FI Basecamp Update

I removed some inactive people from the FI Basecamp in order to revert it to the free plan. Sorry; it’s nothing personal.

There were a few reasons:

I realized I cannot make the Basecamp large, given the ongoing harassment against my community (including vandalizing the Basecamp once), because Basecamp doesn’t have adequate security features. It’s designed for working with trusted co-workers.

People weren’t using the project management features.

curi.us is a better discussion forum IMO. It has publicly-viewable permalinks and some markdown support. If you want to have a discussion, please use that.

I decided it'd be better to restrict it now, rather than have more people join then restrict it later.

You can download an archive of all the content at:

https://curi.us/files/fi-basecamp-2021-04-04.zip

I’ll share an updated archive in the future with new posts so that everyone can read them.

I'm planning a new, better forum, although currently I'm making videos explaining The Beginning of Infinity. For updates on my new stuff, subscribe to my newsletter:

https://fallibleideas.com/newsletter


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Was David Deutsch Using Me to Help with BoI?

I helped David Deutsch with his book, The Beginning of Infinity, for seven years. Soon after the book was done, he dropped me, and he's now hostile enough to personally take a leading role on harassing me by lying about me in writing.

It has just now occured to me that he may have been using me to get help with his book. Now I'm unsure. I had never thought of this until a couple days ago. But academics getting younger people to do some work for them, which they can take credit for, is a common story. BoI wasn't like getting a younger co-author for a paper who you can actually get to do most of the writing. DD absolutely wrote BoI himself. But I did help a really unusually large amount, as DD requested. I wrote over 200 pages to help DD with BoI, which is an entire book worth of writing. And no one else helped similarly (nor could they have – DD wanted some of my unique skills, abilities, knowledge and perspective).

Part of why this occured to me is that DD got Chiara Marletto to co-author some Constructor Theory writing with him (and also to write multiple other papers, also about DD's ideas, without DD). He's getting a younger postdoctoral researcher to do a lot of work that he isn't doing himself. And when you see two people with significantly different social status as co-authors on a paper, in general that means the lower status person did most of the work. If the higher status person had done most of the work, he wouldn't have given anyone co-author credit. You see this all the time with professors taking too much credit for the work of their grad students (either the grad student helps and gets little credit, or the grad student does most of it and gets his or her name on it and everyone assumes the professor did most of the smart stuff and guided the work, which is often inaccurate).

Note: People often use others without having full conscious knowledge of what they're doing. I think that's much more likely than DD doing using me while having clear, conscious knowledge of exactly what he was doing.

I learned a lot from interacting with DD. But I also had a reasonable expectation of more help from him in the future which never materialized. And my expectations were not just my own reasonable assumptions/guesses; for example, DD told me that one day he would write a forward for my book.

Here's some info about what I did for BoI:

For more info on how I helped with BoI, see also the first few minutes of this video and this praise DD said about me.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

Induction and AZ Vax Blood Clots

waneagony asks on my YouTube video Induction | Analyzing The Beginning of Infinity, part 5:

Could you explain some using the Astra Zeneca COVID vaccine as an example of induction being used (or not) and it being wrong (if so)?

Like more cases of blood clots seem to have been found among ppl that have taken the AZ vaccine.

I think comparing to see if there is an over representation of clots if one suspects reported cases to be high is ok. How one compares in a good way is an issue I think. Don’t know how to think about this well to avoid problems (don’t know if science is good at these things). I guess statistical significance is usually used here in science.

Claiming that clots are due to vaccine without an explanation is induction I think. ~pattern finding. There could be many other patterns that develop post vaccine that are highly (e.g. statistically significant) different between these groups too.

I’m not sure how, but I feel confused on this issue. I think we can discover that something bad is more prevalent post the vaccine in a legit way in the group that has taken the vaccine and I think it is valid to take precautions. But how do we know it’s because of the vaccine and not some other reason like just random or whatever? Could you explain a good way of thinking about this issue? Here, on the other yt channel, a post, a podcast, other, whichever would be appreciated.

First you need explanations of what’s going on. Here’s a simplified explanatory model (scientists have better ones):

  • Blood has clotting agents to protect against losing too much blood from cuts
  • When foreign materials are in the blood, they may incorrectly trigger internal clotting, which can do significant harm by blocking veins or arteries
  • Some foreign materials cause clots and some don’t
  • We know some materials are safe, some dangerous, and others unknown
  • AZ vax is in the unknown category and we’re trying to figure out if it causes clots or not

Now imagine some simplified evidence: the blood clot rate with AZ vax goes from 0.01% to 75%.

Our guesses include “AZ vax causes clotting” and “AZ vax doesn’t cause clotting”. We need to try to criticize them.

Why did clotting jump to 75% if AZ vax doesn’t cause clotting? This argument criticizes the “doesn’t cause clotting” guess unless someone can provide some kind of rebuttal.

What if clotting jumped from 0.01% base rate to 1%? Might that be random bad luck? What if it was 5%? 10%? To answer that we need to know some things like the variance for blood clotting in general and the sample size of the trial. And we need to do some math. Statisticians have some ideas about how to do that math. We then take the math and use it in our critical arguments. E.g. “According to standard stats, a 1% clot rate in a trial of 50 people could easily just be bad luck. Therefore, I won’t reject the guess that the AZ vax is safe, unless you have some further criticism.” (My numbers are just made up btw. Not especially realistic.) Instead of “standard stats” you might name a particular model or theory in stats that you’re using, and there might be alternatives that get different results, in which case you’d have to use critical arguments regarding what model should be used or how multiple models should be used (e.g. you might be able to explain why a stats model is bad in general, or doesn’t fit this scenario well).

But if it’s 10% blood clots in the trial, then you say “According to standard stats, there’s only a 0.000001% chance that those blood clots would happen by random bad luck. So we should regard the AZ vax as dangerous.” That argument would be open to criticism and counter-argument. A critic could dispute any of the numbers used (e.g. maybe the measurements of the rate of blood clots in the general population were done incorrectly or are old and contradicted by more recent data and may have changed over time), or dispute the statistical model itself, or dispute some premise/requirement that’s required for the statistical model to apply, or dispute the math calculations and point out an error, or dispute the original explanatory model about how blood clots work, or could propose some other cause of the blood clots besides the AZ vax which could be solved in some way (e.g.: “everyone in the trial was in a room with Dr. Johnson who kept coughing up blood, and I’ve tested his blood and found it has Bozark’s Disease which can easily be passed on in an airborne manner in tiny quantities and then cause blood clots in others. so we should do another trial with a step where we screen everyone for Bozark’s Disease and I’m expecting we’ll see no increase in blood clots compared to the general population”).

PS I did not look up anything about the AZ vax issue for writing the above and was just trying to speak about general principles. My loose impression from Twitter is that the AZ vax is probably safe and that the regulators focus on “risk we allow it and it hurts people” without comparing to or caring about “risk we delay it and the vax delay hurts people”. They want to make sure it’s super safe, which is a bad idea when delaying it is uncontroversially super unsafe.

PPS Scientists knowing more details makes a big difference (here’s an overview, which is not representative of all the technical details scientists know). Like they can consider which materials are in the AZ vax and whether some of those have already been tested previously. The vax has a virus with some DNA in it. Maybe that virus has already been used for other stuff before and we’re confident it wouldn’t cause blood clots. So then we’d have to consider if the DNA is somehow getting out of the virus within the blood stream, or what happens when a white blood cell surrounds the virus and what’s left over or excreted from that process. And we’d want to consider what happens once the virus gets in the cell, whether the DNA could end up in the blood stream, whether the mrna created by the cell due to the DNA instructions could end up in the blood stream, whether something that’s within a cell but not directly in the blood stream can cause clotting just by changing the shape or surface of the cell, etc. And scientists already know a lot about those things, and understand explanations about how they work, and also know which types of materials generally do and don’t cause blood clots, and why, and what specific mechanisms form blood clots (like what chemical reactions happen, what different things in the body are involved, etc.) Often this explanatory knowledge and mental model of how this stuff works gives you a pretty good idea that it won’t cause blood clots – or in the alternative that it might and we need to carefully watch out for clotting – before you have any data at all. Maybe you can imagine how knowing a ton of detail about the stuff in this para would be 1) not data 2) very useful (possibly more useful than having a bunch of data. like imagine you could pick one: look at a bunch of data and stats about the AZ vax trials, or actually know all the kinds of stuff from this paragraph in tons of detail so you know how everything works. i think the second one would be better. the data without really knowing what i’m talking about would be less useful than knowing what i’m talking about. (i know what i’m talking about re the epistemology but not so much re the biology and medicine stuff. ideally a person would know epistemology and biology/medicine and also some stats and would have the full data. then they could judge better.))


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Learning Skills Is Non-Linear

Max talked about return on investment for learning. E.g. at 1% improvement per day, you can double your skill in 70 days. It’s around 2 years for 0.1%. If you always spend half your time learning instead of working, then your productivity (stuff accomplished per day) will be ahead once you double your skill.

I want to talk about some problems with that linear skill model. I think it’s misleading and understates the value of learning.

Learning Is Non-Linear

There are non-linear jumps in performance when learning. It’s like jumps to universality. There are discontinuities.

Put another way, some learning crosses an important breakpoint and results in a major jump in performance. And some doesn’t.

If you don’t make some kind of significant breakthrough, Max’s simplified model may overestimate the effectiveness of learning. But a single breakthrough can be worth a ton of effort.

Error

Also, people often fail at things. One of the results of learning is more ability to succeed rather than fail. Learning more can often make the difference between success and failure. There are lots of things you just can’t do successfully unless you learn enough. Learning reduces errors.

Not a Matter of Speed

David Deutsch said:

The thing that people call intelligence in everyday life — like the ability of some people like Einstein or Feynman to see their way through to a solution to a problem while other people can't — simply doesn't take the form that the person you regard as 'unintelligent' would take a year to do something that Einstein could do in a week; it's not a matter of speed. What we really mean is the person can't understand at all what Einstein can understand.

This is related to non-linearity again. You can’t just take 100 people who did less learning and have them do the same work as 1 guy who learned enough to be 100x as effective. Even if you set aside the overhead for coordination between the 100 people, it still doesn’t work. You can’t replace an Einstein or Feynman with even a million ordinary people and get the same work accomplished.

The 100 people have some advantages too. Learning doesn’t give you a big effectiveness gain at all work. The advantages from learning are unequally distributed. This is often mitigated by helpers. A genius can hire help or work at a company with a bunch of other manpower.

But if you imagine the genius alone on a desert island, and then imagine a second desert island with 100 average people, you’ll see some advantages and disadvantages for each island. (The desert island scenario prevents the genius from having any helpers.)

Conclusion

IMO, it’s pretty hard to go wrong investing in learning if:

  • your learning is effective
  • you’re reasonably young
  • you’re learning general purpose stuff

Learning stuff that’s only useful for a few purposes is more risky. You might stop using it later. And failing to learn or getting stuck or learning wrong ideas are common problems. And you probably shouldn’t learn to code and try to switch careers when you’re 90.

Learning effectiveness is the condition that concerns me the most. Lots of times people try to learn stuff and it doesn’t work. This is especially true for more general purpose stuff like philosophy. Learning really specific skills is more reliably successful. But most people aren’t very successful at learning about epistemology. (That’s a problem I’ve been working on.)


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Analyzing BoI Videos

I'm making a video series explaining, discussing, analyzing and teaching David Deutsch's book The Beginning of Infinity (which I helped edit for 7 years).

View the YouTube Playlist

It's on a new YouTube Channel (Critical Fallibilism) so you'll need to subscribe (and click the bell and select "All") even if you're already subscribed to my curi channel.

Use the comments below to discuss the videos or the book.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (11)

Critical Fallibilism Course Videos Now on Sale

My Critical Fallibilism Course videos are now available. Buy on Gumroad ($880).

These 8 videos (16.5 hours) teach my philosophy, Critical Fallibilism, which builds on Critical Rationalism (by Karl Popper and secondarily David Deutsch), Objectivism (by Ayn Rand and secondarily Leonard Peikoff) and Theory of Constraints (by Eli Goldratt). The course is primarily my original material and focuses on teaching tools for thinking effectively. Topics covered include:

  • IGCs (idea, goal, context triples, and using IGC charts for decision making and judging ideas)
  • Qualitative or quantitative
  • Discrete (often binary) or continuous
  • Breakpoints
  • Sub-goals, combo goals, final goals
  • Criticism (explaining why an idea fails at a goal in a context)
  • Only act on non-refuted IGCs
  • Library of criticism
  • Methods to get one non-refuted IGC
  • Dealing with conflicts of ideas by considering what to do, from neutral perspective, given an unknown
  • High & low attention goals (near or not near a breakpoint)
  • High & low attention ideas (mastery, autopilot)
  • Critical Rationalism (connections to Critical Fallibilism)
  • Evolution
  • Objectivism (connections to Critical Fallibilism)
  • Theory of Constraints (connections to Critical Fallibilism)
  • Focus
  • Excess capacity, buffers, margins of error
  • Variance
  • Bottlenecks, constraints, limiting factors
  • Silver bullets
  • Local & Global Optima (crossing relevant breakpoints)
  • Throughput (does this (local) action cause an improvement at the big picture goal?)

I taught the course live over Zoom video conferencing to five students in November 2020. The format was two 2-hour sessions per week (8 total) with slides. I addressed student questions for each slide as we went along. It's a hybrid between lecture and discussion.

Justin was in the course and said "The ideas in this course - specifically IGCs and breakpoints - helped me think about everyday things like personal purchasing decisions more effectively. This is rational philosophy that you can use in your life!"

Max was in the course and said "the things i've learnt during my tutorials with curi and the CF course have been incredibly valuable."

This product includes 8 videos, 233 slides, and computer-generated subtitles and transcripts. They come as a .zip download with no DRM. I offer a 30-day money back guarantee. Just let me know if you aren't satisfied and I'll give you a full refund.

Buy on Gumroad ($880)


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

David Deutsch Lied About Me

This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years.


Justin Mallone emailed David Deutsch (DD) to bring up the Andy B harassment encouraged by DD’s associates and fan community. DD replied (italics are mine, and you can view a screenshot of the email which includes what Justin said):

As I have told Elliot several times, I don't want to hear from him. That includes indirectly via you and many others. I don't know this Andy B he speaks of. I'm not aware of anyone I know sending DDoS attacks or anything else covertly to Elliot. I'm not the chief of anything. I'm not the leader of any group. Please go away.

David Deutsch

This is a lie about a factual matter. DD did not tell me several times that he didn’t want to hear from me. He never told me that. He hasn’t made a no contact request. I provide evidence below.

Note: I know that accusing someone of lying will bring strong reactions. If you're upset by this article, please try to be objective and look for factual or logical errors rather than assuming it's wrong. And remember that all I want is to be left alone and not have my rights violated. I would address this privately, but DD won’t discuss it with me, and I don’t know who else he lied to.

The lie about no contact requests is what DD says when he’s writing something he knows may be published. It’s also what he says to someone he believes is on my side acting as my proxy. This is DD on his best behavior addressing (for the first time ever that I’ve seen) his involvement in DDOSing, cyberstalking, multi-year harassment, etc. I presume he’s said similar or worse to people he thinks are on his side (there’s circumstantial evidence that he’s been doing that for 5+ years).

DD’s lie is damaging to my reputation. He’s smearing me as a person who violates no contact requests. I never did that.

Justin (another of the harassment victims) asked DD to write a tweet asking his followers to stop harassing. Not only did DD refuse, he also lied to attack the primary victim (me). DD presents me as a person who treats others immorally by violating reasonable and repeated no contact requests. DD turns things around by changing the topic from harassment against me to alleged harassment by me. That makes it sound like he thinks I’m in the wrong and I’m the one who needs to change behaviors. His email implies that he sees me, but not Andy B, as a problem, and that he doesn’t see the harassment against me as having gone too far. And the things DD denied are different than my actual claims, which is a rhetorical trick to make it sound like he’s disputing something when he’s actually avoiding the issue.

DD’s lie echos previous comments by the biggest harasser, Andy B, who claimed that I was ignoring direct requests to leave people alone or stop doing things (but he didn’t specify any requests and was just using it as a tactic to attack me). Andy B may have gotten that idea from DD or one of DD’s associates, but I don’t know specifically because none of them will speak about it.

I challenge DD to provide specifics of the "several times" he (allegedly) told me that he didn’t want to hear from me or made a no contact request. The vast majority of our communication was in writing. I have records of it and I believe DD does too. And I don’t think it’s an innocent mistake to say “several times” when it was zero times; he isn’t just off by a little bit (like saying 4 when it was 5).

Our Most Recent Communications

To see what’s true, let’s take a look at DD’s most recent communications to me. This list of emails is the full story because we stopped using other communication methods like IM before this. I’m going to limit what I share for both of our privacy. I will provide full information if DD disputes my account.

Note: This screenshot only includes personal emails. DD also sent discussion group replies, including Oct 2013 replies to me about impersonal topics on my private discussion group. That seems incompatible with the existence of an active no contact request.

Now let’s go through all the emails in the picture, from oldest to newest. The bulk are DD’s 26 emails in 6 days discussing schizophrenia with me, plus the related emails about Mental illness and szasz (an author who wrote The Myth of Mental Illness). DD initiated the discussion by sharing his comments on an article. He was starting a friendly debate on an issue he knew I partially disagreed about. We ending up discussing political theory. It was a discussion he chose to have for fun or learning, which he was under no pressure or obligation to participate in, so it indicates there wasn’t any no contact request active at that time. If all later emails also lack a no contact request, I think that should be convincing.

Next is the email Remove BOI post. That was sent to DD but meant for me, so he forwarded it. The later email THE BEGINNING OF INFINITY review copy request was the reverse: it was sent to me but meant for DD, so I forwarded it on to him (he replied with “Thanks.”). I created, owned and ran the BoI forum (and website) at DD’s request, so that’s why the email about removing a post (which had been sent by accident) should have gone to me.

The three ramit sethi email emails involved DD helping me edit a draft email to a public figure (Ramit Sethi teaches personal finance). Helping each other edit stuff was typical of our relationship, and isn’t what people do when they have no contact requests outstanding.

In why can popper publish it, but not you?, DD criticizes Popper. It doesn’t say anything about not wanting to hear from me.

demanding respect for one’s moral code is the most negative and complicated, but does not contain a no contact request. I had sent DD a quote from Atlas Shrugged, a book he was a fan of and which had influenced his thinking and philosophy. I commented, in full, “when you appear to be acting against a main theme of Atlas Shrugged, shouldn't you explain yourself?” Due to our many prior conversations, I thought DD would understand what I meant, though I may have been mistaken. DD’s response began:

You are saying that I ought to write you an essay, on the subject of your choice.

More generally, you keep demanding that I work for you. You keep claiming that I have an obligation to do so.

This was (as best I can understand it) a misinterpretation of my question. I meant that if public figures change their mind about ideas and advice they shared with thousands of people, I think they ought to keep their fans updated, e.g. with a retraction. You wouldn’t want people to keep using your ideas that you later discovered were errors. It’s like when a scientist publishes a result, and later discovers it’s false, then he ought to publish updated info.

Asking a critical, argumentative question is not a demand that DD work for me. It’s intellectual debate. DD could agree, disagree or not reply (he’d used all of those options many times in the past).

DD didn’t want me to demand that he work for me (I don’t think I did, nor do I think I was ever capable of bossing around my mentor who is an award-winning physicist, successful author and Royal Society member). That’s different than a no contact request. And in my judgment, wanting DD to stop lying about me, retract the lie(s) and tell his fans to stop harassing me is not violating his old request. Those are actions that any reasonable person would do. And I’m not trying to get DD to work to provide me with a positive value (such as an essay I’d enjoy); I just want my rights to stop being violated.

The last email to discuss is hello. In it, DD answers my question “are you interested in a solution?” (to whatever reason we weren’t talking much anymore, which wasn’t clearly specified) with “Yes.” I actually read the rest of the email in a negative way, but it didn’t say anything about not wanting to hear from me.

Conclusions

So, reviewing DD's communications, he repeatedly acted like he did want to hear from me, e.g. by conversing with me, and he didn’t request not to hear from me again once, let alone “several” times. My takeaway is that DD has lied to attack the same person that his fans are harassing.

I’ve shared this to try to undo some of the harm to my reputation that DD is doing by lying about me. See also the praise DD wrote about me, which I shared for a similar purpose.

What I want is simple. DD: stop lying about me, retract your lies, and tell your followers to stop harassing. Leave me alone.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (4)

Harassment Summary

I (and other members of the Fallible Ideas community) have been subjected to severe harassment over the last 2.5 years, including illegal actions like DDoSing and threatening IRL harm. The harassment includes hundreds of comments from over 100 IP addresses and over 20 false identities (some maintained for months). It’s coming from the CritRat community led by David Deutsch (DD), who used to be my mentor and colleague. They’ve said they’re harassing because they see me as DD’s enemy. DD left our community (after years of participation) and formed a new community (CritRat) which is harassing his former community which he has a grudge against.

I’m writing a series of posts to explain what’s going on, including what harassment happened, what the evidence is, and why I place blame on Deutsch. I’m doing this publicly because Deutsch and his associates have refused to discuss it privately. They’ve also refused to say they are opposed to harassment or that they want the culprits to stop. Many of them are publicly friendly with the biggest harasser, Andy B.

Posts:


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

What I Learned from Autonomy Respecting Relationships

Autonomy Respecting Relationships (ARR) was an online discussion group led by Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC) and David Deutsch (DD). They eventually left. I owned and ran the group when Verizon bought Yahoo and deleted all Yahoo Groups in 2019 and 2020. The archives are still available on my website.

I wrote a summary of ARR in 2011. Most of the ARR discussions were 5+ years earlier.

ARR was an offshoot of Taking Children Seriously (TCS), a parenting and educational philosophy founded by DD and SFC. It had similar themes like non-coercion, classical liberalism and Critical Rationalism.

The first thing I learned when I joined ARR is that monogamy can be questioned. Previously, like most people, I’d taken monogamous relationships for granted as simply how relationships work. I hadn’t known that any reasonable alternatives might exist.

I learned that romance is dangerous and hurts people. Conventional relationships are a problematic area in need of improvement and reform, not a solved problem. The pain of breakups, divorces and broken hearts is a big deal that should be taken seriously.

I learned that (romantic) love is a vague concept which can be used in bad ways. Love can be pressuring or foolish. And no one seems to be able to put into clear writing what “love” is or what’s good about it.

I learned that there are dangerous anti-rational memes involved with romantic relationships.

I learned that the idea of merging two lives into one shared life is problematic and contradicts individualism. Everyone needs to have their own life and be their own person. No one fully or clearly advocates losing individuality in marriage, but there are lots of ideas about partially doing that. I became skeptical of e.g. fully sharing finances and recognized that significantly sharing of finances is hard to do well and merits more serious attention and consideration than it often gets.

Later, elsewhere, I learned that romantic/passionate/sexual love was called “eros” by the ancient Greeks (our word “erotic” comes from the Greek “eros”). The Greeks invented philosophy and also had warned of the dangers of eros over 2000 years ago. Eros was both a concept and a Greek god. The Roman name for the god Eros is well known today: Cupid. Cupid shot arrows because arrows were the most powerful and feared weapon in the ancient world, and people saw sexual love as dangerous. Arrows only became more cute after we got used to guns. You can read about eros in the book Eros: The Myth Of Ancient Greek Sexuality by Bruce Thornton.

Polyamory

ARR advocated polyamory (which means having romantic/sexual love relationships with multiple people at once). It questioned monogamy and wanted to replace that with more freedom and autonomy. Why should you be shackled by conventional ideas that work poorly? Use your rationality to solve any problems that may come up while being promiscuous and having fun!

Although I partly agreed with this at the time, I had doubts about it early on. What had I learned initially? Monogamy can be questioned. But also, love, romance and sex are dangerous. If romantic relationships work badly and hurt people, why have more of them? Instead of having more of this stuff in our lives, we could try the standard amount or less.

Most posters, including SFC, wanted more love and more sex, despite warnings from SFC and others about dangers. DD was more friendly to the possibility of just not doing romance. But I got a lot of resistance when I pushed back against polyamory. People told me how great sex was, and how sex was uniquely important for learning and communication. I thought that was a rationalization. No way is sex an irreplaceable tool for general education or for sharing your ideas. That was an excuse used by people who wanted lots of sex and also wanted to be rational persons who valued knowledge.

Tradition

Sex is important because our culture imbues it with meaning (and because of the facts of pregnancy and STDs). The philosopher William Godwin had explained that 200 years earlier, as DD showed me. Although sex is not as inherently, innately important as people think, that doesn’t prevent it from actually having a lot of meaning to people and being a big deal. DD and I knew that was hard to change, and I now recognize it’s even harder to change than I used to think. Also, if you’re going to put significant work into self-improvement to change something, there are a lot of other things that could be a higher priority.

ARR (and myself initially) overestimated how easy it is to go against cultural knowledge. Culture is very powerful. If something is cultural rather than genetic, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to change, nor even easier. Memes can be harder to deal with than genes. Ideas rule the world, as both DD and Ayn Rand say.

DD talked about rational respect for tradition, but never emphasized it enough. I learned more about tradition later when reading Edmund Burke and, after that, when learning about the tradition of western civilization from books like Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization.

Age of Consent

ARR, DD and SFC also criticized age of consent laws. While those laws aren’t perfect, I now think that criticism was unwise. In some ways, I think there should be more or stronger laws about this! E.g., I think all US states should ban child brides (under 18) with a significant age gap (you may be disturbed to find out that most states don’t do that and that there are thousands of child brides involved in US immigration every year – meaning either a child bride is being brought in from another country or an adult is moving to the US to marry an American child). A 2019 Utah law raised the minimum marriage age from 15 to 16 and also banned marriage between minors and adults 7+ years older than them. I think that’s an improvement, not a violation of young people’s human rights.

Imagine a 15 year old girl marrying a 40 year old man. That’s a terrible idea. I’ll grant that it doesn’t literally violate the laws of physics for that marriage to be a good idea and that the concept of greater autonomy for 15 year olds has upsides. But we as a society aren’t even close to figuring out how to make that kind of thing work well, and attacking age of consent laws can lead to more girls being victims. It’s not just that it doesn’t work well today; it’s actually very dangerous. Child marriage often means the girl becomes a sex and house slave and is raped repeatedly with no way out. Due to being too young, minors have limited ability to get out of bad situations by getting a job, getting welfare, using a woman’s shelter, or even filing for divorce. Yes, as dumb as it sounds, some married persons in America today are actually told they’re too young to divorce!

If you’re interested in the modern problem child marriage problem in the US and elsewhere, you can do a web search. There are news articles and info sites.

One of the reasons child marriage keeps happening is due to ageist adults who don’t care about the victims. So if SFC and DD wanted a campaign to improve laws to help children against ageism, it would have been better to start with this instead of attacking age of consent laws. But protecting children from being victimized by child marriage didn’t fit with SFC’s and DD’s goals of being edgy and controversial, proving what free thinkers they were, or focusing exclusively on advocating more independence and autonomy for children without admitting that there could be any problems with that.

Retractions

Due to my involvement with ARR, I want to be clear about what I think so no one does polyamory and thinks they’re following my philosophy. I know SFC changed her mind about some of this stuff but never told people, which I think was bad. I’m not sure what DD’s current views about this are, and whether they changed, which I also think is bad. Thought leaders who change people’s lives with their advice ought to let people know if they change their mind.

I’ve talked about some of this stuff previously, e.g. my Philosophy First article criticizing ARR, my podcast criticizing polyamory, and my podcast about rationalism and convention which also criticized polyamory.

I don’t remember exactly what I’ve said about relationships in the past, but I’m sure there were some errors, and that some people got the impression I favor polyamory. I was never half as friendly to polyamory as SFC and many other ARR group members, and I now have a fairly (but not entirely) negative opinion of it. I think most actual poly communities are pretty awful. (They might all be awful but I haven’t researched it and looked at many.) There were ARR people who were involved in a bunch of promiscuous, poly behaviors, but I was not the leader of any of that, and my impression is it worked out poorly for those involved (but none of them gave any public warnings about the failures of their attempts at ARR).

I thought of writing this particular article after rereading some of SFC’s old arguments against age of consent laws, which I found disturbing. I have other priorities so I’m not focusing much attention on philosophy of relationships currently, but I think it’s something I should share and clarify thoughts about sometimes. Besides my past involvement, it’s a topic that plays a big role in people’s lives.

People are too controlling of their partners in relationships, but there’s no quick fix. Just being less controlling will run into other problems. The control wasn’t random or pointless.

There are many dangers in romantic relationships and there aren’t good enough resources to help navigate them. (For example people think communication and rationality will be sufficient to make their relationship work better than a typical relationship; that isn’t a good enough plan.) I think there are lots of good points in my older writing about this (ARR emails, blog posts, and FI articles) but it’s nothing like a complete, batteries-included, ready-to-use, foolproof system. You can pick up some good-but-incomplete ideas from my old stuff but need to use your own judgment. I’d suggest, when in doubt, err on the side of convention (and when not in doubt, try to make your critical thinking much more vigorous). You’re also welcome to ask questions and start discussions about these topics here.

ARR and TCS had some good ideas mixed in (TCS more so) but a lot of dangerous errors, too. Beware.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Some Thoughts on Learning Philosophy

You need to know why you’re learning something in order to know when you’re done. What level of perfection does it need to be learned to? Which details should be learned and which skipped? That depends on its purpose.

At first, you can go by intuition or conventional defaults for how well to learn something, but it’s important at some point to start getting some control over this and making it more intentional and chosen.

To get a grasp on the purpose of learning, you need a tree (or graph). Writing it down helps clarify it in your mind. If you think about it without writing it down, there’s still information in your head that is logically equivalent to a tree (or graph) structure. If you have a goal and something you plan to do that’s related to the goal, then that is a tree: the goal is the root node and the relevant action is a descendent.

A tree can indicate some things you’re hoping to build up to. E.g. the root node is “write well” and then “learn grammar” is one of descendants. But those aren’t specific. How will you know when you succeeded?

It’s OK to sketch out trees with blank parts. You have the root node, then don’t specify everything, and then you get to the grammar node. You don’t have to know exactly what’s in between to know there’s a connection there. Figuring it out is useful though. It’s better to have something pretty generic like “learn mechanics of writing” in between instead of leaving it blank.

If you want to be able to write an article sharing your ideas about dinosaurs so that three of your friends can understand it, that’s more specific. That clearer root node gives more meaning to the “learn grammar” node below it. You can learn just the grammar that’s relevant to the goal. It helps you know when to move on. For example, you can write understandably to your three friends without using any colons or semi-colons. But you will need to understand periods, and you’ll probably want to use a few commas and question marks. And you’ll need to understand what a sentence is – not in full detail but at least the basics.

Another descendent node is “learn vocabulary”. Since the goal relates to dinosaurs, you’ll need some uncommon words like "cretaceous”, but you won’t need to know “sporadically” or “perplexity” (which are sometimes called “SAT words” due to showing up on the SAT college-entrance test – if your goal were to get into more prestigious colleges than you need to learn differently vocabulary).

Bottlenecks and breakpoints are important too. Which areas actually deserve much of your attention? Which are important to your goal and should be focused on? Which aren’t? Why? Usually you can get most stuff to a “good enough” level with little attention and then focus most of your attention on a few areas that will make a big difference to the outcome. If you can’t do that – if there are a lot of hard parts – then the project as a whole is too advanced for you and therefore needs to be divided into more manageable sub-projects. The number of sub-projects you end up with gives you a decent indication of project difficulty. If you have to divide it up into 500 parts to get them into manageable chunks, then it’s a big, hard project overall! If it’s 3 chunks then it’s harder than the average project but not too bad.

A bottleneck is a limiting factor, aka a constraint. If you do better in that area, it translates to a better outcome on the final goal. Most things aren’t bottlenecks. E.g. consider a chain. If you reinforce most links, it won’t make the overall chain stronger, because they weren’t the weakest link anyway. Doing better in that area (that link is stronger) doesn’t translate to more success at the goal (chain holds more weight). But if you find the weakest link – the bottleneck – and reinforce that link, then you’ll actually have a positive impact on the goal.

A breakpoint is a significant, distinguishable improvement. It makes some kinda meaningful difference instead of just being 0.003% better (who cares?). For example, I want to buy something that costs $20. Then there’s a breakpoint at $20. If I have $19 or less, I can’t buy it. If I have $20 or more, I can buy it. The incremental change of gaining $1 from $19 to $20 crosses the breakpoint and makes a big difference (buy instead of can’t buy). But any other $1 doesn’t matter so much. If I go from $15 to $16 or $33 to $34 it doesn’t change the outcome. More resources is generally a good thing, and money is generic enough to use on some other project later, but it’s important to figure out what will make important differences and pursue that. If we optimize things that don’t matter much, we can spend our whole lives without achieving much. There are so many details that we could pay attention to that they could consume all our time if we let them.

More specific goals are easier to achieve. More organized approaches are easier to succeed with. Some amount of organized planning – like connecting something to a clearer goal or sub-goal – helps you figure out what’s important and what’s “good enough”.

If you want to learn much philosophy or be much of a general intellectual, you need to be a decent reader and decent writing so you communication to and from you can happen in writing. And you need some ability to organize ideas and organize your life/time. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it has to work OK. And you need some general competence at most of the common knowledge that most people in our society have. And you need some interest in understanding things and some curiosity. And you need some ability to judge stuff for yourself: Does this make sense to you? Are you satisfied? And you need some ability to change and to consider negative things without getting too emotional. Those things are general purpose enough that it doesn’t really matter what specific types of ideas interest you the most, e.g. epistemology, science or economics, they’re going to be useful regardless.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

David Deutsch's Responsibility for Harassment

David Deutsch is the root cause of years of severe harassment against me and other FI community members. I've asked him to write a brief message requesting his fans stop hating and harassing, but he won't. None of the people involved will try to settle this privately with me. So I made an infographic to explain the situation. Click the image to expand, or view as a PDF:

Sources:


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (16)

Andy B Harassment Update

This post documents some of the recent harassment from "Andy B". During this time period, he also joined and vandalized the FI Basecamp and did a Denial of Service attack on this website (that's a type of hacking which is a crime). I removed many of these comments, in which case the link will take you to the page it was on but won't display the comment. For more context and explanation, see David Deutsch's Hate Group, Andy B Harassment Continues and Andy B Harassment and Four Strands.

IDDateAuthorIPText
192552020-12-27Anonymous135.0.61.116are u jewish
192782020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116my guy, u jewish?
192792020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116George Washington (February 22, 1732[b] – December 14, 1799) was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Previously, he led Patriot forces to victory in the nation's War for Independence. He presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which established the U.S. Constitution and a federal government. Washington has been called the "Father of His Country" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation. [ET's note: There were another 17,000 words from this Wikipedia article, which I'm leaving out.]
192802020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. Dubbed the "King of Pop", he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century. Through stage and video performances, he popularized complicated dance techniques such as the moonwalk, to which he gave the name, and the robot. His sound and style have influenced artists of various genres, and his contributions to music, dance, and fashion, along with his publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades. Jackson is the most awarded artist in the history of popular music. [ET's note: There were another 14,000 words from this Wikipedia article, which I'm leaving out.]
192812020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116why wont u tell me if ur jewish i just wanted to invite you to my sukkah
192822020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116I agree With you, DonALd Trump is, Good, and the President.
192832020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116also, Capitalism is NOT a disaster that literally kills poeple and killed my mom... I Agree.
192842020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116why are you censoring me
192852020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116your RULES say your forum is UNMODERATED and UNCENSORED and that you can post WHATEVER YOU WANT... but Because, you disagree with my opinions and my religion you delete my posts... thats hideous you are goinaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa to rot in hells
192872020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116wtf im not an antisemitic, YOUR the criminal
192882020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116im not spamming i just wanted to ask you a question about being jewish (WHICH I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH) and talk about george washington and trump i think politics are good just like you so whats the problem
192892020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116SO MUCH, for OPEN discusison, and your forum which claims to be UNMODERATED, when I just want to talk about my religion whitch you are apparently racist too, and youc annot deal with anyone who disagrees with you in your personal athiest cult! SO WHAT if i posted about George Washington...OH ok so anything thats not NEW in tpe past 10 years is irrelavant erase the past just like statue beheading SJWs because your so censoring dictator! HITLER was no worse than you lying, Cheating, and So ON. You CLAIM to watnt honest debate but you refuse to acknowlidge my, Many, Contributios and theories which are promelgated within, and the things EVERYONE KNOWS, are Common Ssense, that you delete without ceremony! SO WHO IS THE CRIMINAL????
200922021-03-04chris p.135.0.61.116i was hoping to reach you because i was wrestling with the truth and my brothers shouted how they were gibberish and mistakes. tonight was my last chance to land a big client and i failed, again. you're a smart guy and charming, you' have good ideas. i really wanted to do a good job. i made you this amazing video biography. just... respect me. and in return i'll only ask for one thing, which is genesis. it was a time of trouble... but then a ray of hope. a secretly kind and wonderful tiny little person. this thing we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down. i won't be down for long. i reckon you should too. did you like it?
200962021-03-05chris p.135.0.61.116if this is an unmoderated discussion forum why did you delete my post
201092021-03-06chris p135.0.61.116i will certify the results after the tally. an automatic tie to the male candidate, and the female is put in jail. it is city law. at the 11th hour, i just don't see the problem. a razor-thin margin, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. because of the dream you had at 2:30 AM, i woke up, it was a premonition. i'm pretty sure that's illegal. you did an unbelievable job, my partner. she gets the credit, not me. you have a knack for this. i'm being serious.
201112021-03-06chris p.135.0.61.116fifty shades of grey, call 311. hello again diane. nobody answered. someone will be there shortly.
201192021-03-08chris p.135.0.61.116you are precious to me. nothing can be used that was invented past 1817. i'm doing it for free.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (4)

The Closing of the American Mind

James Randi wrote The Faith Healers (1987) criticizing religious conmen, many of whom used magicians' tricks like cold reading. They have no supernatural healing powers, no special connection to God, and often lie about other stuff too. They take advantage of gullible and desperate people and get a lot of money from them. And the police and government were broadly unwilling to do much about it, plus made a lot of their scam income tax free for being religious. This tangential passage stood out to me:

These observations are echoed by Dr. Allan Bloom of the University of Chicago in one of the most talked-about books of 1987, The Closing of the American Mind. Professor Bloom says:

The ideology of passion has come to dominate America’s young. They generally believe that feelings are deeper than reason and that the two are in opposition—not that they develop one another, which was the old idea. They think that reason can’t help you decide whether to believe in God or not, whether to like democracy or monarchy.

Even in the rhetoric of conservatism there is the notion that reason can’t provide values. So there is a turn to religion. I’m not suggesting religion is unnecessary, but there is a widespread belief that religion can decide values and reason can’t. On the left, many young people turn to rock music. They say it’s deeper than words—that they don’t have to explain what role it plays in their lives. They just say: “That’s my taste. That’s the way I feel about it.”

I would add to that my opinion that not only is there “the notion that reason can’t provide values,” but there is a feeling that religion provides firm, inarguable values that are predigested, infallible, eminently acceptable (within the believer’s immediate social milieu), and satisfying. In addition, no intellectual effort is required to adopt them, and the pressure for adopting them is very strong. The pressure may be the strongest influence in the lives of some people. Dr. Bloom goes on to comment

There used to be an intellectual class in America.... These people kept the world of ideas alive. But today the distinction between intellectuals and nonintellectuals doesn’t make any difference; celebrity is the only standard.... Everybody has become a talker of cheap philosophy that anybody can pick up.

The celebrity status that the TV evangelists have attained merely by purchasing air time and putting on a good show gives them the charisma that attracts the faithful moths to their deadly flames.

I'm curious about whether things were ever actually better in deep ways like the existence of a genuine intellectual class, and curious if or how our culture changed. I got a copy of The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students and started reading. I'll see if he's just ranting about the next generation being different or has some good reasoning and non-anecdotal evidence. The subtitle focusing on colleges is unfortunately not the focus I was hoping for from Randi's passage, and I've already read books criticizing our schools, but I still think it's a decent lead. Does anyone know about this book or others, or have detailed knowledge of relevant history from the 1900s? Please comment below if you can add something.

I think one of the big recent changes has been social media and the mainstreaming of the internet. People didn't get dumber as far as I know, but the dumber people (including a lot of the same people who are vulnerable to faith healers) got online more and started talking a lot, especially using smartphones.

First thoughts on The Closing of the American Mind:

It was not necessarily the best of times in America when Catholics and Protestants were suspicious of and hated one another; but at least they were taking their beliefs seriously, and the more or less satisfactory accommodations they worked out were not simply the result of apathy about the state of their souls.

I agree with this. The author likes religion more than me, but overall I agree with some of what he's saying. But he's kind of a snob who wants people to read real literature (as he sees it) like Dickens and the Bible, though.

BOOKS

I have begun to wonder whether the experience of the greatest texts from early childhood is not a prerequisite for a concern throughout life for them and for lesser but important literature. The soul’s longing, its intolerable irritation under the constraints of the conditional and limited, may very well require encouragement at the outset. At all events, whatever the cause, our students have lost the practice of and the taste for reading. They have not learned how to read, nor do they have the expectation of delight or improvement from reading. They are “authentic,” as against the immediately preceding university generations, in having few cultural pretensions and in refusing hypocritical ritual bows to high culture.

When I first noticed the decline in reading during the late sixties, I began asking my large introductory classes, and any other group of younger students to which I spoke, what books really count for them. Most are silent, puzzled by the question. The notion of books as companions is foreign to them. Justice Black with his tattered copy of the Constitution in his pocket at all times is not an example that would mean much to them. There is no printed word to which they look for counsel, inspiration or joy. Sometimes one student will say “the Bible.” (He learned it at home, and his Biblical studies are not usually continued at the university.) There is always a girl who mentions Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, a book, although hardly literature, which, with its sub-Nietzschean assertiveness, excites somewhat eccentric youngsters to a new way of life.

I think the reading issue is important and has gotten considerably worse. A lot of people today who are interested in ideas heavily favor YouTube and podcasts over books and articles.

I'm going to keep reading despite the hostility to Rand. He writes like a professor (which he is) and that's amplified by it being from 35 years ago, so many people would have a hard time reading it, but I can deal with it fine.

It's a mixed book with good and bad stuff. I want to keep reading until I stop seeing new good parts (new = not repeating something I already read).


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

Disowning Rami Rustom

I am not now, nor have I ever been, Rami Rustom's coach or mentor. But Rami has been lying to people about me. He says that I've been his coach or mentor for ten years. That's false.

Rami (aka GISTE, a non-secret second name he uses) has been a problem poster at my free, public discussion forums. He wasn't banned (until now) because my forums are especially open and tolerant. I broadly refused to have private conversations with Rami and often heavily criticized or ignored his public posts. I did give him some advice about how to learn, e.g. to do elementary school reading comprehension homework assignments and Mario Odyssey speedrunning.

Rami has a recurring history of plagiarizing me. He self-published a book heavily plagiarizing my ideas. He didn't tell me or my forums that the book existed. When I found out, he apologized and pleaded ignorance and incompetence. I believed him since he's an idiot. Then he falsely listed me as a coauthor, without my knowledge or consent, as some kind of incompetent attempt to give me credit. When I found out and explained that was unacceptable, he removed the book from sale.

Rami plagiarizes me because he doesn't have good ideas of his own, and because he doesn't know what is or isn't plagiarism. It takes skill to know when to quote or paraphrase, when to give credit for what, and how to write the credit. Rami doesn't have that skill. When he does give credit, he often attributes ideas to people that they never said and disagree with. He doesn't know how to separate his confusions and opinions about a topic from what others said. He doesn't know when he's copying someone else's idea accurately or when he's changed it enough to screw it up. This leaves him with no way to discuss other people's ideas appropriately. He simply lacks the skill. That wouldn't be so bad if he presented himself as a confused beginner, but it’s unacceptable when he plagiarizes while framing himself as an author, lecturer, coach or expert.

Rami made another document in June 2020 heavily plagiarizing me. He didn't know he'd done anything wrong and shared it at my forum. When I complained, he apologized again:

I apologize for the trouble I’ve caused you. I want to fix this ASAP. This is now my highest priority

The plan Rami decided on was to stop lecturing or teaching, and instead focus on learning stuff like basic math. Maybe he'd return to educating others after he became competent himself.

But I recently discovered that Rami is trying to become a business coach. His attempts at teaching business use my name, plagiarize my ideas, and lie about his relationship with me. He also lies about himself, e.g. presenting his business career as far more successful than it is. (He's getting into coaching due to needing a new business and failing for over a year to come up with and start anything else.)

Rami hid his new coaching business from me for months because he'd never gotten around to learning how not to plagiarize or lie. When I expressed my concerns again, Rami told me he'd fix the new plagiarism and lying, but then, instead, he kicked me out of his Facebook group to prevent me from seeing what he was doing.

Rami has lied to business owners that I'm a smart but impractical philosopher who knows nothing about business, so Rami's bringing my clever ideas to the business world. That's a value proposition he tries to sell using my name. (I've actually studied business and sold my business expertise, and Rami has gotten many business ideas from me and from educational materials I recommended like Eli Goldratt's books.)

I have documentation and evidence, including (with permission) an 80 minute video of Rami's business coaching which enabled me to judge its quality. Lots of stuff is in the public archives. I'll share more details if Rami disputes what I've said. For now, I've tried to focus on issues directly related to me, without unnecessarily exposing Rami's other flaws.

Conclusions

I'm not Rami's coach. I've never mentored him.

Rami may sound like he knows something useful, but that's because he's plagiarizing me and others.

Rami lies so much and so confidently that it's hard to believe someone would do that. Don't trust him!

Rami is an incompetent business coach. If you pay the $12,000 coaching fee that he wants, you'll regret it. I think even his free advice has negative value.

Do not try to learn about my ideas from Rami.

I demand that Rami stop lying about me, plagiarizing me, and using my name to try to promote his stuff.

I'm too patient, tolerant and forgiving. My mistake. Rami is now banned from my forums and publicly disowned, but I should have done it sooner.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)