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.


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


even for people who are steeped into CR?




well let's see


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




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


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?


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.


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.


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


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?


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


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


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.


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


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


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




reach is one of many things we tend to like


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




wrong question


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


so the idea of paradigm makes sense?


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


you have to kind of jump to another local maxima


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


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


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


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


does that make sense?


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




problems often have many solutions


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


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


newton's theory was the epitome in his own paradigm


it couldn't have been improved in its own paradigm


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


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


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


i've found most CR ppl are not receptive


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


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


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


what buckets?




newton's or eintsein's


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




halfway between two buckets you get obvious contradictions


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


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.


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


he's never retracted it or commented directly on YesNo


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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


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


DNA mutation is undirected and without intention


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


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?


about DNA and explanatory knowledge


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Newton's theory has already been improved since Newton: Who's to say it's already reached final perfection?


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


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


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


Ideas and organisms both have niches.


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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?


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.


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


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


accepted by science


scientific consensus? that can be wrong often


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.


e.g. climate change


science is not an actor and doesn't accept things


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.


that use of coalesce is underexplained in context.


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.


my goal is to try to improve my understanding


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.


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


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


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


"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


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


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


I agree


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


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).


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


90% of what?



trying to get all the details right to a 100%


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


Trying a new approach will be better


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.


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


How do you know I am changing the topic?


It might be connected if you follow my train of thought


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.


sorry for that. I considered both things to be same


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.


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


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.


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?


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


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


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.


there should be


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






what did you wanna know?


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


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.


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


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


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


got it


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


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


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


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


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


it is dependent on the human who created it


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


he gave a word a specific meaning


more importantly it doesn't kick back


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.


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


it is not autonomous because it doesn't kick back


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.


i've only introduced autonomous and kick back


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


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


those have their usual meaning


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?


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.


please do


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.


Not just discussion methodology but also thinking and learning.


can you suggest a better alternative then?


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


can you tell me what will be a simpler question here


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).


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.


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.


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.


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


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


error is failing to fulfill a criteria


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.


"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.


FYI ~ means "approximately"


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.


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


Probably. So did Popper.


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


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


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.


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.


so you think I am committing that error?


Which error?


that kind of error. autopilot kind


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


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


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.


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


my understanding to understand the complexity of idea space?


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.


what should I do to cover it up?


FWIW, I say this to ~everyone.


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


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.


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


i wanna learn
where and how can I learn?


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.


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.


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


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.


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).


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.


Are you on a desktop computer?




This is an example of a discussion tree I made recently to show someone some of the errors in a discussion.


do you wanna make one together


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.


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


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.


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




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


schools are the worst


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).


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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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




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.


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


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.


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?


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?"


I think the fun criterion is bad. See


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


yeah found it


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


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


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


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 (13)

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 (46)

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)

Andy B Harassment and Four Strands

The Fallible Ideas (FI) community has been under attack for over a year by an online harasser, stalker, spammer, doxer, IRL-threatener, financial fraudster and liar named “Andy B”. He’s used over a dozen identities including some multi-month projects where his false names pretended to be learning about FI. He’s posted over 400 comments on this blog from over 60 different IP addresses. His fake identities often talk and agree with each other. Some are openly nasty while others hide it for a while to trick people. He has initiated force against four separate people connected with FI. Evidence is later in this post.

Harassers and trolls usually stop much sooner and are best ignored, which is why I’ve been silent until now.

What can drive a person, day after day, to spend his life trying to hurt others? One of the answers is ongoing encouragement from friends and allies. For example, consider an animal rights group where people encourage each other to hate scientists who experiment on animals, fur coat wearers and farmers. Most people will stop at rhetoric, meetup sessions where they complain and share their debating points, etc. But some people will be willing to “get their hands dirty” by committing petty crimes at night or by harassing opposing intellectuals online. When they attend the meetings by day, they are encouraged to feel like they’re standing up for a righteous cause, and it drives their persistent, secret use of force.

Many criminals are alone and isolated. Basically, they know that everyone disapproves of what they do and keep it secret. But when people have a social group which is encouraging them and agreeing with them about the rightness of their cause, it inspires them to more crime. This is a reason some criminals are part of gangs.

Andy B has received ongoing support and encouragement from the FI shadow community (which doesn’t really have a name other than the more recent Four Strands group). Andy is a member of Four Strands both as Andy and TheRat, and he connects with many of them on social networks like Twitter.

I’m writing this post because some of the facts – the ways other people helped and encouraged Andy, and refused to stop supporting him or actually made statements against crime or harassment – are so unbelievable that they must be clearly documented to be believed. The toxic culture and hateful leadership are shocking and they’re utterly unwilling to attempt any sort of problem solving in private. That leaves me no choice but to publicly document everything so that I can link it to people to explain what’s going on. The most I can do, when they will fix nothing, is criticize their actions and explain my case. They won’t leave me alone or stop trying to harm me, but at least I can tell my story so some people will know the truth.

Shadow Community

The shadow community is a group of people interested in FI topics like DD, FoR, BoI, TCS and CR but who don’t participate at FI and hold a grudge about some past criticism. Recently, this shadow community has more organization and leadership with a “Four Strands” group. The leaders include Dennis Hackethal (a software engineer from Cupertino, CA, blog, contact at [email protected]), Bruce Nielson (a computer science student at Georgia Tech, blog, contact at [email protected]), Aaron Stupple (from Springfield, MA) and Allie Pace. (The occupations and locations are from their public Twitter accounts. I’ve left out private info about them that I have.) They’ve put effort into hiding who is a leader of the group, but I have a bunch of sources and I believe this is accurate. The group doesn’t publicly post any rules, policies or description, or say who is actually in charge, which helps them try to dodge responsibility for their involvement in crime. Bruce has also pretended not to be an owner.

Bruce, Aaron and Allie are owners of the Four Strands Google Group, and Dennis is a manager there. The Four Strands shadow community also includes the Beginning of Infinity subreddit, co-moderated by Andy and Dennis, and Dennis’ Crit App forum. Four Strands also has a Slack and Discord.

Dennis and Bruce were notified that their group member, Andy, was a criminal, and that he had joined the Four Strands group under multiple identities. They did not respond. When asked again, Bruce did not respond and Dennis responded with a malicious trick (the emails are later in this post).

It seems that the only way to get a response from this gang of aggressive rights violators is to bring up ways they are personally breaking the law. For example, Dennis did respond when I pointed out to him that it’s against the law to intentionally falsely accuse people of crimes in order to damage their reputation, as he had done. He issued a minimal retraction, refused to apologize, and did not attempt to undo the harm he’d done or set anything right. More on this below.

Similarly, Dennis responded to a complaint that he was violating the Fallible Ideas trademark in a minimal way that didn’t even involve notifying me when he renamed his “Fallible Fun” forum or what the new name was. He was so uncooperative that he wouldn’t even say that “Fallible Fun” was his forum; I had to find out elsewhere. One of Dennis’ Four Strands associates, Logan Chipkin, also violated my trademark with a “Fallible Animals” podcast and has yet to resolve the matter.

When group leaders initiate rights violations under their real names, it encourages and legitimizes Andy’s fly-by-night rights violations. They are telling him with not merely words but also actions that I and others deserve to be aggressed against, and that Andy is fighting the good fight. This makes them partially responsible for the aggressive uses of force that they use their leadership roles to encourage others to commit.

Decent people who accidentally get caught up in crime would attempt to mitigate the harm and distance themselves from it. Dennis, Bruce and the rest have refused to denounce crime, refused to ban Andy, refused to give me access to records that I could review for other rights violations, refused to disassociate with Andy, refused to ask people to stop harassing me, and refused to discourage the hatred they’ve been working to create and which has led to many initiations of force.

Atmosphere of Hatred

What does their group do to create an atmosphere that’s a breeding ground for violating rights? Dennis explained the group atmosphere like this:

I feel the pressure of agreeing with everyone about how much we all dislike Elliot

Dennis also encouraged hatred by posting:

I am now a proud entry on [FI’s] public list of apostates. :)

There is no list of apostates, merely a list of some people who chose to engage significantly in a public debate with FI and then stopped responding without explaining or finishing. Here, Dennis expresses pride, and smiles, about being in conflict with other people, which further promotes hatred and fighting.

Bruce helped lead the the way in establishing hostile gossip as part of his community when he posted:

[ET] has a bit of a history creating bad feelings in forums he doesn't own and causing people to leave. (Or so I am told. I don't have a personal history here.)

Bruce knowingly and intentionally spread rumors that people had gossiped to him. Bruce’s message also suggests that one should believe second-hand gossip without knowing any details, at least if it smears ET. The Four Strands community is full of gossip and shadowy rumors (just like it was before they made the Four Strands group and intentionally recruited a bunch of gossipers and haters for members), rather than being full of accountability, responsibility and civilized values. This is by the design of its leaders. This makes it easier for people to cross lines.

Similarly, Brett Hall (website) is a longtime FI shadow community member, who the Four Strands leadership promoted as a valuable addition to their community. Brett teaches Theory of Knowledge, a mandatory course in the IB diploma program, with a 20% failure rate (failure means no diploma), which requires 100 hours of instruction. According to Brett, what he teaches is “philosophy-lite with lots of lefty relativism and other nonsense“. 100 hours of instruction in mandatory “nonsense” with high pressure and high stakes! Why would Brett be involved with that sort of anti-TCS mistreatment of students? “I teach it because I like it.” (Source: the Fallible Ideas discussion archive.) Contact at [email protected]

Brett said that ET is poison and that ET destroys valuable things (thus helping justifying destructive actions targeted at ET), for example:

FWIW any project that one does decide to undertake will be less likely derailed or poisoned were Curi not involved. Indeed some of us will actively avoid any project Curi is involved with. :)

Poisoning is a violent and often murderous action. Brett repeatedly uses language like that which suggests that something nasty should be done about ET. E.g.:

Does anyone want to go onto FI and save some of those poor souls? Some seem to want actual personal help but are being asked for money by ET. I think that’s beyond the pale. FWIW I’m directing all enquires about the CR community here and to slack and the 4 strands group.

The part about being asked for money is a lie which Brett heard gossip about and decided to spread without fact-checking first. I have documentation of the source and spread of this particular rumor, so I know that Brett changed and exaggerated it when passing it on instead of error-correcting it.

By saying that ET’s actions are “beyond the pale”, Brett encouraged people to take extreme action against ET in order to “save … poor souls” who are ET’s alleged victims.

Brett further accused ET of “coercion”, which both means ET is hurting people (justifying hurting him) and also is intended to smear ET as a violator of TCS principles (and therefore someone who is destroying the great value of TCS by attempting to lead it while contradicting its actual ideas and values). Brett went on to accuse ET of “ruin[ing]” valuable communities and doing “destructions” and “exterminat[ion]”. Would you harass a destructive, ruinous exterminator of valuable ideas about rationality, and feel like you were righteously standing up for good values and justice? Maybe not but some people like Andy would, which is one of the foreseeable consequences of Brett’s hateful comments.

What do the Four Strands leaders do about this sort of incivility from Brett? They praise him as a great thinker and content creator.

Libel and Defamation

The worst that I’ve seen (but I haven’t seen many of their postings, let alone their secret gossip) was when Dennis Hackethal, a group manager and community leader, falsely accused ET of threatening Dennis with violence. There was no factual basis for this dishonest, malicious claim which was given for the stated reason of discouraging people from discussing philosophical ideas with ET. The quote is:

[ET has] insinuated violence towards me in the past.

Dennis, by lying that ET had committed a serious crime (as threatening Dennis with violence would have been), tried to destroy ET’s reputation so that people would stay away from ET, and also his comments encouraged people to violate ET’s rights since a criminal deserves it.

That’s libel and defamation. (Read about them at the link. I am not a lawyer, but I did speak with a lawyer about this.)

When ET later found out about this, Dennis partially admitted his guilt: he didn’t pretend that “insinuated violence” didn’t refer to a threat. Dennis issued a brief retraction because he knew there was no factual basis for his lie, but Dennis did not attempt to undo the harm, apologize, tell people to stop harassing ET, say that he regretted encouraging crime, say that ET was in fact a decent, civilized person and law-abiding person, or anything like that. Dennis’ actions are bad enough to open him up to a lawsuit for libel and defamation, but he refused to even apologize.

Passively letting group members cross lines encourages more people to do it. When group leaders themselves cross those lines, the effect is much worse.

Dennis makes a podcast and postures as someone who is doing important work to develop AGI, promote David Deutsch’s great ideas, and otherwise change or save the world. Dennis is connecting that reputation – as an intellectual and philosopher – with hatred of ET and with it being OK to break laws and lie in order to hurt ET. Dennis is teaching others, not merely with words but with actions, that using aggressive force is good when it’s in favor of a valuable intellectual cause.

Andy is Dennis’ star student. Dennis, by the way, is the only other moderator at Andy’s Beginning of Infinity subreddit which purports to promote David Deutsch’s book and ideas, and Dennis has continued that public association.

Dennis provided the paper-thin excuse that I had once mentioned “destroy[ing]” Dennis socially, and spoke of not wanting to do it and not doing it. (I mentioned it because I said certain bad, immoral social rules encourage it.) Dennis said the word “destroy” is a strong word which, at the time, made him feel unsafe and fear physical violence. That’s a serious issue, but Dennis’ response was unserious: he waited six months then gossiped about it to try to hurt me. He could have asked for a second opinion (and been told by anyone that it’s not a threat), told the police (and been laughed at), asked me or anyone else from FI (he believed my clarification that it wasn’t a threat in on Jan 23, so why not ask for clarification at the time?), or looked the matter up online. For example, if you Google search “Trump destroys Hillary” you will find the term “destroy” is used routinely in ways having nothing to do with threats or violence, e.g. debate victories. On this basis, Dennis broke the law trying to destroy my reputation. My explanation is that he doesn’t really notice when his actions cross lines like what the law is or violating someone’s rights. Sure he’d notice that some actions cross a line, like murder, but he’s not very consistent about it (which makes him dangerous).

Dennis’ retraction from Jan 23 reads:

Elliot has contacted me about this and asked me to retract this statement. He has since clarified what he meant at the time and my comment above was based on a misunderstanding. He was not insinuating violence. I will delete the above comment in the Google group.

This statement suggests that Dennis did nothing wrong, and it was just an innocent and reasonable misunderstanding, which is false. It also does nothing to try to address the harassment by Andy which Dennis’ libel, and other his actions, encouraged.

Here are some of the replies to the retraction which will give you a further understanding of what the group’s hateful atmosphere is like, and which Dennis didn’t discourage. Brett Hall, on Jan 23, replied about:

[ET’s] dishonesty and cruelty and inability to just leave us alone

That’s hateful.

please: just stay away. Yet [ET’s] still tagging me in Tweets regularly (I’ve muted him but often others respond so I see those responses). It’s tiresome.

That’s a factually false attack on my reputation. It’s first of all misleading because it sounds like I had added Brett to a topic on Twitter or started a new topic and included him, which I didn’t do. Rather, I shared one relevant blog post to a conversation he was already in, and then I responded to a few people who responded to me (which automatically sent my tweet to everyone in the conversation). Responding to people who tweet to me is not regularly tagging Brett. The conversation lasted two days. Brett’s problem is with Twitter’s conversation and notification system (which I grant is poorly designed), but he’s falsely and misleading suggesting that I did something wrong. The reason Brett got notifications is because other people, who are not me (and were mostly hostile to me because of the rumors people like Brett have spread) tagged him in their tweets, because that’s how Twitter works by default, but somehow he blames me.

Although upset to be notified about my blog post by the Twitter conversation, Brett was apparently interested enough to read it and flame me for it:

And now the attacks on Bruce and Dennis and yet more evidence of his utter obsession with people over ideas: the WHO rather than what, and the questioning of personal motives and psychology and so on. He cannot stand not having control of a place beginning to thrive. The number of times he uses the word “I” in that new flame post is telling. He’s saying everyone on “Alan’s list” is not rational.

So the context is that Dennis libeled and defamed me, and retracted it. Brett apparently thought to himself something like, “ET’s rights were violated. This would be a great time to smear him with flames and falsehoods!” He wasn’t the only one. Aaron Stupple, a Four Strands owner, replied:

Completely agree. It seems best to completely ignore as he has a tendency to use any argument as a means to try to manipulate and slander. And there's just no place for that here and we should do our best to keep things open and enjoyable.

Aaron, as a group owner and leader, completely agreed with uncivil flames as a comment on ET’s rights being violated, and piled on with additional flaming. He’s leading the group in inciting hatred and harassment.

Andy himself replied too, as well as Felix (who is Andy’s ally or false identity). I won’t go into the further nasty comments, which got much worse, except to say that Brett responded positively to Andy saying that Andy’s comment “puts [ET] further beyond the pale. Thanks for highlighting this.” Saying I’m “beyond the pale” means that I’ve crossed a major boundary into completely unacceptable behavior outside the standards of decency and civilization. (Seriously, look it up, it’s a very strong term. Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.) This is the kind of idea which inspires Andy to continue attacking me. Brett is egging Andy on.

The Four Strands group is so toxic that they think retracting a libel is a good time and context to pile on and flame the victim. And Dennis’ retraction was clearly in bad faith or he would have objected to this if not blocked/deleted the posts (he’s a group manager).

I have been told second-hand that some Four Strand people want us to leave each other alone, and we see that in Brett’s message too. But they don’t leave me alone. They don’t seem to even know how to leave someone alone. Their idea of us leaving each other alone seems to involve me being disallowed from complaining about their criminal member harassing me, while they spread libel, defamation and hatred which no one objects to, with no regard for the law or my rights. You have to learn to recognize what is and isn’t a rights violation before you can understand how to leave someone alone or how to accurately judge whether someone is leaving you alone or not.

Refusal To Help

Dennis, Bruce or their associates very likely have information about Andy’s identity or ways to pressure him to stop committing crimes. They have refused to say whether they have any information, try to get information, or otherwise participate in a process of protecting persons and rights. They continue to imply, by refusing to lift a finger against crime, that they endorse crime. This is the sort of social approval which encourages Andy to keep spending his life being an online harasser.

Another involved shadow community member is Lulie Tanett, who is a direct associate of David Deutsch. Lulie has a past history of knowingly and intentionally associating with doxers, spam bot users, open anti-semites and a variety of nasty people online, and has confessed to violating people’s privacy with her gossip. Lulie has been an ongoing source of pseudo-intellectual arguments allegedly justifying the hatred and vilification of FI and ET. Lulie has refused to denounce crime, distance herself from Andy’s actions, say whether she has any relevant info about Andy, or use her FI-hating contacts to get info about Andy – even though she and her family all follow Andy on Twitter and have plenty of contacts throughout the shadow community. She ought to be thankful to have been informed she was associating with a dangerous criminal, so she could stop, but her attitude to the matter has been uncivilized.

The shadow community has created such a bad atmosphere that Andy can go on Twitter as Andy or a sock puppet, and lie and smear me, and the community responds by mocking me and disbelieving me when I state facts. This group of people who publicly accept and praise a criminal over his victim is the source of the evil. After being informed about the ongoing crime, Lulie personally participated in that crime-favoring public mocking, as did some of her family members.

Since the problem is coming from David Deutsch’s fans, and is dangerous to his civilized fans, David should say and do something. But he has failed in this duty, preferring (I guess) to pretend that it’s not his problem when the owner of the subreddit for his book is a criminal. Why warn his fans? Instead he occasionally promotes content from people who are directly involved like Dennis and Lulie.

PS Please do not harass anyone or commit any crimes. That’s not a way to defend me or fix anything.

Emails to Leaders

On Jan 22, 2020, I emailed Dennis and Bruce. I would have contacted them sooner if they hadn’t already refused to respond to other communications such as asking whether or not I could join the Four Strands group, and if they hadn’t already refused to do anything when someone else reported a threat and spam to them (this is explained later). I had little hope of a productive response and, in retrospect, I was right.

You should be aware that Andy B (bconecat, kodheaven, heuristicworld) has many false identities, has spammed two people, doxed two, threatened one, posted literally hundreds of harassing messages, and harassed the FI discord on at least 8 accounts. He’s unstable and vindictive against people who annoy him. He’s targeted at least four people so far. I wanted to warn you because you appear to be associating with him in several ways and he’s outside the realm of civilized, peaceful people.

TheRat is a pseudonym of Andy B. This is not speculation, it’s based on technical info like server logs.

He’s been posting a series of troll comments on my blog right now, as I send this, which I’ve been deleting. He’s breaking laws.

I assume your association with him is out of ignorance. Initially, he pretended to be friendly and curious with me, too. I thought you should know.

On Jan 31, after no response, I emailed again:

Since you have taken no action in regards to your ongoing association with an active criminal, and you are running a group which incites hatred and encourages harassment, I’m asking you to respond in a reasonable, civilized way so that we can attempt to fix this major problem. If you don’t respond, I will have to make unilateral decisions about how to defend myself, and I will have to regard you as knowingly and intentionally siding with aggressive force. I would prefer to talk about it and attempt problem solving but so far you haven’t responded so I don’t know how to problem solve with you, but this problem is hurting me so I’m going to have to do something whether you guys will respond or not.

If you wanted a “soft” group with less criticism, and more moderation of tone, and more focus on AGI but no politics – for example (I’m just sorta guessing at the ballpark of what you might want) – that would be a legitimate purpose for a group. You could advertise that on FI, you could stop spreading hatred, people on your group could link to FI materials without that being taboo or something that gets them attacked, people on FI could link to your stuff (instead of you guys hiding CR content from us), we could co-exist. You could have written rules and I could follow them if I want to post on your forum. There are many things that would be reasonable, but you haven’t explained what you’re doing and have contributed to an atmosphere of hatred and rival, enemy factions (some of which predates your group, but you recruited many of the haters and said hateful things yourselves), which is unreasonable and harmful to DD’s legacy. Instead of being a hub of nasty gossip, you could be e.g. an intellectual group with different social rules where people like Andy are unwelcome and it’s made clear to everyone that such actions are unacceptable.

Dennis responded on Feb 3:

Please stop emailing me. I am not one of the group's owners, so this is beyond my control.

This was a malicious trick. Rather than do something anti-crime or anti-hatred, Dennis tried to fool the victim. I never said Dennis was an owner. He is, contrary to what he implied, a manager. And he does have some control over this matter (no one person has total control, but he’s one of the people involved in the decision making). He’s also co-moderator of a subreddit with Andy, which he seems to have conveniently and dishonestly forgotten (rather than e.g. being apologetic and helpful after violating my rights with the libel or due to sympathy with a crime victim).

Jan 18, 2020, I emailed Lulie about Andy. I emailed David Deutsch on Jan 21. I emailed them both again on Feb 1. I have a personal history with both Lulie and David, which I referred to, so I won’t quote those emails. I shared info similar to what I told Dennis and Bruce. There was no response.

On Feb 3, I also received a response from an unknown person, “Doctor Philosophy” ( [email protected] ). Apparently Bruce or Dennis forwarded my emails to them. They said:

Thanks for bringing this problem to our attention. You have sent Four Stands two emails now (below). Your first email warned us of a possible problem so that we could look into it but didn’t ask for any response. We did start to investigate your claim. Before we completed the investigation, you sent a second email that seemed to indicate you were expecting some sort of response within a previously unspecified time frame – though what you were expecting is not made clear.

Your second email makes it clearer that you feel there is some sort of criminal activity going on. If that is true, that would be concerning. We are not qualified to investigate possible criminal activity. So we ask that you please call the police or other authorities right away. When they have reviewed the evidence, if they think that this is worth investigating, they may wish to contact us. We don’t think we have much that can help as this is just an internet group and few of us know each other. People who join the group may express their own opinions and those opinions don't reflect the views of the entire group. But we want to help the police, should they open an investigation, as much as possible.

To summarize: they had no idea that doxing, spamming, threatening, etc., were crimes, so they began investigating – but in secret without notifying me in any way. Their investigation did not discover any laws against those actions, and they expected me to believe, 13 days later, that the investigation was ongoing and that I should wait more for an update. They also said nothing for 2.5 days after my followup email then told me to call the police “right away” as if they knew the matter was urgent. And now that they realize Andy’s actions are seriously bad, they will do nothing.

This is thoroughly dishonest. For one thing, they began investigating 18 days ago, before my email, when the threatened person spoke with Bruce. And from what I’ve been told, the investigation consisted basically of asking Andy if he was guilty and believing him when he said no, as well as finding it implausible that Andy and Rat were the person despite IP evidence they were given, and despite the much more evidence that was available but which they didn’t want (like the table below).

The claim that I sent Four Strands two emails is both false and misleading. It’s false because I sent a third email to Four Strands (Dennis) a few days earlier on Jan 19:

Did you make this or could you tell me who did? I saw you tweeting it.

And may I join the Four Strands groups?

And it’s misleading because I had also contacted Four Strands by means other than email, e.g. I DMed Bruce on Twitter, on Jan 19, asking if I could join the Four Strands group (he did not reply).

Doctor Philosophy made no attempt to identify themselves or state their connection to Four Strands, so I replied (Feb 3):

You have not identified yourself or explained how you got a copy of my email message below. Who are you and what is your relationship to the Four Strands group? Who do you speak for and who do you not speak for? Are you speaking for Dennis, or not? For Bruce, or not? Aaron? Allie? Anyone else? Please provide some sort of proof that you represent whoever you claim to represent.

What steps did you take to investigate and what were the results so far? At this time, do you intend to take no further action?

What are the proper ways for the authorities to contact the Four Strands group? Names, phone numbers, emails, etc?

They did not reply.

Evidence Against Andy B

I thought carefully about what evidence to provide because the more I share about my knowledge, methods and security, the more it helps Andy learn how to beat my defenses. I’ve decided to prioritize proving my case, which is better for dealing with everyone other than Andy. The data dump at the end clearly shows two of Andy’s alternate identities, TheRat and Augustine, as well as a lengthy record of harassment. I have detailed evidence for everything else too and could provide additional info if there is a request with a reason it’s needed. I’ve provided a lot preemptively below.

Andy was friendly initially and learned about FI for a while before becoming hostile because I support Trump building a wall. He then apologized for getting so mad and soon got mad again because I criticized the moderation policies on the IDW subreddit where he was a moderator. He ragequit and start posting harassing comments (as well as apparently-civil comments and questions designed to waste people’s time). TheRat and the Augustine identities started out pretending to be friendly people learning FI and both created fake backstories and he ran both long cons, at the same time, for months. Andy often tries to draw people into discussion. He’s interested in FI ideas but has conflicted feelings about them. However, while learning on one identity (and even voice chatting) he would post ongoing troll comments anonymously.

Andy keeps making new identities or posting anonymously. If he gets attention, he uses that identity more. If not, he just tries something else. Some of them are openly hostile, harassing or trolling, while others are partially civil while trying to sneak in a few attacks, and others are entirely civil when Andy really wants attention. Andy also frequently talks with himself to make it sound like more people agree with him and to trick people into thinking his identities are separate people. He also will debate someone on one identity and when he doesn’t win the debate, he tries again on another identity. The identities that talk with each other the most are Andy and TheCritRat, particularly on Discord, Twitter and Reddit. In Curiosity blog comments, Andy often anonymously agreed with himself to create a fake crowd, rather than using a longer term identity.

The thing that most often makes Andy mad is his own insecurity about whether he can be a good philosopher like ET or David Deutsch. As TheRat, he rage quit over his concern that he was too irrational. He returned later and confessed that was why he left. He explained that he’d talked to a lot of people and found they were even more irrational in arguments than he was. He’s often desparate for ET’s attention and keeps trying different ways to try to ask questions and get ET to respond to him. He partially hates ET for ways ET is different than him that seem inaccessible to him, e.g. Andy can’t see himself supporting Trump building a wall, so it upsets him that ET supports that. TheRat rage quit a second time after ET said he was able to play chess calmly, without getting upset about losing, at age 4 or 5. TheRat exaggerated that heavily and got really angry because he thought that meant he could never be rational like ET. He’s also brought up these motivations repeatedly elsewhere. Andy’s psychology helps explain why the support, legitimization, approval and sanction of an alternative community of superficially-similar philosophers (also David Deutsch fans, who was ET’s mentor) matters so much for his behavior. It gives him a way to hate ET, feel good about it, and think he has an alternative way to be a good philosopher.

Andy has had four total victims. I haven’t named the other three, two of whom were doxed and one was threatened and spammed. Below I present information about identities and misdeeds.

Andy B, openly:
[email protected]
Discord: Andy B#6964
Creator, moderator: (other mod: dchacke which is Dennis Hackethal)
Creator, moderator:
Moderator: (other mod: OursIsTheRepost)
Former moderator:

Andy B, covertly, known from computer security data:
Discord: TheRat#7635
[email protected]
Discord: Augustine#7267
[email protected]
[email protected]

Andy B or someone working with him:
Discord: TidalWave#7837
Discord: AnnCoultersDildo#3499
Discord: STB#5154
Discord: ThePhilosopher#9700
Discord: I KanT even#5632
Discord: Felix The Cat#3929

People have asked me about Anon99, who posted hostile blog comments then created a new, anonymous Twitter account and blog on Feb 1, 2020, for the specific purpose of harming my reputation in just the same sort of ways that Andy tries to. He jumped right into old Twitter discussions that Andy had posted in, and expressed knowledge of FI, CR, Objectivism and IDW (just like Andy knows about, and which is quite a rare combination outside of FI). There was no real pretense that he wasn’t a sock puppet. He shows many indications of being Andy, who has a history of making new identities and lying, but I don’t have a direct proof like I do with TheRat or Augustine. The reason I lack the same direct proof is because I’m now blocking everything with a direct connection to Andy’s past comments, so he’s had to hide his identity better in order to continue his harassment. A downside of active security is that people learn, by trial and error, what gets them caught. Besides a VPN, Anon99’s comments use other, uncommon identity-faking tools, and show common Andy patterns like writing malicious comments from different names in the middle of his conversation. Besides the use of unusual identity-hiding tools and circumstantial evidence, there are several other pieces of evidence regarding Anon99, but I don’t want to give away all my security info. Also there’s zero evidence that Anon99 is not Andy.

Note: Andy often deletes identities when he doesn’t plan to use them anymore. This makes it harder to track him or search for info. For example, TheRat rage quit for a while and then came back, at which point he had to recreate his accounts with the same name, and the Augustine discord account has been deleted.

Might be Andy:

These two are speculation based on content, style and behavior. They could easily be wrong.

Recordings of Andy's voice (as TheRat):

Spam email:


Mailing list subscription confirmation notice for mailing list

We have received a request from for subscription of your
email address, “[email protected]", to the
[email protected] mailing list. To confirm that you want
to be added to this mailing list, simply reply to this message,
keeping the Subject: header intact. Or visit this web page:

Andy spammed an FI person by signing them for 25 email lists which caused them to receive emails like this. This spam was done from Andy’s primary IP address on Jan 5, 2020. Andy also spammed me with 18 email list signups from on Jan 9 (in the table below, you can see Andy using that IP address on Jan 10).


In January, Andy doxed two people (not me) in Curiosity blog comments. I deleted the doxing and I won’t name the individuals or say what personal information was shared. It’s confirmed from server data that he did it. Andy is likely also the culprit who tried to reset someone’s Netflix password around the same time that he doxed that person.

Financial Fraud:

Dec 30, 2019, after posing as a young person for months (the Augustine identity), and telling lies about his cruel parents to gain sympathy, Andy fraudulently tricked me into gifting him $400 worth of my digital educational products. (I’m a kind and generous person, sometimes perhaps too much.) Defrauding people for hundreds of dollars of financial gain crosses a major criminal line.


On Jan 5, 2020, Andy (as TheRat, on Discord) baselessly accused an FI person (not me) of being “sociopathic” and abusing a child’s trust. Andy verbally abused this person with profanity-laced insults and made threatening statements:

when you hurt children in the process you’ve crossed a line.


I am sure there’s ways to make your life difficult, particularly in [name of country]

This was followed by additional flaming along with comments indicating the threat was serious, such as:

you think I am joking around here or something? Fix it. I won’t ask again.


you have 24 hours to [obey my demands] […] Fix it. That simple.

There was no factual basis for Andy’s claims. The supposed child in question was Andy himself under the fake Augustine identity, and nothing really happened to him. I’ll tell the story so that you can see how little happened. Let’s call the threatened person Joe. Augustine sent Joe a link by direct message. Joe read it. Later, Augustine sent the same link to a public chat. Joe said roughly (the exact message was deleted to try to accommodate Augustine’s demands), “Oh I read that when you sent it to me Aug, here are my thoughts […]”. That’s it.

The threatened person is on the Four Strands group in addition to FI and told Bruce Nielson about the threat because both Andy and his TheRat identity were in Four Strands. Bruce, as a group manager (though I actually have some evidence that he’s an owner who pretends to be a manager), did nothing about it and let them both stay; apparently the Four Strands group is intentionally choosing an atmosphere where threats like this are acceptable. Bruce also did nothing about the threatened person being spammed from Andy’s IP address.

This verbal abuse was done allegedly to self-righteously stand up for TCS values, and the threatened person was insulted with profanity for allegedly not doing TCS correctly.

Andy Blog Comments Data

Andy’s primary IP address is, which appears to be in Texas. He posted around 100 friendly comments from that IP address before he became hostile in Sept 2018. Below are all comments from that IP address and all comments which visitor-match a comment from that IP address. The visitor-matching is done using standard, robust, open source security software (see the Security ID column in the table below). I won't provide the specific security software I use. The basic facts are that it’s imperfect and sometimes gives false negatives (it fails to match two comments as being from the same person), but false positives (where it incorrectly says two people are the same) are very rare and I haven’t found any false positives in extensive review. FYI I’m a professional software developer and have reviewed the security data with another developer. This simplified, limited data set is 316 comments from the over 400 that I know were Andy. If you click a comment link and it doesn’t highlight a comment, that means it’s hidden. Andy did continue posting harassing comments during the time gap in this data set from Oct 2018 through Sept 2019, but not as frequently and he consistently remembered to use a VPN during that time before slipping up and posting from his primary IP address again in late 2019.

IDDateAuthorIPSecurity ID
112222018.09.21David Fapman72.178.3.18998f6d0f1e4388f49326ec157e222b5af
138692019.10.21Ask Kant72.178.3.189bcb0e756f1d204165bc5b8f5594c6210
138892019.10.22Different anon72.178.3.189bcb0e756f1d204165bc5b8f5594c6210
139022019.10.22Different Anon72.178.3.189bcb0e756f1d204165bc5b8f5594c6210
142062019.11.06Considering Veganism72.178.3.1894f87d14258e955a9e970ccc7f1f2c402
142362019.11.08Learning Marx72.178.3.189c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9
142402019.11.08The Lil lion Augustine104.238.59.444f87d14258e955a9e970ccc7f1f2c402
142532019.11.09Likes proper commas72.178.3.189c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9
142562019.11.09The Rat104.194.220.40c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9
142582019.11.09The Rat104.194.220.58c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9
143132019.11.14actually literate185.192.69.85c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9
143202019.11.14YouTube Loves Capitalism46.244.28.50c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9
143292019.11.14Sophistry Pwner199.167.137.29c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9
143312019.11.14Sophistry Pwner199.167.137.224c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9
143322019.11.14John Galt46.244.28.96c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9
143392019.11.14The best Anon199.167.137.224c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9
145492019.11.23John Galt would help fight climate change46.244.28.9c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9
149682019.12.29Howard Roark185.192.69.156e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7
150332020.01.06When the ego doesn't match the skill85.203.44.40e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7
150462020.01.08Rand would be dissapointed85.203.44.40e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7
150562020.01.10Shit Tier Blogger85.203.44.111e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7
150882020.01.14Curi is a hypocrite46.244.28.52e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7
151282020.01.17[name removed due to doxing]
151302020.01.17Howard Roark199.167.137.32e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7
151412020.01.18Mr. Sandman185.230.125.155e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7
151702020.01.20Ayn Rand's Dildo199.167.137.32e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7
151912020.01.22[name removed due to doxing]


Andy B is an online criminal. Dennis Hackethal, Bruce Nielson, Aaron Stupple and Allie Pace are maliciously encouraging Andy (and anyone else) to harass me. And that group of leaders has personally spread hatred about me and violated my rights. They’re welcoming Andy as a member at their groups, providing him moral support, protecting his reputation while working to damage mine, working with him, preventing me from having access to group messages to investigate, and more. Others like Brett Hall have helped encourage the culture of hatred. David Deutsch has acted irresponsibly by saying and doing nothing. None of these people will make any anti-crime or anti-harassment statement, or even pay lip service to asking their members or fans to be peaceful. This shadow community is dangerous and should be shunned by all civilized persons.

They wouldn’t even ban Andy from their group, or disassociate from him, let alone discourage the culture of hatred they’ve created or oppose harassment in any way.

If anyone involved apologizes and takes reasonable actions to try to make amends, I will update this post.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (27)

Limits of Statistics

This is a reply to an FI post.


What are some examples people might give [of judging inconclusive arguments and assigning them appropriate weights, choosing both whether it’s positive or negative as well as the size] and what’s wrong with those?


People usually don't give numeric ranges for argument weights, but they may talk about the amount of weight in words, e.g. using the kind of scale Peikoff came up with (I think they were words such as "likely", "probable", "unlikely", etc.). One problem with this is that there's no way to combine those fuzzy weights to get a meaningful total.

People talk about the sign of an argument's weight in terms of whether the argument supports or undermines the idea in question. For example, the idea that the sun has risen every day for the last million years (or whatever) might be said to support the idea that the sun will rise tomorrow. One problem with this is that no one has ever explained what it means for one idea to support another idea.

Someone might try to define "support" more precisely by saying that idea Y supports idea X just when P(X|Y) > P(X) (that is, when knowing that Y is the case makes X more likely than X would be if you didn't know whether or not Y was the case). However, this kind of probabilistic justification suffers from a regress problem, as explained in .

How does one compare:

1) the probability that socialism is a good idea

2) the probability that socialism is a good idea, given that Trump is a good president


btw i assume that both statements have an unstated “given the laws of logic, the laws of physics, and a bunch of standard background info like basic facts”.

let’s try a simpler example and see if it helps us figure this out:

1) the probability that Joe has cancer

2) the probability that Joe has cancer, given he took one test for cancer and it came out positive

so you consider all possible worlds that fit the conditions (which include basic background facts like Joe being alive, Joe being the same age he is now, Joe being roughly the same person, the world being roughly the same, same laws of physics, same laws of logic, etc) and then you count how many times Joe has cancer and doesn’t have cancer. which is infinity of each but you figure our proportions anyways like how 10% of the positive integers are divisible by 10 even though infinity are and infinity aren’t.

so it’s kinda like: Joe is age 42 and American. 0.3% of americans that age have cancer (which you estimate based on some published statistics). the cancer is randomly distributed among everyone in the set of all possible worlds so Joe has it in 0.3% of those worlds. you can make it more accurate by considering more factors like whether joe smokes.

but if the test says he has cancer, well the false positive rate is only 10%, so the chance he has cancer is like 50% (that’s just a wild guess, i didn’t bother doing the math, and it depends on numbers i didn’t give like how many people without cancer get the test).

so 50% > 0.3% so "he took one test for cancer and it came out positive” is evidence that Joe has cancer.

there are some things wrong with this, and i’m skipping some steps, and it can’t eliminate explanation and criticism, but there is also some value in it. this kind of method isn’t worthless. (though we do need critical thinking to figure out when and how to use it – without critical thinking, ~everything is worthless).

but this is limited to certain types of scenarios. you look at all possible worlds (given same physics and logic, and if you want a similar number of ppl on earth living in similar countries with similar technologies and so on) and in how many of them is socialism a good idea? i say zero cuz socialism conflicts with physics and logic. the point is, this isn’t a statistical issue. most things people want to know aren’t statistical issues.

one of the worst things the Bayesians do is they can’t seem to tell the difference between pulling colored marbles out of a bag (statistics) and whether Stoicism or Objectivism is a better philosophy (not statistics). they don’t do much to try to find the limits of statistics and avoid going outside their domain of expertise.

lots of stuff isn’t statistics. should i sign up for cryonics? quite possibly zero people who get cryonics with current technology will have a successful outcome. you can’t use statistics to figure out whether it can work at all or not. and saying “well let’s consider how often it works over a range of conceivable laws of physics and logic”, in order to try to more unambiguously get a probability above zero, isn’t going to fix this. how do you count how many different laws of physics current cryo tech works in? how do you put the different laws of physics into a well defined ordering and then iterate over a range of them? no one has any idea how to do any such thing, and i doubt it’s possible at all.

is Trump a good president? i think a lot of them would call that statistical. run a trillion simulations of Earth with Trump as president, see what the outcomes are on some metrics like global wealth, number of people alive, number and severity of wars, etc. And then run some control simulations, i guess just try a million other people as president and average their results..? then see how often trump does better or worse than the control average default metric numbers. and lump together scores on each metric into an overall score. does anyone’s thinking on the matter really resemble this monte carlo method, as an approximation? and how do you know which metrics matter how much, or how to measure them, or how to get them into the same units and weight their importance to combine into a single total? those things are not statistical issues (right?) so even if you could do the simulations the answer you got would depend on a bunch of your non-statistical ideas.

some of the difficulties with combining multiple metrics into a single final score are explained here btw:

This is nothing like a complete explanation, just some stuff. Feel free to take it further.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Dear Lurkers

I wrote this privately in Feb 2009. I've made minor edits.

Dear Lurkers (yes, you),

Figuring things out is hard. And fooling ourselves is easy. (This is a paraphrase of Feynman, one of the best philosophers of the 20th century.)

A truly wise man knows how ignorant he is. (This is a theme of Socrates.)

I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth. (Popper)

Through seeking we may learn, and know things better... (Xenophanes)

If you think you know how to parent without hurting your children, and haven't written a thousand posts about it, then you are probably violating these quotes.

It certainly took me a lot more than a thousand posts to figure out what I know today. David Deutsch too. Do you think you're a lot smarter than us, and a much faster learner?

If you are, that's great, please go invent something better than quantum computers and TCS. Then write a better book than The Fabric of Reality. If you're taking requests, start by defeating aging.

Back to parenting: what I know today is, in my view, insufficient. Parenting and education is a hard problem in the mundane sense of needing a lot of practical knowledge. And it's a hard problem in the sense that most people fail badly. And it's a hard problem in the sense that commonsense gets a lot of things about it wrong and advanced philosophy is required to correct those errors. And it's a hard problem because many mistaken ideas about it are entrenched traditions and seem obviously true. And it's a hard problem in the sense that many people see some of these dangers, and think they can do better, but fail to; it's very common to think you are different and still fail. There are also misconceptions about education built into the English language. And there is also constant pressure from your own parents, and friends, and neighbors, and sometimes Government officials, and school teachers, and well everyone, to do a wide variety of things that your children won't like. Also, sometimes these people will try to coerce your children, so there is the added problem of protecting children.

Parenting is also a hard problem because our own parents hurt us in such a way as to make us bad at parenting, and irrational at thinking about parenting and evaluating our knowledge of it. If your instinct is to deny this, that is a major indication that you will be a bad parent. If you intellectually will admit this, but still have the emotional instinct to deny it, then again you should expect to hurt your children. Just changing intellectual theories, but not intuitive reactions, emotions, and how you live life on autopilot by default, and thus being a person always in conflict, simply isn't good enough.

Fully non-coercive parenting is a harder problem. How many people here could even explain what coercion is accurately and answer questions? Hardly anyone. Few people have been interested enough to think about it a lot and ask lots of questions about it and try to talk about it frequently over the course of years. I also think it's implausible that someone who never tried to write an essay on it actually understands it.

It's easy to think you agree with and understand something. It's easy to miss things and not notice you missed anything. It's easy to fool ourselves. What's harder is to take the knowledge you think you have and apply it, and also explain it to others, and persuade people who disagree. If you really understand morality and epistemology well, you should be able to actually do things in real life that normal people can't do, such as change your emotional makeup from whatever it is to what you actually think is a good idea, or break your bad habits (bad in your view) without feeling bad, and many more things which, if you can't think of them yourself, you still have a lot more to learn.

(If you think some of these things are not desirable, then you definitely ought to post at least a little more. Why don't you write a post to try to settle the disagreement? To be confident in your view, and not feel an urgent need to learn more about our disagreement, you better have some significant and clearly thought out criticisms of my view. So post those, just to make sure I'll concede, and won't have anything to say that you hadn't thought of. If you don't feel the need to post ideas to be criticized, just in case others know something you don't, then you are not respecting the difficulty of finding things out.)

Maybe you are all having wonderful conversations IRL where you learn a lot. But I doubt it (I mean you probably have some, but not enough). Non-coercive parenting is extremely unpopular. It's hard enough to find any conversations about it on the whole internet, let alone in your neighborhood. And that's any serious conversation with interested people at all. Finding people who also know something about Popper and philosophy -- enough to have thoughts about education that actually engage with important questions -- is much harder.

Parenting is of course not the only issue. For example, non-coercive adult to adult relationships are very important as well. You will coerce your spouse unless you have quite a lot of knowledge of how to avoid doing so. I needn't list any more. Try to rattle off a dozen more danger areas in a couple minutes. If you can, you've listed them for me. If you can't, then certainly you don't know enough to avoid harming and wronging people you interact with. (What? You thought you could be a decent, peaceful, nice person without knowledge?).

If you'd like to post, but don't know what to post, then you have a problem. So ask a question about that. Or consider a common problem and try to figure out if you have it and how it can be solved. Or take a post and try to understand it, and if you don't get all of it, then ask a question, and if you think you do get all of it, then post some further implications, or even better ideas on the same topic, or something like that.

If you're bad at writing, don't worry, everyone is born that way. You just need a combination of practice, thinking about it, and educational resources. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

  • focus on expressing one idea at a time, very clearly
  • short sentences
  • no fancy words
  • short paragraphs
  • simple sentence structure
  • content matters more than form or style
  • don't try to impress anyone
  • omit anything unnecessary
  • avoid meta discussion
  • include an example
  • when in any doubt about the meaning of a word, check the dictionary or don't use it
  • short is better, but harder. don't try for length, but don't worry if it ends up long
  • misunderstandings are very common, and will happen, so don't get discouraged or pessimistic. if someone misunderstands then try to clarify
  • if someone says something abstract that's hard to understand, ask for a simple, practical example
  • above all, never write a list

PS Join the Fallible Ideas discussion group.

FYI, the last item on the list is a joke. Jokes frequently cause miscommunications, and this joke was misunderstood by at least one person who actually said so (people usually don't tell you when they don't understand you). A better tip is to avoid jokes if you want to be understood.

Although this post focuses mostly on parents, the issues apply to everyone. Knowledge helps you hurt yourself and others less. Choosing not to seek knoweldge means choosing to hurt people, including yourself. (I think you should especially care about hurting yourself, but many people think they care more about hurting others. Anyway both matter.)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (5)