Vacation Travel Is Overrated

People go on vacations and enjoy them. But they routinely mix up several different benefits, some of which are unrelated to traveling and staying at a hotel somewhere.

Traveling to a place with something good about it (sunny beaches, museums you want to visit, etc) is one benefit of vacations.

Not working for a while is another benefit. People have more free time while on vacation. You'd still get this benefit if you took the same time off work but stayed home.

Another reason people like vacations is they spend more money. Not just on travel and the hotel, but also on food, spas, massages, entertainment and conveniences (to save time or hassle at the cost of money). They are less frugal about buying luxuries while on vacation. It's a common mistake to attribute some of the fun of this additional purchasing to travel. They could stay home but go to nice restaurants for a week and buy some other stuff they want, like they would on vacation, but without also buying a plane flight and hotel room.

I consider vacations (and travel) overrated. There are some good things about them, but try not to mentally bundle everything together. Recognize that you could do some of the stuff you do on vacation (take time off work, spend more money on your happiness for a week) without traveling, and save a lot of money, and it'd be better and more convenient in some ways. (Your home is nicer to stay in than a hotel room unless it's really expensive, and even then your home has all your stuff. And you have your car if you stay home.)


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Explaining Infinite Sets, Measures, and Mappings for Quantum Physics

Alan Forrester wrote in a discussion of multiple universe quantum physics and David Deutsch's books:

The stuff [in the multiverse] doesn’t come from anywhere. There is a continuous infinity of fungible frogs, like the real number line. That continuous infinity of fungible frogs differentiates over time. The number of instances of frogs doesn’t increase or decrease as a result of the differentiation. You’re just taking the set that already exists and dividing it up. The same amount of stuff exists before and after a division.

And Justin Mallone asked:

I've found stuff involving infinity really difficult to wrap my brain around in a way I felt like I could understand and explain and apply. This post reminded me of that fact.

And I don't have trouble understanding complex concepts generally, so I assume I have some systematic mistake or set of mistakes I'm making in my thinking about infinity in particular, but I don't know what it is.

I can easily conceive of some actual set number of universes differentiating many times. Like you have 1024 universes, and they differentiate in some way where something happens in half the universes and something doesn't happen in half the universes (lets call the thing Event A or something). And then you look at the 512 Event A universes and something happens in 3/4 of them (Event B) and so you have 384 Event A + B Universes, 128 Event A Only Universes, and 512 No Event Universes. And on and on.

But the endless differentiation of infinities of universes seems weird to me. I guess cuz one of the things about the sort of differentiation I was just describing is that you can easily assess the ratios of stuff happening in them. You can think of stuff in terms of probability of happening across the set of universes you're considering -- like above you could say it's equally likely that neither Event occurs and that at least 1 Event occurs.

But doing that with infinity seems harder. If you differentiate an infinite set of universes in some way, you still have an infinity after the differentiation, although both are smaller (?!) than the infinity that you had before the differentiation. What??? 🤔

To compare sizes of sets you need ways to measure the sets.

For finite sets a standard measure is the integer number of elements.

It's not the only measure people care about. Another thing you can do is weight the elements of the set and then measure the total weights of the sets and compare that. This kind of comparison can be more useful. E.g. you could look at the total weight of the set if you were looking at carrying sets of tools in a backpack. In that case, volume would be an issue too. And you could come up with measures of the utility of each tool and add up the total utility of each set.

Real scenarios are often more complicated than easy-to-calculate measures. Just because your tools have X total volume, and your backpack has X+1 total volume doesn't mean they will fit. One could be too long, or there could be no way to pack them together without empty space in gaps between some tools. And the utility of a set of tools isn't just the sum of the utilities of the individual tools. If a screwdriver is 4 utility, that doesn't mean 2 of that screwdriver is 8 utility. And nails have more utility if you also have a hammer.

The utility of a set of tools is too complex an issue for people to define a measurement function that's very accurate, so they do critical thinking instead (which may involve some utility measures as loose approximations). The weight and volume issues are both simple enough someone could do a good job defining it and inputting their measurement function into a computer which would accurately calculate it. This isn't trivial but it's doable today and people could get good, useful results with it. Companies like FedEx have computer programs that worry about packing objects into spaces and considering weight and volume. FedEx cares especially about putting boxes into cargo holds of trucks and planes. And there are mathematicians who like to calculate how to tightly pack spheres and other shapes into spaces with the least wasted volume, and they know some stuff about how to do that.


So some facts:

  • You can define dozens (or trillions) of different measures on one set. You can measure the same set multiple ways.

  • Some measures are more useful to human concerns than others. Some are harder to measure than others.

  • There is no canonical single measure for sets provided by the universe's instruction manual. There isn't like the one objective measure. There are often a variety of worthwhile measures for a set, and also many, many more arbitrary and dumb measures.

  • Some measures help address many different human problems, as well as more important problems. Their reach is a sign of their objective value.

  • Inches and meters are measures created by humans to help solve human problems. They are relatively useful and objectively valuable compared to many other measures.

  • Quantity is a more complex measure than people take for granted, and it's not really a singular measure across all types of sets. In order to measure quantity of iPhones you need a definition of what sets of molecules constitute one iPhone. Then if you want to measure quantity of hammers, you need a totally different definition of what is one hammer. Quantity is only measurable with a supplemental function defining what is "one" of something, and that supplemental function varies for different objects. This complexity is something humans take for granted as common sense


OK now let's talk about numbers.

Different infinite sets can be measured and get different results.

You can look at infinite sets and measure them as "Is it finite or infinite?" and come to the conclusion "infinite" for all of them, and think they're the same.

But there are other measures. The set of all real numbers has more stuff in it than the set of all integers, even though they're both infinite. This fact is then actually used for measuring other infinite sets -- is it the same size as all integers, or all reals, or something else?

The way to compare infinite sets is to consider whether there is a mapping that puts the sets in one-to-one correspondence.

I will show you a mapping from the set of all integers to the set of all odd integers. This shows they are the same size! (Same size according to the normal, useful way mathematicians measure infinite sets.)

The mapping function is: n*2-1

You take an integer, n, and you double it and subtract 1. Now you have an odd number, m.

This is a one-to-one correspondence. No m repeats and no m is left out. You can pick any odd number m and find that there is exactly one integer n which corresponds to it via this mapping function.

The function is also reversible and the reverse gets you a one-to-one complete correspondence from odd integers to integers. You just take an odd integer, add 1 and halve it and boom you've got an integer. And you can get any integer by doing this.

BTW you only need to find one mapping function to make your point. There are other mapping functions which work just as well. Such as n*2-27. That also maps integers to odd integers with complete one-to-one correspondence.

This set mapping stuff is counter-intuitive because people initially feel like there are twice as many integers as odd integers, so the measure should say it's twice as big. But this measure says they are the same size! Yet this is the measure that's actually useful, has reach, has lots of objective value, is used in math a bunch. You could define some measures which assign an integer size to infinite sets and assigns twice as large an integer to the integers as the odds, but that's either not useful or sufficiently obscure/niche that I'm not familiar with it.

And people feel like you would run out of odd integers when trying to have one odd integer for every integer. And you would with finite sets. There are twice as many integers from 1-100 as odd integers in that range. And the same goes for 1 to a trillion.

But you don't run out of numbers with infinite sets. That you're mapping 101 to 50 and 10001 to 5000 is not a problem. You can just keep going up and never run out of odd integers to map to all the integers. I think the best way to look at this is just that you can pick any integer and clearly see there is exactly one odd integer it corresponds to with our mapping.

A complete one-to-one correspondence means sets are the same size in some meaningful sense. It's like putting one set on the left, one on the right, and drawing a line between every element on the to every element on the right. And every single element in each set has exactly one line connecting it to the other set. Just like if I have 4 goats and you have 4 cows and we drew 4 lines and saw our sets of animals were the same size. But if you had 5 cows then we couldn't draw lines in this way, you'd have an extra cow with no line touching it, or else i'd have a goat with 2 lines touching it.

There is no one-to-one correspondence from the integers to the reals, which is why the reals are considered a bigger set. That thing you can do to correspond odds to integers is not possible with integers to reals. That makes reals a bigger set than integers in a way which integers aren't bigger than odds. And this particular way of measuring set size turns out to be valuable, useful, helpful -- it's a good way to think about things for many purposes.


You're having trouble because you're using your intuitions about quantity measures of finite sets, including I presume that there's only one way to measure a set.

Physicists have a measure of infinite sets of universes. The results are fractions like 0.2 or 0.01. And it means what you would expect: e.g. you measure the universes where event A happens, get 0.5, and that means it happened in 50% of universes.

You could measure as a fraction of the whole multiverse but you normally don't want to. You can also measure as a fraction of a region of the multiverse, like the ones where you exist and are doing this experiment at this time and everything else is the same too. Then of those initially identical universes, you end up with 3 sets of universes and one has a measure of .5 and one has a measure of .375 and one has .125 (these are the numbers from Justin's example quoted above for No Event, A Event Only and A+B Events.)

How can an infinite set get a finite measure? Well it's just like if there were hypothetically infinite points in an inch, it could still be measured as one inch. And another distance could be two inches, and they both have infinite points but there's still this useful measure in which one is twice as long as the other. Current physics doesn't say an inch of space is infinitely divisible into infinite points, but that is a familiar classical physics scenario which people's intuitions don't struggle with so much.


Anyway this stuff is really confusing without the right background knowledge: having some general understanding of sets, measures, mappings, infinite sets, etc. So this should help give you some leads to think about and lead to some followup questions.

BTW I don't even know where this stuff is taught or good books explain it. I learned most of this from David Deutsch personally.

PS I am not an expert on math or physics terminology and may have used a technical term a little bit wrong or omitted a technical term that is normally used. And I've focused on important concepts, not mathematical precision (like there may be some other rule for what counts as a 1-to-1 mapping which is common sense but math people like to write it down).


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Problems Are as Hard as They Are

Some people think problem X should be easy. Then they get frustrated when it takes a bunch of time/effort/etc to solve. Sometimes they complain about the difference between their initial conception of the problem and the reality. Sometimes they give up entirely.

If a problem turns out harder than you expected, you can reevaluate if it's worth the effort. If the reward for a solution is minor, then it could be reasonable to do something else instead. But don't think the problem is being harder than it *should* be and get offended by that. You were wrong about how hard the problem is or how skilled you are. Accept that reality and change your mind appropriately.

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Ignoring or Refusing

Most people don't like being told "no".

It's common that people ignore a request instead of refusing. They say nothing instead of "no". Especially online. In person sometimes it's hard to say nothing so they change the topic, or some something unclaer, or say "maybe" (then don't do it), rather than clearly saying "no".

In Overwatch, people commonly ask you to switch to a different hero. If you reply, "no" you're giving them useful information. You aren't going to change, so maybe someone else should consider changing. Knowing what you're going to do lets people synergize with it better. But people get angry if you say "no" and take it better if you silently ignore them. If you refuse them they feel challenged and confronted and try to fight with you. But if you're silent then you haven't challenged their right to order you around, and haven't confronted them socially, and they don't have anything to fight over. You appear the coward. And what happened is ambiguous. Maybe you're having problems with your headphones and didn't even hear them.

I prefer the type of people who say "no" instead of being silent. But most people are the silent coward types, and most people dislike it if you say "no" as if you have a right to say it and it's a valid, reasonable decision. People want conflict to be hidden in general. If I say "no" it's obvious we disagree, you want me to do X and I refuse. Silence hides the conflict better.

Passivity is immoral but normal. Asserting yourself stands out more. Communicating provides useful information, and silence is ambiguous – but people don't care much about that, they care about social status and interaction.

People are frequently silent because it's easier. Why go to the trouble of saying "no" – even if it's useful information – when people will hassle you for it? This is unfortunate. It'd be better if people communicated more honestly and weren't punished for it.


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Asimov Foundations Review

Elliot Temple:
i read asimov first foundations book today
it's very parochial. more adventure story, not sci fi. not intelligent or about ideas.
the writing is bad in some ways, kinda confusing.
however he crams a lot of plot into a relatively short book and makes it pretty exciting/dramatic
i guess that makes sense that famous "sci fi" wouldn't be about science, would just be a regular parochial story. if it had ideas it'd be less popular.
a lot of the content is taken from history. there's a giant space empire that declines for vague reasons. he got the idea from rome.
it has one fancy idea which is very bad and is unoriginal. it's that smart people can predict the future non-specifically by looking at history, statistics, patterns, mass psychology, etc
it has some other unoriginal ideas that are not about futuristic science either. like that religious people are blind fools and religion is a tool of social control. it has more or less nothing about future science.
Justin Mallone:
Lame
Elliot Temple:
it has present day morality. but like worse than Trump. it's full of authority, power, biggggggg government (a whole planet with 40 billion central government administrators ruling the galatic empire thingie), war, petty politics, betrayal, etc
Justin Mallone:
Lots of popular sci fi stuff is either current stuff slightly fictionalized or historical allusions
Star Trek notorious for that lol
Elliot Temple:
the best part is it's fast paced.
it covers several sets of major events, decades apart, and is only like 250 pages or something
Justin Mallone:
40 billion administrators lol
Lib dream
Elliot Temple:
the "intellectual" dude with the grand plan and prophesies is so arrogant and condescending and shit. and basically his plan relies on the people carrying it out over 1000 years being dumb b/c he can't predict ppl if they are too smart and creative.
and he intentinoally gives them limited info
he realizes the empire will decline and has a plan to make the dark ages before a new empire be 1000 years instead of 30000 years. this is revealed very early
he says the dark ages are unavoidable
Justin Mallone:
Sounds like he should learn about win win solutions
Elliot Temple:
so you end up with this story set in space with so many planets, galaxies, etc ... so far future they forgot what our home solar system is ... and the declining planets start using oil and coal power b/c they can't figure out nuclear reactors anymore
Justin Mallone:
They lost earth?
Lol
Elliot Temple:
no
they still know where it is and could visit. not sure if ppl live there or not.
it was mentioned as one of the theories about our original home planet
Justin Mallone:
Oh
Elliot Temple:
but they aren't sure if we came from that solar system or several others
Justin Mallone:
Oic
Okay
Elliot Temple:
some idiot is mentioned briefly. he says he studied various scholarly arguments in favor of different home solar systems and weighed the argument quality.
and a main character thinks he's dumb for not visiting the planets and looking for evidence
and teh guy is like that'd be dumb the ppl in the past probably searched the planets better than i would anyway
u can tell the author thinks the book-researcher who won't do archaeology is dumb
Justin Mallone:
If there's some ambiguity in the field it sounds like doing some digging could maybe help!
It's like peoples credulity about secondary sources
I could see interplanetary archaeology being more of an issue than reading Popper for economic reasons tho heh
Justin Mallone:
Elliot Temple:
i'm confident Asimov has zero clue about economics. there are also minor hints he kinda hates trade and sees it as like having some benefits but being an unfortunate thing to put up with temporarily. also wikipedia said he writes in this like school of thot named after a communist so...
it’s hard to find good books
also reviews aren’t a big help
it took me ~2.5 hours to read the book
how much time would it have taken to get an accurate understanding from secondary sources? i think just reading it was better
Justin Mallone:
lol yeah
I was talking with someone the other day actually about how plot synopsis can get basic details wrong
Just like ordering of events
And that kind of stuff
Elliot Temple:
can’t be that big a surprise. ppl also get basic ordering of events from their lives wrong. from earlier today.

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Learning Overwatch

I've been playing Overwatch, a team-based (6 vs 6) first person shooter game. This raises a variety of interesting problems.

There are 23 heroes. To learn best, do you specialize in one or two heroes? Or do you play a wide variety and try to pick whatever is the optimal hero at any time? (You can switch heroes mid game to handle different situations. Hero switching is part of the game.)

Do you practice by playing the game, or do you do something else to practice like target practice shooting or 1v1ing a friend? Do you play more or do you read guides and watch gameplay footage from top players or tournaments? Do you spend time on test experiments to learn details about the game physics?

Do you do your best to try to win every game, or do you sometimes do something for learning purposes which you think can help you win future games?

How much attention do you spend on your mouse settings, your mouse pad, your hardware and frame rate, etc? Or just don't worry about it and play a lot?

Voice chat is integrated into the game and very important for coordinating better teamwork. How do you deal with mean people who insult you? People on your team who get angry and try to lose on purpose for revenge? People who are passive, quiet, and non-communicative? People who don't listen and don't follow team strategies? People who disagree about strategy?

Some of my answers:

Don't get into arguments with your team. Ignore assholes and mute them if they're persistent. (Sometimes I ask people to stop flaming and just focus on playing the game. Sometimes this works but sometimes they just keep at it and respond to the request with more flaming. If I ask someone to stop and they continue then I definitely mute them.) And if you really want to win, it's better not to trigger these people since they're really common. If I play Ana (healer) then basically no one gets mad at me ever, but if I play Widowmaker (sniper) then I get complaints in the majority of games (often there are complaints in the setup phase before the game even starts, so it's not even based on my quality of play). So it's easier to win games with Ana just because my team is happier.

Focus on one hero at a time until you're comfortable with them. It's really hard to learn much if you play a hero for one or two games then switch. It really helps to play at least 100 games in a row with one hero (play them at least 90% of the time, you can't realistically use them 100%), and more is better. (Games take like 10-15 minutes typically.) Once you get a good handle on one hero, then you can learn a second hero. Then a third. And keep going back to the heroes you're good with regularly to stay fresh with them. You learn more by understanding several heroes to see the game from multiple perspectives, but focused practice on one hero at a time is really valuable to learn them initially. Playing all the heroes is a bad idea which will spread you too thin, but playing several is a good goal to work towards. (It's a good idea try all the heroes a little bit at first to see which you want to learn and to learn the very basics of what they do.)

Don't just play the game. Watch a few tournaments to see what good, organized teams do. That's worth being familiar with to get a better idea of optimal play. Watch some pro streams who play heroes you play to see gameplay from the perspective of one really good individual. Try to find streamers who explain what they are doing and talk a lot so you can learn more. Make sure the streamer is a very good and serious player, not a casual "fun" streamer, but it's fine if they are like #1000 in the world, not #5, that's plenty good enough. Read and watch some guides until they get repetitive. Each different information source offers some value and you should try them all, each has its own strengths.

Playing to learn is good (like playing a hero you're less good at but want to practice). But try your best to win sometimes too. Do both. I bought a second account so I can practice on one and try my best on the other.

Playing a lot is important but it's also good to practice specific stuff like aim and 1v1s at least a little bit. It's another information source with its own strengths, so try it a bit. I do recommend focusing on playing the most, but try everything else a bit and see what value it offers.

Focusing on playing and not setup is important, especially when you're new. But mouse settings are legitimately a big deal. Many new players have their mouse move way too fast. Not like 20% too fast. Like 10 times too fast or more. I started out that way because it works fine in other types of games and for regular computer use. I lowered my mouse speed many times. Over time I improved other aspects of my setup, but the rest weren't urgent and could be done gradually so it's never very much of the time spent on Overwatch. (Like play for 20 hours, than spend half an hour improving your setup. Repeat. That's a reasonable ratio. It's worth optimizing stuff if you play a lot, but you don't want to get distracted from actually playing.)

Play the heroes you want to play as long as they are reasonably good. Which heroes are really good changes over time as the game gets new patches. Don't chase what's currently considered the very best heroes. As long as your hero choices that you like are pretty good, just stick with them. And don't play a hero you're bad at just because it's the right hero pick in the situation. You can do that to practice, but don't do it to win. A lot of players pick heroes they suck at in an attempt to win the game because they think the hero is needed in the situation. But having that player on a hero they are good at is way more important than having the optimal heroes.

If people don't communicate and don't do teamwork, you have to try to work with them. Watch what they do and help them with it. It's better that the whole team follows him and does an inferior plan than he just does something alone and dies. It's possible to win if you work together even if it's not the strategy you would choose. But if people are doing different things separately against a full enemy team, you'll basically never win. It's very hard to win any fights against a full team of 6 players without also having your own 6 players all fighting. So if someone attacks at the wrong time, go attack with him too. If you die, so what, you'll just respawn at the same time as him, so it doesn't really matter. (What else are you going to do, stay alive and wait for him to respawn? That will take the same amount of time. You might as well go try since everyone has equal respawn times, there's often no harm in dying at the same time your ally dies. If you lose a fight you lose the fight, it doesn't matter that much if you wait for one guy to respawn or everyone.)


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Meta Discussion Isn't Bad

meta discussion isn't a problem. DD was wrong.

the actual problem is parochial content that isn't of general interest. that includes stuff about specific people, events, times, places, activities (including conversations) that lack objective importance and value.

say a confused idiot is arguing boring, wrong details about a sub-point of a sub-point of a sub-point, and every single sub-point is totally misconceived and he's gone way down the rabbit hole.

it's equally boring if you then reply with parochial meta ("here is where your discussion methodology went wrong when going from sub-point 2 to 3, you should have...") or parochial non-meta (specific, detailed arguments about sub-point 3 that no one cares about because no one else has the same idea you're criticizing because they don't make that exact sequence of errors to get to that bad idea).

you want to say something interesting and important that a third party who doesn't know anyone involved in the conversation could care about. it doesn't matter if this is meta (great tips on writing, on communication, on how to discuss like Paths Forward stuff, thinking methodology content, talking about methodological errors people make, talking about error-correcting methods) or non-meta (talking about parenting, dating, politics, economics, art, programming, gaming). what matters is if it's general-interest or parochial. being about one specific person or conversation is a way to make things parochial, whether it's meta (discussing the conversation directly) or not (the detailed sub-points themselves of the parochial conversation that no one cares about).

another aspect of meta discussion is it's frequently off topic. suppose originally the conversation was about schools, and now it's about discussion methods. that's a topic change. topic changes aren't a bad thing in general. conversations shouldn't be limited to the original topic. tangents should be allowed. however, topic changes can be problematic when people are disorganized which is common. disorganized people can't deal with a branching, unbounded conversation that covers many issues and deals with sub-issues, connections to other fields, etc. the problem here isn't really meta discussion, it's some people lacking the skills to deal with multi-topic conversations at all, whether the second topic is a meta-topic or not. (they'd have equal trouble talking about both school and liberalism at once, because they'd lose track of the big picture and how the two topics are connected.)


do not consider "is what i'm about to write meta discussion?"

consider "is what I'm about to write parochial? is what I'm about to write of general, objective interest to strangers?" also if you're changing the topic or adding an additional topic to the conversation, consider if you and others involved have the organizational skill to deal with it.


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Changing Habits

People often think something they do is bad and then try to stop right away. Like smoking or spending lots of time on Facebook.

Often they don't do anything at all about it for a long time. Then they abruptly try to quit their "habit". (Peeing isn't call a "habit". People usually only call something a "habit" if they think it's bad.)

First they didn't judge their activity. They weren't thoughtful. Then they get super judgey. They think of a reason it's bad and now view it as totally unacceptable.

If something is a significant part of your life, or you otherwise find it difficult to stop, then don't try to quit abruptly.

Pay attention to what you do. Pay attention to how you feel about it. Try to understand why you do it. Try to learn more things about it, both good and bad. Write down factual notes about what you do including thoughts and feelings you have as part of the activity. Think of it as an information-gathering phase.

Don't threaten the activity. Then that part of you will get defensive. Do introspection. Be more thoughtful, present and mindful about it. That isn't an attack. Don't attack that part of yourself.

Once you understand yourself better (gather information for longer than you think is enough) then you can calmly analyze what you learned and consider if you'd like to make any changes and what problems you could run into.

What's good about the activity that maybe you don't want to give up? Maybe you can find another way to get it, and get that working first, and then after that's already successful then you could quit the original activity since you don't need it anymore.

When you quit it should be easy. If you have a good solution then you won't have much temptation, relapses, mixed feelings, etc. If you're running into those kinds of issues then stop trying to quit and go back to the learning-but-not-changing phase.

This all fits with the general pattern I advocate of powering up first (especially by learning) and then doing things when they're easy. Trying to do things when they're hard is inefficient and you'd be better off learning more instead of putting so much effort into doing this one thing early.


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The Myth of Teaching

The thrill of teaching a child to spell.

Children figure out how to spell. They are the primary drivers of their learning. Children make tons of guesses about everything – what letters are, what spelling is, how to spell particular words, why to spell, how organize all the information to remember it, what parent/teacher is trying to say. Children think of tons of criticism of all their guesses and judge which ones are correct and which aren't. With lots of work, children figure it out.

Parents/teachers are helpers who play a secondary role. You cannot literally share ideas with someone. All you can do is make sounds, make gestures, write things down, draw pictures, etc. All you can do is create physical stuff (e.g. sound waves going towards child, patterns of photons with certain frequencies going towards child, or an arrangement of labelled blocks child can touch) which child's senses can detect, and child may then interpret as a communication and try to figure out the meaning of and then try to figure out how it's useful to child's current problems (which parent/teacher has only a vague conception of).

Adults forget what it's like to be a child and massively underestimate how much learning young children do. They don't realize all the details the children have to figure out. Adults take for granted lots of big conclusions they've known for ages. People start finding many of their ideas so obvious and simple that they stop realizing it could be broken down into many little pieces which are actually hard to combine into the right answer.

People have a hard time seeing the world from a perspective that's super different than their current perspective. They don't realize how little of their communications to students actually succeed. Children keep learning things, so parents and teachers assume that they taught the child. But a lot of the time the child figures out most of it on his own, doesn't understand a lot of what he was "taught", and finds a lot of other things he was "taught" useless and unhelpful.


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David Deutsch's Tweets Suck

DD is bad now. There's so many things wrong here!

He said "indeed" to a tweet insulting children. Most people would do that, but in the past DD wouldn't have. He was good about ageism.

He said "indeed" to a tweet no one considers literally true.

He said "indeed" to an exaggerated, ageist, unserious, unintellectual claim that Trump is clueless and incompetent. (Also file that under unoriginal!)

He likes Obama more than Trump. (Previously we found out he likes Hillary more than Trump.)

He says "yes" that Putin is "the worst dictator" which is false.

DD says "yes" that Trump is "befriending" Putin. That's false. Trump is – as he should – having a working relationship with a person his job requires him to work with. Work relationships are different than friendships. Suggesting that Trump is personal friends with Putin is a lazy smear.

From Obama's worst policies, DD excludes: Obamacare, supporting Iran, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, supporting Cuba, open borders, appointing activist leftist judges, and losing the Iraq war. That's just a small start on what Obama did wrong.

DD not only claims that Trump will pursue all Obama's worst policies, but that Trump is even worse at all of them than Obama. This is unfair to Trump by ignoring many terrible Obama policies where Trump is way better. And it's false because Trump is better on every listed policy than Obama. Trump is going to be more financially irresponsible than Obama? Really? I read Trump's tax plan, among other things, and I don't see it. I await DD's considered argument for this claim and the others. But DD doesn't explain serious arguments anymore, he tweets.

DD has become an apologist for Obama and the left. DD speaks imprecisely and participates in superficial commentary. DD no longer cares much about ageism.

I follow DD's tweets and this quality is typical. He used to be a much better thinker.

Update: Here's a second example of low quality DD tweets. From someone else it'd just be expected that they are confused about AI, persons, animals, etc, all of that. But DD used to be good at these things. And he used to be my peer. But these tweets aren't in my league or up to DD's former standards of thinking.


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Scheduling and Thinking

I usually do philosophy first when I wake up, when I'm fresh. This works for me because I'm not sleep deprived. Lots of people have a hard time in the mornings because they are chronically sleep deprived. Getting enough sleep is important to being a good thinker. I wake up without caffeine, an alarm, a shower, or anything to wake me up. I don't keep track, but I'd guess that I average over 8 hours of sleep per day (including naps).

I don't eat until after doing philosophy. (I find I'm not hungry for at least 4 hours after waking up.) When convenient, I use eating, exercising or showering as a break after doing morning philosophy.

Happily, I do contract software work from home and can choose my own hours to work. So I can do philosophy first regardless of what time I wake up, then do software work or whatever else later on. My sleep and wake times vary significantly and sometimes I take naps. I sleep when I'm tired, not on a schedule.

I avoid scheduling many activities. And I get a lot of stuff delivered, including lots of my groceries, so I don't need to go places during business hours much. This improves my sleep and gives me the flexibility to do what I want when I want to.

If I worked a 9-5 job, I would go to sleep by 8pm so I could wake up by 4am and do philosophy in the morning before work.

If you work a regular job, and you want to be a better thinker, I recommend you try something like this. Don't wake up for work. Sleep after work and then wake up long before work. Then you can do your own thing (e.g. study critical thinking skills and read philosophy books) when you're fresh. This can also work with anything intellectual, e.g. if you're writing a novel. It's really hard to do your best thinking after an 8 hour workday.

There are some problems you may run into:

1) Missing new TV shows. You should record your shows for watching later, or buy or torrent them online. You don't have to watch TV shows when they air. If people at work will discuss the show the next day and you want to join the discussions and avoid spoilers, consider watching in the morning. E.g. do philosophy from 4-7:30am, then watch the TV show (while eating breakfast) then go to work.

2) Social life. If you care more about socializing than thinking, you'll want to be available in the evenings when our culture prefers to do social activities. You've gotta choose. You can't be a productive, great thinker; work a regular job; deal with life (load the dishwasher, go to the dentist, etc); and also keep up a conventional social life. There isn't time for all that.

3) Family time. If you need to stay up until midnight to have enough time with your kids and spouse after work, then you aren't going to have enough time for intellectual activities regardless of your sleep schedule. That's your choice. Good luck trying to squeeze in some thinking on weekends, I guess, but that's when you'll be busy going places and doing family and/or social activities that don't fit on weekdays.

4) I need to be at my best at work. If you're especially smart (like most people interested in my blog who want to be intellectually productive outside of work) then you can do most jobs just fine without being at your very sharpest. You aren't being paid extra to work right after sleeping (actually lots of people come in tired in the morning because they're sleep deprived, and that's perfectly acceptable at most jobs). If you're struggling at work, then OK focus on that but don't expect to be very productive on an intellectual side project. But don't give up your own stuff to try extra super hard at work when you're already doing fine, that'll just get you exploited more than rewarded.

Real talk: If you work full time and have a family life and a social life, you're probably sleep deprived already. You've chosen how to spend your time. On the other hand, if you want to do some kind of thinking or creative pursuit, and you're willing to allocate time for it, then try changing your sleep cycle so you can do it in the morning before work, while fresh, instead of trying to do it after work.

All of this applies if you go to school rather than work. And if you don't work, then try getting enough sleep and doing your most intellectually demanding activity first thing after waking, when you're the freshest.


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Questions

I'm asked lots of questions. Writing great answers for all of them would take too long.

I prioritize writing answers I consider interesting or important.

Sometimes I give a short answers or a link. Sometimes I suggest that a friend answer a question. But I still don't answer some questions at all.

My first priority is what I want to answer. Secondarily, I'd like to answer questions that the asker cares more about, puts more effort into, and gets more value from.

Sometimes people ask careless questions. Sometimes they barely care what the answer is. Sometimes they lose interest in the topic a couple days later but don't share this fact. Sometimes they could have easily found the answer with Google, but they don't respect my time. Some questions are dead ends where they have no comment on the answer and no followup questions.

I have limited information about how important a question is to you. You can help with this problem by writing better questions. Here are some things you can do to get more attention:

  • Ask on the Fallible Ideas discussion group. That's my preferred place to take questions and I give it priority. But don't use it unless you read the guidelines and format your post correctly.
  • State steps you already took to find the answer yourself, and why they didn't work.
  • Write well. Use short, simple words, sentences and paragraphs. Clearly mark quotes. Emphasize key points. Do an editing pass to make it clearer and easier to understand. Keep things organized and limit repetition.
  • Make it really clear what the question actually is.
  • Give specifics. I don't have a solution to "I am sad". That describes millions of different problems. (If you want a very general purpose answer like "Then do problem solving." you can state that you want a general case answer with no specifics.)
  • Mention relevant background knowledge you have. If you ask about altruism, I may suggest you read Ayn Rand. If you've already read her, you should have told me!
  • Say what kind of answer you're looking for. What are you looking for? What sort of information would you consider an adequate answer?
  • Say why you want an answer to this question and what problem it will solve for you. Say why the question is important.
  • Use relevant quotes and make sure they are 100% accurate (use copy/paste) and give the source. E.g. if the question has to do with something I've written, link and quote it.
  • Keep it short. If some detailed information is important for reference, put it in a footnote after the question.
  • If you refer to something, and it's important to your question, then provide a link. For books you generally want to give the Amazon link. If it's long, say which section is relevant and explain what information the reference has and how it relates to the question.
  • Sending money, even just $5, sets your question apart from others.
  • I strongly prefer ebooks over paper. They don't have page numbers and do allow searching for quotes. And if you really want me to look at a book and can't find a free link, then buy me the ebook. But it's usually better to just quote a lot instead.
  • If your question isn't answered, look at it from another angle or make some progress on it, then ask another question. Having a question unanswered is no big deal. It's not a negative response or a rebuke. No answer is neutral. If it's important, just reread this guide and try again after a few days.
  • If you have followup questions or arguments that depend on my answer to the question, especially criticism of my ideas, let me know.
  • If you think I need to address this question for Paths Forward reasons, explain that.
  • If you want me personally to answer, say why. Otherwise write your question in a generic way that other people could answer, too.
  • If you think I'll get value from the question or a followup, tell me what's in it for me.
  • Don't be or act helpless or needy, don't act like you deserve free answers, and don't rush and write carelessly.

If this sounds like too much effort to you, then understand that answering your questions is not my problem. But note that you will benefit from these steps too because they'll guide you to do better thinking. They'll help you understand your problem better, make some problem solving progress, and sometimes answer your own question.


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Reactive People

How do you judge (ASAP) when someone is talking to you because they are triggered or reactive instead of out of interest?

People usually respond because they are reacting to something. They feel pressured, they don't like something, or even they do like something. Positive reactions are still reactions, instead of the person being a self-starter who controls their own life. Being passive and reacting to stuff is different than deciding what to do yourself. It's only people who decide to pursue something, because they're interested, who learn much.

There are degrees. More reactive people are worse people.

People do chain reactions. E.g. first they react to an event or situation with an emotion. Then they react to their emotion.

If you ask people, they frequently don't understand the question and give an answer anyway (lie they understand the question and know the answer) or lie (lie they're not being reactive/triggered when they are).

If you interact with someone over time, you can see patterns like they don't bring a topic up themselves, they only talk about it when you bring it up.


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Interests

This is adapted from a Fallible Ideas discussion called "How to help someone find their motor".

How do you tell the difference between genuine vs. cargo culting interests? You don’t give up / lose interest in a genuine interest just because it gets hard or when some passing
distraction comes up and catches your attention.

that describes a big, strong* interest.

lots of interests are genuine but small and/or weak.

it's good to have lots of small interests where you finish quickly. you should have more small interests than big ones. that's part of creating lots of interests. not everything has to be or should be a giant quest.

and it's fine to have lots of weak interests where, if you realize the price is higher than you initially estimated, you drop the project. that's efficient. most of your interests should be sensitive to the time/effort/money/resources involved in a project. you can have a few things where you're like "whatever it takes, i wanna do this" but you shouldn't have that attitude all the time (also you should always be willing to reconsider goals, change interests, etc). it often makes sense to have some weak interest in 20 projects and then actually do the 3 you find to be most cost efficient and drop the other 17. (don't lose track of what you actually like looking for what's cost efficient, though! use cost efficient as a tiebreaker between different things you like about equally.)

small projects often lead to new problems and projects, which are often small themselves, and lead to even more.

people should be interested in problems more than topics. topics are only an approximation of rational interests. super dedicated chess players don't actually like everything about chess, they are more interested in some aspects than others. some chess problems interest them and some don't. saying they are interested in the topic of chess is a reasonable approximation because they are interested in a wide variety and large number of chess problems.

even a very broad problem like being interested in winning chess games is more of a specific problem than chess as a topic. winning chess games covers a lot of material, but chess as a topic includes even more stuff that doesn't actually help you win games.

looking at it abstractly, out of all possible information related to chess in some way, most is not useful to any problem a human cares about. most information about all topics is boring. selecting interesting problems to guide you is crucial to making good decisions about which information to focus on and which to ignore.

anyway, one doesn't just sit down and "study chess". that's either an approximate statement (no big deal normally, but imprecise) or wrong. one studies a chess related problem, e.g. on a particular day one sits down and studies how to win games against the Najdorf variation of the Sicilian defense, which fits into one's broader interest of being prepared to play aggressive e4 openings in order to win rather than draw more games with white and play to one's strengths of fast, open positions. which will help solve the problem of winning chess tournaments, not the problem of knowing every fact, no matter how pointless, about chess just b/c "i'm interested in chess" (no you're not, you're interested in lots of chess stuff, but not all of it!). people often do this is a semi-reasonable way in practice, but don't understand it in words very well, and could make some improvements if they knew what was going on more accurately.

so: find projects to solve problems, preferably usually small ones you can finish. do them successfully. do more. don't look for a whole huge quest from the start if you don't have one. bigger projects may develop naturally as you do lots of small projects successfully and develop various skills and gradually increase the size of project you can confidently complete and handle. those skills include time organization and resource management skills, understanding your interests and what you'll actually do or finish, general purpose get-shit-done skills, and much more.

it's better if small problems you work on relate to a larger interest, even if it's one you're unsure about. e.g. you might find a chess opening interesting to learn about on its own, and it'd also have the additional big-picture benefit of helping your chess game. or if you think you might potentially like to learn some physics stuff, then you could look for little projects with some connection to physics. like anything to do with science, learning, writing or computer skills could come in handy later for learning physics.

What if my interest leads to a dead end?

suppose theoretically you did follow an interest to a dead-end. dead-ends are bad so that means you made a mistake. that leads somewhere: you could investigate why you made that mistake, what went wrong, how to find, fix and avoid mistakes in the future, what kinds of methods and ideas that requires, what errors and error correction are, etc... so it's led to lots of great stuff. so it wasn't actually a dead-end in the bigger picture.

broadly: solutions lead to new problems. in the alternative, lack of solutions is a problem. there's always more problems to work on. there are no dead ends except irrationality (which shouldn't be blamed on the interest/topic, irrationality is about how people approach stuff badly and e.g. create dead ends).


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