Discussion About Inferential Distance

S. Emiya:

Someone wrote this reply to me on Reddit:

"The physical behavior of computers, whether mechanical or electric, is indeed governed by the laws of physics. But that is a disingenuous comparison, as the computations performed by computers are governed entirely by the binary bits of data, not by the more chaotic underlying physics. All computations performed by a computer arise from binary bits stored via only two distinct physical state-types in the hardware, regardless of underlying variance in the physics mechanism.

The human mind also can't calculate with 100% accuracy the value of an irrational number. But that is also a disingenuous comparison, as the human mind does not need to simulate the minute physical behavior of brain matter. We have no reason to assume that consciousness arises from binary bits of data stored via only two distinct physical state-types in brain matter; it is not reasonable to ignore the effects of underlying variance in the physics mechanism."

S. Emiya:

And this was my response:

But that is a disingenuous comparison, as the computations performed by computers are governed entirely by the binary bits of data

I already explained that we know the human brain is a universal classical computer. Computations performed by the human brain are not "governed" entirely by binary bits of data. If you disagree that the human brain is a universal classical computer please explain why you disagree.

Yes, in modern binary computers the behavior of the computer is "governed" by binary bits. It isn't the bits that are important though, rather the information encoded into the bits. That information is what determines which computations will be performed. And that information could be encoded in binary, ternary, quaternary or any other physically possible method of encoding. No matter how the information is encoded, when it is run on a universal classical computer the computations will be the same. The different methods of encoding are computationally equivalent.

Do you think the human brain has a special method of encoding input information that allows it to do more than just universal classical computation? Why couldn't the information encoded in this way also be encoded in binary? How does the "underlying variance in the physics" contribute to the consciousness of the human brain?

But that is also a disingenuous comparison, as the human mind does not need to simulate the minute physical behavior of brain matter.

Does a mechanical computer need to simulate the minute physical behavior of its components? What does this have to do with irrational numbers?

S. Emiya:

We have no reason to assume that consciousness arises from binary bits of data stored via only two distinct physical state-types in brain matter

That's because the brain is not a binary computer. It is a universal classical computer though. And we know that any computations done on one universal classical computer can be done on any other universal classical computer. So anything that your brain can do can be done on a binary computer as well. Hardware is independent of computation. The relevant difference is the specific computations being done, which are determined by software.

it is not reasonable to ignore the effects of underlying variance in the physics mechanism.

What effect in specific am I ignoring?

curi:

He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But you don’t either. Why not do some organized learning activities?

S. Emiya:

i like learning activities

S. Emiya:

can you point out anything specific I said that was incorrect in my comment?

S. Emiya:

i wasn't too sure on this one which is why I posted here

curi:

you shouldn't be too sure on any of them since you have never exposed anything significant to criticism here, nor done any learning process that one could reasonably expect would result in expertise at topics like these.

curi:

why don't you join the basecamp and do some of the practice and learning i've been trying to get ppl to do?

S. Emiya:

i did join the basecamp earlier today

curi:

cool

curi:

I already explained that we know the human brain is a universal classical computer. Computations performed by the human brain are not "governed" entirely by binary bits of data. If you disagree that the human brain is a universal classical computer please explain why you disagree.

curi:

saying you already explained something without a source, to someone who apparently did not understand, listen or agree (something went wrong) is not an effective way to discuss

curi:

it isn't acknowledging that there is a problem going on, or reasonably trying to fix it

curi:

the second sentence is too vague for me to even judge whether i agree with it

curi:

you wrote a long multi-part response to someone who is completely lost

curi:

Yes, in modern binary computers the behavior of the computer is "governed" by binary bits. It isn't the bits that are important though, rather the information encoded into the bits.

curi:

i don't think this has anything to do with his confusions, and it's unclear or wrong. bits normally refer to information and you're trying to distinguish them without defining any terms or there being any clear reason to differentiate.

curi:

there's lots more but i don't think talking about it is useful b/c you need prerequisite skills before addressing these things in detail. if you just wanted an overview of the matter that'd be different but you're trying to make advanced, complicated detail points without being a good enough writer, logician, debater, understanding of what the other guy is thinking, bias-avoider, etc.

curi:

i tried giving direct responses to things like this for years and it never worked. DD tried too and gave up. i figured out why it's not working (lots of missing skills and knowledge underlying the topics).

curi:

ppl think something like that they can read a book, like BoI, and then they will have learned what it says.

curi:

this never ever works, b/c BoI doesn't guide one through an organized learning process including practice.

curi:

it also doesn't even try to address a lot of knowledge necessary to its ideas which hardly anyone learns in school or anywhere else

curi:

in other words, relative to what ~everyone knows, it skips a lot of steps

S. Emiya:

"the second sentence is too vague for me to even judge whether i agree with it"

His claim was that "All computations performed by a computer arise from binary bits stored via only two distinct physical state-types in the hardware."

My thinking was that brains are computers that perform computations, but not by storing binary bits in hardware. Do you not agree with that?

curi:

for example it doesn't try to teach ppl what a tree is, nor how or why to use them in philosophy, nor how to use logic effectively in discussions when reading and writing

curi:

Do you not agree with that?

curi:

i think you have no idea how brains work and talking about it is a distraction from learning anything important

S. Emiya:

"i don't think this has anything to do with his confusions, and it's unclear or wrong. bits normally refer to information and you're trying to distinguish them without defining any terms or there being any clear reason to differentiate."

That's a good point. I was trying to point out that it's not the abstract idea of 0's or 1's that we care about but rather the information encoded in those 0's and 1's.

curi:

you don't know the details of the hardware implementation of human minds, and don't need to make claims about it

curi:

if you want to be effective you need to do easier things successfully, establish a track record of success, and progressively move on to harder things

curi:

when you skip so many steps, as you have (and as most people do), it's very hard to engage with you

curi:

there are around 4 living people who are actually good at CR

curi:

i've seen many people try to learn or debate CR stuff

curi:

i've tried to help many ppl

curi:

i have experience with what does and does not work

S. Emiya:

"you don't know the details of the hardware implementation of human minds, and don't need to make claims about it"

Yeah you're right. I'm not sure why I was confident in saying that the human brain wasn't binary.

S. Emiya:

"when you skip so many steps, as you have (and as most people do), it's very hard to engage with you"

Is there a recommended list of steps that we should go through?

S. Emiya:

I looked on the basecamp but I was kind of confused. Is it a message board? Or a project tracking application?

curi:

it has both

curi:

one of the main steps is to engage with material by experts. instead of debating DD's writing you could try to analyze what it says, understand it more, and share that for criticism. you can do the same thing with my writing.

curi:

people mostly can't and won't do this, due to a variety of blockers. one is they have little control over how they use time. so i've suggested in several places like https://3.basecamp.com/4983193/buckets/20858411/messages/3473611519 that people work on time tracking.

curi:

another blocker is that people are bad at managing projects. the main theme on basecamp recently has been trying to get people to practice small projects in order to better understand how to organize projects.

curi:

another is that people's standards for when they are done learning something, and ready to move on, are way too low. much more thoroughness is needed with hard ideas like CR.

S. Emiya:

In your post on animal rights you say that suffering is related to value judgements like not wanting a particular outcome or thinking something is bad. Do you think it would be fair to say that suffering is "knowledge that you dislike something"?

curi:

why are you trying to change the topic?

S. Emiya:

"you could try to analyze what it says, understand it more, and share that for criticism. you can do the same thing with my writing."

S. Emiya:

I did make a post on the basecamp

curi:

also, did we have conversations with you using a different name before?

curi:

i remember a (maybe) different guy involved with cybersecurity who changed names at some point

S. Emiya:

i may have responded to one of your posts on reddit

S. Emiya:

i never changed my name in the discord though

curi:

ok

curi:

i think you must disagree with and/or not understand some stuff i said, but you aren't giving enough feedback for us to sort that out.

curi:

and the question about animal rights is an advanced topic, so bringing that up is in broad disagreement with what i think will be productive.

S. Emiya:

i disagree with a lot of things you say. but i respect you a lot. and i know there must be a good reason for you to have the opinions that you do

curi:

why do you debate ppl on reddit but have not written out a criticism of any of my ideas?

curi:

(iirc)

S. Emiya:

well i think i disagree with some of the things you say regarding objectivism

S. Emiya:

but i don't know enough about it

S. Emiya:

to offer meaningful criticism

curi:

do you mean that you disagree with classical liberal type ideas?

S. Emiya:

i think i have a perception of the book "atlas shrugged" from hearing others talk about it

S. Emiya:

but I've never read it myself

S. Emiya:

i am also reading the Mises book on liberalism

curi:

the hearsay on AS is very inaccurate, similar to the hearsay about Popper

S. Emiya:

and I will have some questions on that when I finish it

S. Emiya:

if i only have time to read one book though I'm going to focus on BoI or FoR over those other books

curi:

sure i don't really recommend getting into political philosophy, econ, etc.

curi:

do you have a disagreement with what i said today on discord about learning?

S. Emiya:

no not really

S. Emiya:

i don't want to skip steps in the learning process

curi:

did you watch my videos tutoring max?

S. Emiya:

no, i didn't know those were posted

curi:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKx6lO5RmaetREa9-jt2T-qX9XO2SD0l2

S. Emiya:

that's a lot of content, thanks for sharing

S. Emiya:

i do agree that animal rights is an advanced topic but I feel like I have some reasonable questions

S. Emiya:

that would help satisfy my curiosity

curi:

ya i've been making lots of stuff. i don't really understand why some ppl don't find some of it that they would like. i'm not trying to blame you. idk what the issue is. it comes up with other ppl.

curi:

Do you think it would be fair to say that suffering is "knowledge that you dislike something"?

S. Emiya:

yeah I should probably watch more from your youtube channel

curi:

knowing that i dislike losing limbs is not suffering. i haven't lost any. this kinda thing takes more precision. and i don't think this would go anywhere significant even if formulated better.

S. Emiya:

that's true. we could make it "knowing that one dislikes what one is experiencing"

S. Emiya:

it doesn't really matter the definition

curi:

this is jumping into the middle of a topic without having shared knowledge of the premises, goals or problems.

S. Emiya:

my main question is do you think that suffering is knowledge?

curi:

we aren't on the same page to enable some sort of joint project

curi:

my main question is do you think that suffering is knowledge?

my answer to that, as written, and interpreted in my own terminology and worldview, is "no". but i don't think that's a useful answer.

S. Emiya:

If suffering isn't knowledge then what do you think it is?

curi:

seeking meanings for undefined terms is one of the errors Popper warned us against.

curi:

your questions are coming out of a complex problem situation

curi:

you read stuff, had conversations, had experiences, thought about it, etc.

curi:

that is not shared with me. if we were going to discuss it seriously, we'd have to start more at the beginning and explain what we think and mean more to build up to this.

curi:

ppl try to have conversations by assuming they have tons of shared premises with the other person, and this shortcut is mostly a disaster for anything philosophical even if both ppl are conventional and similar.

curi:

discussions of suffering and animals and stuff come out of prior topics which we haven't discussed. like ppl often care about suffering b/c of its connection to morality. sometimes they care about animals b/c they want to know about how to treat them, e.g. whether to farm, kill and eat them. there are other reasons too.

curi:

ppl bring approaches and methodology to this. e.g. some ppl have some predetermined conclusions, find an expert who says that, and then say his authority proves them right. others skim things and want a rough overview and are satisfied. some of those skimmers then say they know a ton about it, and others say they still know little.

curi:

i often run into conflicts with ppl re how much effort to put into things, whether it's ok to reference articles or books, whether a discussion methodology should be specified at all, whether Paths Forward and Idea Trees are appropriate, etc. in general ppl will neither use those nor propose any explicit alternatives. i only have discussion in limited ways in circumstances like that.

curi:

collaborating with other ppl is hard. ppl are different. it's hard to get to know ppl or find enough points of agreement to build anything substantial with. finding ppl from ur own subculture and making a bunch of assumptions only gets you so far (hardly anywhere) and i'm really atypical anyway.

curi:

our culture has an idea of common sense and what an educated person should know. so one might think that could be used as common ground to build on. but i've found most of that stuff highly unreliable. our schools are awful.

curi:

e.g. most ppl make lots of mistakes at math and reading comprehension that affect discussion conclusions.

S. Emiya:

what can we do to better spread the ideas of CR?

curi:

learn them yourself first!

S. Emiya:

you got me there haha

curi:

that's what i tell everyone

S. Emiya:

i will learn them

curi:

the majority are hostile to it

curi:

if you want to help others, learn publicly and keep organized records others could use later. that's hard tho. i did a lot publicly but it's not that organized and most ppl find it hard to use. one of the issues is ppl start their journeys in different places than i did. i was already good at certain things (that they aren't) at the start of my CR learning.

curi:

learning publicly is basically necessary anyway b/c my groups are the only place to get quality critical feedback

curi:

for CR

curi:

one of the main issues ppl have with learning is how to judge when they are successful

curi:

how do you know when you learned it right?

curi:

you have to find some stuff where you can make judgments like that effectively and then build on them and expand your ability to do it.

S. Emiya:

do you think debating is a good "test" for your knowledge?

curi:

so like you can check your work for addition, but cannot similarly check it for animal suffering claims.

curi:

debating has some good things but often all involved are confused.

curi:

and often beginners debate their own claims too much, when the majority of attention should go to analyzing and comparing ideas explained by experts.

curi:

ppl should do more collaborative instead of adversarial stuff too

curi:

i find ppl often either read (and watch or listen) a lot and interact too little, or they do lots of interactive stuff but won't read much. using both things effectively is a big deal.

curi:

ppl's main initial goal should be to catch up to what's already known. debate isn't really optimized for that.

S. Emiya:

so here was my thinking on animal suffering:

I think that suffering is related to value judgements like "not wanting a particular outcome or thinking something is bad". I think both of those are examples of knowledge. I have the knowledge that I do not want an outcome where my arm gets chopped off. Or I have the knowledge that having my heart broken by my partner is bad. Or knowledge that I dislike the feeling of starving, etc.

I could be put in any of those situations but without the knowledge that I dislike them. If I didn't have knowledge that I disliked the situations then I don't see why or how I could be suffering.

Specifically, I think that value judgements are creating knowledge of suffering by idea evolution. I think that only humans (or other beings with general intelligence) can create knowledge of suffering in this way. But all knowledge comes from evolution. So if knowledge of suffering can be created by idea evolution then it should also be able to be created by biological evolution.

What arguments are there against the idea that knowledge of suffering could be created by biological evolution?

S. Emiya:

"ppl's main initial goal should be to catch up to what's already known. debate isn't really optimized for that."

That's a good point. In my experience when I try to explain something in a "debate" (on reddit) there are times when I'll realize I don't understand the topic as well as I should. But i could probably come to those same realizations in a more collaborative environment rather than adversarial.

curi:

this is trying to build on topics like what evolution is and how it works, a particular view of knowledge, and some sort of goal(s) that is integrated into a tree or graph of goals.

curi:

one of the things being built on is observing people frowning or crying. that's some actual common ground. we've both had that experience. and a bunch of other experiences in similar ballpark.

curi:

there's a big gap from there to the discussion you're trying to have.

S. Emiya:

i don't think I disagree with you on evolution and how it works, or on what knowledge is or isn't

S. Emiya:

based on articles from fallibleideas.com

curi:

IME ppl are never on the same page with me about that kinda stuff if we haven't discussed it before. issues come up if it's examined.

curi:

like if ppl try to write down their understanding of it, i expect to find parts i disagree with

S. Emiya:

My understanding of evolution is that a population of replicators subject to variance will be taken over by the replicators which are better at replicating than their rivals.

S. Emiya:

And I guess there should be a mention that there needs to be some kind of selection process

S. Emiya:

like natural selection or criticism and experiment

S. Emiya:

And I think that knowledge is useful information, for the most part

curi:

useful to who or what? and what do replicators have to do with knowledge? good night. if you want to post something more complete to curi.us or basecamp i'll reply later.

S. Emiya:

👍

curi:

@S. Emiya

I looked on the basecamp but I was kind of confused. Is it a message board? Or a project tracking application?

That was helpful feedback btw. I just organized it better with the most important info in the Docs & Files section in folders.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (9)

Google Is Culturally Racist

Google is (culturally) racist (in 4 parts):

https://www.tiktok.com/@realabril/video/6934884610606124293

https://www.tiktok.com/@realabril/video/6934884839103499525

https://www.tiktok.com/@realabril/video/6934885054053158149

https://www.tiktok.com/@realabril/video/6934885271318105349

And a Twitter thread (same author, Real Abril, similar info):

https://twitter.com/realabril/status/1341135819487100928

On TikTok she said 526 hires in 6 years, which is around 1.7 per week, but Twitter said over 300 engineering hires, so let's focus only on that. Around one hire per week. From my understanding, that's really good. This may surprise people, but I think each hire might be worth $10,000+.

I've seen tech companies offer 10k just for a referral of someone to interview there who ends up getting hired, and that was years ago. And in her job, she would do more work than just referring people. And tech recruiters can charge amounts like 10% of first year of salary (paid by company not employee) for getting someone hired, which will be over 10k for tech positions at google.

So she did a great job but got fired instead of promoted. And I believe her about a lot of the specific ways Google was (not very) covertly discriminating and resisted her improvements.

I think maybe Google actually wanted her to find black and brown programmers who think and act like white graduates of Ivy League universities, so they are an easy cultural fit or "Googley".

Google is not (very) racist against skin color. They are cultural racists against black and brown culture. Why? Because they are elitist snobs (not just that). It's not about merit; it's about bigotry against the Other, which makes it essentially similar to racism, especially when it correlates with race.

I think Google is full of atheist former-WASPs who are partially rebelling against being a WASP (particularly by becoming an atheist). They're similar to WASPs in lots of ways. (WASP = white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, which is the kind of person you'd imagine being at country clubs, expensive private high schools, or Ivy universities.)

What about the many asians at Google? Some asians have learned to get into and fit in at top tier universities. They're better at acting WASPy than black or brown people are.

Google also brings in a bunch of H1B visa coders, e.g. Indians. I bet those people are treated differently and worse, but Google likes underpaying them. (H1B visas are a government subsidy to Google and other tech companies. US visas or citizenship are worth money and Google gets to give them out without paying the US government for that privilege. People accept lower salary offers to get into the US and then put up with worse treatment and not getting promotions or raises for five years or however long it takes before they can stay in the country without staying at that job. The system incentivizes and causes some abuse and exploitation of foreigners.)

Anyway, you don't have to look like a WASP anymore to be hired (though physical appearance, including skin color and hair, still matter to how you're treated), but Google prefers people who are thoroughly immersed in WASPy culture.

Google's atheism is actually an issue. Black and brown people believe in God at higher rates than Googley people, which increases culture-clash. Similarly, I think black people value family more on average (and in somewhat different ways than e.g. asians, it's not just an amount), so might be more interested in going home for dinner instead of working late. (I don't think that particular issue means they are worse workers overall. I don't think it means they're getting less work done. I think the culture of 10 hour work days is stupid and that programmers rarely get more than 5 productive hours of coding done in a day. People can't focus and think effectively all day long. Google likes to exploit people that it can trick into staying extra hours without extra pay – often expecting rewards that never materialize. But I don't think Google actually gains much from exploiting the naivety of some of its primarily younger workers because those extra hours aren't very productive.)

There are actual flaws in all cultures which can be criticized, and not all cultures are equal. But I think Google's approach qualifies as bigotry because it's not about merit. It's about who fits into your social group and who doesn't. It's about preferring people like you over people who are different. In other words, if you discriminate more by accent than by skin color, and the accents you favor are rare among black and brown people, then you're still basically a racist.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (7)

Sources of Organization

Learning, progress or achieving a goal requires organized effort. That means it's not random, aimless, chaos.

For example, the scientific method organizes thinking and action so that scientists learn about nature. It's known for being particularly organized and for being much more effective than less organized approaches generally are.

There are many sources of organization. Following the scientific method is one way that your effort/actions may become organized.

If no sources of organization are used, learning will fail. No organization = chaos = no learning. You must have something to reduce chaos – to bring order to chaos – or you'll fail. (Getting lucky can work when you have some organization but not enough. It doesn’t work with no organization.)

Often, people aren't aware of where organization comes from. They don't know they're using organization, but what they do is far from pure chaos. They think of it as unplanned, freeform learning, but some forces causes it to be significantly organized.

What sources of organization exist? Where can organization come from?

We’ve been discussing this at my Basecamp group. Below I answer the question and explain why it matters.

Where Organization Comes From

All organization comes from knowledge. No knowledge = no organization = your actions will not be effective.

All knowledge comes from evolution.

There are two known types of evolution:

  1. Evolution of ideas.
  2. Evolution of genes.

These broad sources of organization can be broken down into sub-categories, e.g. all evolution of ideas fits into two categories:

  1. My own ideas.
  2. Other people’s ideas.

And that can be further broken down, e.g. splitting up my ideas:

  1. My conscious or explicit ideas.
  2. My unconscious or intuitive ideas.

We can take the intuitive ideas and sub-categorize further, e.g. by an idea’s age. E.g. the idea is from childhood, is from young adulthood, or it’s recent.

The red part of the diagram is more thorough and the blue part less. All organization is due to knowledge. All knowledge is created by evolution. That part is 100% complete (according to the best available understanding). There are no other options being left out of the diagram. Evolution could work with other replicators besides ideas or genes, but ideas and genes are the only known replicators that have created significant knowledge. By contrast, the categorizations in blue are more fuzzy. E.g. other people can’t literally put ideas in my head – they can say words but then I use my own brain to think about and understand it. So in some sense, I personally create every idea in my head. But it’s still meaningful to say that I thought of one idea myself and learned another idea from Joe.

Try adding more to the chart yourself. You can take any node (box) and break it down into categories. And they don’t have to be perfect to be useful. E.g. genetic evolution could be imperfectly broken down into plants, animals, fungi and bacteria.

When you do a project, if you want results that are better than convention – if you want to improve on your society/culture – then you need organization/knowledge coming from a source other than convention. That basically means you can’t rely on your intuitions or someone else’s intuitions. You can’t just do what seems good, because how stuff seems to you was developed in childhood and largely fits with convention.

What Organizes Your Project? Are You the Sucker?

You should think about where the knowledge is coming from when you do a project like trying to learn something, especially if you want great results of some sort instead of just typical results.

If you can’t figure out where the knowledge or organization for a project is coming from, expect conventional results at best. You’re the sucker (or puppet or pawn) for some force you aren’t aware of – most often the static memes of convention, but sometimes something else, e.g. a conman, cult, or political movement. Plus, expect some disorganization/chaos too. If the organization isn’t clear to you, your project is only going to be partially organized.

This is like the poker advice: If you can’t figure out who the sucker at the table is, it’s you. With life, if you don’t know what’s going on and what’s controlling outcomes (in other words, what is organizing events), it’s not you – someone or something else is in control (plus there’s some disorganization/chaos). You’re the sucker. You’re the NPC, not the protagonist or hero of the story.

One source of knowledge is doing project planning steps. You can organize your project yourself using conscious thought. You can brainstorm. You can consider resources, goals, steps, risks, prerequisites. You can write things down.

If you don’t do conscious, explicit project planning, you need to have an idea of what you’re using instead that will work, or else have really low expectations.

Learning from Others

An alternative source of knowledge, rather than organizing things yourself, is a curriculum that someone else makes and you buy. Or, similarly, a tutorial you find online. In that case, someone else put conscious thought into organizing the project. So you’re using their thought instead of your own. But at least you have an idea of where the organization is coming from and what the goals of the organizer are (e.g. they may care about their reputation as an educator and about getting repeat customers, so you may reasonably judge that using you as a sucker isn’t their goal).

There are some risks using someone else’s tutorial (but it’s still a worthwhile strategy that you should use sometimes):

  • They may have done a bad job.
  • They may have done a good job for some parts, but a bad job for other parts.
  • They could have a hidden agenda (goals they don’t tell you about that don’t fit with your goals).
  • You might not understand them very well. Stuff could get lost in translation from their thoughts to their words (and diagrams, gestures, etc.) to your thoughts.
  • It might work for some people and not others, and you’re one of the others. It might not fit your situation well enough. E.g. it might expect you to already know some things that you don’t. E.g. it might expect you to already know some specific math or to understand jargon from a subculture (like Gen Z, anime, or academic biologists).

Learning with Multiple Sources

One strategy that helps with these problems is learning from multiple other people simultaneously. You can get 5 books by 5 different authors and look at how they organize and explain things, and mix and match pieces of knowledge from different books that you think are good and are compatible with you. Often you’ll find some parts of a book are low quality or are incompatible with you, but some other parts are useful. And if you take the useful parts from many books, plus figure out some additional stuff with your own thought to fill in the gaps, that’s often way easier than figuring everything out yourself even though none of the books are great.

When you use a strategy of finding 5 books from 5 others, reviewing them all, comparing them, etc, you are doing a bunch of organization of your learning project. You’re taking lots of control, using your own judgment in key areas, and you get more credit or blame for the outcome. Whereas if you just follow one author’s plan, and try to do and believe whatever he says, then you don’t have a leadership role in the learning project and have less responsibility for the outcome. (But it’s your life, so you have to live with the outcome. Handing off responsibility and trusting in the leadership of others is something to be very careful with, especially as an adult.)

Organization and Knowledge

Organization and knowledge are close to synonyms. ‘Organize’ means “to form into a whole consisting of interdependent parts”. Knowledge is a whole made of parts (ideas, which generally have some dependence on each other). Organizing makes parts work together for a purpose or goal, as ideas work together to solve a problem (or, same things, accomplish a goal or achieve a purpose).

The root word of ‘organize’ is ‘organ’ and one of its historical meanings was 'that which performs some function’ (in other words, a purposeful, goal-directed thing – which is what knowledge is).

The history and typical way of thinking about ‘knowledge’ or ‘to know’ is different than this, but the correct understanding is similar to organization. Like “adaptation to a purpose” is a non-standard but good take on knowledge, and “organization for a purpose” is very similar. (Note: with both “adaptation” and “organization” the words “for a purpose” are actually redundant – a purpose is implied/assumed/included with the main word. The redundancy helps with clarity and emphasis.) How do you organize something for a purpose? You change it to make it fit that purpose. That’s what adapting means: change to fit a (new or different) purpose. ‘Adapt’ also sounds like the cause is evolution, but the cause of human organization is evolution too: people organize using their ideas, and they get those ideas from their intelligence which works literally by evolution.

Slides

I made slides with more about sources of organization. PDF or SlideShare.

Take Action

Join my Basecamp group (free) where we’re discussing sources of organization.


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Achieving Mastery When Learning, Plus Followups

I shared writing about mastery with my free email newsletter and asked about people’s concerns and objections. Here’s what I said followed by my responses to three concerns.

Mastery

(Link to the curi.us message where I first wrote this.)

[name], do you think you achieved mastery of some significant, new things in your makeup project? If so, you could list those. If not, I think you should have higher standards and stop overreaching.

Can you self-evaluate the correctness of any of your new makeup knowledge with similar confidence to your self-evaluations of counting to three or judging whether the word "with" is spelled correctly? Those are examples of what mastery looks like.

The same goes for all your other philosophical work. Keep it simpler. Practice things. Aim for mastery. Aim for a low error rate where correct criticisms are uncommon, surprising and treasured.

Consider what you do have mastery of and build on it. Plan out projects intentionally with goals and trees, keeping issues like mastery and overreaching in mind.

Where are the 5+ successful past projects at 90% of the size, complexity and difficulty of the makeup project? And at 80%, and 70%, and 60%, etc., all the way back incrementally to simple projects like crawling to a location as a baby.

You don't have good examples of what success looks [to] compare your project to. There's a huge gap from the makeup project to your most similar projects that are clear, confident, decisive, unambiguous successes.

And these are not new things that I'm saying.

Start way smaller, get quick, clear wins, and iterate. Start with multiple successful (micro) projects per day. Finish 100+ in a month with a not-decisive-clear-success rate under 10%. Establish a baseline of what you can do that way and get the iteration started.

Followups

Anne B shared these concerns on the FI Learning Basecamp.

I have a hard time breaking a goal down into a planned-out tree made of smaller things that are easy wins. Example:I have a goal of understanding computers and learning how to use them better. Breaking that down into a plan of all the small things I want to learn and in what order seems too hard. Instead I take opportunities to learn small things when they come up.

Do smaller, easier mini-goals first until you get more experience with the method. For example, “Install Atom text editor” is a mini-goal. I bet you could break that into multiple steps. E.g.:

  1. Find Atom website.
  2. Download Atom.
  3. Run installer.

You need practice doing that kind of breakdown successfully before expecting it to work in more complicated scenarios. Once you get good enough at it, in the future, you’ll be able to skip writing down the steps for small things like installing Atom. And when you’re more used to breaking things into sub-parts, you’ll do better at breaking down bigger, harder goals.

It’s important not to face too many challenges at once. Each one distracts you from the others. Mastery of something means it’s no longer distracting or challenging. Practicing breaking simple projects into steps will help you achieve mastery of some breaking-into-parts skills, which will mean you’ll have fewer things to worry about when attempting a medium-difficulty project.

You could do several other small projects, e.g. one to use Atom documents. Steps:

  • Make a document in Atom
  • Save it
  • Close the document and close Atom
  • Reopen the document with Atom

Another project could deal with bold text. Steps:

  • Make some text bold using the menu.
  • Use a hotkey to make text bold.
  • Make text bold by typing in markdown formatting characters.
  • Remove bold text using each method.

If those are too hard, you could break each of those steps down into easier parts. You can adjust the level of detail. If they were too easy you could use fewer steps, e.g. just “Learn Atom basics”, but that’s unsuitable for figuring out how to deal with projects.

After doing the atom install project, the atom document project, the atom bold text project, and several others, you would have done the steps of a larger project like “learn Atom basics”. Small projects are the components that make up medium and large projects. If you’re trying to do a large project and don’t know what the smaller sub-projects are, it’s hard to be organized or succeed.

Are you saying we should aim for mastery in everything we do? If not, how do we decide which things to go for mastery in? If yes, that seems like too much—wouldn’t we sometimes want to just try something out to see how it goes and whether we like it?

Mastery is important for things you’re gong to reuse a bunch and build on. English, walking, basic arithmetic, typing, searching the internet for info, learning methods and project management are good examples. Those get used over and over as sub-components of other tasks and projects.

Mastery is necessary to do anything complicated. Complicated things have many parts. If each part is distracting you from the others and demanding significant attention, then you’ll be overwhelmed and fail. If you have mastery of some parts, that means you can deal with those parts without them being a distraction. Mastery means something requires little conscious attention, which frees up your attention for other stuff. Without mastery, you can only do small things.

Put another way, mastery is necessary for making progress because progress involves accumulating more and more knowledge. You also revise ideas, replace ideas with more elegant versions, and drop some errors, but overall, on average, the amount of knowledge goes up when you make progress.

Increasing amounts of knowledge would get overwhelming if all the older ideas were taking up your attention or causing many errors. The reason you’re able to increase your total knowledge is because you finished learning some things: they’re done and no longer take much thought (unless you reopen and reconsider the issue, which is always an option but shouldn’t happen too often). Mastery is finishing learning something instead of it being an unfinished project.

How done is done? When are you finished? When you can use the knowledge without it requiring much conscious attention and with few errors.

How much attention or errors are OK? It depends on the thing. The more it gets reused or built on, the closer to perfect it needs to be. If it’s only used occasionally, it can be more flawed but still good enough.

Side note: You can also intentionally stop learning something so it requires your conscious attention to do it, but while paying full attention you can do it successfully. That means you can’t build on it. It’s an end to progress (unless you start learning about it again). But that is reasonable in certain circumstances. E.g. suppose you have a job operating heavy machinery. If you pay full attention every time you do it, and do it successfully, that’s good enough. You don’t need to make further progress to get the job done. And actually it’s dangerous to operate heavy machinery without paying conscious attention to what you’re doing at all times. It’d be bad to go into autopilot mode for that or focus your attention elsewhere. (BTW, a lot of car accidents are due to people achieving a lot of mastery of driving and then not paying enough attention to their driving. Due to mastery they can still generally drive well without paying attention, so it works out fine most of the time, but not every time. Also, btw, a reason texting-and-driving is so dangerous, or using audio books while driving, is due to lack of mastery of texting or audio books. Those things distract people significantly, or in other words they don’t have mastery over those activities.)

To have a thousand ideas and for that to be useful, many of them need to be mastered. You can only fit at most around seven non-mastered ideas in your head at once for active use. (Seven is just a loose estimate that other people like Leonard Peikoff have used; the specific number doesn’t matter.) If you want to fit more in your head, you have to master ideas. In other words, you can only effectively pay conscious attention to at most around seven things at once, so, to deal with more than seven things, some must not require conscious attention, which is what mastery is about.

This is also why it’s important to integrate (combine) ideas. E.g. you take four ideas and turn them into one single conceptual unit, which can then be thought about as one thing that uses up only one slot in your attention. But integration only works well when you master the components. If they aren’t mastered, you can’t focus on the one higher level concept because the underlying ideas that you’re building on will keep causing trouble. You’ll make mistakes while using them and/or they’ll distract your conscious attention, because you never finished learning them to the point (called “mastery” among other things) where that won’t happen.

Integration is one of the main ways we reuse and build on ideas. All the small ideas that got integrated into higher level ideas are getting reused in some sense every time a higher level idea that’s built on them is used. Repeated integration creates a pyramid of ideas, and using a single high level idea can reuse hundreds of lower level ideas. But if any low level idea in the pyramid has an error or won’t work without conscious attention, it can screw up your high level activity.

Integration is discussed and advocated by Ayn Rand’s Objectivism.

You don’t need to master everything that’s available and you should not take on large projects without first exploring/scouting and having a pretty good idea of whether it’ll work, whether you want the results, etc. But you do need to master most of what you learn if you want to make ongoing progress.

Having criticisms be uncommon isn’t a very good gauge. Criticisms could be uncommon because there’s not much to criticize or they could be uncommon for other reasons (maybe there’s so much wrong that people don’t know where to start in their criticisms, maybe people are busy with other stuff, maybe people are afraid you won’t take criticism well, maybe people don’t like to criticize because it’s not nice, maybe your stuff is boring so no one reads it).

Criticism being uncommon is a necessary but not sufficient condition for indicating mastery.

Also, you’re focusing on external criticism, but self-criticism is a more important thing to pay attention to first and it doesn’t have most of the difficulties you mention. It’s very hard to use much external criticism effectively before being pretty good with self-criticism (that’s one of the main reasons people dislike receiving criticism so much – they aren’t able to use it effectively because they aren’t good at self-criticism yet).

That’s similar to an issue that came up on FI list a while back: it’s very hard to find common preferences with your child effectively if you struggle to find common preferences with yourself. Individual, personal stuff mostly needs to come first before dealing with other people much.


If this interests you, and you'd like to better understand ideas like this, join my free Basecamp group.


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FI Learning Basecamp

Basecamp is an easy-to-use project management tool. Features include online collaboration, a message board, a chatroom, and todo lists. It puts a bunch of stuff in one place.

I made a Basecamp for Fallible Ideas learning because people should treat learning more like an organized project, not entertainment.

Join for free: https://3.basecamp.com/4983193/join/KEHzLZV59MYT

Warning: I'll likely close public invites in the future.


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How Social Status Works

The article Women Explained by Hitori (a female) explains how social status works in just 2560 words.

It's in the Revelation eBook by Mystery and Lovedrop, and also reposted on the web in a few places. You can read it on Reddit for free. (The formatting is worse than in the book, but is readable.) It was originally posted to the old PUA forum community, probably roughly around the year 2000.

The beginning tells us:

Chicks act at all times to gain and maintain social status. This is more important to them than getting laid.

Then it explains social status in four sections:

  1. Qualities of High Status People
  2. Qualities of Low Status People
  3. You Gain Status When
  4. You Lose Status When

Read, analyze, discuss below.


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New Community Website Project

This post is for discussing goals and strategy, and high-level planning, for a project (under consideration) to make a new FI community website, with better educational help, organization, forum features, marketing, and monetization.

Alan Forrester would be doing some coding and hopefully other roles. Some other people have expressed some interest too.

Although I'm an experienced Rails developer, I want to focus primarily on where where I have the most expertise and comparative advantage: philosophy (e.g. research and educational content creation), as well as high level strategy.

Related Discussion Topics


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Focusing Your Attention Discussion

People must focus instead of letting their attention get dragged around to whatever other people put in front of them (and then dragged again soon after, so nothing gets enough attention to be finished). But people also must listen to criticism and ideas instead of just ignoring the external world and its knowledge. There’s a tension here.

Discuss how to deal with it below:


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What I Sell

Philosophy Education

My speciality is rationality, problem solving, and how to think or learn. I focus on ideas useful in real life. I have original philosophical ideas (Critical Fallibilism) inspired most by Critical Rationalism, Objectivism, and Theory of Constraints.

I'm experienced at many applications, e.g. how philosophy can bring insight to artifical intelligence, parenting, relationships, psychology, or politics.

I sell digital products (PDFs, videos...) and personalized services (tutoring, advice, consulting...).

Business Consulting

Eli Goldratt died and his successors aren't creative enough. They're doing what he already explained how to do (which is worthwhile). I can apply Theory of Constraints ideas in ways that others wouldn't think of.

Unique Insight

I can do (for example) design, economics and science. But I'm not a designer, economist or scientist. I'm a philosopher. If you just want some regular design, hire a designer.

But what if you want the best that money can buy? What if regular designers aren't satisfying you? You still hire a designer, but you also hire me. I will provide design insights which are different than what you'd get from any designer. You could hire 100 designers and I'll still tell you some things that none of them do, because none of them are philosophers.

I've read and thought about design. I'm not a novice but it's not my profession. Apart from philosophy, I'm a generalist. Some people do design full time. I bring a broader, philosophical perspective. I can do this for most topics where good thinking makes a big difference. When standard results aren't enough, talk to me.


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Collaborative Writing Discussion Thread

Max and Anne B have been discussing how to do collaborative writing.

This topic is a place for them (and anyone else interested) to discuss and plan how to write something collaboratively.

They have several goals:

  • to learn about discussion, collaborative writing and learning
  • to do some collaborative writing and produce some posts/articles
  • in the case a post isn't produced: to discuss to conclusion why that didn't happen.

Max requested this topic as part of his SubscribeStar subscription.


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