tetris and morality

The moral question, How To Live, is hard to answer. But it's especially hard to answer in spoken language. Many of the concepts involved are difficult to put into words. It's hard to find examples that aren't highly personal, and hard to understand for strangers. But I was just playing Tetris, and I think it will do nicely to illustrate a part of the answer.

For those who don't know, Tetris is a game of falling blocks of varied shapes, and you must choose where they fall to make them fit together into solid lines. You have to be quick to decide where to put a block because you only have a limited time before it falls.

Some people might be tempted to pause their Tetris game for every new block and calculate exactly where the best spot is. I'm sure this is possible. However, to get a good score in real time, you can't just calculate exactly what to do.

Similarly, in real life, we never have unlimited time to make a decision.

How, then, do Tetris players play, if not by calculating what choice is best? They use their intuitions. They create various patterns they are familiar with and consider good. And they set specific goals within the game and play moves designed to achieve those.

Example patterns to aim for are: higher on the edges, lower in the middle, or bumpy shapes, or flat lines. Or everything solid except one thin line to be filled in later with a single line piece for bonus points (if you clear many lines at once you get more points).

Example goals to aim for are to uncover a buried hole so it can be filled in, or to not stack more pieces over a certain feature.

So suppose we find ten people with different intuitions and have them all play 10,000 games of Tetris. We ignore the first 2,000 as just practice. During those practice games, players will learn how best to achieve their personal goals. They'll learn all the little tricks that help them get where they're trying to go. They'll learn pattern recognition and come to intuitively respond to all the common patterns.

Coming back to morality, they are learning how to get what they want.

In the later games, we will see some players are better, and some are worse. And we will see they all consistently play in certain ways which they feel are best (they were asked to try their best every game, and perhaps paid depending how well they score).

Each player represents a set of intuitions that together those intuitions are a Tetris playing strategy, and the best strategy will on average score highest. The others are doomed to mediocrity.

However, there's one more thing! I used to create holes to fill in for bonus points a lot, and if the line to fill them in didn't come for long enough, I'd lose (lines have a 1/7 chance to come, but if you play enough, sometimes you won't get one for thirty pieces). I don't do this nearly as much anymore. When I see holes like that I worry.

I used to create flat areas. They seemed less messed up. But it turns out a lot of pieces don't fit nicely onto flat, and work better on bumpy shapes.

I used to put a lot of pieces in the middle if that seemed convenient, or a bunch on the edge if that was. Didn't care which. Now I've changed this, and I go to significant lengths to stack the edges and keep the middle low.

I used to hate to bury any holes intentionally, and would put it off as long as possible, letting the holes get deeper, and sometimes getting out of it, and sometimes getting screwed. Now I do damage control early. I can recover from lots of small problems, but I can't risk any big ones if I want to score well.

So the point is, to be truly good at Tetris, one must change his intuitions, to feel that certain patterns are better, and others worse, than one originally felt. With enough changes, I've found I die much less.

And back to morality, to be truly moral, besides figuring out how to achieve what you want, like, and intend, you must also find ways to change what you want to better things. No matter how good you are at creating holes in your Tetris position in search of bonus points, or how good you are at making flat structures, you'll never be very good.

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screw titles

At a glance, evolution and creationism are at drastic odds. One says that humans are descended from single-celled ocean creatures. The other that God created humans in approximately their current form.

Today, some argue that evolution and creationism are compatible. How can this be?

The way to argue for compatabilism is to assert that a definition of creationism, different from the common sense one, is in fact the correct one. So how are we to judge which definition is right? Let us examine the two candidate meanings of creationism.

The incompatabilist definition of creationism is that God created the world in 6 days less than 10,000 years ago, and created the animals approximately as they are today.

The compatabilist definition of creationism states: God created the world.

It may seem strange to choose between definitions when they mean different things, instead of simply assigning them different words. But ponder this question: which version of creationism should the proponents be defending, if they believe their theory is true and want to understand something through it?

There are two main things to be understood through creationism: Christianity, and physics. Thus, I propose that a bolder and scientific definition with more explanatory power would be better, and also one that matches the Bible.

Lots of explanatory power is preferable because explanations help us to understand. The incompatabilist definition says a number of things about reality, such as the age of the earth. In contrast, the compatabilist definition of creationism tells us very little; it doesn't give any details about God creating the world.

A more scientific definition is better for learning about physics because physics is concerned with scientific questions. To be scientific, a statement must be able to be criticised by observations or measurements.

Boldness is how much a statement exposes itself to criticism. Boldness is good because less bold statements are less conducive to making progress. This is because if one holds a bold theory, but is wrong, one stands the best chance of finding out his mistake and correcting it. By being exposed to criticism, bold, false ideas are best able to be replaced by better ideas.

The incompatabilist definition of creationism is partially scientific and very bold -- it would be proven false if we could show any of the following: the world is older than 10,000 years, the world was created in more or less than 6 days, or animals have changed significantly over the years. In contrast, the compatabilist definition of creationism is unscientific because no measurement or observation could possibly prove God didn't create the world. It is also less bold, because it uses vagueness to avoid being contradicted or criticised.

For creationism to help us understand Christianity, creationism must match what the Bible says about creation.

The incompatabilist definition of creationism matches the Bible very well. Someone unaware of the debate who was asked to write a book report summarising what the Bible says about creation would almost certainly say something similar. By contrast, the compatabilist definition was intentionally designed with concerns other than the scripture in mind, namely how to say something similar to the Bible without contradicting evolution. Thus it matches the Bible less well.

The incompatabilist definition has come out better on every count, and thus we shall use it.


On the incompatabilist side are arguments such as:
1) Without God, why would people act morally?
2) God created the world in 6 days, not billions of years.
3) Evolution says I came from a monkey; I didn't.

On the compatabilist side are arguments like:
4) Why can't I believe in evolution and creation?
5) Maybe God created the Big Bang then let evolution be his method of creating the world.
6) How do you know how long a day is before the sun is created? Maybe the six days God created the world in were billions of years long.

The first incompatabilist argument is a version of this argument: "If I am wrong, the world is grey and gloomy, therefore I am right." This is a fallacy because something depressing could be true.

The second argument is a claim about what creationism says. It matches our preferred definition, so it is strong for the same reasons we chose that definition.

The third argument contains a fallacy and a valid point. The valid point is that creationism says people did not come from lesser creatures, but evolution does, therefore they are in conflict. The fallacy is the implication that you should believe you didn't come from a monkey because this guy says you didn't, which is an argument from authority.

Moving on the the incompatabilist arguments, the fourth argument is ambiguous. It may mean that the arguer sees no contradiction between evolution and creation, thus they do not contradict (a fallacy -- argument from ignorance). Or it may mean that the arguer is not yet persuaded, which is no argument that he is right.

Argument five may seem reasonable, but it conflicts with our definition of creationism. It is poor for the same reasons the compatabilist definition of creationism is poor.

Argument six attacks the meaning of a day. This is very silly, because everyone, compatabilists included, live their lives as if a day is 24 hours long. For example, compatabilists show up for work on time, and do not say on Monday morning, "It's still sunday, I don't work today."

I conclude the incompatabilist position is better. Its definition of creationism is preferable, it has a strong argument behind it (that 6 days and billions of years are, in fact, different lengths of times), and no reasonable arguments for the opposing view exist.


Incompatabilist: A person who believes creationism and evolution contradict each other.

Compatabilist: A person who believes creationism and evolution do not contradict each other.

Physics: The science devoted to learning about physical reality. It contains biology, chemistry and biological evolution.

Boldness is how much a statement exposes itself to criticism.

Scientific Proposition: A proposition that can be criticised by observations or measurements.

Explanatory Power is how much something tells us (about anything).

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liberal icons

so i was reading about MLK and ghandi today. i have the following questions:

can anyone find something persuasive that MLK would have had the same views if he was white? in other words, that he wasn't just yet another guy who wants stuff for his own group.

can anyone find a decent reason for Indian independence from Britain? i've found various damning reasons, but I'm open to there being one with merit.

can you find an argument that any of the following are false?

-MLK wanted money for poor people, and blamed black poverty on whites

- MLK advocated the ideology of victimhood

- ghandi didn't like new technology

- black people are no longer "oppressed" but are still poor. thus proving it's their own damn culture that makes them fail to create wealth that makes them poor.

- Britain's interactions with India were overwhelmingly good for India.

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Liberals Bad!

Here's my entry in Frank's contest:

Ever try to live a good, American life and find things getting in your way? Those things are called "liberals", and they are the enemy! With this shirt you can educate people on the liberal menace: how they try to ruin our lives, recycle our trash, and stop us from killing terrorists. The shirt comes with the following defenses against liberals, which will send them running to the nearest herbal remedy shop: deodorant, reasoned arguments, and a baseball bat. (Note: deodorant and bat not included). Now buy the shirt like a good capitalist!

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Propaganda is everywhere.


Mostly, we talked about school. Kendall enjoyed her classes, and for the first time, she was being challenged by her professors. Gina and I talked about our classes as well, but the difference between college and high school made our courses seem tame.

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I just want to point out schools should use median grades, not mean grades. For example the grades A A A- B C have a median of A-, but a mean of B+. A B+ for getting mostly As is stupid. Or A A A A- A- C C F F can average to a C!! Fs count too much with mean grading.

On the other hand, mean grading is good at forcing children to learn what they hate most.

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pop cult

Q) give two problems with the global spread of popular culture

A) one problem is how to spread it faster, and another is how to spread it to resistant populations like Muslims.

academic A) one is it destroys the environment, and another is it forcibly suppresses local snail cooking traditions.

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a similarity btwn Bush and Hitler

over the course of history, a number of ppl have stood out, and most haven't. most of these key figures helped shape the world as we know it, or at least one country. some were good people; some were mass murderers.

one thing we can say about almost all of them is that their place in history was no accident and was not random. it came from their values, and some sort of skill at something. some skill or set of values shared w/ very few ppl.

even a thug like saddam was *skilled*. and not just at beating and intimidating people. i was reading an interview of him by dan rather in Misunderestimated, and he's actually good at twisting questions too.

anyhow i conjecture that almost all major historical figures were, at least in a few ways, significantly better than avg person of the times. or another way: commoners, by and large, were common.

PS secret police based governments by a minority over a majority only last w/ the consent of the "victims"

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Cartels (right word?) are illegal. They are when all the companies in an industry band together and stop competing, thus acting like a monopoly. The problem is they could raise prices and there would be no competition.

Compare this to unions, where all the workers in an industry band together to threaten companies. Why do unions work? Because they have a monopoly on the workforce -- if companies don't like the demands, too bad, there is no competition.

But unions aren't illegal like cartels. In fact, the left even worships them. I guess because the left hates business so much.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I saw a TV program crediting improved working conditions since the industrial revolution to advocates. sheesh! if the change was just advocates being listened to, then what would happen is a higher percent of budget would go to safety, and less wealth would be created. but we're hella rich today! why? because the overwhelming change was not from advocates, it was from everyone being richer and from better technology. working conditions were poor because we were poor, and there was a high demand for jobs, even bad ones. these people chose to work, and chose to send their kids to work for an extra dime. all the companies did was offer jobs people wanted.

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stupid parents

was swimming. this kid cut swam in front of me ... so i swam around him. his father then punished him despite me insisting i was fine.

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People Suck

A Conversation

curi: I think the notion that taking away freedom from people helps them by making it harder for them to make mistakes is absurd. Even if it did prevent mistakes, it wouldn't be help.

crowd: hmmm

curi: Imagine not being allowed to use computers to help you avoid breaking a computer!

crowd: Yeah!

Lone Voice from crowd: Hey, don't we help children like that?

curi: No!

crowd: Hey, he's right. Yes we do.

curi: I mean we shouldn't do that.

crowd: What!?

Lone Voice: You don't think children should have any rules or boundaries? You're nuts!

curi: I don't think we should make our children unfree.

crowd (not listening to fine points): Lynch him!!!

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