Do Thousands of Error Corrections

This is from a Fallible Ideas email.

I wrote (Sept 2017):

but i also did NOT just accept whatever DD said b/c he said it. i expected him to be right but ALSO challenged his claims. i asked questions and argued, while expecting to lose the debate, to learn more about it. i very persistently brought stuff up again and again until i was FULLY satisfied. lots of people concede stuff and then think it's done and don't learn more about it, and end up never learning it all that well. sometimes i thought i conceded and said so, but even if i did, i had zero shame about re-opening any topic from any amount of time ago to ask a new question or ask how to address a new argument for any side.

i also fluidly talked about arguments for ANY side instead of just arguing a particular side. even if i was mostly arguing a particularly side, i'd still sometimes think of stuff for DD's side and say that too. ppl are usually so biased and one-sided with their creativity.

after i learned things from DD i found people to discuss them with, including people who disagreed with them. then if i had any trouble thoroughly winning the debate with zero known flaws on my side, zero open problems, zero unanswered criticisms, etc, then i'd go back to DD and expect more and better answers from him to address everything fully. i figured out lots of stuff myself but also my attitude of "DD is always right and knows everything" enabled me to be INFINITELY DEMANDING – i expected him to be a perfect oracle and just kept asking questions about anything and everything expecting him to always have great answers to whatever level of precision, thoroughness, etc, i wanted. when i wasn't fully convinced by every aspect of an answer i'd keep trying over and over to bring up the subject in more ways – state different arguments and ask what's wrong with them, state more versions of his position (attempting to fix some problem) and ask if that's right, find different ways to think about a question and express it, etc. this of course was very useful for encouraging DD to create more and better answers than he already knew or already had formulated in English words.

i didn't 100% literally expect him to know everything, but it was a good mantra and was compatible with questioning him, debating him, etc. it's important to be able to expect to be mistaken and lose a debate and still have it, eagerly and thoroughly. and to keep saying every damn doubt you have, every counter-argument you think of, to address ALL of them, even when you're pretty convinced by some main points that you must be badly wrong or ignorant.

anyway the method of not being satisfied with explanations until i'd explained them myself to teach others and win several debates – with NO outstanding known hiccups, flaws, etc – is really good. that's the kind of standard of knowledge people need.

Anne B replied (Sept 2017):

Is this a model you recommend for the rest of us to learn? I can give it a try but I don't think it'll be easy for me for two reasons.

1) I've spent decades trying to be a person who DOESN'T argue. What I usually do when someone says something I don't agree with is stop talking about it. I don't want to rock any boats or get anyone mad at me, especially if I'm wrong.

2) I don't really believe that I could very often reach a point of understanding something so well that I could easily refute any competing arguments. I picture myself asking a question here, someone giving an answer I don't fully believe or understand, then doing a bit of arguing back and forth but never reaching a point where we both understand and agree. I'd give up long before that, not wanting to press the issue, and just "agree to disagree" in my mind. Out loud I might concede. Do you really think I could succeed at this kind of arguing? (By succeed I mean fully convince myself of anything?)

Why can I write decent sentences but Kate and most people are bad at it? (See the "Running your own life" discussion from today.)

Because I found thousands of flaws with my writing in the past (including by listening to criticism) and made efforts to fix those flaws.

I did thousands of error corrections. That's what it takes to be good at something which is moderately difficult.

doing thousands of error corrections requires an attitude towards life and learning. you have to be interested in mistakes, including small mistakes, and make changes to address them.

it also requires being able to make changes without it being a huge cost. if changing anything is super expensive, you'll only do it for BIG fixes. you need changing to be cheap to do it thousands of times.

there's no other way to build up skill. you need to be able to make changes cheaply and do thousands of them. and the changes should focus on error correction.

anyone could do this but most people don't want to. and many people have lots of anti-change stuff in their minds getting in the way. but the disinterest in error correction is problem number one. if people cared enough, then they could start a series of enthusiastic attempts to do something about their change-is-expensive problem.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (3)

Human Problems and Abstract Problems

This is an email I wrote in July 2013. I'm replying to David Deutsch (Feb 2001) who is in regular yellow quotes and was addressing the topic, Are common preferences always possible?. Two quote levels is Demosthenes (Feb 2001).

Susan Ramirez asked (Feb, 1997):

Why do you believe that it is always possible to create a common preference?

Sarah Lawrence replied (Jan, 2001)

This question is important because it is the same as - Are there some problems which in principle cannot be solved? Or, when applied to human affairs: - Is coercion (or even force, or the threat of force) an objectively inevitable feature of certain situations, or is it always the result of a failure to find the solution which, in principle, exists?

David Deutsch begins his reply:

I think that both Sarah and Demosthenes (below) somewhat oversimplify when they identify 'avoiding coercion' with 'problem-solving'. For instance, Sarah says "This question ... Is the same as[:] Are there some problems

Let's watch out for different uses of the word "problem". [This unquoted material is Elliot writing.]

which in principle cannot be solved?" Well, in a sense it is the same issue. But due to the imprecision of everyday language, this also gives the impression that avoiding coercion depends on everyone adopting the same theory (the solution, the common preference) about whatever was at issue. In fact, that is seldom literally the case, because the parties' conceptions of what is 'at issue' typically change quite radically during common-preference finding. All that is necessary is that the participants change to states of mind which (1) they prefer to their previous states, and (2) no longer cause them to hurt each other.

In other words, common preferences can often be much narrower than it may first appear. You needn't agree about everything, or even everything relevant, but only enough to proceed without hurting (TCS-coercing) each other (or oneself in the case of self-conflicts).

[This next section has two levels of quoting and is Demosthenes. The black bar indicates an additional level of quoting. Two levels means that I'm quoting David Deutsch quoting it.]

I agree that this question is important, though I would offer instead the following two elucidating questions:

In the sphere of human affairs:

  1. Are there any problems that would remain unavoidably insoluble even if they could be worked on without any time and resource limits?

  2. Are there any problems that are unavoidably insoluble within the time and resource limits of the real life situations in which they arise?

The word "problem" in both of these is ambiguous.

Problem-1: (we might call it "human problem"): "a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome"

Problem-2: (we might call it an "abstract problem"): "a thing that is difficult to achieve or accomplish"

There are problems, notionally, like going to the moon. But no one gets hurt unless a person has the problem of going to the moon. Problem-1 involves preferences, and the possibility of harm and TCS-coercion. And it is the type of problem which is solved by common preferences.

Problem-2, inherently, does not have time or resource limits, because the universe is not in a hurry, only people are.

So, are there any problems which are insoluble with the time and resource limits of real life situations? Not problem-2 type, because those do not arise in people's life situations, and they do not have time or resource limits.

And as for problem-1 type problems, those are always soluble (within time/resource constraints), possibly involving changing preferences. (BTW, as a general rule of thumb, in non-trivial common preference finding, all parties always change their initial preferences.)

An example:

problem-2: adding 2+2 (there is no time limit, no resource limit -- btw time is a type of resource)

problem-1: adding 2+2 within the next hour for this math test (now there are resource issues, preferences are involved)

Another way to make the distinction is:

problem-1: any problem which could TCS-coerce (hurt) someone

problen-2: any problem which could not possibly ever TCS-coerce (hurt) anyone

problem-2s are not bad. Not even potentially. Problem-1s are bad if and only if they TCS-coerce anyone. A problem like 2+2=? cannot TCS-coerce anyone, ever. There's just no way. It takes a different problem like, "A person asked me what 2+2 is, and I wanted to answer" to have the potential for TCS-coercion.

Notice solving this different problem does not necessarily require figuring out what 2+2 is. Solving problem-1s never requires solving any associated problem-2s, though that is often a good approach. But it's not necessary. So the fact that various problem-2s won't be solved this year need not hurt anyone or cause any problem-1s -- with their time limits and potential for harm -- to go unsolved.

I believe that the answer to question (1) is, no -- there are no human problems that are intrinsically insoluble, given unbounded resources.

This repeated proviso "given unbounded resources" indicates a misconception, I think. The answer to (2) is, uncontroversially, yes. Of course there exist disagreements -- both between people and within a person -- that take time to resolve, and many will not be resolved in any of our lifetimes.

I think this unclear about the two types problems. While it agrees with me in substance, it defers to ambiguous terminology that basically uses unsolved problem-2s to say there are insoluble problems and try to imply it's now talking about problem-1s.

There is a mix up regarding failure to solve an abstract problem like figuring out the right theory of physics (which two friends might disagree about) with failure to solve human problems, like the type that make those friends hurt each other.

It's harmless to have some disagreements that you "agree to disagree" about, for example. But if you can't agree to disagree, then the problem is more dangerous and urgent.

It's uncontroversial that people have unsolved abstract problems for long periods of time, e.g. they might be working on a hard math problem and not find the answer for a decade. And their friend might disagree with them about the best area to look for a solution.

But so what?

Human problems are things like, "I want to solve the problem this week" (maybe you should change your preference?) or "I want to work on the math problem and find good states of mind in regard to it, and enjoy making progress" (this human problem can easily be solved while not solving the harmless abstract problem).

But that has nothing to do with the question being discussed here.

Right because of the confusion over different meanings of "problem".

The fact that after 25 years of almost daily attention to the conflict between quantum theory and general relativity I have failed to discover a theory that I prefer to both (or indeed to either), does not indicate that I have "failed to find a common preference"

Right. Common preferences do not even apply to problem-2s, only problem-1s.

either within myself, or with other proponents of those theories, in the sense that interested Susan Ramirez. I have not found a preferred theory of physics, but I have found successively better states of mind in regard to that problem, each the result of successive failures to solve it.

However this view is only available to those of us who believe that for all moral problems there exists, in principle, a unique, objectively right solution. If you are any kind of moral relativist, or a moral pluralist (as many people seem to be) then you can have no grounds for arguing that all human disputes are in principle soluble.

It is only in spheres where the objective truth of the matter exists and is in principle discoverable, that the possibility of converging on the truth guarantees that all problems are, in principle, soluble.

I agree that for all moral problems

No clear statement of which meaning of problem this refers to.

there exists an objectively right solution, and that this is why consensual relationships -- and indeed all liberal institutions of human cooperation, including science -- can work. The mistake is to suppose that if one does not believe this, it will cease to be true. For people to be able to reach agreement, it suffices that, for whatever reason, they seek agreement in a way that conforms to the canons of rationality and are, as a matter of fact, converging on a truth. Admittedly it is a great impediment if they think that agreement is not possible, and very helpful if they think that it is, but that is certainly not essential: many a cease-fire has evolved into a peace without a further shot being fired. It is also helpful if they see themselves as cooperating in discovering an objective truth, and not merely an agreement amongst themselves, but that too is far from essential: plenty of moral relativists have done enormous good, and made enormous moral progress -- for instance towards creating institutions and traditions of tolerance -- without ever seeking an objective truth, or realising that they were finding one. In fact many did not realise that they were creating agreement at all, merely a tolerance of disagreement. And incidentally, they were increasing the number of unsolved problems in society by promoting dissent and diversity.

Increasing the number of unsolved problem-2s, but decreasing the number of unsolved problem-1s.

What we need to avoid, both in society and in our own minds, is not unsolved problems,

Ambiguous between problem-1s and problem-2s.

not even insoluble problems,

Ambiguous between problem-1s and problem-2s.

Also doesn't seem to be counting preference changing as a solution, contrary to the standard TCS attitude which regards preference changing as a normal part of common preference finding, and part of problem solving.

but a state in which our problems are not being solved

But this time it means problem-1s.

-- where thinking is occurring but none of our theories are changing.

I believe that the answer to question (2) is yes -- human problems that cannot be solved even in principle, given the prevailing time and resource constraint, are legion. Albeit, nowhere near as legion as non-TCS believers would have it. My main argument in support of this thesis is based on introspection: Let him or her who is without ongoing inner conflict proffer the first refutation.

This is a bit like saying, at the time of the Renaissance, that science is impossible because "let him who is without superstition proffer the first refutation". The whole point about reason is that it does not require everything to be right before it can work. That is just another version of the "who should rule?" error in politics. The important thing is not to start out right, but to try to set things up in such a way that what is wrong can be altered. The object of the exercise is not to create a chimerical (and highly undesirable!) problem-free state,

A problem-2-free state is bad. As in, not having any problems we might like to work on. This is bad because it creates a very hard problem-1: the problem of boredom (having no problem-2s to work on, while wanting some will cause TCS-coercion).

A problem-1-free state is ... well there is another ambiguity. Problem-1s are fine if one is rationally coping with them. It's not bad to have human problems and deal with them. What's bad is failure to cope with them, i.e. TCS-coercion.

How can we tell which/when problem-1s get bad? When they do harm (TCS-coercion).

To put it another way: problem-1s are bad when one acts on an idea while having a criticism of it. But if it's just the potential for such a thing in the future, that's part of normal life and fine.

but simply to embark upon actually solving problems rather than being stuck not solving any (or not solving one's own, anyway). Happiness is solving one's problems, not 'being without problems'.

"one's problems" refers only to problem-1s, but "being without problems" and "actually solving problems" are ambiguous.

In other words, I suggest that there isn't a person alive whose creativity is not diminished in some significant way by the existence of inner conflict. Or rather dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of inner conflicts.

Yes. But having diminished creativity (compared to what is maximally possible, presumably) is and always will be the human condition. Minds are fallible. Fortunately, it is not one's distance from the ideal state that makes one unhappy, but an inability to move towards it.

And if you cannot find a common preference for all the problems that arise within your own mind, it is a logical absurdity to expect to be able always to find a common preference with another, equally conflicted, mind.

Just as well, really. If you found a common preference for all the problems within your own mind, you'd be dead. If you found a common preference for all the problems you have with another person with whom you interact closely, you'd be the same person.

[SNIP]

However, and it is an important however, to approach this goal we must dare to face the inescapable facts that, in practice, it is by no means always possible to find a common preference; that therefore it is not always possible to avoid coercion;

This does not follow, or at least, not in any useful sense. Demosthenes could just as well have make the identical comments about science:

[Demosthenes could have written:]

In the sphere of science:

  1. Are there any problems that would remain unavoidably insoluble even if they could be worked on without any time and resource limits?

  2. Are there any problems that are unavoidably insoluble within the time and resource limits of the real life situations in which they arise?

I believe that the answer to question (1) is, no -- there are no scientific problems that are intrinsically insoluble, given unbounded resources.

Right. And why should it follow from this that a certain minimum of superstition is unavoidable in any scientific enterprise, and that people who try to reject superstition on principle will undergo "intellectual and moral corrosion" if, as is inevitable, they fail to achieve this perfectly -- or even if they fail completely?

As Bronowski stressed and illustrated in so many ways, doing science depends on adopting a certain morality: a desire for truth, a tolerance, an openness to change, an awareness of one's own fallibility and the fallibility of authority, yet also a respect and understanding for tradition ... (It's the same morality as TCS depends on.) And yes, no scientist has ever been entirely free from irrationality, superstition, dogma and all the things that the canons of rationality say are supposed to be absent from a true scientist's mind. Yet none of that provides the slightest argument that a person entering upon a life of science is likely to become unhappy

Tangent: this is a misuse of probability. Whether that happens depends on human choices not chance.

in their work, is likely to find their enterprise ruined either because they encounter a scientific problem that they never solve, or because they fail to rid their own minds of certain superstitions that prevent them from solving anything.

The thing is, all these sweeping statements about insoluble problems

Ambiguous.

and unlimited resources, though true (some of them trivially, some because of fallibilism) are irrelevant to the issue here, of whether a lifestyle that rejects coercion is possible and practical in the here and now. A TCS family can and should reject coercion in exactly the same sense, and by the same means, and for the same reason, as a scientist can and should reject superstition. And to the same extent: utterly. In neither case can the objective ever be achieved perfectly, with finite resources. In neither case can any guarantee be given about what the outcome will be. Will they be happier than if they become astrologers instead? Who knows? And certainly good intentions alone can guarantee nothing. In neither case can the enterprise be without setbacks and failures, perhaps disasters. And in neither case is any of this important, because ... well, whatever goes wrong, however badly, superstition is going to make it worse.

-- David Deutsch

http://www.qubit.org/people/david/David.html

Josh Jordan wrote:

I think it makes sense to proceed according to the best plan you have, even if you know of flaws in it.

What if those flaws are superstition? Or TCS-coercion?

Whatever happens, acting against one's best judgment -- e.g. by disregarding criticisms of flaws one knows -- is only going to make things worse.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Discussion: Politicizing the Las Vegas Tragedy

From Facebook:

Evan O'Leary:

What is with people who don't like things to be "politicized"? Do you not want people you tribally dislike to say reasonable things because then you'll have to disagree with them because you were born with nothing but an amygdala for a brain?
EDIT: good point made in the comments, exploiting people's emotions to manipulate their political beliefs while they're in a less rational state is bad

Elliot Temple:
i take it you're insulting right wingers including classical liberals who believe in freedom regarding the issue of gun control. i'd suggest being more clear about what your point is in the future.

so, regarding gun control: instead of insulting people, i think it'd be better to try to investigate, in an objective, scholarly way, whether the factual claims in this book are correct or incorrect:
https://www.amazon.com/War-Guns-Yourself-Against-Control-ebook/dp/B01HH5HN8W/

Evan O'Leary:
 I'd suggest being less paranoid, you're wrong about what I'm arguing

Elliot Temple:
 then clarify

Evan O'Leary:
 There's nothing in my post that needs clarification, people on the left get mad at the NRA for "politicizing" shootings too when they say less people would have died if one of the hostages was carrying a gun

Elliot Temple:
 do you have an example of that? for example, Hillary chose to politicize the shooting rather than accuse the NRA of politicizing. By contrast, I say many right wingers complaining about Hillary politicizing it.

Evan O'Leary:
 Sure, let me find it. There was some hostage situation in recent years when people said open carry would have prevented it

Elliot Temple:
 Hold on, let's stick to the Vegas shooting and representative examples! I'm sure somewhere in history you'll find one example.

Evan O'Leary:
 Not just open carry but also when refugees commit shootings the right politicizes it with immigration

Elliot Temple:
 Are you in favor of gun control or against it?

Evan O'Leary:
 Can't find the hostage situation rn, do you disagree with the immigration point?

I'm not sure what to think about gun control

Elliot Temple:
 I agree that the right sometimes politicizes shootings, but in my understanding the dominant trend after the Vegas shooting – which is the context of your post – was the left politicizing it and the right criticizing the politicization. If I'm mistaken because I didn't see a broad enough sample of political messaging, I'd appreciate the correction. If you saw it similarly, then wasn't your post a reaction to some right winger comments?

Evan O'Leary:
 It was caused by me seeing right winger comments and seeing a problem with the "don't politicize" part of the argument, not the "gun control has downsides" part

Elliot Temple:
 views on gun control are relevant here. e.g. consider Hillary's pivot to bringing up silencers. was that relevant and reasonable, or just unreasonably trying to use the tragedy in an unrelated way? people who have knowledge about silencers and gun rights are going to have a different perspective on Hillary's comments than someone who is neutral. Part of their reaction – which you took issue with – was due to knowledge of the issues, not tribalism and amygdalae.

Elliot Temple:
 Hunters want suppressors to prevent damage to their ears and their dogs' ears, and to be better able to hear each other and prevent dangerous hunting miscommunications. That's what Hillary pivoted to the tragedy to.

https://www.frontpagemag.com/point/268035/how-hillary-clintons-tweet-showcases-cynicism-gun-daniel-greenfield

Elliot Temple:
 A reasonable response would be to call Hillary Clinton dishonest, because her comments were an attempt to shoehorn an unrelated agenda where it didn't fit and mislead the public. The discussion is ready to go straight into the mud. But do we want a bunch of mud slinging and character attacks and typical political dirty fighting to be the centerpiece of the national discussion of the Vegas tragedy? As much as I'm personally pretty willing to debate anything, I do see why people could object to this!


Elliot Temple:
 and the reason some people don't want a bunch of murder to be politicized is because of their respect for life and human dignity.

Evan O'Leary:
 What about politics inherently lacks respect for that

Elliot Temple:
 many political discussions aren't respectful of the gravity of mass murder, as i'm sure you've observed

Evan O'Leary:
 Is that because they're political?

Elliot Temple:
 Partly, yes. Some types of discussions are more known for human decency than others.

Evan O'Leary:
 The only political discussions which lack respect for life and dignity are the ones with bad political arguments

Any solution to this issue is going to be one of policy, so even if politics causes irrationality in humans, our other choice is having murder problems which don't seem less important than irrationality

Elliot Temple:
 "The only political discussions which lack respect for life and dignity are the ones with bad political arguments"

So, most of them? Do you see the problem?

Elliot Temple:
 No one is objecting to debating the issues at some point, and trying to make the discussions civil. But there are questions about the apporpriate immediate comments from public figures. Should they prioritize attempting a dirty political sound byte, or perhaps is it better to begin by saying something about their respect for human life and how sad they are about the tragedy, and then try to debate gun control issues in the normal ways afterwards?

Evan O'Leary:
 The better explanation is irrationality, not politics

Evan O'Leary:
 "Don't politicize" is a problematic criterion, and we have a better criterion, "don't be irrational"

Elliot Temple:
 People debate what is irrational or not. Being more specific is good sometimes.

Elliot Temple:
 Of course it's a problematic criterion. They aren't having extensive serious discussions with both sides engaging with each other. It's not a very intellectual forum.

Justin Mallone:
some on the left have definitely taken the tone of "fuck talking about respect for human life. now is the time for drastic political action." one example is literally not attending a moment of silence as a political protest due to insufficient gun control: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/oct/5/jackie-speier-congressional-moment-silence-shootin/

Evan O'Leary:
 A better criterion would be "don't politicize too soon after tragedies", but even that creates problems that aren't clearly improvements, because people lose political motivation after tragedies

Elliot Temple:
 that's roughly what lots of them meant, though the issue isn't entirely a matter of time. part of the issue is what you say in the time before the political debate. and your actual attitudes, not just statements.

Elliot Temple:
 and btw they primarily meant for the anti-politicization comments to apply to public figures, and people participating in the hashtags/slogans/yelling kind of politics, not discussions on serious debating forums.

Justin Mallone:
I saw a formulation of don't politicize idea from a right-winger (FYI Elliot, it was Tracinski) that just said wait 72 hours after tragedy. very modest standard but people couldn't even come close to that

Elliot Temple:
 some major voices on the left are really eager to proclaim that they know the solution to tragedies like this. some major voices on the right disagree, and think they have better solutions, but are more willing to try to set that disagreement aside briefly to have some unity in mourning.

Elliot Temple:
 can we pray together and try to think things over for a few days before we go back to squabbling over the same bitter disagreement we've been fighting about for decades?

^ I think that's a reasonable attitude.

Elliot Temple:
 can we, in the wake of the tragedy, use it as a reminder that we're on the same side, instead of using it as leverage to be divisive?

Elliot Temple:
 unfortunately i honestly don't think Hillary Clinton is on the same side as the rest of us. but i can sympathize with people who take the above kind of attitude, and i think most of the left are reasonably decent people.

Elliot Temple:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slDjxJMWJn4


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Comments on Behavioral Genetics Lecture

These are my comments on the first 49 minutes of Behavioral Genetics II, a 2010 lecture from Robert Sapolsky at Stanford.

Around 30 seconds in, the foxes thing is wrong. He says fox breeding shows evolution moving really fast. But it's not evolution of new traits, it's just adjusting the parameters for traits which evolved in the past. Dawkins made the same mistake. See:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fabric-of-reality/conversations/topics/16068

The takeaway is the video lecturer and Dawkins are not philosophers and they routinely get things wrong when they stray into philosophy issues without realizing it. To understand knowledge creation correctly you have to study epistemology. Evolution itself is a theory of epistemology, and many people trying to talk about it don't even know what field it belongs to. The application of evolution to biology and genes is just one implication of the more general epistemological theory.

Also, regarding fox comparisons: humans are fundamentally different than animals because humans have intelligence software (universal knowledge creation software) and animals don't.

Around 12min, the lecturer talks about genetic markers. Note those are correlations. At 14min he says people carefully checked their statistics to decide how certain they were because things like terminating pregnancies was at stake. But no amount of statistics can ever turn correlations into causations. Before advising a single person to terminate pregnancy, you must have discussions, with arguments and criticism, that try to understand the causality. The video doesn't attempt to discuss how to do this well, or mention the necessity of it. Again this is running into a philosophical issue (how to have a productive debate to seek the truth) and these people aren't philosophers and don't know what they're doing (they don't even realize when they stray out of their field, into a different field they are bad at).

Around 21min the lecturer suggests that genes can control human behavior, with no awareness that memetic evolution and intelligent decision making are the dominant issues for human behavior. He brings up extrapolating from animal genes to humans, including in the case of behavior, without realizing this huge difference. (Extrapolations from animals like that can be reasonable guesses for non-behavior issues like hair color.)

So far the lecturer hasn't said a word about gene-environment interactions or about memes. But once memes existed, they evolved faster than genes and therefore outraced genes to meet lots of selection pressures and therefore there are memes instead of genes for lots of human behaviors.

At 24:15 he brags about how a paper was in a "very prestigious" journal. He's interested in social status instead of truth. The study he talks about is just a correlation study, so who cares? And he didn't name it and they didn't bother putting a citation for it in the YouTube description. Then he talks about a second study, and it's the same thing: he just summarizes the conclusions and expects people to accept these claims without any arguments that they are true. He's just completely ignoring the gene-environment interaction issue, and memes, and it makes what he's saying misleading and unproductive.

At 26min he talks about the amygdala having to do with fear and anxiety. He buys into the standard belief about specialized brain regions for different functions. That is contradicted by the universality view. How can such a disagreement be settled? By debate. David Deutsch, myself and others have debated anyone who was willing to have a serious discussion for many years. And we've sought out people and asked if they had any criticisms of our arguments. There is no one from the other side who is able to win this debate against us. This is partly because, again, they aren't philosophers and knowing how to judge ideas in a debate is a philosophy skill. They don't know how to argue well, which is why they've accepted the wrong ideas and are unwilling to deal with criticism.

Where's the "behavioral memetics" lecture? It's not on the playlist.

I have nothing against this particular lecturer. Everything he said is standard and normal. That doesn't prevent it from containing major errors, which are known, and which a lot of people don't want to hear about. I will debate this lecturer, or whoever else, in writing, with no time limits, in a serious, scholarly way. I will continue the discussion to a conclusion instead of giving up and trying to "agree to disagree" and refusing to answer further criticisms and questions. But he won't do it.

At 40min the lecturer brings up heritability. He correctly says that people misunderstand heritability. That's typical. Experts in the field often do know what "heritability" means (they defined "heritability" totally differently than the regular word so that it'd be easier to study), but then the media misreports all the heritability studies. A great source on heritability is Yet More on the Heritability and Malleability of IQ. It has important points that the lecture leaves out.

Around 46:45 the lecturer uses the word "explained" to mean "correlated with". That's so typical and bad.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Mental Illness" Discussion with Andrew Adams

From Twitter.

Andrew Adams

What are your thoughts on having harsher regulations? E.g., making it harder for mentally ill to access guns, etc?

Elliot Temple

I favor much less regulation of guns. I am especially opposed to "mental illness" laws: http://szasz.com/manifesto.html
http://fallibleideas.com/books#szasz

Andrew Adams

I will read up on him and will get back to you. In meanwhile I'll ask you this question, if mental disorders could be detected like. heart diseases, or kidney diseases are detected, would you favor regulation on people who show signs of severe unstable moods or psycopathy?

[quoting from Szasz manifesto] "Classifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as diseases is a logical and semantic error". I have to disagree. The brain is a biological organism and the diseases related to it are well studied and well known. Would you give a gun to someone who showed..signs if psycopathy or borderline personality disorder for example?

Elliot Temple

i am open to regulation of medically detectable defects, like requiring someone with testably bad vision to wear glasses when driving.

it would need to be an actual medical test like for cancer, not a person judging someone's mood. preferably detectable at autopsy.

Andrew Adams

I'm glad we agree on that. I come from a human behavioral biology background, and what Szasz claims seems bizzare. I will read his writings.

Elliot Temple

Szasz agrees with that too, FYI. Though he would point out that would be a physical brain illness, not an illness of a mind.

Minds have bad ideas, which are different than illnesses.

Andrew Adams

And why brain, which is a biological organism like heart and kidney, can't cause a problem that can be called a disease? It seems to me that the fact that we can't diagnose mental diseases the way we diagnose other organs, due to its complexity, makes you to believe we can't have mental disorders. Imagine you had diabetes, and for some reason science couldn't yet see what's going on, but certainly we got all the diagnoses that a diabetic person has. Wouldn't be absurd to not call that a disease?

Elliot Temple

There are brain diseases, but they aren't "mental illnesses", they are "brain illnesses". And schizophrenia and autism are myths.

Though, as with many myths, there is some true element: some people behave in socially-disapproved ways and others want to stigmatize them.

With depression: true that some ppl r VERY sad, have MAJOR life problems. False that their bad situation, bad coping ideas, etc, is illness

it doesn't "make" me believe anything, it's one problematic issue, among many, for psychiatry.

"mind disorders" (bad ideas, a disordered mind) is a problem, but is not the same category of thing as cancer.

i think this is too hard to follow on twitter with every message divided into multiple tweets. could you reply on my blog comments?

Andrew Adams

If you hallucinate and hear sounds in your head, is that due to bad ideas? Or the way your brain is wired?

Sure. Under the same page you posted the longer answer?

Elliot Temple

i made a fresh page: http://curi.us/2047-discussion

Andrew Adams

Can we please communicate through the direct message? That's much faster and we can engage each other.

Elliot Temple

i would prefer the blog. i will talk here if you're unwilling and you give me permission to quote anything here.

Andrew Adams

You can quote anything you want.

So let's see. You believe brain is a biological organ right? No souls and superstitious there, correct?

Elliot Temple

yes

Andrew Adams

And a biological thing can get fucked up, as we are seeing with all the other things. RIght?

Elliot Temple

the mind is software and the details of the brain are irrelevant to the mind in the same way that you can run the same software on different PCs.

yes brain damage is a thing, just like e.g. a ram stick going bad.

Andrew Adams

Okay this is where I think you're wrong, with all due respect. I'll explain. The software is there because of the way the brain is wired. It's not something separate built on top of those neurons. Your behavior is due to the wiring. That's why if the wiring gets screwed up, you have no way to upgrade the software. Those two are not independent.

It's like saying to a diabetes, person: man stop it with the insulin thing. It's getting really annoying.

Elliot Temple

How did you find me? Have you read David Deutsch?

Andrew Adams

I found you through Deutsch. I haven't read his books yet, but I've listened to his interviews and are somewhat aware of his positions.

Elliot Temple

The computer's behavior is due to the data on the disks, the wiring of the CPU, etc. It's not something separate either. If you hit computer components with a hammer, it affects the software that's running.

So the cases remain analogous.

hardware and software bugs are different things. both exist. right?

and there are also features which some people don't like and call bugs

Andrew Adams

But software is just instructions for the cpu, which is the hardware. If you damage the cpu, the hardware is not gonna perform as usual. Do you agree?

The software I meant

Elliot Temple

i agree that hitting a cpu or brain with a hammer can screw up the software currently running.

Andrew Adams

The software is not gonna perform as ususal

Okay. Then if the wiring is screwed up due to anomalies that we observe throughout the biological organisms, does that make that make what's happening an illness?

Elliot Temple

if there's physical brain damage, that's an illness or injury.

Andrew Adams

But it doesn't have to be a hammer hitting your brain. It's more subtle than that. The wiring can be screwed up.

It's a biological thing again. Anomalies exist.

Elliot Temple

Yes, for example in my non-expert understanding, Alzheimer's involves some brain damage which causes some memory loss issues.

Andrew Adams

You don't have to hit it from outside to screw it up.

Sure

It's the wiring that gets screwed up, hence bugs in the software.

Environment can influence your wiring.

Elliot Temple

for example, an environment with radiation. sure.

Andrew Adams

But some disorders have proven to have like 80% genetical cause.

Elliot Temple

correlation isn't causation.

Andrew Adams

It's a causation study.

Elliot Temple

have you read the studies you're referring to?

Andrew Adams

yes

Elliot Temple

ok link one you think contains no flaws.

which involves a typical "mental illness"

Andrew Adams

Behavioral geneticists did experiments with schizophrenia. They did it on twins that were adopted at birth.

I'll find the links and send it to you

Elliot Temple

i've read studies too, as has Szasz. Schizophrenia will work fine.

just one, please.

Andrew Adams

I mean even if it's done by environment, doesn't make your argument stronger. Do you agree? No matter the cause, something is screwed up up there.

Sure.

Elliot Temple

i don't think i've stated my case. i began earlier by saying that hardware and software problems are different categories of things, and both are real. do you agree?

Andrew Adams

I don't thing software is separate from hardware in the brain. All the behaviors we have is due to neurons connections to each other. As I said, software is just a set of instructions for the cpu, but the difference in the brain is that the software is not programmed separately, but also hardwired in the neurons. Say you're kind person, right? I can theoratically open your mind, change a few neuron, and you become evil. We could do that if we had the technology right?

And again, whether the behaviour is shaped by genes or environment is irrelavant.

Elliot Temple

you can also open up a computer and edit stuff to change what it does. that's the same thing.

Andrew Adams

So do you agree neurons getting screwed up is not really different from brain damage?

Elliot Temple

you can arrange your neurons in a bad configuration by forming bad ideas. you can make unwise life decisions, believe a bunch of crap from a cult, and it physically affects the arrangement of your neurons. this – people having ideas, for better or worse – is different than Alheizmers or brain cancer.

Andrew Adams

No!!! You shouldn't be an evil person to have your wiring screwed up!

Elliot Temple

the data in a computer can be screwed up due to a hard disk malfunction or due to software that writes bad data. one is a hardware error, one is a software error. they are different things.

Andrew Adams

Why do you assume only evil things are the only environmental factors that cause brain problems?

Elliot Temple

i didn't assume that. i'm trying to say that bad ideas exist. you seem to be resisting this and saying it's all just neurons.

i'm trying to use the simplest, most clearcut cases as initial examples.

people get indoctrinated into cults, and that's not an illness. right?

Andrew Adams

I'm not denying people can believe in bad ideologies and get brainwashed. But for some it's just the wiring that can be genetically or by a certain environment or by nutrition for example screwed up.

Do all people that have diabeties have had bad diets in their life?

Absolutely not.

It's sometimes merely genetic.

Elliot Temple

i'm not trying to say all people, at this time. i'm trying to establish a category exists and some stuff is in it. some people are healthy and join a cult and it's a big mistake and it has some physical affect on their neurons (e.g. they form memories of cult ideas, which then physically exist in their brain), but it's still not an illness or brain damage. it's a different thing. right?

Andrew Adams

If you were born with one of your neurons for example only one centimeter to one side, you could become a more violent person. Do you agree that?

It's just biology.

There was a man that murdered his whole family and then went to street and mass murdered a bunch of people. They opened his brain for autopsy and they found out he had two tumors in is brain.

and tumors are not the only thing that can cause that.

Elliot Temple

can you answer my question?

Andrew Adams

You can be genetically born with some kind of screwed up neurons.

I answered it. I agree that ideologies can change your neurons.

But those are not the only cases.

Some people can't just help it.

It's like saying to a diabetic person to stop it with his insulins

Elliot Temple

And you agree that ideologies are not brain damage or illness, even when a neuron changes?

Andrew Adams

brain damage IS chagne of neurons

Elliot Temple

so you think that all people adopting bad ideologies count as brain damaged and ill?

Andrew Adams

Not all changes are brain damage, but brain damage is a change in neurons

You can change your neurons and become too generous and kind

Elliot Temple

so you agree that a person can adopt a cult ideology, have neurons change, but they are not ill and are not brain damaged?

Andrew Adams

First, the fact that they have done evil things could be due to the way their neurons were wired in the first place. I mean, couldn't choose your original brain wiring could you? Second, there is a difference between adopting cult like behavior and the diseases that are categorized as mentally ill. People get moody, see things, get depressed, get anxious. These are not things you see on TV or cults and adopt.

Elliot Temple

Why won't you give a straight answer?

Andrew Adams

The fact that they first joined the cult is due to the wiring of their brain.

Elliot Temple

do you think most people are brain-damaged or not?

Andrew Adams

Yeah

By that definition

I don't beleive in free will

You are nothing but the wiring of your brain

Elliot Temple

do you think most people have brain illnesses/diseases? and so you would call most people "mentally ill"?

Andrew Adams

and 90% of the environment you grew up in you didn't choose

Most people have different wirings that most don't lead to extreme behavior, but some of them are extereme. So all people are mentally ill, but only some are in the extreme side.

There is no such thing as perfect wiring

Elliot Temple

you're not using words in the way psychiatry in general does, nor the way Szasz does. this makes the discussion difficult.

Andrew Adams

Some are lucky and don't get bad wirings due to anomalies.

Some due

Do you believe in genetics?

Elliot Temple

i believe i have genes.

that question isn't very clear.

Andrew Adams

and do you believe genes determine the wiring of your initial brain?

Elliot Temple

mostly, yes. there may be some other factors in the womb.

Andrew Adams

prenatal effects true. Which you didn't choose.

So if I'm a person who by chance are born by a screwed up wiring.

am i considered ill if my behavior lead to extreme bad causes that is hurful?

Elliot Temple

are you a native English speaker?

Andrew Adams

No

I'm typing very fast too, my spelling and grammar are not as bad

Elliot Temple

I don't think your genes control your whole life. I think people make decisions in their life, and they're responsible for lots of what happens in their life.

Andrew Adams

But the wiring that you originally inherit is genetical, right?

Elliot Temple

Your genes create an initial brain with an intelligent mind. They set that up. If they didn't do that, you'd be screwed. But once you have that, then you have a chance to think for yourself.

The operation of your intelligent mind, not your genes, control most of what happens in your life, such as what ideas you accept.

To understand a person's life, you need to analyze how intelligence works, rather than genes.

And to know much about a person, you usually need to look at their ideas not their neurons.

Andrew Adams

But you are denying that the early years of your life and the original wiring can have huge impact.

If you were born with a set of neurons that made you a little more agressive in school, or a little less IQ, or little more depressed.

Elliot Temple

The original wiring has the impact: creates intelligence software. Your early years have a big impact because your intelligence is actively learning and thinking during that time.

Andrew Adams

Exactly

Elliot Temple

IQ is a myth.

Andrew Adams

Did you choose to be born to your family?

Elliot Temple

no.

Andrew Adams

So those crucial early years that you didn't have control over may set your neurons up in a way that can lead you to join a cult in the future. Or the way your original neurons were determined by your genes.

Elliot Temple

Having bad parents is hard and I think they can have some partial responsibility for what their children do, especially at younger ages.

However, you can still make good life choices even if you have bad parents. Especially once you're an adult and free to control your own life.

Andrew Adams

Is it possible that someone is born with a brain that is genetically wired a little screwed up?

Elliot Temple

You have power over what happens in your life. Everything isn't determined by fate.

Andrew Adams

Not fate, but genes and the environment you were didn't choose at early lives.

Elliot Temple

I don't think anyone is born a little screwed up, no. Either you have functioning intelligence software or you don't. There's no such thing as 95% intelligent.

That's not Szasz's idea btw. It was developed by David Deutsch and I.

Andrew Adams

What kind if reasoning is that? Are all people the same height or midget?

The brain is biological

Elliot Temple

It has to do with universality, which is covered in DD's books.

Andrew Adams

What universality?

Universality of computation?

Elliot Temple

there are other types of universality besides computation, such as universal knowledge creators (intelligences).

Andrew Adams

If you were born autistic, could you be the person you are now?

Elliot Temple

i think autism is a myth.

Andrew Adams

In what sense?

Elliot Temple

some parents don't like their children, and fight with them. they call those children "autistic" to stigmatize them.

Andrew Adams

What?! Are you serious?

Elliot Temple

it has nothing to do with a brain problem. it's just a disagreement, a moral conflict.

this is DD's view too.

Andrew Adams

Have you met an autistic person?

Elliot Temple

i have met a person who has been called autistic, yes.

Andrew Adams

Well, attributing all your ideas to DD doesn't make them right.

So you think a moral conflict caused that?

Elliot Temple

why don't you read this and point out which statement is false? http://web.archive.org/web/20030620082122/http://www.tcs.ac:80/Articles/DDAspidistraSyndrome.html

DD's views are not automatically true, but you shouldn't call them unserious.

Andrew Adams

Asperger is not autism

Elliot Temple

so do you think DD is correct about everything in that article?

Andrew Adams

what year was this written?

Elliot Temple

1997 like it says

it doesn't matter.

Andrew Adams

It matters!

https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/tc/aspergers-syndrome-symptoms#1

Read this

20 years ago

Elliot Temple

what about it?

Andrew Adams

Totally different symptoms than what dd was mocking 20 years ago. A lot has changed.

Elliot Temple

no, it's the same thing as before, e.g. "Talk a lot, usually about a favorite subject. One-sided conversations are common. Internal thoughts are often verbalized." is exactly the kind of thing DD was mocking.

how is talking a lot about your favorite subject an illness?

Andrew Adams

Asperger they say is a mild case of autism, so symptomes are the watered down symptomes of autism. If you have ever seen an autistic child, how could you say it's due to a moral conflict?

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/discovery-of-18-new-autism-linked-genes-may-point-to-new-treatments/

Scientific american 2017

Elliot Temple

what exactly do you think could not be a parent-child conflict?

Andrew Adams

regarding autism

Elliot Temple

by autism-linked genes they mean correlated. as before, if you have a causation study, provide a link.

Andrew Adams

Let's say even it is due to parents. Does that make the person ill due to his parent's actions that he didn't choose?

Elliot Temple

in order for something to be shown to cause autism, autism would also need to be carefully defined.

Andrew Adams

How about the way they all look and act?

Elliot Temple

i don't see what hating your parents, and not being a total conformist, has to do with being ill.

Andrew Adams

that's due to moral conflict too?

Elliot Temple

i don't know what looks and actions you're referring to.

Andrew Adams

But you were saying everyone can choose the right path and stuff

Elliot Temple

in my understanding, the people called "autistic" look and act in a wide variety of different ways. they aren't all the same.

Andrew Adams

Just watch autistic kids on youtube

Elliot Temple

i have

Andrew Adams

And you think they are all due to bad parentin?

parenting?

Elliot Temple

in short, yes.

Andrew Adams

Okay even let's say you're right and autism is 0% genetical and due to moral conflict of parents.

Elliot Temple

and in many cases, i don't think anything is wrong with the kid.

i think the kid is fine and the parent just doesn't like him.

Andrew Adams

They can't have eye contact, they don't react facially or understand emotions, they can't think big picture,

I've met them and they all had the same problems.

You can't deny it's problem

Elliot Temple

some people don't like to make the socially normal amount of eye contact. i don't see anything wrong with that.

Andrew Adams

Do you believe they are abnormal?

Elliot Temple

some people called autistic seem completely normal in the videos on youtube. others seem abnormal, yes, but i don't see anything bad about not making eye contact.

i don't think everyone should be a conformist who spends their whole life trying really hard to fit in and be normal.

learning what facial expressions to make, in what situations, so that people think you're normal is a skill. some people are more interested in other skills.

Andrew Adams

Is there any mental disease that you attribute to genetics?

Elliot Temple

no. all the ones with genetic, disease or injury causes are already called regular illnesses, like Alzheimer's, not "mental illnesses" like schizophrenia and autism

Andrew Adams

How about down syndrome?

Elliot Temple

that's a defective chromosone. regular illness.

Andrew Adams

So genes can get screwed up but not neurons in the brain

?

Elliot Temple

people are very mean to down syndrome persons similar to how they treat "autistic" people, though. that part is similar.

Andrew Adams

So genes can get screwed up but not neurons in the brain?

Elliot Temple

bad ideas aren't caused by genes.

good ideas also aren't caused by genes. genes set up intelligence software. from there, you have to look at how intelligence and ideas work, not at genes.

it's like if you buy a house, you don't blame the construction workers for when you yell at your wife in the house.

the genes are the construction workers.

they built the brain in the first place, but that doesn't mean they're controlling it later.

Andrew Adams

So a gene can make you like a down syndrome kid but the same gene structure that code for neurons can't in any way make you more aggressive or psychopathic?

Why do you assume that?

Elliot Temple

i'm not assuming it, it's implied by what's currently known about epistemology, computation, science, etc

i've studied it extensively.

Andrew Adams

Send me a study that says genes have no affect in how the neurons function later in life

Elliot Temple

my argument doesn't consist of a study.

it consists of understanding concepts like universality.

and putting them together to help you analyze and interpret various evidence, studies, behaviors, etc

why don't you send me a correct genes cause (not correlated) mental illness study? you said you had one. i don't think they exist. prove me wrong?

Andrew Adams

http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1984-06924-001

Elliot Temple

if you want to understand my argument, you should start by reading DD, szasz and http://bactra.org/weblog/520.html

Andrew Adams

I just sent you a scientific study

You are taking two people and denying what the whole community of geneticists and neuroscientists beleive

that genes have affects, if not most

You believe a down syndrome kid can be born like that due to a single gene, but the millions of genes that code for intelligence have no way of affecting the way nerurons will function in future life

Elliot Temple

i'm not judging which people have how much authority, i'm looking at arguments

i've gotten a copy of the study you sent and will take a look

Andrew Adams

Just read the abstract

Elliot Temple

did you read the whole paper?

Andrew Adams

I'm not saying genes are 100%

Yeah. I even studied that in class at stanford

Elliot Temple

ok, why would i only read the abstract?

i don't understand

Andrew Adams

but even if they are 5%

Ok read the whole thing if you want.

Elliot Temple

not everything comes in amounts. let's talk about how many houses are haunted by a ghost. you can't just say "well it may not be 100% but at least 5%"

Andrew Adams

But you are the one who says the affect is zero

I'm just saying even if that's the case, that it's zero percent, that most scientist would caught at you because of it, can lead to mental illnesses that are not only caused by your actions.

5% i meant here*

laugh*

The same way a single gene can cause down syndrome

why is brain an exception to biology?

explain that to me?

Elliot Temple

i read the abstract. it says it's a meta correlation study. that's what "concordance" means. i also looked at the start and it doesn't attempt to define "schizophrenia".

i agree that many people would laugh at me. that's not an argument.

Andrew Adams

tell me why a singel gene can cause down syndrome but not affects neurons?

Elliot Temple

down syndrome is different than you think.

let's try to stick to one thing at a time. this study first.

Andrew Adams

No you refused to give a study so let's talk

Elliot Temple

i'm talking about the study you gave.

Andrew Adams

yeah what about it?

Elliot Temple

you said it was a causation (not correlation) study, but the abstract says it's a correlation study.

Andrew Adams

How is it correlation?

Elliot Temple

it studies concordances (correlations) between genes and being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Andrew Adams

They separate twins at birth, and measure if they both get schizophrenia

how's that correlation?

Identical twins

But you didn't tell me how down syndrome is different

Elliot Temple

the point of a twin study is to say they have the same genes, so if they both get schizophrenia that's evidence that schizophrenia is caused by genes. right?

one thing at a time please.

Andrew Adams

Ok

yeah

Elliot Temple

and they separate them. cuz if they are raised by the same parents, you could blame the parents.

Andrew Adams

Sure

Or the environement

Elliot Temple

that's what a correlation study means.

it's saying "when X happened, Y happened".

or when X happened, Y is more likely to happen

X is having certain genes, and Y is being diagnosed with schizophrenia

Andrew Adams

So two identical twins get separated at birth, and most get schizophrenia later on.

Is it chance that all those parents raised them schizophrenic?

Elliot Temple

it's wrote down when X happened, and wrote down when Y happened, and we analyzed the data and then we found a correlation.

do you understand that this is a correlation study?

Andrew Adams

It's a correlation yeah. But controlled.

How can you explain this study?

Elliot Temple

ok, so why did you tell me it wasn't a correlation study?

did you not know what correlation means until today?

Andrew Adams

Why does it matter?

tell me

How do you explain the study?

Elliot Temple

you were mistaken. i'm trying to find out what happened.

Andrew Adams

Of course they're not gonna find out genes by twin separation

Elliot Temple

we're having a debate, and you were wrong, and then you don't want to talk about it at all?

Andrew Adams

So my mistake of saying causation ruins the whole study for you?

Explain the study to me

Elliot Temple

i'm trying to find out what's going on. why did this mistake happen? i don't know what it means yet.

if you didn't know what a correlation is before today, then your understanding of every study you read in the past is unreliable.

regarding correlations, you should read this: http://bactra.org/weblog/520.html

Andrew Adams

Explain the study

Elliot Temple

this article will explain to you a lot of things about correlations so you can understand the study better.

Andrew Adams

You lost the debate so you're trying to attack me personally

Explain teh study

Elliot Temple

i can't explain it to you because you don't have the background knowledge to understand the issues. you need to learn more. when i tried to give explanations earlier, you didn't understand. you need to read more. read this to find the answer to the study: http://bactra.org/weblog/520.html

Andrew Adams

You're the one who said you don't go by scientific studies and you have your own rules.

Elliot Temple

i don't go by flawed studies when i know the flaws.

the webpage explains some of the flaws with correlation studies.

Andrew Adams

Explain the study to me then

Why when they're separated they still get schizophrenia?

Elliot Temple

there are lots of possibilities. i can't tell you exactly what happened. it's not known.

if you read the webpage, http://bactra.org/weblog/520.html then you can find out what some explanations of the study are.

Andrew Adams

And you still haven't answered why down syndrome can be caused by a single gene but genes have no affect on your neurons' functions in future life.

Elliot Temple

we're still talking about this.

and the answer has to do with universality, which you haven't read about yet.

Andrew Adams

Sure because you can't answer that

Tell me about it

Elliot Temple

i think you're getting angry and impatient, and it's very hard to give you a lecture covering thousands of pages of material, requiring years of study, when you're in a bad mood and hostile.

Andrew Adams

So neurons are not bound to biology because of universality?

Elliot Temple

minds are universal knowledge creators. there can't be minds with 99% of the universal repertoire b/c there is a jump to universality.

but you don't know what this means. it's in BoI.

Andrew Adams

Minds are just a biological organism that can get flawed due to genes.

Elliot Temple

that isn't a counter-argument. it doesn't say why my understanding of the jump to universality is wrong, or my epistemology is wrong.

Andrew Adams

So you can't summarize your universality argument in 2-3 sentences?

Elliot Temple

minds are universal knowledge creators. there can't be minds with 99% of the universal repertoire b/c there is a jump to universality.

that is 2 sentences.

Andrew Adams

Okay

Elliot Temple

i can't teach you the contents of the book BoI in 2-3 sentences.

Andrew Adams

Alright. Well, I enjoyed the conversation. I'll read that. I had no intention of fighting or something like that. And I don't debate to win.

I admit that my knowledge is limited and I can be wrong. So what you say might be right.

I'll read it

Elliot Temple

you should read this to learn about correlations http://bactra.org/weblog/520.html

it's very important to this field.

Andrew Adams

Are you angry?

Elliot Temple

no

Andrew Adams

Okay

Elliot Temple

in a gene-environment interaction, sometimes it wouldn't happen at all unless BOTH the gene and that part of the environment were there. in that case, it's incorrect to say the gene causes 40% of it. it couldn't happen at all without the environmental factor. what you have to do is figuring out what the gene actually does, and what part of the environment is involved, what the causal mechanism is.

the problem with the twin studies is they don't do this. they don't know the answer.

plus they are correlating with schizophrenia diagnoses, which is different than schizophrenia (which isn't even defined)

there are no studies which do this with autism or schizophrenia. all the published studies are just correlations without understanding it.

an example of a gene-environment interaction is: a gene makes infants cry more during the first 3 months, and then does nothing. parents in our culture are meaner to infants that cry more. this meanness results in higher rates of ADHD diagnoses in school later. correlation studies would report this as finding a gene for ADHD, but that's incorrect.

Andrew Adams

I understand the study is not perfect and it's a correlation. You didn't expect them to find the actual genes in a twin studies did you?

Elliot Temple

you said you had a study about the causes.

i knew there aren't any. that's why i challenged you.

Andrew Adams

And I didn't quote this studies as the final truth, but a little bit of evidence that genes play some role.

Elliot Temple

it isn't any evidence. it's the same as the ADHD study example.

there are many other problems with correlation studies, which you can learn about at the link.

Andrew Adams

To say that correlation study completely meaningless is absurd. It sheds some lights on the topic for furthur studies.

Elliot Temple

calling something absurd isn't an argument.

look at the ADHD example. it sheds NO light on ADHD

Andrew Adams

I explained why it's absurd in the nest sentence

next

Elliot Temple

claiming it sheds light is not an argument that it sheds light. that's an assertion.

Andrew Adams

I'm not here to defend that study again. You've gotten preoccupied with that and have ignored all other things I've said.

Elliot Temple

you are defending that type of study

Andrew Adams

You told me about universality and how it makes brain different from other organisms

Elliot Temple

but you don't have any arguments which address what i said or the link i gave.

Andrew Adams

I'm gonna study that

Elliot Temple

ok

Andrew Adams

So universality will explain to me why down syndrome is affected by a gene by neurons' functions in the future life of a person are not affected by any gene. I'm not challenging it. Just making sure that's what you're saying.

but*

Elliot Temple

it is a part of the explanation. there's a lot of things to understand.

Andrew Adams

What else?

Elliot Temple

i think it works better to start with IQ and why that's wrong.

Andrew Adams

Why IQ?

IQ is just a test

Elliot Temple

because the idea behind IQ is that some people are 10% smarter than other people.

Andrew Adams

What does it have to do with mental illness?

Elliot Temple

and this is due to genes or hardware.

and we can use universality to see that that is false.

it's a simpler argument than trying to talk about down's syndrome.

Andrew Adams

Some people could be wired to be faster at learning or doing mathematical computations but I don't believe in quantifying it the way IQ does.

Elliot Temple

from understanding universality, we can find out that all people are capable of learning the same things.

that includes people who are claimed to have lower IQs or down syndrome.

their genes gave them the same capabilities as everyone in else in terms of what things they can learn, what knowledge they can create, what they can think of.

Andrew Adams

But can it be harder for some people?

Elliot Temple

no

it's harder for people with brain damage like alzheimer's. and it's harder for people after they have bad ideas.

Elliot Temple

but they aren't born with it being harder for them (except in RARE cases of being born brain damaged)

Andrew Adams

And what's the evidence for universality?

Elliot Temple

it's more a logical argument. but we have built universal computers.

Andrew Adams

Right

But we have faster computers, right?

Some have better specs

Elliot Temple

this makes almost no difference to the lives of most people

Andrew Adams

But you just said all people learn at the same rate

Elliot Temple

no, i said they are capable of learning the same things

and most people don't max out their CPU

they use maybe 10% of their brain's computing capacity

Elliot Temple

so it doesn't matter if it's slightly slower or faster.

Andrew Adams

Oh okay I get what you mean by universality

Elliot Temple

b/c there is more they aren't using

Andrew Adams

All things that compute are eventually capable of learning all things that there is

Elliot Temple

and no one cares if you write a great book in 37 months or 36 months. being slightly faster isn't what makes a genius.

Andrew Adams

So the fact that some people are faster is biological?

Elliot Temple

that is possible, but it doesn't really matter.

stuff like "autism" isn't thinking 3% slower than someone else.

Andrew Adams

Oh okay.

Elliot Temple

and bad ideas make people 1000x better or worse at thinking.

or good ideas

so it's the ideas that are important

Andrew Adams

Gotcha

Thank you

Elliot Temple

sure

:)

Andrew Adams

I'll read more on it

Elliot Temple

i don't know a lot about down syndrome. it's possible they think significantly slower and it matters. more likely, i think, is that a brain defect causes random errors. genes can't control you like telling you to be a Republican, but if genes build your brain wrong it can cause random data to be deleted or changed sometimes which makes it harder and slower to think (you have to spend more time double checking things, kinda like using checksums)

random error doesn't make someone have certain opinions or be aggressive.

i don't think stuff like "autism" and "schizophrenia" is related to physical brain problems, but down syndrome could be.

i don't think it's like the "mental illnesses" from what i know.

it's more objective and consistent, and has a medical test.

instead of just talking to someone and then lots of different psychiatrists would reach different conclusions about the same person.

Andrew Adams

I see

watch this please and let me know what you think

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RG5fN6KrDJE&index=7&list=PL848F2368C90DDC3D

Elliot Temple

90 minutes? hmm. will you sign up for my newsletter and discussion forum in return? :)

Andrew Adams

First 40 minutes would suffice actually

Sure!

Elliot Temple

awesome

fallibleideas.com/newsletter

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/info

i may not watch for a few days. i'll post some comments to my forum or blog.

i will also get this conversation posted somewhere

Andrew Adams

Just signed up for the newsletter.

Cool!

Do I have to have a yahoo account to join the group?

Elliot Temple

no, you can also send a blank email to [email protected] and then confirm

Andrew Adams

Awesome just joined the group too

I look forward to your thought on the video

Elliot Temple

ok :)

Andrew Adams

Hi, this just crossed my mind. What do you think of savants?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2HiLtgGdVg

Like these two guys for example

Elliot Temple

brains are computers. mostly "savants" do stuff that's actually pretty easy to do with a PC like memorizing things or math. it's just a bit of a quirk to organize their mind differently than most people and are able to use some hardware features that other people are bad at using.

most people don't want to do the things savants do. they aren't interested.

some people memorize hundreds of pokemon names and various facts about them all. but if you do digits of pi, people get way more impressed for some reason.

others memorize hundreds of bible quotes. remembering lots of stuff is actually pretty common.

Andrew Adams

I see. Thanks.


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Word Use As Social Copying

People commonly use words without knowing their meanings. Instead of learning what a word means, people observe others and learn what situations the other people use that word in. People commonly use words by social copying instead of by understanding their meaning.

This is a very bad method. It's one of the reasons people write incoherent stuff so often.

They do the same thing with quotation marks. They don't know what quotation marks mean, and they copy other people misusing them.

I've observed frequent misuse of quotation marks, by many people, in a variety of contexts. I've been trying to figure out what's going on. Sometimes the quotation marks seem to be italics, and other times they seem to mean "add the text 'so called' before this word or phrase". They're used in many other incorrect ways, too.

I've tried asking people about their grammar usage, but they're unable to give coherent answers.


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Discussion Group

Want more content? There are lots of great posts to read at the discussion group. I write lots of them. It's like reading blog posts, but there's more!


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Ayn Rand on Thomas Szasz

Rewriting Rand is a long article about how Mayhew and others have made changes to the Rand archive material which has been made public. Books like Ayn Rand Answers don't actually present Rand's original words.

Mayhew also left out a bunch of interesting material include this:

To a question about the ideas of maverick psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, Rand replied, in part, “He seems to be for individual rights, but I cannot always follow his argument—I have questions, I have certain serious questions about some of his premises—therefore, I have not read enough to criticize him. All I can say is he’s promising” (Ford Hall Forum 1976, 40:55–41:32).

I like to find comments by my favorite philosophers about each other. They're interesting. I'm glad Rand recognized that Szasz was promising and was in favor of individual rights.

I wonder why Rand didn't write Szasz a letter and ask her questions. I'm confident he would have answered.


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Discussion

Discuss anything in the comments below.


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The Four Best Books

The four best books are The Fabric of Reality and The Beginning of Infinity by David Detusch (DD), and Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (AR).

Everyone should learn this stuff, but currently only a handful of people in the world know much about all four of these books. This material is life-changing because it deals with broad ideas which are important to most of life, and which challenge many things people currently think they know.

However: they’re way too deep and novel to read once and understand. The ideas are correct to a level of detailed precision that people don't even know is a possible thing to try for. The normal way people read books is inadequate to learn all the wonderful ideas in these books. To understand , there’s two options:

1) be an AR or DD yourself, be on their level or reasonably close, be the kind of person who could invent the ideas in the first place. then you could learn it alone (though it’d still involve many rereadings and piles of supplementary material, unless you were dramatically better than AR or DD.)

this is not intended as an option for people to choose, they're like one in a billion kind of people. and even if one could do it, it’s way harder than (2) so it'd be a dumb approach.

2) get help with error correction from other people who already understand the ideas. realistically, this requires a living tradition of people willing to help with individualized replies. it’s plenty hard enough to learn the ideas even with great resources like that. to last, it has to educate new people faster than existing people stop participating or die. (realistically, this method still involves supplementary material, rereadings, etc, in addition to discussion.)

What is the current situation regarding relevant living traditions?

DD

for the DD stuff, there’s only one living tradition available: the Fallible Ideas community.

the most important parts of the DD material is based on Karl Popper's philosophy, Critical Rationalism (CR). there’s some CR-only stuff elsewhere, but the quality is inadequate.

Fallible Ideas

besides reading the books, it's also important to understand how the DD and AR ideas fit together, and how to apply the cohesive whole to life.

there's lots of written material about this on my websites and in discussion archives. the only available living tradition for this is the Fallible Ideas community.

AR

for the AR stuff, there are two living traditions available which i consider valuable. there are also others like Branden fans, Kelley fans, various unserious fan forums, etc, which i don’t think are much help.

the two valuable Rand living traditions disagree considerably on some topics, but they do also agree a ton on other topics.

they are the Fallible Ideas community and the Peikoff/Ayn Rand Institute/Binswanger community. The Peikoff version of Objectivism doesn’t understand CR; it’s inductivist. There are other significant flaws with it, but there’s also a lot of value there. It’s has really helpful elaborations of what Rand meant on many topics.


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patio11's Passive People Example

patio11 comments on Hacker News:

I think "Repeating close variations on your usual theme unlocks far more value than you'd expect given minimal novelty value" is a surprising result. I utterly buy it.

The advice I give which has produced the single biggest deltas in outcomes is "Charge more." It is so simple that I could literally print it on T-shirts and wear it to any event which discusses pricing. People know it is my catchphrase and sometimes I get knowing laughter when I say it...

... and then a few minutes later they've agreed to try charging more, despite having an accurate model which suggests "Hah, I bet when we ask Patrick about our new pricing he is going to ask us what it is, think about it for less than five seconds, and then suggest charging more." They knew what I'd say before I even got in the room, but even the tiniest marginal connection to their own pricing grid / customers / data pushes them to actually try it.

These are great points about how passive people are. Their low initiative is immoral! (It's making their lives worse, and morality is about how to live well.)

patio11 omits criticism or judgement. He doesn't point out that people are mistaken to be this way and should change. He focuses on how to deal with people as they are – keep repeating himself to people who already know what he's going to say, but are irrational.

I think it's important to state there's a problem here. Passive people can't be expected to figure that out on their own! But some would wish to improve if they realized they had a problem. Not everyone realizes they could try to change, rather than just taking their approach to life for granted.

Guys, you should try to get better at connecting general concepts to your own situation. You should put effort into doing that. That's something you can improve at. You don't have to just sit around and wait for one of the world's few active people to tell you (which usually doesn't happen). You can try to figure things out yourself and try to get better at using and applying principles.


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Breaking People

I wrote:

I can break anyone. I can ask questions, criticize errors, and advocate for more progress until they give up and refuse to speak. No one can handle that if I really try. I can bring up enough of people’s flaws that it’s overwhelming and unwanted.

Anne B. asked:

Have you done this? Would you do it again? It seems mean and not very productive.

Thanks for asking. I think lots of people have issues with some things I say or do, but don’t discuss it. That silence is lame and non-truth-seeking.

I have been sufficiently critical in discussions that people no longer wanted to discuss.

Sometimes this happens by accident. I barely say anything and they already hate discussion and leave. Sometimes it happens with people who didn’t even speak once, they just read half of one of my blog posts or FI essays and that was it, they’re done, time to slam their mind closed and never ever think about my ideas.

Sometimes I’ve been persistent with bringing up issues and pointing out issues. What do you do when someone says “I am 100% honest, I love criticism, and I know everything! Prove me wrong!?” It’s hard to just say, “You’re a liar, so I won’t discuss with you.” Then (if they didn't just get offended and leave) they'd accuse me of evading the issues, not having arguments, etc. So what I’m more inclined to do is actually argue the points. And if they keep going, I keep going. And then, well, they hate it and get fed up with it after a while (even when I hold back the majority of criticism I could say).

It’s hard to get out of discussions when people claim to be willing to discuss, because I claim to be willing to discuss too. So if we both are serious thinkers who want critical discussion, then who will end the discussion and why? I’m genuinely happy to discuss the issues, and I don’t want to pretend otherwise. So I if I stop the discussion, then what do I say? That I’m stopping the discussion because of some flaws I accuse the other person of having? But they’ll dislike that even more than the impersonal discussion we were already having... But if I just keep discussing the issues with zero personal comments, many people get more and more upset and unhappy until they reach a breaking point and halt discussion.

A good example is my recent discussion with Robert Spillane. He initially pretended to be a rational thinker who can deal with criticism and who is interested in thinking. That was a lie. And after a while he totally wanted out of the conversation, but wouldn’t admit it clearly because his desire to quit the conversation contradicted his self-image. He wanted to keep thinking of himself as a rational intellectual, and he didn’t want to do anything that clearly contradicted that. So he started looking for excuses to blame me and quit. This general pattern is common.

Should I declare halfway through a conversation that the other guy is irrational – which he totally denies – and stop discussing the issues and ignore his lies? :( Or perhaps refuse to discuss the issues and only participate in the meta discussion of whether he’s a liar? But he’d like that discussion even less. If I even mention he’s dishonest, that bothers people, but it’s the truthful explanation of why I stopped discussing... Alternatively I could just go silent and not explain, but that sucks. Or I can keep discussing – since they are giving clear consent and participating and claiming they want it – while suspecting they’re a bad person who actually dislikes it.

And my Paths Forward material is, in a way, a threat to people because it criticizes the rationality of the method of just refusing to discuss stuff, and criticizes the common excuses people use. Paths Forward is not about any particular person, and it’s true and important ... but it can also be scary and upsetting for people with various common flaws and irrationalities... What should I do about that? Especially with people who deny having those flaws and irrationalities.

My attitude is: I can and should continue doing reasonable stuff, and if some people interact with it in a way where they get upset, feel bad, reach a breaking point of not wanting to think about FI anymore, etc, that’s their problem. It’s sad and I’d like to do something about it, but I don’t think it’s my responsibility, and I don’t think there’s much I can do about it.

  • I want to be publicly available for discussion of ideas.

  • I don’t want to drop discussions for no reason given.

  • I don’t want to lie about why I stop discussing to protect others. I don’t want to come up with the lies they want to hear so they feel good, and basically try to manipulate them in just the right way they’re happy (despite their ongoing conflicts with reality). I don’t want to offer a safe space at all, let alone offer what people want even more: to pretend they are having real discussions, but then I somehow make it a safe space for them while they feel brave...

  • If I end discussions honestly by saying the other person isn’t good enough, people don’t like that and will try to debate how good they are. That will get into meta discussion criticizing their morality, scholarship, thinking methods, etc. This will bother people more than the initial, impersonal discussion of some topic like capitalism.

  • If I end discussions honestly by saying the other person doesn’t want to discuss, they will deny that. They are open-minded, super rational, and want truth-seeking discussion, they claim... (Not everyone but this comes up a lot with the kind of people who’d even begin a discussion.) So then I have to call them dishonest, go silent, or else this method of ending the discussion didn’t work. Plus I don’t like the possibility that I misjudged someone and I’m ending a discussion with a genuinely better person just because I thought I saw some subtle signs something was going wrong, and then I assumed they weren’t good enough to discuss the potential problem openly.

  • It’s really hard to tell how upset people are or aren’t about discussions because they put a lot of effort into hiding it, and they lie. This is especially true over text so their voice tones and facial expressions don’t give them away. And even if the type out some angry stuff as an initial reaction, they can delete it before sending their message, so I never see it. And I hate to judge people as bad without it being really clear. I’d rather give people the benefit of the doubt ... but then when I treat them as a decent person that actually doesn’t go well for them if they aren’t a decent person...

Suggestions? (BTW even asking for suggestions is dangerous. It encourages people to make suggestions which I've already thought about way more than them. Then they can get hurt when it turns out their suggestion isn't valuable, and I respond with criticism instead of thanks. But it's also awkward and problematic to try to say "Really good suggestions?" And if I say that, then it's even more risky for someone to make a suggestion, because then they're claiming their suggestion is really good by posting it, and then they look even worse when they receive criticism and it turns out to be crap. Similarly I've run into problems asking people for advice, tips, etc, because I'll go ask someone who thinks he's good at something which I think I'm bad at, and then when we talk it turns out I'm way better at it than they are, and I also have much higher standards, and that's embarrassing for them. And people don't want to face realities like this.)


More thoughts:

I only share criticism and comments in hopes of positive reactions – e.g. the person learning something or pointing out a mistake I made. But I've realized that no one else thoroughly likes criticism, and therefore they'll all break if I openly, honestly and persistently share my best ideas (including challenging dishonesty I spot, while optimistically thinking they'd want to find out about and try to solve the problem).

This situation sucks for me. I don't want negative interactions. People are both bad and dishonest about communicating what would and wouldn't be a negative interaction. I have to guess a lot. I like discussion but I strongly prefer to focus on thinking about the issues instead of managing the fragility of others. But people find rational, critical discussion overwhelming and unwanted, so normally I hold back over 90% of what I could say.

People are less threatened by educational material outside the context of a discussion, when it has severely inadequate guidance for applying it to their own lives. I can speak more freely in that kind of context, without hurting people, because it doesn't make much difference to people.

This is an open, large problem which no one else is helping with much. DD ran into the same problem and it broke him even though he at least had one person (me) available to speak openly to without having to shelter me.


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