BoI is about unbounded progress, and this is very different than what people are used to.
It means any kinds of bounds – like some topic being off limits – is problematic.
The standard expectation elsewhere is a little of this, a little of that, and great, good job, you’re a success. Around here it’s more like: lots of everything. More, more, more. And it’s hard to find break points for praise and basking in glory b/c there’s always further to go. And anyway were you seeking glory and praise, or interested in learning for its own sake?
What do you want a break for? Don’t you like making progress more than anything else? What else would you want to do? Some rest is necessary, but not resting on one’s laurels.
You’re still at the beginning of infinity. You still have infinite ignorance. Keep going!
People say they want to learn. But how much? How fast? Why not more, faster?
What is there to stop this? To restrain it from intruding on their whole life and disrupting everything? They don’t know, and don’t want to give up or question various things, so, when it comes down to it, they just give up on reason instead.
People expect social structures to determine a lot. If you learn at the pace of your university class, who could ask more of you? If you publish more than enough peer-reviewed papers to keep your job as a professor, aren’t you doing rather well? There are socially approved lifestyles which come with certain expectations for how much you should be learning. Do anything more than that and you’re in extra credit territory – which is awesome but (socially) one can’t be faulted for not getting even more extra credit...
People interact and learn in limited ways. They don’t want to deal with e.g. some philosophy ideas invalidating their whole field – like AGI, psychiatry, most of the social “sciences”. That’s too out of control. People want ideas to be bounded contrary to the inherent reach of the ideas. What an idea applies to is a logical matter, not a human choice, but people aren’t used to that and it disrupts their social structures.
I can break anyone. I can ask questions, criticize errors, and advocate for more progress until they give up and refuse to speak. No one can handle that if I really try. I can bring up enough of people’s flaws that it’s overwhelming and unwanted.
There are limits on what criticism people want to hear, what demons they want to face, what they want to question. Perhaps they’ll expand those limits gradually. But I, in the spirit of BoI, approach things differently. i take all criticism and questions from all comers without limiting rules and without being overwhelmed.
BTW, people, so used to their limits – and to statements like this being lies – still usually won’t ask me much or be very challenging.
I used to be confused by people breaking. I expected people to be more similar to myself. I thought they’d want to know about problems. i thought that of course they’d value truth-seeking above all else. I thought they’d take responsibility for organizing incoming information in good ways instead of being overwhelmed. I thought they’d make rapid progress. Instead, it turns out, people don’t know how to handle such things, and don’t ask, and get progressively more emotional while hiding the problem until they burst.
It’s foreign to me how people are. But it’s pretty predictable now. I stopped giving people unbounded criticism. It’s not appreciated. I just give little fraction of the criticism I could, to people who come to me – and still that’s usually more than enough that they hate it.
occasionally people here ask for full, maximum criticism. they don’t like the idea that i’m holding back – that i know problems in their lives and their thinking that i’m not telling them, that are going unsolved. (or that i could quickly discover such problems if i thought about them, asked them some questions, etc). i’ve often responded by testing them in some little way which was too much and they didn’t persist in asking for more.
it’s difficult b/c i prefer to be honest and say what i think openly. i generally don’t lie. but i neglect to say lots of things i could. i neglect to energetically pursue things involving other ppl which could/should be pursued if they were better and more capable. i could write 10+ replies each to most posts here with questions and arguments (often conditional on some guesses about incomplete information). there’s so much more to be said, so many connections to other stuff. people don’t want to deal with that. they want bounds on discussion.
they don’t have a grip on Paths Forward. they don’t have a functional home base to avoid Overreaching. they don’t have a beachhead of stuff they’ve gotten right to expand on. whenever they try to deal with unlimited criticism it’s chaos b/c, long story short, they are wrong about everything – both b/c they are at the beginning of infinity and also b/c they aren’t at the cutting edge of what’s already known. and progress from where they are to being way better doesn’t just consist of adding things while keeping what they already know, a ton of it is error correction.
whenever people try to deal with unbounded criticism, everything starts falling apart. their whole childhood and education was a tragic mess and they don’t want to redo it.
people don’t even get started on the Paths Forward project of dealing with all public criticism of ideas. and so basically all their ideas are already refuted and they just think that’s how knowledge is, and if you suddenly demand a new standard of actually getting stuff right – of actually addressing all the problems and criticisms and issues – then they totally lose their footing in the world of ideas b/c they never developed their ideas to that standard. and the project of starting thinking in that way and building up knowledge to that proper standard is fucking daunting and approximately no one else wants to do it.
people don’t like to be picked apart, like DD talking to the cryptoinductivist in FoR ch. 7 and continuing even after the guy conceded (and without even trying to manage the guy’s schedule for him by delaying communications until after he had time to think things over).
FoR and BoI held back 99% of what DD knows.
people want a forum where they go to get small doses of things they already want, while having total control over the whole process. they don’t want to feel bad about some surprise criticism about something they weren’t even trying to talk about.
people all have something they're dishonest about and don't want to talk about.
people all have some anti-rational memes.
and this stuff doesn't stay in neat little boundaries.
all the really powerful, general, abstract, important ideas with tons of reach are threatening to these entrenched no-progress zones.
it doesn't matter if the issue is just some little dumb thing like being scared of spiders. ideas have consequences. how do you feel good about yourself while knowing about some problem and being unwilling/unable to fix it? so you better not know much about spiders – so you better have poor research methods. so you better not know much about memes – so you better not come to understand what the current state of the world is or you'll have questions which memes are part of the answer to.
your best bet is to admit there seems to be a problem there but decide it's a low priority and you're going to do some other stuff and maybe get to it later. that can work with stuff that genuinely isn't very important, like about spiders. then you can learn about memes, and realize maybe you have a nasty meme about spiders, and that isn't destabilizing cuz u already thought there's a problem there, just not one that is affecting your life enough to prioritize over other issues you could work on first.
but what do you do when it isn't a low priority thing? what do you do when it's way harder to isolate than fear of spiders, and has much more immediate and large downsides? like when it's about family, relationships, parenting, your intelligence, your honesty, your rationality?
the more you learn and think and actually start to make some progress with reason, the harder it is to just be a collection of special cases. the more you start to learn and apply some principles and try to be more consistent. and then you run into clashes as you find internal contradictions. and that's not just ignorable, something's gotta give.
people have identities they're attached to. they want to already be wise. if not about everything, about some particular things they think they're good at. that's one of the things people really seem to dislike – when i'm way better at their specialty than they are, when they can't win any arguments with me in their own speciality that i've barely spent time on.
when i found FoR/DD/TCS i was fine with being wrong about more or less everything. i didn't mind. i didn't respect my own existing education in general. i thought school was shit and i'd barely learned anything since elementary school besides some math and programming. i was very good at chess, but i was well aware of the existence of people way better than me at chess – i'd lost tons of chess games and had a positive history of interacting about chess with people i didn't have much chance to beat (both chess friends and chess teachers).
my chess, math and programming have never got especially challenged since finding FoR/etc. but if they were – if there was some whole better way to think about them – i'd like that. i'd be happy. i don't rely on being good at them for identity and self-esteem. my self-esteem comes from more like being rational itself, being interested in learning, being willing to change and fix mistakes, etc. a lot of people actually get some self-esteem along those lines, which makes it all the more problematic for them to try to impose limits on discussion – so they end up twisting themselves up into such dishonest tangles trying to make excuses for why they won't discuss or think anymore in order to end discussion. the internal tangles are so much worse than what you see externally btw. like externally they might just say they are busy and will follow up in a week or two, and then not do that. and then after 3 weeks i write a few paragraphs, and they don't reply, and that's that, externally. but internally it often involves some serious breach of integrity to pull that off, and a whole web of dishonest rationalizations. a lot of these people actually did put a lot of thought into stuff behind the scenes rather than just casually leaving like it's nothing – or suppressed a lot of thought behind the scenes, which has consequences.
i had lefty political views – but they weren't very important to my life. thinking about issues was important to me, but i didn't mind having different thoughts.
lots of people have lots of friends, coworkers, family members, customers, etc, to worry about alienating by changing their mind about politics. i had some of that, but relatively less, and i didn't mind alienating people. if one of my friends doesn't want to reconsider politics and is unwilling to be friends with a right wing person, whatever, i'll just lose respect for them. i don't value people and interactions which are tied to some pre-existing unquestionable conclusions.
happily i haven't lost a job or spouse over my beliefs, but i would be willing to. i have lost potential jobs – e.g. i think it'd be quite hard for me to get hired at Google nowadays given some things i've written in public are the kinds of things Google considers hate speech and fires people for. but on the other hand i also got noticed and got some programming work on account of speaking my mind and having an intelligent blog, so that was good. (i don't do stuff like aggressively bring up politics or philosophy in programming work contexts btw)
you don't need to be popular to have a few friends, coworkers and family members you can get along with. you don't need millions of people to be OK with your beliefs. one job, one spouse and 5 good friends is more than a lot of people have. that's easier to get if you stand out in some ways (so some people like you a lot) than if a lot more people have a very mild positive opinion of you.
anyway lots of people have accomplishments they are proud of. they don't want to change their perspective so their accomplishments are all at the beginning of infinity and could really use as much rapid error-correcting progress as they can manage, which they should continue forever.
people are so used to disliking the journey (like learning or work) and liking the destination. so they don't want criticism of the destinations they already reached and to be told they should journey (make progress, change, improve) continuously forever.
btw people get way more offended if you personalize stuff like this (to criticism of them specifically; talking about yourself is alright). that gets in the way of their ability to pretend they are one of the exceptions. they don't want help connecting all this stuff to actual specific flaws in their life and attitudes (or at least not unbounded help of that type – if they could carefully control all the consequences and what they find out, then they might be willing to open that pandora's box a little. but they can't. even if i was totally obedient and stuff, you just can't control, predict and bound the growth of knowledge. it takes severe fucking limits to avoid what's basically the jump to universal progress-making).
and if you don't personalize and you don't call out individuals, mostly everyone just acts like you're talking to someone else. kinda like if someone is hurt you don't want to shout "someone call 911" to the crowd while you try to perform CPR. it's too likely that no one will do it. it's more effective to pick a random person and tell them personally to call 911.
there are legitimate, important, worthwhile questions about how to change while keeping some stability. you need a mind and life situation which is viable for your life throughout the whole process. it's kinda like patching computer software without being able to shut it down and restart it.
the solution isn't to limit criticism, to block messages, to not find things out. knowing about too many problems to deal with is better than not knowing. it lets you prioritize better. even if you're not very good at prioritizing, you ought to do better with a half-understood list with more stuff on it than with simply less information. (unless the less info is according to a wise design that someone else put effort into. then their knowledge about what you should prioritize could potentially be superior to what overwhelmed-you would come up with initially.)
people need to learn to live with conflict, to live with knowing they are at the beginning of infinity and knowing actual open questions, open leads, open very important things to work on or learn with big consequences.
this is difficult as a practical matter when it comes to emotionally charged issues, identity, self-esteem, major attachments, and stuff with lasting consequences like how one treats one's children. people have a hard time knowing they may well be doing a lot of harm to their child, and then just being emotionally OK with that and proceeding in a calm, reasonable way to e.g. read some relevant books and try to learn more about philosophy of knowledge so they can understand education better so they can later, indirectly, be a better parent. and in the meantime they are doing stuff to their kid which leaves most victims really mentally crippled and irrational for the rest of their lives... and what they are doing violates tons of their own existing values and knowing about that bothers them.
this perspective is wrong though. if they don't hear a damn word about specifically some of their flaws, they should still realize they are at the beginning of infinity and must be doing all sorts of things horribly wrong with all sorts of massive, nasty consequences that are sooooooo far from ideal. not knowing the specific criticisms as applied to their life really shouldn't change their perspective much. but people aren't so good at abstract thinking so they just want to shut up certain messages and not think through or learn all the philosophy of BoI.
BoI (dream of socrates chapter) talks about Hermes' perspective and how tons of stuff the Athenians do looks like the example of stealing and then having disasters and then thinking the solution is even more stealing. that applies to you whether anyone names some of the stuff you're really bad at or not. and hearing some indication of some of the stuff you're fucking up – e.g. using violence and threat of violence against your child, as well as a lot of more subtle but serious stuff – should be purely helpful to deciding what to prioritize, what to do next, and hell it should help with motivation.
i wish i knew some big area(s) i was really bad at and had the option to read stuff about it from people who already put a lot of great thought into it that i don't already know. that'd make things so much easier. i know in theory i must be fucking up all kinds of things, but i don't have a bunch of useful leads being handed to me by others anymore. i used to have that a ton, especially from DD. but also other stuff like i read Szasz and found out about psychiatry – not that i had much in the way of pre-existing views on psychiatry, but still, my little bit of vague thinking on the matter was wrong.
i also never had much of an opinion on induction or economics before learning lots about it. that's something i find kinda weird. how much people who don't know much think they know a bunch and are attached. i usually am good at knowing that i don't know much about something, but when i talk to people about psychiatry i find a large portion of them are like super entrenched with pro-psychiatry views even though they really don't know much about it. same with capitalism/socialism and induction. people who've really never studied the matter have such strong opinions they are so attached to.
an example of something that went less smoothly was Israel. i had picked up some anti-Israel ideas from news articles and i think also from some other TCS discussion people like Justin (i know he had bad views on Israel in the past and changed his mind later than i did and he predated me at the TCS IRC chatroom). anyway DD misidentified me as entrenched with anti-Israel dogma, partly b/c i did know (or thought i knew) a bit about it, and I brought up some information i'd read. but, while i can see how it looked a lot like many other conversations, he was actually mistaken about me and i quickly learned more and changed my mind about Israel (with DD offering guidance like recommending things to read and pointing out a few things).
the misunderstanding is important b/c it lets us examine: what happened when DD thought I was being irrational? he said a few harsh things. which, as a matter of fact, i didn't deserve. but so what? did i spend my time getting offended? no. i just wanted to learn and focused on that. i still expected him to be right about the topic, and just wanted to get info.
i used to say, more or less, that DD was always right about everything. this attitude is important and interesting b/c it appears irrational (deferring to authority). it's also an attitude lots of people would dislike, whereas i enjoyed it – i was thrilled to find a bunch of knowledge (embodied by a particular person – which people find more offensive than books for some reason) better and wiser than myself rather than feeling diminished by comparison.
i was, at the same time, very deferential in some ways and not at all deferential in other ways. this is important and people suck at it.
i did not go "well i lost the last 50 arguments but i bet i'm right about Israel. i bet those dozen articles i read means i know more about it than DD and i'll win the debate this time". that's so typical and so dumb.
but i also did not just accept whatever DD said b/c he said it. i expected him to be right but also challenged his claims. i asked questions and argued, while expecting to lose the debate, to learn more about it. i very persistently brought stuff up again and again until i was fully satisfied. lots of people concede stuff and then think it's done and don't learn more about it, and end up never learning it all that well. sometimes i thought i conceded and said so, but even if i did, i had zero shame about re-opening any topic from any amount of time ago to ask a new question or ask how to address a new argument for any side.
i also fluidly talked about arguments for any side instead of just arguing a particular side. even if i was mostly arguing a particularly side, i'd still sometimes think of stuff for DD's side and say that too. ppl are usually so biased and one-sided with their creativity.
after i learned things from DD i found people to discuss them with, including people who disagreed with them. then if i had any trouble thoroughly winning the debate with zero known flaws on my side, zero open problems, zero unanswered criticisms, etc, then i'd go back to DD and expect more and better answers from him to address everything fully. i figured out lots of stuff myself but also my attitude of "DD is always right and knows everything" enabled me to be infinitely demanding – i expected him to be a perfect oracle and just kept asking questions about anything and everything expecting him to always have great answers to whatever level of precision, thoroughness, etc, i wanted. when i wasn't fully convinced by every aspect of an answer i'd keep trying over and over to bring up the subject in more ways – state different arguments and ask what's wrong with them, state more versions of his position (attempting to fix some problem) and ask if that's right, find different ways to think about a question and express it, etc. this of course was very useful for encouraging DD to create more and better answers than he already knew or already had formulated in English words.
i didn't 100% literally expect him to know everything, but it was a good mantra and was compatible with questioning him, debating him, etc. it's important to be able to expect to be mistaken and lose a debate and still have it, eagerly and thoroughly. and to keep saying every damn doubt you have, every counter-argument you think of, to address all of them, even when you're pretty convinced by some main points that you must be badly wrong or ignorant.
anyway the method of not being satisfied with explanations until i'd explained them myself to teach others and win several debates – with no outstanding known hiccups, flaws, etc – is really good. that's the kind of standard of knowledge people need.
standards for what kind of knowledge quality people should aim for is an important topic, btw. people often think their sloppy knowledge is good enough and that more precision isn't needed. why split hairs? this is badly wrong:
we're at the beginning of infinity. there's so much wrong with our knowledge and we should strive to make all the progress we can, make it as great as we can.
people's actual current knowledge leads to all kinds of tragedies and misery. disasters go wrong in people's lives. a lot. our knowledge isn't good enough. there's so much we can see wrong with the world that we should want to be better. not just advanced stuff like what's wrong with parenting, but more blatant stuff like how the citizens of North Korea are treated, the threat of NK or Iranian nukes, our poor ability to create a reasonable consensus about foreign policy. or people having broken hearts and bitter divorces. or people having a "mental illness" like "depression" or "autism" and kids and malcontents being drugged into a stupor. and even if you don't think psychiatrists are doing anything wrong you can still see it as they are dealing with hard problems and there's room for them to develop better medicines. oh and people die of cancer, car accidents, and stuff – and more generally of aging. and we're still a single-planet civilization that could get wiped out if we don't get to other planets soon enough. and it's not really that hard to list a lot more stuff on a big or small scale. people have mini fights with their family and friends all the time. people get fired, programming projects fail, business in all industries fail, people make bad decisions and lose a bunch of money, people don't achieve all that they wish to, people feel bad about things that happen to them (e.g. someone said something mean) and have a bad time with it and find it distracting, people are late to stuff, people's cooking comes out bad.
FI is a method of always being right. cuz either ur right now, or u change ur mind and then ur right. other stuff is a method of staying wrong.
first you have some position that, as far as you know is right. you've done nothing wrong. even if you're mistaken, you don't know better and you're making reasonable ongoing efforts to seek out new info, learn new things, etc. then someone challenges you, and you realize there's some issues with your view, so your new position is you're undecided pending further thought and info. (that's your intellectual position, in terms of IRL actions u might be mid-project and decide, at this point, it's best not to disrupt it even given the risk you're mistaken.) and then the moment after you're persuaded, your position is you know enough to be persuaded of this new idea. and so who can fault you at any time? you held the right position to hold, given what you knew, at each step.
when ppl argue with me, either they have yet to provide adequate help for me to understand a better idea (so it's ok i haven't adopted the new view yet), or they have in which case i will have successfully adopted the new view (if i haven't successfully done that then apparently the help was inadequate and either they can try to help more or i can work on it without them more, whatever, i'm blameless regardless).