Goldratt vs. Japan

I found out something really bad and disappointing about Eli Goldratt. He delayed translation of his books into Japanese for fear they'd be really successful, increase the trade imbalance, and generally help Japan get way ahead of the West. He delayed translation from around 1987 to 2000, by which point he thought Japan was stagnating and the West had caught up.

Goldratt's own words, from 4:04:45-4:07:45 in his 2005 audiobook Beyond the Goal (my emphasis):

For a long time, I didn’t allow my books to be translated into Japanese. Not because I don’t like them — the opposite is true — but because my opinion was that they are so much more advanced in production than the U.S. or Europe and the penetration of cost accounting is so much smaller in Japan (by the way, statistics show that they have one-seventh of the cost accounting people in their organizations that we have here in the states — one seventh) and they are in love with simple solutions rather than complicated solutions, sophisticated solutions, and that’s why the penetration of ERP [enterprise resource planning] for example in Japan is less than ten percent. I was afraid that if I will release my material into Japan, actively, they will go on it very quickly, they will increase the gap, and by that they will tilt even more the trade balance. If the trade balance will be tilted even more, the gap will become much bigger, I was afraid the whole economy of the world may go down the drain. Yes I know that these are maybe megalomaniac thinking, but I didn’t want it on my shoulders. So for a long long time, I refused to allow my books to be translated into Japanese.

About two years ago, I came to the conclusion that probably the gap had been closed. Now I am almost convinced that the gap is closed. So it’s about time to give this know-how. In June of this year, The Goal came out in Japanese, in Japan. They were waiting for it, because otherwise I cannot explain what happened. The first three months, 300,000 copies have been sold. The Goal is selling now in Japan more than Harry Potter! That’s not a joke, that’s a fact. And I got an article — translated article — from the number one business magazine of Japan two weeks ago about The Goal. By the way, The Goal appeared on the cover of that magazine. And in this article, there is a box of an interview with the President of Toyota. And he said he made The Goal mandatory reading to all his management. The mere fact that he came to this statement is another crack in the conformity. Now it’s allowed.

In what ways was Japan ahead? For big examples, think about how Toyota was beating Ford, and Japanese companies like Sony excelled in electronics. Not everyone is aware, but Japan today is considered the world's third largest economy, after just the U.S. and China. Japan was second until China's recent growth, and (unsourced on Wikipedia) represented 17.8% of the entire world economy at its peak in 1994.

The supposed harm of trade imbalances is junk economics. Apparently Goldratt never gave the matter much thought. That's disappointing because he's an advocate of win/win solutions and says there are no conflicts in reality. When you seem to see a conflict – e.g. Japanese people would benefit from your book but you think there'd be a negative result – then there's a mistaken premise somewhere. It's a mistake – in Goldratt's own view – to accept lose/lose solutions or compromises. But that's what he did!

Goldratt's goal was to teach the world to think. He betrayed his goal by withholding educational material from people specifically because he thought they would learn a lot from him. He intentionally blocked progress because he wanted the West to maintain a position at the top.

He could have been wrong. Maybe his books wouldn't have made much difference in Japan. But his intentions were gross. And I think his books could have changed the world if released promptly in Japan. When finally released, they sold very well in Japan, got lots of publicity, and promptly resulted in adoption by major companies (like Toyota) and parts of the Japanese government.

What if they were released earlier? They could have made a much bigger difference. They could have prevented the stagnation of Japan which Goldratt saw later. They could have given Japan a bigger competitive edge – exactly what Goldratt feared – and thus spread to the whole world. The West learned a lot from Japan while trying to catch up (e.g. Just In Time and Lean). Goldratt's ideas could have been part of that, and that way they'd have much better adoption worldwide today, making the whole world much better off.

Goldratt didn't just delay Japan's progress, he missed out on a timing window when Japan – the country where he could most successfully get adoption for his ideas – was acting as somewhat of a model for the rest of the world. And today software is super important, which lessens the relative importance of manufacturing, which is the area where Goldratt's ideas could most easily have a big impact.

The general consequences of a world with less wealth (due to lack of adoption of Goldratt's great business management ideas) include people dying due to less medical research and dying in many other ways. Wealth helps prevent deaths from heatwaves, cold, drought, tsunamis, hunger, inadequately funded police and much more. The specific, direct consequences of Japanese car companies being less successful include more Westerners dying in car accidents because they drive Japanese cars that aren't as good as they could be.

patio11 argued that Japan is part of Western society (I saw this later the same day I wrote this mini essay). I agree. Goldratt shouldn't have seen Japan as the other. Yes, there are some substantial differences between Japan and the English speaking countries that don't set us apart from France. But Japan Westernized and assimilated enough after World War II that I say to accept them, and I see the success of companies like Toyota and Sony as demonstrating the merit of Japan (rather than being exceptions). Goldratt himself was from Israel, another country I'm happy to credit as being Western, despite it having some differences from America. Anyway, Japan is certainly no threat. Japanese success should be celebrated without hesitation.

Sources and Details

Regarding dates, The Goal came out in 1984 and I found Spanish (La Meta), German (Das Ziel), and French (Le But) versions from 1987. (I also found a 1992 Italian version. I'm guessing the 1987 translations I found are the earliest years, but I don't know about 1992.) The Japanese version is from May 2001. (The English ISBN info saying 2000 seems to be incorrect.) The Japanese publication delay is 14 years from the first foreign language versions I could find, and 17 years from the English version.

I found some further discussion of the issue (emphasis added):

A Process Of On-Going Improvement (POOGI) – Part 36 by Dr. Lisa Lang (a TOC expert), 2008 or 2009, says:

For years, Dr. Goldratt refused to have his books translated into Japanese. He thought and felt that Japan was so far advanced that if it applied the improved processes of the Theory of Constraints, that the trade imbalance would further increase, threatening to destabilize the world economy. Six years ago, when the U.S. and European economies had closed the gap, and Japan had stagnated, he relented. In the first month of its release, “The Goal” sold a half-million copies. Since then, its sales are equal to the sales in the rest of the world.

Japan is adopting TOC at a much faster rate than the Western World. For example, last year Japan announced the requirement that all companies supplying infrastructure projects must use Critical Chain project management, the TOC methodology for managing projects (and delivering them in half the time).

Theory of Constraints is Gaining Awareness and Success in Japan. Is This the Quality Movement All Over Again? by Carol Ptak (Goldratt co-author and TOC expert), 2012, says:

Japanese adoption of the theory of constraints is growing at a rate that rivals the quality movement started by Dr. W. Edwards Deming. The founder of the Theory of Constraints (TOC), Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt, made several personal trips to Japan and allowed his books to finally be translated to the Japanese language. The most respected national newspaper in Japan, Asahi Newspaper (circulation 8M), runs a weekly regular article about TOC written by TOC expert Yuji Kishira....

The Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization (TOCICO) hosted the first international TOC conference in Japan in 2009 with a keynote from the Director General of the Ministry of Land Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism on how TOC was used to complete infrastructure projects in less time and provide one day response to contractor requests. The impact of TOC on the country of Japan is so significant that immediately following the TOCICO conference a MLIT conference drew over 300 executives. Dr. Goldratt said, “Toyota changed factories in the world. In the future, people will say that MLIT Japan changed government management in the world. I want you to understand how important your activity is.”

Carol Ptak also quotes herself saying, "The United States could easily be trying to play catch up with Japan once again."

Book: Introduction to the Theory of Constraints (TOC) Management System by Thomas B. McMullen, Jr. (1998):

I recently had lunch with a manager in a large, well-known, brand-name Japanese company, a company recognizable both in consumer and industrial markets as a huge, powerful, and successful outfit, who has been translating TOC concepts into Japanese lately for use by his colleagues around the world. Dr. Goldratt, until recently, has said he was unwilling to assist in making translations of his TOC materials into Japanese due to a concern about balance of trade and power.

The Japanese Wikipedia for The Goal says (all translations from Japanese were done by a professional):

Due to the wishes of Dr Goldratt, permission for the publication of a Japanese translation of the novel was withheld until 2001.

It's sources are:

2014 article from The Goal's Japanese publisher:

At the time it was first published in 1984, Dr Goldratt is known to have said "if a Japanese version of the book were to be published, only Japanese companies will win and there will be great turmoil in the world economy". Given that it would be another 17 years before Dr Goldratt would give permission for the book to be translated into Japanese – it certainly has an interesting backstory.

2009 article from Nikkei Business:

“The Goal” was first published in the United States in 1984, but Dr Goldratt did not authorize a Japanese translation of the book until 2001.

The reason for the delay was that the international competitiveness of Japanese companies was far beyond that of most other countries and it was felt that there was a need to eliminate the trade imbalance by closing the gap. In other words, Japan was the goal of SCM [Supply Chain Management].

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Logic vs. 200 People

Production the TOC Way by Eliyahu M. Goldratt:

But it was an unfair fight; I had the logic and they were less than two hundred.

This is my favorite Goldratt quote so far. He, alone, thought he had the advantage because there weren't even 200 people against him, and he had logic on his side :D

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You're a Complex Software Project; Introspection is Auditing

(from this discussion)

you are a more complex software project than anything from Apple, IBM, etc.

your consciousness gets to audit the software and do maintenance and add features. the heart of the software was written in childhood and you don't remember much of it. think of it like a different team of programmers wrote it, and now you're coming in later.
you don't have full access to the source code for your audit. you can see source code for little pieces here and there, run automated tests for little pieces here and there, read some incomplete docs, and do manual tests for sporadic chunks of code.

and your attitude is: to ignore large portions of the limited evidence available to you about what the code does. that is, the best evidence of what the code says available is your own behavior. but you want to ignore that in favor of believing what you think the code does. you think the conclusions of your audit, which ignores the best evidence (your behavior – actual observations of the results of running code), and doesn't even know that it's a software audit or the circumstances of the audit, should be taken as gospel.

you find it implausible there are hostile software functions that could be running without your audit noticing. your audit has read 0.001% of the source code during the last year, but you seem to think the figure is 99%.

introspection skills means getting better at auditing. this can help a ton, but there's another crucial approach: you can learn about what people in our culture are commonly like. this enables you to audit whether you're like that in particular ways, match behavior to common code, etc. b/c i know far more about cultural standard software (memes) than you, and also i know what the situation is (as just described and more) and you don't, i'm in a much better position to understand you than you are. this doesn't apply to your idiosyncrasies, i know even less than you about those, but i know that and avoid claims about the areas where i don't know. on the other hand, i can comment effectively when you write down the standard output (as judged by category and pattern, not the exact bits) of a standard software modules, at length, and i recognize it.

for more info relating to intelligence, listen to my podcast about it.

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Expanding Our Limits

It must be that long before the technology was available we developed modes of behavior, measurements, policies, rules that helped us accommodate the limitation (from now on I’ll refer to all of them as just “rules” even though in many cases those rules are not written anywhere).

What benefits will we gain when we install the technology that removes the limitation, but we “forget” to change the rules?

The answer is obvious. As long as the rules that helped us to accommodate the limitation are obeyed the end result is the same as if the limitation still exists. In other words, we cannot expect to see any significant benefits.

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12 Rules for Life Typos in Rule 1

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson. Typos in rule 1:

The animals advance on each other, with increasing speed.

Delete the comma.

Its original brain just isn’t sophisticated to manage the transformation from king to bottom dog without virtually complete dissolution and regrowth.

Missing the word "enough" after "sophisticated".

Now evolution works, in large part, through variation and natural selection.

Delete "now" or put a comma after it.

The “fit” in “fitness” is therefore the matching of organismal attribute to environmental demand.

Should be plural "attributes" (or "an" organismal attribute).

When operating at the bottom, the ancient brain counter assumes that even the smallest unexpected impediment might produce an uncontrollable chain of negative events, which will have to be handled alone, as useful friends are rare indeed, on society’s fringes.

Delete the comma after "indeed".

Delete the comma after "alone". "As" is like "because" here, and see

Most people have been subject to the deafening howling of feedback at a concert, when the sound system squeals painfully.

Delete the comma.

You will therefore continually sacrifice what you could otherwise physically store for the future, using it up on heightened readiness and the possibility of immediate panicked action in the present.

I think the text "the possibility of" should be deleted. This is redundantly talking about resources used for readiness and then, basically, readiness again (dealing with a possibility is a readiness issue). So maybe the second point should say actual panicked action rather than the possibility of it?

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Why Gobble?

Gobble delivers a weekly box of meal kits that you cook yourself. I'm paying for more than just food this way (e.g. delivery, meal selection, getting them to package the right amounts of every ingredigent). why?

  • food delivery is great

  • when i try to do my own cooking, there are a million recipes. i don't know which are good. gobble is reliable about choosing good recipes.

  • it's too much work for me to get all the ingredients (especially to cook stuff with the kinda variety and obscure ingredients that Gobble routinely uses, and which i appreciate trying)

  • when i buy ingredients, i get too much of lots of them. they come in larger amounts than i need. this means instead of thinking of gobble as costing more money, a lot of the difference is actually: gobble leaves me without leftover ingredients. with regular cooking, a lot of the savings goes into extra quantities of ingredients, rather than being actual cash saved. the value of leftover ingredients to me, in practice, in my experience, is considerably less than their cash value – they reasonably often spoil and get thrown out, or i have to cook more of the same meal before i want to have it again, or i try improvising and using them in some other meal and it doesn't turn out all that great.

  • the things i'm outsourcing to gobble are things i think are good to mostly outsource. i have better things to do and think about.

sign up for Gobble (their advantage over rival meal kit deliveries is they make their meals faster and easier to cook):

sign up (with this link, you get a discount and i get an account credit)

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Monetary Privacy!?

“Preventing money laundering” is another way to say our financial system puts a huge amount of effort into preventing monetary privacy.

This is widely seen as obviously good. It's not. It has some apparent upsides and downsides. It violates a major principle, so it's presumably actually bad. It being bad doesn't mean we should get rid of it overnight; we have to figure out good ways to transition our system and alternative ways to solve the genuine problems that anti-money-laundering currently addresses.

The basic underlying tensions here is: privacy is helpful to criminals. But privacy is also great for non-criminals! And I don't think a trusted central authority knowing everything about everyone is the right way to handle crime, because the government can't be trusted that much and because there needs to be market competition in order to fight crime better.

I think it'd be best to stop blaming tools of crime which are also tools of non-crime – such as money and guns – and go after criminals more directly without causing a lot of collateral damage for the rest of society.

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Making Progress and Jordan Peterson Quotes

Jordan Peterson on the Channel 4 Controversy and Philosophy of "How to be in the World" (emphasis added, and transcription may not be 100% exact):

My suggestion was, well, it’s a very complex problem, there isn’t a solution. But the solution to a very complex problem is you should be [a] better person than you are because then you’d be better at solving complex problems. And lots of them are coming your way, so bloody well get your act together. And that’s what I’ve been telling people. But it’s more than that because that’s merely burdening people with excess responsibility, let’s say, so that could be a crushing message: You’re not who you could be, you know, get your bloody act together, you’re whining away in the corner, and you’re no good to yourself and anyone else. You know, it’s harsh. But then there’s another element to that, which is: There’s way more to you than you think you are, and that you have something necessary and vital to contribute to the world, and if you don’t contribute it then things will happen that aren’t good, and that’s terrible for you and everyone else. So it’s not only that you need to do this because it’s your responsibility, but you need to understand that there isn’t anything better that you could do for yourself or anyone else. And people are dying to hear that message.

Problems are inevitable. Problems are soluble. Get better at solving problems. Get better at life. Get more powerful. Embark on the beginning of an infinite journey of rapid progress. It's rapid progress or death. There are no alternatives. Problems will keep coming – including big ones with big consequences for failure (including the extinction of humanity). Either make ongoing progress at problem solving or failure is inevitable. There is no power level which is safe forever, but at least making more progress as fast as possible is the safest thing to do, it's the only thing that can possibly work.


You’re a puppet of other motivational forces. Like this is what happens when you unite the motivational forces that guide you; unite your own nature with your own culture and rise up above it. That’s what happens, is you end up acting this out in one way or another. And you might as well know it. This was Jung’s point. You can be the unconscious actor of a malevolent, tragic drama. Or you can wake the hell up. And you can decide that you’re going to be the hero of not only your story, but of everyone’s story. And then you can choose: which of those do you want? Now the problem with choosing, let’s call it the archetypically heroic path, is that you have to take responsibility. But the upside is, well, what the hell’s the difference between responsibility and opportunity. You can say, well, there’s no difference between responsibility and opportunity, so the more responsibility you take the more opportunity you have. Now maybe you don’t want that because you’d rather cower in the corner and hide. But the thing is that you probably wouldn’t rather do that because if you try it you’ll find that there’s nothing in it but self-contempt and misery. That’s a bad pathway: to pull back and to fail to engage in the world. You end up bitter and resentful and self-destructive and vengeful and then far worse. You can develop a liking for that. I wouldn’t recommend it.

You can let your life be run by your static memes, your culture, convention, tradition, ritual, religion, biology, other people's opinions, social pressures, your parents ... or you can run your own life. The choice is yours: choose reason or be a puppet. Pursue more control over reality – rapid ongoing progress – or be controlled by forces you don't even understand, without even knowing what's going on. If you aren't taking control over your life, and learning all you can, and being as rational as you can, then you are being controlled quite thoroughly, and more than necessary, by forces beyond your understanding (especially memes – which are widely misunderstood, and to understand them you must read The Beginning of Infinity).

Reason is the only effective way to make progress and get control of your own life. Without reason, you'll do it wrong, because reason is the name for methods of thinking which are good at correcting mistakes and actually getting things right.

People say "yeah, great" to this then don't do it. Well, actually do it. Learn about reason. Study it. Write about what you're learning. Discuss it and get criticism because you're going to get things wrong, and the set of mistakes you make will not be identical to the sets of mistakes other people make. You can discuss in the comments below.

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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".

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)


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.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (5)

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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