite Smear. Given the frequency with which you bring
it up, and in keeping with your convention of using acronym for
commonly used terms, how about if I simply call it the "A.S.S.
attack"? Do you honestly not know that it constitutes a personal
smear, that can have social, professional, and even legal consequences
for the victim? In many cases, possibly yours included, this venomous
bite is precisely why the term is used, and how it shapes and silences
debate.

Do you believe that

1) some things are anti-semitic and calling them as such is reasonable

or

2) nothing is anti-semitic, and the term is always and only a smear

?

If (1), would you agree that therefore some kind of argument or explanation is necessary to differentiate between smears and non-smears, before you can assume it's a smear? And you didn't provide such an differentiating explanation.

And do you believe that

1) using quotes improves discussion

or

2) refusing to use exact quotes of things you are complaining about is a better approach

?

if you thought "left-wing talking point" is a personal attack, i disagree. i consider it a factually accurate descriptive statement about the text/ideas you posted (not about you as a person).

Are you serious? The 'left-wing talking point' is irrelevant. Who
really cares about that? No one is fired, sued, or removed from office
over that (quite the opposite)...it's the A.S.S. attack I was
referring to... Don't A.S.S. me, bro!

Yes I seriously, honestly find it hard to tell what you are referring to when you refuse to use quotations or carefully explain. We see the world differently. Your choices are to communicate or not be understood.

Elliot Temple
www.fallibleideas.com
www.curi.us

Kristen Ely

kristeneely@yahoo.com

Kristen Ely posted from May 2013 to March 2017. A sample of her writing:

On Nov 4, 2015, at 10:13 PM, Leonor Gomes lnrgms@gmail.com [fallible-ideas] fallible-ideas@yahoogroups.com wrote:

2015-11-05 2:43 GMT+00:00 Rami Rustom rombomb@gmail.com
[fallible-ideas] fallible-ideas@yahoogroups.com:

On Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 4:39 AM, Leonor Gomes lnrgms@gmail.com
[fallible-ideas] fallible-ideas@yahoogroups.com wrote:

2015-11-04 10:23 GMT+00:00 Rami Rustom rombomb@gmail.com
[fallible-ideas] fallible-ideas@yahoogroups.com:

On Tue, Nov 3, 2015 at 9:42 AM, Leonor Gomes lnrgms@gmail.com
[fallible-ideas] fallible-ideas@yahoogroups.com wrote:

but at least tries to have some original ideas of his own.

this isn't a goal. at least it's not a GOOD goal.

one should go after the best ideas, whether he originated them or not.

go after? or learn them? think about them?

yes.

caring that one's ideas are original is a status-seeking mistake.

why is it a status seeking mistake?

i thought you meant something to the effect of: ignoring tradition and
doing your own thing for the sake of being ORIGINAL.

Howard Roark did that.

I don’t think he did.

He wasn’t trying to be original for the sake of being original. He wanted to build in ways that make sense, that fit the purpose of the building, using his own standards, his own judgment, to the best of his ability.

He did say:

I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition.

And that may be a mistaken way of thinking of tradition. But I don’t think he actually did ignore tradition. He looked at traditions in architectural design and criticized them. He didn’t want to do things just because they had always been done that way.

And he didn’t ignore good traditions of structural engineering.

Joao Duarte

joao.monteiro.duarte@gmail.com

Duarte posted on the FI list from February to May 2019. A sample of his writing:

On Fri, May 17, 2019 at 6:57 PM anonymous FI
anonymousfallibleideas@gmail.com wrote:

On May 17, 2019, at 7:50 AM, João Duarte
joao.monteiro.duarte@gmail.com wrote:

On Thu, May 16, 2019 at 11:44 PM Elliot Temple curi@curi.us wrote:

https://blog.rongarret.info/2009/04/on-shadow-photons-and-real-unicorns.html?showComment=1557966795815#c1990820171770996365

I understand not knowing this stuff. But something is going really
wrong when people’s attempt at reading involves making up nonsense
that just isn’t in the paper. He can’t tell what it says, but
instead of realizing he doesn’t understand he just makes wild
guesses. The stuff RG has come up with goes beyond misreadings of the
paper to making stuff up that has nothing to do with the paper. I
think people learn this method in school, where it’s common.

RG wants to hear none of this, which is part of how he stays so wrong
and confused (and is why I’m posting here instead of another reply
on his blog). When I told him a subset of the problems, he said, "I'm
sorry, Elliot, but I just can't deal with your level of nit-pickery.
Good bye.”

I tried to be helpful to him initially by writing a long, serious,
edited explanation of some CR material. His response was to delete
all of it and never engage with any of how CR works, and instead to
alternate between claiming to agree with me and claiming i’m wrong
(while also misquoting and making other errors).

If anyone has any ideas about how to help such a person, or how to
find better people, please share!

I think you could give some caveats when you criticize things that can
be seen as trivial. Or you could say beforehand that you, sometimes,
can be misjudged as someone who is acting in bad-faith. You can be
clear about your intentions before you start a discussion (this could
have helped when he thought you were trying to be intellectually
superior to him). Because you are uncommonly critical, people can have
a bad perception. I had that "feeling" before and now I think you are
really trying to help and learn.

You didn't say what caveats to say or what to say about intentions. You
didn't give any sentences that you think would help, which could be
tried or criticized.

This advice can be tried without giving examples. Just be honest about the intentions you have when having a discussion for the first time if they are often misinterpreted. The caveat is to say why the thing ET is criticizing although may seem irrelevant it isn't. It's difficult sometimes to know when the other person will think that. But it's better to be safe.

Balázs Fehér

feher.balazs.feher@gmail.com

Balázs Fehér posted on the FI list from June 2013 to April 2014. A sample of his writing:

2014-04-29 10:25 GMT+02:00 Alan Forrester alanmichaelforrester@googlemail.com:

On 28 April 2014 22:48, Balázs Fehér feher.balazs.feher@gmail.com wrote:

2014-04-28 19:28 GMT+02:00 Alan Forrester alanmichaelforrester@googlemail.com:

On 28 April 2014 16:12, Balázs Fehér feher.balazs.feher@gmail.com wrote:

From BOI chapter one terminology:

"Principle of induction: the idea that 'the future will resemble the past', combined with the misconception that this asserts anything about the future."

I would have a question. I understand that the idea that the future will resemble the past is contradicted, for example, each time a new design of microchip is created. However i don't understand the second part. Why 'the future will resemble the past' does not assert anything about the future? Theories about the future are the same as theories about the past (in case of universal theories, which are time invariant).

A universal theory makes predictions about the past and the future and so says that the past and the future are alike in the sense that they both follow the theory.

Yes.

This is totally irrelevant to the controversy over induction because induction is not supposed to be about what you can know when you have a theory, it is supposed to be about how theories are created and confirmed.

So the second part of DDs sentence is irrelevant? Or it refers to something else than what I implied?

Inductivism is a variety of justificationism so it is about how to justify stuff. Justifying anything is impossible but the point of the terminology snippet is to explain how the inductivists think about what they're doing. The inductivists think that idea that the future resembles the past would not be enough on its own to show that you can justify universal theories using information about the past. To justify induction they think you would have to add that information about the past somehow justifies the future implications of universal theories we have come up with today, hence the second part of the sentence.

I see, thanks!

But as DD points out in part of that chapter, it doesn't really matter for inductivism that the future resembles the past: such a principle will not save inductivism.

It's a better idea to actually quote and discuss arguments rather than the terminology part of the book which serves at best as a quick reminder of some argument you already understand. If you don't understand an argument the terminology section will not help you and there is no point in discussing it.

Yeah, I guessed the argument was in the chapter, I just did not remember so asking was faster :)

Dennis Hackethal

dennis.hackethal@googlemail.com

Interest: critical rationalism

Dennis came to FI with an interest in Popperian epistemology and artificial intelligence. He currently has a podcast about AI:

https://soundcloud.com/dchacke

He posted between December 2018 and April 2019. A sample of his writing:

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fallible-ideas/wjMd33c5Jnw/eRJrzf5kBgAJ

I was struggling the other day to explain to someone why the growth of knowledge is inherently unpredictable. I think I can explain it in terms of “it’s a generic algorithm, and a genetic algorithm has unpredictable output”, but unless the other party is already familiar with the concept of knowledge being the result of a genetic algorithm, that doesn’t go very far. It also made me think that a genetic algorithm is unpredictable to a degree. If someone runs a genetic algorithm for eg the traveling salesman problem, they know it’s going to return a solution to the problem in terms of distances etc, and not something completely unexpected. So there’s at least some way to constrain the space of possible answers. I don’t think it’s possible to constrain human answers in this way, but I don’t think I understand why. I also don’t know if probabilistic = unpredictable (my guess is “no”).


This post was written by Alan Forrester.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (29)