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Indirection

I've identified a common, huge problem people have. They struggle with indirection.

They want Z. They find out that doing W will help them figure out X which will help them solve one problem with Y which is a component of Z. But they don't care about W much. They wanted to deal with stuff more directly related to Z. At every step in the chain of indirection, their motivation/interest/etc drops off significantly.

This ruins their lives.

Indirection is pretty much ever-present. Doing things well consistently requires doing some other stuff that's connected to it via several steps.

Say you want to be a great artist, but you're bad at English. This gets in the way of improving at art, e.g. by discouraging you from reading art books (reading is a difficult, slow struggle for you) and causing frequent misunderstandings of the content of art books and lecture videos. Do you then spend significant time and effort improving at English in order to improve your art? Many people wouldn't. They wanted to spend time working on art. They like art but not English. They're relatively rational about art, but not about English. And they suck at indirection. They do things like forget how working on English connects to their goal of making progress at art.

A lot more indirection than this is typical. When working on English, they will run into some other problems. While working on those, they'll run into sub-problems. While working on those, they'll run into sub-sub-problems. They'll need to solve some sub-sub-problems to make progress on the sub-problems to make progress on the problems in the way of English progress to enable making more progress with art books.

Sub-sub-sub-problems often get into philosophy and some other generic issues. They are bad at learning. They dislike criticism. They have problems with emotions. They aren't very precise or logical. They're biased rather than objective. They don't understand effective methods of problem-solving. They aren't persistent and just want things to be quick and easy or they give up and look for something they find more intuitive and straightforward. They are too "busy" or "tired". They are directing a lot of their effort towards their social life, and getting along with people, rather than to problem solving. etc, etc, etc

People are fine with indirection sometimes. They want a cookie, and they spend time reaching for a cookie jar and opening it, rather than only directly eating the cookie. That bit of indirection doesn't bother them.

One reason people have a problem with indirection is they have little confidence in their ability to complete long range projects. They don't expect to get to a positive conclusion they can't reach very quickly. They have a long history of giving up on projects after a short time if it isn't done yet. So any project with a lot of steps is suspect to them. Especially when some of the steps fall outside their primary interests. A physicist will work on a 20-step physics project, and if he doesn't finish it's ok because he was working on physics the whole time. But he won't work on learning philosophy of science in order to do physics better because if he doesn't complete that project (not only learn useful things about philosophy of science, but then also use them to make physics progress) he'll be unhappy because he enjoys physics but does not enjoy philosophy of science.

A major reason people suck at longterm projects is because their lives are overwhelmed with errors. Their ability to correct errors and solve problems is in a constant state of being overloaded and failing, and they end up having chronic problems in their lives. There are other reasons including that people have little clue what they want and that they have little freedom for the first 20 years of their lives so they can't reliably pursue longterm projects because the projects are disrupted by the people who control their lives (especially parents and teachers).

People also, frequently correctly, lack confidence in their own judgement. They think there is a chain of connections where they work on W to work on X to work on Y to get Z. But they don't trust their judgement. Often correctly. Often they're wrong over and over and their judgement sucks. It requires better judgement to deal with indirection. People with bad judgement (almost everyone) can have somewhat more success when focusing on limited, easy, short projects with fewer layers to them. But that's no real solution. The structure of life involves many connections between different areas (like English skill being relevant to being an artist, and philosophy skill being relevant to being a scientist) rather than being a bunch of narrow, separate, autonomous fields.

Pursuing problems in an open-ended way often takes you far afield.

One of the other issues present here is people have limited interests, rather than open-ended interests. That's really bad. People ought to have broader curiosity and interest in anything useful and important. One of the reasons for such limited interests is most people are really irrational with a few exceptions, so their interests are limited to the exceptions where they are less irrational. This gets in the way of open-ended problem solving where one seeks the truth wherever it may be found instead of sticking to a predetermined field.


a typical example of people sucking with indirection is they don't click on links much. they treat native content (directly in front of them) considerably differently than content one stepped remove (click a link, then see it).

this comes up in blog posts, newsletters, emails, forum discussions, on twitter, on facebook, in reddit comments, etc.

it's much worse when you reference a book. but even a link is such a big hurdle that most people won't click through and even check the length or see what sort of content it has.

this is pathetic and speaks very badly of the large majority of people who are so hostile to links. but there it is.

people do click more when you use crude manipulation "link bait", cat pictures, etc. hell, a lot of people even click on ads. nevertheless the indirection of a link is often enough to kill a philosophy discussion. partly because their interest in philosophy is really fragile and limited in the first place, and partly because "do X (click link) to get Y (read more details on this point)" is actually a problematic amount of indirection for people.

another problematic kind of indirection for most people is discussing the terms or purpose or goals of a discussion, rather than just proceeding directly with the discussion itself.


Elliot Temple on December 4, 2016

Comments (21)

Lol

You are a nutjob

L Ron Hobnob at 9:33 PM on December 11, 2016 | #7844

not very informative

> You are a nutjob

Could you explain why you disagree?

oh my god it's turpentine at 10:48 PM on December 11, 2016 | #7845
why bother asking him? his post communicates he has no value to offer, and nothing else.

Anonymous at 10:54 PM on December 11, 2016 | #7846
Ironic you voted for Trump when he's going to eliminate Jews and Jew lovers like you. So much for ur kike cunt (((Alisa Rosenbaum))) and her philosophy which should be called Relativism because it's nothing but (((Einstein's))) Jew physics translated into Jew philosophy. Those other "Objectivists" like (((Yaron Brooke)) and (((Leonard Peikoff))) won't be counting their shekels for long...maybe it's time for you to jump off that cattle car, or are you a Jew too?

L Ron Hobnob at 11:59 PM on December 11, 2016 | #7847
Oh ya and...can't forget (((Alex Epstein)))... The mindless golem warrior who is going to take back oil away from the Muslims and back to the Hebes! ROT IN HELL

L Ron Hobnob at 12:01 AM on December 12, 2016 | #7848
see, Alan, I told you so.

Anonymous at 12:23 AM on December 12, 2016 | #7849
Don't laugh me off. You are BAMBOOZLED!

L Ron Hobnob at 1:37 AM on December 12, 2016 | #7850
#7847 #7845 #7850 Not me

FF at 6:49 AM on December 12, 2016 | #7851
I am curious how L Ron Hateful found his way here

Anonymous at 8:31 AM on December 12, 2016 | #7853
Why spend time thinking of him at all?

Anonymous at 8:44 AM on December 12, 2016 | #7854
"Hello, Mr. Roark," said Ellsworth Toohey quietly.

Roark looked at him without curiosity. "Hello," said Roark.

"Please don't run away." The voice was not mocking, but earnest.

"I wasn't going to."

"I think I knew that you'd come here some day and I think I wanted to be here when you came. I've kept inventing excuses for myself to hang about this place." There was no gloating in the voice; it sounded drained and simple.

"Well?"

"You shouldn't mind speaking to me. You see, I understand your work. What I do about it is another matter."

"You are free to do what you wish about it."

"I understand your work better than any living person--with the possible exception of Dominique Francon. And, perhaps, better than she does. That's a deal, isn't it, Mr. Roark? You haven't many people around you who can say that. It's a greater bond than if I were your devoted, but blind supporter."

"I knew you understood."

"Then you won't mind talking to me."

"About what?"

In the darkness it sounded almost as if Toohey had sighed. After a while he pointed to the building and asked:

"Do you understand this?"

Roark did not answer.

Toohey went on softly: "What does it look like to you? Like a senseless mess? Like a chance collection of driftwood? Like an imbecile chaos? But is it, Mr. Roark? Do you see no method? You who know the language of structure and the meaning of form. Do you see no purpose here?"

"I see none in discussing it."

"Mr. Roark, we're alone here. Why don't you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us."

"But I don't think of you."

Anonymous at 8:48 AM on December 12, 2016 | #7855
#7851 FF, why the need to say it wasn't you?

Anonymous at 6:16 AM on December 15, 2016 | #7870
#7870 It has become a habit. I feel the need to make things clear.

FF at 12:47 AM on December 16, 2016 | #7871
#7871 that doesn't answer the question

why do you think people would confuse you with L Ron Hobnob? what is it in your identity that could raise confusion?

Anonymous at 12:59 AM on December 16, 2016 | #7872
> why do you think people would confuse you with L Ron Hobnob? what is it in your identity that could raise confusion?

Hobnob is causing trouble. Elliot considers me as troublemaker

I want to make sure I don't lose my posting rights on curi and FI.

FF at 1:08 AM on December 16, 2016 | #7873
You just identified with Hobnob. How can that help with your posting rights?

Anonymous at 12:56 PM on December 16, 2016 | #7874
Great reminder about the importance of embracing open ended learning. Thanks!

School is one of the things that teaches us to believe we love Spanish, say, but hate geography. And often we only hated geography because we hated the teacher or the group of kids in the class.

School - and then the workplace - creates these artificial barriers between areas, so that afterwards we are fearful to leave our restricted subjects. And then all our learning suffers.

anon at 3:40 PM on December 16, 2016 | #7875
> Great reminder about the importance of embracing open ended learning. Thanks!

so what are you doing for your open ended learning?

> School is one of the things that teaches us to believe we love Spanish, say, but hate geography. And often we only hated geography because we hated the teacher or the group of kids in the class.

yeah, you can't evaluate a subject by whether you liked a particular way of learning it.

Anonymous at 3:43 PM on December 16, 2016 | #7876
I get stuck with indirection when I consistently fail to make progress. If I try new solutions to a problem a few times and don't get the right answer, then get hopeless and give up.

I don't mind indirection as long as I can make progress with it.

I want to get right answers, not wrong ones. I enjoy it when I find a right answer, not so when I find a wrong one.

But trying something and finding out it's wrong is learning. I'm finding out that the right answer to "is this previous answer the right answer?" is no.

But I don't find finding out that an answer is wrong satisfying. Only when I find a right answer to replace it with. Am I doing something wrong there?

SN at 5:14 AM on January 3, 2017 | #8143
> I don't mind indirection as long as I can make progress with it.

you mean as long as you can make progress on it within 3 days? this statement seems incompatible with your prior statement about giving up.

finding out something is wrong has variable value. finding out induction is wrong was a big deal. people were and are using it. it's causing problems.

or suppose you think something is a good lead. then you find out it's wrong. you've learned something relevant and useful. you can improvement your judgement about leads. and it narrows down your fairly small list of good leads.

on the other hand, finding out something you thought was a *bad lead* is wrong isn't valuable. the list of bad leads is infinite. checking them off individually isn't going to get you anywhere.

before you pursue a lead you should consider if you'll find value in a negative answer. will you have learned something useful, satisfied your curiosity, or ruled out a category of solution which materially narrows down what to do next? or will you just be like "meh what a waste of time"? if you will think a lead was a waste of time if it doesn't work out, *don't pursue it*, there's something wrong with it.

**you can and should always be pursuing leads where the the journey is valuable, not just the hoped-for destination**.

curi at 5:57 PM on January 3, 2017 | #8161
>> I don't mind indirection as long as I can make progress with it.
> you mean as long as you can make progress on it within 3 days? this statement seems incompatible with your prior statement about giving up.

I wouldn't put a time on it, but say within 3 iterations (eg with FI, within 3 iterations of emailing and getting replies)

I'm not sure what you mean by it seeming incompatible. I guess it's because my wording was bad - I said "as long as I can make progress", where I should have said "as long as I do make progress"? Since I can always make progress if I'm pursuing something that's relevant, the issue with giving up or not is whether I *do* make progress not whether I can.

Or is the incompatibility still there even with better wording?

> before you pursue a lead you should consider if you'll find value in a negative answer. will you have learned something useful, satisfied your curiosity, or ruled out a category of solution which materially narrows down what to do next? or will you just be like "meh what a waste of time"? if you will think a lead was a waste of time if it doesn't work out, *don't pursue it*, there's something wrong with it.

this is helpful

yes I should think more about whether pursuing something will be useful, like when I'm choosing what ideas to pursue I should think more about what the results would be if I decide it's good, so how it would change my life and decisions. also what the consequences would be if it is actually good but I *don't* pursue it and give it a try.

thinking about what to pursue like that makes it easier to choose between lots of options than what I've done before

I think I've pursued stuff because of terrible reasons a lot, reasons like "supposed to" or "curi said so", when I do that the journey sucks and I'm less engaged and don't enjoy it

SN at 7:54 AM on January 8, 2017 | #8195

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)