Learning From Discussion Is Hard

It's very hard for people to learn by interacting with other people directly. Two major reasons:

  1. Interaction triggers people to behave and interpret socially. They put most of their effort into social hierarchy stuff instead of learning.
  2. People are complex and flawed. It's a lot to deal with in addition to the subject itself (the subject is e.g. philosophy or physics concepts). People have to deal with miscommunication, scheduling, mutual benefit, different background knowledge, being able to think about other points of view, etc.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Don't Judge People by How They Did in School

School success does not imply being smart, wise or knowledgeable.

Failing your school classes or hating school does not imply lacking brainpower or lacking learning capacity.

Hating school doesn't mean you hate learning.

Enjoying school of getting A's does not mean you like learning or understand the topics covered in your classes.

These things aren't significant hints or clues. There isn't a strong correlation. You can't judge people by their relationship to school.

On the high end, if you're really great, that clashes with the conformity and obedience that school asks for. But being great can make up for it. If learning the material is easy for you, that advantage can lead to school success even if, e.g., you don't respect your teachers. It doesn't have to lead to good grades but it can; the result can go either way.

On the low end, if you're bad at thinking, that can lead to pretty good grades if you just do as you're told, make a visible effort, and have low starting points to improve from (teachers often give good grades for improvement instead of just for actual results).

If you fail a bunch of classes, it could be because you disliked them (with cause) and skipped classes or didn't pay attention. This can happen if you're smart or dumb or in the middle. There's stuff to dislike about class for everyone.

If you get bad grades, it could be because you saw how pointless it was to memorize things for a test and still not understand them. Maybe you didn't learn the material but at least you knew you didn't understand. Most people who pass don't understand the topics either, they're just e.g. more willing to pretend their confusions are successful learning.

If you get pretty good grades, you could be a stupid, obedient conformist. Or you could have seen lots of flaws in the system but been under extreme pressure from your parents to find a way to get pretty good grades anyway. Or many other things.

Don't judge people by how they did in school.

And especially don't judge yourself by how you did in school.

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Projects Aren't Just For Business

Project management is important for projects you do alone. Some people maybe think it's just for team projects. But by yourself it's still useful to have some idea of what tasks go into a project, estimate how long they'll take, estimate resource costs per task (e.g. how much money you'll have to spend), etc. Then you can look at your schedule and budget and see how long it'll take to get the project finished. And then you can consider: is it worth it compared to alternative projects?

A project merely means doing multiple activities/tasks over time which are meant to work together to achieve one or more goals. That's something people do alone or in informal, non-business settings. And it's something that can go wrong. There are plenty of ways to be disorganized and screw it up. So people have developed ways to better plan, evaluate and organize projects. But most people aren't taught them in school and don't go find out for themselves either, which makes their projects unnecessarily difficult and risky.

(In my opinion, the best project management author is Eliyahu Goldratt.)

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School Doesn't Educate

Needing prerequisites for projects doesn't usually mean more school.

Schools broadly fail to teach much. They don't work anyway. And they teach a lot of the wrong things.

Let's take an example. You want to write a novel. What are some of the prerequisites?

You'll need to be literate and able to type (already done, no worries). You should be better at grammar. You also need to know about plotting, character development, and what existing novels are like (what are some good things that your novel should have? what are some flaws in prior novels that you want to improve on?). You'll also need some project management skills. You're going to spend maybe a year writing the novel (or maybe five years while working a day job?). How do you schedule and budget your time? How do you organize your efforts over many different days and months, so it all comes together into a completed project? How do you finish the project instead of stopping in the middle? How can you know in advance what projects you'll still want to do six months from now? I suggest you start with smaller projects and shorter writing before a whole novel.

So anyway, do you need school to learn grammar? You already went to school and still get lots of commas wrong! Lots of schools don't even bother trying to teach grammar. When they do teach it, it's often a bunch of memorizing arbitrary-seeming rules and teaching to the test (just like how they screw up teaching math).

It is important for a novelist to know how commas work. But the default, standard approach to learning that should be using books and the internet. Look there first before looking for a course let alone going back to school. Try to educate yourself and consider getting education from others (which usually doesn't work well at all) as a second option if self-education isn't working. (BTW, if you can't educate yourself, I don't know why you think some teacher is going to fix your problem for you and somehow make your learning work well.)

Also, schools pretty much don't even teach novel writing skills or project management skills until college. 13 years of K-12 education isn't enough to fit it in, apparently. Novel writing isn't a skill everyone needs so it makes sense not to teach it to everyone, but do people really need to wait until age 18 to start learning it?

And with project management the assumption seems to be that you don't need to know it because there will be a boss who knows it and you'll just follow orders. That's the life they are preparing you for by only even trying to teach project management at business school for people preparing to be bosses. And keep all your hobby projects small and short since you never learned how to manage a larger project! Project management is something pretty much everyone should know a bit about, but it's left out of general education at schools!

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Thinking Before Discussion

Learning to think rationally precedes learning to have rational discussions.

Discussion basically uses two skills: thinking and dealing with other people.

Language is part of thinking well. It'd be useful even if you were stuck on a desert island alone for the rest of your life. You should have practice and success using language in your thinking before trying to use language in discussions.

Looking at many sides of an issue is part of thinking well. You should be doing that alone. So discussion shouldn't be a big change where things go from one-sided to two-sided (or more). Discussion should involve people doing the many-sided thinking they would have done alone.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Figuring Out Prerequisites

How can you figure out prerequisites you need? Look at your project plan. What steps are you planning to do? For each step, consider what skills and resources you need to accomplish it. Don't rely on getting lucky. Be reasonable.

For example, if a step is to build a log cabin, you should know how to do that. That means e.g. knowing cabin design and some woodworking skills. You'll also want a chainsaw and nearby trees. If a step is to trap wild animals and sell the furs, you should know what sort of traps to use, what animals are in the area, how to set the traps up, how often to check them, etc. If your plan is to spread ideas, you should know what the ideas say and why, why the ideas are superior to alternative ideas, and the answers to attempted criticisms of the ideas you're spreading.

What if you plan to learn as you go along? Knowing how to set a trap is a prerequisite for setting a trap. But you could do it in an earlier project step instead of before the project starts. That's often unwise because learning doesn't always go smoothly and it's hard to plan projects based around skills you don't yet understand (will you even like doing it?). Anyway, putting prerequisites earlier in the same project doesn't invalidate the concept of prerequisites.

It's also possible to divide a step into sub-steps and mix in learning prerequisites. You can split building a cabin into 20 steps, then watch a YouTube tutorial about the first of those steps, then do it, then watch a YouTube tutorial about the second of those steps, then do it, and so on. This is generally only a good idea with pretty simple, easy projects where success isn't very hard to come by and delays aren't a big deal (it especially works well with practice projects where learning is the main goal).

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Riots Aren't Popular

The protestors/rioters are less popular and mainstream than they think they are.

It's partly because, just like most people, they tend to interact with people similar to themselves.

But it's more than that. They scare people into not voicing dissent. The left in general suppresses disagreement enough that some people won't speak openly to pollsters, let alone to lefty coworkers/friends/party-goers/social-circle-members, let alone to the sort of lefties who'd join a BLM protest/riot. We saw this with Trump losing in the polls but winning the election. We also see it in China where most people say they support the CCP but if they had safe, secret ballots they'd vote the CCP out.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Discussions Have Prerequisites

As Karl Popper taught us, there's more than one way to approach the truth.

This doesn't prevent topics from having prerequisites (you need to learn X before Z – Z builds on X). It sometimes gives you options about prerequisites (you could use X or Y as a prerequisite for Z, there are two known approaches to Z, one using X and one using Y.)

Prerequisites relate to different ways to organize knowledge. There are options for that but for many issues only a small number of known options are good, effective and efficient. One day we might learn some new, good approaches to a topic. At that point you could perhaps use W as a prerequisite for Z instead of X or Y. But today people don't know about that option.

Look at currently existing approaches to a topic, look at their prerequisites, choose one of the approaches, and learn the prerequisites for it. Don't try to skip prerequisites on the basis that there's more than one valid approach to a topic.

What some people do is basically say "There is an approach where X isn't needed, so I won't learn X, and there is also an approach where Y isn't needed, so I won't learn Y." You need to pick some particular approach, see what knowledge is needed for it, and get the knowledge.

People often refuse on the basis that some alleged prerequisites are unnecessary. That people sometimes make mistakes in identifying prerequisites doesn't invalidate the whole concept. If you like, give specific arguments about why something is or isn't a prerequisite to a specific topic using a specific approach to that topic.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (5)

Reform Requires Reason

The protestors/rioters broadly seem to assume if they demand stuff vigorously enough then it'll happen. What's the premise? That people are just being bad on purpose. That they could do better and refuse and just need to be pressured.

The protestors/rioters are broadly ignorant of how hard it is to run a police department or government better. They have no idea how to do better and haven't really thought about it. They assume that good policies are easy to come by and the issue are motivation, bias, tribalism, etc., not facts, logic, paperwork, etc.

They are looking at this as a social issue about a clash between different social groups each pursuing own agenda (the agenda is thought of as greed and self-interest for their opponents, but disinterested altruism and kindness for themselves). They aren't looking at it as problems of logistics, scheduling, budget management, writing good training curriculums, communicating better with the public about what laws and policies make sense, and so on.

They think the reason things aren't better is the people with high social status and power don't care about the people with low social status. So they just have to circumvent regular social climbing by forming a mob and exerting strong pressure to get their demands heard. They just have to be pushy so they can't be snubbed anymore.

They have no idea that organizing a society is hard to do as well as we're currently doing it, let alone better. They are contributing ~nothing to rational reforms and aren't trying to and have no idea that better ideas are needed. They aren't trying to read books like Bureaucracy. They aren't trying to study statistics to better understand crime rates and their correlations to e.g. race or income. They aren't trying to consider downsides of proposed new policing policies and how to figure out new policies that will actually work without breaking a bunch of stuff that works now. They don't understand the difficulties police face and don't care to. And they certainly aren't studying unions as a major force that blocks reforms.

It's hard to do great but we could do somewhat better pretty easily if so many of the protestors themselves, and their (partials) fans/allies, would stop voting in bad people over and over. They have no idea what the sources of problems actually are, nor which of the problems they see in the world are real (some are!) or imaginary (some are this too!). They just blame capitalism and racism.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (6)

We Can't Outlaw the Mainstream

Suppose hypothetically that approximately all parents are child abusers. And you're a political leader. You can't just arrest the all the child abusers or take all their kids away because who is gonna raise the kids instead? The foster parents or social workers or orphanages are no better – they too are part of the same culture that mistreats children. You can only realistically target the bottom couple percent of bad parents, that way if you get those kids to be raised by even 20th percentile quality parents it's a significant upgrade.

In principle, you think child abuse is unacceptable. Parents must not e.g. hit their children. Physical violence violates the children's right and is abuse. But if 99% of parents hit their children, there isn't much you can do about it besides trying to educate people. You can share better ideas with books, articles, lectures, etc.

So although something is unacceptable in principle, if too many people are doing it wrong, it's hard to take direct action to fix or change it. For lots of practical purposes, you can't have standards for society that 99% of people (or even 30% of people) can't meet. You can't arrest 99% of 30% of the population or sue them all into oblivion or whatever. You can only do that to small outlier groups, not to the mainstream, or you're just creating a civil war.

It's similar with the rioters/protestors today. There are too many. It's too popular. Yes they are crossing lines into initiation of force. In a better world they'd be stopped so that I could safely walk along any public street in the country with a MAGA hat and speak my mind. But arresting or otherwise forcibly controlling so many misbehaving people is unrealistic in this world.

One potential solution is to arrest and punish a small fraction of them as examples. If you have really draconian punishments for a few of them at random, maybe you can scare the rest into stopping. This is kinda like how armies used to hang a few deserters to discourage other people from deserting. There were armies where over 50% of the soldiers would like to go home and stop fighting, but harsh enforcement against a few people was scary enough to keep the rest in line. I don't like this strategy with suing a few people for sharing music and movies online, and I don't like it with the protestors/rioters either. It's harsh and unfair to some unlucky people who get made examples of. It's mean and it alienates the people it intimidates into obedience. It doesn't seek to actually get them on our team/side.

Another potential solution is to only punish the much smaller group of leaders and true believers, not the masses of mostly-ignorant (but not totally innocent) dupes and fools. This seems to me like roughly what should happen. And punish people who cross major lines (that not many people cross) like severely beating someone up.

But if we mostly aren't punishing the rioters/protestors, then what do we do when they are causing trouble? How do we get them to stop? Maybe they'd listen to reason more if we had better explainers and teachers as political and cultural leaders, but we don't. The good guys here aren't all that wise and are contributing to the problem too.

So that's hard. The protests/riots are too mainstream and widespread, they're too big a part of society. And to make things harder, the opposition is wrong and flawed in lots of ways (but the opposition is more civilized and better at not being a puppet of uncivilized causes).

Are there things wrong with police policies? Yes. Does racism exist? Yes. But the protestors don't know what the flaws with police policy are or what changes should be made. And it isn't being explained to them very well either. They don't even know who is in charge of the police. It's the leftists they voted for who are behind lots of the problems. They're yelling at the wrong people. But not many are trying to share key info and talk about e.g. the role of unions in not firing bad cops. And the mainstream media puppet masters are sharing misinformation and they have so much control over communication channels that it's hard to speak to the protestors/rioters and give them better info.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (4)

Discussions Need Goals

To have a productive discussion, you need a goal. What outcomes would qualify as success? If you don't know what you're aiming for, achieving success is unrealistic.

And you ought to have some idea of the other person's goals so you can aim for mutual success.

Part of having a goal is recognizing what outcomes would not be success. You have to specify what would be a failure and risk having a failure happen that you acutally recognize/acknowledge/admit.

And part of achieving goals is having some idea about how to achieve them – a plan.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Godless Protestors/Rioters

One of the many issues with the protest/riot leaders, and many of the followers, is that they don't believe in God. They don't believe in a higher power, truth or law above themselves (some sort of objective truth of physical and moral reality doesn't adequately serve this role for them either). They are arrogant and think their own reason should rule the world. They overestimate their wisdom and knowledge like the French revolutionaries.

I say this as an atheist. Atheism is dangerous. It's one example of the more broadly dangerous mindset of the revolutionary who thinks he's wiser than the traditions of his society.

If you're going to be an atheist or seek large change, you ought to actually read books, study, learn, debate, etc. Want to rely on your own reason? Develop it yourself. Don't just trust professors and other authorities.

No, learn more than that. You haven't done enough. People do so little and call it being educated and think they're done. And they're so intolerant of disagreement, debate, and being questioned.

Tell you what. If you think you learned enough to believe a bunch of radical athiest outlier beliefs, give an overview of what you did to learn it in the comments below and I'll ask you a some questions to check for holes in your studying.

Or stick to common sense and traditional values and beliefs just like your religious neighbors, and then being an atheist isn't such a big deal. Which traditions? The ones that built America (and more broadly Western civilization starting with the Greeks) and made it great.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Ignorant Protestors

Most of the protestors/rioters are ignorant dupes being lied to by people and groups like CNN, Soros, AOC, NYT, and their teachers and professors. The people who run BLM are racist, Marxist liars who are trained (by people like Alinsky and his followers) to lie because the only goal is the revolution and the power to achieve it.

The typical protestor/rioter doesn't know anything and is being exploited by leftist oppressors who are taking advantage of them and don't care about their best interests. They don't care about improving policing and improving the lives of blacks in the inner cities; they are the elites responsible for those problems (these are Democrat-run cities with problems like Democrat-supported police unions and teachers unions that prevent reforms and prevent firing bad cops and teachers).

The foot soldiers in this assault on law and order are largely young people who have been misled by mainstream authorities their whole lives. And they've been forced to go to school and be immersed in highly pressuring social hierarchies there. They bear some guilt and responsibility for their actions, but they are not the enemy. The top level leaders and true believers are the enemy, which are only a small part of the uprising. We must stop the rebellion against civilization but also find some kindness and forgiveness in ourselves to help reintegrate the fools back into civilized society.

See my article on how antifa is a cult which uses abusive tactics to "recruit" and control members. And see the Discover the Networks article on antifa.

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Difficulty Self-Evaluating Means Overreaching

If you can't self-evaluate what you're doing, it's too hard and you're overreaching. You're lost, confused, and making tons of errors with no effective way to recognize them. Stop and work on something that you can already self-evaluate with high success rate and confidence, or something incrementally one step beyond that.

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