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:
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 thrings 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.)
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.
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”.
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 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.
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 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.
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).
Topic to discuss computer/video/electronic game stuff, including esports and speedrunning.
Here's a YouTube playlist with 200 AdG videos. Other anti-aging ideas besides AdG's are also welcome.
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.
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.
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!”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Aaon, 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.
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.
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. https://www.fallible.fun
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.
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:
Discord: Andy B#6964
Creator, moderator: https://www.reddit.com/r/BeginningofInfinity/ (other mod: dchacke which is Dennis Hackethal)
Creator, moderator: https://www.reddit.com/r/HeuristicWorld/
Moderator: https://www.reddit.com/r/TheIDW/ (other mod: OursIsTheRepost)
Former moderator: https://www.reddit.com/r/IntellectualDarkWeb/
Andy B, covertly, known from computer security data:
Andy B or someone working with him:
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):
Mailing list subscription confirmation notice for mailing list
We have received a request from 184.108.40.206 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 220.127.116.11 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.
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’s primary IP address is 18.104.22.168, 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.
|14240||2019.11.08||The Lil lion Augustine||22.214.171.124||4f87d14258e955a9e970ccc7f1f2c402|
|14253||2019.11.09||Likes proper commas||126.96.36.199||c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9|
|14320||2019.11.14||YouTube Loves Capitalism||188.8.131.52||c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9|
|14339||2019.11.14||The best Anon||184.108.40.206||c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9|
|14549||2019.11.23||John Galt would help fight climate change||220.127.116.11||c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9|
|15033||2020.01.06||When the ego doesn't match the skill||18.104.22.168||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
|15046||2020.01.08||Rand would be dissapointed||22.214.171.124||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
|15056||2020.01.10||Shit Tier Blogger||126.96.36.199||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
|15088||2020.01.14||Curi is a hypocrite||188.8.131.52||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
|15128||2020.01.17||[name removed due to doxing]||184.108.40.206||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
|15170||2020.01.20||Ayn Rand's Dildo||220.127.116.11||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
|15191||2020.01.22||[name removed due to doxing]||18.104.22.168||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
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.
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 http://curi.us/1594-regress-problems .
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: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/02/14/the-order-of-things
This is nothing like a complete explanation, just some stuff. Feel free to take it further.
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:
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.)
This post is about Taking Children Seriously (TCS) and what it was like before my leadership. This is primarily interesting because of the value of TCS's bold conjectures about how to apply Critical Rationalism to parenting and education. I'm secondarily bringing it up because some people today are unfamiliar with TCS and other ideas from David Deutsch (DD) and make ignorant, incorrect assumptions about what it's like. E.g. Bruce Nielson posted to The Beginning of Infinity forum in 2018:
Thanks Elliot for the excellent and thoughtful feedback. I'll try to come up with a new version that improves the problems of the existing version.
I joined [FI]. I hope to be an active participant.
You can read my free DD/CR (David Deutsch and Critical Rationalist epistemology) help, which Bruce was so thankful for, at Critical Rationalism Epistemology Explanations.
Although it's been a year and a half, and Bruce said he would follow up, he hasn't. It appears to have been his first attempt at online DD/CR discussion and it went nowhere due to his own disinterest and inactivity. Fine, but then why is he now a manager at an online DD/CR discussion group that is attempting to splinter the community and sideline FI? He's a newcomer who hasn't yet succeeded at his first productive DD/CR discussion, but now he's taking on a leadership role?
Some people commenting on this problem (which Bruce won't engage in problem solving about, but I have) think I and other FI posters are too harsh. They seem to conclude (without specifically stating and arguing it, and without involving facts), that FI's posts are different than a non-coercive-and-problem-solving focused philosophy like DD's TCS. Therefore FI can't really be a continuation of DD's thought and community. So let's take a look at some posts from before I joined the community. What sort of community did I join, learn the culture of, and am now continuing? I think if people knew what the TCS forum was actually like, and what DD was actually like, they would agree that I and FI are milder successors.
1996, full post from a TCS leader (minus names):
I subscribed to this listserv several weeks ago and have been lurking for some time. The name of this listserv caught my attention because I am a public school educator who is interested in changing my teaching and classroom management methods to a more child - directed approach.
Then your only possible course of action is to
- resign at once,
- take up a morally justifiable profession,
- become good at it, and
- be prepared to welcome children into your working environment, answer their questions and pass on your knowledge and skills to them if they ask you to.
Save yourself if you still can, [name]. I'm not joking.
1998, part of a post from a TCS leader:
Or are all of you against public school? My daughter (13 years old) is a homeschooler, but I am studying elementary education. I want to use non-coercive techniques in my classroom--basically because I realize that the idea that a teacher can control any student's behavior is a myth. Behavior can only be controlled by the "behaver" (the person doing the behaving)!
I think you're mistaken. If this were really true, most of the children in your classroom would simply get up and walk out. The fact that none of them do -- until the instant that you give them permission to -- despite the fact that throughout the lesson many of them are painfully yearning to do so, is one token of the fact that you are controlling them.
2000, full post from a TCS leader:
Could someone help me? How do you discipline a child that has got in the habit of throwing temper tantrums, when she doesn't get her way? It's becoming a common practice for my daughter to fallout wherever she is(public, home or daycare), which is very embarrassing. HELP!
That's a tough one, but I think this may be one of those rare cases where a sound thrashing might actually help. You may think that that would be illegal, but not if you arrange things properly. This is what you do:
Visit a bar in the sleaziest part of town, and employ the largest, strongest man you can find. (With a little bit of luck, he may well be willing to do this job without payment.) Introduce him to your daughter and explain to her that this is being done for her own good, and that it will hurt you much more than it hurts her. Explain to her that this nice man's job is to follow you and her around wherever you go. He will be unobtrusive and helpful, unless and until your daughter throws one of her tantrums. At that point he will step politely forward and beat the shit out of you.
Then the tantrums will soon go away.
1996, full post from a TCS leader, italics in original, bold added for emphasis:
People often complain that I lack respect in my posts. They accuse me of not "practising what I preach". They suggest that I should "teach" non-coercive educational theory by "example", and only post "non-coercive" messages. In practice this means that if I post anything other than soothing, dishonest, posts that are "accepting" of tyranny and coercion, I am being "coercive" to those whose posts I criticise. Certain posters have criticised my "lack of tolerance" over and over again, and called me "hateful" and "vengeful" and any number of colourful epithets in their attempts to show me (respectfully, by example, presumably?) the error of my ways.
But whenever I ask them whose rights they think I am violating, they decline to comment.
Perhaps they feel uncomfortable about admitting that logically their criticism of me in such cases amounts to a defence of tyranny.
I respect people whom I consider worthy of respect. I do not respect tyranny; I do not respect organisations like the KKK; I do not respect harmful human institutions whose existence is inimical to the growth of knowledge and thus to human happiness. I think these things are objectively wrong. So when I read posts advocating coercion or proudly detailing vile schemes to manipulate children into states of mind that are bad for them, I wish to express my contempt, and I wish to argue against these proposals. Ridicule is, as [another TCS leader] pointed out recently, an effective weapon against tyranny, and I shall continue to use it. I do not apologise for being honest.
I am often told that in order to change minds, I need to adopt a soothing, respectful tone, and cut the contumely. The thing is, changing minds in that sense is not my aim. I am not interested in placing people into a state of mind pre-determined by me, if the only way I can no this is to mislead them. It is all too easy to lull people into the appearance of agreeing by deliberately equivocating about what the words they are mouthing mean. These are manipulative aims, and I have already said I abhor coercion. Indeed, the whole idea that it might be possible to coerce someone into non-coercion is incoherent.
If someone says something false, or wicked, against which I believe I have a good argument, I want to put that argument to them and to others who might be subject to similar errors. If someone reports horrible things they have done to their children, seeking (and invariably getting) praise, justification and encouragement to do more of the same, I want to say "no, this is wrong". If there is any changing of minds that I am hoping for in connection with my arguments, it is the person himself changing his own mind, through his own thinking.
My purpose in posting (including this little post) is to support those who already feel that coercion is bad. Sometimes one feels something to be wrong but does not know why it is wrong. Sometimes it helps to know explicitly why something is wrong. (Sometimes people think "A-ha! Of course!" when they read explicit arguments against things they already felt in their guts to be wrong.) And of course when I write these scathing, "unacceptable" posts, I nearly always get messages from people saying "thank you so much for saying that" -- so I get to "meet" new sympathetic others. Advocates of coercion can find support everywhere. Those who are struggling to make their relationships consensual can't.
Note that I am never disrespectful in response to posts from people saying that they consider coercion is bad, but they do not currently have the knowledge of how to find consent in such-and-such an area (but are trying to learn). We are all in that position. We are all fallible and we all make mistakes. If someone seems genuinely to want to find consent-based solutions, I am always deeply respectful. That is because I feel deeply respectful. But ask me to be deeply respectful to a tyrant and I'll metaphorically spit in your face. If I did less I might be betraying the child who is suffering behind the tyrant's sugar-coated self-justification, and certainly the readers out there who want to read the truth, for once, unalloyed.
As you can see, some of the recent complaints are nothing new. They are to be expected, as a TCS leader explained in 2001 shortly after I joined:
[A TCS leader] wrote:
Have you noticed it says ...
the socialists Sarah Lawrence, David Deutsch, and Kolya Wolf
It's not the first time I have been branded a "socialist". Makes you wonder if the person who wrote that was on something when he or she read up on us, doesn't it? You'd think he or she might be slightly embarrassed about being so mind-bogglingly ill-informed, wouldn't you? 8-)
People have described me as "a sad collectivist", "right-wing", "PC", "a fascist", "a Randroid", and "an anarchist" (and no, they didn't mean an anarcho-capitalist). (Also, "subjectivist", "relativist", "moralistic", "amoral", "irrational", "a cold rationalist", and so on...)
Still, never mind, I have also been branded "full of original sin," and "a libertine"... but also "a do-gooder" and according to some interent authorities, I am "on a different planet" and "a joke".
Many have said that I "have clearly no experience of children", "obviously don't have children", "have obviously never come within a hundred miles of any living kid"; others have branded me "a progressive parent".
And then there was the argument about whether I am "a cow", "a cow with udders for brains" or "a cow with BSE".
So if "socialist" is the worst they can come up with, well hey, I think that's a distinct improvement. 8-)
I was informed only last month that I'm "nutty", that I "don't make a lot of sense", that my "philosophy is neurotic", that I'm "hysterical", that my "reading comprehension could use some work", that I have a "hysterical point of view", that my "reading comprehension is really in the dirt", that I am "screwed up psychologically" and:
"pseudo intellectual b.s."
"This is all coming out of your bu*t."
"You just seem to have some kind of... problem."
"You just don't seem to understand anything at all."
"Actual real mature grown ups (unlike yourself)"
"You just seem to have a personal problem."
"You are clearly hysterical and a crack pot."
"You have some other personal problem that you, really, should get help
"your own hysterical interpretation"
"You're on medication, aren't you"
"This is clearly delusional"
"You are either sick or the concepts you are trying to critique are
too deep for you."
"From that place you go to when you run out of meds?"
"You are an idiot."
"You just have a chip on your shoulder."
"you don't seem to get anything."
"the keeper of this website is clearly floating around in their own warped
"You spout a bunch of words"
"you don't know what you're saying"
"you don't know what others are saying"
"you're not even aware of how obvious you are. Sad."
"just some nut with a personal problem."
What provokes this hatred and vilification -- and blind misunderstanding?
I think it's this: someone who is far in advance of most people about an important moral issue is likely not to be understood at first, and in the meantime, to be hated and vilified just as much as someone who is egregiously wrong. How could it be otherwise?
If you don't like DD's ideas like TCS, that is your right. For those who do want to learn about DD's ideas – the ideas of the person who wrote two great books, hundreds of blog posts, and thousands of discussion forum posts – join the FI forum.
I'm sharing this chatlog because if you feel like you're suppressing/repressing to avoid overreaching, something is going wrong. Don't accept that; there's a problem there. (This is from the Fallible Ideas Discord which you can join.)
Freeze: Does overreaching get in the way of you doing what you want to do, or do your wants mostly follow your understanding of overreaching?
Freeze: One thing I've been thinking about is... If someone learns rationality and reason, does that mean they would rarely if ever desire things that would be overreaching?
Freeze: Is the general regret or disappointment I feel at not being able to discuss interesting topics a symptom of irrational ideas I've learnt?
Freeze: In the sense that if I had learnt rationality better, I would find the simple stuff interesting because I'd know that it's required for the more complex stuff
Freeze: So if I find the grammar boring, it might be a sign that I'm not reasoning well
curi: overreaching isn't about goals but methods. you can work towards SENS/immortality, for example, without overreaching, by taking low error rate steps to work on the project.
Freeze: And as part of a well reasoned process to progress SENS, doing something like analyzing sentences wouldn't feel offtopic. It would feel like part of the topic, if one is rational
curi: managing your error rate is your best chance to succeed at a big, hard project. it doesn't take anything away from you. there isn't a downside.
Freeze: So if I'm feeling bad about it, something's going wrong in my reasoning where it seems like a downside even if I logically know it isn't
curi: sentences are really important and useful and people who don't have enough mastery of that tool ought to work on it, ya
Freeze: So I need to learn to convince myself so that I'm wholeheartedly doing things like grammar in a way that it's interesting
curi: dealing with questions is another big tool. i posted to FI about it today
JustinCEO: for me grammar stuff was pretty clearly on topic for various things
JustinCEO: first of all i actually have inherent interest in grammar
JustinCEO: i think it's fun, on its own, without needing to justify it somehow
JustinCEO: but also, i like to write stuff, and am a lawyer, heh
Freeze: When I find discussing epistemology more fun than something like grammar, it seems like I'm operating on bad ideas rather than good ones. I don't know how exactly to go about changing those ideas so that grammar becomes more fun first
curi: yeah i developed some interest in grammar too cuz i've written a lot
Is the general regret or disappointment I feel at not being able to discuss interesting topics a symptom of irrational ideas I've learnt?
what can't you discuss?
Freeze: I find a lot of things inherently interesting, and I tend to get dragged along by whatever is happening in the moment
Freeze: like pasta discussions or cheese
Freeze: Well some discussions would be overreaching
JustinCEO: i don't think you've gotten crit re: food discussions
curi: i don't think the pasta was a reply to me
Freeze: Although I liked the post someone wrote on FI that said something like, This system is designed so that you should never have to discuss less than you usually do and it involved stuff like labelling overreaching
Freeze: and labelling confident statements
JustinCEO: btw i found food an especially easy topic to learn something about
Freeze: well what I meant by that J is that I don't seem well in control of what I find interesting
curi: yeah cooking with recipes is very learnable field. lots of tutorials and shit.
JustinCEO: one thing that helps is that there are tons of people making detailed instructions which include videos and pictures
Freeze: And it's weird that I can find pasta/cheese inherently interesting sometimes, but not grammar
curi: did you read my essay?
Freeze: Maybe because the grammar becomes this obstacle rather than an inherently interesting topic
curi: ppl have preconceptoins about what grammar is like
Freeze: Only some of it curi, like the first half
JustinCEO: grammar has skool connotation
curi: and my essay is pretty atpyical
JustinCEO: skool is cancer for interests
Freeze: I'll read through it tonight. It seems like when I put something up as a barrier to doing something else, it becomes less interesting
JustinCEO: well if u think of stuff as a barrier
Freeze: like I love vegetables today, but as a kid I disliked them, maybe because they were compulsory or a barrier to eating better tasting food
JustinCEO: that means u are not convinced it is necessary
JustinCEO: to do X well
Freeze: Right, or maybe it means I want to do X poorly
Freeze: for some reason
JustinCEO: so you have some disagreement with ppl saying u should do the thing
JustinCEO: or yeah
JustinCEO: u could want to
Freeze: like maybe I think doing X poorly would be more fun than doing grammar well
JustinCEO: social chit chat
JustinCEO: instead of actually do something meaningful with it, learn about it seriously
JustinCEO: i have that issue
Freeze: It's weird but I seem to find failing at CR discussion more fun than succeeding at grammar discussion. But maybe I should try more grammar discussion since I haven't really had much aside from that one comma splice exchange
Freeze: social chit chat is fun, and feels like learning sometimes
Freeze: like when you talk about food
Freeze: or legal stuff
Freeze: I remember something DD wrote about conversation being one of the best learning methods
One cannot make many such investments in one's life. I should say, of course, that the most educational thing in the world is conversation. That does have the property that it is complex, interactive, and ought to have a low cost, although often between children and adults it has a high cost and high risk for the children, but it should not and need not.
Apart from conversation, all the complex interactive things require a huge initial investment, except video games, and I think video games are a breakthrough in human culture for that reason.
JustinCEO: I think it's important to separate the issue of conversation being a good learning method (it is) from the issue of valuing not-particularly-serious conversation over other ways to spend your time that would actually be more productive/helpful for learning and life
Freeze: I have been excited to read The Goal every night, which was interesting to note and observe in myself
Freeze: The story was cool
JustinCEO: i liked The Goal
Freeze: Reading books sometimes seems like a conversation with the author
JustinCEO: well it's not interactive so that's a difference
JustinCEO: you either have to do a bunch of self-discussion or talk about the book with other knowledgable ppl
Freeze: Right, although I find myself asking a lot of questions of the book, to myself
Freeze: Which is self-discussion I guess
JustinCEO: peikoff knew much more of Rand than is in her books
JustinCEO: and Rand knew more of Rand than is in Peikoff but she dead, and Peikoff dead soon :frowning:
curi: @Freeze re overreaching, whatever you're interested in but don't think you should work on, i suggest you make a project planning tree where you clearly lay out the interest, the things you think it'd take to succeed at it, the prerequisites or components of those and so on down the hierarchy a ways. you will then see specifically 1) what skills, tools, resources, etc. you think you're missing before you do X 2) how those things relate to X, what the chain of connections is. and then you can critically consider it, share it, etc., to maybe find out about errors, alternative learning paths, etc.
curi: if you don't care about something np, but if you have regret or negative feeling, it's worth investigating and getting clear in your mind what you think is in your way and why.
Freeze: ty curi
curi: this works somewhat as an example: https://my.mindnode.com/p3ZX6Py8iVnutKEbf9NSnyocjDs1MMERUdg8Qozk
that + more nodes + label which nodes are done/not-done = much clearer idea of what's standing in the way of building a skyscaper
Here's the skyscraper related project planning tree as a PDF permalink.