Pamela Geller Misreports Amnesty International

So there I was trying to correct Pamela Geller's poor scholarship for the second time. Then this happened:

If you have difficulty reading the picture, it says I was blocked from commenting on her site. Here is the full text of what I tried to tell her about the article:
> Amnesty International: Palestinians Committed War Crimes, Killed more Palestinian civilians than Israel

> Amnesty International said Thursday that Palestinian rocket fire during the 2014 summer war in Gaza had killed more civilians in the Gaza Strip than in Israel.

These do not match. Killing more civilians "than Israel" and "than in Israel" are different things.

The title means: Palestinians killed more Palestinian civilians than the number of Palestinian civilians that Israel killed.

The text about what Amnesty said means: Palestinians killed more Palestinian civilians than the number of Israeli civilians that Palestinians killed.

Please get the story right. These kinds of details are very important.
An important and helpful comment, right? It's a big difference whether Amnesty said anything about how many civilians Israel killed, or didn't discuss that at all. Well, it turns out she blocked me from commenting after I tried to correct a previous error she made... (Which she did not fix.)


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SENS Against Specialization and Division of Labor

SENS has a budget of around 4 million dollars a year.

from this, they are unwilling to spend much or any on their website. (not sure the exact amount, i know they’ve asked for volunteers, and whatever they bought or didn’t buy is low quality.)

i would strongly suspect they ARE willing to spend some money on an accountant, a lawyer, and perhaps a few other non-SENS-specific functions. as well they should be.

they also should spend money on a website. it’s not very hard to buy quality web knowledge and work. it’s readily available on the market at prices very low compared to the value provided, and easily affordable on their budget.

this is something many other organizations do. it’s not a weird FI-only idea. SENS is frankly just plain incompetent here.

there are some other areas where SENS is making similar errors which are less well understood in general, and where useful expertise is less readily available to purchase.

if you want a good website, you can have that set up tomorrow. it’s no problem at all to find a person or group. if you want a GREAT website, you should shop around some, but it’s not that hard.

what if you want economics expertise? SENS deals with quite a bit of money – around 4 million a year. that’s enough that i think they should spend more than $0/yr on economics expertise (at least if they could find some to hire – which i strongly suspect is completely possible despite the market for it being more problematic than for websites).

further, SENS wants to deal with at least 100 million a year. they have openly and explicitly asked the public for that amount as a minimum for the project they regard as most important (robust mouse rejuvenation). and they want that 100 million budget for 10 years or more. that is a LOT of money. if 4 million a year is too trivial to merit more than $0 of economics knowledge (i disagree!!!), surely 100 million a year has room in the budget for economics expertise. yet i don’t believe SENS would hire economics expertise even at that budget level. they expressed serious hostility to this kind of thinking. they don’t see why people dealing with huge quantities of money would need to know anything about money. additionally, i pointed out that they ought to understand how to use the budget they request BEFORE requesting it, which they were also hostile to.

but actually SENS already has some economics knowledge. everyone who works at SENS knows SOMETHING about economics. it is amateur level knowledge. they are dabblers. they think that’s good enough. they think they are clever enough to get by, and/or economics is easy, and/or what’s well known about economics is all they need to know and knowing anything more would be pointless. that is very foolish.

suppose, hypothetically, that Aubrey de Grey (AdG) is smarter than anyone working in the field of economics. and suppose that AdG puts an equivalent of 2 hours a month of his SENS work into thinking related to economics issues. this is completely plausible. he thinks about money, how to get money, different places money comes from, what to do with money, and so on.

what are the consequences?

nothing but disaster, even though, by premise, AdG is smarter than any economist.

first, AdG is by far the best person to do some tasks – such as explain SENS on podcasts. the consequences are either to do without that, or to have someone worse at it do it. either it’s going to be done 2 hours less per month, or someone lesser to the amazing genius AdG would be doing it in his place – a huge loss. the only way this SENS podcast advocacy would not be lost is if there is something even more important AdG is giving up instead – something where to an even greater extent than SENS podcasting, AdG is the best suited to do it – in which case if he freed up 2 hours per month it would go to that even more important task instead.

second, AdG is not an economics specialist. being the smartest person in the world could not make up for this. why? because the more time you spend on economics, the more you can specialize in the field. if you only work on economics 2 hours a month, for SENS, that will justify very little or no time spent reading economics books. but a specialist, who does economics work for 100 hours per month, could very reasonably also devote 20 hours per month to reading economics books. this is a huge advantage which more than makes up for AdG being the smarter clever person in general. additionally, during those 100 hours per month of economics work, the specialist will gain benefits too. he’ll get accustomed to many common economics problems and get practice at solving them quickly. all that practice and experience and familiarity will help. and the specialist will keep up-to-date better than the non-specialist, because he does frequent work in the field which will benefit from staying up-to-date. and the specialist will be able to have discussions where he challenges his views about economics, tests them in debate, listens to people with new ideas, and so on. why will he find time for those things? because he spends so 100 hours per month doing economics work, any little improvement in his craft will be 50 times as valuable to him as it will be to AdG who spends 2 hours per month. (and actually the difference is larger, because a specialist is expected to know his field, and will care about his reputation in the field, whereas AdG will be recognized as wearing many hats, and barely dealing with economics, and will therefore be forgiven for not doing it as well as a specialist would be expected to.)

so there is a double issue. AdG would be giving up time to do what he’s better at than economics – doing the stuff where is able to get the most valuable work done per hour – and he would also be at a huge disadvantage due to not specializing in economics.

and even if AdG was so great he could do economics work equally well, and twice as fast, as an economist, he STILL shouldn’t do it. because his advantage at SENS work is even larger than that. if AdG can do SENS-specific work three times as well as the next best person, and economics work twice as well, then he should only do SENS work and hire an economist (for twice the number of hours it’d take AdG). That beats having to hire someone to do SENS work in place of AdG for three times the number of hours!

put another way: suppose AdG can create $300 per hour of value doing SENS work, or $200 per hour of value doing economics. i think the real ratio is more like 100 to 1, rather than 1.5 to 1, but this will illustrate my point. And suppose if AdG hires people to do these things instead of him, the best people he can find aren’t as good as him – they can create $100 of value per hour for SENS work or economics work. Then very simply, AdG should not do economics work – he’s better off outsourcing that, even though he’s (hypothetical) the best in the world at it, because his advantage at SENS work is even greater. he is relatively more productive when doing SENS work over economics work. and other people are equally productive. (more realistically, SENS is obscure and economics is common, so other people in general would be relatively more productive at economics work over SENS work, which would only increate the advantage of AdG sticking to SENS work).

this last point i’ve explained is a well known economics concept called "comparative advantage”.

if you ask AdG if he knows what comparative advantage is, and how it works, my guess is that he does. yet i still think it’s important to hire an economics specialist to help advise on topics including comparative advantage. why? because there are different senses of understanding comparative advantage.

a specialist would have an ACTIVE understanding of comparative advantage – he will have used the concept many times in many different situations. he will be able to recognize, pro-actively, many times he’d be able to use it. he’ll have experience stretching it to use in all kinds of cases where it doesn’t obviously apply.

someone like AdG, who spends little time on economics, would have a PASSIVE understanding of comparative advantage. he would be able to tell you what it is IF YOU ASK HIM. he might bring it up himself in a few situations – especially if you asked him about international trade between countries, especially countries where one is at a big advantage (e.g. industrial first world country trading with a third world poor country). That’s the best known context for thinking about comparative advantage, and the most common one discussed when the concept taught. But AdG hasn’t read books about all the other situations comparative advantage is relevant to, he hasn’t practiced finding ways to use it in many situations. His way of knowing what it is if you ask is completely different than superior sort of understanding that a specialist would have.

so even when AdG thinks, “oh i’ve got this, i know what comparative advantage is, there’s no need for an economics specialist to tell me that” he would be wrong.

there is no way SENS gets by with an actual expense of $0 on economics. it is relevant to what they do. they must think about it some. depending on their ideas about economics, it would to some extent lead them to different strategies. and AdG discusses economics in his book _Ending Aging_ very literally – he tries to explain his ideas about the effect on the country, economy (including medical prices), government, and world if everyone had AIDs and we had to produce enough AIDs medicine for everyone. That is very clearly partly an economics issue.

so AdG and/or others at SENS, who are not economics specialists, inefficiently do some economics work, instead of sticking to SENS-specific work that they are, relatively, better at doing. and i think they make some large mistakes due to their arrogance to do work outside their fields. and they are completely hostile to the idea that maybe they should spend more than $0 getting specialist help with economics, rather than sacrificing SENS-specific work to dabble in it themselves. the people at SENS may be pretty smart, but there are very smart people working on economics too, and it’s HARD even for people who study it extensively and specialize in it. it’s completely unrealistic and unreasonable for SENS to be like, “ok we’re doing the most important thing in the world. now for this AIDS hypothetical, and some other matters, let’s try amateur hour. we can probably get away with that. it’ll be fine. and it doesn’t require any humility or respect for other people who aren’t doing what is obviously the most important work in the world.”

all of what i’ve said applies to other topics besides economics. they dabble in many other areas: philosophy of critical thinking, philosophy of science, philosophy of persuasion, political philosophy (they have various ideas about the government and its agencies, and how to deal with them and talk about them), and some rather different fields like how to run a charity fundraiser (an area where they have made big mistakes such as using matching donation fundraising). and what about marketing? they appear completely clueless about that. it’s ridiculous that they don’t have a specialist guiding them to do a much better job with marketing. i’ll let Steve Jobs explain this one:

Becoming Steve Jobs: the evolution of a reckless upstart into a visionary leader by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli:
[Context: Seva is a philanthropy type foundation. They are having a meeting, at the start, about how the make the world better. One of the guys had just been a significantly involved in eradicating smallpox in India. Now they want to make Seva and do more. What would be the best thing to work on? They decide on curing blind people in the third world.]

[Steve Jobs] sat down and started listening. The decision to create a foundation had already been made; the question now on the table was how to tell the world about Seva, its plans, and the men and women who would implement those plans. Steve found most of the ideas embarrassingly naïve. The discussion seemed more appropriate for a PTA meeting; at one point, everyone but Steve heatedly debated the finer points of a pamphlet they wanted to create. A pamphlet? That’s the best these people could dream up? These so-called experts may have achieved notable progress in their own countries, but here they were clearly out of their league. Having a grand, bold goal was useless if you didn’t have the ability to tell a compelling story about how you’d get there. That seemed obvious.

As the discussion meandered, Steve found his own attention wandering. “He had walked into that room with his persona from the Apple board meeting,” Brilliant remembers, “but the rules for doing things like conquering blindness or eradicating smallpox are quite different.” From time to time he’d pipe up, but mostly to interject a snide remark about why this or that idea could never fly. “He was becoming a nuisance,” says Brilliant. Finally, Steve couldn’t take it anymore. He stood up.

“Listen,” he said, “I’m telling you this as someone who knows a thing or two about marketing. We’ve sold nearly a hundred thousand machines at Apple Computer, and when we started no one knew a thing about us. Seva is in the same position Apple was in a couple of years ago. The difference is you guys don’t know diddly about marketing. So if you want to really do something here, if you really want to make a difference in the world and not just putter along like every other nonprofit that people have never heard of, you need to hire this guy named Regis McKenna—he’s the king of marketing. I can get him in here if you’d like. You should have the best. Don’t settle for second best.”
The result? They made Steve Jobs cry (yes, literally) and kicked him out of the meeting (yes, literally). (And then, I take it, did a much worse job fighting blindness than they could have). That’s how hostile and unreasonable they were. They wanted to do this extremely important humanitarian work (their own view), but they absolutely would not consider hiring some world class expertise to do it right.

And SENS, which claims to be basically the most important thing in the world, and which has enough money to hire help, won’t hire top experts either – be it about economics, marketing, philosophy, fundraising, or even making a good website.

By the way, I’m not even going to send AdG a link to this, even though we had a long discussion before. I wrote to him to tell him I’d given up on SENS – and why. He did not reply. He is too unreasonable to talk to, or tell things like this. He won’t listen. I think it’s hopeless. It’s a ridiculous situation. I may well literally die because AdG won’t listen, and yet he convinced me to give up (I just had a some thoughts I wanted to write down, because it’s interesting and I think about things like this, but in another month maybe I’ll forget about SENS).

I could fucking cry.

Steve Jobs apologized to Seva for trying to help. At least I won't be apologizing to SENS.

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Mises Values Philosophy

Marxism Unmasked by Ludwig von Mises (transcripts of lectures from 1952):
THE FIRST FIVE LECTURES IN THIS SERIES will be on philosophy, not on economics. Philosophy is important because everybody, whether or not he knows it, has a definite philosophy, and his philosophical ideas guide his actions.

The philosophy of today is that of Karl Marx [1818–1883]. He is the most powerful personality of our age. Karl Marx and the ideas of Karl Marx—ideas which he did not invent, develop, or improve, but which he combined into a system—are widely accepted today, even by many who emphatically declare that they are anti-communist and anti-Marxist.To a considerable extent, without knowing it, many people are philosophical Marxists, although they use different names for their philosophical ideas.
In a later lecture:
It is impossible to defeat a philosophy if you do not fight in the philosophical field. One of the great deficiencies of American thinking—and America is the most important country in the world because it is here, not in Moscow, that this problem will be decided—the greatest shortcoming, is that people think all these philosophies and everything that is written in books is of minor importance, that it doesn’t count. Therefore they underrate the importance and the power of ideas. Yet there is nothing more important in the world than ideas. Ideas and nothing else will determine the outcome of this great struggle. It is a great mistake to believe that the outcome of the battle will be determined by things other than ideas.
This could have been written by Ayn Rand (who was the best advocate of the importance of philosophy).

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Communists Didn't Mean Well

Confessions of a Philosopher, by Bryan Magee, p 208-209:
When I [Bryan Magee] asked him [Bertrand Russell] who he regarded as the greatest man he had ever met, he needed longer to consider his reply. In the end he came up with Lenin. When I asked why, he said it was because Lenin combined a brilliant mind with genius-level ability as a man of action, and this gave him extraordinary stature and effectiveness as a person. Also, he had changed the entire course of world history in a way few individuals ever do. However, he added, Lenin was not in the least morally admirable: he came near to boasting about the enormous scale of the death and suffering he was causing, and laughed about it in conversation with Russell.

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Political Philosophy Summary

Here is a short summary of my ideas, with an emphasis on political philosophy.

Objective reality exists, and humans can know about it. People create knowledge (learn) by reason. Reason works by evolution, which works by error correction – many candidate ideas/genes/replicators which contain randomness and error, and a selection process that eliminates bad ones. No alternatives to evolution are known. What makes a person rational is that they do a good job of keeping open ways for any mistakes in their ideas to get corrected. Major tools here are keeping an open mind and participating in critical discussion; these contrast with irrationality like being arrogant, over-confident, and disinterested in criticism and other ideas.

Political philosophy and economics do not stand in isolation. Everyone has and uses a philosophy, including when considering political philosophy and economics. The only question is whether they say what their philosophy is, accept the philosophy is affecting their conclusions, and keep trying to improve the philosophy and expose it to criticism, or if they claim a false philosophical neutrality and try to hide their substantive philosophical assumptions from critical discussion.

People own themselves and have a right to property. People should be free to pursue their self-interest and happiness. This will not create chaos and fighting because there are no conflicts of interest between rational men. There is an inherent harmony of mankind's interests, which laissez-faire capitalism facilitates. People benefit more from voluntary trade (which is win/win and creates value) than from fighting with each other (which is expensive and risky, and creates negative total value). When interaction mutual benefit isn't available, people should leave each other alone.

The proper purpose of government is to protect people against force (which includes physical violence, threat of violence, and fraud). Nothing else.

We do not live in a capitalist society today (2015 USA). In a capitalist society, for example, roads and parks would be privately owned, and there would be no anti-trust laws. And there would be no tax-funded welfare or pork barrel projects or other wealth redistribution. And no government bailouts or "economic stimulus" packages.

People are welcome to help others out, voluntarily. There are often good reasons to, though not always, and only for limited amounts of help that won't sacrifice the quality of one's own life.

If I want something that someone else has, I must buy it (with his voluntary agreement), persuade him to give it to me (with or without conditions, barter, etc), or leave him alone (go without it, or find a way to make my own, or hire someone else to build me one, etc).

Reason and force are incompatible opposites. Capitalism is compatible with reason, because freedom best allows for the correction of errors. When force is used, if the idea behind the force is mistaken, it's hard to fix that. It's hard to try out and learn about other ideas while under compulsion. It's hard to argue with a brute thug. In a system of force, the stronger forces his ideas on other whether they are good or bad. In a system of freedom, when people disagree, they can each keep trying life their way, they can resist errors that are merely suggested by others. With rational persuasion, people only change their mind if they think it's better, and change change their mind again if they think they see an error. A rational economic system is an extension of a rational epistemology.

See also Ayn Rand's short summary.

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Discussion: Children's Rights and Other Topics

This post is a reply to three comments from an interesting reddit discussion between me and Dr_Kenneth_Noisewat about children's rights. You can find some of the context on reddit, but they deleted one of my comments at time of writing. Here is a pdf with most of the context without my writing deleted (reddit does not actually allow displaying and entire discussion at once in your browser). In any case, I've tried to write this in a self-contained way. Links to the comments I'm replying to now: 1 2 3.

Update: For posting my reply (a link to this post), I was banned from the subreddit where I was having this discussion, and my reply was deleted. No reason was given. I sent a private message to Dr_Kenneth_Noisewat so he can find this reply. No one else viewing the discussion on reddit can see this continuation. In any case, I can no longer continue the discussion on reddit. Dr_Kenneth_Noisewat, if you don't want to reply on FI list, please reply in the unmoderated blog comments or email me. I hope people learn something about reddit censorship and openness to discussion from these events. Keep in mind while reading the rest: I was banned for linking this blog post.
do you think software pets learn? they store data in memory about past interactions and act differnetly in the future.
Yes, I absolutely think so. While the definition you list here is a little simplistic, I believe it holds true to most philosophical and psychological definitions of learning.
That was not a definition. It was a statement about something software pets do, which is not the same kind of thing as human learning.
This seems to be implying that humans are distinct from animals rather than different by degrees of complexity.
But your definition of human learning can still be refuted by using animal examples. Many animals have language (again in the same degrees of complexity).
No animal has a language in which one can write, or read, Atlas Shrugged. Whatever they have, which you call "language", is a different kind of thing than English.

Note that Atlas Shrugged can be written in Russian, Japanese, Hebrew, French, etc. All major human "natural" languages have this in common. This is not a coincidence, it's because they are universal languages (they can express all ideas which are possible to express in language), whereas the animal "languages" are not universal.
Again, I think this is implying that humans are somehow distinct from other animals, if we can model animals now it is certainly possible to model humans in the future. Some popular theories suggest that our minds are modelable as such. I think some introductory readings on the philosophy of mind and free will might help clear up some of the points that you've made here so far. I'll post a few sources for introductory material below:
The issue is not what can be modelled. The point I was making is that animals only do things which can be accounted for with non-intelligent software techniques. Humans do other things.

You are mistaken that reading those links, or similar things, will clear this up. I am well read. I have a large amount of experience debating these issues. Actually, the only way you will change my mind is by saying something new to me – which means something not found in typical introductory material.

Another issue is that material like this is written from a perspective with a certain way of thinking about philosophy, certain premises assumed, and so on. Which perspective varies some. But they pretty reliably contradict Karl Popper, Ayn Rand, or both, and do not include an explanation of where Popper and/or Rand was mistaken, so it's not suitable to persuade someone who agrees with them about most things.
Hmm, this may have been an issue of clarity on my part for simply stating "mental areas." By that, I mean puzzles and challenges designed to test reasoning, knowledge of causation, learning, and adapting to create new solutions. I highly suggest you check out the movie when you have the time because it'll clear that up. But, even if we could create programs that model animals in this way and outperform children, wouldn't that seem to state from your earlier example about software, that humans are modelable as well?
Watching the movie you recommend won't change anything because I've already seen a bunch of similar videos. I disagree. Seeing more of the same won't change that.

This is a philosophy issue and comes down to issues like: What is intelligence?

I say intelligence is a type of universality – universal knowledge creation. Understanding this requires understanding what universality is, and what knowledge is, which is best done by reading David Deutsch's (DD's) books to begin with. The best known example of universality is universal classical computers – computers which can do any computation which any classical computer can do. ("Classical" here means not using features of quantum physics that weren't in classical physics.) The iMac I am typing on is a universal classical computer. A universal knowledge creator is one that can create any piece of knowledge which any knowledge creator can create. That is what humans are, and what intelligence is. But animals aren't. This isn't a matter of degree. There is no non-universal classical computer which works anything like my iMac, no halfway. DD calls this the "jump to universality".

It's ideas like this which are at issue, and which are not addressed by the material you bring up.
consider reason and adults. you try to persaude people. if you fail, you try to think of better arguments. you don't punish him.
Except we do punish adults for breaking rules as well, especially if they haven't responded to previous attempts at reason. I would like to note here that many of the views I am expressing here are not ones that I entirely support but are more a byproduct of me playing devil's advocate to many of your ideas.
OK good to know about devil's advocate.

In general, we do not punish adults for disagreeing with us. We leave them alone, and they leave us alone. There are ways the government oversteps, but I'm not going to go into those now. I advocate minimal government.

The normal time we don't leave someone alone if he won't listen to our arguments is if he violently attacks us. Then leaving him alone is not an option, by his choice. So we can't be blamed for not leaving him alone, we haven't done anything wrong if we defend ourselves.

Put another way: if he violently attacks us, he excludes resolving the conflict by reason/persuasion or by mutually dropping the matter. If those are options, they are better. When they aren't, force is all that remains to us. (You may be able to run away or something like that. But in that case, he wanted to e.g. punch you, and what stopped him is your muscles not your mind.) With children, leaving them alone actually is an option in most scenarios where people punish children. E.g. if a child doesn't make his bed, the parent could let it go instead of punish.

The purpose of law and punishment in adult society is to protect people against violence and some related things (like threat of violence and fraud). It is not to make anyone agree with ideas or punish them for disagreeing and thinking their own way. If an adult doesn't want to learn algebra, or says he thinks algebra is false, I do not punish him, I leave him alone.
i don't think punishment is educational, only reason is. so if you do something other than reason, i don't think any learning happens.
This seems to imply that learning can only occur from reason. Let me try a counter example: If I place my hand in a fire and burn my hand, I learn to avoid placing myself in direct contact with fire.

Of course, it is also possible to state that reasoning is the basis for this learning in that after getting burned, I think: "fire can cause pain if touched, I want to avoid pain, so I should avoid touching fire." However, I think this may necessarily lead one to accepting that punishment can cause learning in a like way. Say my child takes a cookie that I told him was mine, in return I take one of his toys (while explaining that I am taking something like he did). Now the child can learn "having something of mine taken feels bad, others must feel this way too, I shouldn't steal from others." This I think may be a good middle ground between punishment and reason.
Learning involves creating knowledge. There is only one known way to do that, which is called evolution, or in the context of human thought, called learning. No one has come up with any other way.

Yes I completely agree that there is reasoning involved in learning the pain was due to touching the fire, rather than, say, not touching the fire enough.

In general, if you punish a kid he may well learn something – e.g. that you are mean. If you punish him repeatedly and aren't too inconsistent, he might work out what your punishment policies are so he can predict and avoid it. That isn't learning useful life skills though (e.g. math, physics, programming, art, public speaking, writing, salary negotiation), it's learning how to deal with being subject to authority.

You bring up a special case of punishing: if a kid hits someone, you hit the kid so he can experience that being hit hurts. And some variations on that theme. I agree this is potentially educational, unlike hitting kids in general. You can imagine a kid saying, "Oh I didn't know being hit hurt. Hit me softly, so I can see what it's like. OK now try a little harder. Now try hitting my leg instead of my chest." And then learning from being hit. This involves a controlled environment where kid is in control of the experience. You can imagine how distracting and painful it'd be, and hard to learn anything, if kid was not in control of this hitting.

You can also imagine how tons of times, the kid already knows that being hit hurts (or that having his stuff taken away sucks, etc). In those cases someone needs to learn something else to resolve the disagreement (e.g. the kid might need to learn more about how treating others well is in his own self-interest, or kid might need to learn other ways to get cookies or playtime cooperation or whatever he was after. Or parent might need to learn to buy enough cookies so they don't run out).

Whatever parent does, kid will often learn something, just like kid learns something when parent isn't there. People often learn things in life. But for parent to reasonably be helping educate the kid, and get any credit, then parent needs to do something helpful. If parent does something unwanted by kid, it is unrealistic to expect kid will learn the particular thing the parent intends. If parent wants to suggest a particular idea or perspective to kid, parent needs to be a friend not an enemy.
people (both children and adults) are not logical or reasonable 100% of the time. And if a person is being unreasonable or is not willing to listen to reason, there is little that reason can do to change their minds. That said, I think it is important to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and to use reason whenever possible.
Sometimes people are unreasonable, and there is little you can do to change their minds. Yes. So what? Unless they are a criminal, leave them alone.

And if they are a criminal, don't pretend that defending yourself is you helping educate them. It's not about that, it's about defense, not help, not education.
if they STILL think drugs are a good idea, that's their opinion despite your argument. that's their freedom.
I absolutely agree with you here the problem comes in with the case of children. Children are very impressionable and so if their parents are advocating or at least displaying use of harmful drugs without warning the child of the potential dangers, they are infringing on the child's right to make an informed and uninfluenced decision.
First, no one has a right to uninfluenced decisions. Influences are everywhere. All parents influence. All parents have their own perspective and aren't totally neutral about everything. That's OK!

Now, instead of drugs, let's talk about bleach for a minute.

Child does have a right to make an informed decision about drinking bleach. Parent absolutely must not leave out sippy cups of bleach. He even needs to lock the cabinet with the bleach so his toddler doesn't get to it. And when the child is 12, the parent should have already have informed kid about the dangers of bleach, parent owes kid useful educational information like that.

Someone might say, "What if parent is wrong and actually bleach is good for you?" The general answer is that parent should present to child both his own opinions, and also mainstream opinions. At least two perspectives, not just one. (One perspective is OK when parent and the vast majority of society agrees. And of those cases, kid will sometimes ask for some alternative ideas, minority opinions, more information, etc, but lots of times he won't and there's no problem if everyone agrees.) Also, if society has several popular opinions, share all of them.

This "give parent's idea and society's idea" policy has two main purposes. It means when parent and society disagree, if parent is disastrously wrong, kid gets a different perspective, he has access to an idea that may be better. And it means when parent and society disagree, and society is disastrously wrong, kid can get parent's perspective, he again gets access to an idea that may be better.

Kid should also have access to whatever other publicly available ideas he wants, if he takes an interest in them. And he should be able to browse through them. That means access to library, YouTube, blogs, TV, Google, etc. Also note if the child decides an idea is bad part way through, and doesn't want to hear the rest, I'm definitely not saying parent should force child to sit through a boring lecture so parent does his duty to provide these ideas.

OK now back to drugs. A lot of people think drugs are very very bad. So parent has a responsibility to share this information. Even if parent thinks drugs are good, it's his job to understand, "I may be mistaken. That's conceivable, and could be a disaster if I'm mistaken and I only tell my child my idea. So I should share views from society too. And let kid think for himself, not choose for him."

People's main objection to this will be what if parent advocates something really bad, like bleach drinking (only for children I guess, or else parent would be dead), and shares information about reasons not to drink bleach, but kid agrees with parent anyway. Well what's really going on there if child gets the idea bleach is OK is parent didn't present the anti-bleach arguments fairly. So he did something very wrong with a life-or-death-issue, and stuff like this can justify interventions by the police.

But what if parent has these wonderful ideas about how bleach is so great for kids, and they are super persuasive, and he's right? Well maybe he can explain that to the police, and then they'll be so thrilled they will help him get his kid a truckload of bleach. Good luck with that...
in the free market, racism isn't such a big deal because if Target is racist you go to Walmart instead. the big problem is government racism because of lack of alternatives. one of the big things i'd suggest here is getting government to stop being involved with most of life.
Definitely part of this is due to a simple difference in political philosophy again, but I would continue to argue that alternatives themselves do not solve racism. What if all alternatives are racist? Or what if a monopoly develops and now the racist option is the only choice?
If only a small proportion of people are racist, the free market makes the impact minimal.

If most of society is racist, say against asians, then asians are in big trouble under any system. But capitalism does offer some help here. Specifically, it provides people with large financial incentives to be less racist. If one employer is willing to stop being racist against asians, he can hire them for less money than he'd have to pay a white person for the same work. If one store is willing to stop being racist against asians, he can attract more customers.

What would you propose instead? It can't be government intervention unless you reject democracy, because the racist majority won't vote to have the government to intervene against themselves.
in general i advocte no testing or qualifications at all. let anyone vote. we let stupid adults vote. why not stupid kids too?
This would be a huge problem. As said, children are impressionable, and so if an individual wants to gather more support for their views one simple option open to them would be to have more kids. I'm sure we both agree that this would be disastrous treatment towards children and consequently one of the reasons child labor laws were instituted, to stop people from having children just to make a profit.
No, I don't agree.

To start, one thing I'd point out is in a free society with a minimal government, gathering votes doesn't do you much good. If there's no porkbarrel spending, no wealth redistribution, no policies favoring particular groups over others, then there's a lot less incentive to gather votes. Some things still matter, e.g. there might be a foreign policy disagreement, but in a society where there's no pork being handed out votes are much less of a big deal. The less the government does, and more limited its powers, the less power it wields, then the less anyone will care to control it. Children who aren't allowed to vote are, of course, not at fault for the current welfare state policies where tax monies serve as loot for voting blocks, and should not be punished for that situation.

Having more kids is not a simple option. Kids take a lot of effort and cost a lot of money. A much simpler, easier and cheaper option is finding a bunch of dumb impressionable people and making an impression on them.

And btw many kids don't like their parents and, thanks to secret ballots, will easily be able to vote the opposite of what the parent wants to spite them, without getting caught.

If people took the money it costs to raise a kid, and donated it to a political party instead, that party would be able to use it to get a lot more votes than the one kid could give them. Money already indirectly buys votes a lot cheaper than the price of a kid, because many adult voters are impressionable to TV ads and other methods.

Which is not ideal, but not such a big deal either. If you don't like it, I recommend trying to spread better ideas so more people learn how to think for themselves better, and be less impressionable.
Upon reading some of BOI, looking into your community, reading some posts and other things as you have suggested; I can't say that I was surprised at your views. I had already managed to guess at quite a few of them from the discussion we'd been having.
Good. I try not to hide my ideas. I try to share them!
But, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised to find that you seem to have much more depth and breadth in your studies/research to be labeled as a simple "Ayn Rand worshiper" as I'm sure the community has done, and so I've been excited to engage with you.
Yes, OK. BTW, I think the simple "Ayn Rand worshiper" is more of a myth and a straw man than a reality. I think it's very hard to find people like that. When I go to Objectivist communities and try to talk to people, the most common problem I run into is they disagree with Ayn Rand on a lot of things, and don't know a lot of her ideas, so we're not able to have a discussion about the advanced nuances of Ayn Rand's ideas. If anyone knew where to find simple (or nuanced) Ayn Rand worshipers, I wish they'd tell me. I would like to try talking to some people like that.
I think a lot of the bad blood towards objectivism supporters on the philosophy subreddits is not necessarily the presence of criticism that seem to be ignored. Often times in this subreddit people will come in with a reading of Ayn Rand as their only exposure to philosophy. Yet they will believe every word she says and usually have an attitude as if all the problems of philosophy have already been solved. The community has gotten tired of trying to engage with these people as they are often unreceptive and stagnant towards criticism and other ideas (I apologize for whoever as been downvoting you in this discussion we've been having).
It'd be nice if more people had broader knowledge of philosophy. This applies to people on all sides though.

I don't care about reddit down votes.

My experience is the philosophy subreddits are mostly full of people who have only been exposed to certain perspectives, and not others (not mine). I don't see much difference between that and someone who only knows the Ayn Rand side of things. One of them gave this list:
Plato, Aristotle, Heidegger, Foucault, Popper, Russell, Feyerabend, Kuhn, Hume, Hegel, Kant, Descartes, Ayer, Quine, Wittgenstein, Chomsky, Machiavelli, Leibinz, Locke, Smith, Mill, Marx, Gettier, Rorty, Badiou, James, Whitehead, Dewey, Chalmers, Sellars, Platinga, Reichenbach, Adorno, Gadamer, Benjamin, Foot, Deleuze, Derrida, Sartre, Beauvoir, Camus, Frege, Rawls, Said, Kripke, Nozick, Levi Strauss, Epicurus, Nietzsche, Anaximander, Anaxagoras, Xeno, Fodor and Dennet, with all the commentary from everyone that ever wrote one, and that you read the entirety of the Stanford and Oxford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
I think this is typical and representative of a perspective I've seen many times before.

That is a lot more variety than Ayn Rand's perspective alone. But it's still a limited perspective which doesn't include an understanding of Ayn Rand's ideas, and also excludes some other perspectives. (And in practice, any particular person will only really be familiar with a few of the names on that list, not all of them. And my guess is actually zero of them understand Popper well, which is one of the people who would have provided more useful variety.) And it isn't just Ayn Rand that's missing, it's liberals in general like Burke, Bastiat, Turgot, Menger, Mises, Reisman, etc. Instead they have [Adam] Smith and pretty much call it a day without any understanding of capitalism or liberalism. And when one of these people does learn something about a liberal like Burke, he often learns a particular perspective on Burke, and does not learn the way of thinking about Burke that I would agree with.

The list he wrote is kind of random too. Where's Parmenides? Where's Heraclitus? Where's Thales!? He included Anaximander and Anaxagoras, but not Thales! Why? I understand the theme where he omitted most thinkers I like because he disagrees with their way of thinking, which makes his list less diverse. But the choices of Presocratics strikes me as random.

And where's Socrates? The categorization of Socrates under "Plato" is itself a significant claim; it's part of a perspective I disagree with.

I think it's actually really notable how long a list of philosophers this person wrote while almost entirely excluding the long list of philosophers I like, or have heard of positively and intend to learn more about one day. They have their 30 people they like, and I have my 30, and there isn't a ton of overlap. They claim their perspective is really broad, but they over and over again exclude almost all the people I see value in, while listing tons of people I consider to have value far far below zero.

I'm perfectly happy to accept I have a particular perspective. All I'd say is I do read things I disagree with, and talk with people I disagree with, so I find out about other ideas even though I disagree with them. But I think most people (yes on all sides) actually have more limited perspectives than they think, and don't do nearly enough to find out about ideas they (currently) disagree with.

They should admit their perspective is very biased and limited in some ways. But they won't do that. They want to pretend their list of thinkers is all there is. Because they don't want to have to read and debate the people they don't like, at all. They can't win debates, so they just pretend the opposition doesn't exist.

I think a lot of the bias here is because universities are extremely biased, and the main theme of this thinker list is they are acceptable to universities as important prestigious authority figures. People go to university and the university tells them which 20 people to read, and they read that and think they have a broad education, and never read the type of people who are at odds with the university's point of view, like Ayn Rand.

By the way, I grew up left wing. I changed my mind.

(I am using the word "liberal" with its proper meaning, not the modern American meaning where it means left-wing anti-liberals.)

I agree there are many unsolved philosophy problems (Rand would agree with that too). But I do think some problems have been solved, and that a lot of people deny this because they don't understand the solutions offered by Rand, Popper, and a few other particularly effective philosophers.

I think if people get tired of dealing with the same ideas over and over, they should write canonical essays which address them, then in the future deal with people by providing links. There are rational ways to keep the possibility of advancing the discussion, without doing repetitive boring tasks and getting frustrated. I discuss this in my Paths Forward essay.
This leads to both sides dismissing the other which I think is a bad thing and prevents possible learning or at least productive discussion. But as I said, you seem to be at least extremely more read into your areas of interest than this stereotype that I've depicted. Even if I tend to agree with the majority on the philosophy subreddits about criticism towards objectivism and some other ideas, I respect the amount of effort you have obviously put into developing these positions for yourself, and I think these kinds of discussions can always be a good thing. So I'll just move into some thoughts I had about some of the things I've read and you can feel free to (or not to) respond to any areas I bring up.
OK. BTW, Rand has a lot of ideas, she was a really broad thinker who covered a ton of ground. Some of them get very little notice. I'd like for her critics to sometimes tell me what's wrong with her concept and criticism of secondhand living, instead of just complaining about selfish capitalism. Or tell me what's objectionable about her advocacy of the practical value of philosophy to human life. Or maybe even why she's wrong about atheism! There's so many interesting topics besides just getting mad that she's right wing.
Upon reading the intro and skimming through a few other sections it is obviously a very well written book. The author has an excellent control of his prose (although it may be a little too "grand" for my tastes). But the book didn't ignite whatever compelling spark in me that it has to you and your community. The language was often awe-inspiring but I wonder if a lot of it's ideas held up to the promises of the language.
I don't like grand writing either. I think it's much plainer writing than most similar books, but there's room for improvement. It's noticeably nicer reading than Popper, who is worlds better than Kant to read. Rand is a better writer though, and plainer (but I try to write more plainly than that), though she does have a style which bothers some people.

I believe the ideas in The Beginning of Infinity do hold up, and are very important once studied and understood. Which I've done. And there's no critics who've done that. I guess I should also mention that some of us have had extensive discussions with DD and also he's written thousands of emails to FI group precursors. (There is a 20 year history, but it moved around a few times.) So we know more arguments than fit in the book.

In any case, the basic thing I ask of people is to point out a mistake in the book before giving up – and share that mistake incase there was a misunderstanding or a way the criticism is false. You write more below on several topics, so let's see:
Philosophy: Deutsh obviously has a very strong understanding of Popper and manages to explain his ideas very well. This was enjoyable because often when none-philosophers do philosophy, they either have a poor understanding of the philosophers they engage with or no knowledge and wind up repeating ideas that have already been done way before, missing out on the large body of work already present.
I don't know why you try to categorize people into philosophers and non-philosophers. Nor do I know how you're categorizing. DD is a philosopher. It's hard to imagine what more you could want than all the work he's put into philosophy, before you'd count him. Not that you know how much work he's put into being a philosopher. All you know, I guess, is that he doesn't have a university degree in philosophy. But that wouldn't have helped him understand Popper better anyway, and might well have gotten in the way. And I can tell you he's studied philosophy more than is required to get a university degree, and if you were assuming otherwise I don't think you should have.

In my informed judgment, DD understands Popperian epistemology about as well as Popper did. Better in some ways, worse in others. They're comparable. I think that alone is plenty to qualify him as a top philosopher, though DD also knows a lot of other philosophy (though Popper even more).
His arguments for Popper's ideas are clear and convincing although I'm not sure much convincing needs to be done at this day in age for falsifiability.
Popper has been very badly misunderstood, and many of his major ideas are being completely ignored by academia and most of the world. He is not at all popular, only some misunderstandings and a tiny fraction of what he said is well known.

For example (one of many), Popper solved the problem of induction – by rejecting it, accepting induction as impossible, and proposing a different way to approach epistemology. These philosophers who learned a little about falsifiability are inductivists who absolutely reject Popper's way of thinking, usually with little idea of how it works.

So a huge amount more convincing is needed. Popper was very marginalized during his lifetime and nothing much has changed. Most secondary sources about his work are grossly inaccurate and misrepresent his views. And most introductory philosophy books and courses either omit Popper or only mention him very briefly without explaining much (and if they do say anything, it's often wrong). (I'm not guessing this – I know a Popperian who checked hundreds of university courses and books to find this out.)
When he later goes onto to argue against things like positivism and postmodernism, I don't know if he realizes that these kinds of things have already been critically dismissed by the large part of current academic philosophy. Nevertheless, the arguments provide another mostly-original approach to add to the pile. His whole aesthetics thing felt pretty unnecessary to me especially considering all the literature he is ignoring there, but I didn't hold this issue to be of any critical importance to the book anyway so no big deal.
Yes some specific things are already reasonably well known and common opinions, and DD knows that. They can still be worth mentioning some because of how they fit into the book's arguments and themes, and make it more self-contained. And also to provide a different perspective on how to refute them as you mention, that's definitely important too!
Dichotomies: He has a few dichotomies which I think would be more wise to re-evaluate as spectrums such as the dynamic vs. static cultures and the rational vs. anti-rational memes. Classifying everything as black or white is hard to do and almost always the incorrect approach.
Well, I await your arguments on these points. Things like rational and anti-rational memes have a logic to them for why they have to be that way. A mixed meme wouldn't be effective and wouldn't make sense – having majorly contradictory themes and methods is not the optimal way to outcompete other memes for replication.
The other areas I will go into will be much further out of my area of expertise than this so take my comments with a grain of salt. I don't know either how solid these classifications even are in the first place, but again, my reading time was limited.

Multiverse theory: I'm not a physicist. That being said, from what I've been able to gather from most of these theories it seems as if multiverse theories often lack any additional explanatory power over their opponents. And interestingly, these theories seem to be able to be classified as infalsifiable ones according Popper's own ideas which would seem to be a huge contradiction for Deutsch. But again, I'm not a physicist and these criticisms may be handled in this book or elsewhere.
I agree with DD on this, and know enough about it to debate it with physicists. I'd be happy to discuss if you want to go into details. If you want to really understand it though, I'd recommend reading both of DD's books first. Or at minimum, chapter 2 of The Fabric of Reality.
Beginning of Infinity: This proposal too seems to have a degree of infalsifiablility around it given that we can't ever really know if there isn't more to progress on. Additionally, for someone against induction, this whole idea of the beginning of infinity came off to be to be something more or less induced out of the patterns he explains in parts of his book. I'm sure I'm missing parts of the author's argument here and I would be interested to see if these criticisms have any merit. Additionally, this kind of idea of infinite progress has been theorized over and over by many different people (see: singularity, although there are many different forms of it) and this just seems to be another, although I will grant that it seems to be a little more creative and rigorous than the ones currently out there.
Falsifiability is a Popperian criterion for whether an idea is scientific. Being unfalsifiable is not a criticism of an idea that was trying to be philosophy, not science.

A broader concept is criticizability. Can the idea be criticized? Could it lose an argument? If so, then it's fine as philosophy. Being able to be criticized with scientific tests or other empirical observations is helpful, but ultimately it's just a special case of criticism (and actually as DD explains in FoR, even most scientific ideas are rejected by non-empirical criticism).

I agree that others have had some somewhat similar ideas. I don't see that as a big deal or a problem. There are, I think you agree, differences in what DD says to make it notable and not just a repetition.

One of DD's arguments is to think about what makes things impossible? Laws of physics. What law of physics makes progress beyond a particular point impossible? And if there was one, why that point?
Good explanations: This whole idea just seems a little broad and already intuitive. Of course finding good explanations for things allows us to progress in the areas better explained. Progress leaves us better off, that's the definition of progress. So of course we pursue progress/better explanations because we like to be in a better situation over a worse one. Additionally I would be hesitant to list any single cause for the enlightenment, even if that cause happens to be one as broad as "good explanations" although the approach is certainly a novel and interesting one.
While good explanations seem like common sense, basically no one believes this, or at least they don't act like it. They keep doing explanationless correlation science, for example. Most "scientists" get this completely wrong and waste their careers, today. This is discussed in BoI chapter 12.

It's like trying to advocate for education or rational discussion. Everyone says they already agree and then doesn't listen. Then they do it in ways I consider mistaken. Trying to communicate about issues where people think they already agree, but there's major differences, can be tough. Especially when you just skimmed – I think some of this comes across better when reading the full book.
Overall Impression: He's a great writer and certainly one capable of inspiring others. He is a strong thinker with the ability to apply many solid ideas in creative ways. But that seemed to be kind of it. His "unifying theory" seems to only sort of connect the major issues he goes into and kind of comes off as rambling sometimes. That said, I loved his optimism for the future and even if I don't agree or believe in all of his ideas, I respect and appreciate that kind of progressive outlook.
My main concern is the book has arguments and explanations on dozens of specific topics, many of which I think are valuable. While the book has some ongoing themes and they are important, if you just read it as a collection of separate essays without fully understanding the connections (which is to be expected at first, philosophy is hard), it'd still have high value. Two such topics relevant to this discussion are universality and ape behavior.
Fallible Ideas:
Both space and time are getting a little sort for me here so I may find myself rushing again. I'm unfamiliar with Yahoo groups and so the structure is currently harder for me to navigate and read (one of the reasons why I didn't want to post to the group). But other than that it is an interesting group. I know you yourself seem to have ideas in libertarianism, anarchism, capitalism, atheism, objectivism, Karl Popper's ideas, and possibly some support for futurology (please correct me if I'm wrong, it isn't meant to be offensive). The group seems to be mostly linked to the objectivism and Karl Popper. As you are probably aware, this is not my area of interest but I also don't have anything against it. The one thing I noticed which I hoped was just a mistake on my end was that there seemed to be some favor in shaming others on the group which I found disagreeable. Particularly here and here
You are welcome to post about topics of interest to you, and only read posts about those topics, at the Fallible Ideas (FI) discussion group.

When something looks like shaming, or otherwise mean, it's important to remember that you don't have all the context. For the Alan post, I've known him for over a decade. He doesn't feel shame due to an email criticizing his public online writing/behavior, he appreciates criticism. Alan also would have said something if he'd thought I made a mistake. In the other post, I criticize Frank J. The context there includes that Frank J is not an FI member, so he won't see this. He is a long time public figure, by choice. I and some other FI members have mostly liked his writing for a long time. Further, I didn't explain my criticism (relating to how many children to have) very much because regular readers already know what it is, and anyone who doesn't is welcome to ask. The purpose of the post was to point out an example related to a philosophical point already agreed on, and to express sadness regarding the state of the world and the way children are treated.

Another thing I'd point out is I personally write the majority of posts which could be considered offensive. So you aren't going to participate at the group and be like, "I liked that curi guy, but everyone else here is a jerk." More the opposite.

There are reasons I write as I do, and others do some as well. Some things do violate conventional norms, politeness, and some people's expectations. Some things are Objectivist, some aren't. In each case, I'm open to discussing the matter. One general attitude at FI is that criticism is a valuable gift. Criticism is key to learning and improving, and highly desirable (and watering it down to be "nice" gets in the way of learning for rational people).
Now although my beliefs differ greatly from those on your community I would be happy in the near future to have a discussion some time. I would be open to having a ground up discussion of objectivism especially from a morals/ethics point of view in which I could argue back and forth in a manner like we have been doing here. As long as it remains civil which I'm sure will be the case. If you think your community would have some interest in this shoot me a PM and we can figure out a date or time or something to start it off.
Yes that'd be great. Just post to FI whenever you want. Please note, FI discussions are asynchronous: you post on your schedule, other people will post on theirs. Sometimes there may be delays. Also the main other thing to note to get started is the email formatting guidelines – in particular use plain text and do quoting similar to how you wrote part 1 on reddit, rather than top posting. A difference from reddit is FI emails are expected to be self-contained (leave enough nested quoting for context so it makes sense).

Note FI is very open to a wide variety of topics, and if in doubt about something just ask.
I promise the final part will be very short
I don't really mind length. Which reminds me: sometimes FI posts are quite long. If this is a problem for you, there are a couple things you can do about it. One is to reply multiple times separately, about different topics, to split it into several smaller and more manageable discussions. Another is to only reply about a specific point. Another is to ask people to write less (though they may very well reply that they enjoy writing it, and you can just not read/reply to parts you don't want to, and maybe someone else will be interested in that part).

Also you can reply to a three month old post. You can take your time and go at your own pace. There is no expectation that you keep up, or that you continue discussions promptly. We don't devalue ideas because they were written last year. (This, by the way, is one of the reasons for writing self-contained posts!)
Anyway there are a few suggestions/recomendations I would like to make for you if you don't mind. I don't wish for them to come off as insulting and they may not apply to you but they were just some thoughts/questions I had.
OK. FYI you can't offend me. I'm not sensitive. (This is one reason I sometimes offend people, because I don't spend my time thinking about some of those kinds of issues.)
Burden of Proof: I'm sure you're aware that many of the positions you hold are minority ones in the current philosophical climate.
Yes, I'm aware.
What that will often mean is that you will find yourself making the challenging claim to the current state of affairs. This will usually place the burden of proof upon you. I think this may be another reason the community has been harsh. This means that instead of asking for others for criticisms against your ideas, it will be more effective for you to lead with criticisms of their ideas or with actual proofs to the claims you make. This may help you find a generally better reception here and be seen as someone more open to discussion.
"Burden of proof" is a concept I disagree with in general. I won't get into that now, but there's a specific problem I see here. The "mainstream position" frequently consists of 20 different versions of something with significant differences. If I pick one and argue with it, people say they didn't have that version in mind. It can be necessary to nail them down on what specific stuff they believe before arguing with it. So there's an important reason for people advocating standard views to still state their view, or link a particular statement of it which they take personal responsibility for.

This often comes up with academic papers in particular. Sometimes I just pick a typical one and point out errors. Then people say, "Well, not every paper is perfect, but there's so many other papers reaching the same conclusions." Then, maybe they pick one, and I criticize it too, and then they stop speaking to me. Other times I ask people to pick a paper first, and claim it doesn't have errors (not just like a typo, but errors which ruin the main conclusions), and the majority of the time they refuse to do it. So things can be difficult however you approach it.

In any case, if you want someone to go first on something, just ask. One part of my approach to discussions, which I think should be more popular, is more back-and-forth. It's fine to write a short reply merely indicating you think the other guy should go first on some point. And then he can do so, or ask why, or argue why not, or whatever. And you can go from there. No big deal. Often I say something and don't preemptively include my full reasoning because I don't know if it's wanted, I don't know if the guy disagrees or not, and I say a lot of things and giving full reasoning for all of them would be very long. What I expect people to do is ask for more info about parts they disagree with, ask for more details if they are interested in a part where I didn't preemptively give a lot of detail, etc. I always have more ideas behind what I write, and I can't write them all, but I can add more in the particular areas people ask about.

I think going back and forth a lot in small chunks can help with the sort of issues you were concerned with. And can help with clarifying statements and dealing with misunderstandings. (I know this post is very long, but on each individual topic it's actually small chunks. You're welcome to split it up when replying however. I haven't split it because there wasn't any particular issue I thought I needed a reply about before replying to some other part.)
Studying Philosophy Independently: I get the sense that much of your philosophical learning has been done on your own/outside the classroom. In one way, this is an extremely admirable thing because of the difficulty. And in another way this difficulty can make it challenging to be correct all the time. There was a post a little while ago that I think does a great job handling this: here
Note how I posted in that thread and was ignored. That's typical. It's very hard to get people to join FI (even people who like me and/or are willing to have a discussion with me). And it's very hard to get people to give/discuss reasons why not with any seriousness or depth. If you have any ideas about this, let me know! My latest attempted solution is I wrote Paths Forward and keep linking people to it, but basically no one will read it and discuss. (One thing I've noticed is people treat links completely differently than fresh content, which makes it hard to talk to them because I don't want to rewrite the same ideas over and over. And I don't even really want to copy/paste stuff and lose formatting just for the sake of manipulating them.)

It's very very very very very challenging to be correct all the time no matter what you do.

You didn't link to a specific comment so it's hard to tell which ideas from the reddit discussion you liked. One thing I would point out is that many academics are not famous, and are accessible by email. For example, I had a question about William Godwin, and I was able to email and ask the scholar (Mark Philp) who made the 7 volume set of Godwin works, and he contacted another scholar about the matter and I got a good answer. I was able to have extensive discussion with Thomas Szasz, one of the best recent thinkers, until his death, simply by emailing him intelligently. There is no university professor today I'd prefer to have discussions with rather than Szasz. Another example is that in the past, DD was readily available on IRC – and he's always answered some email. And before email, people like Ayn Rand and Richard Feynman answered some letters from the public.

Of the people who are inaccessible, one should consider: why are they less accessible? Why aren't they open to discussion? Where are their Paths Forward? Are they judging ideas by the source rather than content? They might not be very valuable to talk with anyway. And going to a university would only get you limited access to a few of them. And if you disagree with your professors, because you like Ayn Rand and they don't, you might not get much at all – and it may well be the same with the other students who need perspectives similar to their teachers to get good grades (and btw you might get bad grades for disagreeing about some ideas).

Anyway, learning and getting things right is extremely hard no matter what, academia is overrated, the current design of schools is irrational (a big topic, I know!), and I don't know what your specific point was.

One other thing is I wanted to comment on something said in that thread:
I had a unit called Love and Friendship (it sounds ridiculous, but it was one of the best classes i'd taken) and this guy who is pretty much insane had to do a presentation on Kant's theory of love, or something along those lines, and he started by drawing a map of Australia on the whiteboard. (I live in Aus, but that doesn't make this any less weird), nothing else needs to be said about that guy. We also had a guy legit rage quit because he went on a big rant about how Descartes is wrong and not useful anymore and the lecturer was a huge scholar on Descartes just shut him down hard, guy almost cried I swear.
A teacher making a student almost cry is NOT OK, and not what education should be like. Reddit doesn't seem to mind though. People are so mean. He was wrong, so he should be punished? How is that education? Why not calmly and kindly explain a few points to him? This kind of misguided and cruel attitude to education is common among both students and teachers.

Having mean attitudes to people who present some material you already know (like a map of Australia) is also cruel and a bad attitude. It reminds me of when people made fun of Richard Feynman for going to the library to look up a "map of the cat", and then also complained when he presented information they had already memorized.
I'd like to add one additional thing to the sentiments there. It's not just about being around people that have similar interests to you, but also about the people that have different interests to you. A community of all like-thinkers will have a much slower time being exposed to new ideas to progress, and it will have a near impossible chance at accepting any ideas that are so radically different from the ones the community currently has (no matter how correct/rational the new ideas are).
Yes, that is one reason FI has always welcomed dissent, I frequently invite people who disagree with me, and I frequently search out other communities. That is one reason I posted on reddit recently.
That is one of the main reasons I love the philosopy community on reddit because so many different view points can meet and discuss here.
I'd like it more if the moderator didn't ban me from /r/badphilosophy (no reason given) and threatened to ban me from /r/askphilosophy (no specific reason given, no quotes or examples given) unless I obey some rules he was unwilling to clarify/explain (though I received a PM from someone apparently familiar with the scene, who informed me the actual rule is don't be an Objectivist, which seems very plausible given events so far). The moderator was also used standard dishonest/irrational tactics in the discussion (first he said the problem is that I was having discussions at a place for asking questions, but when I asked about the where the line for too much discussion was, then he ignored that topic and started saying I needed to follow different rules, which he was also unwilling to explain or give any example of me violating). And he waited until he was already on the verge of banning me to speak to me for the first time.

The same moderator stated, "... I can't stand your incessant Randrage."

My intention is to ignore this – what else can I do besides leave? – but I won't be surprised if I'm banned soon.

Most moderated discussion places are like this if you ever say stuff they really strongly disagree with. (I do not moderate my discussion places.)

Even some places which may appear unmoderated are like this, such as Less Wrong. Your posts don't go into a moderation queue there (last I checked), so it might appear unmoderated. But they do sometimes censor Popperian ideas – arbitrarily, not according to any clear written policies. Their written moderation policies try to appear minimal and give a false impression of the actual policies (which go beyond the written ones, which themselves have huge limits, such as any discussion related to politics or PUA may be "suppressed" if any moderator wants to.) And basically the only reason the moderation is anything resembling limited is because they rely on downvotes to shut people up – and if you don't listen to that unargued social signal then people start getting mad and moderators may well start messing with you. So you have a choice between either being "voluntarily" suppressed by downvotes which try to pretend to be soft moderation, not hard moderation. Or if you don't go along with that soft suppression, then you can easily run into hard suppression. So really I'd view it as heavily moderated. I have examples I could dig up if someone is super interested and gives me a short statement of how it will be valuable to them and what they will learn.
The community obviously isn't perfect and niches obviously have their place as well, but I think holistic, inclusive meeting places are the best ones for sharing and debating ideas and one of the best places to learn.
But it's not holistic and inclusive. It has a certain portion of the spectrum of ideas, which stands out to me since I'm not on that portion and was met with great hostility from many people (not you). Another thing that didn't feel inclusive is being limited to 1 post per 10 minutes, across multiple subreddits. With no buffer: if I go to sleep and wake up eight hours later to 18 unread replies to me, and I post 1 reply, then it's a 10 minute wait to be allowed to answer the next one. This is especially inconvenient because reddit has fast paced discussion and people often stop talking to you after a limited amount of time passes.

Here is an example of how unbelievably cruel and cold they can be, rather than inclusive (note that on the reddit site, if you aren't logged in as me, my posts will show up as deleted, even though they predate what claims to be a last warning. And note that I was not told they were deleted – actually that was hidden from me, while I was lied to by saying I'd only been warned so far. And I have no idea what else was deleted, due to the very nasty policy of misleading me about what has been deleted.):

If you have the opportunity (if you haven't already) definitely take some university-level philosophy classes, in particular any upper level moral theories class. With good teachers and decent students, these kinds of classes are often full of some of the best group discussions and learning one can find. And it often provides a chance for many to explore the outcomes of a variety of moral systems. Additionally, if you are an objectivist, ethical egoism (which - in my opinion - includes objectivism as well), is usually the first theory discussed discussed in most classes. So you would be able to almost immediately engage in a topic that is very meaningful to you.
If there is any specific idea/argument you believe I don't know, you're welcome to point me where to find it in a book or video lecture. (Preferably a text format, those are easier to engage with, quote, go through at your own pace, etc.)
One last thing I forgot to add but wanted to because it applies to me too! I'm sure you're familiar with this concept but when reading philosophical texts, the favored method is to read it once charitably, meaning trying ones best to think like the author and convince oneself of the ideas presented before moving on. After that, one should read the text critically, looking for flaws in the arguing and trying to disprove the theory with examples and such. This does not mean attacking the weakest arguments or making them to be weaker (straw man) but instead challenging oneself to go after the strongest ideas.
Improving your opponent's ideas and addressing the strongest challenges is something Popper emphasizes.

But there is a difficulty I'd like to point out. If you clean up someone's argument, and then reply to that version, often they won't recognize it, and will accuse you of replying to a straw man! They may disagree with your improvements. I've found with a lot of people, I have to stick rather closely to what they said, or they won't get it.

Another issue is if you don't give criticism of the weaker version as written, then the person doesn't get to find out about those weaknesses. Pointing those out can help them.

You can try to explain to people why the current version isn't very good, and how to improve it, and walk them through the process and all the concepts you're bringing in to make the improvements. But that can be a big project, and they may disagree with a lot of it. So often you're kinda stuck replying to what they know and think now, if you want to talk with someone. But you still should consider what you see as the best version in your own mind, and discuss it with other people who understand.
I talk about this because it is something most people need help practicing this, myself included. And I think my need for practice showed in what is probably an overly critical and simplified analysis of BOI. I still believe many of those points have merit, but I should have definitely put more work into both understanding and strengthening Deutsch position before making those attacks.
I have no objection to your initial criticisms of BoI as long as you understand and keep in mind the context, e.g. that you hadn't read the whole book and some issue might be answered in a part you didn't read. I think it's good to start discussing things early, so you can clear up misunderstandings quick rather than reading the whole book and building a web of misunderstandings. And what if it's a bad book? Being able to read a little and start a discussion protects you from having to read entire books to judge at all. If you read chapter 1 of a book and it seems to suck, I don't think you should either be silent or read all the other chapters. Talking to someone who's read more can clear a few things up and help you find out if you're missing anything or the book really does suck.

I think it's important to keep in mind context in a huge amount of ways, and keeping in mind the context of how much you know about something and gaps in your knowledge is an important example. But with that said, replying even to simply the very first thing you disagree with (and stopping there for now) can be reasonable and an efficient time management technique.

(BTW, due to the comment length limit on reddit, this would have had to split into 7 comments. I think that's a very bad feature of reddit.)

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Anti-Capitalist Psychology

So there I was watching Apple's presumably-well-paid rich charity icon, Christy Turlington, come on stage and do a bad job of repeating a bad script. While wearing high heels after all that talk about running marathons. Maybe it impressed the target audience. I certainly wasn't the only one who thought it was terrible. A sample:
Apple has reached the "forced fake Q&A with celebrities" portion of its keynote lifecycle.
Tim Cook previously did a cringeworthy skit with Bono, on stage, about that free album giveaway. I guess two times makes a pattern :(

But the purpose of this post isn't to complain about Christy's staged appearance. I had a more interesting thought about it.

Christy has high social status. Many people admire her. They consider her to be "giving back". She's an ideal. They want to live more like her, and they wish everyone else would too. If only more people were like Christy, the world would be a better place.

Except, no. She flies to Africa to go for a run. If everyone did that, the world would be broke in no time. She's only able to do that because other people produce wealth to pay for her lifestyle. Which they do because they like having her as a feel-good symbol, a conversation piece, a pretty girl they have an excuse to look at, a person who spends time learning to give certain types of speeches and getting attention for them, and so on. But not everyone can be a feel-good symbol, with no one to support them. Not everyone can live a rich elite lifestyle involving plane flights, but without helping produce any planes. Until we get much much better robotics technology, someone else has produce the things Christy consumes.

Fundamentally, it's specialization and division of labor, with Christy doing a particular type of labor that's basically in the entertainment category.

My thought is that lefties mix up "giving back" and actual production. They mix up high social status with contributing to society in material ways. They think giving back is production – or even better. This helps explain how they think their fantasy utopias, where everyone lives like Christy, could work. Because they think if everyone would just give back and help raise awareness and so on, instead of being greedy, we'd all be richer and could all just spend our time flying to Africa with a camera crew.

Christy is a symbol and entertainer. Certain misguided people like to see someone living a particular lifestyle, so they pool their money and a lucky winner lives it and the rest follow along on social media, TV, or whatever she uses. This does not constitute giving back or creating more than she consumes. Quite the opposite. People give her wealth because they enjoy seeing her consume it in this way. That's not an ideal, it's not doing good, it's just a fantasy game. It's their right to play it, but if it's part of their mental model that society could and should be full of people like Christy, they are deeply mistaken.

Somehow the left manages to see Christy consuming a large amount of wealth produced by others – a consumption focused lifestyle – as "giving back" and an ideal. I think that's deeply revealing about their economic misconceptions.

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The Uncertainty Principle

Here is a brief explanation of why the "Heisenberg uncertainty principle" is implied by quantum theory. It's not nearly as mysterious as people think. Yes, if you don't have any matrix math background you won't be able to follow this. But you still might see it's just a little bit of math, there isn't a lot of stuff to it. The Uncertainty Principle is not a Principle, it's not a law of physics, it's just one of many results you can work out about quantum theory with a small amount of math:

-- In quantum theory observables can be represented by Hermitian matrices.

-- If an observable of a system can be represented by a particular matrix at a particular instant, then all matrices of the same dimension represent observables of that system.

-- In a state specified by the vector |psi>, an observable X is sharp if and only if X|psi> = x|psi> for some real number x. In which case x is an eigenvalue of X and |psi> is an eigenvector of X.

Now let Y be any matrix that does not have |psi> among its eigenvectors. (For any vector, there exists an infinity of such matrices.)

If the actual state is |psi>, the observable Y cannot be sharp. (Because of the 'if and only if' above.)

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Philosophy Consulting

Need help with a philosophy problem? I can solve your problem. Hire me.

Email [email protected]

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Letter to SENS

I sent the below letter to SENS, which is a medical research non-profit seeking to solve human aging. I like them because they have a good plan for how to do this which makes sense. Aubrey de Grey is their leader, I had a long discussion with him which you can read here.

SENS claims to be basically the most important thing in the world. SENS' web presence is inconsistent with this claim. SENS' web presence communicates low-prestige, low-intellectual-seriousness amateur hour. I offer criticism for several issues, partly on Aubrey's direct invitation, in hopes of helping.

Concrete Examples:

The SENS website LOOKS like a very standard generic format that doesn't stand out at all or get attention.

The SENS website has many basic web design errors such as:

- requires giving your country and even US State to sign up for newsletter. email should be the ONLY required field, period. and don't even ask for stuff like people's zip code. it's not OK to add friction to newsletter signups.

- SENS front page should be aimed at the public. that means you don't put things like "jobs" and "terms of use" there. you put all the stuff the public doesn't care about on an About page or other internal page.

- the February newsletter webpage does not link to the previous newsletter, or the archives, at the bottom.

- SENS has 3 blogs instead of 1 blog with categories. this splits up viewer attention. and since all 3 are very inactive, it just makes them look even more inactive – even with triple content in one place it'd still look bad and like SENS is inactive.

- It just plain looks like a cheap generic site in terms of layout and design. It's hard to explicitly explain why it does, but lots of people can tell because they've seen many other websites that look similar. The look of the site doesn't stand out and doesn't DIFFERENTIATE SENS. It doesn't communicate that this is something special or important.

- The images used look generic and unimpressive too. They don't stand out.

- It's not a .com site. That's bad because lots of people don't understand other TLDs besides com. (People given the website URL in person will literally do things like try to go to or just forget and go to This especially applies to older people who I'm guessing are a larger part of the SENS audience. This issue is well known and makes a substantial difference.)

- The site doesn't have a bunch of awesome impressive essays (or other content) with amazing ideas. Or if it does they aren't prominent and I managed to miss them.

The SENS newsletter isn't even consistently once per month (which would be the bare minimum frequency to not look bad and have people forget about you).

The SENS newsletter looks like a normal newsletter, it doesn't stand out, it doesn't communicate SENS is SUPER FUCKING IMPORTANT.

The SENS contact form looks like a generic "we have to put up a contact form to pretend we listen to feedback" black hole. I don't know whether it is or not, but it looks that way. It looks generic and boring, and like you won't get a reply just like you don't from many other organizations. And it even adds annoying friction like making you categorize your inquiry – which is asking people, if they want to contact SENS at all, to do extra work which they aren't good at and don't want to do.

The SENS website homepage links to the SENS subreddit. This is not OK because that subreddit is very inactive (the 15th highest submission is 3 months old!). Do not send homepage visitors to a dead site, only link them places they should actually go and will be glad they went.

When you claim SENS is super duper important, but lots of the stuff you do implicitly contradicts, you destroy your own credibility and drive away most people.

Here's an example of acting inconsistently with your claims from Facebook:

Jonathan Weaver That's $10,000 in 2-3 days. Nice booster.
Like · Reply · December 5, 2014 at 6:45am

SENS Foundation Jonathan Weaver That's right! We're very thankful.
Like · Reply · December 5, 2014 at 8:31am

SENS claims to need something like $100,000,000/yr for the RMR project to go full speed and save everyone's lives. 10k/2.5 days would be too little by a factor of 68 if you got it constantly all year. 10k fundraising also just looks bad for being a small amount of money, all kinds of unimportant projects get more than 10k on kickstarter in 2-3 days. By being happy with a small amount, you accept it as appropriate to SENS, and accept a status below all sorts of stuff that can raise more.

If you really think you need 100mil/yr or MILLIONS OF PEOPLE DIE (which is what even a few year delay for SENS means), then sound the alarm instead of saying you're happy with an amount of fundraising that kills millions. When you act happy with pennies, you are telling people SENS isn't really that big a deal.

You may doubt the importance of these things. Keep in mind the cultural context. People don't expect to be listened to. If SENS is any different (which I'm unclear on), you have to shout it from the rooftops before anyone will notice. You have to make the difference extremely clear.

When Joe Random has what he thinks is a good idea, he knows he'll have a hell of a time getting anyone to listen, be it a big company, a small company, a scientist, a politician, etc. It's true that the majority of Joe Randoms have bad ideas, but some have good ideas and some others could learn to have good ideas with some pointers in the right directions. If you want Joe to communicate with SENS, you have to get his attention, not blend in with every other organization that he expects to ignore him.

I posted at the subreddit per Aubrey's recommendation and got replies which said, basically:

1) Leave and email Aubrey personally (or Michael Rae or SENS) instead.

2) Leave and go to the longevity subreddit which is more active. [Note: the longevity subreddit isn't really active either.]

3) I like SENS but got discouraged from the SENS subreddit because my posts kept getting downvoted.

4) You could try posting here and hope that somehow things will work out, contrary to your reasonable expectation.

I was not impressed. And the subreddit does nothing to stand out and communicate SENS IS IMPORTANT.

I think the talk to Aubrey/Michael personally plan is problematic because they are busy. For SENS to succeed on a big scale, there needs to be division of labor rather than expecting Aubrey/Michael to do most stuff personally. It also communicates that SENS is small time and un-prestigious if it doesn't have anyone below the top people to answer questions and have discussions with the public – there should be tiers with only a few things being escalated to the top people.

I checked the SENS Facebook page that Aubrey mentioned. It, again, does nothing to stand out and communicate that SENS is something different that's really important. It's more active than the subreddit. I dislike Facebook so I'm not familiar enough with Facebook pages to say if the activity level is OK or not, but it's definitely not GREAT.

I'd like to differentiate between three different styles of promoting SENS. Three categories of how to approach this. SENS is not doing well for any of them.

Style 1) Prestige

Impress people and say how SENS is smarter than you, and works with prestigious people and has a fancy reputation, etc, etc

This is irrational and will alienate the best and smartest people, but will impress the second tier people. It could work I guess (I'm not a fan of this style and don't recommend it).

SENS does some stuff clearly in this direction, but overall isn't good at this. An example in this style is writing, "Extramural research at PRESTIGIOUS universities and other state-of-the-art laboratory facilities throughout the world". Which isn't even well done, it's crude and blatant. Achieving prestige works better with more subtlety.

Style 2) Generic

You can just be yet another charity organization for yet another undifferentiated cause and try to get somewhere anyway. Some organizations have success with this. They aren't super important, they aren't super prestigious, but they put in the work and get somewhere.

SENS does some stuff in this direction (e.g. runs yet another small stakes matching fundraising), but isn't by any means great at it. For example the website isn't very well done, nor the subreddit, blog or newsletter.

Note, btw, that matching donation drives are bad and should not be done. See:

I tried explaining the problems with matching donations to "Reason" (the Fight Aging guy) at more length at the GRG email group but he was unwilling to address/discuss the problem.

Style 3) Reason

The third style is to focus on ideas and the intellect. Really seriously, not in the token way that's common. Here is one way to do this to give you the flavor:

Have high quality public discussions and challenge the entire public to offer any criticism of SENS, and answer every single criticism so you can honestly say there are literally no unanswered criticisms of SENS.

Saying that properly requires not just answering all the criticisms you know of, but also making a serious effort to seek them out in the first place, which involves, for example, having discussion forum of some kind for people to post criticisms at where they expect to be heard and taken seriously. For criticism to be fully possible, you also have to answer questions so people can get you to take stances on every issue and potentially criticize your answers to the questions. They have to be able to draw out more claims from you and get things clarified.

This approach isn't just about telling people SENS is super important and intellectually correct, and acting the part. It also means SENS will get all kinds of ideas, suggestions, comments, feedback and criticism from the public. And some of it will be correct and SENS will learn something too. And it also means one member of the public can answer the question of another member of the public – there can be an interested group of people being helpful.

Broadly, I would say if people are too damn stupid and irrational and have no interest in thinking, SENS is pretty screwed anyway. But I don't think they all are, and I think you ought to try and give people the benefit of the doubt and stop treating them like they are beneath you. I think SENS ought to take the position that people really do have minds, and they matter – if they don't there honestly isn't much point in saving their lives anyway. Don't just ask for monetary donations, show you care about ideas by seeking them out too.

Note these 3 styles are incompatible. The prestige approach appeals to the irrational side of people. Focusing on reason isn't generic, it would stand out. Being generic isn't prestigious. So it's important to pick something and focus, rather than do a little of everything badly.

I recommend the Reason style because it's the only one where SENS is at an advantage. SENS does not have the most expertise at impressing fools with prestige, or at grassroots hard work and community building and running charities. And SENS has no inherent advantage at those activities. That SENS could save millions of lives, and has some good arguments for its importance, is only a major advantage intellectually. In the prestige and generic games, people with much worse causes will say they are important too or whatever else, and since there isn't an intellectual atmosphere they can get away with those claims.

I think SENS should focus on where it has a large advantage over almost all rivals. (I am not personally convinced SENS is the most important cause in the world. But I agree it's a top cause, much better than the vast majority of causes.)

As a separate topic, consider that SENS would like a LOT of money. Like $100,000,000/yr for a decade. SENS, therefore, could use knowledge about money and economics. This kind of knowledge is necessary to use the money well. Consider that you wouldn't want an economically illiterate person deciding how to spend a million dollars. Well, at the billion dollar level, you wouldn't want a person with, say, "above average" economics knowledge either, you'd want world class knowledge to be involved. And it really helps to know how to deal with this money before asking for it, instead of telling people to trust that you'll figure it out correctly after getting it. And understanding these things is important for speaking intelligently to potential donors about these subjects.

This means, for example, familiarity with economics books such as _Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics_ and _Human Action_ (the best two major economics books). Preferably much more.

This does NOT mean that Aubrey should read those books. Understanding economics (not just reading a few books but studying it enough to really understand the material) is HARD and TIME CONSUMING. Therefore, it is an appropriate area for specialization and division of labor. SENS should have access to SOMEONE who knows this stuff, and who can relay important points to Aubrey and others when they are relevant.

Economics is not something everyone should learn, but it is important to basically everyone, and certainly to SENS which wants to deal with huge quantities of wealth. This is just like science: not everyone should be a scientist, division of labor is good, but science is important to everyone (and many organizations ought to have science advisors of some sort).

Similar lines of reasoning apply to quite a few other areas besides economics, such as epistemology (an understanding of the best methods of reasoning, and of philosophy of science, are two things that could aid SENS), moral philosophy (some of the objections to SENS involve moral issues), political philosophy (some actual and potential SENS projects involve the government), and computer science (maybe instead of preserving our bodies, we should upload our minds into computers. if we could accomplish that faster and cheaper than SENS, it could be the better option).

For each area, there are ongoing debates about which ideas in the field are right, which specialist experts are actually fools in disguise, which books are good, and so on. How is SENS to deal with this?

There is no way other than open rational public discussion. It leads back into the issue of discussion. Get a SENS economics expert who will address all public criticism, address all questions and issues about his economics claims, and so on. Open-ended rational discussion addressing all the issues is the only way to sort out the messes in all the various fields full of disagreement. I know this is hard and not SENS' expertise, but there is no way around it. This is what reason, truth-seeking and getting stuff right requires. The truth isn't easy to come by, too bad, suck it up and deal with it; there are no shortcuts.

SENS should not BET ITS FUTURE on the proposition that economics is irrelevant and ignorance of it won't lead to any major mistakes. Nor should SENS bet its future on siding with any particular side in the economics debates and not have that stance fully open to criticism and revision in case it's mistaken. And the same goes for other fields besides economics too.

SENS is struggling. It's badly underfunded. This stuff is URGENT and LIFE OR DEATH. SAY SO. CLEARLY. EVERYWHERE. Don't tell people everything is fine, tell the truth, it's NOT. Most current SENS communications act like these ideas about SENS' urgency are FALSE and actually everything is fine and not too urgent.

I think the most important thing is consistency. Have a consistent message and act commensurate with it. Have a consistent plan instead of a little from several styles.

I have more to say (lots), and more details for these points, but I think this is enough to get started. Please do not say "good points, you're very smart" and then proceed to do your (inevitable) initial misunderstandings of what I meant, without further discussion, in private (as is typical with this kind of thing).

PS Why didn't I write this sooner? Partly because of the contact form, as addressed above, and also the lack of any good SENS discussion place. Another major reason is b/c even now I don't really expect much to change, I don't expect this to have much effect. One reason is because I don't expect you guys to agree with everything I say INITIALLY (which is completely fine and reasonable). And I don't expect you to discuss all this to resolution (which is problematic, it blocks Paths Forward, which is irrational). One reason for these low expectations is SENS does little to differentiate itself from all the other non-profits out there, and I certainly wouldn't expect most orgs to really listen to comments like these and make big changes.

But Aubrey asked me to write (some of) this, and anyway I think it's interesting. And SENS is important – as far as medical science, it impresses me more than anything else I've seen – so I hope this helps.

Update: I received a bad reply from Michael Rae and wrote some comments on it.

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Don't Talk To The Cops

I watched episodes 1 and 2 of the Secrets and Lies tv show.

so, this guy finds a (very recently) dead body on his morning run in the woods and then starts answering questions from a detective – where was he last night, did he move the body, why did he go for a run that morning, etc

the detective even starts tripping him up on the details. did he get home at 2am or 3am – which was it? did he have a couple drinks like he said he wanted to run off, or more?

he goes along with all this, is helpful and tells her stuff, and then is taken off guard that he’s a suspect. he needs a lawyer to advise him to stop volunteering help and instead tread carefully.

people are very naive about this stuff. DON’T TALK TO THE COPS, YOU WILL NOT BENEFIT. and if you find a body or were near a crime, YOU ARE A SUSPECT.

and lots of people are bad at their jobs, incompetent, stupid, etc. which includes cops. i am not saying cops are especially bad. but if they are just the normal amount of bad you find everywhere, TREAD CAREFULLY. they might think you did it for no reason or a stupid reason, or just because of your body language or tone of voice or they don't like your subculture's linguistic style.

and it’s so easy to accidentally contradict yourself in minor ways when you answer questions about the same thing multiple times. especially if you say anything before going over it carefully in your head for hopefully a few days and talking about it with a lawyer. people are not in the habit of being 100% precise and never contradicting themselves, it isn’t required in most social situations.

hollywood, by presenting talking to the cops as just what normal innocent non-weird people do is sending a really bad and dangerous message. they don’t preach like “you should talk to the cops, do your civic duty”. instead they just frame it as completely normal and something to take for granted. instead of trying to debate the issue, they send a message without raising it as an issue to debate. be wary!!

don't try to be polite. if a crime happened, stay out of it. don't talk to cops without a lawyer. don't try to be helpful. you're putting yourself at risk. if you have important info, call in an anonymous tip.

even if you think you're completely safe, e.g. you were home with your family and saw something out the window or heard something, and you successfully keep your story 100% straight with no contradictions, you are not safe talking to the cops. if anyone else says something contradictory (by accident, or because they are guilty and lying, or because they suspect their friend might be guilty and want to cover for him, or whatever else), you become a suspect. anything you say can be used against you. the only way to avoid someone else contradicting you, and raising doubts about you, is to say nothing.

oh and, of course, don't let the cops into your home if they don't have a warrant. seriously. your life is at stake. yes the risk of getting randomly involved in a crime you didn't commit is low in general. it doesn't happen every day. but by the time the cops are trying to talk to you, the odds aren't so low anymore, so take it seriously.

later in the episode, the detective says she wants to ask him some more questions but is actually just trying to get him out of the house. then while he's gone, his wife gives the cops permission to come in and search the house, without a warrant. sigh :(

then because he's being harassed by aggressive reporters who make his child cry, instead of calling the cops of them (which is what I'd suggest, especially considering they went on his property, but even if they hadn't), he gives the detective a DNA sample to try to prove he didn't do it in order to be left alone. very bad strategy.

then he asks his wife about letting the cops in. she says 1 police officer came by and next thing she knows there are 10 of them. he asks how come she didn't say no. she says, "how could i do that? they were investigating the murder of a child". BAD REASONING. DO NOT LET COPS SEARCH YOUR HOUSE WITHOUT A WARRANT. EVER. PERIOD.

(and keep in mind there are so many things that could go wrong with cops doing searches that aren't even related to the case. like maybe your kid has some drugs hidden in his room that the cops find. in the show, letting the cops in to search visibly upset the family's children – the mother failed to protect her kids and let harm come to them.)

as the show continues, the guy's life is getting screwed overly merely for being investigated from the crime (not charged with any crime, certainly not found guilty). the community starts shunning him. he does work like painting houses but no one wants to hire him anymore. being innocent does not protect him from this. and if the detective was being biased and unfair, or incompetent, he'll never be paid back for the harm done.

and even at this point, he agrees to answer questions from the detective without having a lawyer present.

near the beginning of episode 2, he's asked to go answer police questions at the station again. he asks don't they need to go through his lawyer? they cop says they don't because he isn't under arrest.

don't be fooled by crap like this. you don't have to answer police questions without a lawyer.

then the main character offers to take a polygraph to try to prove he's innocent. this is the worst idea yet. NEVER TAKE A POLYGRAPH. they work badly and are unreliable. (you can google info on this, and on talking to the cops. if it ever comes up, at least don't talk to them until you have time to google more info on these topics for a few hours. i don't expect to 100% persuade you, but i hope i get you to think twice enough to not answer initial questions and then look for more info to decide how to handle it.)

people think by being polite and obeying social norms, it will ensure the cops treat them decent in return. it won't. issues like crimes should be handled objectively, with standard procedures, not by social convention, and to a reasonable extent, they are. stick to standard procedure yourself – cooperate in ways you are legally obligated to and that's it. you get no official bonus points for being extra helpful, and you won't get you out of any legal obligation.

cops are not on your side. they are not there to help you. they do not work for you. you aren't their boss. you don't pay their salary. don't be naive.

There are rare exceptions if you know what you're doing, for example if you see someone discard a weapon that was used against you into a trash can, you might want to point the cops to that trash can so they can find it before the trash gets taken out. see even this kind of thing can be dangerous, e.g. if you say "i thought i saw him throw a knife on that roof, it was dark though" and the cops check and don't find it, now you look like a liar (even though you hedged). and if you say anything you can easily make mistakes. life gets dangerous and scary and risky once cops are involved like this no matter what you do. be careful, be slow and thoughtful. maybe write stuff down and read from that if you want to say anything at all, so you have an exact record, or print it out and give it to them. but, really, read about these topics, and "don't talk to the cops" is basically the main thing to know. i kind of don't want to mention any exception whatsoever because 99% of mistakes people make are in the "talk too much" direction.

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SSBM Training 2: Reverse Dolphin Slash

Marth's reverse Dolphin Slash (up-B) is an important technique which people tell you to learn how to do. They're right. But I tried to do it, and I couldn't. There are a couple key things I figured out that really helped. I want to share them.

The inputs are simple. You do up-B, and then during the startup frames (a very small time window), you press left (if you were facing to the right). This press to the left has to be done very fast. I won't discuss why this technique is useful, other people have done that. I just want to talk about how to do it.

Also, just to be clear, you can face right and hold up-left, and then hit B, and you will do the Dolphin Slash behind you and turn around. None of the information I've read is really clear about this, but I'm pretty sure reverse Dolphin Slash is different and requires doing it the hard way of up-B first and then press behind you second, separately.

At first I thought the problem is that my hands are slow. I'll just try it more and try to do it super fast, and then hopefully I'll get it. Well, I didn't get it. I went in Training Mode and tried in slow motion to make sure I was doing the inputs right. It worked. But at regular speed I was hopeless.

Then one day, I had a thought. You know what would save time? Don't push the dstick all the way up.

So I tried doing up-B, all by itself, without pressing the dstick all the way. And I found you only have to press it a tiny bit further than for up-tilt, but really not very far. Only a fraction of the way up is far enough.

The main reason I couldn't do it is because I was pressing the dstick all the way up, then pressing it to the side. And that takes too long. Maybe if you play in tournaments and you're really good, you could press it all the way up and still be fast enough. But I sure can't.

Well, once I had this insight, I was able to do reverse Dolphin Slash successfully about half the time in only 10 minutes of practice.

But I didn't just start doing it. I practiced an intermediate step that I think was a really good idea. If any guide had told me to practice it this way, it would have really helped me.

Press the dstick up half way. Hold it there. Now if you hit B, you will Dolphin Slash. Try it. So now instead of pressing up-B for dolphin slash, you start with half the work done, you just have to press B. Now do this: press B then, almost at the same time, press left (if facing right. press behind you).

When I just tried to hit up-B then left, it was so hard, I couldn't do it. But when I held up and then tried to hit B and left, it was so much easier, I could do it pretty much right away. It's not that hard to do one thing with your right thumb and one with your jump thumb, and do them very close together. Doing two things with your left thumb and something with your right, and coordinating the timing, that's hard. But only one thing with each thumb isn't too hard.

So practice that a bunch and you can learn the timing of when to hit left relative to when to hit B. Without a bunch of stress and failure. You can learn part of the technique by itself without having to be able to do the whole thing.

Once you're good at that, then practice the dstick motion without B. Press it up only a little of the way, definitely not all the way up, and then jam it left hard and quick. And practice it to the right also.

When that feels OK, then try another small step. Press up a little ways, pause for a split second, then press B and left. So it's like doing it with up already pressed, but instead of just holding up and not thinking about it, you do the up press only a moment early, so it isn't totally separate.

Once you can do that, then try to do the whole thing. And because of all the little steps you did, I bet you'll be able to do it sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes. And once you can do something 5% of the time, then you have a good start and you just practice more and increase that percent. Whereas if you can't do it at all, it's hard to get started and you'll need some easier steps.

So you press up a little ways and B, and then hard left. It won't work every time. You'll get some neutral B (Shield Breaker) and some side B (Sword Dance) at first. But now you should have a good enough idea of how to do it that you can practice until you get it consistent. These little steps to work up to it will get your foot in the door and make the technique approachable.

Again, I'd like you to learn not just how to reverse Dolphin Slash, but also how to approach learning anything that's hard to get started with. This is both a specific example that will help Marth players, but also it's about the method of how to learn.

For part 1 at my blog, click here.

For all parts, and some people's helpful replies, see my thread at Smashboards.

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SSBM Training 1: Marth's SH Double Fair

Super Smash Brothers Melee (SSBM) is hard. And it's hard to get started. I've read a lot of guides and tips. A lot of the info is very helpful. But I think most of it is way too advanced for most players.

I'm not very good at SSBM, but I think most people are probably a lot worse. No offense. I've played games from a young age, I've played a lot of games, I've played a large amount, and I've been very very good at some games. And I started playing Smash before SSBM came out. Not very well, but I've been familiar with Smash for a long time, and followed it much more closely than most fans.

I've been practicing SSBM. Mostly tech skill, alone. I like the game, I like understanding how it works, I like seeing how hard it is and facing a challenge, and I like having a better understanding of what the pros I watch in tournaments are doing, what it's like for them.

I have figured out some ways to practice that are more basic than are usually taught, and I think they could really help people. For example, people say to practice Marth's SH (short hop) double fair (forward air attack). But I can't do that. It's really hard. To some people, it's just the basics. But to me, it's an advanced skill that's going to take a lot of work. My hands have sped up a lot from practice, but I still have a long way to go to SH double fair.

So how do you work your way up? What's in between nothing and SH double fair? My main point in this post is to show you how to break down a technique, like SH double fair, into a bunch of intermediate steps you can practice one by one. Even something pretty simple can be divided into a lot of different things to practice, instead of just being all-or-nothing.

(And for my regular philosophy audience, take note: you can apply similar methods to many other topics outside of gaming. Treat this as a detailed concrete example which illustrates an important philosophical method, and see what you can learn about philosophy.)

- SH

Start with SH alone. To SH, just hit jump and let go fast (before you're in the air). Don't feel bad if you suck at it. I would stand there and hit jump and do nothing else, and Marth would full hop. It took me a ton of practice just to SH. Actually, first I learned to SH Peach, who has an easier one than Marth. Marth is 3 frames, Peach is 4, Fox is 2. Almost all the characters are in one of those three categories. If you have trouble, practice with a 4 frame SH character first. Here's the list of how many frames each character has for short hopping (smaller numbers are harder, meaning you have to let go of jump faster).

One of the cool things I found is, after I practiced Marth's SH a lot, even when I still wasn't very good at it, then when I went back to Peach she became easy. And then once I practiced Sheik's 2 frame SH, and went back to Marth, then Marth felt easier. But you can't move up too early, just starting with Sheik wouldn't have done me any good if I can never get it at all.

- SH While Distracted

As an aside, let me say that being able to stand still and do a SH, and being able to do it while playing the game against an opponent, are different things. As one example, once you can SH ok, try to run forward and SH. You'll miss some because of the distraction. Once you get better at that, try shield stop SHs. That means you dash forward, then very quickly hit shield, then very quickly after that, short hop. Even once I was good at SHing in place, I couldn't do shield stop SHs without some practice. Learning to link together the things you practice makes them harder.

The point is, don't get frustrated if you thought you could SH, but then you try to do SH and something else, and suddenly you can't SH. It's going to happen. It's no big deal, you just need more practice until your ability to SH is less barely and more solid.

- SH Nair

Once you can SH, try to SH Nair (neutral air attack, meaning A with no direction). Hit jump then A. You'll probably miss some SHs from trying to hit A also. Don't worry, practice, you can learn this.

Now to the main point: if you jump and then hit A fast enough, you will land without going into a recovery animation from the nair. The best way to see this is get the 20xx Hack Pack and turn on the flashing red and white for failed and successful L cancels. If you SH nair and you hit A slowly, you will see Marth flash red. If you do it fast enough, Marth will not flash any color.

When I started, I couldn't do this. Marth would flash red. Maybe I could get it 10% of the time. But, again, you practice and you get better. This is a hell of a lot easier than SH double fair. It's a smaller step forward. This will get your hands faster while being a smaller and more achievable goal.

- SH Fair

Next, try to SH fair. If you do this quickly, Marth won't flash red. You have to be a little faster than with SH nair. (If you don't have 20xx hack pack, you'll have to try to watch Marth and visibly see the difference between whether he does his recovery animation from landing during fair, or not. Which is a skill that takes practice. You can learn it early if you have to, but I'd really recommend getting the 20xx pack.)

- SH Uair

Next, try to SH uair (up air attack). Again, you'll have to be a little faster. You'll also have to learn to press the dstick (directional stick, the joystick used for moving) lightly so you don't double jump.

- SH Bair

If you can go even faster, you can do a SH bair (back air) with Marth and land without flashing red. If you do it successfully, Marth will turn around (so this one is easy to tell if you succeeded even without the 20xx Hack Pack).

- C Stick

Then go back through and practice all of these using the cstick (the little yellow joystick) instead of A. (Except not nair, you can't nair with cstick). Again this makes it harder. But it's possible, and with practice your hands will get faster. (As I write this, I can just barely bair with c-stick on a small percentage of attempts. And one really interesting thing I noticed is I can do it a lot easier to the left than the right. After hitting jump, I can press cstick left faster than right. The only reason I can tell the difference is because when doing the SH bairs, that tiny difference actually affected my results because I was so borderline on being able to do it at all. I think that's pretty cool to find that out, and gives me useful information, and potentially something to practice. For example, once I can start to do some SH double fairs with cstick, I'll have to practice to the left first which will be easier so I can have success sooner. And once I can do that a little, I'll have to practice to the right also. Doing it to the left first will be a little easier, another step I can practice before doing it to the right.)

- SH, Fair, Double Jump

Next, try to short hop fair, then as soon as you start the fair, start mashing jump. If you're fast enough, you'll double jump instead of landing. You can also try to learn to press jump at the right timing instead of mashing.

Once you can do that (I can only do it 10% of the time as I write this), try to SH fair with cstick and then get the double jump (I can't do that yet).

- FH Double Fair

Practice doing full hops and then doing fair twice. The point here is to learn the timing for how soon you can do the second fair after the first one. It's not something that's hard, but you do need to practice and learn that timing. Practicing it separately will be helpful. You should also practice other aerials this way just to learn really accurately when you can do a second one. Learning how long your moves last is important and worth practicing for each move individually.

- SH Double Fair

Then, finally, after you progress through all those steps, you can work on SH double fair. That means you do a SH, then you do fair twice before you land. To succeed at this, you need to do the first fair extremely fast after jumping, even faster than any of the things you practiced above. Then you have to do the second fair with good timing as soon as it's possible.

To do a SH double fair correctly, you need to be 6 frames faster than SH, fair, double jump. Fair can hit the opponent on the 4th frame through the 7th frame. Double jump comes out in 1 frame (I think). So suppose you SH, fair, and then you double jump on your last frame in the air. To do a second fair instead, you'd need to be 6 frames faster so you'd have 7 frames of airtime left instead of 1. Then you'd be able to replace the double jump with the second fair and have enough time for it to fully complete the part of the move that can hit the opponent.

The point here isn't just to teach you to SH double fair with Marth. The bigger point is to show you how to practice things step by step and work your way up, a little at a time. Instead of failing to SH double fair over and over, it's better to gradually start with something a lot easier and then keep progressing to slightly harder things. It's a lot more fun to practice when you're learning new things, successfully, as you go along.

Whatever you want to learn, for whatever character, try to figure out a series of small steps that can help you build up to it. Commonly people recommend pressing the buttons slowly at first and then speeding up. That is great advice but there's other ways to practice too.

All the information in this post, I basically had to figure out myself (except the frame data). No one told me to try practicing bairs fast enough I would turn around. But I find it really helpful as an intermediate step. I hope some Marths find this helpful, and also everyone understands the method of creating a gradual progression of small steps to practice. Most melee training information doesn't cover little things this basic, like I never ever heard anyone say "practice doing SH fair fast enough you land without going into recovery from attacking", but I think it's a really useful idea. So hopefully this will encourage a lot of really new players who are struggling. By breaking things down into smaller steps like this, you'll be able to see your progress and succeed one step at a time.

For part 2 at my blog, click here. It provides another example with the same philosophical point.

For all parts beyond 2, and some people's helpful replies, see my thread at Smashboards.

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Israel and Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:
Today the Cabinet will be briefed on the security challenges developing around us, first and foremost Iran's attempt to increase its foothold on Israel's borders even as it works to arm itself with nuclear weapons. Alongside Iran's direct guidance of Hezbollah's actions in the north and Hamas' in the south, Iran is trying to also to develop a third front on the Golan Heights via the thousands of Hezbollah fighters who are in southern Syria and over which Iran holds direct command. The fact that Iran is continuing its murderous terrorism that knows no borders and which embraces the region and the world has, to our regret, not prevented the international community from continuing to talk with Iran about a nuclear agreement that will allow it to build the industrial capacity to develop nuclear weapons.

... The agreement that is being formulated between Iran and the major powers is dangerous for Israel and therefore I will go to the US next week in order to explain to the American Congress, which could influence the fate of the agreement, why this agreement is dangerous for Israel, the region and the entire world.
This is very important. Obama wants Israel to be destroyed, and is actively pursuing that agenda, and most Americans don't recognize it. And Obama is far from alone in this matter.

I look forward to Netanyahu's speech and seeing the reactions. Maybe he can talk some sense into America. I really hope so.

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Anti-Deviance Strategy

Most statements which are sufficiently deviant (from cultural norms) are assumed to be jokes by default. This is a way of protecting everyone from admitting that serious disagreements exist.

For example, if you say, "Thank you so much, you've persuaded me and I've learned a lot. I will completely rethink all my values and take on board the moral values you've shared with me." that reads as likely sarcasm because it would be much more rational than typical people in our culture.

And if you sound significantly less rational than the typical person, it again doesn't read as serious. For example, "I hate you for trying to use logic to share ideas with me that you think would help me. I'm very mad that you could be so arrogant as to think you could know anything useful to me. Did it ever occur to you that I don't want to think?" People will assume someone doesn't really mean that and is just making a joke, perhaps an exaggerated parody to imply the other guy is wrongly treating him like the person in the parody.

Statements which are reasonably normal are taken at face value, but statements which are deviant are frequently not treated as real statements in the usual way. This is a way of denying the existence of deviance and generally suppressing disagreement and pretending it doesn't exist. It's a strategy which helps people irrationally refuse to consider many disagreements and criticism.

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