The best book ever is The Fabric of Reality by God David Deutsch. Go buy ten copies, read some, and give some away. The book even made it's own website and yahoogroup. (I think it's some kinda super book).

I also especially like:
1984
all the Calvin and Hobbes comics
Selfish Gene
the Wheel of Time series
Machinery of Freedom
Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy series

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David Deutsch

Posted to the TCSsociety email list, reproduced with permission.

1: "It is better that 100 murderers go free than that one innocent person is convicted."

2: "It is better that 100 tyrannical, bloodthirsty and aggressive states manufacture weapons of mass destruction than that one tyrannical, bloodthirsty and aggressive state without weapons of mass destruction is liberated."

Spot the difference.

-- David Deutsch
http://www.qubit.org/people/david/David.html

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David Deutsch in a rare attempt at satire (the rest of this post is written by Deutsch):

Rondo a la Turque

Turkish troops have reportedly entered northern Iraq
despite opposition from the US. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Turkish forces had moved across the border to prevent a flood of refugees.

According to Turkish military sources, more than 1,000 commandos crossed the border.

The Turkish military Saturday denied reports
that some 1,000 Turkish commandos crossed into northern Iraq, a military move that would likely increase tensions with Iraqi Kurds and Washington.

And
A military official said Friday that soldiers, in M-113 armored personnel carriers, rolled into northeastern Iraq from near the town of Cukurca, where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran converge. He said the soldiers were reinforcing several thousand Turkish troops already on the Iraqi side of the border and were not ordered to go deeper into Iraq.

Similar reports were front-page news in Turkish newspapers Saturday and were carried on Turkish television stations throughout the night.

And
A spokesman for the Turkish General Staff denied the reports.

?Turkey has not entered northern Iraq,? the spokesman said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. ?Such news is a lie.?

A dastardly lie! Turkey would never do a thing like that. They?re shocked. Shocked, do you hear?

With me so far? OK, next:
Germany said Saturday it would withdraw its crew members from NATO surveillance planes that are patrolling Turkish airspace if Turkey moves its troops into Iraq. The threat was announced by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Defense Minister Peter Struck following a meeting of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Security Cabinet.

They threatened to withdraw if Turkey moves troops into Iraq? Do they mean if Turkey moves more troops? BTW Turkish troops already were in Iraq -- they have been for years. Perhaps the Germans are confused, and think that incursions of up to 150 km are OK, but now they've moved to 180km. Or something.

Anyway -- good news everyone:
UN weapons inspector Hans Blix announced today from Ankara that a preliminary inspection of the city ?has revealed no evidence that Turkey has moved any troops into Iraq?. He said there is evidence of previous incursions, and the inspectors are ?vigorously pursuing the issue?, demanding that the Turkish government deliver ?credible evidence? that all the troops had been withdrawn in the mid-1990s. He praised the Turkish government's cooperation ?on process? and said he was confident that cooperation on substance would be forthcoming during the coming months. Meanwhile, inspections would continue. ?There are a lot of interesting restaurants in downtown Istanbul?, Mr. Blix remarked.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry at first issued the following statement:
Who is this idiot?

But later amended this to:
We reiterate that there are no, absolutely no, Turkish troops in Iraq. They are there for humanitarian reasons only, and the land they are seizing is not for territorial purposes. UN inspectors are welcome to search for them anywhere in Turkey.

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The Most Important Improvement to Popperian Philosophy of Science

Here is (my summary, my words) the most important idea contributed to Popper's philosophy of science by someone other than Popper. It was contributed by David Deutsch in his book The Fabric of Reality:

Most ideas are criticized and rejected for being bad explanations. This is true even in science where they could be tested. Even most proposed scientific ideas are rejected, without testing, for being bad explanations.

Although tests are valuable, Popper's over-emphasis on testing mischaracterizes science and sets it further apart from philosophy than need be. In both science and abstract philosophy, most criticism revolves around good and bad explanations. It's largely the same epistemology. The possibility of empirical testing in science is a nice bonus, not a necessary part of creating knowledge.

In his book, David Deutsch gives this example: Consider the theory that eating grass cures colds. He says we can reject this theory without testing it.

He's right, isn't he? Should we hire a bunch of sick college students to eat grass? That would be silly. There is no explanation of how grass cures colds, so nothing worth testing. (Non-explanation is a common type of bad explanation!)

Narrow focus on testing -- especially as a substitute for support/justification -- is one of the major ways of misunderstanding Popperian philosophy. Deutsch's improvement shows how its importance is overrated and, besides being true, is better in keeping with the fallibilist spirit of Popper's thought (we don't need something "harder" or "more sciency" or whatever than critical argument!).

Emphasis on explanations is a theme with Deutsch. His upcoming book, The Beginning of Infinity is subtitled "Explanations that transform the world".

Another big idea of Deutsch's is that Popperian epistemology is true for all people. It sounds obvious when stated in that form, but it becomes controversial when one mentions that children are included in "all people". I think Popper would have approved of this, but he didn't go through and explain the consequences and implications for education. Deutsch has done so in detail.

Edit:

In An Introduction To The Thought Of Karl Popper, p 41, Roberta Corvi summarizes Popper, "The practical problem of induction is thereby solved: it is transformed into the problem of testing a theory". This is just the kind of empiricist mistake which Deutsch has improved on. Empirical approaches are insufficient in general because they cannot address philosophy (and epistemology should apply to all knowledge), but even in science when testing is possible, strong empiricism (i.e. we learn primarily using observation) is still a mistake.

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The Beginning of Infinity

_The Beginning of Infinity_ by David Deutsch is out. It is the best book ever written.

I have made a website with information about it such as an excerpt, a review, and an interview with the author.

http://beginningofinfinity.com/

At least read the excerpt from the book and my interview. And when you're very impressed, then read the whole book.

I have also made a discussion group for it. My good writing mostly goes there. Join!

http://beginningofinfinity.com/discussion

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I Changed My Mind About David Deutsch

I have changed my mind about some things I have communicated about David Deutsch. I think the responsible thing to do is to say so.

When someone puts forward ideas in public, and persuades people, but then changes his mind, he ought to tell people. They shouldn't go by his old ideas with no chance for an update and to maybe change their minds too.

For example, if Thomas Szasz had decided he was mistaken that mental illness is a myth, then he would have been responsible for publishing a retraction and correction, and explaining why he changed his mind. Not doing so would have been immoral and irresponsible.

I do not know exactly what I have communicated about David Deutsch over the last decade, in public. This is partly an issue of memory, partly an issue of some things being communicated inexplicitly (without directly saying them, but they still come across), and partly an issue of trying to remember what was said in private or in public.

Let me clarify my relationship with David. I have known David for over a decade and had many, many discussions with him. For David's book The Beginning of Infinity, I provided over 200 pages of especially appreciated comments and edits. I made and own the website and discussion group for the book. David is a founder of Taking Children Seriously (TCS) and Autonomy Respecting Relationships (ARR). I own the dicussion groups for both of those, too.

We no longer associate closely. Things changed. I have learned a lot from David and I used to think we agreed more than I now think. I now regard David as rejecting some important good ideas. For some of these ideas, I had thought I learned them from David, but I've changed my mind about that.

Here are some things I have changed my mind about.

I believe I have communicated that David is a world class expert on TCS, ARR, and some other parts of philosophy. I thought he was. However, he has stopped talking about a lot of that stuff and has said things exposing misconceptions. So I've changed my mind.

I think have communicated that I consider David a better philosopher than myself with higher status and more knowledge. I have changed my mind.

In the past I think I basically said David is always right. I did not mean it literally but I did mean something, and I have changed my mind.

I believe I have communicated that David is super rational. That I endorse him and his ideas pretty much without exception. That I'm a big fan. I've changed my mind.

I've said that David is a fan of Ayn Rand. He made this claim to me and I accepted it. I've changed my mind.

The list of issues I now know that I disagree with David about includes qualia, mirror neurons, Edmund Burke, Thomas Szasz, Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, William Godwin's economics, deduction, hard to vary, meta discussion, justificationism, the value of school and academia, and the right approach to email discussions. Note that I have left some out to respect David's privacy.

Despite David's TCS reputation, and arguments against school, he actually has a a much more favorable opinion of university and academia than I do. His position on school is incompatible with TCS.

I believe I have communicated that David has the utmost intellectual integrity and responsibility. He does not. I thought he did; I was surprised when he acted otherwise; I've changed my mind.

People can seem more rational than they are as long as they are right frequently. This can happen when they already know a lot of things, but are not learning new things. When there are serious criticisms of their thinking then they are put to a harder test. Critical challenges can be particularly revealing about someone's character. David has done poorly on several.

I still consider The Fabric of Reality and The Beginning of Infinity to be very good books. Despite some flaws, they are world class. And there are other things David has written that are good.

I made every effort to avoid this outcome. For example, I tried to help David by explaining his misconceptions and offering him new ideas.

I have learned from this. In the future I will hold people to a higher standard. Many of my comments about David were years past, and I have improved my judgment.

---

Update, Feb 2020: Related to this post, I've written:


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (24)

David Deutsch's Anna Story

David Deutsch posted this story in January 2000 to the public Taking Children Seriously email list. The subject line was "academics". I later wrote my own Anna story. One criticism of DD's story is that it overvalues school, formal education and academics.

Eliana WestEmmer asked:
After visiting the "Puzzling Parenting" stuff, I went to the TCS site and read Sarah's wonderful article about math(s).

https://web.archive.org/web/20030224180925/http://www.tcs.ac/Articles/SLMathPhobia.html

It got me wondering. I am imagining a kid, no -- a family of three kids. The kids are, um, 10, 12 & 15. The parents have resisted the urge to push academics on them. They have not done any academic math(s). They play video games, chat on the internet, build lego stuff, build tree-houses, etc.

Would somebody write for me a description of life from here on? Tell me a story, that includes the 15 year old becoming a scientist. I am just having trouble picturing them starting math so late... Would somebody help me with this idea?
And later:
The concern is genuine. Without knowledge, how do we come to be who it is we are "meant" to be? And is there not a point, developmentally, where it can be "too late"?
NO. I am sure it can't be "too late."

What I really want is a way to picture life from here for, say, the oldest one (15, was it?). Does she begin with fractions and decimals
Maybe. Probably not.
and work her way up to algebra, then calculus?
Calculus is almost certain to follow, rather than precede, algebra, yes.
Does she start at the local community college
Quite possibly.
in remedial classes?
No, in normal classes.
What does such a life LOOK like?
Well OK, if you really insist on knowing, I'll tell you. I know all the details except her name, so let's call her Anna.

Sometime this year, Anna's previous interest in Lego, treehouse-building, the internet and computer games will all come together and draw her attention to a major TV documentary about how stunts are arranged in movies. She will start building such stunts in the garden, each more ingenious than the last, using all sorts of props and filming them on a video camera. One day, a physics teacher will walk past and see her doing this. Calling to her to give her advice about how to balance a particular arrangement of planks, he will inadvertently cause her to fall fifteen feet onto the grass, fortunately causing only a broken toe.

Anna will have to wait three hours for treatment in the emergency room, which could have been excruciating (because the slightly addled person waiting on her left suffering from chronic whiteboard-marker poisoning will be a mathematics teacher eager to plug the gaps in her home education), but in the event, it will pass quickly because she will get into conversation with the fascinating person waiting on her right, a huge lady called Agnes. Turns out Agnes' ex-husband used to do stunts in Hollywood and she used to help him before she found out about some of the other stunts he pulled -- but that's another story. Anyway, now she owns three successful cafes in town and has just bought two more and wants to go up-market. She's been talking to an advertising agency about making a series of ads for the local TV. She hasn't liked any of their ideas so far, but soon finds that Anna is bubbling with great ideas for how to advertise high-class restaurants using movie-like stunts. Agnes will be surprised and delighted to hear that Anna actually has videos of several stunts she has arranged single-handed (with a little help from her little brothers) and will tell her her to drop by at her office next say.

Next day Anna will hobble along to Agnes' office above one of her restaurants, currently being re-fitted with the new up-market decor. Agnes will love the videos, and will commission Anna to design five stunts for the new series of ads, and execute them for the TV people. Anna will earn three thousand dollars for this, but think no more about it until six months later when the advertising agency will offer her a similar job, albeit for only $500. She will accept, because even though it's a lot of work and the materials alone will cost almost that much, she will enjoy it enormously. The following week, someone will let the agency down and they will phone around in desperation for anyone they know who can do a firework display. Anna will never have done such a thing, and technically it's illegal, but she will agree to step in to help them out. Not only will the display be a great success, but Anna will meet and fall instantly in love with ... the computerised timing device that the agency gave her to time the fireworks. She will ask if she can borrow it, and for the next year it will spend far more time in her garage than at the agency, for she will think of more and more ways to use it to do wonderful stunts, and also special effects. She will also start editing her movies on the agency's professional computerised editing system.

One day in the cutting room, she will meet a pro who is engaged in a science documentary. He will be a mathematics graduate -- who has forgotten all the maths he ever knew and will now be spending all his time filming animals mating. So they won't talk about maths but she will show him how to hide some of the more repulsive aspects of his footage using a difficult timed transition on the editing machine, and in return he will introduce her to his boss, whose next documentary will be about the NASA robots that will one day explore Mars. Anna will be hired as a technical assistant on that documentary, and will dazzle everyone with the exciting stunts she will think of to demonstrate how these robots will behave on Mars. The boss will offer her a permanent job on the team, but she will refuse, because while at NASA, she will also have helped one of the astronomers out with making a promotional movie designed to persuade the government to fund more infra-red satellites. The problem will have been how to display, in an eye-catching and persuasive way, the complex data that demonstrate why such satellites are better than ground-based telescopes. Anna will succeed at this so well that she will have persuaded herself too. She will spend the next two years working for one of NASA'a subcontractors, first in the publicity department, then designing user-interfaces for satellite ground stations, and then even some aspects of the satellites themselves.

All this will involve a lot of interactions between herself and astrophysics graduate students, but slowly the attraction of satellites will wear off, and she will realise that her real love is *theoretical* astronomy. She'll read a book about calculus, do a six-month adult-education course in physics to fill in the gaps in what she's picked up, and then apply to take an undergraduate degree in astronomy, complete it a year ahead of time and then be accepted for a PhD in quasar structure. At that point she will officially become a SCIENTIST.

Meanwhile she will have had two children with the NASA astronomer (who will have left astronomy to become an internet millionaire and failed miserably, but will by that time be blissfully happy again as a home maker), and she will worry that the children won't achieve anything in life unless they have a good grounding in the basics, especially mathematics, but for some unaccountable reason the ungrateful little wretches will be digging their heels in and refusing to listen.

-- David Deutsch
http://www.qubit.org/people/david/David.html

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David Deutsch's Mistaken Philosophy and Scholarship

https://twitter.com/DavidDeutschOxf/status/590279039170043904
One should study philosophy only if addressing an originally non-philosophical problem forces one to.
Stay the fuck away from philosophy unless forced.

jfc

Once upon a time, DD promised me he’d write a good book about TCS before he died – I raised the issue because he intentionally left out major important TCS type ideas from FoR and BoI. He lied to me.

also DD misquoted Popper (C&R p95 for me in paper, i checked both paper and ebook, his text does not match popper’s text. it’s chap 2, section III, near start). and dropped italics which isn’t OK either. and DD’d replaced “which arise” with “[from]” just b/c of tweet length limit. (actually just to fit italics he’d have to drop the period on the end, no problem, and the space after the colon, ugh lol. but he still should have done that)

https://twitter.com/curi42/status/590295170651791360

get an ebook and stop inserting typos into what are supposed to be exact quotes. (Popper: “philosophize”. DD supposedly quoting Popper: “philosophise”.)

DD also omitted the quote source. presumably cuz of tweet length limit. it's still his responsibility.

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David Deutsch Defends Stalin, Mao

David Deutsch tweeted:

[email protected] To end extreme poverty, end extreme wealth? A misconception that killed more people in the 20th century than malevolent violence.

This tweet categorizes Stalin and Mao as not being in the malevolent violence category. It has to for the body count math to come out right. Rather, Deutsch believes they had a "misconception" about income equality and the root causes of poverty.

It's disturbing that in Deutsch's mind he doesn't associate mass-murderers like Stalin and Mao with malevolence and violence. Soviet and Chinese gulags, and starving millions to death, weren't policies for dealing with "extreme wealth".

Those millions of victims of communism didn't die by accident. They didn't die despite good intentions. They died due to authoritarian violence! They died malevolently!


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