[Previous] What Happened with the TCS Archives | Home | [Next] David Deutsch’s Irrationality

David Deutsch’s Fear and Revulsion

This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years. The harassment is coming from David Deutsch (DD) and his community. This post provides info about DD’s motives and the historical context. I’ve tried to address the problem privately but they’ve refused to attempt any private problem solving.

This complete chat log between me (curi) and David Deutsch (oxfordphysicist) spans 4 minutes on the afternoon of 2011-10-04 (bold highlighting added now):


szasz :D

You're entirely mistaken. I'm terrified, and will be unable to work for at least a day now. And who knows how long after that. Receiving an e-mail from you is sheer fear and revulsion before I even look at it.

i think you're mistaken and i do not want to do anything without coming to some resolution

i am attempting to follow my understanding of tcs methods. you aren't following them. perhaps we disagree about what tcs says to do.

This is the most negative thing DD ever said to me. It struck me as totally out of character. In retrospect, given how his character seems totally changed today, I think he may have been hiding his character from me for years. I think, originally, he may have been trying to hide his flaws in a noble, honorable way to shield me from them and let me interact with the best parts of himself. That’s the kind of thing he advocates parents do for their children, and he acted like a father-figure to me in some (but not other) ways.

For context, “You're entirely mistaken.” refers to some emails we’d exchanged that day about the TCS archives. He meant that my claims about the TCS archives, in those emails, were mistaken. I explained the TCS archives conflict here.

The message was a surprise to me. You can see the friendly tone of my messages beforehand. DD didn’t gradually lead up to it. He held some things in and then let them out abruptly like this.

DD still talked with me a lot after this, repeatedly initiated contact, and never said something similar again later.

This is by far the closest DD ever came to making a no contact request (which is notable because he lied about me breaking several of those that he never made). At the time, I took this as probably being a no contact request even though it was phrased as providing information rather than making an explicit request.

Note: Based on our personal history, DD knew how to make explicit requests to me, and knew that I would see that this logically wasn’t one. This may sound unreasonably pedantic, but DD and I were both like that, and literalness was a standard part of our communications. DD had actually set up this dynamic himself: He’d told me repeatedly that if he wanted something he would ask, and that I shouldn’t try to guess what he wanted and act on those guesses. He convinced me that it was better for him if I just listened to direct requests and avoided trying to guess other ways to accommodate him. He also had me use lots of explicit requests with him, which he could then say yes or no to at his option. I think I got over 50% ‘yes’ answers, but lots of ‘no’ answers too, which is unusual – in most relationships people try to avoid asking for stuff without being over 90% confident they’ll get a ‘yes’ answer. That’s how DD wanted our relationship to work (it benefited him if I asked 5 short things that I’m not confident he’ll say ‘yes’ to, and got only 1 ‘yes’, because he didn’t want to miss out on that opportunity and giving a few quick negative answers is a cheap price to pay in effort if no one gets their feelings hurt, plus even a declined request can be interesting and worthwhile to read).

Since I thought it was probably a no contact request, I stopped contacting DD. This prevented me from attempting to discuss and solve some of our problems, or doing common preference finding, as I wanted to. But I was trying to respect DD’s wishes.

What happened next?

DD kept emailing me privately, like normal (less frequently, especially since I never replied or started any discussions anymore, but he was initiating contact and emailing me stuff instead of trying to avoid contact). He acted kinda like he’d never sent the message about fear and revulsion. He didn’t act like he’d issued a no contact request. His actions were compatible with nothing having happened and us being too busy converse like normal.

In total, after the message about fear and revulsion, DD sent me 81 personal emails (plus other emails on discussion groups). Many were friendly emails that were purely optional. He had no reason to send them other than wanting to have a conversation with me. E.g. he did not have to, but did, have a long email conversation with me about schizophrenia.

After 52 days of not responding to any of DD’s emails or discussing the problem in any way, and waiting, and him not acknowledging what happened, I became concerned that I was being cold to him and ignoring him. I worried that my coldness could confuse or hurt him, especially since he hadn’t literally requested that I stop sending emails. I was also concerned since he hadn’t suggested any plan to fix anything and didn’t seem to be initiating any problem solving, and didn’t appear to intend to do problem solving later (since he was just going on with normal communications). I decided to clarify. I sent him a short email on 2012-11-25:

Do you still want me not to send you emails? Should I wait more? I'm unclear on what to do and realize that waiting could itself be taken negatively (as cold, distant).

I think 7.5 weeks was a long time to wait with someone I’d been talking with for years, often daily (in our total relationship, DD sent me roughly 4,000 private emails and spent thousands of hours chatting and engaging with me; I’ve estimated that the total amount of words he wrote to me is more than ten times the length of his book, The Fabric of Reality). That shows how much I was trying to respect his wishes. And it turned out that I was right to send the email. DD didn’t complain about it or treat it as a violation of a request.

DD’s response to my clarification request did not acknowledge ever wanting me not to send him emails, or ever sending the IM from 52 days earlier. He didn’t respond directly at all or answer my questions, but instead reinitiated conversation and invited me to try to persuade him of something by email. So we moved on and had more email discussions. He never suggested that he’d made a no contact request that I should be following. He sent 81 emails after the negative IM because he was still having contact with me. DD’s rate of sending me emails reached near zero in late 2012, around a year after his worrying IM. He stopped sending more emails without any announcement. I gave him a lot of space and tried not to push him about it, and was disappointed when he didn’t come around over time. I also realized that the opportunity to discuss the issues more had been missed (as I think DD wanted).

I now interpret DD’s harsh IM as asking me to back off temporarily, for an unspecified amount of time. And I backed off more than long enough, so that was that. He was alerting me to a problem and wanted some space, which I gave him.

I was still concerned after this incident and was more careful about sending DD anything. Some of the underlying problems were still there. But I don’t think it was ever actually a no contact request, just a serious complaint meant to raise a problem. Even if it had been a no contact request, DD retracted it by not reiterating it, by talking about something else when I asked for clarification of whether it was OK to contact him, by sending me 81 more emails, by acting like he never said it, by being friendly with me after it, and by never complaining that I was doing something wrong by emailing him again. So, to the best of my knowledge, I didn’t violate DD’s wishes about that specific matter.

One of the lessons here is that DD is an emotional, irrational, fragile person who loses days of work over his strong feelings. And he has strong feelings about things he hasn’t read – so his feelings do not depend on the merits of the arguments being made or how reasonable they are. That’s important context that helps explain his involvement in harassment against me.

Elliot Temple on June 6, 2021


Want to discuss this? Join my forum.

(Due to multi-year, sustained harassment from David Deutsch and his fans, commenting here requires an account. Accounts are not publicly available. Discussion info.)