one red nail, living the consequence of your ideas

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Max Kaye

unread,
Jun 19, 2020, 7:47:17 AM6/19/20
to fallibl...@googlegroups.com
to start a trend of not talking about the things i said I would in that
first email: living the consequence of your ideas, meta edition.

this email is about this: https://onerednail.com/
read it there for nicer formatting.
I've copied it to the end of this email for easy quotation.

You can find history on the gist page:
https://gist.github.com/XertroV/0c993866f2087b6002c4333790719bca (the
site serves the current version of the gist directly)

hopefully its obvious that FI played a role in my decision to do this
originally. On occasion it's lead to me being able to talk with someone
about the substance of it, and introduce them to better ideas, but
mostly I do it for myself. It's sort of like tying a string on your
finger to not forget something.

I think it's helped me. particularly
- when I'm thinking about something IRL that is bothering me (esp
regarding other ppl e.g. situation at work)
- "centering" me when I'm emotional about something (I don't like that
word, but it's close enough)
- reconsidering things I was overly sure about, esp when I should know
better
- more engaged and honest with my philosophical priorities

in some ways i feel like it's a bit of a way to exploit my own issues
with wrt to appearance (maybe not so good, an excuse might be "flair is
nice"), but there's 2 other layers here:
1. choosing to show something consistently is a commitment to deeper
consistency (depending on what you show, but relevant in this case)
2. a passive effect on my behaviour, similar maybe to choosing a uniform
that has meaning

an example: It makes me less likely to avoid compromising my behvaiour
publicly, even tho most/nearly all ppl who see it won't attribute any
*meaning*, let alone something philosophically important. _I_ do, tho,
and that means i'm more confident in standing up for moral rigor and
objective good, and caring about them in principle and practice. I don't
accept social excuses for avoiding things like confrontation ('for the
sake of X') nearly as easily, probably still do to some degree. Not
knowing what those social excuses are is an issue (bc I can't know the
effect).

I'm inviting any thoughts or criticism any of you have: on the content
itself, my decision to do it originally, and anything related to this
email's content.

> living the consequence of your ideas, meta edition.

I said this earlier because i think it'd be dishonest not to put this
forward for discussion, particularly because it's somewhat existential,
or maybe is my expression of existential things.

I think it was a good decision on the whole. Earlier this year I went
through a very unproductive period^1 and I stopped wearing it because I
felt like I couldn't live up to it, and wanting to wear it again helped
get out of said period (and waiting for some consistency in meeting my
priorities, was like 4 weeks waiting, maybe, and i've been wearing it
again for a week). feeling like I wasn't living up to what it demanded
was part of "recovering", and it's also been one of the reasons I'm
posting again.

since I feel like it's still good, i'm not going to stop unless I have a
good reason, or feel like i'm not living up to it.

Max


PS. doubled my 20 minute time box I said I'd set per email.


[1]: some people (outside FI) might call it "depression" or something
like that^3. was 6 weeks or so in this case, essentially on the couch
watching youtube or binging some game, and another 2-4 weeks avoiding
more substantial things but having fun and being busy again^2. this sort
of period is somewhat regular (once every 9-15 months), but not
disconnected from things in life, so I have been developing strategies
a) to get back to productivity sooner, b) reduce negative impacts, c)
figure out how to avoid it.

[2]: in this case i went through a bunch of projects, many of them
abandoned. but they're not important to finish in this case, only start.
the stuff that's important to finish I left till later, when I'd be
confident i could finish them.

[3]: my working theory is I get down because I'm unhappy with myself,
e.g. by working for a project that is vapid or bad priorities or
whatever. particularly I'm unhappy with contradictions between my values
and actions. I get a bit sad about it and other things, refuse to do
anything for a while besides self indulge, and at some point get over
it, usually associated with a burst of activity and re-dedication to
something i think meaningful.


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

in full:

# One Red Nail

A statement on the importance of philosophy and morality in daily life.

v1.1, 2019-03-07, Max Kaye

## The Physical

The left hand ring finger's nail is painted red.

## The Background

### Penn and Teller, and Penn Jillette's Fingernail

> I've liked Penn and Teller for many years. Their excellent TV series
*Bullshit!* (2003) was influential in my early philosophical
development. Besides being incredibly skilled *technically,* their
stagecraft is second-to-none. (A fact highlighted by their holding the
record of longest running headline show in Vegas, ever. Excluding some
tragedy, this will continue til at least 2022.)
>
> This is not their best quality, though. They are uncommon for a far
more important reason. Throughout their career they *regularly and
consistently* educate their audience (both implicitly and explicitly) on
the importance of *philosophy, epistemology, and morality*; including
practical ideas like the importance of *freedom, democracy, rationality,
and tolerance* (in the Popperian sense).
>
> They've done this, I can only presume, because they take their
morality and values seriously. They feel *compelled* to do these things
due to their ideas (rational memes).
>
> Penn Jillette has, for decades, painted his left hand ring finger's
nail red.
>> People asking about my red fingernail. It's for my mom. I wear my
dad's ring and my mom's nail polish. It reminds me of them. Momma's boy.
>
> -- *[Penn Jillette, 14th May
2012](https://twitter.com/pennjillette/status/201916503807893505?s=21)*
>
> Obviously, it doesn't make much sense for me to do the same thing for
the same reason. I chose this as the symbol because I think Penn and
Teller are excellent, thoughtful people, and because it is *visible,
non-permanent, unaffiliated, and rejects arbitrary social norms*. It's
also easy, inexpensive, somewhat striking, otherwise socially
unencumbered, and personal.

-- *Max Kaye*

## The Symbol

> Whenever there has been progress, there have been influential
thinkers who denied that it was genuine, that it was desirable, or even
that the concept was meaningful. **They should have known better.**

-- *David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity (2011)* (emphasis mine)

> We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us;
we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges.

-- *Gene Wolfe, The Shadow of the Torturer (1980)*

There are lots of common symbols we carry and wear. Necklaces for
religious status; insignias for military ranks; rings for marital
status; flags for citizenship and loyalty; garments for subculture
membership; titles for education; logos for political affiliation; and
myriad more for podcasts we enjoy, books we read, games we play,
languages we write. Embracing them *changes* us, and our relationships.
They're symbols of dedication, or values, or tastes, or ideas. The
symbols that invent us *matter*.

But there is no symbol for what I want. I care deeply about our time on
this planet, and I care about the success of our collective legacy. It's
entirely possible that the spark of humanity in this universe will one
day be snuffed out. But **there is no reason it need be that way**. No
law of physics demands human suffering, and *every one of our problems,
personal and social, is soluble* (Beginning of Infinity (BoI), chapters
3 and 9).

However, we cannot choose the solutions. When we create good ideas, it
is not a matter of simply selecting the goals or outcomes and designing
towards an answer. Rather, we must exert *creative effort* to forge new
ideas in the fire of our minds. We must discard the broken explanations,
and it is what we are *left* with that are our best ideas.

To be a *responsible* thinker requires accepting this, because without
doing so you would deny yourself the most powerful method of *error
correction* we have. We must *live the consequences* of our ideas and
morality, strive for their betterment, and understand the consequences
of the alternative.

The red fingernail is -- for me -- a dedication to those ideas and
values. It is a reminder of the importance of philosophy and
epistemology in daily life, and of fostering a society that willingly
embraces them. It is an openness to ideas, criticisms, and improvements.
It is a declaration of responsibility, and a desire to accept it.

## FAQ

### Contact

onere...@xk.io

### Where would I go if I care about my ideas being the best they can be?

Start with [https://fallibleideas.com](https://fallibleideas.com)

(And read The Beginning of Infinity)

### Is there a political movement you endorse?

One; the one I started: [https://voteflux.org](https://voteflux.org)

### What is the timeline?

I started doing this on Saturday 2nd March 2019.

This page first published 6th March 2019.

### Does this have any relation to the *Polished Man* campaign from 2015?

No.

Max Kaye

unread,
Jun 19, 2020, 8:18:59 AM6/19/20
to fallibl...@googlegroups.com
Wanted to add some self-commentary on the article-thing itself.

On 19/06/2020 9:47 pm, Max Kaye wrote:
> ----------------------------
>
> in full:
>
> # One Red Nail
>
> A statement on the importance of philosophy and morality in daily life.
>
> v1.1, 2019-03-07, Max Kaye
>
> ## The Physical
>
> The left hand ring finger's nail is painted red.
>
> ## The Background

note: the following section is self-quoted (so it's 2 quotes deep in
this email) which is more obvious on the site. Mentioning here b/c not
every line _looks_ quoted here (the original quote is a markdown quote,
and the outer quote is a plaintext email quote).

> ### Penn and Teller, and Penn Jillette's Fingernail
>
> > I've liked Penn and Teller for many years. Their excellent TV series
> *Bullshit!* (2003) was influential in my early philosophical
> development. Besides being incredibly skilled *technically,* their
> stagecraft is second-to-none. (A fact highlighted by their holding the
> record of longest running headline show in Vegas, ever. Excluding some
> tragedy, this will continue til at least 2022.)

Is this appealing to social status? Maybe not alone but in context? (or
vice versa)

They're not like super rich or popular or something, tho, and my reason
for including it is more of an appeal to capitalism and the achievement
itself considering peoples' attention spans and tolerance for anything
substantial.

I have such high regard (maybe unduly) for _Bullshit_ b/c it changed my
mind on a decent number of topics, and on more topics made me think
about things I hadn't or refused to. It's also a clear commitment to
calling things out and standing up for Truth.

**In terms of popular and semi-popular material** I think it's pretty
extra-ordinary, though, and refreshing when there's plenty of fake stuff
that's dressed up like this.

> > This is not their best quality, though. They are uncommon for a far
> more important reason. Throughout their career they *regularly and
> consistently* educate their audience (both implicitly and explicitly) on
> the importance of *philosophy, epistemology, and morality*; including
> practical ideas like the importance of *freedom, democracy, rationality,
> and tolerance* (in the Popperian sense).
> >
> > They've done this, I can only presume, because they take their
> morality and values seriously. They feel *compelled* to do these things
> due to their ideas (rational memes).

These 2 paragraphs are much stronger (not necessarily better than the 1
above, but I'm more confident they're *good*).

> > Penn Jillette has, for decades, painted his left hand ring finger's
> nail red.
> >> People asking about my red fingernail. It's for my mom. I wear my
> dad's ring and my mom's nail polish.  It reminds me of them.  Momma's boy.
> >
> > -- *[Penn Jillette, 14th May
> 2012](https://twitter.com/pennjillette/status/201916503807893505?s=21)*
> >
> > Obviously, it doesn't make much sense for me to do the same thing for
> the same reason. I chose this as the symbol because I think Penn and
> Teller are excellent, thoughtful people, and because it is *visible,
> non-permanent, unaffiliated, and rejects arbitrary social norms*. It's
> also easy, inexpensive, somewhat striking, otherwise socially
> unencumbered, and personal.
>
> -- *Max Kaye*

This section can be seen as a self-association with Penn and Teller or
trying to take advantage of (an association with) them / their qualities
/ whatever. Worse if the first paragraph above is appealing to social
status.

> I chose this as the symbol because I think Penn and
> Teller are excellent, thoughtful people

I don't _really_ explain this, I'm implying it's a bit of a homage.

The biggest risk I see with this first half is secondhandedness. I
thought a lot about that before publishing this originally (in the week
I spent writing and editing). I don't think it needs to be, but it
depends on _me_ and my dedication to the second half. It's also
important that it doesn't _become_ that.

Aside: can secondhandedness be imposed on you because of other people's
perception *exclusively*, even if it wasn't your _intent_, like you
weren't just lying to yourself.
(if someone were secondhanded and knew it in some way they might want
ppl to have the right perception b/c it amplifies the effect. you'd miss
this if lying to yourself, tho)

> ## The Symbol
>
> > Whenever there has been progress, there have been influential
> thinkers who denied that it was genuine, that it was desirable, or even
> that the concept was meaningful. **They should have known better.**
>
> -- *David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity (2011)* (emphasis mine)
>
> > We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us;
> we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges.
>
> -- *Gene Wolfe, The Shadow of the Torturer (1980)*
>
> There are lots of common symbols we carry and wear. Necklaces for
> religious status; insignias for military ranks; rings for marital
> status; flags for citizenship and loyalty; garments for subculture
> membership; titles for education; logos for political affiliation; and
> myriad more for podcasts we enjoy, books we read, games we play,
> languages we write. Embracing them *changes* us, and our relationships.
> They're symbols of dedication, or values, or tastes, or ideas. The
> symbols that invent us *matter*.

Besides the list here, I don't think there's much I could cut from this
second half without diminishing it. And I think I will stand by every
sentence if pushed (nothing would be removed under pressure). I'm less
sure of that for the first section, but there's also more ways to go
about it, even sticking to the penn and teller theme.

Max Kaye

unread,
Nov 18, 2020, 3:41:22 PM11/18/20
to fallibl...@googlegroups.com
On Fri, 19 Jun 2020 21:47:10 +1000 Max Kaye <m...@xk.io> wrote:

> to start a trend of not talking about the things i said I would in that
> first email: living the consequence of your ideas, meta edition.
>
> this email is about this: https://onerednail.com/
> read it there for nicer formatting.
> I've copied it to the end of this email for easy quotation.
>
> You can find history on the gist page:
> https://gist.github.com/XertroV/0c993866f2087b6002c4333790719bca (the
> site serves the current version of the gist directly)

I no longer endorse this idea (onerednail.com) and have updated the site to reflect that.
I first posted this postmortem here: https://curi.us/2380#18718

The problem seems fairly simple now:

on the site I say something like: ideas matter, and that wearing a red nail polish on a particular finger is the symbol I'd chosen for that. particularly I say:

> To be a *responsible* thinker requires accepting this, because without doing so you would deny yourself the most powerful method of *error correction* we have. We must *live the consequences* of our ideas and morality, strive for their betterment, and understand the consequences of the alternative.

the problem is that this does not line up with behavior. if I value philosophy, why have I not been writing and learning and doing any of it? I *thought* I was, but it was superficial. what I *should* be doing (living the consequence of my ideas) is dedicating time and effort and things to actually doing philosophy.

> The red fingernail is -- for me -- a dedication to those ideas and values.

Not anymore. Now it's more of a reminder about *faking* that dedication.

> It is a declaration of responsibility, and a desire to accept it.

It was an *abdication* of responsibility, and a desire to *believe* I accepted it, even if that was because I was *fooling myself*.

(Minor grammar mistake: I say the red nail is a desire, where I should have said "a symbol of my desire" or something like that.)

*Was it bad to do it though?*

First, I don't think it was *wrong* to do. Like I didn't think it went against any of my principles, it was at least the *claim* that philosophy was important - which is good - and it didn't hurt anyone.

The idea has serious problems, so it's bad in that sense.

However, it did succeed at some things. This one particularly:

> It is a reminder of the importance of philosophy and epistemology in daily life, [...]

It did do this. I paused for thought and considered things more deeply than I would have otherwise. It was a direct part of some significant events b/c *I was bothered when I thought my actions didn't line up with the symbol.* There would have been some significant thoughts I wouldn't have had, and actions I wouldn't have done, if I decided not to do it in the first place.

For that reason *I don't regret the mistake, and I would be happy to make the same mistake if I didn't know better.*

----

I originally meant to write something longer, but I don't really think there's anything super important I haven't said. I indicated in the curi.us post that I was considering taking some time before I posted to FI, but I don't really see a downside to posting it now. I changed some minor typos/spelling.

--
Max
xk.io

I post my FI work/articles/exercise/practice here:
https://xertrov.github.io/fi
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