Learning Skills Is Non-Linear

Max talked about return on investment for learning. E.g. at 1% improvement per day, you can double your skill in 70 days. It’s around 2 years for 0.1%. If you always spend half your time learning instead of working, then your productivity (stuff accomplished per day) will be ahead once you double your skill.

I want to talk about some problems with that linear skill model. I think it’s misleading and understates the value of learning.

Learning Is Non-Linear

There are non-linear jumps in performance when learning. It’s like jumps to universality. There are discontinuities.

Put another way, some learning crosses an important breakpoint and results in a major jump in performance. And some doesn’t.

If you don’t make some kind of significant breakthrough, Max’s simplified model may overestimate the effectiveness of learning. But a single breakthrough can be worth a ton of effort.


Also, people often fail at things. One of the results of learning is more ability to succeed rather than fail. Learning more can often make the difference between success and failure. There are lots of things you just can’t do successfully unless you learn enough. Learning reduces errors.

Not a Matter of Speed

David Deutsch said:

The thing that people call intelligence in everyday life — like the ability of some people like Einstein or Feynman to see their way through to a solution to a problem while other people can't — simply doesn't take the form that the person you regard as 'unintelligent' would take a year to do something that Einstein could do in a week; it's not a matter of speed. What we really mean is the person can't understand at all what Einstein can understand.

This is related to non-linearity again. You can’t just take 100 people who did less learning and have them do the same work as 1 guy who learned enough to be 100x as effective. Even if you set aside the overhead for coordination between the 100 people, it still doesn’t work. You can’t replace an Einstein or Feynman with even a million ordinary people and get the same work accomplished.

The 100 people have some advantages too. Learning doesn’t give you a big effectiveness gain at all work. The advantages from learning are unequally distributed. This is often mitigated by helpers. A genius can hire help or work at a company with a bunch of other manpower.

But if you imagine the genius alone on a desert island, and then imagine a second desert island with 100 average people, you’ll see some advantages and disadvantages for each island. (The desert island scenario prevents the genius from having any helpers.)


IMO, it’s pretty hard to go wrong investing in learning if:

  • your learning is effective
  • you’re reasonably young
  • you’re learning general purpose stuff

Learning stuff that’s only useful for a few purposes is more risky. You might stop using it later. And failing to learn or getting stuck or learning wrong ideas are common problems. And you probably shouldn’t learn to code and try to switch careers when you’re 90.

Learning effectiveness is the condition that concerns me the most. Lots of times people try to learn stuff and it doesn’t work. This is especially true for more general purpose stuff like philosophy. Learning really specific skills is more reliably successful. But most people aren’t very successful at learning about epistemology. (That’s a problem I’ve been working on.)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Analyzing BoI Videos

I'm making a video series explaining, discussing, analyzing and teaching David Deutsch's book The Beginning of Infinity (which I helped edit for 7 years).

View the YouTube Playlist

It's on a new YouTube Channel (Critical Fallibilism) so you'll need to subscribe (and click the bell and select "All") even if you're already subscribed to my curi channel.

Use the comments below to discuss the videos or the book.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (11)

Critical Fallibilism Course Videos Now on Sale

My Critical Fallibilism Course videos are now available. Buy on Gumroad ($880).

These 8 videos (16.5 hours) teach my philosophy, Critical Fallibilism, which builds on Critical Rationalism (by Karl Popper and secondarily David Deutsch), Objectivism (by Ayn Rand and secondarily Leonard Peikoff) and Theory of Constraints (by Eli Goldratt). The course is primarily my original material and focuses on teaching tools for thinking effectively. Topics covered include:

  • IGCs (idea, goal, context triples, and using IGC charts for decision making and judging ideas)
  • Qualitative or quantitative
  • Discrete (often binary) or continuous
  • Breakpoints
  • Sub-goals, combo goals, final goals
  • Criticism (explaining why an idea fails at a goal in a context)
  • Only act on non-refuted IGCs
  • Library of criticism
  • Methods to get one non-refuted IGC
  • Dealing with conflicts of ideas by considering what to do, from neutral perspective, given an unknown
  • High & low attention goals (near or not near a breakpoint)
  • High & low attention ideas (mastery, autopilot)
  • Critical Rationalism (connections to Critical Fallibilism)
  • Evolution
  • Objectivism (connections to Critical Fallibilism)
  • Theory of Constraints (connections to Critical Fallibilism)
  • Focus
  • Excess capacity, buffers, margins of error
  • Variance
  • Bottlenecks, constraints, limiting factors
  • Silver bullets
  • Local & Global Optima (crossing relevant breakpoints)
  • Throughput (does this (local) action cause an improvement at the big picture goal?)

I taught the course live over Zoom video conferencing to five students in November 2020. The format was two 2-hour sessions per week (8 total) with slides. I addressed student questions for each slide as we went along. It's a hybrid between lecture and discussion.

Justin was in the course and said "The ideas in this course - specifically IGCs and breakpoints - helped me think about everyday things like personal purchasing decisions more effectively. This is rational philosophy that you can use in your life!"

Max was in the course and said "the things i've learnt during my tutorials with curi and the CF course have been incredibly valuable."

This product includes 8 videos, 233 slides, and computer-generated subtitles and transcripts. They come as a .zip download with no DRM. I offer a 30-day money back guarantee. Just let me know if you aren't satisfied and I'll give you a full refund.

Buy on Gumroad ($880)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

David Deutsch Lied About Me

This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years.

Justin Mallone emailed David Deutsch (DD) to bring up the Andy B harassment encouraged by DD’s associates and fan community. DD replied (italics are mine, and you can view a screenshot of the email which includes what Justin said):

As I have told Elliot several times, I don't want to hear from him. That includes indirectly via you and many others. I don't know this Andy B he speaks of. I'm not aware of anyone I know sending DDoS attacks or anything else covertly to Elliot. I'm not the chief of anything. I'm not the leader of any group. Please go away.

David Deutsch

This is a lie about a factual matter. DD did not tell me several times that he didn’t want to hear from me. He never told me that. He hasn’t made a no contact request. I provide evidence below.

Note: I know that accusing someone of lying will bring strong reactions. If you're upset by this article, please try to be objective and look for factual or logical errors rather than assuming it's wrong. And remember that all I want is to be left alone and not have my rights violated. I would address this privately, but DD won’t discuss it with me, and I don’t know who else he lied to.

The lie about no contact requests is what DD says when he’s writing something he knows may be published. It’s also what he says to someone he believes is on my side acting as my proxy. This is DD on his best behavior addressing (for the first time ever that I’ve seen) his involvement in DDOSing, cyberstalking, multi-year harassment, etc. I presume he’s said similar or worse to people he thinks are on his side (there’s circumstantial evidence that he’s been doing that for 5+ years).

DD’s lie is damaging to my reputation. He’s smearing me as a person who violates no contact requests. I never did that.

Justin (another of the harassment victims) asked DD to write a tweet asking his followers to stop harassing. Not only did DD refuse, he also lied to attack the primary victim (me). DD presents me as a person who treats others immorally by violating reasonable and repeated no contact requests. DD turns things around by changing the topic from harassment against me to alleged harassment by me. That makes it sound like he thinks I’m in the wrong and I’m the one who needs to change behaviors. His email implies that he sees me, but not Andy B, as a problem, and that he doesn’t see the harassment against me as having gone too far. And the things DD denied are different than my actual claims, which is a rhetorical trick to make it sound like he’s disputing something when he’s actually avoiding the issue.

DD’s lie echos previous comments by the biggest harasser, Andy B, who claimed that I was ignoring direct requests to leave people alone or stop doing things (but he didn’t specify any requests and was just using it as a tactic to attack me). Andy B may have gotten that idea from DD or one of DD’s associates, but I don’t know specifically because none of them will speak about it.

I challenge DD to provide specifics of the "several times" he (allegedly) told me that he didn’t want to hear from me or made a no contact request. The vast majority of our communication was in writing. I have records of it and I believe DD does too. And I don’t think it’s an innocent mistake to say “several times” when it was zero times; he isn’t just off by a little bit (like saying 4 when it was 5).

Our Most Recent Communications

To see what’s true, let’s take a look at DD’s most recent communications to me. This list of emails is the full story because we stopped using other communication methods like IM before this. I’m going to limit what I share for both of our privacy. I will provide full information if DD disputes my account.

Note: This screenshot only includes personal emails. DD also sent discussion group replies, including Oct 2013 replies to me about impersonal topics on my private discussion group. That seems incompatible with the existence of an active no contact request.

Now let’s go through all the emails in the picture, from oldest to newest. The bulk are DD’s 26 emails in 6 days discussing schizophrenia with me, plus the related emails about Mental illness and szasz (an author who wrote The Myth of Mental Illness). DD initiated the discussion by sharing his comments on an article. He was starting a friendly debate on an issue he knew I partially disagreed about. We ending up discussing political theory. It was a discussion he chose to have for fun or learning, which he was under no pressure or obligation to participate in, so it indicates there wasn’t any no contact request active at that time. If all later emails also lack a no contact request, I think that should be convincing.

Next is the email Remove BOI post. That was sent to DD but meant for me, so he forwarded it. The later email THE BEGINNING OF INFINITY review copy request was the reverse: it was sent to me but meant for DD, so I forwarded it on to him (he replied with “Thanks.”). I created, owned and ran the BoI forum (and website) at DD’s request, so that’s why the email about removing a post (which had been sent by accident) should have gone to me.

The three ramit sethi email emails involved DD helping me edit a draft email to a public figure (Ramit Sethi teaches personal finance). Helping each other edit stuff was typical of our relationship, and isn’t what people do when they have no contact requests outstanding.

In why can popper publish it, but not you?, DD criticizes Popper. It doesn’t say anything about not wanting to hear from me.

demanding respect for one’s moral code is the most negative and complicated, but does not contain a no contact request. I had sent DD a quote from Atlas Shrugged, a book he was a fan of and which had influenced his thinking and philosophy. I commented, in full, “when you appear to be acting against a main theme of Atlas Shrugged, shouldn't you explain yourself?” Due to our many prior conversations, I thought DD would understand what I meant, though I may have been mistaken. DD’s response began:

You are saying that I ought to write you an essay, on the subject of your choice.

More generally, you keep demanding that I work for you. You keep claiming that I have an obligation to do so.

This was (as best I can understand it) a misinterpretation of my question. I meant that if public figures change their mind about ideas and advice they shared with thousands of people, I think they ought to keep their fans updated, e.g. with a retraction. You wouldn’t want people to keep using your ideas that you later discovered were errors. It’s like when a scientist publishes a result, and later discovers it’s false, then he ought to publish updated info.

Asking a critical, argumentative question is not a demand that DD work for me. It’s intellectual debate. DD could agree, disagree or not reply (he’d used all of those options many times in the past).

DD didn’t want me to demand that he work for me (I don’t think I did, nor do I think I was ever capable of bossing around my mentor who is an award-winning physicist, successful author and Royal Society member). That’s different than a no contact request. And in my judgment, wanting DD to stop lying about me, retract the lie(s) and tell his fans to stop harassing me is not violating his old request. Those are actions that any reasonable person would do. And I’m not trying to get DD to work to provide me with a positive value (such as an essay I’d enjoy); I just want my rights to stop being violated.

The last email to discuss is hello. In it, DD answers my question “are you interested in a solution?” (to whatever reason we weren’t talking much anymore, which wasn’t clearly specified) with “Yes.” I actually read the rest of the email in a negative way, but it didn’t say anything about not wanting to hear from me.


So, reviewing DD's communications, he repeatedly acted like he did want to hear from me, e.g. by conversing with me, and he didn’t request not to hear from me again once, let alone “several” times. My takeaway is that DD has lied to attack the same person that his fans are harassing.

I’ve shared this to try to undo some of the harm to my reputation that DD is doing by lying about me. See also the praise DD wrote about me, which I shared for a similar purpose.

What I want is simple. DD: stop lying about me, retract your lies, and tell your followers to stop harassing. Leave me alone.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (8)

Harassment Summary

I (and other members of the Fallible Ideas community) have been subjected to severe harassment over the last 2.5 years, including illegal actions like DDoSing and threatening IRL harm. The harassment includes hundreds of comments from over 100 IP addresses and over 20 false identities (some maintained for months). It’s coming from the CritRat community led by David Deutsch (DD), who used to be my mentor and colleague. They’ve said they’re harassing because they see me as DD’s enemy. DD left our community (after years of participation) and formed a new community (CritRat) which is harassing his former community which he has a grudge against. When asked to request that his fans stop harassing, DD not only refused but lied to attack me, which encourages further harassment (in my understanding, that lie is illegal: libel and defamation).

I’m writing a series of posts to explain what’s going on, including what harassment happened, what the evidence is, and why I place blame on Deutsch. I’m doing this publicly because Deutsch and his associates have refused to discuss it privately. They’ve also refused to say they are opposed to harassment or that they want the culprits to stop. Many of them are publicly friendly with the biggest harasser, Andy B.

David Deutsch

Andy B

Conceptual Explanations

David Deutsch Background Information & Context


The harassment problem has not ended. Nothing has been fixed so far. DD and others have not made any attempts to improve the situation. Comments on this website remain disabled due to the harassment problem. It's an active issue that is affecting my life on a daily basis.

I hope people who read this will ask DD and other CritRats to answer for this, and will bring up the issue to DD and his community. Please don't harass them, but do raise the issue, ask challenging questions, and share critical opinions.

I've shared a lot of information, but I know I can never completely cover everything people might want to know. I'm open to questions about these issues from people who are making a genuine effort to understand and who already read some of the articles. You can email me at [email protected] or post at my forum. And if any CritRat is willing to discuss the harassment problem, please email me (CritRats unwilling to discuss the problem should leave me alone).

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (19)

What I Learned from Autonomy Respecting Relationships

Autonomy Respecting Relationships (ARR) was an online discussion group led by Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC) and David Deutsch (DD). They eventually left. I owned and ran the group when Verizon bought Yahoo and deleted all Yahoo Groups in 2019 and 2020. The archives are still available on my website.

I wrote a summary of ARR in 2011. Most of the ARR discussions were 5+ years earlier.

ARR was an offshoot of Taking Children Seriously (TCS), a parenting and educational philosophy founded by DD and SFC. It had similar themes like non-coercion, classical liberalism and Critical Rationalism.

The first thing I learned when I joined ARR is that monogamy can be questioned. Previously, like most people, I’d taken monogamous relationships for granted as simply how relationships work. I hadn’t known that any reasonable alternatives might exist.

I learned that romance is dangerous and hurts people. Conventional relationships are a problematic area in need of improvement and reform, not a solved problem. The pain of breakups, divorces and broken hearts is a big deal that should be taken seriously.

I learned that (romantic) love is a vague concept which can be used in bad ways. Love can be pressuring or foolish. And no one seems to be able to put into clear writing what “love” is or what’s good about it.

I learned that there are dangerous anti-rational memes involved with romantic relationships.

I learned that the idea of merging two lives into one shared life is problematic and contradicts individualism. Everyone needs to have their own life and be their own person. No one fully or clearly advocates losing individuality in marriage, but there are lots of ideas about partially doing that. I became skeptical of e.g. fully sharing finances and recognized that significantly sharing of finances is hard to do well and merits more serious attention and consideration than it often gets.

Later, elsewhere, I learned that romantic/passionate/sexual love was called “eros” by the ancient Greeks (our word “erotic” comes from the Greek “eros”). The Greeks invented philosophy and also had warned of the dangers of eros over 2000 years ago. Eros was both a concept and a Greek god. The Roman name for the god Eros is well known today: Cupid. Cupid shot arrows because arrows were the most powerful and feared weapon in the ancient world, and people saw sexual love as dangerous. Arrows only became more cute after we got used to guns. You can read about eros in the book Eros: The Myth Of Ancient Greek Sexuality by Bruce Thornton.


ARR advocated polyamory (which means having romantic/sexual love relationships with multiple people at once). It questioned monogamy and wanted to replace that with more freedom and autonomy. Why should you be shackled by conventional ideas that work poorly? Use your rationality to solve any problems that may come up while being promiscuous and having fun!

Although I partly agreed with this at the time, I had doubts about it early on. What had I learned initially? Monogamy can be questioned. But also, love, romance and sex are dangerous. If romantic relationships work badly and hurt people, why have more of them? Instead of having more of this stuff in our lives, we could try the standard amount or less.

Most posters, including SFC, wanted more love and more sex, despite warnings from SFC and others about dangers. DD was more friendly to the possibility of just not doing romance. But I got a lot of resistance when I pushed back against polyamory. People told me how great sex was, and how sex was uniquely important for learning and communication. I thought that was a rationalization. No way is sex an irreplaceable tool for general education or for sharing your ideas. That was an excuse used by people who wanted lots of sex and also wanted to be rational persons who valued knowledge.


Sex is important because our culture imbues it with meaning (and because of the facts of pregnancy and STDs). The philosopher William Godwin had explained that 200 years earlier, as DD showed me. Although sex is not as inherently, innately important as people think, that doesn’t prevent it from actually having a lot of meaning to people and being a big deal. DD and I knew that was hard to change, and I now recognize it’s even harder to change than I used to think. Also, if you’re going to put significant work into self-improvement to change something, there are a lot of other things that could be a higher priority.

ARR (and myself initially) overestimated how easy it is to go against cultural knowledge. Culture is very powerful. If something is cultural rather than genetic, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to change, nor even easier. Memes can be harder to deal with than genes. Ideas rule the world, as both DD and Ayn Rand say.

DD talked about rational respect for tradition, but never emphasized it enough. I learned more about tradition later when reading Edmund Burke and, after that, when learning about the tradition of western civilization from books like Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization.

Age of Consent

ARR, DD and SFC also criticized age of consent laws. While those laws aren’t perfect, I now think that criticism was unwise. In some ways, I think there should be more or stronger laws about this! E.g., I think all US states should ban child brides (under 18) with a significant age gap (you may be disturbed to find out that most states don’t do that and that there are thousands of child brides involved in US immigration every year – meaning either a child bride is being brought in from another country or an adult is moving to the US to marry an American child). A 2019 Utah law raised the minimum marriage age from 15 to 16 and also banned marriage between minors and adults 7+ years older than them. I think that’s an improvement, not a violation of young people’s human rights.

Imagine a 15 year old girl marrying a 40 year old man. That’s a terrible idea. I’ll grant that it doesn’t literally violate the laws of physics for that marriage to be a good idea and that the concept of greater autonomy for 15 year olds has upsides. But we as a society aren’t even close to figuring out how to make that kind of thing work well, and attacking age of consent laws can lead to more girls being victims. It’s not just that it doesn’t work well today; it’s actually very dangerous. Child marriage often means the girl becomes a sex and house slave and is raped repeatedly with no way out. Due to being too young, minors have limited ability to get out of bad situations by getting a job, getting welfare, using a woman’s shelter, or even filing for divorce. Yes, as dumb as it sounds, some married persons in America today are actually told they’re too young to divorce!

If you’re interested in the modern problem child marriage problem in the US and elsewhere, you can do a web search. There are news articles and info sites.

One of the reasons child marriage keeps happening is due to ageist adults who don’t care about the victims. So if SFC and DD wanted a campaign to improve laws to help children against ageism, it would have been better to start with this instead of attacking age of consent laws. But protecting children from being victimized by child marriage didn’t fit with SFC’s and DD’s goals of being edgy and controversial, proving what free thinkers they were, or focusing exclusively on advocating more independence and autonomy for children without admitting that there could be any problems with that.


Due to my involvement with ARR, I want to be clear about what I think so no one does polyamory and thinks they’re following my philosophy. I know SFC changed her mind about some of this stuff but never told people, which I think was bad. I’m not sure what DD’s current views about this are, and whether they changed, which I also think is bad. Thought leaders who change people’s lives with their advice ought to let people know if they change their mind.

I’ve talked about some of this stuff previously, e.g. my Philosophy First article criticizing ARR, my podcast criticizing polyamory, and my podcast about rationalism and convention which also criticized polyamory.

I don’t remember exactly what I’ve said about relationships in the past, but I’m sure there were some errors, and that some people got the impression I favor polyamory. I was never half as friendly to polyamory as SFC and many other ARR group members, and I now have a fairly (but not entirely) negative opinion of it. I think most actual poly communities are pretty awful. (They might all be awful but I haven’t researched it and looked at many.) There were ARR people who were involved in a bunch of promiscuous, poly behaviors, but I was not the leader of any of that, and my impression is it worked out poorly for those involved (but none of them gave any public warnings about the failures of their attempts at ARR).

I thought of writing this particular article after rereading some of SFC’s old arguments against age of consent laws, which I found disturbing. I have other priorities so I’m not focusing much attention on philosophy of relationships currently, but I think it’s something I should share and clarify thoughts about sometimes. Besides my past involvement, it’s a topic that plays a big role in people’s lives.

People are too controlling of their partners in relationships, but there’s no quick fix. Just being less controlling will run into other problems. The control wasn’t random or pointless.

There are many dangers in romantic relationships and there aren’t good enough resources to help navigate them. (For example people think communication and rationality will be sufficient to make their relationship work better than a typical relationship; that isn’t a good enough plan.) I think there are lots of good points in my older writing about this (ARR emails, blog posts, and FI articles) but it’s nothing like a complete, batteries-included, ready-to-use, foolproof system. You can pick up some good-but-incomplete ideas from my old stuff but need to use your own judgment. I’d suggest, when in doubt, err on the side of convention (and when not in doubt, try to make your critical thinking much more vigorous). You’re also welcome to ask questions and start discussions about these topics here.

ARR and TCS had some good ideas mixed in (TCS more so) but a lot of dangerous errors, too. Beware.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Some Thoughts on Learning Philosophy

You need to know why you’re learning something in order to know when you’re done. What level of perfection does it need to be learned to? Which details should be learned and which skipped? That depends on its purpose.

At first, you can go by intuition or conventional defaults for how well to learn something, but it’s important at some point to start getting some control over this and making it more intentional and chosen.

To get a grasp on the purpose of learning, you need a tree (or graph). Writing it down helps clarify it in your mind. If you think about it without writing it down, there’s still information in your head that is logically equivalent to a tree (or graph) structure. If you have a goal and something you plan to do that’s related to the goal, then that is a tree: the goal is the root node and the relevant action is a descendent.

A tree can indicate some things you’re hoping to build up to. E.g. the root node is “write well” and then “learn grammar” is one of descendants. But those aren’t specific. How will you know when you succeeded?

It’s OK to sketch out trees with blank parts. You have the root node, then don’t specify everything, and then you get to the grammar node. You don’t have to know exactly what’s in between to know there’s a connection there. Figuring it out is useful though. It’s better to have something pretty generic like “learn mechanics of writing” in between instead of leaving it blank.

If you want to be able to write an article sharing your ideas about dinosaurs so that three of your friends can understand it, that’s more specific. That clearer root node gives more meaning to the “learn grammar” node below it. You can learn just the grammar that’s relevant to the goal. It helps you know when to move on. For example, you can write understandably to your three friends without using any colons or semi-colons. But you will need to understand periods, and you’ll probably want to use a few commas and question marks. And you’ll need to understand what a sentence is – not in full detail but at least the basics.

Another descendent node is “learn vocabulary”. Since the goal relates to dinosaurs, you’ll need some uncommon words like "cretaceous”, but you won’t need to know “sporadically” or “perplexity” (which are sometimes called “SAT words” due to showing up on the SAT college-entrance test – if your goal were to get into more prestigious colleges than you need to learn differently vocabulary).

Bottlenecks and breakpoints are important too. Which areas actually deserve much of your attention? Which are important to your goal and should be focused on? Which aren’t? Why? Usually you can get most stuff to a “good enough” level with little attention and then focus most of your attention on a few areas that will make a big difference to the outcome. If you can’t do that – if there are a lot of hard parts – then the project as a whole is too advanced for you and therefore needs to be divided into more manageable sub-projects. The number of sub-projects you end up with gives you a decent indication of project difficulty. If you have to divide it up into 500 parts to get them into manageable chunks, then it’s a big, hard project overall! If it’s 3 chunks then it’s harder than the average project but not too bad.

A bottleneck is a limiting factor, aka a constraint. If you do better in that area, it translates to a better outcome on the final goal. Most things aren’t bottlenecks. E.g. consider a chain. If you reinforce most links, it won’t make the overall chain stronger, because they weren’t the weakest link anyway. Doing better in that area (that link is stronger) doesn’t translate to more success at the goal (chain holds more weight). But if you find the weakest link – the bottleneck – and reinforce that link, then you’ll actually have a positive impact on the goal.

A breakpoint is a significant, distinguishable improvement. It makes some kinda meaningful difference instead of just being 0.003% better (who cares?). For example, I want to buy something that costs $20. Then there’s a breakpoint at $20. If I have $19 or less, I can’t buy it. If I have $20 or more, I can buy it. The incremental change of gaining $1 from $19 to $20 crosses the breakpoint and makes a big difference (buy instead of can’t buy). But any other $1 doesn’t matter so much. If I go from $15 to $16 or $33 to $34 it doesn’t change the outcome. More resources is generally a good thing, and money is generic enough to use on some other project later, but it’s important to figure out what will make important differences and pursue that. If we optimize things that don’t matter much, we can spend our whole lives without achieving much. There are so many details that we could pay attention to that they could consume all our time if we let them.

More specific goals are easier to achieve. More organized approaches are easier to succeed with. Some amount of organized planning – like connecting something to a clearer goal or sub-goal – helps you figure out what’s important and what’s “good enough”.

If you want to learn much philosophy or be much of a general intellectual, you need to be a decent reader and decent writing so you communication to and from you can happen in writing. And you need some ability to organize ideas and organize your life/time. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it has to work OK. And you need some general competence at most of the common knowledge that most people in our society have. And you need some interest in understanding things and some curiosity. And you need some ability to judge stuff for yourself: Does this make sense to you? Are you satisfied? And you need some ability to change and to consider negative things without getting too emotional. Those things are general purpose enough that it doesn’t really matter what specific types of ideas interest you the most, e.g. epistemology, science or economics, they’re going to be useful regardless.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

David Deutsch's Responsibility for Harassment

David Deutsch is the root cause of years of severe harassment against me and other FI community members. I've asked him to write a brief message requesting his fans stop hating and harassing, but he won't. None of the people involved will try to settle this privately with me. So I made an infographic to explain the situation. Click the image to expand, or view as a PDF:


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (21)

Andy B Harassment Update

This post documents some of the recent harassment from "Andy B". During this time period, he also joined and vandalized the FI Basecamp and did a Denial of Service attack on this website (that's a type of hacking which is a crime). I removed many of these comments, in which case the link will take you to the page it was on but won't display the comment. For more context and explanation, see David Deutsch's Hate Group, Andy B Harassment Continues and Andy B Harassment and Four Strands.

192552020-12-27Anonymous135.0.61.116are u jewish
192782020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116my guy, u jewish?
192792020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116George Washington (February 22, 1732[b] – December 14, 1799) was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Previously, he led Patriot forces to victory in the nation's War for Independence. He presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which established the U.S. Constitution and a federal government. Washington has been called the "Father of His Country" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation. [ET's note: There were another 17,000 words from this Wikipedia article, which I'm leaving out.]
192802020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. Dubbed the "King of Pop", he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century. Through stage and video performances, he popularized complicated dance techniques such as the moonwalk, to which he gave the name, and the robot. His sound and style have influenced artists of various genres, and his contributions to music, dance, and fashion, along with his publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades. Jackson is the most awarded artist in the history of popular music. [ET's note: There were another 14,000 words from this Wikipedia article, which I'm leaving out.]
192812020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116why wont u tell me if ur jewish i just wanted to invite you to my sukkah
192822020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116I agree With you, DonALd Trump is, Good, and the President.
192832020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116also, Capitalism is NOT a disaster that literally kills poeple and killed my mom... I Agree.
192842020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116why are you censoring me
192852020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116your RULES say your forum is UNMODERATED and UNCENSORED and that you can post WHATEVER YOU WANT... but Because, you disagree with my opinions and my religion you delete my posts... thats hideous you are goinaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa to rot in hells
192872020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116wtf im not an antisemitic, YOUR the criminal
192882020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116im not spamming i just wanted to ask you a question about being jewish (WHICH I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH) and talk about george washington and trump i think politics are good just like you so whats the problem
192892020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116SO MUCH, for OPEN discusison, and your forum which claims to be UNMODERATED, when I just want to talk about my religion whitch you are apparently racist too, and youc annot deal with anyone who disagrees with you in your personal athiest cult! SO WHAT if i posted about George Washington...OH ok so anything thats not NEW in tpe past 10 years is irrelavant erase the past just like statue beheading SJWs because your so censoring dictator! HITLER was no worse than you lying, Cheating, and So ON. You CLAIM to watnt honest debate but you refuse to acknowlidge my, Many, Contributios and theories which are promelgated within, and the things EVERYONE KNOWS, are Common Ssense, that you delete without ceremony! SO WHO IS THE CRIMINAL????
200922021-03-04chris p. was hoping to reach you because i was wrestling with the truth and my brothers shouted how they were gibberish and mistakes. tonight was my last chance to land a big client and i failed, again. you're a smart guy and charming, you' have good ideas. i really wanted to do a good job. i made you this amazing video biography. just... respect me. and in return i'll only ask for one thing, which is genesis. it was a time of trouble... but then a ray of hope. a secretly kind and wonderful tiny little person. this thing we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down. i won't be down for long. i reckon you should too. did you like it?
200962021-03-05chris p. this is an unmoderated discussion forum why did you delete my post
201092021-03-06chris p135.0.61.116i will certify the results after the tally. an automatic tie to the male candidate, and the female is put in jail. it is city law. at the 11th hour, i just don't see the problem. a razor-thin margin, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. because of the dream you had at 2:30 AM, i woke up, it was a premonition. i'm pretty sure that's illegal. you did an unbelievable job, my partner. she gets the credit, not me. you have a knack for this. i'm being serious.
201112021-03-06chris p. shades of grey, call 311. hello again diane. nobody answered. someone will be there shortly.
201192021-03-08chris p. are precious to me. nothing can be used that was invented past 1817. i'm doing it for free.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (4)

The Closing of the American Mind

James Randi wrote The Faith Healers (1987) criticizing religious conmen, many of whom used magicians' tricks like cold reading. They have no supernatural healing powers, no special connection to God, and often lie about other stuff too. They take advantage of gullible and desperate people and get a lot of money from them. And the police and government were broadly unwilling to do much about it, plus made a lot of their scam income tax free for being religious. This tangential passage stood out to me:

These observations are echoed by Dr. Allan Bloom of the University of Chicago in one of the most talked-about books of 1987, The Closing of the American Mind. Professor Bloom says:

The ideology of passion has come to dominate America’s young. They generally believe that feelings are deeper than reason and that the two are in opposition—not that they develop one another, which was the old idea. They think that reason can’t help you decide whether to believe in God or not, whether to like democracy or monarchy.

Even in the rhetoric of conservatism there is the notion that reason can’t provide values. So there is a turn to religion. I’m not suggesting religion is unnecessary, but there is a widespread belief that religion can decide values and reason can’t. On the left, many young people turn to rock music. They say it’s deeper than words—that they don’t have to explain what role it plays in their lives. They just say: “That’s my taste. That’s the way I feel about it.”

I would add to that my opinion that not only is there “the notion that reason can’t provide values,” but there is a feeling that religion provides firm, inarguable values that are predigested, infallible, eminently acceptable (within the believer’s immediate social milieu), and satisfying. In addition, no intellectual effort is required to adopt them, and the pressure for adopting them is very strong. The pressure may be the strongest influence in the lives of some people. Dr. Bloom goes on to comment

There used to be an intellectual class in America.... These people kept the world of ideas alive. But today the distinction between intellectuals and nonintellectuals doesn’t make any difference; celebrity is the only standard.... Everybody has become a talker of cheap philosophy that anybody can pick up.

The celebrity status that the TV evangelists have attained merely by purchasing air time and putting on a good show gives them the charisma that attracts the faithful moths to their deadly flames.

I'm curious about whether things were ever actually better in deep ways like the existence of a genuine intellectual class, and curious if or how our culture changed. I got a copy of The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students and started reading. I'll see if he's just ranting about the next generation being different or has some good reasoning and non-anecdotal evidence. The subtitle focusing on colleges is unfortunately not the focus I was hoping for from Randi's passage, and I've already read books criticizing our schools, but I still think it's a decent lead. Does anyone know about this book or others, or have detailed knowledge of relevant history from the 1900s? Please comment below if you can add something.

I think one of the big recent changes has been social media and the mainstreaming of the internet. People didn't get dumber as far as I know, but the dumber people (including a lot of the same people who are vulnerable to faith healers) got online more and started talking a lot, especially using smartphones.

First thoughts on The Closing of the American Mind:

It was not necessarily the best of times in America when Catholics and Protestants were suspicious of and hated one another; but at least they were taking their beliefs seriously, and the more or less satisfactory accommodations they worked out were not simply the result of apathy about the state of their souls.

I agree with this. The author likes religion more than me, but overall I agree with some of what he's saying. But he's kind of a snob who wants people to read real literature (as he sees it) like Dickens and the Bible, though.


I have begun to wonder whether the experience of the greatest texts from early childhood is not a prerequisite for a concern throughout life for them and for lesser but important literature. The soul’s longing, its intolerable irritation under the constraints of the conditional and limited, may very well require encouragement at the outset. At all events, whatever the cause, our students have lost the practice of and the taste for reading. They have not learned how to read, nor do they have the expectation of delight or improvement from reading. They are “authentic,” as against the immediately preceding university generations, in having few cultural pretensions and in refusing hypocritical ritual bows to high culture.

When I first noticed the decline in reading during the late sixties, I began asking my large introductory classes, and any other group of younger students to which I spoke, what books really count for them. Most are silent, puzzled by the question. The notion of books as companions is foreign to them. Justice Black with his tattered copy of the Constitution in his pocket at all times is not an example that would mean much to them. There is no printed word to which they look for counsel, inspiration or joy. Sometimes one student will say “the Bible.” (He learned it at home, and his Biblical studies are not usually continued at the university.) There is always a girl who mentions Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, a book, although hardly literature, which, with its sub-Nietzschean assertiveness, excites somewhat eccentric youngsters to a new way of life.

I think the reading issue is important and has gotten considerably worse. A lot of people today who are interested in ideas heavily favor YouTube and podcasts over books and articles.

I'm going to keep reading despite the hostility to Rand. He writes like a professor (which he is) and that's amplified by it being from 35 years ago, so many people would have a hard time reading it, but I can deal with it fine.

It's a mixed book with good and bad stuff. I want to keep reading until I stop seeing new good parts (new = not repeating something I already read).

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

Disowning Rami Rustom

I am not now, nor have I ever been, Rami Rustom's coach or mentor. But Rami has been lying to people about me. He says that I've been his coach or mentor for ten years. That's false.

Rami (aka GISTE, a non-secret second name he uses) has been a problem poster at my free, public discussion forums. He wasn't banned (until now) because my forums are especially open and tolerant. I broadly refused to have private conversations with Rami and often heavily criticized or ignored his public posts. I did give him some advice about how to learn, e.g. to do elementary school reading comprehension homework assignments and Mario Odyssey speedrunning.

Rami has a recurring history of plagiarizing me. He self-published a book heavily plagiarizing my ideas. He didn't tell me or my forums that the book existed. When I found out, he apologized and pleaded ignorance and incompetence. I believed him since he's an idiot. Then he falsely listed me as a coauthor, without my knowledge or consent, as some kind of incompetent attempt to give me credit. When I found out and explained that was unacceptable, he removed the book from sale.

Rami plagiarizes me because he doesn't have good ideas of his own, and because he doesn't know what is or isn't plagiarism. It takes skill to know when to quote or paraphrase, when to give credit for what, and how to write the credit. Rami doesn't have that skill. When he does give credit, he often attributes ideas to people that they never said and disagree with. He doesn't know how to separate his confusions and opinions about a topic from what others said. He doesn't know when he's copying someone else's idea accurately or when he's changed it enough to screw it up. This leaves him with no way to discuss other people's ideas appropriately. He simply lacks the skill. That wouldn't be so bad if he presented himself as a confused beginner, but it’s unacceptable when he plagiarizes while framing himself as an author, lecturer, coach or expert.

Rami made another document in June 2020 heavily plagiarizing me. He didn't know he'd done anything wrong and shared it at my forum. When I complained, he apologized again:

I apologize for the trouble I’ve caused you. I want to fix this ASAP. This is now my highest priority

The plan Rami decided on was to stop lecturing or teaching, and instead focus on learning stuff like basic math. Maybe he'd return to educating others after he became competent himself.

But I recently discovered that Rami is trying to become a business coach. His attempts at teaching business use my name, plagiarize my ideas, and lie about his relationship with me. He also lies about himself, e.g. presenting his business career as far more successful than it is. (He's getting into coaching due to needing a new business and failing for over a year to come up with and start anything else.)

Rami hid his new coaching business from me for months because he'd never gotten around to learning how not to plagiarize or lie. When I expressed my concerns again, Rami told me he'd fix the new plagiarism and lying, but then, instead, he kicked me out of his Facebook group to prevent me from seeing what he was doing.

Rami has lied to business owners that I'm a smart but impractical philosopher who knows nothing about business, so Rami's bringing my clever ideas to the business world. That's a value proposition he tries to sell using my name. (I've actually studied business and sold my business expertise, and Rami has gotten many business ideas from me and from educational materials I recommended like Eli Goldratt's books.)

I have documentation and evidence, including (with permission) an 80 minute video of Rami's business coaching which enabled me to judge its quality. Lots of stuff is in the public archives. I'll share more details if Rami disputes what I've said. For now, I've tried to focus on issues directly related to me, without unnecessarily exposing Rami's other flaws.


I'm not Rami's coach. I've never mentored him.

Rami may sound like he knows something useful, but that's because he's plagiarizing me and others.

Rami lies so much and so confidently that it's hard to believe someone would do that. Don't trust him!

Rami is an incompetent business coach. If you pay the $12,000 coaching fee that he wants, you'll regret it. I think even his free advice has negative value.

Do not try to learn about my ideas from Rami.

I demand that Rami stop lying about me, plagiarizing me, and using my name to try to promote his stuff.

I'm too patient, tolerant and forgiving. My mistake. Rami is now banned from my forums and publicly disowned, but I should have done it sooner.

Update 2021-05-01:

I said that if Rami disputed my account of events, I'd give more info. He seems obsessed with me and has been going around ranting, lying and making threats on social media. Since he contradicted my account of events, I'll briefly show that his story is a lie.

Rami wrote a false summary of our emails. For example:

i said "business coaching". that was my whole email.

That's a lie because that was not his whole email. His email had another paragraph which included:

my employees use your yes/no decision making process (that you explained in yes/no philosophy) and they love it

And he talked about using yes/no in employee training. At this point in the conversation, I became suspicious that he was plagiarizing me again and/or making unlicensed use of my paid yes/no product in his business. I wrote a confrontational reply about it. But Rami described my reply this way:

He [ET] replied again after that. a short email again. it seemed like he was interested (in a good way).

That's a lie because my reply was negative, not positive. Here's how my negative reply began:

did you give credit for my stuff and link them to the original, and do it without putting incorrect words in my mouth as you’ve done before? you never learned how to give credit appropriately so you’re likely to be doing something that mistreats me and my work, again.


Another lie Rami is telling is:

I hired him [Elliot] to help me do business coaching. And he took the job. But instead of helping me do business coaching, he spent the whole time trying to pressure me to not do business coaching.

I never took that job. In Feb 2021, Rami hired me for a private call to discuss the plagiarism problem from the emails above. On the call, I advised Rami about what to do to avoid being a plagiarist. I showed him an example of him currently plagiarizing me on his business coaching Facebook group (which he agreed was bad and plagiarism), and explained that he should learn how to recognize plagiarism himself before doing writing or coaching related to my ideas. I also warned Rami about what actions would result in being banned and disowned, and he (falsely) assured me that he'd avoid them. Rami also paid me to prepare for the call by reviewing a business coaching session he'd done (and had consent to show me). On the call, I advised Rami that his coaching provided negative value and that he should pursue a different line of business. I gave reasons. And I pointed out how he'd repeatedly lied while coaching, including by lying that I'd been his mentor for ten years. Rami expressed interest in hiring me for more advice and also to tutor his child, but I said I wouldn't consider it until he paid off his credit card debt.

Besides lying, Rami has been posting threats and has spammed this blog. After one of my readers wondered if Rami might escalate to violence, Rami didn't answer directly and didn't say he won't be violent. Then he wrote that he's going to "escalate" to "10X" stronger "blows" that will cause "far more collateral damage". Making threats crossed a major line, so I'm not going to engage with Rami further.

Since Rami can manufacture an unlimited number of lies or threats, I won't be responding to each one. I've given reasonable people adequate information to make a judgement. Also, Rami, don't contact me again.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (26)

Discussion About Inferential Distance

S. Emiya:

Someone wrote this reply to me on Reddit:

"The physical behavior of computers, whether mechanical or electric, is indeed governed by the laws of physics. But that is a disingenuous comparison, as the computations performed by computers are governed entirely by the binary bits of data, not by the more chaotic underlying physics. All computations performed by a computer arise from binary bits stored via only two distinct physical state-types in the hardware, regardless of underlying variance in the physics mechanism.

The human mind also can't calculate with 100% accuracy the value of an irrational number. But that is also a disingenuous comparison, as the human mind does not need to simulate the minute physical behavior of brain matter. We have no reason to assume that consciousness arises from binary bits of data stored via only two distinct physical state-types in brain matter; it is not reasonable to ignore the effects of underlying variance in the physics mechanism."

S. Emiya:

And this was my response:

But that is a disingenuous comparison, as the computations performed by computers are governed entirely by the binary bits of data

I already explained that we know the human brain is a universal classical computer. Computations performed by the human brain are not "governed" entirely by binary bits of data. If you disagree that the human brain is a universal classical computer please explain why you disagree.

Yes, in modern binary computers the behavior of the computer is "governed" by binary bits. It isn't the bits that are important though, rather the information encoded into the bits. That information is what determines which computations will be performed. And that information could be encoded in binary, ternary, quaternary or any other physically possible method of encoding. No matter how the information is encoded, when it is run on a universal classical computer the computations will be the same. The different methods of encoding are computationally equivalent.

Do you think the human brain has a special method of encoding input information that allows it to do more than just universal classical computation? Why couldn't the information encoded in this way also be encoded in binary? How does the "underlying variance in the physics" contribute to the consciousness of the human brain?

But that is also a disingenuous comparison, as the human mind does not need to simulate the minute physical behavior of brain matter.

Does a mechanical computer need to simulate the minute physical behavior of its components? What does this have to do with irrational numbers?

S. Emiya:

We have no reason to assume that consciousness arises from binary bits of data stored via only two distinct physical state-types in brain matter

That's because the brain is not a binary computer. It is a universal classical computer though. And we know that any computations done on one universal classical computer can be done on any other universal classical computer. So anything that your brain can do can be done on a binary computer as well. Hardware is independent of computation. The relevant difference is the specific computations being done, which are determined by software.

it is not reasonable to ignore the effects of underlying variance in the physics mechanism.

What effect in specific am I ignoring?


He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But you don’t either. Why not do some organized learning activities?

S. Emiya:

i like learning activities

S. Emiya:

can you point out anything specific I said that was incorrect in my comment?

S. Emiya:

i wasn't too sure on this one which is why I posted here


you shouldn't be too sure on any of them since you have never exposed anything significant to criticism here, nor done any learning process that one could reasonably expect would result in expertise at topics like these.


why don't you join the basecamp and do some of the practice and learning i've been trying to get ppl to do?

S. Emiya:

i did join the basecamp earlier today




I already explained that we know the human brain is a universal classical computer. Computations performed by the human brain are not "governed" entirely by binary bits of data. If you disagree that the human brain is a universal classical computer please explain why you disagree.


saying you already explained something without a source, to someone who apparently did not understand, listen or agree (something went wrong) is not an effective way to discuss


it isn't acknowledging that there is a problem going on, or reasonably trying to fix it


the second sentence is too vague for me to even judge whether i agree with it


you wrote a long multi-part response to someone who is completely lost


Yes, in modern binary computers the behavior of the computer is "governed" by binary bits. It isn't the bits that are important though, rather the information encoded into the bits.


i don't think this has anything to do with his confusions, and it's unclear or wrong. bits normally refer to information and you're trying to distinguish them without defining any terms or there being any clear reason to differentiate.


there's lots more but i don't think talking about it is useful b/c you need prerequisite skills before addressing these things in detail. if you just wanted an overview of the matter that'd be different but you're trying to make advanced, complicated detail points without being a good enough writer, logician, debater, understanding of what the other guy is thinking, bias-avoider, etc.


i tried giving direct responses to things like this for years and it never worked. DD tried too and gave up. i figured out why it's not working (lots of missing skills and knowledge underlying the topics).


ppl think something like that they can read a book, like BoI, and then they will have learned what it says.


this never ever works, b/c BoI doesn't guide one through an organized learning process including practice.


it also doesn't even try to address a lot of knowledge necessary to its ideas which hardly anyone learns in school or anywhere else


in other words, relative to what ~everyone knows, it skips a lot of steps

S. Emiya:

"the second sentence is too vague for me to even judge whether i agree with it"

His claim was that "All computations performed by a computer arise from binary bits stored via only two distinct physical state-types in the hardware."

My thinking was that brains are computers that perform computations, but not by storing binary bits in hardware. Do you not agree with that?


for example it doesn't try to teach ppl what a tree is, nor how or why to use them in philosophy, nor how to use logic effectively in discussions when reading and writing


Do you not agree with that?


i think you have no idea how brains work and talking about it is a distraction from learning anything important

S. Emiya:

"i don't think this has anything to do with his confusions, and it's unclear or wrong. bits normally refer to information and you're trying to distinguish them without defining any terms or there being any clear reason to differentiate."

That's a good point. I was trying to point out that it's not the abstract idea of 0's or 1's that we care about but rather the information encoded in those 0's and 1's.


you don't know the details of the hardware implementation of human minds, and don't need to make claims about it


if you want to be effective you need to do easier things successfully, establish a track record of success, and progressively move on to harder things


when you skip so many steps, as you have (and as most people do), it's very hard to engage with you


there are around 4 living people who are actually good at CR


i've seen many people try to learn or debate CR stuff


i've tried to help many ppl


i have experience with what does and does not work

S. Emiya:

"you don't know the details of the hardware implementation of human minds, and don't need to make claims about it"

Yeah you're right. I'm not sure why I was confident in saying that the human brain wasn't binary.

S. Emiya:

"when you skip so many steps, as you have (and as most people do), it's very hard to engage with you"

Is there a recommended list of steps that we should go through?

S. Emiya:

I looked on the basecamp but I was kind of confused. Is it a message board? Or a project tracking application?


it has both


one of the main steps is to engage with material by experts. instead of debating DD's writing you could try to analyze what it says, understand it more, and share that for criticism. you can do the same thing with my writing.


people mostly can't and won't do this, due to a variety of blockers. one is they have little control over how they use time. so i've suggested in several places like https://3.basecamp.com/4983193/buckets/20858411/messages/3473611519 that people work on time tracking.


another blocker is that people are bad at managing projects. the main theme on basecamp recently has been trying to get people to practice small projects in order to better understand how to organize projects.


another is that people's standards for when they are done learning something, and ready to move on, are way too low. much more thoroughness is needed with hard ideas like CR.

S. Emiya:

In your post on animal rights you say that suffering is related to value judgements like not wanting a particular outcome or thinking something is bad. Do you think it would be fair to say that suffering is "knowledge that you dislike something"?


why are you trying to change the topic?

S. Emiya:

"you could try to analyze what it says, understand it more, and share that for criticism. you can do the same thing with my writing."

S. Emiya:

I did make a post on the basecamp


also, did we have conversations with you using a different name before?


i remember a (maybe) different guy involved with cybersecurity who changed names at some point

S. Emiya:

i may have responded to one of your posts on reddit

S. Emiya:

i never changed my name in the discord though




i think you must disagree with and/or not understand some stuff i said, but you aren't giving enough feedback for us to sort that out.


and the question about animal rights is an advanced topic, so bringing that up is in broad disagreement with what i think will be productive.

S. Emiya:

i disagree with a lot of things you say. but i respect you a lot. and i know there must be a good reason for you to have the opinions that you do


why do you debate ppl on reddit but have not written out a criticism of any of my ideas?



S. Emiya:

well i think i disagree with some of the things you say regarding objectivism

S. Emiya:

but i don't know enough about it

S. Emiya:

to offer meaningful criticism


do you mean that you disagree with classical liberal type ideas?

S. Emiya:

i think i have a perception of the book "atlas shrugged" from hearing others talk about it

S. Emiya:

but I've never read it myself

S. Emiya:

i am also reading the Mises book on liberalism


the hearsay on AS is very inaccurate, similar to the hearsay about Popper

S. Emiya:

and I will have some questions on that when I finish it

S. Emiya:

if i only have time to read one book though I'm going to focus on BoI or FoR over those other books


sure i don't really recommend getting into political philosophy, econ, etc.


do you have a disagreement with what i said today on discord about learning?

S. Emiya:

no not really

S. Emiya:

i don't want to skip steps in the learning process


did you watch my videos tutoring max?

S. Emiya:

no, i didn't know those were posted



S. Emiya:

that's a lot of content, thanks for sharing

S. Emiya:

i do agree that animal rights is an advanced topic but I feel like I have some reasonable questions

S. Emiya:

that would help satisfy my curiosity


ya i've been making lots of stuff. i don't really understand why some ppl don't find some of it that they would like. i'm not trying to blame you. idk what the issue is. it comes up with other ppl.


Do you think it would be fair to say that suffering is "knowledge that you dislike something"?

S. Emiya:

yeah I should probably watch more from your youtube channel


knowing that i dislike losing limbs is not suffering. i haven't lost any. this kinda thing takes more precision. and i don't think this would go anywhere significant even if formulated better.

S. Emiya:

that's true. we could make it "knowing that one dislikes what one is experiencing"

S. Emiya:

it doesn't really matter the definition


this is jumping into the middle of a topic without having shared knowledge of the premises, goals or problems.

S. Emiya:

my main question is do you think that suffering is knowledge?


we aren't on the same page to enable some sort of joint project


my main question is do you think that suffering is knowledge?

my answer to that, as written, and interpreted in my own terminology and worldview, is "no". but i don't think that's a useful answer.

S. Emiya:

If suffering isn't knowledge then what do you think it is?


seeking meanings for undefined terms is one of the errors Popper warned us against.


your questions are coming out of a complex problem situation


you read stuff, had conversations, had experiences, thought about it, etc.


that is not shared with me. if we were going to discuss it seriously, we'd have to start more at the beginning and explain what we think and mean more to build up to this.


ppl try to have conversations by assuming they have tons of shared premises with the other person, and this shortcut is mostly a disaster for anything philosophical even if both ppl are conventional and similar.


discussions of suffering and animals and stuff come out of prior topics which we haven't discussed. like ppl often care about suffering b/c of its connection to morality. sometimes they care about animals b/c they want to know about how to treat them, e.g. whether to farm, kill and eat them. there are other reasons too.


ppl bring approaches and methodology to this. e.g. some ppl have some predetermined conclusions, find an expert who says that, and then say his authority proves them right. others skim things and want a rough overview and are satisfied. some of those skimmers then say they know a ton about it, and others say they still know little.


i often run into conflicts with ppl re how much effort to put into things, whether it's ok to reference articles or books, whether a discussion methodology should be specified at all, whether Paths Forward and Idea Trees are appropriate, etc. in general ppl will neither use those nor propose any explicit alternatives. i only have discussion in limited ways in circumstances like that.


collaborating with other ppl is hard. ppl are different. it's hard to get to know ppl or find enough points of agreement to build anything substantial with. finding ppl from ur own subculture and making a bunch of assumptions only gets you so far (hardly anywhere) and i'm really atypical anyway.


our culture has an idea of common sense and what an educated person should know. so one might think that could be used as common ground to build on. but i've found most of that stuff highly unreliable. our schools are awful.


e.g. most ppl make lots of mistakes at math and reading comprehension that affect discussion conclusions.

S. Emiya:

what can we do to better spread the ideas of CR?


learn them yourself first!

S. Emiya:

you got me there haha


that's what i tell everyone

S. Emiya:

i will learn them


the majority are hostile to it


if you want to help others, learn publicly and keep organized records others could use later. that's hard tho. i did a lot publicly but it's not that organized and most ppl find it hard to use. one of the issues is ppl start their journeys in different places than i did. i was already good at certain things (that they aren't) at the start of my CR learning.


learning publicly is basically necessary anyway b/c my groups are the only place to get quality critical feedback


for CR


one of the main issues ppl have with learning is how to judge when they are successful


how do you know when you learned it right?


you have to find some stuff where you can make judgments like that effectively and then build on them and expand your ability to do it.

S. Emiya:

do you think debating is a good "test" for your knowledge?


so like you can check your work for addition, but cannot similarly check it for animal suffering claims.


debating has some good things but often all involved are confused.


and often beginners debate their own claims too much, when the majority of attention should go to analyzing and comparing ideas explained by experts.


ppl should do more collaborative instead of adversarial stuff too


i find ppl often either read (and watch or listen) a lot and interact too little, or they do lots of interactive stuff but won't read much. using both things effectively is a big deal.


ppl's main initial goal should be to catch up to what's already known. debate isn't really optimized for that.

S. Emiya:

so here was my thinking on animal suffering:

I think that suffering is related to value judgements like "not wanting a particular outcome or thinking something is bad". I think both of those are examples of knowledge. I have the knowledge that I do not want an outcome where my arm gets chopped off. Or I have the knowledge that having my heart broken by my partner is bad. Or knowledge that I dislike the feeling of starving, etc.

I could be put in any of those situations but without the knowledge that I dislike them. If I didn't have knowledge that I disliked the situations then I don't see why or how I could be suffering.

Specifically, I think that value judgements are creating knowledge of suffering by idea evolution. I think that only humans (or other beings with general intelligence) can create knowledge of suffering in this way. But all knowledge comes from evolution. So if knowledge of suffering can be created by idea evolution then it should also be able to be created by biological evolution.

What arguments are there against the idea that knowledge of suffering could be created by biological evolution?

S. Emiya:

"ppl's main initial goal should be to catch up to what's already known. debate isn't really optimized for that."

That's a good point. In my experience when I try to explain something in a "debate" (on reddit) there are times when I'll realize I don't understand the topic as well as I should. But i could probably come to those same realizations in a more collaborative environment rather than adversarial.


this is trying to build on topics like what evolution is and how it works, a particular view of knowledge, and some sort of goal(s) that is integrated into a tree or graph of goals.


one of the things being built on is observing people frowning or crying. that's some actual common ground. we've both had that experience. and a bunch of other experiences in similar ballpark.


there's a big gap from there to the discussion you're trying to have.

S. Emiya:

i don't think I disagree with you on evolution and how it works, or on what knowledge is or isn't

S. Emiya:

based on articles from fallibleideas.com


IME ppl are never on the same page with me about that kinda stuff if we haven't discussed it before. issues come up if it's examined.


like if ppl try to write down their understanding of it, i expect to find parts i disagree with

S. Emiya:

My understanding of evolution is that a population of replicators subject to variance will be taken over by the replicators which are better at replicating than their rivals.

S. Emiya:

And I guess there should be a mention that there needs to be some kind of selection process

S. Emiya:

like natural selection or criticism and experiment

S. Emiya:

And I think that knowledge is useful information, for the most part


useful to who or what? and what do replicators have to do with knowledge? good night. if you want to post something more complete to curi.us or basecamp i'll reply later.

S. Emiya:



@S. Emiya

I looked on the basecamp but I was kind of confused. Is it a message board? Or a project tracking application?

That was helpful feedback btw. I just organized it better with the most important info in the Docs & Files section in folders.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (11)

Google Is Culturally Racist

Google is (culturally) racist (in 4 parts):





And a Twitter thread (same author, Real Abril, similar info):


On TikTok she said 526 hires in 6 years, which is around 1.7 per week, but Twitter said over 300 engineering hires, so let's focus only on that. Around one hire per week. From my understanding, that's really good. This may surprise people, but I think each hire might be worth $10,000+.

I've seen tech companies offer 10k just for a referral of someone to interview there who ends up getting hired, and that was years ago. And in her job, she would do more work than just referring people. And tech recruiters can charge amounts like 10% of first year of salary (paid by company not employee) for getting someone hired, which will be over 10k for tech positions at google.

So she did a great job but got fired instead of promoted. And I believe her about a lot of the specific ways Google was (not very) covertly discriminating and resisted her improvements.

I think maybe Google actually wanted her to find black and brown programmers who think and act like white graduates of Ivy League universities, so they are an easy cultural fit or "Googley".

Google is not (very) racist against skin color. They are cultural racists against black and brown culture. Why? Because they are elitist snobs (not just that). It's not about merit; it's about bigotry against the Other, which makes it essentially similar to racism, especially when it correlates with race.

I think Google is full of atheist former-WASPs who are partially rebelling against being a WASP (particularly by becoming an atheist). They're similar to WASPs in lots of ways. (WASP = white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, which is the kind of person you'd imagine being at country clubs, expensive private high schools, or Ivy universities.)

What about the many asians at Google? Some asians have learned to get into and fit in at top tier universities. They're better at acting WASPy than black or brown people are.

Google also brings in a bunch of H1B visa coders, e.g. Indians. I bet those people are treated differently and worse, but Google likes underpaying them. (H1B visas are a government subsidy to Google and other tech companies. US visas or citizenship are worth money and Google gets to give them out without paying the US government for that privilege. People accept lower salary offers to get into the US and then put up with worse treatment and not getting promotions or raises for five years or however long it takes before they can stay in the country without staying at that job. The system incentivizes and causes some abuse and exploitation of foreigners.)

Anyway, you don't have to look like a WASP anymore to be hired (though physical appearance, including skin color and hair, still matter to how you're treated), but Google prefers people who are thoroughly immersed in WASPy culture.

Google's atheism is actually an issue. Black and brown people believe in God at higher rates than Googley people, which increases culture-clash. Similarly, I think black people value family more on average (and in somewhat different ways than e.g. asians, it's not just an amount), so might be more interested in going home for dinner instead of working late. (I don't think that particular issue means they are worse workers overall. I don't think it means they're getting less work done. I think the culture of 10 hour work days is stupid and that programmers rarely get more than 5 productive hours of coding done in a day. People can't focus and think effectively all day long. Google likes to exploit people that it can trick into staying extra hours without extra pay – often expecting rewards that never materialize. But I don't think Google actually gains much from exploiting the naivety of some of its primarily younger workers because those extra hours aren't very productive.)

There are actual flaws in all cultures which can be criticized, and not all cultures are equal. But I think Google's approach qualifies as bigotry because it's not about merit. It's about who fits into your social group and who doesn't. It's about preferring people like you over people who are different. In other words, if you discriminate more by accent than by skin color, and the accents you favor are rare among black and brown people, then you're still basically a racist.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (8)

Sources of Organization

Learning, progress or achieving a goal requires organized effort. That means it's not random, aimless, chaos.

For example, the scientific method organizes thinking and action so that scientists learn about nature. It's known for being particularly organized and for being much more effective than less organized approaches generally are.

There are many sources of organization. Following the scientific method is one way that your effort/actions may become organized.

If no sources of organization are used, learning will fail. No organization = chaos = no learning. You must have something to reduce chaos – to bring order to chaos – or you'll fail. (Getting lucky can work when you have some organization but not enough. It doesn’t work with no organization.)

Often, people aren't aware of where organization comes from. They don't know they're using organization, but what they do is far from pure chaos. They think of it as unplanned, freeform learning, but some forces causes it to be significantly organized.

What sources of organization exist? Where can organization come from?

We’ve been discussing this at my Basecamp group. Below I answer the question and explain why it matters.

Where Organization Comes From

All organization comes from knowledge. No knowledge = no organization = your actions will not be effective.

All knowledge comes from evolution.

There are two known types of evolution:

  1. Evolution of ideas.
  2. Evolution of genes.

These broad sources of organization can be broken down into sub-categories, e.g. all evolution of ideas fits into two categories:

  1. My own ideas.
  2. Other people’s ideas.

And that can be further broken down, e.g. splitting up my ideas:

  1. My conscious or explicit ideas.
  2. My unconscious or intuitive ideas.

We can take the intuitive ideas and sub-categorize further, e.g. by an idea’s age. E.g. the idea is from childhood, is from young adulthood, or it’s recent.

The red part of the diagram is more thorough and the blue part less. All organization is due to knowledge. All knowledge is created by evolution. That part is 100% complete (according to the best available understanding). There are no other options being left out of the diagram. Evolution could work with other replicators besides ideas or genes, but ideas and genes are the only known replicators that have created significant knowledge. By contrast, the categorizations in blue are more fuzzy. E.g. other people can’t literally put ideas in my head – they can say words but then I use my own brain to think about and understand it. So in some sense, I personally create every idea in my head. But it’s still meaningful to say that I thought of one idea myself and learned another idea from Joe.

Try adding more to the chart yourself. You can take any node (box) and break it down into categories. And they don’t have to be perfect to be useful. E.g. genetic evolution could be imperfectly broken down into plants, animals, fungi and bacteria.

When you do a project, if you want results that are better than convention – if you want to improve on your society/culture – then you need organization/knowledge coming from a source other than convention. That basically means you can’t rely on your intuitions or someone else’s intuitions. You can’t just do what seems good, because how stuff seems to you was developed in childhood and largely fits with convention.

What Organizes Your Project? Are You the Sucker?

You should think about where the knowledge is coming from when you do a project like trying to learn something, especially if you want great results of some sort instead of just typical results.

If you can’t figure out where the knowledge or organization for a project is coming from, expect conventional results at best. You’re the sucker (or puppet or pawn) for some force you aren’t aware of – most often the static memes of convention, but sometimes something else, e.g. a conman, cult, or political movement. Plus, expect some disorganization/chaos too. If the organization isn’t clear to you, your project is only going to be partially organized.

This is like the poker advice: If you can’t figure out who the sucker at the table is, it’s you. With life, if you don’t know what’s going on and what’s controlling outcomes (in other words, what is organizing events), it’s not you – someone or something else is in control (plus there’s some disorganization/chaos). You’re the sucker. You’re the NPC, not the protagonist or hero of the story.

One source of knowledge is doing project planning steps. You can organize your project yourself using conscious thought. You can brainstorm. You can consider resources, goals, steps, risks, prerequisites. You can write things down.

If you don’t do conscious, explicit project planning, you need to have an idea of what you’re using instead that will work, or else have really low expectations.

Learning from Others

An alternative source of knowledge, rather than organizing things yourself, is a curriculum that someone else makes and you buy. Or, similarly, a tutorial you find online. In that case, someone else put conscious thought into organizing the project. So you’re using their thought instead of your own. But at least you have an idea of where the organization is coming from and what the goals of the organizer are (e.g. they may care about their reputation as an educator and about getting repeat customers, so you may reasonably judge that using you as a sucker isn’t their goal).

There are some risks using someone else’s tutorial (but it’s still a worthwhile strategy that you should use sometimes):

  • They may have done a bad job.
  • They may have done a good job for some parts, but a bad job for other parts.
  • They could have a hidden agenda (goals they don’t tell you about that don’t fit with your goals).
  • You might not understand them very well. Stuff could get lost in translation from their thoughts to their words (and diagrams, gestures, etc.) to your thoughts.
  • It might work for some people and not others, and you’re one of the others. It might not fit your situation well enough. E.g. it might expect you to already know some things that you don’t. E.g. it might expect you to already know some specific math or to understand jargon from a subculture (like Gen Z, anime, or academic biologists).

Learning with Multiple Sources

One strategy that helps with these problems is learning from multiple other people simultaneously. You can get 5 books by 5 different authors and look at how they organize and explain things, and mix and match pieces of knowledge from different books that you think are good and are compatible with you. Often you’ll find some parts of a book are low quality or are incompatible with you, but some other parts are useful. And if you take the useful parts from many books, plus figure out some additional stuff with your own thought to fill in the gaps, that’s often way easier than figuring everything out yourself even though none of the books are great.

When you use a strategy of finding 5 books from 5 others, reviewing them all, comparing them, etc, you are doing a bunch of organization of your learning project. You’re taking lots of control, using your own judgment in key areas, and you get more credit or blame for the outcome. Whereas if you just follow one author’s plan, and try to do and believe whatever he says, then you don’t have a leadership role in the learning project and have less responsibility for the outcome. (But it’s your life, so you have to live with the outcome. Handing off responsibility and trusting in the leadership of others is something to be very careful with, especially as an adult.)

Organization and Knowledge

Organization and knowledge are close to synonyms. ‘Organize’ means “to form into a whole consisting of interdependent parts”. Knowledge is a whole made of parts (ideas, which generally have some dependence on each other). Organizing makes parts work together for a purpose or goal, as ideas work together to solve a problem (or, same things, accomplish a goal or achieve a purpose).

The root word of ‘organize’ is ‘organ’ and one of its historical meanings was 'that which performs some function’ (in other words, a purposeful, goal-directed thing – which is what knowledge is).

The history and typical way of thinking about ‘knowledge’ or ‘to know’ is different than this, but the correct understanding is similar to organization. Like “adaptation to a purpose” is a non-standard but good take on knowledge, and “organization for a purpose” is very similar. (Note: with both “adaptation” and “organization” the words “for a purpose” are actually redundant – a purpose is implied/assumed/included with the main word. The redundancy helps with clarity and emphasis.) How do you organize something for a purpose? You change it to make it fit that purpose. That’s what adapting means: change to fit a (new or different) purpose. ‘Adapt’ also sounds like the cause is evolution, but the cause of human organization is evolution too: people organize using their ideas, and they get those ideas from their intelligence which works literally by evolution.


I made slides with more about sources of organization. PDF or SlideShare.

Take Action

Join my Basecamp group (free) where we’re discussing sources of organization.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)