Controlling your life and methodology [Fallible Ideas podcast] [curi Video]

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B RYTHARIUS commented on YouTube:

This video was great. You should try to remove the long pauses in between sometimes its so long that it’s distracting even when I listen at 2x speed. It’s just a minor thing that doesn’t require much to fix anyway.

I replied:

Sorry about the pauses and thanks for letting me know. This was recorded a while ago in Audio Hijack using a feature to stop recording after 2s of silence (and automatically resume recording when I talk again). Looking at this episode now with waveforms, I see there are some longer pauses due to slight background noise not being detected as silence (also there’s an occasional louder background noise such as a cough or siren). I’m (re)posting all the podcasts from Curiosity – Podcast that were never on YouTube. I’ll watch out for this problem when making new videos.

My recent podcasts used Descript to remove silences which hopefully worked better (those are the ones with waveforms and transcripts on screen instead of the white text on a red background). Livestreams aren’t edited so those may have long silences. I’ve been editing some other videos in Final Cut like the CF grammar tree videos for my other channel

I guess you don’t care and would continue to not wanna care about this stuff but longer replies makes it look as though you’re putting in more effort and thus you are low social status. A famous YouTuber will just reply with something short like “will fix this going forward”

Controlling your life methodology notes:

  • You don’t control your life by default
  • Controlling your life requires understanding your situation
    • Your culture, your genes, the world, etc.
    • What control do other things have over your life?
    • What can you do about these other factors?
  • What steps do you have to take to gain control over your life?
  • What are the threats to controlling your life and what are the solutions to the threats?
  • Learn the skills to implement solutions to threats
    • These are hard skills
    • You can fool yourself and be biased
    • You need skills for introspection and honesty to keep checking yourself
    • If you don’t look into these things, you won’t have much control over your life
  • There are lots of influences of your life, like parents, school, media, cultural leaders, etc.
  • Rebelling is not taking control; it’s playing into the dynamic
  • Learning to think better is a requirement
    • Honest introspection
    • Critical analysis of your own thoughts and behaviors
    • You are unaware of your own bias
  • The default situation is to be a puppet of static memes, culture, parents, teachers.
  • Most people who do a little philosophy are just barely over the cut-off for being willing to try
  • ET finds the lack of interest and strong feelings about taking control over your life interesting and a bit shocking
  • ET is just the messenger on these issues not the cause
  • Most people don’t have the skill to evaluate experts
  • Most people do not want to think for themselves and end up ruled by bias
  • Judge experts by looking at the state of debate
    • Who is open to debate and who is not open to debate?
    • Who has unanswered criticisms that they can’t or won’t answer?
    • Who has been scrupulously answering all criticism?
    • Who has been addressing follow up questions?
    • Preliminary questions and follow ups are necessary when books don’t offer clear solutions
    • Methods of organizing debate are relevant
    • Rules governing which questions they answer
    • Which criticisms do they ignore? How do they decide what to ignore? Bias?
    • Lack of methodology should result in negative judgement
  • The further away from philosophy you get the less these methodologies matter
    • More controversial issues require more methodology and methodological criticism
    • Example: car mechanics don’t need much methodology for resolving disagreements because the issues are less controversial
  • Great people want to take more control over their life early in life
    • Will usually result in not having done much formal education
  • Many people recognize that a PhD in philosophy doesn’t make you smart or good at thinking
  • Just because the traditional tracks don’t work doesn’t mean you should give up
  • You can go read books and look for good thinkers
  • Look at a variety of thinkers and ideas and use your own judgement
  • Interacting with experts should be open to dissent instead of passively listening and being tested (like school)
  • Just because the problem is hard doesn’t mean you can ignore the issue
  • Without good judgement you will go through life pursuing falsehoods
  • If you think you are already an expert, then write out your ideas and deal with objections
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What’s your opinion of that stuff?

I really like the content of this podcast. I’m just starting to wrap my mind around some of these things.

I have just started to try to do a bit of introspection and am finding that honesty is hard. One thing that seems to emerge from looking into some of my ideas is that my interests are scattered/disconnected. It seems like I don’t know what to want. Or I don’t seem to value very many things in practice, other than some really standard normal cultural things (e.g. relaxing, being healthy, wanting money). One of my goals with listening/reading your material, and the stuff you recommend, is finding motivation to really want good things. So, I’m looking into what some good things to want are. I’m trying to think of reasons to want to take control of my life. I like the ideas in Atlas Shrugged and have been reading in Virtue of Selfishness, in this regard. Those books are good at motivating me to the extent that I can be motivated.

It makes sense to me that I need to investigate who I am much more to find out about what drives the choices I currently make. And it makes sense that my ideas, especially those that come most naturally to me, are almost entirely put there by cultural norms and expectations. There are disagreements within the culture and there are subcultures but I basically follow well defined patterns that conform to some traditional ideas. As of now, I consider myself to be in investigation mode regarding this stuff and regarding the alternative ways of thinking and being.

With regard to the state of debate topic, I would say that is a big reason why I have been able to increasingly convince myself that you are unique intellectual. That you are doing something really different from any of the others I have seen. In addition, the more I review your stuff and look at the things you have said the more your worldview seems deeper and more consistent than anyone else’s.

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What are you finding hard about it?

I wish anyone was willing to debate me. I like debating and miss it.

Famous and prestigious people use the excuse that they’re too busy to debate anyone. Which is true, but then they just stop there. None of them have a written policy saying who they do debate, how those people are selected, why they think that’s rational, how low social status people with good ideas could be heard, etc.

I have suggested such a policy to some people, such as Robin Hanson, Jordan Peterson and the Less Wrong community, but I’ve found people unwilling to seriously consider or discuss the matter. Since they have no policy currently which tells them to listen or discuss, or guides their decisions, they have nothing but their integrity (and intuition if it’s good) preventing them from being biased and unreasonable, and that seems to be inadequate. The current social status cost of having no Paths Forward is approximately zero.

If Paths Forward became popular, then the social status cost of having none would be high, and many social climbers would start trying to do it or at least pretend to. That would give some leverage to rational smart people who don’t do social climbing but who can win debates. I’m far from the only person in the world who no one listens to, but who is capable of winning some debates with some popular intellectuals. A lot of errors could be corrected. And a more rational intellectual landscape would reduce the pressure on people to do social networking, get university degrees, etc.


People without reputation/prestige/etc. won’t debate me either. A lot of them don’t think they have anything important/serious to say and they’re busy. Also they tend not to like facing challenging questions or talking about meta issues like organized debate methodology – they just seem to want a disorganized discussion where they can flake at any moment. The thing I don’t like about that is people arbitrarily quitting in the middle with no conclusion about the topic. So I don’t get to finish the debate I was trying to have. Also what tends to happen is the early parts of debates repeat discussions I’ve had in the past, and then they quit before there’s much if any unique stuff. Also attempts at debate can turn into teaching not debating because people don’t know what they’re talking about. And most of them aren’t willing to read books and study prerequisites mid debate and really aren’t my peers. Teaching is OK but isn’t debating, doesn’t work well with people flakey people who don’t care a lot, and is really problematic when it’s ambiguous between teaching/debate and they try to go back and forth between the two different activities.


I think honest introspection is hard for me because I have been telling myself a confused story since I was fairly young. That story is that I’m really interested in finding out the answers to all the big questions in life and about the universe. That story directly contradicts my low motivation and lack of time spent correcting errors in thinking. To compensate, I have haphazardly gone around listening podcasts or reading books about the ‘big ideas’, but haven’t done any of the detail work to try and fully understand those ideas. I have had thoughts in the past like, with all the time spent on podcasts/pop science I could have probably actually learned a lot of basic science, instead of just having vague familiarity with terminology.

Basically, I have big problems with massive/ridiculous overreaching and wanting to continue overreaching. I do have interest in learning the more foundational skills too. At this point, I’m trying to continue fostering interest in things that are closer to my skill level. I think you said spending time on things helps develop your interest. I have been finding that to be the case to an extent with grammar.

I think I have also have automatized tons of conflict avoidance lying and pacifying behavior lies. Like just telling myself things are going okay, rather than face problems. And it seems like I’m super far away from having the basic skills to do this kind of thing effectively. It feels like its just really hard to bootstrap honesty and motivation but I guess this is a gradual process. I do think that gradualism can work and it’s the only way I can see working so I will just keep trying to whatever extent I can muster. All I can do is build from the limited skills and good traits I already have.

Lastly, I’m very skeptical of myself. I can’t tell if what I’m saying to myself is lie even when I mull it over. I can hardly trust the things I say/write in real time, at all. So, as I think things, its hard to tell what’s an automatic/scripted deception and what’s more truth oriented.

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I didn’t expect or foresee, that as I got better at debate, debate would become less available to me. You might expect better debaters would be in higher demand than worse debaters. But I don’t think they are.

Sometimes I post anonymously and notice how people treat me differently. I wonder how much/many high status people do that. I think it’s unusual. They wanted that status and got it on purpose. They want to use it. And they already know low status people are treated poorly, including by themselves.

There are stories about royalty going out in their city disguised as commoners. I think few nobles ever did it, at least as adults. It’s easy and safe online but I think people see it kinda like disguising yourself as a (poor black homosexual female) child. They don’t want to walk in other people’s shoes. They know their friends are irrational and tribalist, like they themselves are. They have no wish to pretend to be in the out-group to experience being mistreated. They don’t need to find out the true character of their peers because they already know it and anyway can find out by introspection. Finding out negative things about people like themselves is just threatening and makes lying to themselves about who they are harder.

This is one of my big problems. Training to avoiding that outcome was one of the main goals of my childhood. I did a fair amount of that explicitly. Like, I would watch movies looking for good ‘comebacks’ or ‘burns’. The pressure to develop that ability felt overwhelming. I often feel like a social robot. Its like the things I say to people are so automatic that its hard to stop unless that is my main focus. It’s bad enough that I have a hard time concentrating on what people say while also saying things that I have given some consideration. I think I have a really intense second-handedness going on with social interactions too. I’ve ended up sort of a chameleon personality. I have come to prefer alone time more and more. It seems like these traits are going to be a colossal mess to unwind.

So, it seems debating the high status people would have value to you in your enjoyment of the debate and the overall improvement to society. I assume a lot of those people are still not very skilled at debate though. Wouldn’t that lack of skill diminish the enjoyment of the debate?

What value do you get from debating people who are low skill? It seems like their isn’t anyone who can match you so low skill is all you would be able to find.

Do low skill people who haven’t thought things through much even have any unique stuff to get to? Speaking for myself, it seems like I just have a lot of random, not integrated ideas, and I forget what I used to think about things. I’m pretty unsure what I currently think about a lot of things.

It seems like teaching is the only thing you have left and you will have to wait a few years for anyone to catch up (assuming they started studying diligently right now).

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This paragraph itself seems reasonably non-social and honest. How did you manage that? Maybe compartmentalization between IRL and online? Or compartmentalization by group or type of people you’re interacting with?

One issue is the professional intellectuals have time and resources to put into stuff. E.g. some of them have read a lot of books. Another issue is showing people (anyone in the public who cares) what the intellectuals are actually like. Another issue is trying to engage with current intellectual leadership and influence our culture. Another is potentially finding some people with some good qualities. Another issue is getting some attention so interesting people can find me.

I don’t care that much who is willing to talk but the public intellectuals are some of the people who are making some kinda public claim to rationality, knowledge, interest in truth-seeking discussion, etc. – they claim to be what I want/value – so that is a reason to be more interested in talking with them than with other people who don’t even claim it.

There are also some low status self-proclaimed intellectuals who will make similar claims to rationality and I’ve tried repeatedly to talk with those kinds of people.

Any sort of discussion with anyone is interesting if it’s approximately unbounded. Everyone has a brain. What’s harder to come by is a willingness to engage with issues. There are some things I’d like to talk about, which are relevant to people, but which basically no one wants to talk with me about.

I think the extent to which I manage to be honest, it is compartmentalization. I’ve always done lots of compartmentalization with my life, mostly for bad reasons though. I’m pretty sure that I’m worse IRL. My guess is that I’m a lot worse IRL. But I also have this chameleon problem kind of in built in any context. If I I think that I know some things that you want to hear then I’ll be liable to try and say them. On some level, I don’t want to do this, but it’s hard for me to disentangle want I understand others to believe from what I actually think. I have a huge regency bias. That has cause me to swing wildly between conscious beliefs. I don’t think my underlying personality gets much affected by the vacillations, since my inexplicit personality in a big part of the problem

I don’t know if I really did manage to be honest. One issue that could go both ways is that I have read some of your stuff and want engage in discussion in a way that works for you. In doing so, I have been building up a mental model of you since I started reading. I’m partially aware that my mental model of you is all jacked up but I also think that I will try to do things pleasing to that model of you. I also think there are ways I could be looking to sabotage but I just don’t know. There are so many ways I could be fooling myself here.

I think to myself, that at this moment, I want to learn and get better but I’m so inconsistent. My inconsistency might be related to blanking out a lot of the time. I guess that I do blank out a lot but I haven’t looked into it much.

In addition, I partly want to say things to establish, both to myself and CF community members, that I’m somewhat aware of how many issues I have. I might also just be trying to lower expectations for myself in a sabotaging way. It seems like so many of these things are double edge swords and I can’t tell what side I’m on.

I like engaging in this kind of discussion but I think it must be overreaching in many ways. When I think of how much overreaching I could be doing right now (while mostly unaware), it makes me think I should have spent this time on grammar.

I appreciate you responding and asking questions too.

Overreaching is related to errors which depend on goals. What are your goals in this kind of discussion?

I don’t know or I forgot the basic ideas behind overreaching. As soon as I read your response, it made some sense to me and I kind of remember having read that somewhere in your writing. So, maybe this is a good lead/reminder to go re-read some stuff about overreaching.

I didn’t even consciously think about what my goals were in this discussion. I think that’s indicative of the way I operate most of the time. I don’t think about what my goals are while I’m doing things. That makes it seem like I’m going on some kind of automatized goals that I probably haven’t criticized.

Since, I didn’t think about the goals in the discussion I guess that the implicit goals could have been socially based. Like, maybe I was trying to seem open-minded and willing to discuss weaknesses. I’m probably trying to portray myself as much more able to be self-critical than I actually am. I’m partially aware that I’m not very self-critical, especially if I wasn’t anonymous.

I haven’t been able to figure out too much about what my goals are anyway. I think I just have a bunch of standard background goals. Maybe in addition to those goals, I have some desire for real self-improvement that is intrinsically motivated.

One issue with my motivation is that I have had a significant underlying drive to get good at lots of things so that I will then be high status. So, I actually do want to get good at stuff but not for good reasons. I think I have been starting to develop some conscious ideas in contradiction to that underlying motivation but I thought this bad way for quite a while.

What good motivations could I have? To start learning more about what my problems are. To get some errors pointed out to me that I can start looking into. Maybe even start working on correcting some errors. But I need to figure out more about what some good goals to have would be to start correcting errors. I think that I want to work on building up some general-purpose skills that will be useful for a variety of potential goals.

That makes sense because I don’t think you’ve done any practice drills about goals or overreaching. Stuff kinda like Practice Thinking in Terms of Error Correction

I know I haven’t provided a bunch of e.g. worksheets. Too many things to do and make, too little time/energy…

Sometimes I post anonymously and notice how people treat me differently.

How do people treat you differently when you post anonymously?

I find that people react much more negatively to criticism/disagreement when I’m anonymous. They’re more likely to be upset, take it badly, be offended, lecture me, assume I don’t know stuff, or just express disagreement and argue with me at all. That’s partly a positive thing because they say what they think more instead of hiding it. I think basically if I’m Elliot they assume I’m right and they’re wrong, so they want to hide their wrong ideas. But if I’m anonymous, they assume they’re right and anonymous is wrong, so they want to talk about it because they think they’ll “win”.

In the past people tried to “win” more against Elliot; I think people stopped trying as much because I improved at making clear, decisive arguments and also I started asking more challenging meta questions like talking about debate methodology and asking people if they want to debate until a length five impasse chain. Sometimes I ask questions related to Paths Forward.

Sometimes they claim to have a mainstream or standard position – a high status view or something lots of smart people already know – so I asked if their position has been written down by anyone in a satisfactory way. I’ll ask them to give sources and debate using writing that existed before the debate started, not write their own non-edited, sloppy arguments. I find people very resistant to this – they want to say their own stuff, without editing, and without actually having to read books or be familiar with the sources they make claims about. Often they seem to think making their arguments (quickly) is part of the fun, which has two problems. First, we should prioritize seeking the truth and engaging with the highest quality literature we can find is important for that. Second, if you want to say your own personal opinions that you haven’t thought through a bunch, and ignore the literature, then stop trying to also associate yourself with the social status or authority of the literature you won’t use. People try to have it both ways because e.g. they are advocating induction, and lots of other people advocate induction including high status book authors, so they are like “induction is the high status position and Popper is probably wrong” (but they won’t say it so clearly) but then a lot of what they say contradicts a lot of the pro-induction literature… (Also a lot of the pro-induction literature contradicts a lot of other pro-induction literature, so adding up the status and weight of argument of all of it, into a sum total, doesn’t make sense.)

Broadly I find most people really shy away from organized, structured discussion that keeps things clear and doesn’t just arbitrarily forget about or ignore the stuff they want to evade.

Many people also hate talking about what they’ve done to know what they’re talking about, acquire prerequisite skills, etc. Like if you ask people to list what they think the prerequisites are for getting something right and having an informed opinion, and then what actions they have taken to address that list of prerequisites … then most people won’t want to talk anymore. (A bit like The Fountainhead when Keating says: “Dominique, I … I don’t want to talk.”.)

Sometimes it’s weird to me because I made zero effort to disguise my writing style or change what I said, and I’m openly Anonymous not using a pseudonym to pretend to be a unique poster, but some people are nevertheless oblivious to my identity. So it seems like people are judging some posts partly by the signature not the content. Kind of the opposite of The Fountainhead:

“You know damn well what I mean. Do you think I picked the things in my art gallery by their signatures? If Peter Keating designed this, I’ll eat every copy of today’s Banner.”

Also some other results from searching the book for “signature”:

He did not need to see the caption or the brusque signature in the comer of the sketch; he knew that no one else had conceived that house

The estimates set by collectors and the matter of great signatures were of no concern to him.

She was too far away to see the signature, but she knew the work and the only man who could have designed that house.

For other stuff like just sharing a link or agreeing with people, I get a bit less attention when anonymous, but there’s less of a difference.

My guess is that this is somewhat related to social world where ppl somewhat judge ideas based on source rather than content.

Would you prefer if ppl treated you, when posting as Elliot, a little more like they treat you when posting as Anonymous?

Could it be something like if you, as Elliot, writes something and ppl don’t fully understand it, they assume you are correct even though they didn’t fully understand it based on your history (for a lack of a better word); but when Anonymous writes something that they do not fully understand then they don’t accept not fully understanding what Anon said?