Career, Physics and Goals (was: Artificial General Intelligence Speculations)

I’m a bit confused by this passage, particularly the part I’ve bolded:

I read the bolded sentence as you saying that I chose to focus effort on rage posting rather than philosophy. That doesn’t make sense to me, because it wasn’t something that required focused effort; it was more like an automatized habit that I wasn’t subjecting to criticism. Am I misunderstanding what “this” refers to?

I assume that by this you are referring to the part of our discussion where we talked about people failing to become good at philosophy.

Assertions are not arguments, explanations or reasoning. This assertion should not persuade yourself or me.

Your plan, discussed earlier, is to focus effort primarily on physics, not on rage posting.

What?

Okay. I think that you say the assertion should not be persuasive to me because I might only have a memory of some of the thought processes that caused me to write what I wrote, and/or maybe a bias corrupted my memory. I don’t know how to refute possibilities like that, so I guess I agree (edit: I’m actually not sure if I agree. On some level I think I should agree by CF standards because it’s non-refuted, but in practice I actually don’t agree in some sense because I don’t know how I could trust any of my memories by that standard). It somehow seems unlikely to me, but I doubt I could give a good argument for why.

Okay, yes. But my earlier question still applies if I just change the word “philosophy” to the word “physics.” I.e.

I read the bolded sentence as you saying that I chose to focus effort on rage posting rather than physics. That doesn’t make sense to me, because it wasn’t something that required focused effort; it was more like an automatized habit that I wasn’t subjecting to criticism. Am I misunderstanding what “this” refers to?

As in, I thought the tone of the first post was insufficiently reflective of my true attitude, which was more deferential than I thought the first post made it sound. Unfortunately, it looks like my second comment had the opposite of its intended effect, because you think it was passive-aggressive and snarky.

I would definitely be curious to know what you think a persuasive argument would look like here. How can I objectively evaluate my own memories in situations like this?

I’m still planning to do more with this math error correction stuff by the way. I’m still convinced it’s a good idea and I’m not stuck, I just have to actually get around to putting in real effort.

I was confused by this last message, so I went back and read the context (which I pasted above).

To summarize it:

Elliot said (this is the bolded sentence lmf was referring to):

This is an example of what it means to choose to focus effort elsewhere instead of on philosophy.

lmf replied:

I read the bolded sentence as you saying that I chose to focus effort on rage posting rather than philosophy.

Elliot replied:

Your plan, discussed earlier, is to focus effort primarily on physics, not on rage posting.

So, in Elliot’s original (bolded) sentence, the “elsewhere” he was talking about was physics.

The sentence was:

This is an example of what it means to choose to focus effort elsewhere instead of on philosophy.

So, in lmf’s case, he meant: This is an example of what it means to choose to focus effort on physics instead of on philosophy.

lmf read Elliot’s last message differently than I did: when Elliot said lmf was choosing to focus on physics, lmf substituted “physics” in for “philosophy” in the original (bold) sentence. But I think “physics” was meant as the “elsewhere”.

This is just my reading of the words as they are written, with no insight into what Elliot actually meant. I am curious if lmf disagrees with my reading.

You’re ambiguously and indirectly asking for free mentoring, but specifically about the conversation threads that you select which I think won’t be productive (because they’re local details not underlying causes). You’re not pursuing approaches that I think would be productive. You selecting topics, against my better judgment, is incompatible with mentoring.

This kind of thing also doesn’t work within a peer debate/discussion framework because, in that context, you have to suggest ways to proceed that are reasonable from both people’s perspectives. You have to think of something that would make progress both if person A was right and also if, instead, person B was right. You need a plan that takes into account both of those scenarios. But you have been unreceptive to my plans of that nature and have tried to steer conversations to stuff that I’ve explained are not productive from my point of view or if I’m right about what the situation is. (If you don’t already know this, and have experience doing it, and have a ton of other background knowledge, that’s incompatible with a peer context. If I have to guide you about it, then that looks more like teaching you stuff than interacting with a peer.)

For example, I wrote this and your replies, besides their other problems, basically ignored the main thing I was saying which was about what I thought would and wouldn’t work to make progress.

You’re lost but I don’t think dealing with this local detail would solve any underlying problems.

The issue is primarily interpretation, not memory, but this isn’t the right issue to deal with.

I broadly read the main thing you were saying in the post as saying that I (and/or @alanforr ) should be learning more philosophy and working on automatizing more relevant conversation skills. I agree (insofar as the comment was directed towards me; I won’t speak for Alan).

The main part of the post being kind of obvious to me (since I’ve seen you make the point elsewhere and your explanations make sense), I focused on a less central part of your post, the part where you said the conversation is “too disorganized.” I guess I assumed you meant something like it’s too disorganized to be a productive conversation. I disagreed (and still disagree), so I explained why and asked you for clarification. It was also an essential thing to address, given that I wanted to continue the thread: If the thread is truly “too disorganized,” why would I bother continuing it?

I am indeed lost. I think you used way too many pronouns in your original paragraph. I’ve tried to fill them in in several different ways (including anon’s suggestion), and none of the ways of filling them in result in a thought that makes sense to me.

I’ll actually try giving arguments, instead of just assuming they aren’t good enough.

I’ll start with an argument that’s an elaboration on this:

I specifically remember writing the second comment to make the first comment sound more friendly and deferential. How could I accidentally be snarky and aggressive in my 2nd comment, when my explicit purpose in writing the 2nd comment was to make sure my first comment wasn’t misinterpreted as aggressive? It basically seems impossible to me. What’s your theory of how that could have happened?

You’re basically (and ambiguously – just after I tried raising the issue of this sort of ambiguity, and you didn’t respond) asking me, again, to have the conversation of your choosing, and answer/explain/teach the issues you choose – while ignoring my explanation about why I don’t think that will be productive. I don’t want to get caught up in these sorts of local details. I don’t want to proceed in a way where, if I’m right about what’s going on and what the answers are, then I’m wasting my time and not getting value.

In my own experience, when I notice that I am consciously trying to sound friendly, I take that as a potential clue that I am in fact not being friendly. Generally if you are trying to sound friendly, it is because some part of you is irritated or angry or not friendly in some way.

I don’t understand how my suggestion doesn’t make sense. It seemed reasonable to me, and made sense the way that I read it.

Okay, sorry. I should have made it less ambiguous what I was doing with those posts.

With this post, I was indeed asking for “mentoring” of a sort on a specific topic. I didn’t think it would conflict with other suggestions you’ve made about learning; to the contrary, I actually figured when I posted it that your “assertions are not arguments” comment might have been intended to get me to ask a question like the one I asked. (edit: to clarify, despite my intuition at the time when I asked it, I don’t think I had a very good reason to think it was a good question to ask, and I believe you when you say it’s not a good thing to focus on)

With the later post, I did not see myself as asking you to teach me things. In fact, I guess I was mostly hoping you would not respond, because it’s an unpleasant and boring topic to me, and it distracts from my other projects. I made the post because I take your accusation that I was being aggressive very seriously, I disagree vehemently with it, and I do not want there to be a shadow of a doubt about my position on the matter.

This might be true in normal situations, but the context for me is a bit weird, because since posting this not long ago, I have been paying a lot of conscious attention to whether or not I am feeling defensive / irritated / etc before I post.

Asking me a direct question, which you don’t want me to answer, is toxic. You asked me to spend my effort creating something of negative value to you, so instead of being thanked and appreciated if I answered, I would instead be treated even worse. You deny mistreating me in another way – but you don’t actually know how to or want to rationally discuss it, and you’re mistreating me now.

You’re right. I apologize for asking a question without making it clear that I didn’t truly want to discuss it. That’s a bad thing to do.

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Why did you ask a question if you didn’t want to discuss it and think that doing so is a bad thing to do?

Edit: Or do you think that the bad thing is not making it clear you didn’t want to discuss it rather than asking a question without wanting to discuss it?

The former is what I am apologizing for. I don’t think the latter action would be inherently bad.

At the time when I asked the question, I think I was not fully conscious of my motivations.