Mistakes don't last forever

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Jordan Talcot

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Jun 26, 2011, 4:06:03 AM6/26/11
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Mistakes don't taint you. If you make a mistake but then improve, you're not mistaken anymore.

Once we're immortal, this will be even more important because everyone makes mistakes. If mistakes lasted forever, they would build up and overwhelm us eventually.

This is connected to Popper's idea that we can let mistakes die in our place.

What if the mistake is a murder? We can't bring the dead back to life. But, a person can change his personality not to be murderous anymore. He can change the mistaken idea.

Don't be gullible. If someone says he improved, it doesn't mean he did. You have to use your judgement.

You can't judge someone's understanding by their sincerity. You have to judge their knowledge directly. Consider if they have a good explanation, clearly stated, with no vague parts.

Jordan

Justin Mallone

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Jun 26, 2011, 11:51:22 AM6/26/11
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A very powerful defense mechanism of anti-rational memes is that they make you feel pain for realizing mistakes. This is *exactly the opposite* of what should happen.

Why should it hurt to improve? And recognizing mistakes is the only way you improve! Your reaction should be closer to "yipee!" than "meh!" upon discovering a mistake.

Yet people will constantly feel dumb/guilty/etc when they recognize having made a mistake.
This makes people not only fearful of introspectively seeking out their own mistakes, but hostile to the criticism of others who point out their mistakes. And from that we get stasis.

-J

Elliot Temple

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Jun 26, 2011, 12:55:40 PM6/26/11
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If someone else points a mistake out, they'll often be angry or defensive, and not think about it carefully and try to see the truth of it.

In general you can't understand stuff without trying. There are always several possible interpretations and you have to be looking for the best one. If you don't want the best interpretation then you can find one that doesn't make sense and then blame that on the speaker.

So whenever people try to offer criticism you have to want to see the truth of it or it will seem false to you (whether true or not).

People often sabotage communication -- interpret statements badly -- without knowing they are doing it. Bias can be unconscious.

-- Elliot Temple
http://curi.us/

John Campbell

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Jun 26, 2011, 3:36:50 PM6/26/11
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I believe bias is almost always unconscious - perhaps by definition. Most of us, much of the time, have a default position to be highly resistant to outside ideas and criticism. It seems that our memes circle the wagons to protect themselves from outside contamination and from modification or replacement. I believe we are not our memes, but are emergent from them. This is easy to forget however - perhaps our memes at work?

Two strategies that can overcome our mind's resistance to new memes and developing new and better explanations, have been recommended to me by two very wise people.

The first is to say yes to input. Most of us have a default position to say "no" to what reality serves up and that includes other people's input and ideas. My wise friends advocate our saying "yes" to the input and not trying to initially filter it with judgment. The default filter usually shuts us down to the possibility to learn and ultimately to live. Instead, you allow the input without necessarily agreeing with it. There is plenty of time to integrate it and ultimately to judge it later.

Their second piece of advice is useful for the other side of the coin - introspection. They advocate an anthropological approach to one's own mind and thoughts. Again one is encouraged not to rush to judge because that often leads to a reactive cascade of previous patterns of thoughts or memes. They advocate simply observing one's own mind's activity and the memes that pop up, as an anthropologist would observe a culture. Ironically that lack of judgment or avoiding that jump to internally directed criticism, allows that particular meme to fade into the background, allowing the mind to move on.

I have found that these approaches mesh very well with BOI. Both of these approaches have made me much more productive in my thinking and in my actions.

John Campbell

Elliot Temple

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Jun 26, 2011, 4:09:06 PM6/26/11
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On Jun 26, 2011, at 12:36 PM, John Campbell wrote:

> I believe bias is almost always unconscious - perhaps by definition.

As a counter example, many sports fans have conscious bias for their home team.

> Most
> of us, much of the time, have a default position to be highly resistant to
> outside ideas and criticism. It seems that our memes circle the wagons to
> protect themselves from outside contamination and from modification or
> replacement. I believe we are not our memes, but are emergent from them.
> This is easy to forget however - perhaps our memes at work?

Yes anti-rational memes (but not rational memes) contribute to:

- people forgetting about the issue
- people not thinking about the issue
- people thinking (or assuming without thinking) that statements about bias in general are about other people but not themselves
- more

> Their second piece of advice is useful for the other side of the coin -
> introspection. They advocate an anthropological approach to one's own mind
> and thoughts. Again one is encouraged not to rush to judge because that
> often leads to a reactive cascade of previous patterns of thoughts or memes.
> They advocate simply observing one's own mind's activity and the memes that
> pop up, as an anthropologist would observe a culture. Ironically that lack
> of judgment or avoiding that jump to internally directed criticism, allows
> that particular meme to fade into the background, allowing the mind to move
> on.

I agree that observing *without trying to change anything* is more effective than common sense expects.

This applies to more than introspection. It has reach.

Software developers often monitor some metrics, e.g. how many users they have and startup time. But not all metrics are monitored. Whichever are monitored tend to improve, even if no one purposefully sets aside time to improve them. Paying attention to them gets results through subtle mechanisms.

The choice of what to pay attention to, and what to ignore, is a bigger and more important part of people's lives than they commonly realize.

In _The Fountainhead_ by Ayn Rand, one of the great scenes is when the villain asks the hero, "What do you think of me?" The hero says he does not think of the villain. That's different than having a negative opinion of the villain.

People who *oppose* something -- Christianity, gay marriage, abortion, capitalism, smoking, etc -- but consequently pay attention to it, are actually making it an important part of their lives. Often unwisely.

Paying attention to something, *no matter your opinion*, matters. Even paying attention to something you dislike.

I previously advised paying attention to things, without really trying to change them yet, as a step in the process of changing:

http://fallibleideas.com/emotions

> Here is my advice about how to change one's emotional makeup:
>
> ...
>
> Second, be self-aware. Pay attention to, and keep track of, what you do and think and feel ... Don't worry too much about changing; just notice everything, pay attention, and form some ideas about what'd be better and guesses at how to do it, and try imagining yourself acting in the new way.


-- Elliot Temple
http://elliottemple.com/

John Campbell

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Jun 26, 2011, 8:03:05 PM6/26/11
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On Sun, Jun 26, 2011 at 3:09 PM, Elliot Temple <cu...@curi.us> wrote:

On Jun 26, 2011, at 12:36 PM, John Campbell wrote:

> I believe bias is almost always unconscious - perhaps by definition.

As a counter example, many sports fans have conscious bias for their home team.


Yes. I was over-stating my case. I was highlighting biases that lead to problems. I may tell my friend that my wife is the most beautiful woman at the party, knowing full well that I am biased in this. I may not be fully aware of the extent of my bias, but I would at least be open to the possibility of a significant bias. I am less concerned about conscious biases almost to the point of placing them in a separate category.

> Most
> of us, much of the time, have a default position to be highly resistant to
> outside ideas and criticism. It seems that our memes circle the wagons to
> protect themselves from outside contamination and from modification or
> replacement. I believe we are not our memes, but are emergent from them.
> This is easy to forget however - perhaps our memes at work?

Yes anti-rational memes (but not rational memes) contribute to:

- people forgetting about the issue
- people not thinking about the issue
- people thinking (or assuming without thinking) that statements about bias in general are about other people but not themselves
- more

Interesting - I am just now thinking a great deal about memes after just having read Susan Blackmore's book, The Meme Machine. I see the problem with anti-rational memes, but can they not become connected or associated with rational memes within a person or a culture? I am pondering the granularity or scale of memes. Blackmore speaks of memeplexes and I wonder when a group of memes crosses over to become a memeplex. I would consider that we are all meme networks or emergent from such a network. I enjoyed her ideas until she get to the point of the denial of free will or consciousness. I am now going to re-read BOI - I recall that DD had problems with some of her ideas. And then on to Popper - I have a great deal of reading ahead of me.

The greatest contribution of BOI to my life has been the focus it as given me in my thinking and in my concerns. I am becoming much less interested in many things and much more interested in fewer very important things.

> Their second piece of advice is useful for the other side of the coin -
> introspection. They advocate an anthropological approach to one's own mind
> and thoughts. Again one is encouraged not to rush to judge because that
> often leads to a reactive cascade of previous patterns of thoughts or memes.
> They advocate simply observing one's own mind's activity and the memes that
> pop up, as an anthropologist would observe a culture. Ironically that lack
> of judgment or avoiding that jump to internally directed criticism, allows
> that particular meme to fade into the background, allowing the mind to move
> on.

I agree that observing *without trying to change anything* is more effective than common sense expects.

This applies to more than introspection. It has reach.

Yes - I can certainly see that reach. I find that it is indispensable to being different, or making changes.

Software developers often monitor some metrics, e.g. how many users they have and startup time. But not all metrics are monitored. Whichever are monitored tend to improve, even if no one purposefully sets aside time to improve them. Paying attention to them gets results through subtle mechanisms.

The choice of what to pay attention to, and what to ignore, is a bigger and more important part of people's lives than they commonly realize.

In _The Fountainhead_ by Ayn Rand, one of the great scenes is when the villain asks the hero, "What do you think of me?" The hero says he does not think of the villain. That's different than having a negative opinion of the villain.

People who *oppose* something -- Christianity, gay marriage, abortion, capitalism, smoking, etc -- but consequently pay attention to it, are actually making it an important part of their lives. Often unwisely.

And often unwisely we pay attention to those things within us, which we oppose, and give them more power.

Paying attention to something, *no matter your opinion*, matters. Even paying attention to something you dislike.

I previously advised paying attention to things, without really trying to change them yet, as a step in the process of changing:

http://fallibleideas.com/emotions

> Here is my advice about how to change one's emotional makeup:
>
> ...
>
> Second, be self-aware. Pay attention to, and keep track of, what you do and think and feel ... Don't worry too much about changing; just notice everything, pay attention, and form some ideas about what'd be better and guesses at how to do it, and try imagining yourself acting in the new way.

Paying attention without excessive rumination can be a challenge. But I find that one gets better with practice.

John Campbell

Justin Mallone

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Jun 27, 2011, 12:41:21 AM6/27/11
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On Jun 26, 2011, at 5:03 PM, John Campbell wrote:

>
> Interesting - I am just now thinking a great deal about memes after just having read Susan Blackmore's book, The Meme Machine. I see the problem with anti-rational memes, but can they not become connected or associated with rational memes within a person or a culture?

Well sure. This is part of why revolutionary approaches to changing one's ideas are bad, and piecemeal progress is the only way forward -- because often there is lots of good mixed in with the bad in the memes one has accepted, and wholesale rejection of tradition can throw out the baby with the bathwater.

As one example off the top of my head, most atheists seem to throw out the idea of an objective morality with their rejection of religion.


> I am pondering the granularity or scale of memes. Blackmore speaks of memeplexes and I wonder when a group of memes crosses over to become a memeplex.

This is not a very interesting question -- terminology questions tend not to be. Is a bit of the form "How many grains of sand are in a pile?" What problem would an answer to it solve?
Having rough conventions about definitions can solve useful problems of communicating information to other people (so they have a ballpark estimate of what you mean by "a pile") but seeking a more exacting definition than one needs for solving any particular problem isn't useful.


> The greatest contribution of BOI to my life has been the focus it as given me in my thinking and in my concerns. I am becoming much less interested in many things and much more interested in fewer very important things.


Yes. Encountering and starting to understand powerful ideas tends to have this effect. I've found Rand to have a similar impact!

-J

John Campbell

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Jun 27, 2011, 10:51:37 AM6/27/11
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On Sun, Jun 26, 2011 at 11:41 PM, Justin Mallone <just...@gmail.com> wrote:

On Jun 26, 2011, at 5:03 PM, John Campbell wrote:ion.


> I am pondering the granularity or scale of memes. Blackmore speaks of memeplexes and I wonder when a group of memes crosses over to become a memeplex.

This is not a very interesting question -- terminology questions tend not to be. Is a bit of the form "How many grains of sand are in a pile?" What problem would an answer to it solve?
Having rough conventions about definitions can solve useful problems of communicating information to other people (so they have a ballpark estimate of what you mean by "a pile") but seeking a more exacting definition than one needs for solving any particular problem isn't useful.


Perhaps I did not explain this well. I am not so much interested in nomenclature - mega-memes vs mili-memes perhaps? I am interested in how human minds structure and organize their memes - how they are connected or not. I am very interested in the structure of memes within a mind since they seem so central to the mind and psychology. I am relatively new to this so I am exploring the power and limits of memes. I am early in my consideration of many of the ideas presented in BOI.


> The greatest contribution of BOI to my life has been the focus it as given me in my thinking and in my concerns. I am becoming much less interested in many things and much more interested in fewer very important things.


Yes. Encountering and starting to understand powerful ideas tends to have this effect. I've found Rand to have a similar impact!

-J

I found Rand had that impact when I was first exposed to her writing in my late adolescence - she directed my thinking a great deal. Perhaps it is my age now (middle, barring Aubrey de Gray's early success), but I have found DD has focused my thinking even more and in a very satisfying way. I feel as I have been given a very powerful framework for future thought and exploration. Of course DD's ideas are more developed and comprehensive than Rand's.

John Campbell

Elliot Temple

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Nov 25, 2015, 3:03:18 PM11/25/15
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Most people have good explanations, clearly stated, with NO vague parts for ... little or nothing. So is that actually the right way to judge? How else might one judge?

Like say 95% of what they say is bullshit. But three quarters of the time they are bullshitting, it's roughly true-ish, sorta kinda mostly right. Then if they are bullshitting (instead of giving high quality non-vague explanations), you don't really know if it's true or not. Bullshitting is what they usually do when they're towards the honest and accurate side of their range.

Elliot Temple
www.fallibleideas.com
www.curi.us

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