Integrating Goldratt's Philosophy with Fallible Ideas

i do lots of stuff and mention it and ppl usually don’t follow along and do my cool new projects. sometimes a few ppl read or learn 1/4 of it, a bit late, and then don’t take it very far.

and they aren’t doing a stream of their own awesome projects either.

this is my overall impression.


well they are overreaching. they don’t have spare capacity to jump on opportunities as stuff comes up. they are booked up too much. if they only booked 50% of their time, then they’d have time available for cool opportunities as they come up.

in the name of efficiency, ppl will schedule all of their time, and then there’s no flexibility to get anything else done, and they miss out on tons of great opportunities. and they are often in crisis mode b/c they can't even do everything on their schedule, but they made promises to do those things, and then they have to take inefficient steps to deal with the crisis.

this is a ton like in The Goal, by Eli Goldratt, where factory work stations need excess capacity. and ppl intentionally try to get rid of any idle time in the name of efficiency. (read the book if you wanna understand this post better, and also b/c it's a really great book. there's tons of relevant stuff in the book which i don't go over here. also read his book, The Choice.)

this attitude ends up chasing lots of local maxima at the expense of global ones. that’s what busy schedules do too.

in The Goal, for example, they run robots 24/7 at their manufacturing plant so the robots won't be idle. but they end up producing too much of the stuff the robots can make, which makes things worse. and they have ppl at the heat treat oven go do other tasks while it runs, but then they're late to come back and lose super valuable time starting the next oven batch, so what they're doing is actually much, much worse than having ppl just sit around and wait by the oven and never be late to get the next load started.

paradoxically, ppl have their lives so full they never get anything done. which is exactly one of the main problems in The Goal.

it’s also like poor ppl who stay poor partly b/c, lacking spare money, they can’t jump on sales or bulk discounts very well. ppl who lack spare/idle time, b/c they are so time poor, end up using their time really inefficiently exactly like poor ppl use money inefficiently.

ppl often will make some attempt to free up time for a specific purpose. they want to do X so they manage to shift some time on their schedule from something else to X. but doing that never solves the problem of being overbooked in general, let alone giving one the excess capacity to jump on good opportunities and do things with longterm benefit (in the same way having excess money in the bank lets you use your money better).

i'm not advising you sit around doing literally nothing for long periods of time. but for most ppl it's really not hard to find things to do! most ppl have plenty of stuff they want to do. if you aren't doing anything for a while, don't rush to start an activity. give yourself time to think sometimes! and if you aren't doin much thinking right now or you finish thinking, ok, then consider your priorities and pick something good to do. also place a higher value on activities with flexible scheduling that are easy to interrupt and take breaks from, and activities that offer fast returns on investment so it's fine if you quit.

that's how i organize lots of my time. i avoid scheduled obligations and longterm commitments. instead of literal idle time, i have a lot of flex time where i have some things i can do, but also it's no problem to not do them if something else comes up.

examples of flex activities including reading, writing, playing games, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and having discussions. at a moment's notice i can redirect all my time away from those things and have all day to do something else, no problem. (it doesn't have to be something else, either. if i get really into reading something, and i'm learning a ton and excited by it, then i can redirect time to that. when i want to read something, i'm usually pretty much only limited by getting tired, not by my ability to free up time for it immediately. b/c of how i run my schedule, raw time is much less of an issue for me than for most ppl, so i have gotten to put a lot of thought into some more advanced issues of managing energy/attention/focus, which are where people's bottleneck should be. there are more hours in the day than hours per day you have the energy to do good thinking, so if time is your bottleneck you're doing something wrong!)

people managing their time, attention and mental energy very badly is also why Paths Forward seems so implausible to them. so to try to save time they actually act irrationally which is very destructive, especially for supposedly truth-seeking intellectuals.

also, in the majority of cases, concretizing plans in advance is premature optimization. don't tie down what you're going to do in advance when you have less information about what's best to do. in some cases you get benefits from partially deciding early (e.g. you can buy supplies for a project in advance), but you should usually avoid it. don't concretize plans early without a very clear reason it's beneficial, and only concretize to the extent needed to get the benefit, and be wary of activities that require a lot of concrete, advance planning.

ppl often push you for concrete planning, implicitly. cuz they are overbooked on concrete plans, they never get to the less concrete plans. so you have to schedule concrete plans with them in advance or you can't do anything with them. so their lack of idle time is causing every additional thing added onto their schedule to be concretized in advance (which is worse). the busy schedule itself is preventing the best activities and only letting lesser activities get onto the schedule! the busy schedule is causing tons of premature optimization.

making the right changes is so much more important than spending tons of time making tons of changes. it's not "efficient" to spend all your time that way, that's a local maxima. you'll get more productively accomplished, in a fraction of the time, if you do the right things. this is a theme of Goldratt which fits with FI well.

if flex time loses 10% against the local maximum to retain flexibility, and you do a different much better activity once a week (use the flexibility a minority of the time), you can come out way ahead.

e.g. you might play video games that are easily interruptible. this reduces your selection of games, so you get to play a slightly less ideal game on average. some days, as a result of doing this, you come out behind – play a less ideal game with no upside on that day. however in the bigger picture you come out ahead – the days where you gain a large benefit from the flexibility more than make up for the minor downsides.

don't screw up the important stuff b/c you were too distracted optimizing minor details! this is a big deal, and is in The Goal (having ppl wait around at the bottleneck work stations, spending most of their time idle, improves production b/c those work stations are so important that it's better to wait around for hours than to be a little late from multitasking.)

you can look at this in terms of local vs. global evaluation of results, or seen and unseen (Bastiat's take on the broken window fallacy and selective attention).

what's natural for me personally is to see that, right now:

1) play game with 9 value per hour, and have a 10% chance to interrupt it to do something worth 50 value per hour

is more points, now, than:

2) play game with 10 value per hour.

cuz i look at expectation value (a well known poker concept meaning the avg expected value of what ur doing, regardless of what happens today), so i even get the local case right. the expectation value is 90% * 9/hr + 10% * 50/hr which is 13.1/hr (that math doesn't cover the mixed case where you do it for a while then interrupt partway through, so the real advantage is smaller but, given reasonable assumptions about the unstated details, it'll still be an advantage. note: you do need to be careful with risk when dealing with expectation values, especially when dealing with high stakes all at once. e.g. i'd rather have a million dollars than a 50% chance of 2.1 million dollars, even though the second option is a little more money on average. the only way i'd take the second option, which comes out to 50k more on avg, is if i made a deal with a bank or rich guy. e.g. the bank gives me a million dollars plus 10k, and i pick the 2.1m choice and give them the full amount from it. then i get 10k more than if i picked the 1m option, and the bank comes out 40k ahead on avg, and they have enough money to deal with the variance.)

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Learning From Emergencies

Eli Goldratt Interview:

EG: The first one is: how do you invent? Invent powerful solutions to your real problems, to your environment. And most people think that, maybe, you have to be born with this ability to invent. What I’ve tried to show here is that every good manager is a fantastic inventor. But you don’t pay attention to it, and you waste all the inventions. Let me explain a little bit what I mean, okay? Every manager faces emergencies. And he reacts to emergencies. What can he do? As a matter of fact, a good manager will react quite well to emergencies, and he solves the problem. And what we have to realize is: whenever we react to an emergency we actually deviate from the standard rules. Always! What people do not pay attention to is that you don’t just deviate from the standard rules, you are actually following a different set of rules. And the point is: after the emergency is over, why won’t you take the time to verbalize the new set of rules that you just followed? Then think on the following; if I would have used this set of rules not just in emergencies, but in the normal day to day, what damages will happen? What undesirable effects will result, and how can I prevent them? Because, if you will now augment this new set of rules with what should be happening, in order that, when I’m using them in day to day life at the normal time they do not lead to anything negative, what you are ending up with is a set of rules that is so much better than your current rules. So much better, that even emergencies are handled as if there is no emergency. And that’s what I’ve shown in this book, if you notice. Okay, a pipe is broken. Emergency. Fine, you react to it. But then what is even Paul saying? He’s dying to go back to normal! Wait a minute, pay attention. Look at how much the situation is better now. Think, how can you use it on a daily basis, because then you get this huge improvement. And that’s what’s happening in this book.


EG: Absolutely! But what I’m saying is: this is always the case. For example, take ‘The Goal’. In the first chapter, he faces an emergency. As a matter of fact, the emergency is so big that the head of the division comes to say, “There is an order which you are late on. You must expedite it!” So they expedite it. And he’s bitching and moaning about it. At the end of the book he’s doing exactly the same for the big order that saves his bottom line. If he would have just stopped after the first chapter and said, “I’ve deviated from the rules of how we are running a plant. It did work, I did send the order earlier. What are the new rules that I’m following?”, he would have saved the whole book, and he would have invented it rather than Jonah. Because, let’s face it, the way that he handled his big order at the end is exactly the same concept that he handled the emergency in the first chapter. It’s always the case. So, if people would just pay attention to it, everyone becomes an inventor.

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The Choice Passage: Dealing With Conflict

The Choice by Eliyahu Goldratt and Efrat Goldratt-Ashlag (emphasis added).

"Father, I can assure you that there is no way you can convince me that people don't have conflicts."

He resorts to his pipe.

After a while he starts again. "Let me take a step back. Maybe we should discuss the differences and similarities between the words contradiction and conflict."

Since I don't know where he is heading, I keep quiet.

"Let's examine an example of how deep everybody's conviction is that there are no contradictions in the material world. Suppose that we have two different techniques to measure the height of a building. And when we use them to measure the height of a specific building we get two very different heights. Facing such an apparent contradiction no one would say, 'Let's compromise; let's agree that the height of this building is the average between the two measurements.'"

"What we would say is that somewhere along the line we have made an erroneous assumption. We'll check to see if, in the time that passed between the two measurements, additional floors were added. If that's not the case, we'll explore if our assumption—that each of the measurements was carried out properly—is correct. If they were, we'll look for an erroneous assumption in the techniques themselves; we'll explore the possibility that one of these two techniques is faulty. In extreme cases we'll even doubt our understanding of height. But we'll always look for the erroneous assumption and never contemplate the possibility of compromise. This is how strong our belief is that there are no contradictions in nature."

I'm not impressed. "A building cannot have two different heights, that's obvious. But a person can have two conflicting desires."

"Believe me, I know," he says. "I know that people may have conflicts. But that is also the situation in the material world. It is filled with conflicts. Reality doesn't contain contradictions, but it is full of conflicts.

"Can you explain the difference between a contradiction and a conflict?"

"Conflict is a situation where what we want is a contradiction." When he sees that doesn't help, he hurries to explain. "Take, for example, the wing of an airplane. On one hand, we need the wings to be strong. And in order to ensure the strength we should use thick supporting beams. But on the other hand, we need the wings to be light, and in order to ensure that, we should use thin supporting beams. A typical conflict. And like any other conflict, including conflicts between people, it will lead in good situations to some acceptable compromise, and in bad situations to a stone wall."

"Actually," I say, "in many situations a conflict will lead to a bad compromise. To a compromise that is bad because it is the cause of many undesirable effects. Come to think of it, I cannot think of even one example of an undesirable effect that is not the result of a conflict."

"No argument," he agrees. "What I'm suggesting is that we treat any conflict like a scientist treats a contradiction."

In the last ten years I've gained a lot of experience, most of it successful, in using his conflict removal method. So I allow myself to take over. "In other words," I say, "when we face a conflict, especially when we cannot easily find an acceptable compromise, let's do exactly the same thing we do when we encounter a contradiction; let's insist that one of the underlying assumptions is faulty. If, or should I say when, we pin down the underlying assumption that can be removed, we remove the cause of the conflict; we solve the conflict by eliminating it."

"Correct," he says. "So can you now verbalize the second obstacle that prevents people from effectively using their brainpower?"

Slowly I say, "I need a minute to organize my thoughts."

Yesterday I came to the conclusion that meaningful opportunities are opened when one sees how to remove a blockage, how to overcome an undesirable situation that I'm convinced I cannot change. Many times, the blockage is due to a conflict that does not have an acceptable compromise. From experience I know that as long as we think that the only way to handle a conflict is by compromising, we'll never think about the underlying assumptions and how to remove at least one of them; we'll never find the way to eliminate the conflict. And we'll never come up with the breakthrough; we'll never reveal the great opportunity that hides there. We'll just lower our expectations.

Confidently I say, "The second obstacle is that people's perception is that conflicts are a given and that the best we can do is to seek a compromise."

Bitterly Father remarks, "In academia we are encouraging that devastating mistake. Under the glorifying title of 'optimization' we invest considerable efforts to teach students, not how to remove conflicts, but how to waste time finding the 'best' compromise. What a waste of talent."

Consider the connection between conflict is a situation where what we want is a contradiction and the TCS concept of "coercion".

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Commentary Videos on 12 Rules for Life

I made videos where I read Jordan Peterson's new best-selling book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, and share my thoughts in detail. I went in blind and edited out the silences from reading; it's my raw thoughts as I read, which show you one of my processes for how I think things through and analyze them.

12 Rules Screencast part 1 talks most about whether animals are intelligent (I disagree with the book and explain my view). I also talk about writing techniques.

12 Rules Screencast part 2 discusses a wider variety of issues, many of which I believe are important criticisms of the book.

Scholarly Criticism: Jordan Peterson’s Sloppy Cite (+quotes, research) changes format. I made slides and focused on criticizing one cite about serotonin and the brain. It's shorter and more organized.

12 Rules Screencast part 4 finishes discussing rule 1 at a faster pace using notes and quotes instead of the book text.

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Ayn Rand called her philosophy “Objectivism” because central to it is a new conception of objectivity. Traditionally, objectivity has meant the attempt to efface the knower out of existence, so that consciousness can “mirror” or “copy” reality, “untainted” by any processing. Skeptics then bewail the possibility of man knowing reality, since any attempt to do so must make use of his senses and/or rational faculty, both of which engage in processing.

This text is confusing so I wrote an explanation of the issue:

There is an idea that if an observer or thinker has any traits or characteristics, these bias his observations or ideas. His evidence and conclusions are tied to his own nature – the way his eyes work, the way his brain works, etc. The thought is that people with different eyes or brains could not agree with each other because they will each see or think about the world in their own different way, and won't have any objective ideas/evidence for common ground.

Objectivism says the logical implication of this way of thinking is that you kinda need to not exist to avoid bias. Any eyes or brain have a particular form (or "identity" is the word Rand uses) and therefore the only way to avoid bias is not to exist, not to have anything like a brain or eyes that are one way instead of a different way!

Objectivism rejects the idea that your eyes taint your observations, and that observations have to perfectly mirror reality to be any good. Even if you have blurry eyesight or you're colorblind, you can learn about actual reality instead of merely your subjective perceptions. Having a particular kind of eye doesn't prevent you from having a connection to reality.

To think objectively requires certain methods of thinking, such as trying to understand the nature of your eyes and brain and account for any problems they may cause. E.g. you can know your eyes are flawed and get glasses. And you can also use cameras and other tools to look at the world. And the results are there's an underlying reality which can be understood, rather than a chaos of incompatible observations for each observer or measurement instrument.

Objective thinking requires other things as well, like trying to see other sides of issues instead of just arguing for your initial position. Standard reason stuff.

None of this should lead us to skepticism, to giving up on there being a real world that we can know things about.

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Evil and Chaos Exist

when i was growing up, no one told me about tragedy and malevolence – not parents, school, TV, books. (fantasy books do present evil, but outside the context of the real world, as a fantasy.) so i was not prepared to face the human condition (which has positive aspects, potential and opportunity, but there's also plenty of weakness, sin, suffering, etc. the world is full of problems, some quite hard). i was told society is great, evil is rare and weak, reason and success are common.

it's been difficult finding out how fucked up the world is. it would have been easier to face from the outset instead of as a readjustment later.

One of the meanings here is: don't lie to children about the nature of the world to shelter them in certain ways (other ways of protecting children are good, and the distinction takes some serious thought to get right). but i don't think that's primarily it. i'm from the San Francisco Bay Area. neither my parents nor teachers knew what the world was like themselves!

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Voluntarily Facing Chaos and Evil

when you read a book that talks about important problems in the world, you get to choose how much attention to pay. you can just read through it and miss a lot of the point. that's what people normally do.

to get more out of it, you have to voluntarily choose to analyze it more, and think through what the negative issues are.

learning about the serious problems of the world isn't just a matter of opening your eyes, it takes a large, active effort. you have to put work into understanding them and making them a part of your own thinking.

it's up to you how much evil, badness, chaos, misery, etc, to voluntarily bring into your life.

it's understandable, in a way, that people usually don't bring in a lot. they don't take a book like Atlas Shrugged or The Gulag Archipelago and read it carefully and think through all of the meaning.

and they have a lot of excuses. this isn't like leaving your lights off to not see that your home is dirty. it takes a major effort to understand the world's misery and disorder beyond what is well known. flipping a light switch is easy, but you can say you're too busy doing other things to carefully think through the full consequences of some long, difficult books. or you can say that you did read it and think about it a lot – and face some of the world's evil – while not doing enough to face even more of the evil/problems (stopping short and pretending you did near the maximum, when there's really a lot more which you didn't make the effort to be aware of).

bringing disorder into your life is serious business. most people are already overwhelmed with their problems, so maybe they shouldn't. as Jordan Peterson would say, you need to get your own life in order before you should take on a bunch of other challenges! (don't overreach!)

this idea helps clarify for me why people don't get a lot out of books like Atlas Shrugged and The Beginning of Infinity. it's not just lack of intellectual skill. these books are serious business and present major world issues, and facing those is a difficult challenge which most people do not wish to voluntarily face. and even people interested in such things limit their exposure, limit what sort of evil and chaos they voluntarily bring into their mind to grapple with.

the more you think through the meaning of important books and ideas, the more you're bringing hard problems into your life and exposing yourself to ongoing tragedies. that's a hell of a thing to do, especially for someone who's life is already chaotic. (my life is very well in order today. but i took on such things in the past when my life was not yet organized. i was pretty damn fearless and this worked out very well for me, but it doesn't work out well for most people who try it – who take seriously a lot of major world problems, and see a lot of the world's folly, without having their own problems and life under control.)

it's difficult because the best way to get your life in order really effectively is to get really good at reason, but learning about reason will reveal to you all kinds of ways the world is irrational and disordered.

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Integrating Thinkers

what i've done, over time, is keep integrating more and more thinkers into my thinking. in a serious way where the ideas actually make a cohesive whole.

i think this is very rare.

i did David Deutsch first, then Karl Popper, then William Godwin, then Edmund Burke, then Ayn Rand, then Ludwig von Mises, then Richard Feynman, then Thomas Szasz, then Ann Coulter, then David Horowitz, then Leonard Peikoff, then Jordan Peterson.

That's roughly the order, though I worked on some people at the same time. Putting them in linear order is a loose approximation. I read some initial Rand before Burke. Rand is a particularly long project that's still ongoing.

That's a reasonably complete list of thinkers I've engaged with in a BIG way who lived after ancient Rome, and who are public figures. i've done lots of smaller projects like reading a couple good things from someone, but i'm listing people where i went through tons of material. i've spent hundreds of hours on most of these thinkers. I'd guess Burke or Feynman is the least time on the list, and I've done around 20 book readings for each.

i don't just learn these thinkers as points of view, frameworks, perspectives. i actually learned the ideas for my own use and integrated them into my own thinking, and I integrated all of them into the same single worldview. i made them all compatible (while dropping some errors, but retaining major pieces – if there isn't a major piece i can get major value from then i don't spend this much time on a thinker).

Jordan Peterson has done some of this. He often refers to Jung, Solzhenitsyn, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche and others. However, he missed some very important thinkers. He learned some Popper without going into enough depth, and he learned a little Rand and didn't appreciate it very much. Jordan Peterson is aware of Thomas Szasz too, but sadly didn't go into depth – that's a big deal which is directly related to his profession and to public advice he gives about anti-depressants.

Most people only use one thinker at a time. On this issue they are a Kantian, on that issue a Marxist, and on a third issue they've got some environmentalist ideas they picked up at college. They don't learn from a bunch of different thinkers about the same issue and figure out how to put the ideas together into a better whole. It takes a major act of creation to do that. It takes figuring out a new idea which incorporates value from multiple prior thinkers and also stands on its own, and which is overall superior to any of the prior ideas. That's hard but very important.

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Energy, Drive, Life

i was linked to one clip of Jordan Peterson, on some specific political point, about 4 minutes long.

i watched it. i didn't love it. it's not his best work. i agreed with it, but i already knew it.

nevertheless i saw enough promise in it to find another clip, and another, and i soon found some which impressed me more and i watched dozens. and then i watched whole lecture series (not clips) and more. and i've started reading his old book and his new book.

if i'd missed that first opportunity to discover JP, i would have found him later. he's been in news articles of the type i sometimes see, been tweeted about by people i follow, been involved in things of interest to me (e.g. he interviewed James Damore), etc.

But I didn't miss that first opportunity. I took it and ran with it, energetically. I try to spot opportunities like that.

Similarly, one day from a google search I found one old blog post by Robert Spillane. The comments were moderated and my comment was never approved, and the blog doesn't get new posts anymore, and never had very many.

Nevertheless, from this one lead I immediately found his books, read some, contacted him, had some discussions, etc.

After I read FoR, I then, on my own initiative, found the author's website and went through all the links (a dozen) and read things, and some of those links had their own links with more to find (e.g. the old TCS site with maybe 50 articles was one link on DD's site), and I kept going from there by e.g. joining the TCS email group and IRC chatroom, which led to talking with DD and others, etc.

People don't pursue FI with this kind of vigor and jumping on the opportunity. This has been visible to me for many years, and I've pointed it out but that doesn't change it.

They also rarely pursue anything in life, which is intellectual, much like this. Sometimes they try a new TV show and then immediately jump on it and watch all 3 seasons. Sometimes they hear a song and listen to every song by that band. Those things aren't common. If it's actually intellectual, and requires judging something to be intellectually good (instead of fun or similar), then it gets a LOT rarer.

People get into computer/video games, and from 15 minutes of trying it out they then want to play for 25 hours in the next week. But usually that's only in a casual, for-fun way. It happens much more rarely with a serious, competitive approach to the game (usually only for people who are already very skilled and serious at some other game).

You need some energy – some caring about life and taking opportunities and running with them (and caring about reason not just "fun") – or you should not expect to get very far with philosophy or much of anything worthwhile.

Life is about doing things. Most people live in a state of half-alive, half anti-Objectivist. (Most people means you, not "other people".)

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Criticism of 12 Rules For Life: Secondhandedness

12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson:

On Quora, anyone can ask a question, of any sort—and anyone can answer. Readers upvote those answers they like, and downvote those they don’t. In this manner, the most useful answers rise to the top, while the others sink into oblivion.

Some useful answers rise – and so do some bad ones. Some great answers sink into oblivion. This is well known, yet also contradicts the claim that the most useful answers rise. JP is overstating the wisdom of the mob.

Quora tells you how many people have viewed your answer and how many upvotes you received. Thus, you can determine your reach, and see what people think of your ideas.

Their viewing and voting patterns do not tell you what they think. It omits why they like things – their reasoning, their thoughts. It also leaves you with no way to tell if they're being honest (you can't spot dishonesty through votes and view).

As of July 2017, as I write this—and five years after I addressed “What makes life more meaningful?”—my answer to that question has received a relatively small audience (14,000 views, and 133 upvotes), while my response to the question about aging has been viewed by 7,200 people and received 36 upvotes. Not exactly home runs.

JP's goal is popularity. He judges a home run not by what he thinks of what he wrote, but by what other people think. His stated goal – his criteria of success (a home run) – is to get views and upvotes, not to please himself.

My goal, when I write, is truth. I don't judge ideas by popularity. I go by arguments. If someone has a criticism – even one single criticism from one person – I'll consider the reasoning and address it or change my mind. But if a thousand people downvote me without giving any arguments, I don't regard that as making any difference intellectually.

The Quora readers appeared pleased with this list. They commented on and shared it. They said such things as “I’m definitely printing this list out and keeping it as a reference. Simply phenomenal,” and “You win Quora. We can just close the site now.” Students at the University of Toronto, where I teach, came up to me and told me how much they liked it.

JP is a second-hander (see The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand to understand the term more). He's judging his work by the opinions of other people instead of by rational evaluation of the content of the work. He's concerned with who thinks what (social metaphysics, as Ayn Rand called it) instead of what the rational arguments about the material are.

If I were sharing a success story like this, I wouldn't quote reason-less praise. I'd be concerned with the rational benefit of the popularity. Did it get me any questions or criticisms I learned from? Did the audience have enough intellectual merit to help me improve the ideas? It's nice if people like you're work and they're helped, but that must not be a creator's primary motivation or reward. Yet JP focuses on it.

I had written a 99.9 percentile answer.

JP writes this like it's 99.9th percentile quality, when he's only demonstrated 99.9th percentile popularity. These are completely different things which JP blurs together.

Quora provides market research at its finest. The respondents are anonymous. They’re disinterested, in the best sense. Their opinions are spontaneous and unbiased. So, I paid attention to the results, and thought about the reasons for that answer’s disproportionate success. Perhaps I struck the right balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar while formulating the rules. Perhaps people were drawn to the structure that such rules imply. Perhaps people just like lists.

Market research is the wrong approach to truth-seeking. Who cares if people like lists? JP should be considering if lists are the best way to present his work – according to his own judgement about the issues themselves.

JP seeks to figure out what people want to hear, in what format, instead of creating original work and structuring it as he thinks best fits the content.

JP is better than this. He is, in various ways, an original and independent thinker. He does good work. That's why this error stands out. It's an internal contradiction he has, which conflicts with some of his very substantial virtues and makes things harder for him.

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Liar's Paradox Solution

The liar's paradox is an ancient philosophy problem about confusing sentences like, "This sentence is false." If you say it's true, it contradicts itself. If you say it's false, then it seems to be true. People have identified that part of the issue making things weird is that the sentence refers to itself.

To understand it more clearly, I recognized that the sentence is shorthand and wrote out the implied words. It means: "The final, completed evaluation of this sentence is false." In other words, it's asking you to evaluate if the sentence is true or false, and then compare what you come up with to see if it matches "false".

This reveals that it's, in a way, referring to the future. This is a better explanation than the self-reference explanation. Consider the sentence, "Joe loves philosophy; he'd never be an altruist." In this sentence, the word "he" refers to Joe. That's self-reference because the sentence refers to a part of itself; but this self-reference is harmless.

You're supposed to evaluate if the sentence is true or false. And to do that, you're asked to compare two things:

  1. The final, completed evaluation of this sentence

  2. false

But (1) doesn't exist yet at the time you're evaluating the sentence.

At the time you're first evaluating the sentence, (1) is undefined. That's the problem and the source of the "paradox".

Sometimes when you read a sentence, you can't figure out what something means until you finish the rest of the sentence. That's OK. It can be due to forward references or the need for context. The problem is that you need to already know the evaluation of the liar's paradox sentence (from the future) at the time you're creating the evaluation.

In terms of lisp computer code, we could write it something like this:

(equals? (evaluate self) false)

But what is "self"? It's (equals? (evaluate self) false). And what is the "self" in there? It's (equals? (evaluate self) false). Each time you expand the self to its meaning, you get another self that needs expanding to some meaning, and you can never finish expanding everything. So the sentence is poorly defined.

Or we could look at as ruby code with a blatant infinite loop:

def liars_paradox()
  return liars_paradox() == false

This is no more paradoxical than any other non-halting program like one that loops with while true.

(This problem has been solved before, e.g. this link makes the same point as my lisp code answer. I don't know how original my English language explanation is. I reinvented these solutions myself rather than reading them.)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (7)

Gobble is Better Than Blue Apron

I tried 3 weeks (9 meals) of Blue Apron to compare to Gobble (which i used for several months). These services deliver a weekly food box for you to cook. It contains exactly the ingredients you need to make specific meals, along with the recipes.

gobble meals are significantly easier and faster to prepare, cost 20% more, and were more gourmet. selection is similar (around 7-8 meals to choose from per week. maybe blue apron had slightly more. they seem to always have 3 vegetarian meals, so if you usually don't want those then you don't get a lot of choices.)

gobble puts more effort into side dishes, more complete meals, a bit fancier meals, and sauces. i also like their packaging better because they group everything for a meal in an outer bag (except meat separate). blue apron groups up the small things for each meal in a bag but then sends several loose things to deal with.

gobble sends more food that's already partially prepared. e.g. partly cooked rice or mashed potatoes that's done in 2min in microwave. or they've sent me complete raviolis with filling. or they'll send garlic shallot confit ready to add to your dish instead of making you chop garlic. they've also sent cooked meat that you just have to heat sometimes when they want it prepared a specific way that's harder or takes longer. and they'll send complicated sauces they already put significant effort into making to save you time. i also liked all of gobble's salads (and i'm not much of a salad person), but blue apron sent a lazy simple salad that didn't impress. blue apron commonly has you put stuff in the oven for 20-30min, whereas gobble tries to get meals done in 15min. i don't really mind time leaving things in the oven but blue apron is also significantly more time preparing the food.

blue apron was fun for a bit to compare and practice cooking (since you do more actual cooking from closer to scratch) but gobble is way better overall IMO. blue apron isn't bad though, i'd use them over going to the grocery store. both services work well and consistently provide good food.

i cancelled my blue apron account (for some stupid reason you can only skip deliveries one by one, but you can't skip everything by default). next time i feel like putting higher effort into cooking, i'll try a different service (there's a bunch like chefd, peach dish, and hello fresh).

oh and on the subject of food i've gotta recommend Fasta Pasta. it's a special plastic container for microwave cooking. i cook all my pasta with it; it's easier and always comes out perfect (microwaves are more consistent about how much they cook stuff). it does rice and some other stuff in the microwave too. i used it instead of a pot on the stove for cooking some pasta from my meal kits.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Atlas Shrugged Theme: Don't Overreach

One of the themes of Atlas Shrugged is one of the themes of my own philosophy: Don't overreach.

I say: If you exceed your abilities, if you try to do more than you can manage, then you will make more mistakes. More things will go wrong. If you do this too much it'll overwhelm your capability to deal with mistakes. That's overreaching: doing activities where your rate of making mistakes is too high for your ability to find and fix mistakes. Overreaching is bad, and pretty much all adult lives have tons of overreaching. The situation is so bad people just give up on correctness and try to muddle through life putting up with many unsolved mistakes.

Rand doesn't say that. But she says something related.

In Atlas Shrugged, the world has a bunch of nasty problems. Dagny tries to ignore them and run a railroad anyway, but the problems are pretty damn overwhelming and this doesn't work out in the long run despite how amazing Dagny is. What should she have done instead? Retreat from a world where she and her values aren't wanted. Give up the railroad. Give up on big accomplishments in screwed up world. Live her own life. Keep it simpler and smaller, like how they live in Galt's Gulch. But keep it pure with no corruption. Live in a way where everything works and there's no compromises, downsides, disasters, people working to make your life harder, looters stealing from you, taxes draining you, and so on.

In other words, Atlas Shrugged says to scale back your ambitions to projects which are reasonably possible in good ways – without tons of stuff going wrong. That's what John Galt and his allies do. They won't participate in corrupt, broken projects. They will only live life in ways that work. They'd rather have a single hand-tooled tractor in Galt's Gulch, or a little farm, or a few barrels of day of oil production, or a cabin instead of a skyscraper ... as long as it's fully theirs, it's fully pure and proper and correct ... there's nothing broken or wrong or bad about it.

In other words, it's better to have less without errors, corruptions, sacrifices, and moral compromises, rather than to have more at the cost of your soul or the cost of it not actually working right.

It's also like how you should learn things in general (e.g. typing, martial arts moves, or video game techniques): do it slowly and correctly and then speed up. Do not do it fast and wrong and try to fix the mistakes when there's a bunch of them. Speed up gradually so you only deal with a few mistakes at a time and keep the mistakes manageable.

In the introduction of Atlas Shrugged (35th anniversary edition), Peikoff quotes Rand's notes:

Her [Dagny's] error—and the cause of her refusal to join the strike—is over-optimism and over-confidence (particularly this last).


Over-confidence-in that she thinks she can do more than an individual actually can. She thinks she can run a railroad (or the world) single-handed, she can make people do what she wants or needs, what is right, by the sheer force of her own talent

Overreaching isn't just for beginners who try to act like experts. Even a great hero can overreach.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (44)

Learning From Losing Arguments

ppl argue badly. this is ok once. even a few times is not a big deal.

from this, they need to learn things like:

  • they might suck at arguing.

  • they might be biased.

  • they might be dishonest.

don’t accept these things. you don’t know. call them maybes.

from there, pivot to: how do i figure these things out? how does one get better at them? what sort of path is there to develop intellectually in order to get better at this stuff and/or even be able to evaluate it?

what people routinely do instead is:

  • get discouraged by an arguing failure.

  • refuse to pivot to the underlying issues that are raised by the failure.

  • or pivot briefly then forget it, rather than it being an ongoing project.

  • reset back where they started an argue badly again with nothing having changed.

overall, people lose track of the situation – that they might be e.g. dishonest and they should be investigating. this is no accident, and it destroys their ability to make progress.

sure, say what you think, see what happens, make mistakes. try stuff. but don’t repeat this endlessly. don’t repeat it much at all. move on. find a problem or three and actually pursue them instead of starting over again next conversation with the now-unreasonable default assumption of your competence, rationality and honesty. those are things that are rare, and shouldn’t even be expected by default.

move on to trying to develop competence, rationality, honesty, intellectual skills. make that an actual goal and actually consider if your actions are in pursuit of that goal. don’t just carelessly argue some point that comes up as if you’ll learn much. if you aren’t taking discussions to conclusions with persistent energy, and you don’t organize your activities, you shouldn’t expect to learn much.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)