Daring Fireball Misquotes Yankees

Apple blog Daring Fireball posted bad scholarship today:

“It’s a typical gutless act by a cable carrier seeking to promote its own self-interest,” Levine told the NY Daily News. “This amounts to nothing more than a money grab. Comcast, who said it had an agreement in principle with YES, is saving millions of dollars now by not airing YES in the offseason.”
Calling one of Comcast's acts gutless is not calling Comcast gutless.

This kind of sloppiness with the facts is inexcusable. I know it's not the most serious, scholarly blog in the first place, but that's no excuse for misquoting people. And it's a news site which gets access to some Apple press conference invites and review units of new products, so it should at least not post things which are blatantly, factually false.

The false Daring Fireball title is a truncated version of the linked article's title which has the same mistake. So DSL Reports also messed up too, but that's no excuse.

I contacted Daring Fireball about the error and will update this post if it's fixed or there's a response.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

Ann Coulter Mini Biography Article

I enjoyed this mini biography article about Ann Coulter. Read it! I even updated my Fear of Future Employers post with a quote from it.

There was one really bad part that stood out to me. Coulter's father used ~$200,000 as a bludgeon to sabotage her writing career. Sighhhhhhhhh :((((((
After Cornell, Coulter wanted to postpone law school to try to become a conservative writer, but knowing the reality of making a living being as controversial as a lion killer, her father said, "That's fine, but I'm not paying for it if you put it off." So off she went to law school.
Parents are so controlling and awful.

After this, Coulter could easily have never become a writer. She could have easily gotten stuck in law jobs she didn't like. Her wonderful career was put in jeopardy, by her own parent, to protect her employability in a profession she didn't really want to be in.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Parable of the Vases

Ann Coulter tweeted a bunch of praise for A Review of Hive Mind: How Your Nation’s IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own today. She told people to buy the book. And she indicated her agreement with the "parable of the vases" .

I disagree with the parable. Here it is:
The parable begins with a simplifying assumption. This is that it takes exactly two workers to make a vase: one to blow it from molten glass and another to pack it for delivery. Now suppose that two workers, A1 and A2, are highly skilled—if they are assigned to either task they are guaranteed not to break the vase. Suppose two other workers, B1 and B2, are less skilled—specifically, for either task each has a 50% probability of breaking the vase.

Now suppose you are worker A1. If you team up with A2, you produce a vase every attempt. However, if you team up with B1 or B2, then only 50% of your attempts will produce a vase. Thus, your productivity is higher when you team up with A2 than with one of the B workers. Something similar happens with the B workers. They are more productive when they are paired with an A worker than with a fellow B worker.

So far, everything I’ve said is probably pretty intuitive. But here’s what’s not so intuitive. Suppose you’re the manager of the vase company and you want to produce as many vases as possible. Are you better off by (i) pairing A1 with A2 and B1 with B2, or (ii) pairing A1 with one of the B workers and A2 with the other B worker?

If you do the math, it’s clear that the first strategy works best. Here, the team with two A workers produces a vase with 100% probability, and the team with the two B workers produces a vase with 25% probability. Thus, in expectation, the company produces 1.25 vases per time period. With the second strategy, both teams produce a vase with 50% probability. Thus, in expectation, the company produces only one vase per time period.

The example illustrates how workers’ productivity is often interdependent—specifically, how your own productivity increases when your co-workers are skilled.
This is a dirty math trick (using the prestige and authority of math to trick people about a non-math issue) and the author doesn't explain what's going on. The different results are due to different amounts of idle vase-packing labor. In one scenario, A2 sits around doing nothing half the time (a loss of .5). In the other, B2 sits around doing nothing half the time (a loss of .25). A2 sitting idle is a bigger loss. That's all it is. Both potential pairings have a total of 1.5 value. They come out to 1 or 1.25 simply based on whether .25 or .5 value is sitting idle.

This can easily be fixed by hiring more appropriate labor ratios. If you have vase packers sitting idle, hire more vase blowers. You basically want two B workers doing vase blowing for each vase packer, not 1-to-1. They will on average produce one vase per vase-blowing cycle for the packer to work on. Then everything works out OK and, basically, you get the expected results: that 50% efficient workers are worth half as much as 100% efficient workers. (That's ignoring cost of materials, transaction costs to hire more people, needing a bigger factory to fit more workers, etc. When you factor all that stuff in, then yes one 100% efficient worker is better than 2 50% efficient workers. That's not what this parable is about, though).

(This is all on the assumption that people are simply assigned one job and stick to it, and that A1 and B1 do the vase blowing and A2 and B2 do the vase packing. If the packers would simply do some extra blowing when there's nothing to pack, that would also solve the problem and ruin the parable in the same way that hiring more blowers than packers would ruin the intended result.)

It's not efficient workers working with inefficient workers that's wasteful in general. It's people sitting around doing nothing that's wasteful. The parable hides people having time spent idle which is where the entire mathematical difference is coming from.

The book reviewer is very impressed with his bad parable:
To illustrate the latter effect, Jones’s constructs an example, which I call “the parable of the vases.” In a moment I’ll explain the details of the example, but first let me briefly discuss its importance. The example has significantly affected my thinking, and it is one of the highlights of the book. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the parable ranks as one of the all-time great examples in economics. Although it is not quite as insightful and important as Ronald Coase’s crops-near-the-train-track example (which illustrates the efficiency of property rights), I believe it is approximately as insightful and important as: (i) Adam Smith’s pin-factory example (which illustrates the benefits of division of labor) and (ii) Friedrich Hayek’s example of an entrepreneur knowing about an unused ship (which illustrates the value of particular, versus general, knowledge).
This kind of bragging about something that's wrong and misleading is not very notable. What was notable to me was that Ann Coulter was fooled and thought it was a good point.
The example generates an even more remarkable implication. It says that, if you are a manager of a company (or the central planner of an entire economy), then your optimal strategy is to clump your best workers together on the same project rather than spreading them out amongst your less-able workers.
I actually do agree with something like this conclusion, although I don't consider it remarkable at all. But the parable of the vases is a bad argument. A good argument covering part of this issue is The Mythical Man-Month.

I'd add that this point about mixing workers applies to peers. Putting a better worker in a leadership and management role interacting with inferior workers does make sense.

So I propose that instead of bringing in lots of low skill workers here, we should encourage a few top quality Americans to emmigrate and be leaders that run the governments and major businesses of other countries.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (13)

Schizophrenia is a Lie

The video The Last Interview of Thomas Szasz has an interesting story. I'll paraphrase:

For context, the interviewer was bringing up the issue that insane people don't make sense. You can't talk with them. They played a couple clips of some people saying nonsense. So how do you deal with that?

So Szasz says, at 19:15, that he had this same discussion 20 years ago. A reporter from The Newyorker called Szasz and brought it up. So Szasz made a trip to New York and met him for an experiment. They went to central park and found a homeless schizophrenic guy and tried talking with him.

The conversation was perfectly normal. There were some wine cartons nearby, and they talked about wine. The guy knew how to get his welfare check, he'd been in Bellview several times, he gave a long description of how to stay out of the mental hospital (the last thing he wants to be in). He said where he can get a shower sometimes and how he gets food.

But the reporter didn't publish the story. His axe to grind was to show how crazy these people are and how they need mental healthcare. So when the experiment didn't fit his agenda, he didn't publish.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (7)

Leonard Peikoff Says He's Not a Philosopher

Leonard Peikoff is not a philosopher.

I transcribed his podcast, episode 22, starting 4min in:
And the fact is that I'm not an epistemologist, let alone a technical one. The older I get, I realize I'm not a philosopher, and never really was. My real interest in life is cultural analysis. How does philosophy influence, for instance, the rise of Hitler or kind of educational system we have or great plays ... that's always been the kind of thing I've done. The only exception is OPAR, which was pure philosophy, but that was simply paying off a debt. I had to do that to Ayn Rand in exchange for what she had, you know, taught me for 30 years. But other than that I never would wanna write or really lecture on philosophy. I don't see that there's anything wrong with that, but that is just not what I do.
So OPAR isn't Peikoff's kind of thing. Ayn Rand couldn't find an heir who actually wanted to be a philosopher. Ayn Rand couldn't find a better student to teach philosophy to than a non-philosopher.

It's not that Peikoff tried and failed. It's not that he values philosophy, like Objectivism, above all else, but isn't good enough at it. He doesn't even care about it like that.

How can a man like this be any kind of leader in a philosophy community?

How can any self-proclaimed non-philosopher consider themselves an Objectivist? Doesn't he know what Objectivism says philosophy's role in life is? Everyone should be a philosopher. Everyone needs philosophy. Everyone has a philosophy. The question is just how interested they are in thinking it through and getting their philosophy right.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (27)

Alan's Paths Forward Summary

The following is a guest post by Alan Forrester. It summarizes the Paths Forward idea. These concepts are really important and people have a hard time with them, so summarizing is valuable. Here's another summary I wrote.

People say you should be willing to open minded. You should be willing to consider new ideas because they might be better than your current ideas. But people don’t give substantive advice on how to do this.

This is a difficult problem because you only have a limited amount of time in the day, and you may have stuff to do.

What you need is a path forward: a way to advance a discussion or disagreement (including discussions and disagreements in your own mind).

A bad path forward impedes progress by rejecting ideas without answering them, regardless of your reason for doing that. Examples include authority, social status, curation, moderation or gatekeepers.

A good path forward lets you get ideas from anyone. A good path forward always involves discussion because only rational discussion can solve problems.

This may sound like it’ll take a lot of time. But you need not write a fresh answer to every question. You can direct people to stuff that was written before the question was asked. And the answer could also have been written by somebody else. What matters is whether it answers the question, not who wrote it or when it was written.

If you refer somebody to a pre-written answer, you should give specific references where possible, e.g. - a page or chapter of a book instead of a whole book. You should also be willing to fix flaws in those answers.

Good answers will be public so lots of people can read them. They should also be written since written material is easier to quote, edit and analyse in detail.

You should also take responsibility for your paths forward. If you recommend stuff written by somebody else, you should be willing to answer questions about it and address flaws.

Good paths forward make general claims. General claims solve more problems and are easier to criticise than more limited claims. So if they are right they are very useful, and if they are wrong it is easier to find the flaw.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (34)

Optimal Fallible Ideas Post Size and Style

Here are some thoughts on how to write well for the Fallible Ideas Discussion Group. I think people could benefit from using them at other forums, too.

i suggest most of you should try writing most of your posts with the following format:

1-2 sections. (a quote and a reply is one section)

80-400 words per section.

quote at most the same amount as you write, plus 200 words. (not counting attributions. the number of people quoted should usually be kept to 3 or fewer, but sometimes more is ok.) try to think about quoting like you were writing a blog post and consider what quotes you would actually copy into it.

try not to quote partial thoughts from other people. as a loose guideline, a thought is typically around one medium sized paragraph. generally avoid breaking up their text mid sentence or mid paragraph. or if they write several short paragraphs that go together, leave them together. let them say their thought. then reply to the thought overall.

if you want to make a small detail point, you can break in in the middle of their thought. try to keep the break in on the shorter side, and only one break in per thought they have.

some people will take a thought i write and then break it up into 4 pieces and write a bunch of little detail replies. the forest gets lost for the trees. what i was saying gets lost, and the replies don't have a big picture to them.

if you have a lot to say about an email, reply multiple times.

if your thoughts are separate, they don't need to be in the same email. if they are related, but exceed 2 sections of 800 total words, then it's hard to put them together. you're now trying to write something a bit longer, and make it fit together. generally i recommend you don't try that. think about how to separate or shorten your points.

if you want to write something too short, like a one sentence question, or i "yes i agree, go on", then consider what you can add to make it better. replies like that are often boring to everyone except the one person you're replying to.

you can add some extra thoughts on the topic. you can add an explanation of why you're asking a question or why you agree. you can add some additional questions. you can add some clarification of what you agree with or what your question means. you can add an argument you think is true, or one you're unclear about. you can add a statement about why this topic is important and you want to discuss it. you can add a statement about why the audience should care and join in.

don't give up. think about the topic more and make your post better. getting up to 80 words for your section shouldn't be that hard. if you get really stuck, just write that you couldn't think of anything else to say, and maybe a guess at why or how you got stuck. ask for advice how to think of stuff to say, or examples of what you could have said, or whatever you think would be helpful.

also, if you have at least one meaty section of general interest, then having one (or even several) really short sections is way better than if they were the whole post.

FYI this post is around 500 words. 400 words is pretty long. most of you should usually end a section by 250 words.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Donald Trump is a Protectionist

Today, presidential candidate Donald Trump published another policy paper: Reforming the U.S.-China Trade Relationship to Make America Great Again.

I already knew Trump was a protectionist from reading his book:
Fourth, it’s time to get tough on those who outsource jobs overseas and reward companies who stay loyal to America. If an American company outsources its work, they get hit with a 20 percent tax. For those companies who made the mistake of sending their businesses overseas but have seen the light and are ready to come home and bring jobs with them, they pay zero tax. Bottom line: hire American workers and you win. Send jobs overseas, and you may be fine, but you will pay a tax. Also, I want foreign countries to finally start forking over cash in order to have access to our markets. So here’s the deal: any foreign country shipping goods into the United States pays a 20 percent tax. If they want a piece of the American market, they’re going to pay for it. No more free admission into the biggest show in town—and that especially includes China. [emphasis added]
Trump has now both denied and reiterated his protectionism in today's policy paper:
America has always been a trading nation. Under the Trump administration trade will flourish. However, for free trade to bring prosperity to America, it must also be fair trade. Our goal is not protectionism but accountability. America fully opened its markets to China but China has not reciprocated. Its Great Wall of Protectionism uses unlawful tariff and non-tariff barriers to keep American companies out of China and to tilt the playing field in their favor. [emphasis added]
And what will Trump do because China hasn't reciprocated American free trade policies with their own? His clearly written policy is to impose protectionist duties:
On day one of the Trump administration the U.S. Treasury Department will designate China as a currency manipulator. This will begin a process that imposes appropriate countervailing duties on artificially cheap Chinese products
This is a bad idea, as was explained in 1845 by Claude Frédéric Bastiat. I find it interesting that would-be economic leaders, seeking to "make America great again", do not bother to read economics and find out why their plans will actually harm America, as a Frenchman already explained 170 years ago. This is old news – but Trump doesn't know it. Why not? Something's really going wrong here.

Bastiat's explanation is well done. It's clear, easy to read, makes sense, and covers the issue. What more do people want? He actually has a lot of material of this quality which the modern world is ignoring. Here is the specific essay, in full, which Trump's ignorant and destructive policy plans reminded me of. Look how exactly Trump is advocating the same mistake Bastiat addresses. (And Trump has no counter argument to Bastiat, no better ideas to offer. Just ignorance.)

Note that Bastiat has already explained why protective tariffs or duties are bad in previous essays. And Trump claims to know those are bad in general, which is why he denies being a protectionist. The reason Trump advocates protective duties against China is that China doesn't practice free trade itself. Trump claims that free trade is good, but it needs to be mutual. This issue is exactly what Bastiat addresses:

The Bastiat Collection, Part VI, chapter 10, Reciprocity:
We have just seen that whatever increases the expense of conveying commodities from one country to another— in other words, whatever renders transport more onerous—acts in the same way as a protective duty; or if you prefer to put it in another shape, that a protective duty acts in the same way as more onerous transport.

A tariff, then, may be regarded in the same light as a marsh, a rut, an obstruction, a steep declivity—in a word, it is an obstacle, the effect of which is to augment the difference between the price the producer of a commodity receives and the price the consumer pays for it. In the same way, it is undoubtedly true that marshes and quagmires are to be regarded in the same light as protective tariffs.

There are people (few in number, it is true, but there are such people) who begin to understand that obstacles are not less obstacles because they are artificial, and that our mercantile prospects have more to gain from liberty than from protection, and exactly for the same reason that makes a canal more favorable to traffic than a steep, roundabout, and inconvenient road.

But they maintain that this liberty must be reciprocal. If we remove the barriers we have erected against the admission of Spanish goods, for example, Spain must remove the barriers she has erected against the admission of ours. They are, therefore, the advocates of commercial treaties, on the basis of exact reciprocity, concession for concession; let us make the sacrifice of buying, say they, to obtain the advantage of selling.

People who reason in this way, I am sorry to say, are, whether they know it or not, protectionists in principle; only, they are a little more inconsistent than pure protectionists, as the latter are more inconsistent than absolute prohibitionists.

The following apologue will demonstrate this:


There were, no matter where, two towns called Stulta and Puera. They completed at great cost a highway from the one town to the other. When this was done, Stulta said to herself: “See how Puera inundates us with her products; we must see to it.” In consequence, they created and paid a body of obstructives, so called because their business was to place obstacles in the way of traffic coming from Puera. Soon afterwards Puera did the same.

At the end of some centuries, knowledge having in the interim made great progress, the common sense of Puera enabled her to see that such reciprocal obstacles could only be reciprocally hurtful. She therefore sent an envoy to Stulta, who, laying aside official phraseology, spoke to this effect: “We have made a highway, and now we throw obstacles in the way of using it. This is absurd. It would have been better to have left things as they were. We should not, in that case, have had to pay for making the road in the first place, nor afterwards have incurred the expense of maintaining obstructives. In the name of Puera, I come to propose to you, not to give up opposing each other all at once—that would be to act upon a principle, and we despise principles as much as you do—but to lessen somewhat the present obstacles, taking care to estimate equitably the respective sacrifices we make for this purpose.” So spoke the envoy. Stulta asked for time to consider the proposal, and proceeded to consult, in succession, her manufacturers and agriculturists. At length, after the lapse of some years, she declared that the negotiations were broken off.

On receiving this intimation, the inhabitants of Puera held a meeting. An old gentleman (they always suspected he had been secretly bought by Stulta) rose and said: The obstacles created by Stulta injure our sales, which is a misfortune. Those we have ourselves created injure our purchases, which is another misfortune. With reference to the first, we are powerless; but the second rests with ourselves. Let us, at least, get rid of one, since we cannot rid ourselves of both evils. Let us suppress our obstructives without requiring Stulta to do the same. Some day, no doubt, she will come to know her own interests better.

A second counselor, a practical, matter-of-fact man, guiltless of any acquaintance with principles, and brought up in the ways of his forefathers, replied: “Don’t listen to that Utopian dreamer, that theorist, that innovator, that economist, that Stultomaniac. We shall all be undone if the stoppages of the road are not equalized, weighed, and balanced between Stulta and Puera. There would be greater difficulty in going than in coming, in exporting than in importing. We should find ourselves in the same condition of inferiority relatively to Stulta as Havre, Nantes, Bordeaux, Lisbon, London, Hamburg, and New Orleans are with relation to the towns situated at the sources of the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, the Tagus, the Thames, the Elbe, and the Mississippi, for it is more difficult for a ship to ascend than to descend a river. (A Voice: Towns at the mouths of rivers prosper more than towns at their source.) This is impossible. (Same Voice: But it is so.) Well, if it be so, they have prospered contrary to rules.” Reasoning so conclusive convinced the assembly, and the orator followed up his victory by talking largely of national independence, national honor, national dignity, national labor, inundation of products, tributes, murderous competition. In short, he carried the vote in favor of the maintenance of obstacles; and if you are at all curious on the subject, I can point out to you countries where you will see with your own eyes Road-makers and Obstructives working together on the most friendly terms possible, under the orders of the same legislative assembly, and at the expense of the same taxpayers, the one set endeavoring to clear the road, and the other set doing their utmost to render it impassable. [emphasis added]
Trump is that second counselor. He still hasn't thought of an answer to the old gentleman. And who, exactly, is asking him to?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (9)

Angry, Violent Racists

An Ivy League Lynch Mob:
Meanwhile, Yale's Divinity School is now home to Black Lives Matter movement agitator DeRay Mckesson who was awarded a sinecure to promote the violent racist movement.

“Looting for me isn’t violent, it’s an expression of anger,” the guest lecturer recently preached to students. “The act of looting is political. Another way to dissolve consent. Pressing you to no longer keep me out of this space, by destroying it.”
what a world! here's a teacher at major US university inciting criminal violence. and denying violence is violent on the basis that it also has the purpose of expressing anger.

he advocates destruction, which he claims will help get invites into the kinds of spaces that are attacked.

and he's not getting fired for this stuff. he got hired for it!

this is very dangerous. people are getting hurt. more will be hurt. and not very many are doing a good job of standing up against it.

two standout organizations defending civilization are Front Page Magazine and Breitbart News.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

Write To Move Discussion Forward

I just sent this to the Fallible Ideas Discussion Group (which is the best place to discuss philosophy. and everyone needs philosophy. so you should join!) I'm putting it on my blog because it's of general interest. It gives some pointers on how to write at FI which also apply to other forums. And it has ideas for making productive contributions to discussions.

in general, some of the recent threads have had some boring parts. that is ok so far. it's ok to try posting different ways and see what happens. i'd like to suggest some adjustments. i don't expect everything to change immediately and that's fine. but people can start discussing whether there's better ways to post and, if persuaded, start making some changes.

keep in mind that every email gets sent to over 100 people, plus people read on the website. and some people are bad at organizing lots of emails, or deciding what to read. people can get overwhelmed people can click on posts somewhat at random and read a post they aren't interested in rather than a much better post they would have loved. sending out posts has costs. it affects people.

so try to make each post count. try to make it have some interesting point anyone would be glad to have read (at least if they cared about the topic – if you're posting about psychiatry and someone isn't interested in psychiatry, that's no problem, and they ought to just recognize that and read a different post.) or at minimum, keep your post short (including quoting) and have it move the discussion forward in some way. if you need to post some clarifying question that doesn't have an interesting point, that can be ok. try to make a point if possible. try to say something about your thinking. it's possible to ask bad or boring questions. but now and then, only occasionally, a question without an interesting point can be OK. but really look for a point you can make, something you can say, to go with the question, to share some of your thinking on the topic or help explain why the question matters or something. there's usually something worth saying.

and please pay attention to what you quote. pretend you're writing a blog post and then think about what you'd actually copy into a blockquote on your blog. just quote that – the text you're actually replying to that people need to read. if necessary, do some paraphrasing so you can keep the amount of quoting small, like you would do on a blog. if your post is short, e.g. only a few paragraphs of quoting, then you don't worry about this. because like one computer screen worth of quoting doesn't get in the way, that isn't a hassle for people. but once it's a couple screens full of quoting for people to scroll through, then you should definitely be trimming it and just quoting the relevant part.

when you quote a ton, people are going to just skip it. they won't know which is relevant, and won't trust you that it's necessary for them to read all of it. (and they'll almost always be right – they didn't need to read everything you quoted. so that's your fault). please don't do this to people. there's no point having text in your email which no one is going to read (or a few beginners might waste time reading). and what if someone does need some context? what if they need to read some quoting to follow it? then you aren't telling them what quotes to read. if you quote the right amount, the communicates what they can read to catch up. if you quote the wrong amount, they have to figure that out themselves without your help.

and please stop being overly ambitious with posts that have 10 different sections which aren't related. almost all of you you aren't that good at organizing long posts. and most people aren't that good at reading long posts either. try to keep your posts to 1-4 separate sections. 1 and 2 should be the most common, sometimes 3, and rarely 4.

(what's a section? if you quote something and reply, then quote something else and reply, that's two sections. a section is each time you have some quoting and then an area where you reply.)

it's also important not to put 20 hours into each post. don't get prevented from discussing because each post takes you forever. you should try to find a reasonable way of writing where your posts aren't a big burden for you, aren't too heavyweight, and you get feedback frequently. but your posts are also pretty good quality and say something (even if short. short is fine.)

to keep writing time down, keep your posts short but high quality. put a bit more time into quality, but less into length.

try to make your posts focus more on interesting issues and less on back and forth arguing. try not to get lost in arguing details that just aren't that important in the big picture.

in some threads, i've noticed people argue back and forth but the discussion isn't really going anywhere. it lacks a clear purpose and goals. discussions should either keep saying interesting stuff (about topics like economics or parenting or whatever) or else should have some kinda reasonably clear purpose or goal that is being moved towards. don't discuss aimlessly. either try to talk about an interesting topic or else state what your goal is (like to get someone to understand a specific point) and try to have each post move a step towards the goal. try to have somewhere the discussion is going, something it's trying to accomplish (and, often, share what that is).

don't argue just because someone is wrong about something. consider if it's important. consider if it will be useful for you, for the other person, or for the audience. and if you do argue, try to either be clear about why you think it's worth arguing or have your arguments say generally interesting content. (like you can argue by just saying a bunch of cool knowledge on the topic. great. or if you wanna argue with the details of what a specific poster said, that has less general interest, informs people about the topic less, so think about and maybe state why it's worth doing in this case, what you're trying to accomplish, etc)

try to watch out for when a discussion isn't being productive, or when a particular post didn't work well. sometimes you get a reply and you think, "umm, this basically leaves me with the same information as before. it doesn't help me say something better than i could have in my last post". try to watch out for when other people will react that way to your own posts.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (6)

Disliking Gays

People don't like homosexuals because they violate gender roles. That's the reason.

Homosexuals are rebels against society. Deviants who don't conform. Outsiders who resist social pressure. Threats to tradition. (Don't conform to what? Gender roles.)

The group (society) disapproves of disobedience towards the group. Our culture offers certain roles in society for people to live. Society is unkind to people who don't choose and live one of these offered social roles. Other lifestyles are considered illegitimate and receive negative treatment. To be treated well, live in a way the collective approves of.

Disliking homosexuals is a small part of a much broader problem. Conformity – and the ways it's enforced – goes well beyond gender roles.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (19)

Single Pushback Discussions

If you're a parent and your kid wants something, common preference finding usually doesn't mean you have a long discussion. Most things kids want are small and immediate, and can be done faster than a big discussion.

If you think it's a good idea, just do it. If you think it's a bad idea, say this:
I'd rather not do that because [short reason]. If you still want me to, then I will.
Optionally, you might say briefly what you could do instead. Especially if it's a bigger issue, rather than a really little one. But only if you think your kid would want to hear it.

This way, there won't be a long discussion. There won't be a big back and forth. This strictly limits how much your disagreement delays your kid getting what he wants. It keeps transaction costs low.

But the kid does get advice. He does find out why the thing he's asking for might not be good. You wouldn't just want to do whatever he asked without sharing your useful knowledge about it. But you don't want to block him from getting what he wants by arguing a lot.

Suppose your kid wants something and you're busy. Don't ask if it'd be ok to wait 20 minutes, and then he says he's not sure, and then you ask if 10 minutes would be ok. Then you're getting into a discussion that takes too long and is too unclear how your kid can get what he wants (now, if necessary).

Instead, say something like this:
I'm busy. Can you wait 20 minutes? Otherwise I'll stop and do it now.
This keeps it simple. You make one short objection. You give the kid some clear and immediate options. He can have what he wants right now with no further discussion. Or if he doesn't mind waiting, then you can finish what you were doing.

It's important to say stuff like this because the kid may prefer your alternative option. Sometimes he won't mind waiting. You wouldn't want to drop what you were doing every single time, even if the kid could have waited half the time. It's better for both of you if he sometimes prefers for you to finish, when it won't be a problem for him. But you also don't want to put a big obstacle between your kid and getting the help he's asking for.

A reason child may prefer to wait is that parental help is a limited resource. The child will benefit by using it efficiently. Interrupting the parent will use up a bit of the parent's energy, and it'll take some extra time to switch tasks and switch back (like to find his place again, and remember the context, if he was reading). In general, parent will be able to help more with other things if he's got fewer demands on him.

In the examples, the parent does a single pushback on what the kid wants. This gives one opportunity for the kid to get new information (parent currently in the middle of something) or criticism (a reason it's a bad idea), and then change his mind. That's good because it allows for improvement, and without it a worse outcome would happen frequently. But multiple pushbacks is frequently too many and burdens the kid. A single pushback is a good amount to use for most everyday events.

If child agrees to wait, he may change his mind, or parent may be busy longer than expected. If child comes back and asks a second time, parent should help immediately. Don't repeat that you're busy or make a second request for child to wait. This keeps it to a single pushback for the issue and makes it safer for child to agree to wait.

Every single pushback or back-and-forth or layer of negotiation is a big deal. People don't have enough respect for how much that needs to be minimized. You can discuss back and forth more when your kid wants to, that's fine when everyone's interested in doing it. But there are going to be a lot of times when he doesn't want to.

Notice how these statements are structured to limit the amount of times the parent and kid go back and forth talking. Kid makes request. Parent does one pushback. Kid chooses to either get his request immediately or accept the pushback. That's it. And the parent clearly states these options to the kid, so he knows he can get what he wants, right now, without any further arguing or pushback. The kid does not have to argue back against the parent. And the kid does not have to have a discussion where the parent speaks several times.

The kid is welcome to ask for a larger discussion if he wants. He might ask if there's any other options, or can the parent explain more. He might ask a question about what the parent said. He should be told, in general, that he has options like that. But don't state those options every time. Stating two options is enough for small everyday events – with one option being the kid's initial preference, and the other being the parent's alternative suggestion.

Parents should get good at making appealing alternative suggestions without having to question and argue with the kid for 10 minutes and then have 5 tries at telling him alternatives. Parent needs to get skillful at this to reduce the burden on the kid.

It's important the parent be happy. So parents should also get good at being happy to help their kid. And get good at being interruptible during most activities. And get good at thinking, "I got to say why I thought it wasn't the best idea. I got to express myself. But my kid still disagreed, so it must be important to him, and I better help."

It's important for the parent to remember that if he negotiated with his kid more, it'd interrupt what he was doing anyway. Or if he argued with his kid more about a decision (e.g. whether kid can stay up late tonight), then he's making it harder for the kid to be his own person. Parents need to stop having agendas they are trying to push on their kids, and instead understand their role as helpers. Parents should only pushback more than once if they really, truly think the kid will regard it as helpful and thank them for it (right now, not later).

This will not solve every problem parents have. If kid wants a yacht (which is unusual), parent can't just say "I think that's too expensive, but if you still want it I'll buy you one." But it will help with a lot of small interactions.

If you don't know dozens of concrete, practical parenting interactions like this, you could be a much better parent.

And if you didn't know this one, try to understand that you still don't know it after you read this post. It's not going to just instantly work in your life. You might be able to immediately do something better than you used to do. But you're not done yet. Remember it, try it out, see what goes wrong, ask some questions about it, make some adjustments, etc. Then you'll form a real, thorough understanding.

You can find out ideas like this by discussing your parenting and getting tips from other people. And other people can point out some problems you didn't see with your parenting (and you can point out some of theirs, since you'll have different perspectives). And you can ask for ideas like this to help with your life, instead of passively waiting for me to post them unprompted. Take some initiative to get better parenting knowledge!

If you already have some really useful parenting knowledge like this, share it. Other people need it and can offer you refinements. If you have none, your parenting could be way better! Start actively seeking out more knowledge right away!

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

Skepticism vs. Infallibilism vs. Critical Rationalism

skeptics have the idea you can't be sure of anything. maybe you're right, maybe you're wrong. men can't have knowledge, it's kinda hopeless to figure things out.

this is weird because how did they figure it out?

then their opponents, the infallibilists, say they are sure of things.

but sometimes the stuff they are sure about turns out wrong later

both sides have the same hidden idea: that ideas should be proved or established or supported to make them sure or more sure.

and one side is saying we can do that, and the other side says it doesn't work so we're screwed.

the majority think we can be sure. because people do have knowledge. we build computers that work. we figured out how to make airplanes and bicycles.

but the doubters have some good points. there are logical reasons that the sureness stuff doesn't work. no one has ever been able to answer those logical arguments.

another approach is that we don't need to be sure. we can make an iPhone without being sure of anything, and it can still work. sureness was the wrong thing to look for. we should be looking for other stuff instead. so the whole debate was missing the point.

everyone was stuck on this issue for over 2000 years. Karl Popper got it unstuck like 50 years ago.

being sure is like trying to say "this idea is good because..." and then it scores points for every argument you give. people then compare how much sureness or points different ideas have.

the alternative is to look for problems with your ideas. try to figure out what's bad about them. if you can't find any problems, it's a good idea to use for now.

we don't have to be sure, but we can improve our ideas. if we see a problem and make a change to fix it, now we have a better idea than before. we don't know if it's true. we don't know if it has a bunch more problems. but we learned something. we made progress.

if an idea has a problem that isn't fixed, then we shouldn't use it no matter how sure anyone is. sureness isn't relevant.

and if there's no problems anyone knows of, then why wouldn't you use it? there's no objections. so sureness doesn't matter here either.


so there's a cow farmer, and he says he's sure he has 3 cows. but a skeptic says "how do you know you have 3 cows? you can't be sure of anything. maybe you've been hallucinating and have goats"

the cow farmer is saying how sure he is when actually he shouldn't be sure. maybe he DID hallucinate. or lots of other things. there's ways he could be wrong. it's POSSIBLE.

it turns out some wolves ate one of the cows last night, and he didn't check yet. so actually he has 2 cows. he was wrong. he shouldn't have been so SURE.

the skeptic is dumb too b/c he just doubts everything. except not really. it's kinda random. he didn't point out that maybe the cow farmer didn't exist and he (the skeptic) was hallucinating. he didn't worry that maybe he hallucinated his dinner.

the skeptic didn't know the wolves attacked. he didn't have any information that there weren't 3 cows.

he wasn't saying something useful. there wasn't any way the cow farmer should act differently once he finds out the skeptic's idea.

so the guy who was sure was risking being wrong. he can't be SURE there were no hallucinations or wolves. but the skeptic is bringing up hallucinations without seeing any LSD lying around, without seeing any goats outside, without any reason to suspect a hallucination in this case.

this whole thing is silly and is pretty much how everyone thinks.

the cow farmer should say:
i'm not sure i have 3 cows. but i think i do. i saw 3 cows yesterday, and the day before. my family and i harvest their milk and it fills up the right number of bottles for 3 cows. it takes my son 3 times longer to clean up their poop than when we had 1 cow. they eat pizza like normal cows, not sushi like goats always want.

do you have any argument i'm hallucinating? do you know something i don't, which should change my view? do you have a criticism of the idea that i have 3 cows? not a reason it isn't guaranteed, but a reason it's actually wrong?
this way he's explaining why he thinks he has 3 cows, and asking for new information or criticism that would let him change his mind to a better idea.

if the skeptic doesn't have any info or criticism like that, then 3 cows is the best guess (idea). even if the wolves attacked and they don't know that, it was still the best guess given the information available.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

Short Sighted

I have an idea about why people are short-sighted.

it's often seen as kinda just being a bad person. this bad thing that doesn't make sense and isn't in one's self-interest, and people should just stop doing it.

but i thought of a reason it'd happen and way it makes sense. i think this helps explain it.

my theory is people chronically fail to get their preferences met, especially longer term ones. when they try to plan ahead, it doesn't work. this is due to lack of skill. eventually, after many failures, they stop trusting their ability to get good things later. they stop having any confidence that planning for the future will end up working out well.

so they try to get short term preferences met. because it's the only way they get preferences met at all. due to lack of skill.

given the context, being short sighted makes sense. if u only have the skill to get short range preferences met, it makes sense to pursue them and not pursue other types of preferences you're not able to succeed with.

just trying to think more long term wouldn't solve this problem. it wouldn't make them have skill. so the standard advice people get about being short sighted won't work. what's really needed is to improve their skill at managing longer term projects. they need to gradually build up the ability to plan further ahead successfully.

building it up by working on slightly longer range preferences is one of the ways to work on this. keep increasing the time a little bit. plan 20min ahead. then 25min. then 30min. etc. get a track record of success and confidence, and build up the time to longer times. this isn't a full solution though. some of the problems will be related to specific topics, not the amount of time involved.

Edit: added text emphasizing lack of skill point.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

Benevolent Universe

The Early Ayn Rand, in a story preface by Peikoff:
“Good Copy” reminds us of another crucial aspect of Ayn Rand’s philosophy: her view that suffering is an exception, not the rule of life. The rule, she held, should not be pain or even heroic endurance, but gaiety and lighthearted joy in living. It is on this premise that “Good Copy” was written.

... Their objection was not to the story’s flaws but to its essential spirit. “It is so unserious,” the criticism went. “It doesn’t deal with big issues like your novels; it has no profound passions, no immortal struggles, no philosophic meaning.”

Miss Rand replied, in effect: “It deals with only one ‘big issue,’ the biggest of all: can man live on earth or not?”

She went on to explain that malevolence—the feeling that man by nature is doomed to suffering and defeat—is all-pervasive in our era; that even those who claim to reject such a viewpoint tend to feel, today, that the pursuit of values must be a painful, teeth-clenched crusade, a holy but grim struggle against evil. This attitude, she said, ascribes far too much power to evil. Evil, she held, is essentially impotent (see Atlas Shrugged); the universe is not set against man, but is “benevolent.” This means that man’s values (if based on reason) are achievable here and in this life; and therefore happiness is not to be regarded as a freak accident, but, metaphysically, as the normal, the natural, the to-be-expected.

Philosophically, in short, the deepest essence of man’s life is not grave, crisis-ridden solemnity, but lighthearted cheerfulness.
This particularly stood out to me:
even those who claim to reject such a viewpoint [malevolent universe] tend to feel, today, that the pursuit of values must be a painful, teeth-clenched crusade, a holy but grim struggle against evil.
lots of people are scared of embracing FI/reason/etc, they think of it like a holy but painful struggle. that's so very wrong. there's nothing to be afraid of. values do have a chance in this world. try for it.

reminds me of The Virtue of Selfishness, "How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?":
And then, on some gray, middle-aged morning, such a man realizes suddenly that he has betrayed all the values he had loved in his distant spring, and wonders how it happened, and slams his mind shut to the answer, by telling himself hastily that the fear he had felt in his worst, most shameful moments was right and that values have no chance in this world. [my emphasis]
values do have a chance. and like the tramp who steals a ride on Dagny's train says in Atlas Shrugged, make a try for it:
I think that it's a sin to sit down and let your life go, without making a try for it.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (10)