Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (32)

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Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (11)

Comments on Prologue of The Great Influenza

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry (2004) is about the 1918 flu. I started reading it today after enjoying his 2017 article How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America. Here are quotes and comments on the prologue:

In 1918 an influenza virus emerged—probably in the United States—that would spread around the world, and one of its earliest appearances in lethal form came in Philadelphia. Before that worldwide pandemic faded away in 1920, it would kill more people than any other outbreak of disease in human history. Plague in the 1300s killed a far larger proportion of the population—more than one-quarter of Europe—but in raw numbers influenza killed more than plague then, more than AIDS today.

The lowest estimate of the pandemic’s worldwide death toll is twenty-one million,

He says 21m is a bad estimate, the truth is likely more like 50m and could be 100m. And the world population was 1/3 as much back then as today.

And that this underestates how bad it was b/c it killed young adults, not just elderly and babies like the flu usually mostly kills. Roughly half of deaths were people aged 20-39.

Young adults dying is worse than the elderly dying because more future years of life are lost. Babies dying is also better than young adults because not many resources have been invested in a baby yet. (This paragraph is my own blunt comments, which are not representative of the book.)

And they died with extraordinary ferocity and speed. Although the influenza pandemic stretched over two years, perhaps two-thirds of the deaths occurred in a period of twenty-four weeks, and more than half of those deaths occurred in even less time, from mid-September to early December 1918. Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years.

Scary. And I had no idea this had happened. I'm pretty sure I'd heard the words "Spanish Flu" (misnamed) before, but had no idea what it actually was. By contrast, I've heard plenty about the black plague and AIDS.


He says it’s kinda the first time we (well a few ppl, but they had outsized impact) dealt with something like this with science instead of religion.

After humans do anything great, people think it’s dangerous and set up rules and institutions to harness, control and contain that human power. That’s what the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration – other countries have similar agencies) now does to our medical pioneers. 100 years after the 1918 flu, with the COVID-19 threat scaring the world, I actually don't know, with confidence, that we're in a better position to face it. Yes science has advanced, but it's also more controlled now. Plus science has been mainstreamed and let in far too many mediocre social climbers and low-initiative, uncreative follower-types (too quickly, without enough cultural assimilation, and without enough requirement that they can actually achieve anything, paid for with mostly government funds with little accountability and no need for profit).

In a way, these researchers had spent much of their lives preparing for the confrontation that occurred in 1918 not only in general but, for a few of them at least, quite specifically. In every war in American history so far, disease had killed more soldiers than combat. In many wars throughout history war had spread disease.

I knew wars had a lot of non-combat deaths (from weather, malnutrition and other stuff too, besides disease) but didn't know the particular statistic that I've italicized in the quote.

Not until late—very late—in the nineteenth century, did a virtual handful of leaders of American medical science begin to plan a revolution that transformed American medicine from the most backward in the developed world into the best in the world.

William James, who was a friend of—and whose son would work for—several of these men, wrote that the collecting of a critical mass of men of genius could make a whole civilization “vibrate and shake.” These men intended to, and would, shake the world.

To do so required not only intelligence and training but real courage, the courage to relinquish all support and all authority. Or perhaps it required only recklessness.

I think Ayn Rand would have liked this even though it speaks of a small group changing the world instead of a single individual. The last sentence about recklessness shows the author's own mixed thinking: he's not really sure what side he's on or why. But he still managed to say something nice. Maybe he said it because it's true – and he knows it's true in a particular case in the field where he has detailed, expert knowledge – rather than because it's nice. (It can of course be both true and nice.)


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (9)

Discussion About Epistemology with doubtingthomas

This discussion (from Discord) is pretty long. If you want to skip to the best part, click here. That's where I discussed methodology. The earlier conversation involves me trying to ask a bunch of clarifying questions and it being difficult to make progress.


curi:

i think you're underestimating how different people are and how complex FI is.

doubtingthomas:

even for people who are steeped into CR?

curi:

yes

doubtingthomas:

well let's see

curi:

DD and non-DD CR ppl are quite different, and then FI ppl are quite different again

doubtingthomas:

ok

curi:

there are also different subcultures within those groups, e.g. academic and non-academic CR ppl

doubtingthomas:

We're not scoring theories on their reach level or anything in order to decide whether to accept them or not
so what is role of reach in the scientific process?

curi:

reach is a trait of a theory that we can talk about. similar to how blue is a trait of an object we can talk about. it could come up in science sometimes but can also be irrelevant lots of the time.

curi:

reach is useful enough, often enough, in some sort of thinking (can be philosophy or something else, doesn't have to be science) to merit a name.

curi:

it's kinda like the opposite of ad hoc, a concept CR mentions a fair amt

doubtingthomas:

does it give merit to science as a process? does it show that science or rational community is better at thinking than other factions of society?

curi:

not by itself. you could try to incorporate it into an argument to do some of that.

doubtingthomas:

It seems to me like reach is just a failure of science to present a problem where a good explanation becomes refutedd

curi:

i don't really know what you're talking about. i think of reach as basically the number of problems an idea solves. some ideas are really specific to solve one or two problems. some are more general purpose.

doubtingthomas:

if einstein had come just 10 years after newton than should we have marvelled over the genius of newton's theory?

curi:

newton's theory solves a lot of problems. having a better theory doesn't change that.

curi:

i also don't think reach is a good criterion for what to marvel over, at least not alone.

doubtingthomas:

agreed.

curi:

reach is one of many things we tend to like

doubtingthomas:

is there a demarcation which can tell whether it is newton's theory which is solving the problem or einstein's?

doubtingthomas:

sorry

doubtingthomas:

wrong question

curi:

it's not one or the other. they can both solve a problem.

doubtingthomas:

so the idea of paradigm makes sense?

doubtingthomas:

it's not easy to get a hybrid between two theories because a varying a good theory even a bit makes it a bad explanation

doubtingthomas:

you have to kind of jump to another local maxima

curi:

i don't know what you mean by paradigm. but yes BoI talks about difficulty of mixing explanations.

doubtingthomas:

both theories give different solutions to a problem. there is no qualitative difference between those two solutions if they indeed are solutions. the different solutions belong to those theories paradigm

doubtingthomas:

force of gravity being a property of mass belongs to newton's paradigm and bending of spacetime belongs to einstein

doubtingthomas:

paradigm is the supporting ideas of theory which makes a theory itself hard to vary

doubtingthomas:

does that make sense?

curi:

so you're talking about paradigms differently than the Kuhn stuff that KP and DD criticized?

doubtingthomas:

yeah

curi:

problems often have many solutions

doubtingthomas:

paradigm is something like an excompassing area in which a theory can be perfected

curi:

different schools of thought can approach a problem in different ways and both succeed.

doubtingthomas:

newton's theory was the epitome in his own paradigm

doubtingthomas:

it couldn't have been improved in its own paradigm

doubtingthomas:

in that case the idea of tentative progress makes sense. and then you can add reach into scientific process. you can say when science tentatively makes progress it puts forth a theory which has reach

curi:

so re yesno, my essay persuaded you that KP and DD were wrong to talk about ideas like "weak arguments"?

doubtingthomas:

yeah there are no weak arguments. only yes or no. solved or not solved

curi:

i've found most CR ppl are not receptive

doubtingthomas:

do you agree with this?

in that case the idea of tentative progress makes sense. and then you can add reach into scientific process. you can say when science tentatively makes progress it puts forth a theory which has reach

curi:

i'm not very clear on what problem it's trying to solve or what i'd use it for.

doubtingthomas:

Even I'm not sure what problem it solves. I am more interested in the deeper problem it raises: why do solutions fall into these well defined buckets

curi:

what buckets?

doubtingthomas:

paradigms

doubtingthomas:

newton's or eintsein's

curi:

so like why is idea space approximately organized into big semi-autonomous groupings after you take out the crap?

doubtingthomas:

yeah

Qthulhu42:

halfway between two buckets you get obvious contradictions

Qthulhu42:

so that’s an unstable point that must shift either way

curi:

i think that's to be expected because 1) it's sparse 2) problems aren't infinitely demanding. so often a solution can be adjusted a bit and still work b/c there is leeway in the problem.

doubtingthomas:

i've found most CR ppl are not receptive
@curi I think even DD doesn't believe in weak arguments anymore

curi:

he's never retracted it or commented directly on YesNo

curi:

also we have to organize ideas that way – we have to try figure out how to make this work – or we couldn't think about complex things. if ideas aren't semi-autonomous then you can't ever drop some of the complexity out of your mind and set it aside for now to focus on something else. you have to fit everything in your mind at once. you lose out on layers of abstraction like programmers use where you can treat some lower level stuff as a black box and not worry about the implementation details, which is what enables highly complex software.

jordancurve:

like why is idea space approximately organized into big semi-autonomous groupings after you take out the crap?

For the same reason that lifeforms can be organized into kingdoms, phylums, etc. It's because ideas evolve, like DNA. They build on , subtract from, and modify their predecessors.

curi:

disagree. that suggests it's not inherent in the problem space. i think it partly is, both for ideas and organisms.

doubtingthomas:

also we have to organize ideas that way – we have to try figure out how to make this work – or we couldn't think about complex things. if ideas aren't semi-autonomous then you can't ever drop some of the complexity out of your mind and set it aside for now to focus on something else. you have to fit everything in your mind at once. you lose out on layers of abstraction like programmers use where you can treat some lower level stuff as a black box and not worry about the implementation details, which is what enables highly complex software.
@curi now that I think of it the idea space is autonomous. that's what makes science an impersonal thing.

doubtingthomas:

other than that the the claim you made about emergence is very interesting

doubtingthomas:

For the same reason that lifeforms can be organized into kingdoms, phylums, etc. It's because ideas evolve, like DNA. They build on , subtract from, and modify their predecessors.
@jordancurve DNA does not create explanatory knowledge so that analogy doesn't hold

curi:

i don't agree with how DD talks about that.

doubtingthomas:

DNA mutation is undirected and without intention

curi:

at the lowest level, our intelligent thinking process may be that way too. intention and direction may be a higher level thing.

doubtingthomas:

i don't agree with how DD talks about that.
@curi did you say that about DNA and explanatory knowledge or about independent autonomous nature of idea space?

curi:

about DNA and explanatory knowledge

curi:

i find his claims about that not rigorous or explained enough, and generally unnecessary anyway.

jordancurve:

It wasn't meant as an analogy, @doubtingthomas. I believe ideas are literally created by evolution. That's the only one known process to create knowledge.

A big difference between evolution in nature and evolution in a mind is that ideas in a person's mind don't have the strict fitness requirements that an organism has to have in order to reproduce. People can create a sequence of ideas that might not work on their own, but eventually the sequence can arrive at another good idea that does work. That wouldn't work in nature, because every individual creature has to be viable enough to reproduce in order to pass on the knowledge in its DNA to the next generation.

curi:

that's an approximation. more precisely we can switch fitness criteria, including using criteria about being speculation worth pursuing further.

curi:

"this might be on the path to beating a local optimum" is a fitness criterion.

doubtingthomas:

a gene complex or a genome can create multiple different subspecies in the same environment but for a given meme complex there is a perfect newton's theory which cannot be improved further

curi:

you can optimize classical or newtonian physics more. it wasn't an end of progress if right.

doubtingthomas:

there's only certain deep ideas with reach that can open new meme complexes

doubtingthomas:

you can optimize classical or newtonian physics more. it wasn't an end of progress if right.
@curi improving it more would've never taken it into einstein's territory

doubtingthomas:

and a new meme complex envelopes the old one completely. shows why the old one seemed right

curi:

i wasn't saying it would, but "never" is an overstatement.

jordancurve:

Newton's theory has already been improved since Newton: http://www.eftaylor.com/pub/newton_mechanics.html Who's to say it's already reached final perfection?

doubtingthomas:

the few deep ideas with reach which never were killed by the old theory opened the new frontier

doubtingthomas:

when humans evolved they didn't refute bacteria. explanatory knowledge does. difference between genetic vs memetic

jordancurve:

No. Einstein's theory doesn't refute Newton's for many common problems, like understanding what happens when you throw a baseball.

jordancurve:

Ideas and organisms both have niches.

doubtingthomas:

curvature of spacetime tells that unsupported objects and earth move closer to each other

jordancurve:

So? People don't use that knowledge to analyze baseball replays.

jordancurve:

I think they do use Newtonian physics to predict the trajectory of a ball, though.

curi:

i don't think this discussion is organized enough, with clear problem statements and claims, to reach a resolution instead of just exchanging some ideas and dropping it. would suggest discussion trees.

doubtingthomas:

I think they do use Newtonian physics to predict the trajectory of a ball, though.
@jordancurve doesn't matter. they can use einstein's theory to get the same answers

curi:

whether it matters depends what problems you're trying to solve, what the claims under debate are, etc.

curi:

mattering is contextual. it matters to some things and not others. depends what you consider relevant.

doubtingthomas:

all new theories are improvements on the old ones and show why the old ones seem to be true. is there something analogous in genetic evolution?

curi:

that's not a precise statement. you don't mean all new theories. "You will x-fall if you jump out your window" is a new theory which is not an improvement on the old one.

doubtingthomas:

all new explanations which are tentatively accepted as the best known theories now

curi:

accepted by whom? people often accept new explanations which do not explain why an old one seemed to be true.

doubtingthomas:

accepted by science

Freeze:

scientific consensus? that can be wrong often

doubtingthomas:

We cannot read ideas from the book of nature. We create them. Deep good ones with reach are very close to the ones in the idea space and lots of those coalesce around each other because the rivals we guess are close to those.

Freeze:

e.g. climate change

curi:

science is not an actor and doesn't accept things

doubtingthomas:

i wasn't saying it would, but "never" is an overstatement.
@curi agreed. if modification keeps happening then another deep idea will come around which others will coalesce.

curi:

that use of coalesce is underexplained in context.

curi:

these kinds of imprecisions, at an avg rate above one per message, make it hard for the conversation to be effective in the sorts of ways i generally look for in conversations. it may work for your goals, which you haven't stated. trying to communicate to you a bit about some problems as i see them.

doubtingthomas:

my goal is to try to improve my understanding

curi:

i think working on skills to deal with errors like this, so you better understand them and do them way less, would help a lot with improving your understanding.

doubtingthomas:

i think these errors happen because of misunderstanding only. i try to criticise in my mind and when i think it looks presentable for open criticism I put it forward

doubtingthomas:

in that case coalesce is the concept whose understanding I want to improve

curi:

"misunderstanding only" – misunderstanding of what and what is "only" meant to exclude?

doubtingthomas:

"misunderstanding only" – misunderstanding of what and what is "only" meant to exclude?
@curi not misunderstanding. rather a not so good understanding. in this case coalesce. only is meant to exclude everything except coalesce

curi:

we're not on the same page and i'm not following what you're saying.

curi:

i've tried to clarify some points but things i find ambiguous or confusing are being introduced faster than they're being clarified.

doubtingthomas:

I agree

doubtingthomas:

New question. What does the autonomous independent idea space contain? All the computable functions?

curi:

I'm more interested in a strategy for dealing with the problem identified while discussing the prior topic than dropping that problem and expecting it won't happen again on the next topic (or not minding if it happens again).

doubtingthomas:

I think we have reached the 90% of it right now. We should come back to it when I have more clarity. If it happens again it will be with the intention of approaching the problem with a new direction

curi:

90% of what?

doubtingthomas:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIm_uDV1Ya8

doubtingthomas:

trying to get all the details right to a 100%

curi:

I don't think you got 90% of the details right, if that's what you mean.

doubtingthomas:

Trying a new approach will be better

curi:

I don't think so because I think there are several confusions in " What does the autonomous independent idea space contain? All the computable functions?" so we're in a similar place to where we were in the prior discussion.

doubtingthomas:

I can clarify the confusions in this? What you find unclear?

curi:

Do you think I was talking about "the autonomous independent idea space" earlier?

doubtingthomas:

Yes

curi:

From memory, I don't think I was. Do you have a quote where you think I was?

doubtingthomas:

You didn't say it explicitly anywhere. Do you think there exists an idea space?

curi:

Why are you asking me if I think there exists an idea space? Are you trying to change the topic?

doubtingthomas:

I am trying to approach the problem from a new position. give me some time to try to connect it. why do want everything to go your way

curi:

I don't know what you mean about wanting anything to go my way.

doubtingthomas:

How do you know I am changing the topic?

doubtingthomas:

It might be connected if you follow my train of thought

curi:

You switched from "the autonomous independent idea space" to "an idea space". It was unclear if you were trying to switch the topic or you were treating those two things as if they were the same.

doubtingthomas:

sorry for that. I considered both things to be same

curi:

I didn't say you were trying to switch the topic. I asked. When you ask how I know that you were changing the topic, it shows you misread me.

doubtingthomas:

Ok I wasn't because I said multiple times I am trying to approach the problem from a new direction

curi:

If you think idea space with three qualifiers is the same as idea space with one different qualifier, I don't know why you included extra qualifiers initially if they make no difference. That seems like a confusing error.

doubtingthomas:

I'm extremely sorry for that

If you think idea space with three qualifiers is the same as idea space with one different qualifier, I don't know why you included extra qualifiers initially if they make no difference. That seems like a confusing error.
@curi do you think there exists an autonomous independent idea space?

curi:

I don't know what the application of those qualifiers (autonomous, independent) to "idea space" means. It's not clear.

doubtingthomas:

autonomous is like it can kick back. independent is independent of human/person thoughts

curi:

i have at least one more question about each of those statements, and i wouldn't be surprised it was dozens before we were done.

doubtingthomas:

there should be

curi:

to begin with, you seem to be saying what the qualifiers mean, which isn't what i asked.

doubtingthomas:

then?

curi:

what?

doubtingthomas:

what did you wanna know?

curi:

do you see that you didn't answer my question?

curi:

not a literal, explicit question, but i brought up an issue and then you said something else instead of addressing it. what you said could perhaps be step 1 towards addressing it.

doubtingthomas:

I didn't understand the question then. Can you help me understand?

curi:

What does the application of those qualifiers (autonomous, independent) to "idea space" mean?

curi:

You said what the qualifiers mean in general, but didn't say how you think they apply to "idea space".

doubtingthomas:

got it

doubtingthomas:

i'll rephrase my question then so that this confusion doesn't come up

curi:

I'd rather you didn't. I don't want to start over.

doubtingthomas:

autonomous idea space is something that has its own objective existence. you can define integers but then the distribution of prime numbers is an independent property of it

curi:

do you have in mind an example of a non-autonomous idea space?

doubtingthomas:

idea space is a set of ideas. an idea space which consists of only defined ideas is non--utonomous

doubtingthomas:

it is dependent on the human who created it

curi:

how does the set {"bachelor = unmarried man"} depend on the humans who created it?

doubtingthomas:

he gave a word a specific meaning

doubtingthomas:

more importantly it doesn't kick back

curi:

so what? i can die and it doesn't change it. it's out of my hands. i can make false claims about it. me being the creator of that set has nothing to do with what's true about it.

doubtingthomas:

it's a definitional idea. that's why it doesn't change

doubtingthomas:

it is not autonomous because it doesn't kick back

curi:

I think this conversation is like the previous one: new issues are coming up faster than things are being clarified, so it isn't able to make forward progress.

doubtingthomas:

i've only introduced autonomous and kick back

curi:

That's incorrect, e.g. you introduced "definitional idea" and "dependent on the human who created it"

curi:

And my outstanding list of unasked questions is growing rapidly. It's gained several entries per question I did ask.

doubtingthomas:

those have their usual meaning

doubtingthomas:

And my outstanding list of unasked questions is growing rapidly. It's gained several entries per question I did ask.
@curi thus exposing our infinite ignorance I guess?

curi:

Those don't have usual meanings and I have several comments I could make about the errors involved in expecting me to know what you mean, without communication, by societal default, on a topic like this.

doubtingthomas:

please do

curi:

I don't think it's exposing infinite ignorance, I think it's exposing a discussion methodology which isn't focused on dealing with errors.

curi:

Not just discussion methodology but also thinking and learning.

doubtingthomas:

can you suggest a better alternative then?

curi:

I've researched and written at length about better alternatives. That is what some of the material in #intro and #low-error-rate is about.

curi:

I think learning typing is a good analogy. Some people type complicated words, at high speeds, with low accuracy. These errors are not primarily due to fallibility or our infinite ignorance.

curi:

The right method involves, roughly, learning the basics and prerequisites, then learning to type slowly with high accuracy, then speeding up while keep accuracy high. At no point is a high error rate necessary or desirable.

curi:

It's harder to fix errors while going fast. It's easier to fix errors in isolation, minimizing extra complicating factors.

curi:

In conversations about complex topics, people often make errors which could come up and be fixed in simpler conversations. Trying to fix them in the midst of the more complicated conversation is harder than fixing the same error in a simpler scenario. Plus then one is doing two things at once: dealing with the conversation and the error. It's easier to fix it when in practice mode without a second goal at the same time.

curi:

Same as: it's easier to improve your typing while not simultaneously writing messages to your girlfriend trying to convince her not to break up with you.

doubtingthomas:

can you tell me what will be a simpler question here

curi:

Many things, like typing or walking, can be mastered so that they no longer take much effort or attention. They become easy and you can do them on autopilot. This lets you focus your attention on other things and build on the skill (e.g. thinking about what you write while you're typing, or chewing gum while walking).

curi:

There are many levels of simplicity. E.g. grammar (parts of speech) and arithmetic are simpler things which are relevant and useful for discussing autonomous idea spaces. At a higher level, algebra and grammar (comma usage) have some relevance, though one might be able to get away with less knowledge of them.

curi:

Also, simplicity is context and hierarchy dependent. There are multiple ways to build up to a particular idea. There are different frameworks which can change how simple an idea is.

curi:

Complexity (opposite of simplicity) is related to how many parts something is composed of. There aren't privileged foundations specifying the base parts or atoms. But not all hierarchies are equal. There are some standard ones. That's something of a tangent. But lots of the things you bring up have a ton of hidden complexity.

curi:

There are many other questions I think one should consider first, like what an error is, before autonomous idea spaces.

curi:

And, to some extent, how does one managing learning, scheduling, discussion, emotions, disliking criticism, honesty and dishonesty, etc.

doubtingthomas:

error is failing to fulfill a criteria

curi:

Some of the problems in our discussion were (speculating with incomplete information) what I view as not using word-level precision. Not giving individual attention to each word used and considering its purpose and meaning. This is what ~everyone does, but I don't think it works well. It's something DD and I do differently.

curi:

"criteria" is a plural. DD told me that long ago. One can get away with some errors like that involving using words without understanding them very well, but not too many at once.

curi:

FYI ~ means "approximately"

curi:

A main objection people have to more precise thinking and writing is that it's too time consuming. This is where mastery comes in. Walking and typing can be done on autopilot. One can do the same with many skills related to writing and thinking. E.g. it can become second-nature to avoid writing "very" without an explicit reason for making an exception. One can do that automatically, by default.

doubtingthomas:

didn't godel have something to say about why perfect precision is doomed?

curi:

Probably. So did Popper.

curi:

These things are never perfect but people can do better and stop repeating the same known errors over and over.

doubtingthomas:

everything that you gave an example of has a fixed criteria according to which you can determine success. except thinking

curi:

If you change your mind about some criteria, you can change your habit to fit the new criteria. Lots of people's criteria are fairly long-lived. ~None are fixed. An actor might have to do some relearning for walking to play a part with a limp. Or some speech relearning to get control over his accent. And only recently I changed my touch typing a bit.

curi:

Adults do most of their lives on autopilot whether they like it or not. That's because their lives involve far, far more complexity than they can consciously focus on and control. A lot of errors are due to bad autopilot rather than being created with conscious attention.

doubtingthomas:

so you think I am committing that error?

curi:

Which error?

doubtingthomas:

that kind of error. autopilot kind

curi:

Everyone does it. I do think it came up in our conversation.

doubtingthomas:

so you think I don't have good enough understanding to understand the complexity of idea space?

curi:

Yes. I don't think it's close. I think most intellectuals spend most of their lives confused. I don't think e.g. Sam Harris could productively discuss it due to errors in his autopilots and autopilots he doesn't have.

doubtingthomas:

Can you clarify what you mean by "I don't think it's close"?

doubtingthomas:

my understanding to understand the complexity of idea space?

curi:

I don't think your skill and knowledge level is close to good enough. It's not a close call. I think there's a large gap.

doubtingthomas:

what should I do to cover it up?

curi:

FWIW, I say this to ~everyone.

doubtingthomas:

what should I do to cover it up?
i wanna learn

curi:

There's no realistic way it could be different, because our schools, books, and other educational institutions don't give people the tools to fix it.

doubtingthomas:

FWIW, I say this to ~everyone.
@curi i agree epistemology is the most important thing

doubtingthomas:

i wanna learn
where and how can I learn?

curi:

I've developed some options for things people can do. It depends a lot on you, what your interests are, what your skills are (you're good at some things already), what your resources are (e.g. available time and money), what you find hard or easy.

curi:

Some people are working on grammar, programming, or speedrunning video games. Most people dislike beginner stuff, and don't want to be like a child or student, but some become more open to it if they start to recognize ways other stuff is hard for them and they make lots of mistakes.

doubtingthomas:

can't I learn it through conversation in this chat with this community?

curi:

One can also just try to discuss philosophy but with an attitude of being careful and caring about small errors and trying to fix them and consider their causes.

curi:

One of the ways to do that better is by making discussion trees to help organize and understand discussions one has (or sections of discussion where problems happened).

curi:

And one can have an attitude of trying to figure out what philosophy concepts one understands with really high quality and then seeing what they imply, what can be built using them, instead of just jumping ahead to stuff one has vague ideas about.

curi:

Are you on a desktop computer?

doubtingthomas:

yeah

curi:

This is an example of a discussion tree I made recently to show someone some of the errors in a discussion. https://my.mindnode.com/nxNNJHpa1pmw2brf26ZwkWJgxWLPJAs2UxqAfHDU

doubtingthomas:

do you wanna make one together

curi:

It helps to e.g. introduce advanced or complex concepts into a discussion gradually instead of a bunch at once. One can have more respect for the difficulty of philosophy and try to break it down into smaller steps.

doubtingthomas:

It helps to e.g. introduce advanced or complex concepts into a discussion gradually instead of a bunch at once. One can have more respect for the difficulty of philosophy and try to break it down into smaller steps.
@curi that's a really good idea

curi:

Most philosophy material discourages this and encourages people to read complex stuff that they only partly understand, and to view that kinda partial understanding as success.

curi:

Schools are like that too. People pass tests, and often get A's, while not understanding stuff very well.

doubtingthomas:

true

curi:

Lots of young kids want to understand more but eventually give up on the world making sense.

doubtingthomas:

schools are the worst

curi:

Maybe we could make a tree another time. I'm leaving soon. Would have left a while ago but was interested in writing about this. Maybe someone else will. You'll find talking with other people easier in some ways (they'll tend to be more similar to you than i am, and accept more of what you say without challenging or questioning it).

curi:

I think this went well. Lots of people don't like these ideas or would be angry or upset by now.

doubtingthomas:

Maybe we could make a tree another time. I'm leaving soon. Would have left a while ago but was interested in writing about this. Maybe someone else will. You'll find talking with other people easier in some ways (they'll tend to be more similar to you than i am, and accept more of what you say without challenging or questioning it).
@curi i can see you've thought a lot about this

doubtingthomas:

Maybe we could make a tree another time. I'm leaving soon. Would have left a while ago but was interested in writing about this. Maybe someone else will. You'll find talking with other people easier in some ways (they'll tend to be more similar to you than i am, and accept more of what you say without challenging or questioning it).
@curi next time then

doubtingthomas:

I think this went well. Lots of people don't like these ideas or would be angry or upset by now.
@curi i only used the word tolerance first

curi:

Since near when I first met DD and learned about his ideas, I've been trying to figure out why most people don't understand or learn them , and why intellectual conversations, learning and debates mostly fail.

curi:

And I've been trying to expand on CR for ~10 years. CR says we learn by critical discussion but doesn't give people nearly enough guidance about how to organize a discussion.

curi:

So I have some ideas like judging every error we can find to matter a lot more than most people think it does. I find ignoring errors is a major error.

curi:

If an error is genuinely small, fix it. Shouldn't be that hard!

curi:

But we don't really know how big or small it was until after we fix it. In retrospect we may see it was small. But beforehand, we don't know how complex the solution will be because we don't yet know what the solution is. It's like predicting the future growth of knowledge.

doubtingthomas:

And I've been trying to expand on CR for ~10 years. CR says we learn by critical discussion but doesn't give people nearly enough guidance about how to organize a discussion.
@curi no one has been critical enough of these anti-rational memes. and even if they defeat those memes they don't know explicitly how they did it. so they end up giving bad advice most of the times

doubtingthomas:

yes

curi:

Like DD, I did a lot of things well intuitively, and trying to figure out what I did, so I can tell others how to do it, is something i've been working on.

doubtingthomas:

even he started to push out ideas about the fun criteria and so on. I think he is contemplating a book on irrationality

curi:

He's been contemplating that book for many years, and he's had ideas about the fun criterion for over 20 years, probably way more.

doubtingthomas:

But we don't really know how big or small it was until after we fix it. In retrospect we may see it was small. But beforehand, we don't know how complex the solution will be because we don't yet know what the solution is. It's like predicting the future growth of knowledge.
@curi because of the unpredictability of growth of knowledge we cannot have a fixed criteria against which we can judge thinking errors. that's my understanding. I can feel I am making some error here. Can you help me point it out?

curi:

fixing errors involves knowledge growth, so we don't know what the outcome will be in advance, so we don't know how long it will take, how hard it will be, or how many other ideas will have to be changed. we may estimate these things when the error is in a well understood category but there are limits, so people should be more hesitant to immediately say "that error is no big deal, why are you criticizing it?"

curi:

I think the fun criterion is bad. See http://curi.us/1882-speed-reading-is-a-core-life-skill#15609

curi:

that's a comment link. should highlight the right one. that's why the blog post title is off topic.

doubtingthomas:

yeah found it

doubtingthomas:

You said you have to leave. I don't wanna keep you. I can keep on asking questions though

curi:

You're not keeping me, I am. It's my choice. Don't worry about it.

doubtingthomas:

fixing errors involves knowledge growth, so we don't know what the outcome will be in advance, so we don't know how long it will take, how hard it will be, or how many other ideas will have to be changed. we may estimate these things when the error is in a well understood category but there are limits, so people should be more hesitant to immediately say "that error is no big deal, why are you criticizing it?"
@curi fixing error is correct. you can have a criterion for whether someone is making less errors while typing or while playing chess but you cannot implement a criteria whether someone has created a new scientific theory

doubtingthomas:

you can have that criterion only after you have that theory whether it is a new theory or not


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Fallible Ideas Learning Plan

Lots of people tell me they like Fallible Ideas (FI), they're interested, they think it's good, etc. Some of them try to learn more about FI, or think they're trying, or something like that, but then they don't learn much about FI philosophy. Others like FI and vaguely plan to do something about it, but never do much.

This is sad because learning FI philosophy can improve people's lives. Applied to problems people have, it can help provide solutions.

People often have reasons in their head which justify not doing much about FI. Or they do things that seem like learning FI to them, but which don't create visible results which could be criticized if incorrect. Most typically, ineffective FI engagement involves non-interactive content consumption: watching, listening, reading but without writing or discussing. Relying on self-criticism is inadequate, especially at first.

If you want to learn FI, consider a learning plan. Here's an example:

  • Try to work on FI every day, but missing 1 or 2 days per week is OK.
  • Working on FI means at least 15 minutes that day. But for the first month, two days per week can be 5 minute days. In the second month, you can do one 5 minute day each week.
  • Once a week, do at least an hour of FI stuff (30 min in the first month, 45 min in the second month).
  • Every day you do FI work, share what you did. The requirement is to write it down and share it on the same day you did it, and the recommendation is to do that immediately afterwards. This is just a basic overview like "I read X" which will keep records of what you do.
  • Starting after 3 months, at least once a week, share some work product publicly. This means sharing an idea, explanation, argument ... something people could discuss, debate, and criticize.
  • Once a month, consider the bigger picture, e.g.: what are your goals and your progress on them, what topics are you working on, why, are you satisfied with your progress over the last month, what progress has been exposed to criticism successfully, what progress has been exposed to what objective tests to check for errors, what are your goals for the next month?
  • The first day of the week is Saturday. (You're welcome to pick a different day. I like Friday or Saturday so you don't procrastinate stuff for the weekend. Depending on your sleep cycle you may also want to specify e.g. that days start at 5am.)
  • Be at least 90% consistent about following the plan. Write down every time you miss doing a plan requirement (which requirement was missed and the date). Keep counts of successes and failures so you can compare the percentage. I suggest a spreadsheet. Keep notes about why you miss stuff and what happens (they can be private if you prefer) and watch out for patterns, bad habits and problems. Share your miss counts and consistency percentage weekly until you succeed every week for 3 months in a row, then share it monthly.
  • If you fall a bit short in the early months, keep trying. But if you don't actually do the plan, the consequences are: don't tell yourself, or anyone else, that you're learning FI philosophy. The point here isn't to discourage people, it's to help you. That's because pretending you're learning FI, when you aren't, is a common thing that prevents or sabotages learning FI.

This can be done in around 10 hours per month minimum, but involves doing something on most days.

If some part of this plan wouldn't work for you, or it's just too hard, make a different plan. Change some things to what will work for you. You could e.g. start with a lower consistency target, but don't go under 66% – if you can't even be that consistent, make your plan easier so that you can actually do it. If the example plan sounds too hard, think about why it would be hard for you. You can discuss your plan ideas to get tips and feedback.

In general, you should place a low value on progress which has not been exposed to external criticism and objective tests.

In general, you should place a high value on finishing things. After doing an FI learning plan for a while, you should have a list of accomplishments instead of just 50 things you started and then stopped halfway through. It's fine to stop some things partway through and to look at a variety of stuff and be selective, but you should also finish some. That can be small things like finishing reading an essay, or bigger things like finishing a book or finishing a project to learn about an essay by writing notes about it and discussing one idea related to it (and having some goal which the discussion reaches).

It'd be a good idea to hire curi or ingracke to talk with you for an hour a month regarding your monthly review.

If you take FI seriously, it'd be a good idea to be a paying customer in some way, especially on a regular basis. E.g. contributing any amount per month is significantly better for you than zero. (Don't worry about it if you're actually too poor or can't do online payments to the US, especially if you're a kid. But if you can spend $20+/month on luxuries and can pay US dollars online, you could afford at least $2/month for FI, and you should if you genuinely care about it.)

Decide on your own learning plan and write it down and put it somewhere with a permalink. I suggest putting it on a website you control where you can edit it with updates in the future. I suggest everyone have a website they control even if you mostly post directly to curi and FI (directly as opposed to putting stuff on your own site and sharing a link, which is fine too).

Some people want to do freeform, unscheduled, unstructured learning. They think it's more rational or fun. Most people are bad at that. Anyway, it's fine to do that if you get results which clearly surpass those of the example learning plan above. Otherwise, you should do a plan. You can do all the extra learning you want in addition to the plan. Since the plan only takes around 10 hours a month minimum, just stick to the minimum when you're doing extra learning and you should still have time for more. But the plan doesn't dictate what you learn, anyway.

If you can do more and better learning, great. But don't let those aspirations get in the way of doing something concrete like the learning plan above. At least do that. If you can't or won't even do that, you shouldn't pretend to yourself that you're involved with FI. IMO, you should be happy if you can do this, and be happy with progress that looks kinda small to you. It's far better than no progress. And keep in mind that people in general in our culture (like you) are bad at judging how good/effective philosophy progress is or where it will lead. Our culture doesn't understand philosophy learning projects well and doesn't adequately respect the important early-stage work to achieve mastery over the relatively basic skills related to rational, critical thinking.

You don't have to be very ambituous at the start, and probably shouldn't be. If you read some stuff and write down what you read, that's enough to follow most of the plan. At first, get used to doing the plan itself and solve the problems you have with making the plan part of your life. Later you can worry more about saying your opinions of ideas, explaining concepts yourself, or debating issues (you're allowed to do those things early on, you're just not being asked to). More broadly, the goal is to get something working; you can add whatever you want after it's already working consistently and reliably.

Note: One of people's biggest problems with FI, besides the hard stuff (e.g. dishonesty, evasion, disliking criticism, refusing to try, static memes, irrationality), is dealing with people in writing instead of voice (and also there being a time delay, often hours, between saying something and getting a response, which is different than an IRL or phone conversation where people respond in a few seconds). Some people also broadly prefer listening to video or audio over reading. It's important to learn to deal with this stuff well and get used to using text. It's a valuable skill and should be one of your main goals early on. But if you find that hard, you can start by learning from videos and podcasts, and you could say what you did that day in a short video or audio recording, or do that in writing but say your more complicated thoughts with your voice. Try to start with something you can do and expand from there.

Note: Sometimes people do FI work and think that the time they spent doesn't count for some reason. Creating a gmail account and signing up to FI counts as working on FI stuff. Figuring out how to send a plain text email counts, including watching a video about it. Finding mind map software and learning to use it counts. So does spreadsheet, text editing or blogging software as long as you plan to use it for FI stuff. Watching a video someone from FI linked counts too. Reading novels to get more used to reading regularly (even using audio books or text-to-speech initially with e.g. a plan to do text reading for your 4th book) is relevant to FI too. You don't have to be reading or writing philosophy to count the time you spend. Be inclusive by default about what counts as FI time, and make some adjustments if you see a recurring pattern that you want to change. (The minimum for a problematic pattern is three times, but it's often better to first become concerned with it after somewhere between five and a dozen times.)


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (16)

Logan Chipkin from Four Strands is Violating My Trademark Rights

The Four Strands group (for David Deutsch fans) has been an ongoing source of trouble, including an attempt to splinter the discussion community and they continue to spread hatred which has repeatedly crossed the line to initiating force and violating rights.

The first trademark violation from Four Strands was the "Fallible Fun" forum, from Dennis Hackethal, designed to compete with my Fallible Ideas forum. He changed the name when I informed him of the problem, but he should have known better on his own, and he was rude instead of apologetic. Nevertheless, that problem is now solved, and I mention it only because it shows a pattern of behavior from these people, and also because it shows agreement that my trademark matters even from one of the people who had gone so far as to violate it.

The second trademark violation is the Fallible Animals podcast, from Logan Chipkin, designed to compete with my Fallible Ideas podcast. This rights violation is ongoing.

Logan is using the Fallible Animals mark in a commercial manner, including on Patreon and for his freelancing. The "Fallible X" naming is highly distinctive, especially within such a small niche community. There are no US registered trademarks using the term "fallible" or a variant (like fallibilism or fallibility). FYI for those who haven't read anything about the law, I don't have to register with the government for my trademark to exist and be protected; trademark rights come from usage. But the lack of any registered businesses using the term still shows distinctiveness because larger businesses usually register to get some extra benefits. For example, there are 328 US trademark records for "curiosity" (and I would not be claiming there was any problem if he made a Curious Animals podcast, despite the name of this blog).

I've received multiple reports of confusion over this type of naming before. People thought I owned the Fallible Living site, which I've given permission to exist in its current limited form, but only because it's run by a friend, has the sort of content I'd post myself, and the articles on the site are individually attributed to authors. It's basically just an archive collection of articles I also would have shared, and it's a non-commercial site. Nevertheless, if it was a new site I'd still ask him to use a different name. Fallible Animals doesn't have my permission, is a commercial business directly competing with my Fallible Ideas, and is in a position where renaming wouldn't be very hard or costly as the owner has openly admitted.

Below are the emails which show bad faith by Logan.


Jan 19, 2020, I wrote:

Hi, you came to my Fallible Ideas forum in March 2019 and now you’re making a podcast with similar content to the Fallible Ideas Podcast and a very similar name, Fallible Animals, starting in Sept 2019. My Fallible Ideas brand is well established dating back to 2010. Your podcast’s name and related Patreon violate my trademark rights. In order to compete with me, you need to use a clearly separate, unassociated name. I assume it’s an accident and you just didn’t think of the problem, but would you please promptly change it?

Jan 19, Logan replied:

I actually stopped creating content this year and have told my Patrons the same. I might return to the podcast eventually, but for now I'm focusing on other projects. Yes, it's a coincidence. I'd been saying the phrase 'Fallible Animals' as a joke for a few years to friends and family.

Jan 19, I replied:

I’m sorry but it doesn’t matter if it’s a coincidence or if the content isn’t being updated, you still need to rename it promptly. I hope we can resolve this amicably. Rights violations are a serious matter but I’m still hoping not to have to bother my lawyer with writing a letter.

Jan 19, still the same day, Logan replied again:

Please give me a bit of time to figure it out. Thanks for understanding. If I'm in violating of any law, I'm more than happy to oblige. Again, I really have no emotional attachment or anything, it would just be a matter of tracking down wherever the title is in existence.

This was fine. Logan seemed reasonable and responsive, but that was apparently a dishonest trick. Although unattached to the name, and claiming he doesn't want to violate the law, he never responded further with any explanation or defense of his actions, and did not fix it. He lied to me by saying he would figure it out, but then he didn't do that.

On Feb 1, after Logan didn't follow up, I did:

You’ve had time. Will you rename it now? The Fallible Fun forum has renamed.

Logan didn't reply, so I followed up again on Feb 13:

Hello? If you just won’t respond at all, there’s no way for an amicable solution to happen. You asked for time. I gave it to you. You have one more week to respond about your trademark violation. That will make over a month since you asked for “a bit of time” and communicated that it was no big deal to you to change the name.

If you don’t reply within a week, I will have to treat you as now refusing to respond after previously communicating that you would respond. That would be bad faith and would leave me no options short of escalating this to a cease and desist letter. At that point, you will have crossed a major line with no way back, and I will blog negatively about it among other actions. I’m trying to help you by giving you repeated opportunities to avoid bad outcomes. Please respond; this can still be resolved so it’s no big deal.

Also, I request that, within a week, you provide a mailing address where I can send a certified letter.

Now it's Feb 25 and he still hasn't replied. I am considering having a lawyer send him a letter demanding he change the name and pay my legal fees, though he won't even provide an address to send it to, as if being hard to reach with communications was a strategy for dealing with legal matters.

Dear Logan and Four Strands: Please just leave me alone. Follow the law. Stop attacking me. Stop the aggression and just do your own thing peacefully. Even if you are totaly unwilling to do problem solving (while allegedly being fans of a philosophy about problem solving), that'd be acceptable if dumb. I've never violated the rights of any of you (and none of my FI group members are violating your rights either because my group doesn't encourage hatred and crime), but you violate my rights repeatedly, which is absolutely unacceptable. Stop encouraging each other to violate rights and change your group culture to embrace civilized, legal lifestyles.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (4)

Comments on "The Society Most Conducive to Problem Solving: Karl Popper and Piecemeal Social Engineering"

Brian Gladish published The Society Most Conducive to Problem Solving: Karl Popper and Piecemeal Social Engineering in The Independent Review. I'm reposting my comments here.


Thanks for sharing the article. I found your comments on Popper’s thinking much more accurate than most secondary sources.

In case you hadn’t seen it yet, I wanted to share Popper’s "The Power Of Television” (After the Open Society, ch. 48). In it, Popper advocates TV censorship, particularly regarding depicting violence. Excerpt:

What I propose is that such an organization be created by the state for all people who are involved in the production of television. Everybody who is connected with it must have a licence. This licence can be withdrawn from him for life, if he acts against certain principles. That is my way of introducing discipline into this subject. Everybody must be organized, and everybody must have a licence. Everybody who is doing something which he should not do by the rules of the organization can lose his licence – the licence can be withdrawn from him by a kind of court. So he is constantly under supervision, and he constantly has to fear that if he does something bad he may lose his licence. This constant supervision is something far more effective than is censorship.

Popper said this in 1992 and was particularly eager to have these ideas widely shared. It shows how limited his "lifetime drift toward classical liberalism” was.

Your article mentions Popper’s "complicated scheme of seminationalization”. I wanted to share with people what that means. The letter is available in After the Open Society, ch. 34. Quote:

The comparatively easy problem is the nationalization problem. I suggest, in brief, that the state should take a share of 51 per cent of the shares of all public companies (= with shares quoted on the Stock Exchange). However, (a) they should not be interfered with in general, only if the situation warrants it, and (b) only 40 per cent, or 41 per cent, of the income should go to the state to start with.

Although I admire and advocate Popper’s epistemology, this is awful.

I had a quick comment on this part of the paper:

But it is somewhat harsh to criticize Popper for this failure [to advocate anarcho-capitalism] because he had contemporaries who were better equipped to make this leap—Mises and Hayek, for example—but who did not.

Why bring up anarchism? That criticism would be harsh, but we can fairly criticize Popper’s rejection of minarchism, minimal and limited government, and classical liberalism.

Here’s the big picture as I see it. Popper gave us:

(1) Critical Rationalism & reason -> (2) linking arguments -> (3) freedom & non-violence -> (4) linking arguments -> (5) interventionist government

His 1-3 were correct and his 4-5 were incorrect. His 1 was especially original and valuable. We can form our own system using Popper’s 1-3 followed by Misean arguments linking freedom & non-violence to e.g. laissez faire capitalism and limited government. Or we could follow with anarchist arguments to replace 4-5. 1-3 function independently of what we think freedom & non-violence imply.

Popper’s 4-5 were unoriginal and added nothing significant to the debate. He basically followed Marx in thinking that true freedom requires the forcible prevention of economic exploitation, e.g. in OSE:

I believe that the injustice and inhumanity of the unrestrained 'capitalist system' described by Marx cannot be questioned

Note how blatantly he contradicts his own fallibilist epistemology which teaches us that all ideas can be questioned.

Anyway, Popper was right to link reason with non-violence (and right to link reason with evolution, to reject induction, etc.), and we can and should use that part of Popper’s thinking without using his Marxist followup.

What do you think?

PS: FYI, there’s a typo in the 12th endnote: “seemto” instead of “seem to”.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Using Commas

Commas indicate a small separation, semi-colons are a medium separation and periods are a large separation. Commas help people know how words are grouped together and connected or not connected.

Grammar is complicated and frequently has exceptions. These tips will help you use commas correctly most of the time, but they're not exact or complete.

This article assumes you already understand clauses, phrases and parts of speech (including coordinating and subordinating conjunctions). I explain those, and more, in English Language, Analysis & Grammar.

Commas Between Clauses

Commas are sometimes used to separate clauses which are joined with a conjunction. To join two clauses with no conjunction, use a semi-colon. There are four common patterns:

Usually put a comma before a coordinating conjunction which joines two clauses:

Commas can be tricky for some people, but reading a guide can help people who are interested in learning.

But coordinate clauses don't need a comma if they're simple enough:

I like cats and I like dogs.

You don't usually use a comma for a subordinating conjunction:

I want soup because it's warm.

But when the subordinate clause is before the main clause, then you need a comma between clauses:

If you want to stay warm, bring a jacket.

Commas are common when words aren't in the standard order.

Commas Between Phrases

Don't use a comma for a coordinating conjunction joining two phrases. Example:

I like cats and dogs.

Here "and" joins the noun-phrases "cats" and "dogs". There aren't two clauses, so don't use a comma.

Commas are used for lists of phrases. A list means three or more phrases in a row of the same type, like this:

I like cats, dogs, mice [optional comma] and birds.

As a general rule of thumb, leave out unnecessary things when writing. But another rule of thumb is to be clear and avoid anything confusing. So if the optional comma helps prevent confusion, it's good, but otherwise it's bad. The optional comma generally helps when list items are long or contain conjunctions like "and" or "or".

With lists, you can see it like putting a comma where you leave out an "and". It's like you shortened "I like cats and dogs and mice and birds".

Adjectives (and adverbs) can be treated like a list, even if there are only two and there's no conjunction. For example:

I bought a big, expensive car.

This basically means "big and expensive car".

Don't use commas where you couldn't say "and". E.g.:

I bought a red sports car.

You wouldn't say "a red and sports car". That's wrong, so there's no comma here. You can also consider if changing the order works: you can say "an expensive, big car" (it's just a little awkward) but you can't say "a sports, red car".

"Sports" is grouped more tightly with "car" than "red" is. It has a stronger connection. That means "sports" and "red" aren't peers or equals. They aren't really forming a list together because they aren't fully the same type of thing. And if they aren't part of the same list, that takes away the reason to use a comma.

Commas for Asides

Commas often go around optional or inessential parts of sentences, including non-restrictive modifiers. They're sorta like a weaker or milder version of parentheses.

Commas can set aside a clause:

Monday, which is a holiday, is the only day I'm available.

Or a phrase:

Joe, on the other hand, is hillarious.

Or a single word:

In this case, however, I think he's lying.

Commas are commonly used with introductory phrases:

By the way, I like food.

This is similar to using commas in the middle of the sentence, but at the start or end of a sentence you can separate some words with only one comma. Here's a comma for a phrase at the end of a sentence:

Cars are useful, by the way.

Commas are also common with appositives (two or more noun phrases in a row):

The insect, a cockroach, crawled on my food.

Note that the words "a cockroach" could be deleted from the sentence and it'd still make sense.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (8)

Use The Comments!

Probably lots of people don't realize it, but there's lots of discussion on this website. Click Recent Comments in the sidebar and you'll see dozens of comments from the last few days. I personally post a lot of ideas and links that way, using this site like a forum, rather than making everything a top level blog post.

Every blog post is a discussion place, even if it's years old. People find comments based on the recency of the comment, not the post, so you can comment on any topic and people will see it.

Besides using Recent Comments, you can use an RSS reader or website change tracking to get notifications about new comments. Details (scroll down to "New Comment Notifications" after the page explains how to post quotes, bold, italics, links and images).


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Gaming Discussion

Topic to discuss computer/video/electronic game stuff, including esports and speedrunning.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (47)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (44)

The History of Taking Children Seriously

This is a history of Taking Children Seriously (TCS), particularly the online community leaders: Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC), David Deutsch (DD) and Elliot Temple (ET).

TCS was founded in 1992 by SFC and DD. (SFC was Sarah Lawrence at the time but changed her name in 2003.) It started with a paper journal. When ET joined in 2001, the community had TCS list (an email discussion group with around 1,000 members), a website with articles, and a chatroom.

SFC, a mother of two, did most of the recruiting. She met with homeschoolers and libertarians, networked and gave speeches internationally, and posted at many online parenting and homeschooling groups. TCS advocates frequently got banned from other online groups but did get the word out first.

DD, a theoretical physicist, did most of the intellectual theorizing. He had made significant contributions related to quantum computation and learned about Karl Popper’s Critical Rationalism (CR) philosophy. He and SFC were libertarians with ideas like individual freedom, minimal or no government, and laissez-faire capitalism.

DD’s books are The Fabric of Reality (FoR, 1997) and The Beginning of Infinity (BoI, 2011). They discuss science and CR philosophy. DD also wrote hundreds of blog posts about politics between 2003 and 2008.

A main idea of TCS is that CR – a philosophy about how to create knowledge – applies to parenting and education. DD thought we must understand how learning works in order to know how to treat children. There are no reasonable philosophical positions which imply that punishments are educational. And if punishments aren’t educational, then they’re cruel and abusive, and “coercive” as TCS calls it.

TCS was also based on (classical) liberal values like peace, freedom, cooperation, individual rights and opposing tyrannical authority (be it a king, parent or teacher). Karl Popper shared these values, although he was no libertarian.

CR says all people learn by brainstorming, critical thinking and critical discussion. TCS concluded that even young children, even babies, think and learn this way. People learn on their own initiative with help from others, not as buckets which educators can pour knowledge into like water. Learners are the leaders of their own learning.

TCS’s big claim was that children could be raised well without doing anything to them that they disliked. It’s always possible to find “common preferences” – win/win solutions that everyone prefers. The main obstacle to this kind of rational problem solving is the irrationalities that adults have. Irrationalities aren’t inborn, they come from coercion, so don’t coerce your child and he won’t become irrational.

TCS Activities Timeline

SFC wrote around 1,000 TCS list posts (emails), mostly from 1994-2002. DD wrote around 2,000, mostly from 1996-2002. ET wrote around 3,700, mostly from 2002-2012, though he hasn’t stopped writing about TCS and still answers questions and posts.

SFC secretly began building a separate community unrelated to TCS which she launched in 2003. This partially explains why she reduced her involvement with TCS. Year after year, SFC hid these other activities, while leading people to expect more TCS activity soon and misleading people about her interests and priorities. She avoided transitioning to a new community leader, and blocked messages sharing alternative TCS resources, which left many TCS-attempting parents with little support and fewer resources than they reasonably expected.

SFC stopped creating the TCS Journal in 2000 after 32 issues. She never announced that it ended and left the webpage up where people could pay money to sign up. People were still confused about the matter years later and SFC still didn’t clarify, while still advertising herself as the TCS journal editor.

In late 2002, SFC deleted the TCS IRC chatroom that she’d started in 2000. She said she didn’t know how to run it well and received too many complaints. Rather than solve the problem, she shut it down.

In 2003, SFC discontinued the TCS website. She let the domain name expire without putting a notice on the site telling people about the new site, redirecting traffic, or leaving it up as an archive. She created a new site which had a worse layout and she never even finished transferring over all the old articles. The new site was never very active and SFC mostly stopped work on it after only 3 months. There was an occasional update later, e.g. there were 4 posts in 2004. After trying to be active for one month in 2005, the updates stopped entirely in 2006.

In 2006, SFC announced moving the TCS list from AOL to the new website. People were supposed to be automatically transferred but the new group had no posts and people kept using AOL. This was never explained. Then in 2008, SFC moved TCS list to Yahoo Groups and intentionally didn’t automatically transfer anyone. The result was reducing membership down to around 50 people from a past high over 1,000.

After these disasters, ET created the TCS Google Group in 2009 and Fallible Ideas website in 2010 which included articles about CR and TCS. ET’s TCS list had around double the membership of SFC’s and many more discussions. It became the primary TCS list while SFC’s group went inactive. Meanwhile, at DD’s request, ET also made the BoI Google Group and BoI website in 2011.

ET also became the owner of the Autonomy Respecting Relationships (ARR) forum in 2010 or 2011 after running the group as moderator for over a year. ARR was started by SFC and DD as a way to apply TCS ideas to romantic relationships. Major ARR ideas included that standard romantic relationship patterns are irrational and hurt people, and that freedom implies polyamory instead of monogamy. ET, however, criticized polyamory as well as monogamy.

Elliot Temple Joins TCS

ET read DD’s book, FoR, in 2001, then read DD’s TCS articles and joined the email group and chatroom. DD regularly talked with TCS community members on IRC and on the email group. ET quickly got much of DD’s attention due to energetic curiosity and quickly learning and arguing in favor of CR and TCS ideas. Over the next decade, ET and DD had around 5,000 hours of discussions (the majority were one-on-one, not on the public groups). In 2002, ET started a private email discussion group named curi where DD frequently participated. In 2003, ET started his blog, Curiosity.

After only a few months, ET became TCS’s most active advocate. He was more interested, and wrote more, than anyone else. He’d debate anyone about anything (like DD, ET was interested in ideas broadly, not just parenting), and whenever he had trouble winning an argument, he brought the issue to DD for advice. That way, ET learned how DD would argue each issue and address each challenge. DD heavily influenced ET’s views and arguments. For example, DD converted ET from left to right wing, persuaded him of capitalist and libertarian ideas, and got ET reading Ayn Rand. DD also persuaded ET to favor George W. Bush and the Iraq War politically, to support Israel, and to reject environmentalist ideas like recycling and global warming.

Due to the close association and agreement on so many issues, people, including one of DD’s close friends, accused ET of being DD’s puppet. However, the agreement was achieved by rational discussion, not puppetry. ET argued with DD more than anyone else and persistently followed up on disagreements. It took ET around five years of learning to become skilled enough to win any significant arguments with DD, at which point some disagreements started forming as ET developed more of his own ideas.

ET began providing detailed feedback and editing for BoI in 2004, which continued until publication in 2011. DD and ET routinely discussed topics related to the book. In total, ET wrote around 250 pages specifically to help with BoI, which is enough material to fill a book. That’s why the acknowledgments say “especially Elliot Temple”.

ET was also recognized favorably by SFC. For example, in 2006, ET, SFC and another speaker gave a TCS seminar to a paying audience in SFC’s home. In 2003, SFC tried to persuade ET to “becom[e] a regular contributor to the TCS blog/web site”. She said more articles from ET would help with her goal to “make it more difficult for people to bitch about TCS the way they are now.” SFC had some mixed feelings, stating “In the past, I have sometimes found your posts a bit too harsh and dismissive and lacking explanation, but I have noticed you have written some beautiful posts which are both true and also kind and non-alienating.” Overall, SFC saw ET positively and wanted him to be more involved with TCS including writing official articles because, also, “I really love your writing.” Similarly, in 2005, SFC was also asking ET for more TCS writing: “If you would like to write articles for the site, and if you would like to contribute to a new FAQ for it, that would be splendid!”

TCS Affects Lives

Thousands of people took an interest in TCS. As with many communities, especially controversial ones, the majority quit for one reason or another. Some had major disagreements with TCS from the start. Others liked TCS initially but had major disagreements when they learned more. And others liked TCS but drifted away without planning to – they just never really got around to doing much. But hundreds of people made TCS a major part of their life. TCS affected how many children were treated.

SFC led people to believe that TCS was an important, growing movement that they could join and then get ongoing help and advice. People thought TCS came with resources and support, at least articles, a chatroom and the email group. But then SFC and DD stopped writing articles, SFC discontinued the chatroom and journal, and SFC reduced her TCS list to complete silence. This harmed people who were struggling to live by TCS ideas, as well as preventing other people from joining TCS.

These problems were made much worse by the lack of announcements, clarity, transition plan, etc. The original TCS founders didn’t take responsibility for the movement, what they led people to expect from them, and the consequences of their actions for people’s lives. Instead they broadly kept up public appearances years after ceasing most TCS activity.

The continued availability of TCS materials, and discussion places where people can ask questions, is due pretty much entirely to ET. But ET has done more to take over DD’s intellectual role than SFC’s community leader role, so it’s not a full replacement. And SFC sabotaged the transition to ET’s leadership by preventing many people from finding out that the new resources existed. Even some of the more involved TCS parents were left not knowing what happened or how to continue with TCS.

SFC knowingly poured time and effort into a different, unrelated, non-TCS community, in secret, while misleading the TCS parents that had trusted her. These actions go beyond explanations like merely neglect, failure or incompetence.

DD Quits

DD gradually left TCS for several reasons. First, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, many TCS members sided with the terrorists by making anti-American comments. The political conflict divided the TCS community. Most parents open to TCS were left wing, while DD and his intellectual associates were right wing.

By the end of 2002, DD didn’t write public posts as frequently, although he actively discussed with ET and others. From there, DD’s public posting gradually declined, but it took a decade to stop. Meanwhile, DD often watched ET debate in favor of DD’s ideas, like TCS, and encouraged and advised ET behind the scenes.

As time went on, DD pushed back the publication deadline for BoI but eventually had to face it. In the several years leading up to the 2011 publication, he became increasingly busy and talked with everyone less. He even had to cut a few planned chapters from the book in order to finish.

Although DD hoped and planned for things to return to normal after the book was done, they never did. Instead, he quit every discussion forum, stopped talking about TCS, and decided to focus more on his new physics idea, Constructor Theory.

After gradually distancing himself, DD stopped collaborating with ET and most other active community members around the end of 2011. DD never gave a clear explanation of why, never wrote an article arguing his case, never announced anything had changed, and never even tried to claim that ET had changed in any significant way. It was DD, not ET, who had changed. DD was disillusioned by how little TCS had changed the world, and how few people had learned his ideas. DD wanted to try to get along with the mainstream more, while ET continued developing non-mainstream ideas like TCS and CR.

Looking Back At TCS

From day one, TCS had always offended many people and attracted hateful comments for its unconventional ideas. DD hoped it would spread and gain traction over time, and it did some, but less than DD wanted. Meanwhile SFC ended the journal, chatroom and original website, reduced TCS List membership by 95%, and stopped creating content or recruiting.

ET kept TCS alive as a philosophical theory with some resources to help, but the number of participating parents dropped over time. Eventually, there was little discussion about parents trying to use TCS in their life.

To see quotes from the harsh, offensive side of early TCS, as led by SFC and DD, see this post and the comments under it.

The TCS list grew initially. But SFC said that whenever the list got over 1,000 members, a bunch of people would unsubscribe when there was an active topic causing them to receive lots of emails. Many of the people SFC recruited were not interested enough in TCS to direct the emails to a folder outside their inbox, and just left instead.

The TCS list was moderated. SFC and her buddies blocked whatever posts they wanted, quite frequently and aggressively. It was common for posters to regularly have some their posts blocked and keep participating anyway, though some people left when they weren’t allowed to speak freely. Consequently, SFC had control over the content of the list. If the content alienated people, that was her choice.

At his groups, ET always emphasized free speech instead of controlling what you were allowed to say. He thought this better fit the total-freedom-and-libertarianism-and-maybe-even-anarcho-capitalism type principles of TCS and its founders.

Conflict Between DD and ET

When he quit TCS, DD also quit associating with TCS’s new leader, ET, as well as with active participants in the TCS community. ET wanted to do problem solving. What about CR, common preferences, and win/win solutions? ET wanted to fix things but DD refused.

At the end of 2012, over a year after DD had become unfriendly and withdrawn the help and support he’d led ET to expect going forward, DD had refused many olive branches from ET. ET wrote I Changed My Mind About David Deutsch. This carefully worded piece left out most details to respect DD’s privacy because DD didn’t want the problems discussed and debated openly. Every statement was written so that it could easily be defended and explained if private facts were included in the discussion. DD saw the article prior to publication and made no objection then or later. Others in the community supported the article or didn’t mind; there was no opposition to it because people had seen DD change and leave over the years. ET thought the article was necessary because he’d been such a fan and promoter of DD, so he thought he should update people when he changed his mind about stuff he’d told them. ET was taking responsibility for the advice he’d given other people, as he believed SFC and DD should have but did not.

Although preferring to mostly leave DD alone, ET also wrote David Deutsch Interview Undermines His Philosophy in 2017, Accepting vs. Preferring Theories – Reply to David Deutsch in 2018, and David Deutsch Smears Ayn Rand in 2019. ET thought it was important to defend the ideas he’d learned from DD, even against DD himself. Again DD had no objections, publicly or privately. DD didn’t want to defend or explain his opinions or offer any rebuttal. Although critical discussion and rational truth seeking are major parts of the CR and TCS philosophies, DD didn’t do them nor explain why he wasn’t doing them and how that was compatible with his philosophy. ET’s claims remain uncontested. Meanwhile, DD never said anything negative about ET, leaving him to continue running the BoI, TCS and ARR groups and explain philosophies like TCS and CR to the world.

SFC Destroys FoR Group

Alan Forrester (AF) ran the FoR discussion group, about DD’s book, for a decade. He has a CR blog. Although AF ran the FoR group alone, SFC was the original group creator and never gave AF ownership. This allowed SFC to do whatever she wanted with the group, regardless of AF’s opinions or consent.

After 10 years with no posts or involvement by SFC, she suddenly took over FoR in order to ban ET as revenge for the I Changed My Mind About David Deutsch post. (AF agreed with ET regarding the philosophical issues that ET and DD disagreed about, and didn’t want ET banned.) Then SFC immediately neglected the group and soon everyone stopped using it. She’d been uninvolved because she wasn’t interested in FoR ideas and because she was still involved with her secret, unrelated community; being motivated to ban someone didn’t change that situation.

Just like when SFC neglected the TCS Yahoo Group, everyone interested in discussion moved over to one of ET’s groups. In that case, they went to ET’s TCS group. In this case, they went to the BoI group: since DD’s second book was out now, fans of the first book naturally were interested in the second book too, which covered similar topics.

SFC didn’t attempt problem solving, consent or common preference finding with ET, AF or the FoR group membership. She violated the standard group policy of giving warnings before banning people. And she said nothing indicating that DD himself had any problem with ET’s article. It seemed to be her own personal vendetta, and she didn’t care that she was primarily punishing AF and the FoR discussion group members, not ET who owned the BoI group anyway.

DD and ET had always had a relationship based heavily on explicit communication: if you want something, request it; if you prefer something, say so. DD knew he could make requests of ET and had wide latitude to get whatever he wanted. Several times, DD had asked ET to refrain from saying something or take something down. But this time, DD made no request and expressed no preference, knowing that ET would take that as a go ahead signal. DD, to this day, hasn’t said anything negative about ET or ET’s critical articles.

Fallible Ideas Group

In 2013, ET merged several discussion groups into one, the Fallible Ideas (FI) discussion group. Although the older groups were left unchanged, ET simply asked people to switch and every active poster voluntarily started posting on FI. This smooth transition stands out in contrast with SFC’s disastrous move of the TCS group.

ET merged the groups because the topics are all related. They’re all about understanding good philosophy and applying it. And, over time, under his leadership, the groups had become more philosophically sophisticated. For example, it had become unusual for posters to be unfamiliar with DD’s books. With a smaller membership that was more knowledgeable about all the ideas, and had more consistent ideas, having a single forum made sense.

Thus, the FI group is the continuation of the TCS group from 1994, as well as the ARR, FoR, BoI groups. The FI group also merged some more minor groups: TCS Society (a companion to the TCS group for political discussion), Rational Politics (a newer group by Justin Mallone, which ET and DD participated at), and an Ayn Rand discussion group (by ET).

Where Are They Now?

DD has gone on to work on Constructor Theory. He also became a member of the Royal Society in 2008. DD and SFC seem to no longer like to talk about TCS or be associated with it, but don’t make clear statements or requests about the matter. ET has withheld the older TCS archives posts from the public at DD’s request, even though DD has not provided any public statement about his reasons.

SFC stopped being involved with philosophy, TCS or ARR. She still hasn’t explained what happened or apologized to any parents.

SFC’s two children were friends with DD too, and one was also a friend of ET. They are adults today but never got very involved with TCS or CR. No other child with any sort of TCS upbringing became very involved either.

ET has gone on to improve CR with new ideas like Yes or No Philosophy, Paths Forward, Overreaching, Impasse Chains, Using Intellectual Processes to Combat Bias and Rationally Resolving Conflicts of Ideas. As of today (2020), ET still posts regularly to the FI discussion group and has been a consistent, active poster continuously for 18 years, and he’s branched out to videos and podcasts.

Editor’s note: I made a serious effort to get the facts and dates right. If anyone believes any fact is in error, please let me know.

More info:

If you liked this, or want to learn more about TCS, sign up for the Fallible Ideas newsletter and join the Fallible Ideas discussion group.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (18)

Identification Policy

Due to ongoing harassment and abuse (one example – there have been some smaller issues too), I’m sometimes going to be more strict with people on my forums than I’ve been in the past. I’ve tried very hard to allow free speech and I’ll continue to do that. No one will be blocked for having particular opinions about the issues like philosophy or politics. You’re allowed to disagree.

I also don’t generally care if people say a few dumb or rude things. The problems are either major-line-crossing messages (like doxing) or longterm patterns of causing trouble repeatedly. Longterm patterns can also come from a series of fake names which only say a couple things each, so I’ll be careful with new fake identities (or, basically equivalently, with totally anonymous posts that don’t even give a name).

If I block your messages but you’re innocent, contact me. I probably mistakenly thought your post was from a long term troll, rather than thinking the post by itself was a significant problem.

I may ask you to privately identify yourself to me, especially if you’re posting anonymously. Identification options could include adding me on your Facebook, showing me online presence with a ton of content over years (too hard to fake), voice chatting with me, and/or sending me $5 on PayPal. I would need to see that you’re a person with some sort of identity and reputation, not a freshly-made fake identity for a troll. I may also ask for identification without blocking anything if a fresh anonymous identity is being a jerk. I can keep identification secret (if you won’t trust me with that, I suggest you try someone else’s forum or don’t post stuff at my forum which is trolling or ambiguously might be trolling).

Anonymous accounts will now be held to a higher standard. If you’re posting anonymously, don’t be an asshole. If you establish a positive reputation under a particular name (e.g. years of FI, social media, blog or YouTube history), or prove a real identity to me, then I’ll be way more lenient. If you want to hide your identity from me, and be a jerk to me, I may not let you.

Pseudonyms are fine if you put enough work into them, e.g. 100 blog posts under that name. The point isn’t your real identity, it’s to prevent problematic people from having as many different identities as they want. Identities that are cheap to come by will be given less leeway.

I hope not to use this policy frequently.

If I link you this post without saying anything else, that's a request that you identify yourself.

An identification request is your opportunity to gain or lose a large amount of reputation. If you ignore the request, expect to be ignored much more by myself and others (or potentially banned, depending on the situation).


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)