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Let's Freewrite

Improving the world is hard. At least I've tried tons of stuff. You know a giant book series like The Wheel of Time? I've written way more than that about philosophy in lots of different styles and formats. I've tried tons of different approaches.

Most people won't try much. They aren't good enough to improve the world. You have to know a bunch of stuff before it makes sense to teach others. You need high quality knowledge, well above average, before you should put much effort into spreading it. People get stuck at the part where they need to learn good ideas themselves.

Some people in the TCS/FI community think they know stuff, but still don't do much. Doing they find doing stuff hard? What's hard about it? If you find it hard, there's problems there you don't know how to solve... Learn more!

People can be so passive. They can spend years and years not learning or doing much. It's sad. It makes the world kinda empty. Passivity leaves the memes in control, so all the passive people are kinda the same and sorta aren't really acting entities. They sorta are. They're still people. But it's iffy.

People don't communicate much. Maybe they think no one cares? Why not try anyway? The FI people do stuff. They play games, they date people, they do parenting activities, they make big career decisions, they go on diets, they hang out socially with friends, they watch movies, and so on. They just don't talk about it. They don't think it through or have questions or comments about their life, and they don't try to get criticism and advice to do it better. What the fuck?

I think they talk with their personal friends in private more. Everyone living in their tiny little world when the public internet is right here. But the public is scary because people like me will point out mistakes. Rather than try to improve their mistakes, they hide and live static lives. And they put a lot of their effort into pretending they are pretty rational people learning stuff and making progress and solving problems, rather than actually doing it. They pretend that being able to deal with public criticism is a really high standard, and actually they're doing quite well to the lower-but-high standard of their 5 buddies who think they're quite smart.

And people are so caught up with the standard stuff that fills your life:

  • childhood
  • school
  • career
  • dating
  • marriage
  • parenting/family
  • travel
  • socializing (IRL events and also Facebook, Instagram, etc)
  • food
  • exercise
  • getting a house and filling it with appropriate stuff
  • entertainment (TV shows, movies, watching sports, YouTube)
  • the news (there's a kinda standard set of stuff people follow like some politics, some crime, some economic issues, really inaccurate articles reporting on recent "scientific" claims)
  • sometimes some Activism for some Cause
  • sometimes reading (mostly fiction or popular shallow books)
  • retirement

And some of them tried to find good ideas for a bit when they were age 15-25 or so. And they found a lot of disappointment. They read a few books and blogs on philosophy, rationality, improving the world ... and found crap. (Some rejected the crap, others were fooled by it.) They tried talking with people about ideas and it wasn't productive. Some people blame others (sometimes mostly correctly, often very arrogantly) and some know they aren't that great themselves.

Lots of people made some effort to learn about critical thinking, philosophy, etc. And they found bad philosophies. They found Plato and Kant. Quite a few people still kinda liked it and kept trying even though it didn't help them with life. But then they start paying their mortgage and needing to get their car repaired and still get their kid to baseball practice and they can't take a day off work because they were sick for a whole week last month. And so they move on. They finished their education. They finished the phase of their life where they were actively pursuing new ideas (many people never do that, but quite a few do).

Schools really beat the curiosity out of people. Professors are so awful and really discourage anyone from trying to be a good thinker or know much, and point them in the wrong directions for where and what and how to learn.

People under 15 or so don't have much control over their lives and really need to avoid conflict with their parents. So it's hard to interact with them and share ideas. Around 15-30 is when people make some decisions of their own and kinda set up their life and coast from there. But they're already so fucked from 15 years of torture and indoctrination by their parents and teachers.

Lots of people assume someone else knows what they're doing or has it together. Children usually think adults do. Adults sure pretend to and put a lot of work into deceiving children. People aren't very inclined to think they are – or even could be – anyone special or important. That makes it hard to recruit for a community about being exceptional.


Elliot Temple on October 13, 2016

Comments (23)

It's not clear what you consider exceptional.

Anonymous at 8:59 AM on October 16, 2016 | #6841
so?

Anonymous at 10:03 AM on October 16, 2016 | #6844
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2016/10/19/i-tried-to-reach-bill-murray-for-weeks-heres-what-happened-when-he-finally-called-me-back/?tid=a_inl

> “I find that if you’re put in a box, you have to find something that you never would have found,” Murray says. “I find that to be almost always the case. Actually, always the case. I will figure out how to do that.”

Makes me think of avoiding coercion. One thing is to just not give up.

Alisa at 2:03 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6979
> Makes me

makes?

Anonymous at 2:26 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6980
https://www.patreon.com/evanyou

> "GOALS $6,000 per month - reached! I will be dedicated to work on Vue.js fulltime if this goal is met."

This guy gets paid almost $10k/month in recurring donations through Patreon to develop the vue.js front-end JS framework. I always thought patreon was kind of flame before, and maybe it is, but maybe it also made it easier for this guy to get recurring funding or his dev work.

Alisa at 2:26 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6981
>> Makes me
>
> makes?

I figured someone would make that comment, but I wasn't sure of a better way to say it.

Anonymous at 2:27 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6982
> maybe [Patreon] also made it easier for this guy to get recurring funding or his dev work.

easier than what?

there are established, effective ways to make money doing software development, such as charging money for software. i recommend them.

Anonymous at 2:28 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6983
> I figured someone would make that comment, but I wasn't sure of a better way to say it.

"Reminds me of..."

Anonymous at 2:28 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6984
>> maybe [Patreon] also made it easier for this guy to get recurring funding or his dev work.
>
>easier than what?
>
> there are established, effective ways to make money doing software development, such as charging money for software. i recommend them.

It's not clear to me how that would work in his case.

Alisa at 2:29 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6985
> It's not clear to me how that would work in his case.

why? there are lots of developer tool companies. it's a common thing to sell. it has value to many businesses that make money and are in a position to pay for it.

Anonymous at 2:31 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6986
It would be cool if the blog would remember my author name with a cookie. Maybe there could be a "remember me" checkbox for this.

It would also be nice if the blog would auto-refresh when new comments are posted.

Both of those suggestions would make the blog more convenient, like iMessage.

Alisa at 2:32 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6987
> why? there are lots of developer tool companies. it's a common thing to sell. it has value to many businesses that make money and are in a position to pay for it.

I think one of the appeals is that it's open source. How do you sell it? Some kind of license? How do you get small people to adopt it if you're charging?

I think he's kinda creating a public good here, and if he can get enough small donators that appreciate what he's doing on a recurring scale, then he can keep doing it full time. Patreon presumably makes it easier to organize the donators and their contributions than it would be to do it himself.

Alisa at 2:34 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6988
IMO auto-refresh (polling) and auto-fill form fields should both be handled by your browser (including extensions).

Anonymous at 2:34 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6989
>> [makes me think of...]
>
> "Reminds me of..."

How is "Reminds me of" better? Both ways of phrasing it assert that that one event sort of causes another event (here each "event" is me thinking of an idea).

Alisa at 2:37 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6990
> IMO auto-refresh (polling) and auto-fill form fields should both be handled by your browser (including extensions).

Makes sense. I can do that.

Alisa at 2:38 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6991
> How is "Reminds me of" better?

i don't think people consider being reminded to be made to do anything.

causing and making are different things. a reminder has a causal relationship in you remembering something, but does not make you (you could have chosen to focus on something else instead). (there are borderline cases about very fleeting thoughts where it's hard to control yourself, but let's not get into that)

you can write "i reminded myself of X using Y" if you want to be more exact.

Anonymous at 3:01 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6992
> How do you get small people to adopt it if you're charging?

communication, free trials, testimonials, a marketing video, documentation, ads, among many other options.

yes you charge for licenses. redhat makes money with open source. apple and other commercial companies open source lots of stuff.

invoking "public good" just because you don't immediately see solutions is ridiculous.

it sounds like, more or less, he wants to recruit unpaid software development help from other contributors, and they will be less willing to contribute if the software isn't given away for free commercial use. too fucking bad. that's not a public good problem.

Patreon isn't about offering organizational software. I agree that using organizational software is better than not using it. I bet that purely in terms of organizational software, there a better options. In terms of payments software, I don't think Patreon is anything special either.

Anonymous at 3:06 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6993
>> How is "Reminds me of" better [than "makes me think of"]?

> i don't think people consider being reminded to be made to do anything.

I don't think people consider "makes me think of" to involve being made to do something either.

> causing and making are different things. a reminder has a causal relationship in you remembering something, but does not make you (you could have chosen to focus on something else instead).
>
> you can write "i reminded myself of X using Y" if you want to be more exact.

That way of putting it makes the process sound more conscious & intentional than it usually is.

A google search for ["makes me think of" "reminds me of"] indicates that people use these phrases the same way when speaking casually. For instance, [0] treats them as synonyms.

> 79 (GN) reminds me of a friend called GordoN.
> 80 (HO) makes me think of Santa Claus - Ho! Ho!

[0] "How to Develop a Perfect Memory" by Dominic O'Brien (https://goo.gl/5Kn835)

Anonymous at 5:43 PM on October 21, 2016 | #6994

Anonymous at 4:27 PM on October 23, 2016 | #7003
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11017034

Interesting HN comment about a system for making sure that train drivers are awake and not incapacitated.

Alisa at 4:29 PM on October 23, 2016 | #7004
Good points @ patreon vs selling software.

Alisa at 4:30 PM on October 23, 2016 | #7005
On February 9, 2014, tptacek wrote in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7260087 :

> startups are also probably rejecting a lot of engineering candidates that would perform as well or better than anyone on their existing team, because tech industry hiring processes are folkloric and irrational.

Mistakes are common.

Anonymous at 4:37 PM on October 23, 2016 | #7006
On June 3, 2012, patio11 wrote in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4060154 :

> On June 3, 2012, fleitz wrote in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4060229 :

>> It's possible to build successful businesses by being able to put cheese, tomato sauce and pepperoni on dough and put it in an oven.
>> I'm not sure why people think they have to be the smartest person in the room to build a business
>
> While I like the sentiment here, I think the danger is that engineers might come to the mistaken conclusion that making pizzas is the primary limiting reagent to running a successful pizzeria. Running a successful pizzeria is more about schlepping to local hotels and leaving them 50 copies of your menu to put at the front desk, hiring drivers who will both deliver pizzas in a timely fashion and not embezzle your (razor-thin) profits while also costing next-to-nothing to employ, maintaining a kitchen in sufficient order to pass your local health inspector's annual visit (and dealing with 47 different pieces of paper related to that), being able to juggle priorities like "Do I take out a bank loan to build a new brick-oven, which will make the pizza taste better, in the knowledge that this will commit $3,000 of my cash flow every month for the next 3 years, or do I hire an extra cook?", sourcing ingredients such that they're available in quantity and quality every day for a fairly consistent price, setting prices such that they're locally competitive for your chosen clientele but generate a healthy gross margin for the business, understanding why a healthy gross margin really doesn't imply a healthy net margin and that the rent still needs to get paid, keeping good-enough records such that you know whether your business is dying before you can't make payroll and such that you can provide a reasonably accurate picture of accounts for the taxation authorities every year, balancing 50% off medium pizza promotions with the desire to not cannibalize the business of your regulars, etc etc, and by the way tomato sauce should be tangy but not sour and cheese should melt with just the faintest whisp of a crust on it.
>
> Do you want to write software for a living? Google is hiring. Do you want to run a software business? Godspeed. Software is now 10% of your working life.

Nice description of the typically large percentage of work in an "X" business that is not directly related to "X".

Anonymous at 4:59 PM on October 23, 2016 | #7007

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)