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Alisa Discussion

This is a discussion topic for Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum (a pseudonym, Ayn Rand's birth name). Other people are welcome to make comments. Alisa has agreed not to post under other names in this topic.


Elliot Temple on June 20, 2019

Messages (186)

Post-mortems and overreaching

Proposal: If you post-mortem each of your mistakes, then you're not overreaching.

Reasoning: Overreaching involves being overwhelmed by your mistakes. If you are post-morteming each of your mistakes, then you're dealing with them appropriately. This is incompatible with being overwhelmed by them.


Alisa at 7:00 AM on July 1, 2019 | #12940 | reply | quote

#12940 Yes but many post-mortems will be very short.

E.g. you could say: I don't know enough about this problem. I need more data, more experience with it. *And* I think it's minor and rare (because [something]). So I won't worry about it for now. I'll reconsider next time it comes up, if it comes up again. My tentative plan is to pay more attention to it if it comes up 4 times in 12 months or 8 times lifetime. Similar to not worrying about refactoring code to be general purpose until you've done the same thing 3 times.

If you have literally no idea what went wrong with a mistake, that's bad. If you can organize it into some kinda category (that you have some general policy for dealing with), and get some kinda handle on it, that's much better. That can be very brief.


curi at 12:25 PM on July 1, 2019 | #12942 | reply | quote

Unit testing knowledge

I think one reason I make as many mistakes as I do is that I don't unit test my knowledge enough. I accept, as something that I know, knowledge that hasn't been sufficiently tested from different angles. I wouldn't have such low standards for software (that I care about). So why do I have such low standards in the realm of ideas?


Alisa at 8:16 PM on July 29, 2019 | #13171 | reply | quote

On lying and being inaccurate

Being inaccurate is a matter of morality. I once watched an episode of Hell's Kitchen in which chef Gordon Ramsey indicated that he needed to be able to trust that his chefs were reliable and that they were giving me him reliable info about the dishes that they were cooking. Once, someone feigned not knowing what was wrong with a dish (it was scallops, and they were raw). Gordon Ramsey noticed that the chef hadn't done sufficient error-checking, and said that he couldn't trust them any more.

When you make an assertion without doing adequate unit testing, error checking, or cross-checking, you are saying that you know something which you do not in fact know. Being in accurate in this way is a form of lying. It’s misrepresenting your state of knowledge, like a waiter who says that a dish doesn't contain some allergen when in fact he doesn't know or hasn't done adequate due diligence.

Big picture: people need to be able to trust what you say, and you can't be trusted if you don't adequately error check what you say.


Alisa at 9:15 PM on August 1, 2019 | #13198 | reply | quote

> that they were giving *me him* reliable info

> Being in accurate

Typos. Content makes sense.


Anonymous at 11:11 PM on August 1, 2019 | #13199 | reply | quote

Typos

#13199 Thanks for the typo reports (and for the content assessment), anon.

After figuring out what I wrote above, it's a given for me that I need to find a way to reliably say things without being inaccurate or otherwise lying. I think that typos matter too, but in a different way than factual inaccuracies. From the Hell's Kitchen perspective: every factual inaccuracy is like a major problem with a dish, but so long as the true meaning of the text can be easily understood, a typo is more like a tiny defect.

In different situations there will be different expectations for what counts as reasonable typo-prevention efforts. For example, in a book, there basically should never be a typo, but in IMs that are clearly being sent off-the-cuff, occasional typos are okay. At work, it would be helpful for me to be able to generate typo-free text, so I am interested to find a trustworthy process for that.

My current best process for generating typo-free text is to check for misspelled words highlighted in red, and use TTS to listen to what I wrote.

> that they were giving *me him* reliable info

TTS should have caught that mistake. The issue here was that I didn't listen to my message #13198 before sending it. At this point, for me, sending a message that I haven't listened to is dishonest, because I've previously stated my intention to use TTS as part of my error-checking process [https://bitbucket.org/petrogradphilosopher/fi/src/default/pf.md]. I need to either follow through with that or retract my claim.

> Being in accurate

That mistake would be hard to catch with my current process.


Alisa at 2:18 PM on August 2, 2019 | #13201 | reply | quote

Example of a lie: hand soap at the kitchen sink

Not too long ago, I had been away from home for about a week. I was staying at the house of someone I know. There was hand soap at the kitchen sink. That was convenient because I needed to wash my hands and the bathroom was on a different floor. I remarked on the convenience of this. I said that I didn't have hand soap in my kitchen sink at home. The person expressed surprise that I didn't have hand soap at my kitchen sink. I assured him that I didn't. But when I got home a day later, I saw that I *did* have hand soap at my kitchen sink.

I count as a lie the statement of mine in which I said that I didn't have hand soap at my kitchen sink. I confidently made a false statement about something which I can be reasonably expected to speak accurately about. Even if I was unsure (and it's not clear that I was), I mis-represented my state of knowledge by speaking confidently.

When I lied, did I have any sense that I was lying? Did I have any indication that what I was saying was false, or that what I was saying merited more error-checking -- even a slight gut feeling? I don't know, but if so, I should have paid more attention to that sense or indication. It would have been far better to say nothing than to confidently say something false.

I suppose my lie could have been due, in part, to bias. There were a lot of convenient things in the person's house. I had been praising some of them. Maybe I wanted to praise more things. Maybe I thought that lying about the hand soap would be a good way to make headway towards that goal. If so, then maybe I could have prevented the lie by *noticing* my desire to praise things, *recognizing* that as a bias, and then *watching for* for the potential effects of that bias. I could have been extra careful about saying things that I would be biased to say.


Alisa at 9:30 PM on August 3, 2019 | #13203 | reply | quote

#13203 You were visibly doing some social stuff (which is inherently not truth-oriented in some ways, which is similar to bias). Exaggerating some praise was one of the social things.


Anonymous at 9:40 PM on August 3, 2019 | #13204 | reply | quote

#13171 Unit tests for knowledge are basically the same concept as a library of criticism. That library of criticisms that you check new ideas against is your test suite. It needs to be built up gradually with *high quality* tests. People with a bunch of shitty tests, with a bunch of false positives (flags stuff as broken that is actually correct), start ignoring their tests and using metrics like "Did over 10% of my tests fail? Then maybe it's bad. But I'll ignore fewer fails than that."

Also note that many tests are subject-specific. They can apply to a field, like physics, or to a much more narrow area (like only applies to ideas about golden retrievers catching frisbees). So part of the process has to be evaluating *which* tests should be run for a particular idea (which are relevant).

When in doubt, run extra tests *if* they are designed to not fail when they can't deal with the input. But if your tests start flagging stuff as wrong that they don't understand, then you have to much more aggressively limit what tests get run, which is bad.


curi at 2:03 PM on August 4, 2019 | #13205 | reply | quote

#13204 Good point. Acting social is a major factor in lying. For one thing, acting social commonly involves telling *white lies*.

I could try to notice when I'm acting social (which is not THAT often, I think) and to be extra alert for lies during those times. I think that would be a do-able and potentially helpful next step.


Alisa at 6:54 PM on August 5, 2019 | #13232 | reply | quote

> I could try to notice when I'm acting social (which is not THAT often, I think)

I'd guess it's most of the time, or at least most of the time you're around anyone other than family.


Anonymous at 7:40 PM on August 5, 2019 | #13236 | reply | quote

#13236 I wrote:

>> I could try to notice when I'm acting social (which is not THAT often, I think)

Anon replied:

> I'd guess it's most of the time, or at least most of the time you're around anyone other than family.

Ok. I will modify my proposal from #13204 to take account of your point. My modification is to remove the text "(which is not THAT often, I think)". The result is:

>>> I could try to notice when I'm acting social and to be extra alert for lies during those times.

I don't currently notice myself acting social often enough for that to be a burden, but I do notice it enough for it to give me something to work on.

Suppose I eventually learn to notice myself acting social in more situations. Then maybe my capacity to watch out for my own lies will also have grown. If it hasn't, I'll have to think of something else.


Alisa at 11:25 PM on August 6, 2019 | #13244 | reply | quote

Unit tests for knowledge

#13205 That's an angle I wasn't thinking of it from. I was thinking of starting with an idea, and then figuring out what tests would be good for it, and then writing and running those tests. You're suggesting that I focus instead on the tests, and on making them good and generic, and then when ideas come along, I spend a bit of time figuring out which tests from my library apply. This seems different than writing new tests for each idea.

In programming, I write new tests for each function. I don't have a generic library of tests that I apply to new functions. I have generic test *helper* functions and test *libraries* that make testing in general easier, but still, each function requires its own new test, and I usually have to think about the inputs for each new function and about what the correct outputs should be.


Alisa at 8:46 PM on August 7, 2019 | #13247 | reply | quote

To avoid lying to others, you have to avoid lying to yourself

#13198 Some people (including me at some times) believe that it's morally worse to lie to someone else than it is to lie to yourself. But if you are effective at lying to yourself, then you will believe your own lies, and it's plausible that you would eventually tell those lies to others. So if you really care about not lying to others, you have to avoid lying to yourself.


Alisa at 8:46 PM on August 8, 2019 | #13252 | reply | quote

lying

This is an area where I don't know much. But my guess is that when we believe lies we tell ourselves, it is almost *inevitable* that we tell those lies to other people as well. The only situation where we wouldn't is where those lies aren't relevant to something we'd convey to other people in some way, and I can't think of a situation where that would be the case.


Anne B at 8:42 AM on August 9, 2019 | #13256 | reply | quote

Morality isn't primarily about others

My take on what you're saying: Some people think that the really bad thing is to lie to others. So, don't lie to yourself as you'll probably end up lying to others, too (i.e. you'll do the really bad thing).

I think this puts morality inside a social framework. It conveys that the reason to be moral is the effect on other people.

But the primary reason to be moral is for *you*. It's to help *you* successfully live. It's to help *you* not destroy yourself (by destroying your mind). Others come into the picture only secondary to that goal.

I think it's much worse to lie to yourself than to lie to others. When lying to others, it's possible that you retain a tie to reality (e.g. you lie only to them and not also to yourself). If you lie to yourself, then by definition you've lost that tie, which is a much worse position for you to be in.


Kate at 9:19 AM on August 9, 2019 | #13258 | reply | quote

My comment is a response to #13252.


Kate at 9:21 AM on August 9, 2019 | #13259 | reply | quote

#13258 If you can identify a single false statement in the post of mine to which you replied, I would appreciate hearing about it.


Alisa at 3:09 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13263 | reply | quote

Scenarios in which you could lie to yourself w/out lying to others?

#13256

> when we believe lies we tell ourselves, it is almost *inevitable* that we tell those lies to other people as well

Practically speaking, I agree. However, I think there are a few theoretical scenarios in which someone could lie to themselves without lying to others. Here are a few:

- Say someone follows a vow of silence. If they don't talk to others, they won't lie to others.

- Say someone never talks about a certain area of their life. If they lie to themselves only about that area, then they wouldn't inevitably tell those lies to others.


Alisa at 3:24 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13264 | reply | quote

> If you can identify a single false statement in the post of mine to which you replied, I would appreciate hearing about it.

I think believing the idea "that it's morally worse to lie to someone else than it is to lie to yourself" is a mistake.

Now, I guess you might be thinking "Well, I didn't say that it was *right* to believe that. I just said that I believed it some times. I was just honestly stating the facts regarding my beliefs. Therefore, I didn't actually make a false statement."

If that's the case, then I think you're missing the point. It's sort of like this:

Suppose someone says "I believe it's ok to steal from ppl some times."

Another person says "That's wrong and here's why -- blah, blah, blah."

The first person replies "If you can identify a single false statement in the post of mine to which you replied, I would appreciate hearing about it."


Kate at 4:11 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13265 | reply | quote

#13265 Saying "Some people [...] believe that [X]" is not stating X.

Saying something like "Sometimes I believe X" also is not stating X.

> then I think you're missing the point.

You seem to be missing the point that Alisa was speaking narrowly about limited issues, and then asked if you could point out a false statement. Alisa was trying to say things which were true rather than false, as written, exactly. You are talking about how, in some context, some of it could be bad or misleading which is a different issue. You are still pushing this after Alisa clearly and directly communicated what he cares about (false statements). You have not in fact pointed out a false statement from Alisa's comment, but you haven't clearly admitted you can't, and you have continued with other types of criticism that Alisa didn't express interest in and which you could probably guess that Alisa has heard before.

> Suppose someone says "I believe it's ok to steal from ppl some times."

That is not equivalent to what Alisa said. That strikes me as dishonest. That or it's a grammar error with an ambiguous modifier on the end. What Alisa said was about *believing sometimes*, but you've changed it, as I read it, to being about always believing that *stealing* is ok sometimes (in some situations).


Anonymous at 6:22 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13266 | reply | quote

#13247 Start with individual tests. It's important to find patterns in the testing and refactor to have more generic tests which can replace 3+ previous tests. Same as normal DRY coding.

If you have a bunch of one-line tests which just call a library function, then you're part of the way there. But it'd be superior to write some code which generates all those individual tests instead of writing them all by hand.

Also I talked about this in my stream https://youtu.be/EiPMrvQYx5w approximately 2 hours in. (I talked about some other comments from this page earlier in the stream, too.)


curi at 6:50 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13267 | reply | quote

>> then I think you're missing the point.

> You seem to be missing the point that Alisa was speaking narrowly about limited issues, and then asked if you could point out a false statement.

I wondered about that point, which is why I wrote this:

>Now, I guess you might be thinking "Well, I didn't say that it was *right* to believe that. I just said that I believed it some times. I was just honestly stating the facts regarding my beliefs. Therefore, I didn't actually make a false statement."

To clarify, I agree with this reasoning as stated. Alisa didn't actually make a false statement.

back to anon:

>Alisa was trying to say things which were true rather than false, as written, exactly. You are talking about how, in some context, some of it could be bad or misleading which is a different issue.

I don't understand why Alisa doesn't care that his belief is a mistake. But it's his call. I'll drop it.

> You are still pushing this after Alisa clearly and directly communicated what he cares about (false statements). You have not in fact pointed out a false statement from Alisa's comment, but you haven't clearly admitted you can't, and you have continued with other types of criticism that Alisa didn't express interest in and which you could probably guess that Alisa has heard before.

What other types of criticism? The idea that he should care when his beliefs are mistaken?

>> Suppose someone says "I believe it's ok to steal from ppl some times."

> That is not equivalent to what Alisa said. That strikes me as dishonest. That or it's a grammar error with an ambiguous modifier on the end. What Alisa said was about *believing sometimes*, but you've changed it, as I read it, to being about always believing that *stealing* is ok sometimes (in some situations).

I see what you mean. Sorry. The grammar is different between them. I don't know if it was dishonesty or carelessness (or both...they are related). Anyways, I just wrote the meaning that I had in mind. And looking at it now, even though the grammar is different, I'm having a hard time seeing the difference in meaning.

I sometimes believe it's ok to steal.

I believe it's ok to steal sometimes.

(BTW, I think "sometimes" is better.)

If you sometimes believe it's ok to steal, then there will be times when you believe it's ok to steal.

If you believe it's ok to steal sometimes, then aren't we left with the same conclusion? That there will be times when you believe it's ok to steal?

How are they different?


Kate at 8:11 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13269 | reply | quote

With one meaning, there can be times when you think all stealing is wrong. You have different ideas at different times.

With the other one, you have a single idea at all times which says some stealing is wrong and some is right.

In the one case, your ideas are what's changing around time. At different times you have different opinions of the same situation. In the other case, the situation is what changes.


Anonymous at 9:09 PM on August 9, 2019 | #13270 | reply | quote

A trick for solving problems that should be possible but seem impossible

This note explains a trick for making progress on a kind of problem where you have to figure out how to do something that seems like it should be possible but also seems to be impossible for some unknown reason. Examples of this kind of problem:

- Figuring out how to close the blinds to get some privacy in a street-level hotel room that seems like it doesn't have blinds

- Figuring out how to turn the cooling on in a hotel room that doesn't seem like it has air conditioning (AC)

The trick is: act as if things make sense even though it seems like they don't. It's a mental attitude to try adopting temporarily. Just assume that things must make sense somehow and keep looking for how that could be.

The example problems above actually happened to me. I was with someone who used the trick to figure out how to solve each problem. They shared the trick with me after I asked how they did it.

The solution to the missing AC control is that it was in a strange location. I forget exactly where. But it doesn't make sense that a hotel wouldn't have AC, so it was worth assuming that there was AC and trying to find the control for it.

The actual blinds were somehow covered behind semi-transparent curtains. They were attached to a high railing and kind of hidden. But they were there. And when you closed them, it gave the room privacy from the street.


Alisa at 6:04 PM on August 10, 2019 | #13274 | reply | quote

BoI on "[t]he quest for good explanations" and Deutsch's "criterion for reality"

A paragraph from BoI:

> The quest for good explanations is, I believe, the basic regulating principle not only of science, but of the Enlightenment generally. It is the feature that distinguishes those approaches to knowledge from all others, and it implies all those other conditions for scientific progress I have discussed: It trivially implies that prediction alone is insufficient.

Ok.

> Somewhat less trivially, it leads to the rejection of authority, because if we adopt a theory on authority, that means that we would also have accepted a range of different theories on authority.

Ok. "X is true because Y said so and Y has authority" is not much of an explanation, let alone a hard-to-vary explanation.

> And hence it also implies the need for a tradition of criticism.

Hmm. Is the issue that without ongoing criticism throughout time, the quest for good explanations will ultimately fail, and the only known way to provide ongoing criticism throughout time is to have a tradition of criticism?

> It also implies a methodological rule – a criterion for reality – namely that we should conclude that a particular thing is real if and only if it figures in our best explanation of something.

How does "[t]he quest for good explanations" "impl[y]" Deutsch's "criterion for reality"? (I think "It" at the beginning of the above sentence ultimately refers to the subject of the first sentence of the paragraph, namely, "[t]he quest for good explanations".)


Alisa at 8:16 PM on August 11, 2019 | #13283 | reply | quote

> How does "[t]he quest for good explanations" "impl[y]" Deutsch's "criterion for reality"?

It's not a logical implication, but it's a view which works well if you see explanations as primary.

re tradition of criticism, that's an alternative to authority.


Anonymous at 9:00 PM on August 11, 2019 | #13285 | reply | quote

#13285

> re tradition of criticism, that's an alternative to authority.

Is a tradition of criticism the only workable alternative to authority that is compatible with the quest for good explanations? Or is there some other reason that nothing other than a tradition of criticism would work? If not, then I don't see how the quest for good explanations implies the *need* for a tradition of criticism.


Alisa at 10:10 PM on August 12, 2019 | #13296 | reply | quote

#13296 Do you have any ideas for something else that would work?


Anonymous at 10:16 PM on August 12, 2019 | #13297 | reply | quote

#13297 No.


Alisa at 7:08 PM on August 13, 2019 | #13299 | reply | quote

Chilipad

The Chilipad is a device that helps control the temperature of the top of a mattress. The Chilipad's temperature can be set to any integer value between 55° and 110° F.

The Chilipad consists of two parts: (1) a small refrigerator/heater and (2) a thin pad filled with flexible water-carrying tubes that lies between the mattress and the bottom sheet. A pair of hoses connects the two parts. Whenever the Chilipad is on, water circulates through the pad and through the refrigerator/heater.


Alisa at 8:18 PM on August 14, 2019 | #13301 | reply | quote

Benedict Evans miscapitalizes "YouTube"

Benedict's Newsletter: No. 300 [1] miscapitalizes “YouTube” as “Youtube”:

> you *could* argue that changing the ownership of Youtube or Instagram would open up more competition

> but of course changing who owns Youtube or Instagram

YouTube writes “YouTube” with a capital “Y” and “T”. This can be seen, for example, on YouTube's support page.

[1] The number for Benedict's newsletter appears to be given only in the email subject line. The number isn't visible in the Mailchimp version linked at the bottom of the email. (This is the link I gave above.)


Alisa at 11:45 PM on August 18, 2019 | #13328 | reply | quote

Unit tests for knowledge

#13267 Your idea of starting out by writing individual tests for each function (or idea) and abstracting/generalizing when you encounter repetition makes sense.

In the stream, you brought up, as an example of a generic unit test, testing that a web page loaded without errors:

> You could have actual generic tests. You could have a test that works on any web page and tests whether it loads without erroring. And so you keep using that test on many different web pages. Now, in terms of the actual design, it might be you have a helper function called testWebPage, and then you write a testManyWebPages function, then you just call the helper function on a list of things. The point is, conceptually, you are re-using that testing function on many different cases instead of using separate stuff.

That was helpful. I can now think of some examples of generic unit tests for knowledge. For example, knowledge that involves statistics could be checked for generic statistical errors such as having a sample size that is too small. Knowledge that deals with epistemology could be checked for generic epistemological errors such as appealing to justificationism or otherwise contradicting YESNO.


Alisa at 6:40 PM on August 19, 2019 | #13330 | reply | quote

A forgotten item to revisit in my Paths Forward document

I am reviewing my Paths Forward document. There are a lot of problems in it that should be addressed. This comment addresses one of them. I will address the other issues that I find in follow-up notes.

The doc lists several items for me to revisit. Along with each item is a date by which I should have revisited it. This means that either the date passed without me revisiting that item or, if I did revisit it, I didn't update the document accordingly. Either is bad.

Here's one of my items to revisit:

> - 2018-06-24: Check for Critical Fallibilism website & post about it. I am reliably informed that this site will have ideas that are relevant to learning how to not want to be stuck forever. "it has some things to say about bounded and unbounded! (wanting to be stuck on some topics = bounded)." (Issue raised by Elliot Temple on 2018-04-19.)

That item should have been revisited on 2018-06-24. I revisited it today. I went to https://criticalfallibilism.com . The site seems unfinished. The header says "Yes or No Philosophy" and under that it says "hi. this is a test file." Other text on that page looks similar to the text at https://elliottemple.com/consulting . Since the site doesn't seem to be ready yet, I plan to change the date on the reminder from 2018-06-24 to 2020-06-24.


Alisa at 10:09 PM on August 22, 2019 | #13362 | reply | quote

My Paths Forward document rendering as raw text

My Paths Forward doc is now hosted on sourcehut (sr.ht). I used to host it on Bitbucket, but Bitbucket is removing support for Mercurial, the revision control system I use.

sourcehut currently doesn't render files as Markdown except for README files. My Paths Forward doc is currently named pf.md, so it currently doesn't render as Markdown on sourcehut. sourcehut renders it as raw text.


Alisa at 10:11 PM on August 22, 2019 | #13363 | reply | quote

Reviewing and updating my Paths Forward document often enough

My Paths Forward document says:

> ## Update this document often enough

>

> I plan to update this document at least once per month. The most recent update should never be more than a month ago.

According to the revision history, the document was last updated 3 months ago, and the previous update was almost a year before that. Fail.

> I have a repeating calendar event to remind me.

I have no such repeating event on my calendar. A search for "paths" or "forward" in my Apple calendar returns nothing, and I don't use any other calendar, such as a Google calendar or a physical calendar. Fail.

Rather than planning to *update* the document monthly, I think I should plan to *review* it monthly. By reviewing, I mean re-reading the whole thing. As I do that, I can make any updates that occur to me.

I don't like the idea of a calendar event for reviewing because I don't want to do the review on a particular day. However, I think I may have thought of a better way to remember.

Another thing that could help me remember to review the document every month is to post the results of each monthly review here under the title "Paths Forward review". One way this would help is by making it more clear to me and others if the monthly review isn't taking place.


Alisa at 10:29 PM on August 22, 2019 | #13364 | reply | quote

#13364 You can have a calendar reminder and then either do it that day *or* have it remind you tomorrow. And keep having it remind you tomorrow until you actually do it. This will help you remember compared to no reminder.


Anonymous at 10:44 PM on August 22, 2019 | #13365 | reply | quote

#13365 I wasn't able to figure out how to get Apple's calendar to remind me again the next day for an event. However, I was able to use the Reminders app to create a recurring monthly reminder. Once a reminder comes due, I think the Reminders app will keep reminding me about it until I mark it as done.


Alisa at 10:32 PM on August 23, 2019 | #13372 | reply | quote

1 billion seconds

Say you can count one number every second. Suppose you were to start counting 1, 2, 3, ..., and keep counting with no breaks, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. How long would it take you to count to a billion?

Answer (ROT-13): Nobhg guvegl gjb lrnef. [1]

A modern CPU can count to 1 billion in less than a second. Comparing the two times gives one way of thinking about of how fast modern CPUs are.

[1] https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=1+billion+seconds+to+years


Alisa at 10:59 PM on August 24, 2019 | #13374 | reply | quote

Life BelowZero

Life Below Zero is an interesting TV documentary about people who live near the Arctic Circle.

One thing that stood out to me about S01E01 is the way the subjects seem to exude competence in survival skills. The people catching fish seem competent at it. Erik Salatan, the guy who harvests all his own meat, seems competent at shooting caribou. The guy who rides on a dog sled on the frozen river seems competent at guiding his dogs and at recognizing when the ice isn't safe.

Ayn Rand valued competence extremely highly. In Atlas Shrugged, Francisco says:

> "Dagny, there's nothing of any importance in life-except how well you do your work. Nothing. Only that. Whatever else you are, will come from that. It's the only measure of human value. All the codes of ethics they'll try to ram down your throat are just so much paper money put out by swindlers to fleece people of their virtues. The code of competence is the only system of morality that's on a gold standard. [...]"

What could explain this competence? Here are a few factors:

- North of the Arctic Circle, one mistake can kill you. People who overreach in survival-related matters won't last long there. Learning without overreaching is the quickest path to competence.

- Knowing the dangers of the arctic environment, the people who choose to live there are predisposed to value competence in survival skills.

- In order to make the show more interesting, the show's producers selected competent people to be on the show.


Alisa at 7:55 PM on August 26, 2019 | #13384 | reply | quote

"pit toilet" and "outhouse"

NOTE: This post explains my understanding of what Wikipedia says about the terms "pit toilet" and "outhouse". It may not be the best way to understand what they actually mean or how they are actually used.

A pit toilet is a toilet in which the waste falls or slides into a hole in the ground.

An outhouse is a building that provides shelter for a pit toilet.

A pit toilet and an outhouse usually go together, kind of like a toilet and a bathroom. I guess that "pit toilet" slightly focuses on the toilet part of the toilet/shelter pair, while "outhouse" slightly focuses on the shelter part of the pair.

Consider the pairs "pit toilet"/"outhouse" and "toilet"/"bathroom". I guess that, in many cases, either term in a pair can be used mostly interchangeably. For example, you can say either "I need to use the toilet" or "I need to use the bathroom" – they mostly mean the same thing.


Alisa at 9:41 PM on August 27, 2019 | #13396 | reply | quote

#13396 And plastic porta potties are different.


Anonymous at 9:43 PM on August 27, 2019 | #13397 | reply | quote

#13397 Yeah. For one thing, in plastic porta potties, the waste stays in the porta potty rather than going into a hole in the ground.


Alisa at 10:01 PM on August 27, 2019 | #13398 | reply | quote

Life below Zero

#13384 gp @ competence. I watched a few episodes of the show, but my thoughts were less precise than yours. Something along the lines of: I wouldn't want to live that way (meaning: in the Alaskan wilderness, with little technological infrastructure), but it's a lifestyle worthy of respect.


Andy at 7:59 AM on August 28, 2019 | #13399 | reply | quote

Spelling error

#13384

> Erik Salatan, the guy who harvests all his own meat, seems competent at shooting caribou.

Correction: Erik's last name is "Salitan", not "Salatan". I guess I tried to spell his name from memory without checking it, rather than copy/pasting or checking the spelling carefully.

To see the correct spelling, you can watch the show itself which has text on the screen that spells his name correctly. Also, his name is on his site, http://www.bushwhackalaska.com :

> Owner/Operator Erik Salitan


Alisa at 8:19 AM on August 28, 2019 | #13400 | reply | quote

Hotels/motels without air conditioning

Some American hotels/motels don't have air conditioning, but I didn't realize this. I thought having air conditioning was table stakes for a hotel/motel, like having a shower and a sink. So I didn't check for it when booking. I ended up booking a place that had no air conditioning.

As an example of a hotel without air conditioning, consider Marin Suites Hotel, which is rated 3.5 on tripadvisor with 657 reviews. (This is an example hotel I found by searching tripadvisor for "no air conditioning"). The hotel's own page describing their rooms doesn't mention air conditioning among the amenities, but it also doesn't mention it as something missing. In contrast, the hotel's tripadvisor page (linked above) says the rooms *do* have air conditioning.

Regarding the hotel, someone on tripadvisor asked:

> Is it true that there is no air conditioning in this hotel? I have a reservation in June, and I do not want to stay without air conditioning!

A hotel representative replied:

> Yes it is true that we do not have air conditioning in the hotel. We have a portable cooler that we have in the living room and provide one for each bedroom. Please let me know if I can help you with any other questions.

Judging by some other comments on that page, the "cooler" provided by the hotel is either a fan or a swamp cooler:

> They provide fans in each room including front room. We were there this past weekend for the fifth time in a row each time in July.

> No AC........The swamp coolers don't work when its hot. Stay there in June, 2017 and the rooms were 95 degrees.


Alisa at 11:28 PM on September 11, 2019 | #13488 | reply | quote

Proposal for a personal list of big problems & solutions

If I don't share a belief with others, there's no way for others to tell me I'm wrong about that belief. In other words, there's no paths forward for beliefs I don't share. I don't want to be making known mistakes about the big issues in my life. So I think I should publish a statement of what big problems I want to solve in my life and how I'm trying to solve them. Example big problems: How to not die early (both physically and mentally, which are two different issues) and how to have enough money to live on.

If applicable, for each problem, I could list some alternative solutions I considered and rejected, along with why I rejected them.


Alisa at 9:49 PM on September 12, 2019 | #13502 | reply | quote

Serious potential problems in my life that I'd like to prevent

Here's a list of serious potential problems in my life that I'd like to prevent:

- Having an unreasonably low expected value for my lifespan

- Disengaging from public criticism of my ideas

- Lacking sufficient money

- Lacking sufficient free time

This is just a high-level draft. Any big problem areas I'm missing?


Alisa at 9:57 PM on September 13, 2019 | #13508 | reply | quote

#13508 Maybe you could become hostile to Objectivism (for example) while still engaging with public criticism. Sounds kinda hard tho.

You don't talk about relationships. Friends, family, socializing, etc. Maybe you have goals for that?

Other big ones for many people are prestige, reputation and career.

Also maybe you'd want to have kids and treat them well, or treat your existing kids well.

Maybe you should also have a section for some major things you disagree with, some non-goals.


Dagny at 10:04 PM on September 13, 2019 | #13509 | reply | quote

#13509

> You don't talk about relationships. Friends, family, socializing, etc. Maybe you have goals for that?

> Other big ones for many people are prestige, reputation and career.

I guess I have some goals in those areas, but they aren't my most important goals. I would have to think hard before sacrificing one my most important goals for any of those things.

> Also maybe you'd want to have kids and treat them well, or treat your existing kids well.

Those aren't goals of mine.

> Maybe you should also have a section for some major things you disagree with, some non-goals.

Good suggestion. Some people have important goals relating to the following things, but I don't:

- God

- Having a good physique (for its own sake, beyond what's helpful for achieving a reasonably long expected life span)

- Not eating meat or animal products

- Eating a lot of delicious food (I expend energy on this, but I like to think I would give it up if it became necessary for my health)

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any important goals to disavow beyond those.


Alisa at 9:45 PM on September 14, 2019 | #13518 | reply | quote

#13509

> You don't talk about relationships.

Good point. One exception to my lifespan-related goal is that I might do something risky to save a loved one who is, say, trapped in a burning building or something. That should be a really unusual situation, though. I guess one way to mitigate the risk of something like that happening would be to try to arrange things such that my loved ones are rarely in dangerous circumstances.


Alisa at 6:04 AM on September 16, 2019 | #13523 | reply | quote

Pronouncing "Alisa"

On Sunday, September 15, 2019, AnneB wrote on the FI Discord:

> 2) I pronounce Alisa with a long 'i', like it does here: https://www.pronouncekiwi.com/Alisa%20Zinov%27yevna%20Rosenbaum

> I don't know how FI's Alisa pronounces it.

I have been pronouncing "Alisa" with a short "i" -- like "Alyssa" in Alyssa Milano's name. This pronunciation has contributed to me mis-spelling "Alisa" as "Alissa" on multiple occasions. Examples can be found on FI list and on curi.us.

From now on, I'll try to remember to pronounce "Alisa" with a long "i". The name "Lisa" is pronounced with a long "i", so I think that pronouncing "Alisa" with a long "i" will help me remember to spell "Alisa" correctly.


Alisa at 5:02 PM on September 17, 2019 | #13535 | reply | quote

Form of verb following "instead of"

https://curi.us/2218-social-rules :

> Social rules cause people to take offense instead of rationally analyze what was said.

To my ear, that use of "analyze" should be replaced by "analyzing". I don't know enough grammar to explain why that is.

In the sentence after the one above, a verb ending in "ing" ("evaluating") follows "instead of":

> Social rule following involves a way of evaluating statements as polite or rude, which people do before and often instead of evaluating whether the statement is true.

That sounds grammatically correct to me.

I thought the example below from https://www.englishgrammar.org/adverb-preposition/ was helpful:

> **Instead of** can be followed by an –ing form. Infinitives are not normally used.

>

> * I spent the whole day in bed **instead of going to work**. (NOT I spent the whole day in bed instead of to go to work.)


Alisa at 5:39 PM on September 17, 2019 | #13537 | reply | quote

#13537 My intuition disagrees with you. I think the infinitive "analyze" is used because the infinitive "to take" is used prior, as the point of comparison, so it should match that. It's better to have it more parallel.


curi at 7:14 PM on September 17, 2019 | #13539 | reply | quote

Alisa at 8:49 PM on September 17, 2019 | #13541 | reply | quote

> #13537 My intuition disagrees with you. I think the infinitive "analyze" is used because the infinitive "to take" is used prior, as the point of comparison, so it should match that. It's better to have it more parallel.

I wonder if the prepositional phrase "instead of X" affects the attempt at a parallel structure. If the sentence just used a conjunction, e.g. "Social rules cause people to take offense and get mad.", then you'd want a parallel infinitive situation.

But with the sentence in question, I also think it's better to use a gerund to serve as the object of the preposition: "instead of analyzing" ("rationally" is just a modifier).


Kate at 6:30 AM on September 18, 2019 | #13546 | reply | quote

"instead of" vs "rather than"

#13539

I see what you mean about parallelism. In light of that, I propose replacing "instead of" with "rather than". The result is:

> Social rules cause people to take offense rather than rationally analyze what was said.

That preserves the parallelism, while also sounding grammatically correct to my ear.

I did a web search and found multiple GMAT study pages claiming that "instead of" can govern only a noun, while "rather than" can govern a noun or a verb. One example is https://magoosh.com/gmat/2013/gmat-idioms-of-comparison/ , which says:

> [**Instead of**] is a compound preposition, and, as such, could only take a noun as its object. By contrast, **rather than** can act as either a preposition (taking a noun) or a subordinate conjunction (followed by a full clause). **Instead of** could only put nouns in parallel, but **rather than** can put nouns or verbs or entire actions in parallel.


Alisa at 7:34 AM on September 18, 2019 | #13548 | reply | quote

Postmortem for my almost-blank comment (#13541)

My comment #13541 was empty except for a link to the parent comment. Here's how that happened.

I created my comment by clicking "reply" on the comment to which I wanted to reply (the parent comment). That created a comment box containing only a link to the parent comment. The cursor was at the end of the link. Very soon after that, I tried to add a newline after the link to the parent comment. To do this, I pressed Tab and then, without waiting to see the effect, I pressed Enter, thinking it would add a newline. However, Tab changed the input focus to the "Post Comment" button and Enter effectively clicked the button.

Pressing Tab was a mistake. I don't remember exactly why I pressed it. It wouldn't have done anything useful for me. Maybe I thought it would take the cursor to the end of the line. However, in the comment box that results from clicking "reply", the cursor starts out at the end of the first line. So maybe I had hit the up arrow earlier for some reason. That would have moved the cursor to the beginning of the line.


Alisa at 7:56 AM on September 18, 2019 | #13549 | reply | quote

#13548 Ah, good research. I tentatively think you're right.


curi at 9:45 AM on September 18, 2019 | #13551 | reply | quote

I am a self-programming program

I am a self-programming program. I am responsible for all of my own programming. Everything that would conventionally be regarded as part of my unconscious mind was in fact put there–programmed–by me in the first place, including:

- the way I look at this screen and see text

- the way I hear sounds as speech

- the things I notice in a situation, such other cars while driving

- my emotions

- the way I speak and walk

I can re-program myself. Even my most habitual actions and my deepest emotions can be changed [1]. Not with code, like with a computer, but by *learning*.

A good program has a clean design. Everything works together, and every part makes sense. Maybe this is why Francisco could "always name the purpose of his every random moment".

I don't remember how I began. Maybe it wasn't until I got older that I programmed a memory system that was accessible with my current retrieval methods. I suppose, though, that I must have started out as a rather small self-programming program. Using my creativity, I began to program myself. And over time, I added the layers and layers of programming that make up the me of today.

[1] Elliot Temple wrote about how to change emotions in fallibleideas.com/emotions.


Alisa at 9:10 PM on September 24, 2019 | #13601 | reply | quote

#13601 This story leaves out how other people pressured you to program certain features.

Mostly, other people can't program you. But then can punish you unless you accomplish certain things they choose, pass certain tests, etc. Those threatened and actual punishments can motivate some programming (partly to please the threateners, partly to lie to and trick the threateners).

Also, to some extent, your culture (using some individuals) can program you. Programming you from the outside is very very very hard and complicated. But I think it can be done by highly evolved static meme knowledge.


Anonymous at 4:37 PM on September 28, 2019 | #13638 | reply | quote

#13638 I agree.


Alisa at 4:45 PM on September 28, 2019 | #13639 | reply | quote

Solzhenitsyn, sanction, and lying

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in *From Under The Rubble*:

> What does it mean, not to lie? [...] It simply means: *not saying what you don’t think*, and that includes not whispering, not opening your mouth, not raising your hand, not casting your vote, not feigning a smile, not lending your presence, not standing up, and not cheering.

This reminds me of (what I understand of) Ayn Rand's ideas about *sanction*. It is lying to indicate, by any means, that you agree with something with which you disagree.


Alisa at 12:50 PM on October 2, 2019 | #13697 | reply | quote

Remembering that adverbs can modify non-verbs

In English Language, Analysis & Grammar, Elliot Temple writes :

> There are two types of modifier. An adjective is a modifier for a noun, and an adverb is a modifier for anything else. [...]

> *Warning:* Despite having the word “verb” inside it, an “adverb” doesn’t only modify verbs. Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and more.

I found it hard to remember that adverbs can modify non-verbs. In search of a memory aid, I looked up the etymology of "adverb" in Webster's 1913:

> Ad"verb (?), n. [L. *adverbium*; *ad* + *verbum* word, verb...]

So, earlier in the evolution of the word "adverb", the string "verb" actually meant *word*!

Interestingly, the first **English** definition of "verb" in Webster's 1913 is also "word", though this definition is marked as obsolete.

> Verb (?), n. [... L. *verbum* a word, verb...]

> 1. A word; a vocable. [Obs.] South.

I hope that info will help me remember that adverbs can modify more than just verbs.


Alisa at 12:41 AM on October 13, 2019 | #13783 | reply | quote

Helping verbs

In English Language, Analysis & Grammar, Elliot Temple writes:

> *Detail:* Verbs can be modified by other verbs. Modifier verbs are called “helper” or “auxiliary” verbs, not adverbs. In “I will practice grammar.”, the verb “practice” is modified by the helper verb “will” which changes it from present tense to future tense.

There is a song that I call the "Jingle Bells Helping Verbs Song". It is a short song that lists 23 helping verbs, sung to the tune of *Jingle Bells*:

> Helping verbs, helping verbs,

> there are 23.

> Am, is, are, was and were,

> being, been, and be [hey]!

> Have, has, had, do, does, did,

> will, would, shall, and should.

> There are 5 more helping verbs:

> may, might, must, can, could!

In The Forgotten Helping Verbs, Neal Whitman discusses several different views on how many helping verbs there are. Whitman brings up "ought" and "having" as examples of helping verbs that aren't in the Jingle Bells Helping Verbs Song.

In Understanding the Parts of Speech, Edward Good argues that "had better" should also be regarded as a helping verb, for example:

> You'd better watch your step.

Good also argues that "better" alone can be a helping verb (though this usage seems informal to me), for example:

> You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not shout, I'm telling you why.


Alisa at 12:43 AM on October 13, 2019 | #13784 | reply | quote

Postmortem: incorrect quoting

#13784 The example sentence “You'd better watch your step.” was my own. It didn't come from Good, but I quoted it as if it had.

In an earlier draft, the example sentence was in quotation marks at the end of the sentence that introduces it. Even here, I should have added some text indicating that the quote was my own, not Good's.

I think I moved the example sentence to a separate block quote because I thought that made it stand out more clearly. If I had any ideas warning me that this kind of quoting could be confusing, I didn't give them enough importance.


Alisa at 1:28 AM on October 13, 2019 | #13785 | reply | quote

Updated Alisa's Paths Forward doc

I finally updated my Paths Forward doc. Here's a summary of the main diff:

- Moved reading list to a separate doc.

- Added a short section listing 4 specific mistakes I want to avoid, namely: false statements, unclear statements, non sequiturs, and formatting errors.

- Added a prioritized list of things I plan to learn. The list is, essentially: grammar first, then *Yes or No Philosophy*.

- Reviewed all the items to review with deadlines. I wasn't ready to tackle any of them. I plan to revisit them after I learn more about grammar and *Yes or No Philosophy*. I bumped the review date year on all but one of them from 2019 to 2021.


Alisa at 1:23 AM on October 14, 2019 | #13790 | reply | quote

#13363 I filed a sourcehut feature request to render .md files as Markdown.


Alisa at 4:17 PM on October 14, 2019 | #13794 | reply | quote

#13790 I updated my Paths Forward doc again. Here's a summary of the main diff:

- Added last-updated date

- Added note about checking for words that occur only once in a post


Alisa at 4:41 PM on November 3, 2019 | #14148 | reply | quote

Broken link

#13790 The "main diff" link in the parent post (from Oct 14, 2019) is broken.

The URL I had was:

https://hg.sr.ht/~petrogradphilosopher/fi/rev/3df43f09217cca12b64c456848a4bcb15f882f4cI

That ends in an "l", but the final "l" shouldn't be there. The URL should just be:

https://hg.sr.ht/~petrogradphilosopher/fi/rev/3df43f09217cca12b64c456848a4bcb15f882f4c

I didn't notice the mistake until now. Enough time has passed since I made it that I've forgotten what I was doing when I made it.


Alisa at 4:47 PM on November 3, 2019 | #14149 | reply | quote

I updated my PF doc again

#14148 I updated my Paths Forward doc again. Here's a summary of the diff:

- Added info about the length in days of my daily FI posting streak.

- Added note about logging the URL of at least one of my daily FI posts.

- Added info about my FI posting screencasts.


Alisa at 3:09 PM on December 1, 2019 | #14639 | reply | quote

Disagreeing with Ram Dass

On HN, someone quoted Ram Dass:

> "When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

> The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are."

I replied:

> It’s correct to regard trees, but not people, as products of their environment. Trees don’t make choices. People do.


Alisa at 7:38 PM on December 23, 2019 | #14938 | reply | quote

Programming problem: find the two integers in a list that occur an odd number of times

Here's a programming problem I read about. I wasn't able to solve it on my own.

Say you have an array of nonnegative integers in which all but two of the numbers occur an even number of times in the array. The problem is to write an algorithm that finds, in linear time and constant extra space, the two numbers that occur an odd number of times in the array.

Example: [1,9,3,1,9,9,5,5,5,9] would be a valid input array: 1 occurs twice, 9 occurs 4 times, 3 occurs once, and 5 occurs 3 times. The algorithm's output should be 3 and 5, because they are the two numbers that occur an odd number of times.

Solution (my code, based on a solution I read about): https://play.golang.org/p/wmqVhnjQ%2dvq


Alisa at 10:19 PM on December 25, 2019 | #14950 | reply | quote

#14950 Haven't checked your solution yet but I think I solved it. I randomly generated a bunch of array inputs to test it.

I assumed there's a max integer. I wasn't sure if I was allowed to destructively modify the array but my solution didn't do that anyway.

https://pastebin.com/uzbEkD0r

And with bad formatting just in case pastebin dies one day:

def f(a)

answer_xored = 0

lower_xors = 0

a.each do |e|

answer_xored = answer_xored ^ e

end

a.each do |e|

solution_pairing = e ^ answer_xored

lower_num = [e, solution_pairing].min

if e == lower_num

lower_xors = lower_xors ^ e

end

end

return [lower_xors, lower_xors ^ answer_xored]

end


curi at 1:03 AM on December 26, 2019 | #14951 | reply | quote

#14950 Read your solution description. Mine is similar but a bit simpler and more elegant because I use lower numbers from a pair instead of screwing around based on the first set bit. Also you don't need to iterate through the array a third time to find the second number. Just xor the first number in the solution with the number you got earlier when xoring everything in the array together.


curi at 1:07 AM on December 26, 2019 | #14952 | reply | quote

Nice! Your solution is significantly simpler than mine. Here's how I think your solution works:

First, you XOR everything together (this part is the same as the solution I read). You call the result of that *answer_xored*.

Next, you observe that XORing either of the two solutions with *answer_xored* will yield the other solution. Using this idea, you iterate over each number in the array and ask, is this potentially the lesser of the two solutions? If so, XOR it together with the other numbers that would give the same answer. Here's my version of this loop (using dots for indentation):

a.each do |e|

··if e <= e^answer_xored

····lower_xors ^= e

··end

end

By the end of that loop, all the non-solutions included in *lower_xors* have cancelled each other out, and the greater of the two solutions was never included in *lower_xors*, so *lower_xors* contains the lesser of the two solutions.

The way that loop works, you kind of don't have to think about the non-solutions, since they cancel each other out. Even though the loop iterates over the entire array, it's sort of as if you were iterating only over the two solutions.

Finally, you use the observation from the third paragraph above to get the greater of the two solutions by XORing *lower_xors* and *answer_xored*. Really neat.


Alisa at 11:48 PM on December 27, 2019 | #14964 | reply | quote

#14964 I agree with your summary.


curi at 12:45 AM on December 28, 2019 | #14965 | reply | quote

I updated my paths forward doc

I updated my paths forward doc. To summarize:

- my daily posting streak is now 82 days,

- I enhanced my FI post checker to check for line break errors, and

- I listed how far along I am (e.g., current chapter/section) on the philosophy materials I'm studying.


Alisa at 11:43 PM on January 2, 2020 | #15015 | reply | quote

Hiding ideas from criticism

If you don't share your ideas in public and reply to people's comments, it's a sign that your ideas suck -- kind of like the left-wing news sites that turn off their comment sections.


Alisa at 8:35 PM on January 29, 2020 | #15301 | reply | quote

Some partially-formed thoughts on good & evil

[The ideas below aren't as connected to the rest of what I know as most other things I write, so I wouldn't be too surprised if they are mistaken. However, I would still be interested in post-morteming any mistakes people point out.]

The moral is the effective, the potent. Therefore, evil, the immoral, is ineffective, impotent. An evil person can bumble around and cause destruction, but they won’t be especially effective at it. It’s like the knowledge possessed by static memes. Evil can do damage, but it’s not the kind of damage that can be achieved with effective thought. In the fight between good against evil, good has an advantage, but the good has to be actively chosen, unlike evil, which is the default. Therefore, if you aren’t actively choosing the good, you are evil, or, at the very least, immoral.


Alisa at 9:25 PM on February 19, 2020 | #15544 | reply | quote

#15544 This reads to me like a bunch of assertions without enough explanations/reasoning. Some statements of what you mean by some of the terms could help too.


curi at 11:37 AM on February 20, 2020 | #15555 | reply | quote

Paul Graham: How to Write Usefully

Paul Graham published an essay called How to Write Usefully (Feb, 2020). Below are some excerpts I agreed with. I emphasized in *italics* some points I found especially interesting.

> Telling people something they didn't know doesn't always mean surprising them. Sometimes it means telling them something they knew unconsciously but had never put into words.

> When you tell people something they didn't know, they don't always thank you for it. Sometimes the reason people don't know something is because they don't want to know it. Usually because it contradicts some cherished belief.

> The strength component just makes things worse. If there's anything that annoys people more than having their cherished assumptions contradicted, it's having them flatly contradicted.

> [...]

> And if your writing is as simple as possible, that just makes things worse. *Brevity is the diction of command.* If you watch someone delivering unwelcome news from a position of inferiority, you'll notice they tend to use lots of words, to soften the blow. Whereas to be short with someone is more or less to be rude to them.

"Brevity is the diction of command" has ties to Chase Amante's Law of Least Effort.

> *If you've stated an idea as strongly as you could without making it false, all anyone has to do is to exaggerate slightly what you said, and now it is false.*

> ... people who disagree with you rarely disagree with what you've actually written. Instead they make up something you said and disagree with that.

> *For what it's worth, the countermove is to ask someone who does this to quote a specific sentence or passage you wrote that they believe is false, and explain why. I say "for what it's worth" because they never do*.

> I don't think you should explicitly forestall intentional misinterpretations in the body of an essay. An essay is a place to meet honest readers. You don't want to spoil your house by putting bars on the windows to protect against dishonest ones. The place to protect against intentional misinterpretations is in end-notes. But don't think you can predict them all. *People are as ingenious at misrepresenting you when you say something they don't want to hear as they are at coming up with rationalizations for things they want to do but know they shouldn't. I suspect it's the same skill.*

Evasion?


Anonymous at 9:38 PM on February 21, 2020 | #15583 | reply | quote

#15583 was by me.


Alisa at 9:39 PM on February 21, 2020 | #15584 | reply | quote

Minor updates to my PF doc

#15015 I made some minor updates to my paths forward doc. To summarize:

- my daily posting streak is now 133 days

- I'm now on Part 4 of Elliot's FI grammar essay

- I'm now on YESNO part 17 - "Check Your Understanding"


Alisa at 5:52 PM on February 22, 2020 | #15592 | reply | quote

Mar 2020 PF doc updates

#15592 A few more minor updates to my paths forward doc:

- My daily posting streak is now 144 days.

- I finished reading Elliot's FI grammar essay, and I'm working on the exercises for part 4.

- I'm now on YESNO part 17 - "Check Your Understanding", question 4.


Alisa at 9:34 PM on March 7, 2020 | #15806 | reply | quote

How I've been studying YESNO

On 2020-04-21, on the #fi discord, @nikluk asked me:

> what new have you learned [from YESNO] so far?

I'm starting to acquire a rudimentary understanding of the material. I've posted to FI list my answers to 8 of the 16 YESNO Check Your Understanding questions, and I haven't gotten any feedback to those posts saying that I'm way off base.

> What kind of approach to it worked best for you?

Mainly: taking notes, reviewing my notes, and posting my thoughts for criticism.

When reading/watching YESNO material, I took a note whenever I learned something interesting (along with the video timestamp if applicable). That resulted in well over 100 notes. I review my notes periodically.

I've also posted about YESNO to curi.us or FI list around 25 times since I started trying seriously to learn it in late 2019. Some of those posts have led to helpful corrections from Elliot (e.g., http://curi.us/comments/show/14869 ).


Alisa at 2:31 PM on April 21, 2020 | #16413 | reply | quote

I read your paths forward policy today:

Alisa's paths forward policy

> By "FI post" I mean an FI list message or a curi.us blog comment. I plan to post often enough to get enough feedback to keep making progress. *My goal is at least 50 posts per month.*

(My emphasis added.)

This seemed pretty high to me. Are you reaching this goal on a continuous basis?


nikluk at 9:21 AM on April 23, 2020 | #16421 | reply | quote

FI posting goal

#16421 In August 2019, I moved my paths forward document to another site (see #13363). When I did that, I should have updated the old document to say that it had moved. I have now done that. (You can still see the version you read in the revision history).

Here's my current posting goal:

> ## Post to FI every day

>

> My goal is to post at least once per day, except when I'm taking a break. I may take up to two breaks per year, each of which could last for up to two weeks. Starting 2019-12-01, I will log (in my records) the URL of at least one of the FI posts I make each day.

>

> As of 2020-02-22, I've been posting at least once per day for 144 days.

I haven't updated the document yet for April, but I haven't broken my daily posting streak.


Alisa at 3:16 PM on April 23, 2020 | #16427 | reply | quote

#16421 A way to start writing is tweets. Write one tweet per day. 280 characters max. You need to get used to writing and build up to it.

The number one goal you should have for your tweet is not being wrong[1]. You could also post tweet-sized stuff here, on your blog, etc.

[1] Either wrong about anything at all or about important stuff. It's your choice of goal, but choose in advance and communicate it to critics. if you choose important stuff you'll have to give some criteria for what that means. an example of reasonable criteria would be "all errors are important except typos that aren't confusing". you could similarly choose to exclude a few other types of minor errors that you specifically list. broader exclusions that identify more things as unimportant are kinda hard. it's hard to make them clear/specific and also hard to avoid any important errors being labelled unimportant.


curi at 3:24 PM on April 23, 2020 | #16428 | reply | quote

List of Alisa's postmortems

I updated my paths forward document today. I added a list of my postmortems along with the lessons learned from each:

- Postmortem: missed videos to download (2019-05-02). Lessons: write down goals; treat everyone and everything (including myself!) as a buggy program unless they have demonstrated otherwise; don't ignore my intuition; write about my current level of organization/brainstorm ways to improve.

- Postmortem: incorrect quoting (2019-09-18). Lessons: N/A.

- Postmortem: missing footnote label (2019-09-25). Lessons: add footnote label check to my post checker; take breaks between re-reading posts before sending.

- Postmortem: typo: misspelled domain name (2019-10-03). Lessons: add unique word check to my post checker.

- Postmortem: almost-blank comment (#13541) (2019-10-13). Lessons: N/A.

- Postmortem: missing/incorrect quote attribution (2019-10-30). Lessons: Always add the quote attribution (e.g., "Somebody wrote" or "Somebody continues:") *before* pasting any quote.

- Postmortem: incorrect quoting (2019-11-14). Lessons: check for quote attributions when trimming extra text; make screencasts when I write posts.

- Postmortem: inconsistent bullet point punctuation (2020-01-12). Lessons: add bullet point punctuation check to my post checker.

- Postmortem: not trying to understand the entire sentence (2020-01-19). Lessons: Whenever I post about not understanding something, include a grammatical analysis of the key sentence(s) I didn't understand.

- Postmortem: incorrect spelling/capitalization of proper nouns (2020-02-26). Lessons: use post checker on curi.us comments (not just FI list posts); treat proper nouns like strings of Chinese characters.

- Postmortem: typo in abbreviation (2020-04-06). Lessons: post checker should run *automatically* before I mail a post.

- Postmortem: typo in post title (2020-04-20). Lessons: I need to see everything that I paste.


Alisa at 5:28 PM on April 24, 2020 | #16434 | reply | quote

2020-05-03 #off-topic FI Discord:

[1:26 AM] Alisa: “Some devastating examples of Chads with Incel brothers” http://autoadmit.com/thread.php?thread_id=4525505&mc=3&forum_id=2

What is your opinion of this and why did you share it?


Anonymous at 1:00 PM on May 5, 2020 | #16485 | reply | quote

Some devastating examples of Chads with Incel brothers

#16485 In our culture, famous men attract women more easily than non-famous men. The bodies of the "Chad" brothers (two basketball players and an actor) played an important role in their fame. I shared the post because, in view of the foregoing, I thought it was notable how different the bodies of the "Chad[s]" were from their "Incel" brothers. I think siblings are usually more similar than that. 


Alisa at 10:58 PM on May 8, 2020 | #16495 | reply | quote

#16495 If the point was about genetics, why didn't you say so? And surely there are better examples of genetic differences between siblings.

The labelling in terms of chad and incel wasn't about genetics. So not only did you say nothing about your point, you also said things to communicate a different point?

You also haven't said much about your opinion of the matter, as asked. Surely you have opinions about concepts like chad and incel, or you wouldn't have posted about them?


Anonymous at 11:14 PM on May 8, 2020 | #16496 | reply | quote

More on "Chads with Incel brothers"

#16496 :

> If the point was about genetics, why didn't you say so?

My point wasn't "about genetics". I didn't say, and I don't know enough to say, what differences between the bodies are genetically determined.

Here are some guesses, though: Height was a prominent difference, and height can be affected (to an extent) by diet and drugs as well as by genes. Unless plastic surgery was involved, I think the bone structure of the faces of Ashton Kutcher and his brother were genetically determined.

I'll answer a related question: "Why didn't you say the point of your link?" Because, when I shared it, I didn't have a point in mind beyond, *this seems interesting*. I hadn't verbalized my reason(s) when I shared the link without comment. That is one reason I posted it to #off-topic instead of somewhere else.

> The labelling in terms of chad and incel wasn't about genetics.

Agreed.

> So not only did you say nothing about your point,

By "your point", I guess you mean something "about genetics", which you referred to earlier. But genetics was not a major part of why I found the link interesting. (Note: You commented about my "point" and I answered about why I found the link interesting. However, I'm not sure whether my reason(s) for finding the link interesting constitute a "point".)

When you refer to "say nothing about your point", I think you mean that what I wrote in #16495 didn't say anything about genetics AND that my point was about genetics. The first part is true, but not the second. Also, #16495 did say some stuff about why I think I shared the link.

> you also said things to communicate a different point?

If (1) the other ideas I communicated constitute a "point" and if (2) "a different point" means something other than a point "about genetics", then yes: the other ideas I communicated had to do with why I found the link interesting enough to share.

> You also haven't said much about your opinion of the matter, as asked.

I'm unclear about what you mean by "the matter". If you mean something about genetics, the question that prompted #16495 was in #16485, and it didn't mention genetics. It asked:

> What is your opinion of this and why did you share it?

My response in #16495 included, as asked, some thoughts about the link I shared as well as why I shared it.

> Surely you have opinions about concepts like chad and incel, or you wouldn't have posted about them?

By "posted about them", do you mean sharing the original link that used the words "Chad" and "Incel" in the title, or what I wrote in #16495? If the former, I wasn't concerned with those words in particular. If the latter, I wrote about them in response to a question about why I shared the link.

Here are my thoughts on the term "chad" and "incel". I didn't do any research for this, so this is roughly what I thought about those terms at the time I shared the link:

I think "chad" roughly means what pick-up artists (PUAs) would call a *good-looking natural*. It means a man who seems to attract women easily, at least in part because of his looks. To the extent that the "chad"'s personality helps him attract women, it's thought that his personality developed because of his looks and his early interactions with women, so it's thought that the "chad" didn't have to consciously practice attracting women. As usually used, the term has a positive connotation, as if it's good to be a "chad", even aside from the fact that the "chad" is presumably doing better than a lot of guys at achieving his own goals about his interactions with women.

I think "incel" is short for "involuntary celibate". I think it generally refers to a man who would like to have romantic or (non-explicitly-paid-for) sexual interactions with women, but is unable to achieve this goal. I don't know where the term comes from. It isn't a PUA term AFAIK. PUA has the term "AFC", which is short for *average frustrated chump*, but an "incel" would be someone who is at an even worse disadvantage when it comes to women than an AFC. I think the term usually has a negative connotation, as if an "incel" is a bad thing to be, even aside from the fact that the "incel" is not achieving his own goals.


Alisa at 1:10 PM on May 9, 2020 | #16497 | reply | quote

You think it's notable and post-worthy if two siblings have non-genetic bodily differences, e.g. b/c one goes to the gym a ton and the other doesn't plus overeats? Or because one is an amputee? Or many other scenarios?

A significant amount of the visible difference in the pictures was genetic and you were talking about bodies instead of stuff like social signaling (which was also highly visible, and are what the title was mostly talking about, and therefore what the people you shared the link with would reasonably think you were sharing).

I was trying to be charitable by taking the ambiguous statements about bodies and siblings as being related to genetics. Similar to how I tried to be charitable by not replying by pointing out that different-gender and different-age siblings have bodily differences.


Anonymous at 1:18 PM on May 9, 2020 | #16498 | reply | quote

#16495

Alisa said:

> I shared the post because, in view of the foregoing, I thought it was notable how different the bodies of the "Chad[s]" were from their "Incel" brothers. I think siblings are usually more similar than that.

#16497

Alisa said:

> I'll answer a related question: "Why didn't you say the point of your link?" Because, when I shared it, I didn't have a point in mind beyond, *this seems interesting*. I hadn't verbalized my reason(s) when I shared the link without comment. That is one reason I posted it to #off-topic instead of somewhere else.

I think these contradict.


Anonymous at 3:35 PM on May 9, 2020 | #16501 | reply | quote

You're right, they do contradict. Here's what I think happened: #16495 was an attempt to verbalize, after the fact, what prompted me to share the link in the first place; however, #16495 just shared the results of that verbalization as if I had had those ideas in mind all along. In #16497, I explained (contrary to #16495) that I didn't have an explicit (or readily-verbalized) reason for sharing the link, beyond *this is interesting*.

I could have avoided the contradiction by starting with what I said in #16497. I could then have continued with the info in #16495, as long as I made it clear what I was doing.


Alisa at 3:56 PM on May 9, 2020 | #16502 | reply | quote

#16498:

> You think it's notable and post-worthy if two siblings have non-genetic bodily differences, e.g. b/c one goes to the gym a ton and the other doesn't plus overeats? Or because one is an amputee? Or many other scenarios?

Yes, I guess I do.

> I was trying to be charitable by taking the ambiguous statements about bodies and siblings as being related to genetics.

Regarding bodies, I wrote:

>> The bodies of the "Chad" brothers (two basketball players and an actor) played an important role in their fame.

Regarding siblings, I wrote:

>> I think siblings are usually more similar than that.

I don't understand the issue of ambiguity clearly. One thing I can say is that, in both cases, I was trying to avoid false statements. However, maybe the result was unclear, which is also something I try to avoid. If ambiguity is worth focusing on separately from unclear-ness, I would be open to trying to better understand it (and perhaps adding it to my list of things to avoid).

> Similar to how I tried to be charitable by not replying by pointing out that different-gender and different-age siblings have bodily differences.

Good points. I don't think I would have posted if the body differences were just due to the brothers being different ages. I guess because differences due to age are not that unusual.

I thought of different-gender siblings on my own after I posted, but I decided against posting a clarifying follow-up.


Alisa at 4:18 PM on May 9, 2020 | #16503 | reply | quote

Just to note, I wrote #16501, but not the other messages.

#16502:

> I could have avoided the contradiction by starting with what I said in #16497. I could then have continued with the info in #16495, as long as I made it clear what I was doing.

yes, that would have avoided the contradiction. it also would have done a better job of answering the question, which was "why did you share it?". Instead of saying your honest answer about why you shared it, you speculated about it. The reasons you gave weren't things you explicitly thought at the time you shared it. They are things you came up with after the fact.

In #16503, you say:

> One thing I can say is that, in both cases, I was trying to avoid false statements.

That is an issue. Those statements were meant to be the reason why you shared the picture. But instead of just honestly introspecting and trying to come up with the real reasons you shared it, you tried to say things that *weren't false*. The goal of saying things that aren't false (or that make sense, don't contradict, follow your values, etc) can get in the way of honestly figuring out what your thoughts are and what the reasons for your actions are.

If the reasons you shared it were actually bad reasons, then trying to avoid false statements or contradictions could stop you from actually figuring out & articulating your reasons. You could be self-censoring them before even becoming aware of them.


qqbb at 8:08 PM on May 9, 2020 | #16504 | reply | quote

Talking about things as I'm thinking them through.

Ingracke suggested that I learn to talk about things as I'm thinking them through, i.e., before my thoughts have reached a point where I would normally be satisfied enough to share them in a post. I think the idea here is that this will help me learn to think more effectively.

I don't understand Ingracke's suggestion well yet. Understanding it is a work-in-progress for me. This message is my very first attempt to follow it.


Alisa at 8:24 PM on May 11, 2020 | #16513 | reply | quote

#16513 Thinking out loud is something I'm especially good at and have been for a long time.


curi at 8:37 PM on May 11, 2020 | #16514 | reply | quote

#16514 Do you know of any existing material on this topic that you think might be helpful for me?


Alisa at 8:51 PM on May 11, 2020 | #16515 | reply | quote

curi at 8:56 PM on May 11, 2020 | #16516 | reply | quote

#16516 Timestamp unintended.


curi at 8:56 PM on May 11, 2020 | #16517 | reply | quote

Alisa, you shared a link mocking "incels". The reason people like it, and say such things, is they are mean to those they view as lower social status. It's part of the very common activity of looking down on others in social status terms.

The contrast with brothers highlights and intensifies the perceived low social status. It's like putting a short person next to a tall person then pointing and laughing. Which is actually rather literally part of what's going on here.

Do you know that that's the standard reason other people find it notable, react to it, share it, etc? That is the thing about it which stands out in our culture.

Presumably if you knew, and thought you weren't part of it, you would have disowned it because you'd expect people to misunderstand otherwise.

If you did not know explicitly, you had no business re-sharing something when you can't state in words why people share it and what it means to the standard audience.

That doesn't mean you should simply suppress sharing. If you want to share something while having no rational business doing so, you have a conflict and there's an important problem there. Such things should be dealt with.

Presumably the reason you wanted to share it is the same reason other people share it: you like to enforce social conformity and look down on people you view as low status. When you don't consciously understand yourself, normally you're normal, for stuff where it's normal to lack conscious understanding. The standard pattern is to do this stuff without clearly thinking about why or what it means. People don't put it into words like "I am an enforcer of social conformity who attacks failed conformists and nonconformists, and who thinks people higher in the status hierarchy[1] have earned the right to be mean to people lower in the status hierarchy[1]."

[1] Talking about status generally *or* it can just be in some aspect or subculture, like appearance.


curi at 12:36 PM on May 13, 2020 | #16523 | reply | quote

#16523

> you had no business re-sharing something when you can't state in words why people share it and what it means to the standard audience.

That sounds like a wise policy. It would help prevent anyone who follows it from being part of the replication cycle of certain nasty social memes. I haven't come up with any downsides for it. I intend to add it to the list (in my learning plan) of the types of errors for which I will write postmortems.


Alisa at 9:19 PM on May 15, 2020 | #16541 | reply | quote

> I haven't come up with any downsides for it.

Then you haven't really tried to.


curi at 11:21 AM on May 22, 2020 | #16565 | reply | quote

I moved the learning plan info from my paths forward doc into its own doc. I also made a few small updates, which can be seen in the revision history. Here are links to each doc:

- learning plan

- paths forward doc


Alisa at 10:45 PM on May 22, 2020 | #16569 | reply | quote

#16565

That could be. I have added to my learning plan an item about not re-sharing stuff unless I can explain what it means to a standard audience. I intend to write postmortems for incidents when I fail to follow that policy. Also, if I discover any downsides to the policy, I intend to share them.


Alisa at 10:48 PM on May 22, 2020 | #16570 | reply | quote

Thinking out loud

#16513 People who are solving a programming problem in a job interview will sometimes think out loud. They explain their thought processes as they try to solve the problem.

I can imagine a mathematician thinking out loud too: Maybe he says what kinds of things he's thinking about and where he's stuck as he tries to solve some math problem.

Or consider a mechanic. He might think out loud as he diagnoses what's wrong with your car or tries to decide how to fix a problem he already diagnosed.

I think I associate being good at thinking out loud with being good at solving particular kinds of problems. But maybe it's possible to be good at *thinking in general*, in which case one could think out loud about anything without much trouble.


Alisa at 11:34 PM on May 23, 2020 | #16571 | reply | quote

#16516

I started making a transcript of this using otter. Here are the first ~20 minutes or so: https://pastebin.com/nLkuiwWV

There's a *lot* of thinking out loud here. Elliot brainstorms items for a TOC-style current reality tree, starts coming up with categories for the items, organizes the items under the appropriate category, makes new categories as needed, and deals with computer glitches, both with the program he's using to make the current reality tree and with a bot posting to Discord two different links to his stream (only one of which was correct).


Alisa at 5:51 PM on May 26, 2020 | #16580 | reply | quote

Roof Koreans meme

#16570

I've seen tweets referencing the Roof Koreans meme in the context of the recent rioting in Minneapolis. I'm going to analyze what I think the meme means to a standard audience.

I think a many people in a standard audience would not know the meaning of the Roof Koreans meme. I think the ones who do would take it to be a positive reference to the Koreans that defended their shops with firearms from the roofs during the 1992 LA riots.

I think the meme conveys:

- a positive sentiment towards the "Roof Koreans"

- a pro-second-amendment sentiment

- a pro-self-reliance sentiment

I'm aware of two criticisms of re-sharing internet memes in general: they're not especially truth-seeking and they're not a form of communication that rational people would be especially good at creating. Aside from those issues, I don't think the Roof Koreans meme is a particularly harmful thing to reshare.


Alisa at 7:40 PM on May 28, 2020 | #16584 | reply | quote

Correction

#16584 Typo: "think a many" should be "think many". This slipped through TTS.


Alisa at 7:41 PM on May 28, 2020 | #16585 | reply | quote

#16584 Another thing it communicates is that judging groups of people by race is normal, reasonable, etc.


curi at 8:31 PM on May 28, 2020 | #16586 | reply | quote

#16586 Is Korean a racial description rather than a cultural description?


oh my god it's turpentine at 11:28 PM on May 28, 2020 | #16587 | reply | quote

#16587 When referring to people I think that's a standard meaning. It's at best ambiguous and feeds into viewing people by race.


curi at 11:33 PM on May 28, 2020 | #16588 | reply | quote

#16586

> Another thing it communicates is that judging groups of people by race is normal, reasonable, etc.

Good point, thanks. The name alone — "roof Koreans" — communicates the idea you mentioned even to people who don't know what the meme means, which I think would be the majority of the people who see it. Not good.


Alisa at 10:56 PM on May 29, 2020 | #16590 | reply | quote

https://twitter.com/FrankHassleYT/status/1267156524453048320

People are excited for Koreans to be in enough danger to sit on rooftops with guns. This is an *awful* attitude. Nasty fucking meme.


curi at 12:40 PM on May 31, 2020 | #16594 | reply | quote

Deciding where to live

I want to decide where to live. This is an actual problem that I care about.

I plan to produce a YESNO decision chart for this decision. Making that chart will be a project. Below are my thoughts about planning for this project.

Completing the decision chart will involve coming up with a list of criteria for what is an acceptable place to live, coming up with a list of candidate places to live, and evaluating each place in terms of whether it meets each criterion.

The main resource this project will require is my time+attention. I guess that in a few hours, I could figure out whether a candidate place meets all of my criteria, since I can stop evaluating a place once I learn that it doesn't meet one of them.

The project doesn't seem risky. If I stop before finishing, I will still have learned something about where I want to live, about project planning, or about how to make decision charts.

As an alternative to doing this project on my own, I could hire someone to help me. That person could help me figure out what my criteria should be, propose places to live, and help me figure out (or figure out for me) if they meet my criteria.


Alisa at 9:55 PM on June 5, 2020 | #16616 | reply | quote

At Ingracke's suggestion, I updated my learning plan to include posting about grammar at least 3 days per week. This should help me make steady progress on my goal of finishing the exercises in https://fallibleideas.com/grammar .


Alisa at 7:35 PM on June 8, 2020 | #16645 | reply | quote

Postmortem: incomplete comment

I was composing #16741 in the curi.us comment box, and I clicked Post Message before I had finished typing my message.

I'm not sure how that happened, but the problem here is similar to the problem I wrote a postmortem about in #13549. Maybe, before I pressed Enter, I accidentally pressed Tab or Option+Tab which put the input focus on the Post Message button.

This kind of error could be prevented by composing my comments in a separate editor window.


Alisa at 3:18 PM on June 19, 2020 | #16743 | reply | quote

Learning plan update: more time on FI + freewriting

At Ingracke's suggestion, I intend to

- increase the amount of time I spend on FI each week (currently I guess that I spend 30-60 minutes per day on FI)

- add free-writing to some of my FI sessions and see if it helps

I added the text below to my learning plan:

## Spend enough time on FI

I intend to spend 2 hours per day on FI three days per week. On each of the 4 other days, I intend to spend only 30-60 minutes on FI. I will track how much time I spend on FI so I can see how I'm doing at this.

## Practice free-writing

For each of my 2-hour FI days, with 50% probability, I will start off by free-writing for 15 minutes. At the end of the 2 hours, whether I started with free-writing or not, I will evaluate and record how the 2 hours went. I will periodically review these records to see if I can come up with any theories about whether free-writing helps my FI learning sessions.


Alisa at 7:43 PM on July 6, 2020 | #16852 | reply | quote

#16852 I overestimated how quickly I would switch to spending 2+ hours per day on FI for 3 days per week. It's been over a week since I stated that as my goal in #16852, and so far, I've only had one 2-hour FI day. What's more, on my 2-hour day, I didn't even realize in advance that I would go for 2 hours. I just got caught up in FI stuff and when I was done, I realized I was pretty close to 2 hours, so I decided to do a bit more to make it 2 hours.

For now, I've updated my goal in my learning plan to be one 2-hour FI day per week


Alisa at 5:41 PM on July 14, 2020 | #16889 | reply | quote

More clause vs phrase quizzes

I now consider a clause to be some text which I can analyze with steps 1-4 of Elliot's English Language, Analysis & Grammar essay.

I did 4 clause vs phrase quizzes today. (One of them I also did a few days ago.) I got 100% on all of them. The last quiz had 28 questions and it took me less than 2 seconds per question, including the mouse movements to select the answer and click 'submit' for each question. I'm going to call my phrase-vs-clause knowledge good enough for now.

The following are still a bit slower for me to categorize:

- texts that use words like "who" and "which" as subjects (for example, "who have got the flu" is a clause)

- texts that use present participles (for example, "the baby crying" is a phrase)

https://www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/en/quiz/jeu-quiz-clauses-and-phrases-1-eng 100%: 8 out of 8 correct

https://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/quizshow.php?title=clause-vs-phrase&q=20 100%: 20 out of 20 correct

https://www.softschools.com/quizzes/grammar/phrase_or_clause/quiz2825.html 100%: 15 out of 15 correct (I took this quiz a few days ago)

https://ca.ixl.com/ela/grade-7/is-it-a-phrase-or-a-clause 100%: 28 out of 28 correct in 2 minutes 34 seconds, which is less than 2 seconds per question


Alisa at 9:12 PM on August 7, 2020 | #16997 | reply | quote

> 28 out of 28 correct in 2 minutes 34 seconds, which is less than 2 seconds per question

double check your math


Anonymous at 10:34 PM on August 7, 2020 | #16998 | reply | quote

#16998 I double-checked my math, and I realized that it actually took me 5.5 seconds per question.

Here's how I think I got the wrong answer ("less than 2 seconds"). I wanted to get the total number of seconds spent and then divide by 28. I calculated the total number of seconds as 2 * 60 + 34 = 120 + 34 = 154, but I mistakenly dropped the leading 1 before dividing by 28. This yielded 54/28, which is approximately 1.92. At this point, I didn't try to use number sense or do any checks like multiplying 2 * 28 to see if I had anything like the right answer.

For now, I added the following to my learning plan:

> ## Math errors

> I intend to sanity-check every math calculation in my posts. One way to do this would be to run the calculation in Wolfram Alpha or some other calculator.


Alisa at 7:58 PM on August 14, 2020 | #17410 | reply | quote

Freewriting

I tried freewriting for a few minutes today. Everything below the line is what I freewrote. I only did a bit of editing while I was writing some sentences. I didn't go back afterwards and edit anything.

----------------

Free writing is writing down everything you think. It's kind of like talking to yourself, except you type. You type as fast as you can think. I can type pretty fast. Maybe I should record myself talking to myself instead of typing. Then I could get more info out faster. Because I can talk faster than I can type. But I'll try typing for now.

I just realized I forgot to mark the time when I started. It's :40. Not putting in the hour for privacy reasons. Ok.

So what do I want to freewrite about. I did a lot of work today. Barely checked Twitter or anything else. Am working on a neat project that I don't want to say too much about here, because I am planning on sharing these notes to show what my freewriting looks like.

So far I think my freewriting results will look kinda boring. What if I put a clown in there? Maybe a crazy clown makes it more interesting. Or a sunset would make it beautiful. Hard to put a sunset in text. I could do it with colored text, maybe. There's code to change an image into colored text, I bet.

I haven't been doing as much philosophy as I ultimately would like to do. I have been pretty busy with other stuff. curi says "busy" is kind of an excuse. It would be better to expose my priorities to criticism. Well, "better" isn't maybe the way to put it. There would be certain advantages to sharing my scheduling priorities.

I also haven't been doing my flashcards lately. I made some flashcards to help me remember things that I want to remember. I would like to get that started again too. I will have some time off work coming up. Maybe I can start them again at that point.

I was also doing a bit of weight lifting. I think a little bit of weight lifting is good for staying healthy and for looking good. Looking good has certain advantages. The time spent on weight lifting and other activities to look good as well as caring about what other people think of you which often goes along with trying to look good are disadvantages. Some of the advantages are that it's easier to get new romantic partners when you look good and existing romantic partners tend to be... happier with you... uh, not exactly that... they respond better to your advances? There's maybe something there, though whether that's because you have more confidence or because you look better isn't entirely clear to me. Maybe it's a mix of both.

Ok, it's now :46, so I've free-written for 6 minutes. The end.


Alisa at 7:49 PM on September 23, 2020 | #18116 | reply | quote

List of messages I intend to reply to

My learning plan has a list of older threads to which I have not replied and a list of dates by which I plan to revisit them. I added a list of more recent messages to which I also intend to reply but haven't yet:

- curi's reply to my partially-formed thoughts on good & evil: I posted my partially-formed thoughts on 2020-02-19. On 2020-02-20, curi replied stating that my message read like a bunch of assertions. He also suggested that I explain what some of my terms mean.

- Unwelcome Tenant short story: I posted this on 2019-12-31. I meant to reply with some of my comments on it.

- Discussion w/anon of whether a used bookseller's comment "rekt" Amazon: On 2020-05-25, anon asked me what my goal in the conversation was.

- Discussion w/curi about the space of ideas being initially sparse: On 2020-04-18, curi replied to me.

- Discussion about why I shared a meme mocking "incels": On 2020-05-09, qqbb replied to me with some comments about honest introspection and how attempting to avoid false statements could interfere with my attempts at honest introspection.

- YESNO check your understanding question: "What's wrong with arguments having an amount of strength?": On 2020-06-20, curi replied to me with some criticisms of my answer to this question.


Alisa at 5:46 PM on September 24, 2020 | #18122 | reply | quote

#16504 qqbb wrote to me:

> Instead of saying your honest answer about why you shared it, you speculated about it. The reasons you gave weren't things you explicitly thought at the time you shared it. They are things you came up with after the fact.

Makes sense. After-the-fact speculation should be identified as such rather than being passed off as something more reliable.

> In #16503, you say:

>> One thing I can say is that, in both cases, I was trying to avoid false statements.

> That is an issue. Those statements were meant to be the reason why you shared the picture. But instead of just honestly introspecting and trying to come up with the real reasons you shared it, you tried to say things that *weren't false*. The goal of saying things that aren't false (or that make sense, don't contradict, follow your values, etc) can get in the way of honestly figuring out what your thoughts are and what the reasons for your actions are.

> If the reasons you shared it were actually bad reasons, then trying to avoid false statements or contradictions could stop you from actually figuring out & articulating your reasons. You could be self-censoring them before even becoming aware of them.

To me, not saying false things doesn't mean not reporting false ideas that I had in the past. I can say, "I thought X, and X was false" without saying something false. What I *can't* do without saying something false, is say "X", when X is false.

I looked through my posting history and found some examples of me acknowledging having held ideas in the past that I later recognized as false. They are below.

2020-05-02:

> I thought I said that, but I didn't.

2020-03-28:

> At first I thought it was supposed to be a child talking to a hostile parent, because children don't usually wear ties. But if that's the case, then I don't get the relevance of returning the rest of the buttered toast.

2020-03-02:

> Before, I thought adding implied words never changed the meaning of a sentence at all. But now I think it can, because grouping is part of what a sentence conveys, and adding implied words can affect the grouping.

2019-05-19:

> I thought I had the evidence to claim this, but I didn't.

> I thought I downloaded everything from the presenter list (even though in fact I hadn't). I'm not sure why I thought this. But when I found other videos that I had missed, I incorrectly *assumed* they must not have been on the presenter list. My initial mistake compounded into more mistakes because I misinterpreted what was going on, kind of like the Athens/thieving example from BoI.

2018-05-24 :

> I thought I knew how to write strings of adjectives correctly. It turns out I don't.

2018-04-28 :

> Previously, I thought a path forward was an answer to the modified question.

2018-04-24 :

> Because I thought everyone else's standards were as low as mine, I interpreted their sharing of abstract principles as attempts to bully or control me.


Alisa at 6:36 PM on September 26, 2020 | #18143 | reply | quote

Assertions vs explanation/reasoning

#15555 curi wrote:

> This reads to me like a bunch of assertions without enough explanations/reasoning.

I've been thinking about what assertions are and how to recognize when I make them.

I think to assert something is to just flatly state it. An explanation, in contrast, describes how something works, and reasoning explains why it makes sense to accept or reject an idea.

## Example

Assertion: In chess, 1. a4 is a bad opening.

Explanation: Good opening moves help you control the center or develop your minor pieces. 1. a4 doesn't do either of those things and it allows your opponent to do them. (I don't understand chess well, but this is just an example.)

## Example 2

Assertion: The man went into the store.

Reasoning: The man was just in front of the store, but he's not there now, there are no cars nearby, and I see the store door closing.


Alisa at 7:57 PM on September 27, 2020 | #18159 | reply | quote

> Reasoning: The man was just in front of the store, but he's not there now, there are no cars nearby, and I see the store door closing.

That's a list of facts. It's not reasoning. Reasoning would explain how you get from those facts to a conclusion. Why do you think those facts add up to the man going into the store?


curi at 9:03 PM on September 27, 2020 | #18163 | reply | quote

#18163

> Why do you think those facts add up to the man going into the store?

I think I could make a YESNO decision chart in which all the plausible scenarios I can think of except for the man going into the store are ruled out either by one of the observations or by background knowledge. The list of scenarios would be like:

- Man left in car (no: no cars nearby, couldn't drive away fast enough)

- Man vanished into thin air (no: violates physics)

- Man sprinted away down the block (no: not enough time -- he was "just" in front of the store)

- <other scenarios here>

- Man went into the store (ok)

I think a clearer example of reasoning would be an argument from premises to a conclusion. Something like this:

1. All men are mortal.

2. Socrates is a man.

3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

I don't know if you need to name the logical rule(s) used to conclude 3 from 1 and 2 for it to count as reasoning. I intuitively think people would count it as reasoning even if you didn't name the rules, but I intuitively thought my example about the man in front of the store was reasoning too.


Alisa at 9:14 PM on September 28, 2020 | #18170 | reply | quote

>> Why do you think those facts add up to the man going into the store?

You took this question out of context and did not respond directly to the main point of my comment.


curi at 9:53 PM on September 28, 2020 | #18171 | reply | quote

Postmortem: non sequitur (didn't respond to the main point)

In #18160, I wrote:

> Assertion: The man went into the store.

> Reasoning: The man was just in front of the store, but he's not there now, there are no cars nearby, and I see the store door closing.

Quoting the "Reasoning" line, curi replied in #18163:

> That's a list of facts. It's not reasoning. Reasoning would explain how you get from those facts to a conclusion. Why do you think those facts add up to the man going into the store?

I replied to curi in #18170, quoting the final, interrogative sentence of curi's #18163 and giving a partial YESNO decision chart for the man-going-into-the-store scenario and a proposal for what I took to be a clearer example of reasoning involving a syllogism.

In #18171, curi replied to me:

> You took this question out of context and did not respond directly to the main point of my comment.

I re-read curi's #18163, and I think its main point is the third sentence:

> Reasoning would explain how you get from those facts to a conclusion.

Regarding facts, in May 2020, I wrote:

> People seem to use "fact" to refer to ideas that they think can be proven or disproven by objective evidence.

I agree that all the things I listed under "Reasoning" in #18159 were facts. The corresponding "Assertion" (the conclusion) was also a fact.

It follows from (what I take to be) the main point of curi's #18163 that reasoning is a kind of explanation: it *explains* how you get from the premises to the conclusion.

I agree that I didn't respond to curi's main point directly. That makes my overall response a non sequitur, which my learning plan lists as a postmortem-worthy mistake. Actually, I didn't even consider what the main point was before replying. I didn't consciously consider it, and I haven't automated doing that either.

The top level of Paul Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement is: *explicitly refutes the central point*. That's for disagreement, but even for responses that aren't disagreement, responding to the central point would be good. In general, it would be good for me to be able to state what I think is the central point of whatever I'm replying to. This would help me avoid non sequiturs.

By missing the main point, I missed most of the value of the post. I wonder how often it's the case when I see little value in a post by a top FI poster that it's because I missed the main point.


Alisa at 9:09 PM on September 29, 2020 | #18173 | reply | quote

I thought my main point was (italics added):

> That's a list of facts. *It's not reasoning.*

This was meant to disagree with you by directly contradicting your "Reasoning:" label. The last two sentences were explanatory.


curi at 9:59 AM on September 30, 2020 | #18174 | reply | quote

#18174 It's true I didn't respond directly to the "It's not reasoning" sentence. However, I did have it in mind as I replied. Mainly, I thought the YESNO info was one way to supply the missing reasoning. And then I tried to give a better example of something that *was* reasoning: the syllogism. Those two things were meant as an acknowledgment (admittedly, indirect) that the list of facts I had supplied wasn't reasoning.

When I wrote #18173, I took "Reasoning would explain how you get from those facts to a conclusion" as the main point because:

- I really hadn't responded to it directly or indirectly, and not responding directly was one of the clues you gave

- It supplies info that helps clarify other things that weren't clear to me in my reply

If I could take away one sentence from your reply to memorize or treat as the most important, it'd be that one. It seems a better match for the main point than "It's not reasoning" because, together with some other knowledge (like the fact that I didn't explain how to get from my facts to a conclusion), it implies "It's not reasoning".


Alisa at 8:16 PM on September 30, 2020 | #18178 | reply | quote

My understanding of the situation

#18178 A couple of things I noticed in this thread:

> It's not reasoning.

I think this means curi was interested in why Alisa thought the list of facts was reasoning, and labeled them reasoning, when they clearly (to curi) weren't.

Getting Alisa's reasoning for the conclusion was not curi's main point. The main point was that Alisa thought a list of facts was reasoning, which seems like a significant problem, and Alisa still hasn't addressed that.

But even regarding the non-main issue of Alisa's reasoning, something about Alisa's response seems off.

Starting back at #18163 I thought curi did have a question about how Alisa reasoned from the facts to the conclusion.

Then in #18170 Alisa quoted:

> Why do you think those facts add up to the man going into the store?

Then Alisa described how she *could* reason from the facts to the conclusion using YESNO. It was pretty clear she was not describing how she actually *did* reason from the facts to the conclusion.

IOW it seems to me that Alisa's response was to a hypothetical of what she could have done rather than curi's question about what she actually did.

Maybe Alisa doesn't know how she actually reasoned from the facts to the conclusion. Which is, if not fine, at least common. It's common for people to reach conclusions by intuition and then not explicitly know how they reached them.

But if I'm right, it'd be good to at least recognize what's going on. Alisa isn't actually using YESNO decision charts for this type of conclusion. She can fit the conclusion to the YESNO model after the fact but in real time she's doing something different.


Andy Dufresne at 9:19 AM on October 1, 2020 | #18180 | reply | quote

#18180

Andy Dufresne (AD) quoted curi's sentence from #18163:

> It's not reasoning.

AD continued:

> I think this means curi was interested in why Alisa thought the list of facts was reasoning, and labeled them reasoning, when they clearly (to curi) weren't.

If AD's analysis of what "It's not reasoning" means is correct, then good for AD for seeing it. I don't see it, though. I took it as a statement. I believe that when curi has a question, he generally asks it in the form of a question.

> Getting Alisa's reasoning for the conclusion was not curi's main point. The main point was that Alisa thought a list of facts was reasoning, which seems like a significant problem, and Alisa still hasn't addressed that.

I am planning to write a postmortem on that. I replied to curi's #18171 first because, as a meta-comment about the discussion, I saw it as having priority.

> Then in #18170 Alisa quoted:

>> Why do you think those facts add up to the man going into the store?

>Then Alisa described how she *could* reason from the facts to the conclusion using YESNO. It was pretty clear she was not describing how she actually *did* reason from the facts to the conclusion.

Yes.

> IOW it seems to me that Alisa's response was to a hypothetical of what she could have done rather than curi's question about what she actually did.

I agree with the first part of this sentence, but I disagree with AD's characterization of curi's question. curi's question used the verb "do", which is in the present tense. If the question were about what I thought at the time I posted the list of facts in #18159, it would have used a form of the past tense, such as "What did you think ..."

I agree with the rest of AD's comment.


Alisa at 9:18 PM on October 1, 2020 | #18207 | reply | quote

#18207

> such as "What did you think ..."

Correction: I meant to write "Why did you think ...".


Alisa at 9:25 PM on October 1, 2020 | #18208 | reply | quote

#18207

Regarding:

>> It's not reasoning.

Alisa wrote:

> I took it as a statement.

I agree, it is a statement.

> I believe that when curi has a question, he generally asks it in the form of a question.

I agree with this too. Curi did end his post with a question:

>> Why do you think those facts add up to the man going into the store?

That was context for:

>> It's not reasoning.

In one sense, I think curi's whole post can be read as a multi-sentence question.


Andy Dufresne at 1:40 PM on October 3, 2020 | #18223 | reply | quote

#18207

>> IOW it seems to me that Alisa's response was to a hypothetical of what she could have done rather than curi's question about what she actually did.

>

> I agree with the first part of this sentence, but I disagree with AD's characterization of curi's question. curi's question used the verb "do", which is in the present tense. If the question were about what I thought at the time I posted the list of facts in #18159, it would have used a form of the past tense, such as "What did you think ..."

gp.

One possible explanation for curi's use of the present tense is that at the time curi wrote the question, Alisa had not indicated any change of mind. So "do" and "did" would be the same answer.

But I'm not at all confident in that explanation and I don't have an alternate.


Andy Dufresne at 1:48 PM on October 3, 2020 | #18224 | reply | quote

Postmortem: thinking I understood something when I didn't

#18163

In #18159, I wrote:

> Assertion: The man went into the store.

> Reasoning: The man was just in front of the store, but he's not there now, there are no cars nearby, and I see the store door closing.

As curi pointed out in #18163, my "Reasoning:" line wasn't reasoning; it was just a list of facts. I guess I thought I understood reasoning better than I actually did.

In #18159, I wrote:

> reasoning explains why it makes sense to accept or reject an idea.

As best I can recollect, when I wrote #18159, I was thinking of reasoning as *whatever info would convince someone of something*. I felt that if I told someone that the man had gone into the store, and they asked why I thought that, and I said the stuff in the "Reasoning:" line to them, they would understand and be convinced, assuming they believed my observations to be accurate. From that, I concluded that the stuff in my "Reasoning:" line was actually reasoning.

I now think, as I understand curi to have written in #18163, that a crucial part of reasoning is an *explanation* of how to arrive at a conclusion, and my list of facts did not contain an explanation. (I had used the word "explains" in my own definition of what reasoning was (see above), but I think I was thinking of the term more colloquially, in the way that someone might say, "Ah, that explains it", in response to a newly-learned fact.)

One thing I did right in #18159 was to give examples of my thinking. That made it easier for others to see my mistake. I should give examples more often.

Some postmortems of mine that are closely related to the mistake described in this one:

- Postmortem: thinking I understood a term that I didn't (2020-06-23)

- Postmortem: a third mistake with clauses (2020-08-01)

After re-reading those postmortems and thinking about this one, I've concluded that I don't know how to tell whether I understand a term well enough to use it. I just go by intuition.


Alisa at 9:23 PM on October 4, 2020 | #18231 | reply | quote

#18231 The text below from YESNO is relevant to my mistake:

> # Inanimate Facts

> Facts don't do anything by themselves. If you observe something, that doesn't tell you what's true. It's not an argument. Facts are inactive and passive. Facts don't speak, point, hint, argue, agree, disagree, or do anything.


Alisa at 7:57 PM on October 5, 2020 | #18241 | reply | quote

#18224 Yeah I don't think I had any reason to distinguish past and present given no new info.


curi at 3:17 PM on October 6, 2020 | #18244 | reply | quote

#18244 I don't think it's unusual for a person to be able to come up with better reasons for thinking something than whatever reasons they had in the past.

For example, suppose I were to state that Sacramento is the capitol of California. If someone were to ask me, "Why do you think that?", I might look it up in an encyclopedia or some official state of California web page and give that info as my reason. My original reason might have been that I vaguely remember it from somewhere, but I understand the question as asking for the best possible answer I can give *now*.

I can see how that kind of answer would be unhelpful when the person is looking for info about what I was thinking at the time I made the original statement.


Alisa at 5:32 PM on October 6, 2020 | #18245 | reply | quote

#18245 If you read the question then look it up, then say "cuz i looked it up", then you are giving info that was inaccurate not merely at the time you made your original statement, and not merely at the time the question was written, but also at the time you read the question.

The present tense is meant to apply to when the question is communicated, not a later time after you react to the question and change the situation.

I don't think that making errors like this and being corrected on them is addressing your bottlenecks.


curi at 6:10 PM on October 6, 2020 | #18247 | reply | quote

#18247

> If you read the question then look it up, then say "cuz i looked it up", then you are giving info that was inaccurate not merely at the time you made your original statement, and not merely at the time the question was written, but also at the time you read the question.

> The present tense is meant to apply to when the question is communicated, not a later time after you react to the question and change the situation.

The particular form of the present tense used in the question, "Why do you think X?" is the *present indefinite*. According to Wikipedia, one of the main uses of the present continuous is:

> [... w]ith stative verbs in senses that do not use progressive aspect..., to refer to a present or general state, whether temporary, permanent or habitual;

> You are happy.

> I know what to do.

> A child needs its mother.

> I love you.

My understanding of that is that one of the main uses of the present indefinite is to refer to a permanent or habitual state rather than to a particular point in time. Therefore, I think the interpretation of questions that use the present indefinite is context-dependent. Here are a few examples:

- Suppose someone asks me (using the present indefinite), "Why are you so happy?". They could be wondering why I am so happy *at the moment they asked the question* or why I am so happy *in general*.

- Suppose I say, "Trump 2020!", and someone asks, "Why do you think it would be good for Trump to win?". They might want to know why I think that at the time they asked the question, or they might want to know why I think that in general. In the latter case, they might well regard a good answer as one that gives my best reasons for thinking that it would be good for Trump to win.

- "What is your net worth?": If asked out of context, I think an answer to this question should generally be true as of *the time the answer is given*, which is not necessarily the time the question was asked. For instance, if I wait a week before answering and win the lottery during that week, I could -- and should -- state a higher net worth than I would have otherwise. However, if the question were a follow-up to a related statement that I had made previously, such as "I am rich", then I think the question should be understood as asking about my wealth at the time I stated that I was rich.

- "Are you a fugitive from justice?": This is question 11(d) on Form 4473, which is typically filled out when purchasing a firearm in the U.S. I think one's answer is expected to be true at the time one submits the form.

Wikipedia continues:

> [The present indefinite] contrasts with the present progressive (present continuous), which is used to refer to something taking place at the present moment: I am walking now; He is writing a letter at the moment.

Suppose someone asks, using the present continuous, "Why are you marching?". That question unambiguously refers to the marching going on at the time the question was asked.

If the question had been posed in the present indefinite, e.g., "Why do you march?", then I think the answer wouldn't necessarily be expected to apply to any particular point in time.


Alisa at 8:15 PM on October 7, 2020 | #18251 | reply | quote

#18247

> I don't think that making errors like this and being corrected on them is addressing your bottlenecks.

I agree. I don't know my goals or my bottlenecks, so I would have to get lucky for any given action of mine to advance me towards my goals or address my bottlenecks.


Alisa at 8:17 PM on October 7, 2020 | #18252 | reply | quote

#18252 Then shouldn't you stop acting aimlessly and try to figure out what your goals and bottlenecks are? Isn't finding that out your first bottleneck on progress?


curi at 8:21 PM on October 7, 2020 | #18253 | reply | quote

goals

#18253 curi wrote:

> Then shouldn't you stop acting aimlessly and try to figure out what your goals and bottlenecks are? Isn't finding that out your first bottleneck on progress?

Yes, I suppose so.

I have gained a lot of value by "acting aimlessly" on FI, compared to what my life would be like if I hadn't participated here at all. But I have also given up a lot of value compared to what I could have achieved by acting more purposefully here. I remind myself of someone wandering aimlessly above a gold mine, picking up tiny flecks here and there, when, if they acted with purpose, they could mine deep veins of gold and become rich.

I do have smaller goals (e.g., posting daily, spending more time on FI, and finishing the YESNO "check your understanding" questions), but those goals are mostly chosen by intuition, as opposed to being chosen by a process of reason in light of larger goals. I think figuring out my larger goals is what curi was talking about.

One reason knowing my goals is important is that I can't take effective action towards my goals unless I know what they are. Also, knowing my goals is a prerequisite for figuring out what my bottlenecks are, which is another prerequisite for taking effective action towards my goals.

Some actions I could take towards figuring out my goals:

- brainstorm (e.g., freewrite about) goals and, later, criticize what I come up with

- investigate the goals of top thinkers

- look into different goal setting methodologies

- look for and read/watch FI material on figuring out goals

I may need to learn other stuff (e.g., how to be more honest) before I can figure out what my goals are. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.


Alisa at 8:41 PM on October 8, 2020 | #18259 | reply | quote

life goals of top thinkers

Ayn Rand:

> Ayn Rand was asked "What is your purpose in life?" at the end of the book Ayn Rand Answers. Her answer:

> "My purpose is to enjoy my life in a rational way: to use my mind to the greatest extent possible; to pursue, admire, and support human greatness; to make all my choices rationally; to expand my knowledge constantly. That's a pretty ambitious program, and I've achieved most of it."

Eliyahu Goldratt:

> The life work of Goldratt ... was “to teach the world to think.”

In Atlas Shrugged, Francisco "could always name the purpose of his every random moment". It would make sense that knowing his larger goals helped him with that.


Alisa at 8:42 PM on October 8, 2020 | #18260 | reply | quote

Quote from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland on goals:

> "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"

> "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

> "I don't much care where—" said Alice.

> "Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

> "—so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.

> "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."


Alisa at 8:46 PM on October 8, 2020 | #18261 | reply | quote

>>> I don't know my goals or my bottlenecks, so I would have to get lucky for any given action of mine to advance me towards my goals or address my bottlenecks.

I read this as a general statement.

> I have gained a lot of value by "acting aimlessly" on FI

Here the topic jumps to lack of goals *at FI*.

Do you have other goals that you do know?


curi at 11:44 AM on October 9, 2020 | #18265 | reply | quote

#18265

>>>> I don't know my goals or my bottlenecks, so I would have to get lucky for any given action of mine to advance me towards my goals or address my bottlenecks.

> I read this as a general statement.

>> I have gained a lot of value by "acting aimlessly" on FI

> Here the topic jumps to lack of goals *at FI*.

I didn't intend to change the topic. Maybe I'm using the term *goal* incorrectly. In both cases, I was talking about *high-level goals* and the bottlenecks that limit my progress towards them. The way I understand bottlenecks, they only make sense with reference to high-level goals. (As Jonah says in *The Goal*, "an hour saved at a non-bottleneck is a mirage.".)

Some examples of what I have in mind by "high-level goals" are the life goals of Goldratt and Rand that I quoted in #18260. Other examples include:

- The idea that the mission of the GOP should be to "preserve the American way of life".

- The idea that the goal of a company is to make money ("So this is the goal: To make money by increasing net profit, while simultaneously increasing return on investment, and simultaneously increasing cash flow." – Goldratt, *The Goal*).

I think goals, whether high-level or not, are directly related to the reasons you would give when asked why you did something. For example, if you reply that you did something "because it's fair", that implies that being fair is one of your goals. Someone could take your answers and ask "why" again. If this continues, the result seems to me somewhat like a hierarchy of goals.

> Do you have other goals that you do know?

Yes. I have non-high-level goals such as the "smaller goals" I listed in #18259 ("posting daily, spending more time on FI, and finishing the YESNO "check your understanding" questions"). Some of my other non-high-level goals include:

- making enough money to have a middle-class Western lifestyle

- having enough free time

- getting enough sleep


Alisa at 6:11 PM on October 9, 2020 | #18268 | reply | quote

> - making enough money to have a middle-class Western lifestyle

Why do you say “*middle-class* Western lifestyle”?


Anonymous at 6:09 AM on October 10, 2020 | #18269 | reply | quote

#18269

>> - making enough money to have a middle-class Western lifestyle

> Why do you say “*middle-class* Western lifestyle”?

I'll take the question as asking "Why *did* you say ..." Therefore, I'll try to remember what I was thinking at the time I wrote the text you quoted, and I'll try not to clarify my thinking much beyond what it was at the time.

By saying "middle-class", I think I was trying to rule out a lower-class lifestyle, which I associated with a lack of disposable income, and an upper-class lifestyle, which I associated with having more disposable income than I would need to live the kind of life I want. I think I was vaguely envisioning things like being able to live in a nice, low-crime area, have a better-than-average healthcare plan, buy nice computers/tablets/phones, and take a few vacations per year, all while building up a reasonable amount of savings.


Alisa at 8:45 AM on October 10, 2020 | #18270 | reply | quote

#18270

> By saying "middle-class", I think I was *trying to rule out* a lower-class lifestyle, which I associated with a lack of disposable income, and *an upper-class lifestyle, which I associated with having more disposable income than I would need to live the kind of life I want.*

Why were you trying to rule out this (highlighted part)?


Anonymous at 11:07 AM on October 10, 2020 | #18271 | reply | quote

Because having an upper-class lifestyle wasn’t a goal of mine, and I was trying to list only things that were.


Alisa at 11:41 AM on October 10, 2020 | #18272 | reply | quote

Do you think that there are downsides with having more disposable income than one would need (upper-class lifestyle)?

I am asking because all the things you listed in #18270:

> live in a nice, low-crime area, have a better-than-average healthcare plan, buy nice computers/tablets/phones, and take a few vacations per year, all while building up a reasonable amount of savings

could be significantly better with an above middle-class lifestyle goal.

I guess that I don’t understand why, if you have a lifestyle goal, you would chose to settle at middle-class level. It sound like you are not even attempting greatness. I guess I’m wondering if that is the case (not attempting greatness), and in that case why.

Maybe I am misunderstanding something. I’m trying to figure out what if that is the case.


Anonymous at 3:31 PM on October 10, 2020 | #18273 | reply | quote

#18273

> Do you think that there are downsides with having more disposable income than one would need (upper-class lifestyle)?

No.

> I am asking because all the things you listed in #18270:

>> live in a nice, low-crime area, have a better-than-average healthcare plan, buy nice computers/tablets/phones, and take a few vacations per year, all while building up a reasonable amount of savings

> could be significantly better with an above middle-class lifestyle goal.

I don't see how an above-middle-class lifestyle would let me get a significantly better phone or tablet than my iPhone and iPad, but I can see how the rest of the things I listed could be significantly improved.

> I guess that I don’t understand why, if you have a lifestyle goal, you would chose to settle at middle-class level. It sound like you are not even attempting greatness. I guess I’m wondering if that is the case (not attempting greatness), and in that case why.

> Maybe I am misunderstanding something. I’m trying to figure out what if that is the case.

I don't think you're misunderstanding. I was not attempting greatness, and I don't think I've written much that would give the impression that I was. I don't think I had thought much about the reasons for that at the time I wrote the comment you asked about.


Alisa at 3:53 PM on October 10, 2020 | #18274 | reply | quote

#16571 I had an idea about how to get better at thinking out loud. Maybe I could try to shorten the amount of time it takes me to write posts. That is, shorten the gap between the time I have an idea and the time it takes me to get it into a form that's acceptable for posting.

Part of this might involve relaxing my standards about what's acceptable for posting. There may be some time-consuming things I do that are good to be *able* to do when necessary, but maybe I don't need to do them for all posts. Or maybe I should just get faster at everything related to posting.

Another idea is to get better at being able to post without editing. The sentences should come out at an acceptable quality level the first time.

This post took me about 3 minutes to write.


Alisa at 4:57 PM on October 10, 2020 | #18275 | reply | quote

*Atlas Shrugged*:

> It was days later, when they were alone, walking through the woods on the shore of the river, that she asked: "Francisco, what's the most depraved type of human being?"

> "The man without a purpose."

I think Francisco was talking about a purpose *in life* or what I referred to in #18268 as a "high-level goal".


Alisa at 5:14 PM on October 10, 2020 | #18276 | reply | quote

#18276 Later in *Atlas Shrugged*, Rearden tells Francisco:

> "... To me, there's only one form of human depravity-the man without a purpose."


Alisa at 5:18 PM on October 10, 2020 | #18277 | reply | quote

> I was not attempting greatness

why not?


Anonymous at 9:29 PM on October 10, 2020 | #18278 | reply | quote

#18278 It’s hard to say. I don’t think I had considered much whether I should attempt greatness. And I suppose that, for whatever reason, attempting greatness wasn’t my default, i.e., it wasn’t something I would do even without considering it much.


Alisa at 10:55 PM on October 10, 2020 | #18279 | reply | quote

> I don’t think I had considered much whether I should attempt greatness.

Will you consider it now?


Anonymous at 2:15 AM on October 11, 2020 | #18281 | reply | quote

#18281 Right now, like today? No, I don't have any plans for that. Longer-term? I don't know. It's possible.


Alisa at 10:36 AM on October 11, 2020 | #18282 | reply | quote

#18268 I wrote:

> I think goals, whether high-level or not, are directly related to the reasons you would give when asked why you did something. For example, if you reply that you did something "because it's fair", that implies that being fair is one of your goals. Someone could take your answers and ask "why" again. If this continues, the result seems to me somewhat like a hierarchy of goals.

I might be able to learn about my high-level goals by asking why I have some of my current non-high-level goals. Maybe I'll discover contradictions among my existing goals, and/or maybe I'll learn some things about what my high-level goals are or should be.

## Non-high-level goal: get enough sleep.

Why do I want to get enough sleep? Because getting enough sleep helps me function better when I'm awake. It makes it easier for me to get more value out of my waking hours.

Getting enough sleep isn't usually a big problem for me. I go to sleep when I get sleepy, wake up without an alarm, and take naps when I feel like it. Getting enough sleep isn't currently a bottleneck for me. That doesn't mean I can just let my sleep go all to hell and stop caring about getting enough sleep. If I did that, then sleep might become a bottleneck. I have to take enough care that that doesn't happen. But currently, getting enough sleep happens pretty much on autopilot for me.

So why do I want to function better when I'm awake? This is harder to answer. I don't really know why. I guess I could stop here and treat *wanting to function better when I'm awake* as a given for now.

Some related topics I could consider:

- Are there things I could do that would help me function just as well on less sleep?

- If I just start sleeping fewer hours per night, would those extra waking hours compensate for the reduced function?

I'm open to learning about those topics. I don't know enough to rule them out as potentially promising avenues to investigate. But for now I think I'll just stick with my current approach to sleeping.

## Non-high-level goal: have enough free time.

Why do I want to have enough free time? I think of free time as being kind of like disposable income. Free time is time that I can do whatever I want with. I don't have any obligations to anyone else about what I do in my free time. For example, I don't need to work during my free time, because I get enough money from the time I already spend working. I'm not sure if I should count the time I spend each day writing FI posts as free time or not. I guess not, because I don't just do whatever I want during that time. My thinking on this is kind of fuzzy.

I still don't know why I want to have enough free time. I guess I'll leave it as a given for now.

## Non-high-level goal: make enough money to have a middle-class Western lifestyle.

We could discuss how much money is *enough*, but to start with, I think what I stated is a reasonably close approximation of what I'm aiming for. But why that much? Why not higher? Why not lower? Those are tough questions for me to answer. I guess I'll leave it as a given for now.


Alisa at 8:14 PM on October 12, 2020 | #18305 | reply | quote

Thoughts about attempting something great

I'm considering setting a goal for myself of doing something great with my life.

Here's why: I guess that solving problems is fun, and the bigger the challenge, the more fun. By not setting a big challenge for myself, I'm leaving a lot of fun on the table.

curi's squirrel morality essay argues that achieving any of a wide array of serious goals requires, first of all, maximizing core aspects of rationality and power:

> Take any pattern of atoms, and make the goal to spread it across the universe, and what we'll need to do is maximize human power first, and then when we're ready, spread it in a stable, reliable, risk-free way...

> So for any goal like that, we should ignore the goal and focus on human power. We need to enable ourselves first. And we need to learn how to accomplish the goal, and avoid mistakes, so knowledge and error correction come in there...

> So, if the basis of morality is squirrels, or bison, or crystals, and we think carefully enough about what to do, then what we'd end up with is almost exactly the same morality that people believe in today: we'd first value human happiness, freedom, science, progress, peace, wealth, and so on. The only difference would be one extra step, much later in time, where we'd fill most of the universe with squirrels or bison or whatever.

So what ambitious goal should I set for myself? I don't know yet. Getting closer to figuring that out seems like it might be a fun challenge in itself.


Alisa at 8:16 PM on October 21, 2020 | #18381 | reply | quote

Conversation with curi

This is the start of a conversation I had with curi in private chat, where I don’t follow my learning plan guidelines for postmortems the way I do on FI or curi.us comments. I will be temporarily suspending those guidelines for the rest of this conversation.

**curi**: i find you talk differently on forums

**Alisa**: Like curi comments?

**curi**: yes

**Alisa**: I do talk differently.

**curi**: less conversational. weirder. sometimes more rationalist/sophisticated. sometimes more formal/cold. much slower replies. these things make some types of conversations hard to initiate or maintain.

**Alisa**: I write differently when I know I’ll be writing postmortems for the mistakes listed in my learning plan. It’s cheaper if I can make a mistake and not write a postmortem.

**curi**: my impression is that what you’re doing on forums is worse.

**Alisa**: I don’t mind just typing something and hitting “send”. Ok. I can believe that. One thing I could do is start a new identity for quicker comments. I already to that to some extent with Anon. Anon doesn’t write postmortems, which makes it faster to post as Anon.

**curi**: that sounds like you’re introducing too many error checking approaches at once, rather than focusing on 1-3 at a time and only adding more when earlier ones become adequately cheap (e.g. automated)

**Alisa**: Could be. TTSing slows things down. It still prevents multiple typos per message, though. Trying not to say things that I would recognize as false if you asked me about them right after I said them slows me down. Definitely not automated.

**Alisa**: Here I made the references suggestion and a few sentences later I retracted it.

**curi**: i doubt typos are a bottleneck for you

**Alisa**: That’s the sort of thing I’d put thought into avoiding if commenting under my learning plan.

**curi**: i don’t think retracting after i explain some stuff is bad

**Alisa**: I think I could have figured that one out on my own if I’d thought more before saying it. For lots of other things I learn from you, that isn’t the case.

**curi**: considering if what you just wrote is false in a way you can recognize without using much creativity (basically mostly using your existing knowledge), or if you’d be surprised to be wrong about it (if not, it should be labelled/qualified/hedged appropriately), or what you’ve done to test/check/criticize your idea, are good things to do but may be too much to focus on and need be broken down into smaller chunks.

**Alisa**: I could remove typos from my learning plan. I don’t really know enough myself to know whether that’d be a good idea, but I don’t mind doing it on your suggestion.

I’m getting faster even at posting the way I do on forums. I wrote 4 posts in 30 minutes yesterday. That’s good for me. Actually, 5. (one anon)

I *am* posting daily, I *am* getting faster at it, even without relaxing my success criteria, and I *do* find that skill helps me in the rest of my life. I can believe that a more conversational, faster style might help me even more, though. I don’t know much about breaking stuff down into smaller chunks. Sounds reasonable, but not immediately actionable. I also don’t know much about how to ask useful questions that would get me closer to being able to learn that or lots of other things. Ingracke identified that as a growth area for me.

Do you have a kind of target speed that you think I should try aiming for? Something along the lines of how fast I write here? Then I can try adjusting my error checking until it lets me write this fast or close to it.

**curi**: can we move this to alisa thread?


Alisa at 5:22 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18393 | reply | quote

> I could remove typos from my learning plan.

up2u. i don't think typos are your bottleneck. it sounds like you think typo correction is not causing/worsening a bottleneck, so it may be fine to keep it since it's going reasonably smoothly. i don't know enough details of your process to say more.

> I’m getting faster even at posting the way I do on forums. I wrote 4 posts in 30 minutes yesterday. That’s good for me. Actually, 5. (one anon)

That sounds good. I think your forum posting method breaks some things you're able to do at other times. But it may have important advantages. So if things are improving maybe it's good idk.

> Do you have a kind of target speed that you think I should try aiming for?

The issue in my mind was primarily about content not speed.


curi at 5:32 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18395 | reply | quote

#18395 Ok @typos.

Maybe I should have two modes, say, *careful* and *carefree* and be able to switch between them. I could default to *carefree*, and be ready switch back to *careful* if need be. I like having the *careful* mode available.

> The issue in my mind was primarily about content not speed.

I don't know what to say to that. To me it feels entirely like a difference of how much thought I put into what I say. That's what it seems like from my end. So to produce the thing you say may be more valuable, on my end, it seems like all I do is type as I would in chat and hit send at the end.


Alisa at 5:40 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18397 | reply | quote

#18397 It's not like I rush during chat, but I go way faster. I slow down a lot when I post with my learning plan in mind. Here I just kind of type out whatever my inner voice is saying. If it says something that I think is really ridiculous, or I'm not sure of a word or something, I'll pause and check, but otherwise everything I say like this would be only a first draft if I posted as I usually do.


Alisa at 5:42 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18398 | reply | quote

#18398 Faster = less second guessing yourself = less use of conscious thinking. Your autopilots are wiser than your rational analysis in some ways (and worse in other ways). And when people second guess themselves a bunch sometimes they end up changing from something reasonable to something unreasonable. Heavy enough second guessing can lead to bizarre results far from common sense. This is observed across many fields, including, e.g. chess. Sometimes people's first intuition – the move they want to play after 2 seconds – is the best move, but after 20 minutes of concentration they talk themselves into playing a different move which turns out to be way worse. That happens regularly in chess.


curi at 5:51 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18400 | reply | quote

The "less use of conscious thinking" explanation makes sense. And I could see how the benefits and detriments of that could vary depending on circumstances. It's a better way to think about it than going faster or slower. Maybe how good it (= less use of conscious thinking is) is depends on how good your intuition is.


Alisa at 5:54 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18401 | reply | quote

#18401 One thing you could try is go fast then analyze errors later. That way you're trying to fix the errors your autopilots make, not the errors your defensive (= trying to avoid errors), conscious thinking makes.

When you discuss a particular way before post mortems which tries to avoid the errors your autopilots make, then you're avoiding error correcting your autopilots. But you use your autopilots (and intuitions, habits, etc.) for most of your life.


curi at 6:06 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18402 | reply | quote

I think your *go fast and analyze later* suggestion is what I usually do. I edit a lot. I gather from what I'm hearing from you that a lot of my edits make things worse rather than better in certain ways. My normal posts are optimized for a particular purpose: not saying something interesting without having to write a postmortem.

I could review some of the videos I made of me writing posts to see how true my paragraph above is. I could find the link.


Alisa at 6:18 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18404 | reply | quote

#18404

> My normal posts are optimized for a particular purpose: not saying something interesting without having to write a postmortem.

Typo: that "not" shouldn't be there.


Alisa at 6:25 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18407 | reply | quote

#18404 Ah you write conversational first drafts then edit a bunch? You could share the editing process sometimes then so that you could get feedback on errors introduced during it.


curii at 6:29 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18409 | reply | quote

#18393 I'm going to stop following my learning plan for the rest of my curi.us comments today, even if they're made outside of this conversation.


Alisa at 6:30 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18410 | reply | quote

#18409 In late 2019, I started sharing occasional screencasts of my entire posting process. This included character-by-character edits, but I don't recall getting any feedback. Should I start that up again, or is there a better way to share the editing process? Maybe I could save a draft every so often, throw the drafts up on pastebin when I'm ready to post, and link the drafts in my post.


Alisa at 6:38 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18411 | reply | quote

#18411 You would get more feedback if you explained a specific purpose and goal for feedback re those screencasts, or a point of interest for people to watch out for. E.g.:

- a posted comment has an error

- you share the first draft which lacks that error

- then you could look for where/how/why the error was created during editing

- you could share your analysis of the screencast and link timestamps as documentation

- others might get curious at some point given there is some sort of narrative and learning process going on which the screencast connects with

You should also have more patience and persistent instead of silently(?) giving up due to lack of feedback on something. And in general you should do things you see the value in so you don't require other people to be providing ongoing external value for you to continue.


curi at 6:43 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18412 | reply | quote

#18409

> Ah you write conversational first drafts then edit a bunch?

I actually write worse than conversational† first drafts. Maybe that's my problem. I write things that aren't even complete sentences. Just notes. Thoughts. Questions. Then I edit until it becomes something I'm satisfied with.

Maybe I should try for conversational first drafts and then edit from there. That way I'd get the benefit of whatever intuitive process is producing the good qualities you're seeing in my comments today, and with my edits I could get whatever benefits I'm looking to get by following my learning plan.

†I think this equates to what I was calling "carefree" in #18397.


Alisa at 6:45 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18413 | reply | quote

#18412 I agree with everything you wrote here.


Alisa at 6:47 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18414 | reply | quote

> I actually write worse than conversational† first drafts.

oic

> Maybe I should try for conversational first drafts and then edit from there.

yeah sounds worth trying and it would better enable the problem solving process in #18412


curi at 6:51 PM on October 22, 2020 | #18415 | reply | quote

#15555 I've been trying for a while to define my terms from #15544. I'm finding it hard. I think I'm going to put it aside. I think my time would be better spent doing things that are easier, or, if I'm going to spend time trying to understand something, I should try to understand something written by a great thinker.


Alisa at 2:53 PM on November 25, 2020 | #18855 | reply | quote

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