Elliot's Microblogging

I read over 100k words yesterday. (That would be around 350 paper pages.) Fun but tiring. I haven’t read that much for a while.

Also, unrelated, I’ve been doing a lot of editing recently. Many of my recent CF articles were written in the last 4 years.

Months ago, patio11 tweeted a bunch about his Vaccinate California startup/project.

The general impression I got was that anyone could have done it, just like with most startups. You just need to take some initiative and do something useful.

He did it because he was motivated, driven, put in the work, and no one else did it first.

The community flocked to help with donations of money and labor (from programmers as well as simpler stuff like people making phone calls).

In general, startup success has more to do with social networking than people talk about or admit.

But at least with a regular startup you’re selling something, and customers might like it and buy it regardless of who your friends are. And investors like to make money.

With a charity it’s much harder. There’s no big pay day. The users don’t pay you. You have donors instead of investors. Capitalism doesn’t help level the playing field.

patio11 had success where many other people would not have been able to do the same thing because of his social status and his contacts in the tech industry. It’s important that people observing be aware of how achievable a similar thing is or is not for them. patio11 is systematically misleading about that.

I’m fascinated by the idea that outside events can make you think something, literally against your will.

For example:

If I said to you, “Don’t think of an elephant,” you’d be forced to think of an elephant in order to comprehend the statement.

By the time you tried not to think of the elephant, it’d be too late.

And oh by the way, I just made you think of an elephant.

And maybe this elephant idea triggered a pleasant childhood memory of going to the zoo with your grandparents…

And then maybe that memory made you think of spending Christmas eve at their old house, and so on…

Why are people so confident that this trick always works? That it makes people have thoughts, even against their will?

It did not work on me when I read this text. I recognized the word “elephant” as a noun representing any noun, and I recognized what the sentence meant conceptually (I’ve seen it before), and I moved on. You can know what the sentence means without picturing an elephant.

They (people who do this trick – I’ve seen it before) don’t even say what they mean by “think of an elephant”. Do they mean picture one? Otherwise, how many traits of an elephant do you have to load into active memory for it to count? E.g. if you see the word “elephant” and remember or think of the trait “noun” does that count? What about the trait “animal”? Big? Heavy? Gray? Mammal? Ivory tusks? What about a combination of traits? What pieces of data/information count? But I suspect they just mean picturing an elephant, and this emphasis on thinking in pictures – which they take for granted – is related to how most people are kinda bad with words and logical thinking. A lot of people focus on visualizing things (and sometimes the other senses) and on emotions (they remember how stuff made them feel instead of what happened), and it’s hard to do logical analysis or deal with ordered lists of thousands of words and punctuation when that’s how you habitually think.

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Schools teach stuff that’s really contrary to Paths Forward.

You can’t hand in a published article to respond to an essay prompt. You have to write your own, even if you have nothing new to say and think someone else already said it better.

You can’t do it in a Paths Forward way either where you say that you take responsibility for the arguments in the article and you’ll responds to any questions/criticism, but after a literature review you were unable to identify any outstanding questions/criticisms that need answering. You could even turn in a whole tree with cites to the answers to 50 potential questions/criticisms, and you’d still just be given an F. Students are required to address topics in a non-Paths Forward way.

The emphasis on saying something yourself to get credit for it is a major cause/incentive for plagiarism too. Of course not every student can think of an original answer to every essay question. Most students responding to most prompts will be writing unoriginal stuff and trying to make it different enough not to count as plagiarism, but not too different – it needs to be similar to existing answers so your teacher can recognize it as a standard answer and give you a decent grade (even if you did have a important thing to say as an answer, that didn’t fit one of the expected answers, you might get a bad grade for it – in fact, with DD’s personal help, I tried that a few times with bad results from graders). And you aren’t supposed to quote too much or rely on cites too much for your main points – but at the same time you’re trying to say stuff that’s already been written while having no ideas about how to improve on existing publications by experts.

EDIT: lol a couple min after writing this I see this: https://www.tiktok.com/@bad_news_bares/video/7046451615649271046

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A post was split to a new topic: Reading Methods, Speed and Quantity

if i wait until ppl do 5 things wrong and then reply to all 5 at once they hate that. but if i reply to the first thing they deny pattern or any global issue

ppl exploit the approach to social dynamics here. they socially mistreat me b/c i won’t respond by being socially mean to them. i don’t do the (quite problematic) normal policing behaviors that keep various bad behaviors in check.

i used to charitably see people as flawed individuals who were trying to work on their social memes. but now i think most of them are not making a good faith effort to self-improve and are just taking advantage of the lack of social punishments to get away with crap.

sometimes ppl pretend they are anti-social-dynamics and rationalistically deny that their actions have a social meaning, but they know and care about the social meaning and do stuff non-accidentally.

i used to think i got little praise (and some in private that ppl won’t say in public) b/c ppl think praise is “irrational” and irrelevant/fluff. but now i think the primary issue is that praise transfers social status from givers to receivers and they don’t want to do that. some ppl seem to be super fans of me who are really obsessed with me … but who also hate to admit it. they want to act like it in some ways but not others. it’s similar to how they want me to treat them like a student and give them free help … but they don’t want the social status of a student nor to openly ask for, admit and discuss the role and consider what their side of the bargain should be.

Feeling bad about mistakes, logically, is an infinite regress. First you feel bad about a mistake. But feeling bad about your mistake is a second mistake. So then you feel bad about the second mistake, but that’s a third mistake. So you feel bad about the third mistake, which is a fourth mistake. This could continue infinitely.

A lot of small businesses are too unstructured, disorganized, chaotic. A lot of big businesses have tried to address those problems with heavyweight processes, especially because, as they grow, they trust their employees’ intelligence and judgment less so they want to use structure to control what the employees do.

A lot of people have had an idea something like this. The “obvious” solution, as seen by our society, is to find the right compromise with a medium amount of structure. Even to me, who rejects that kind of approach in many cases, my intuition says that seems fairly reasonable in this case. Yet, thinking about it consciously, I think ought to be a decisive win here, a silver bullet, a better answer. The answer should be related to dealing with the same issues in epistemology (where I got a lot of resistance when I suggest structuring/organizing more e.g. by using trees and trying to find constraints and decisive issues, instead of just freeform discussion that follows whim/intuition).

Part of the answer is that people resist structure because they don’t like bad structure. You see this with complaints about paperwork at big companies. You can’t address this by compromising and having a medium amount of bad structure. You need to figure out good structures that people like better. But also, people often resist structure/policies/etc that are actually useful and effective, due to their arrogance, ignorance, etc. And just trying to tell people big picture goals of the company, strategic vision, etc., often doesn’t fix this because people aren’t all that smart and explaining everything to them would be like turning them into a high level executive which is tons of work and most people aren’t really suited for that. So one of the questions is how to get people to go along with stuff they don’t fully understand. People absolutely are willing to do that sometimes but not always, so what makes the difference? And another question is how to tell when people are resisting a policy due to real problems vs. due to their own confusions (which still need to be dealt with in some way, not just totally ignored, but they’d probably be dealt with in different way than dealing with the policy being bad, like you’d communicate differently rather than changing the policy.)

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Small sample size, but I’ve seen employees go along because of what seems like various combinations of:

  • Understanding a high level goal, wanting it, and trusting that people of higher status are smarter and have connected the concrete steps to the high level goal in ways the employee doesn’t understand [Sometimes higher status literally includes God - as in: God has a plan that’s definitionally good, even if no human understands it God put the right people in charge so I should do what they say]
  • Being fooled into thinking they (the employee) understand stuff they don’t actually understand
  • Common knowledge reinforcement: it looks like everyone else goes along so I should too
  • Wanting to get socially or financially rewarded for going along
  • Fearing social or financial repercussions for not going along

I’ve seen not going along come from:

  • Perceived moral or social imperatives (the employee thinks they’d be a bad person, or perceived socially as a bad person, for going along)
  • Something getting in the way of rewards for going along or punishments for not going along. Like if the employee thinks the company is doomed anyway
  • Common knowledge deterrence: some other people seem to not go along so I don’t have to either
  • Not understanding the high level goal, disagreeing that it’s good, or indifference to it.

Some of what I do could be (negatively, hostilely) called engaging with the person instead of their ideas. But it’s really engaging with different ideas. They are more meta ideas. Instead of engaging with their claims about baseball, I might discuss the thought processes that led to those claims, or their communication methodology (some errors are about how they communicate not the content itself). I often try to engage with their methodology instead of their topical ideas. Why? Because I try to get to, or at least closer to, the root cause of errors. So I e.g. end up studying their irrationality and dishonesty – the causes of their errors – instead of looking at their errors in a superficial or local way. People tend to hate this. They want to pretend that their topical errors are one-off exceptions that don’t mean anything and aren’t part of a pattern. They want to view errors as bad luck or unimportant instead of to do post mortems and figure out their deepest conceptual errors that underly these and many other errors. They want to focus on the local error as a local-only error (which it usually isn’t) and keep the global picture out of it; I don’t.

People fail a lot. They resist planning because it’ll reveal the failures more and in advance. They want to fail in peace. They have despaired of success. Instead, they try not to see the failing. Planning would make them recognize what won’t work and not do it, leave them nothing to do, or at least nothing high status that they like. They put ongoing work into not knowing if they’re succeeding, and planning asks them to do the opposite and judge success and failure. Worse, planning wants them to do that in advance and actually change their behavior as a result. If they did planning-type thinking afterward, they could just get upset, feel bad, and then try to forget about it. They already do that with tons of stuff, so it wouldn’t make much difference. But advance planning can take activities away from them before they get to do the activity. If they start feeling bad before doing stuff, instead of after, then how will they do it?

People don’t want to know that they aren’t good enough to do something and that they should go learn more basic stuff. They want to do stuff they think is cool. And they don’t care about objective criteria for success, so is it even failure? Sure they lie about what their goals are and fail at their stated goals, but are they failing at their real goals? Their real goals are things like pretending to do sophisticated stuff, posturing, and social climbing. Sometimes they succeed at those.


This is very good. It is very relevant to me. Thanks!

Ayn Rand tried to automatize writing articles (I forget where I found that, but it’s in writing somewhere). But it didn’t work because she doesn’t want to write the same thing over and over. That’s boring. She writes articles creatively. She may cover similar ground again, but she’ll at least have a small new idea or twist about the topic or how to present the topic.

I do this too. I’ve written about Paths Forward over 20 times, but each time it’s a bit different. I think this is very helpful for students. Instead of trying to write the one true/perfect article, I can give them many versions which help flesh it out for them and show it to them from more angles. It’s better than any book, no matter how polished, that relies on a single presentation of each idea. That’s part of why people have so little success learning from books like FoR and BoI.

Some people travel around giving the same speech or presentation over and over, or doing the same show (e.g. a theatre, music, magic, dance or comedy show). They practice something and then go do the same thing in many cities. Some of them learn a new speech or show after a while and start doing that one instead. I don’t like to say the same thing twice. I’ve barely done that at all even for YouTube. I also don’t like to read a script – if I already wrote it, then saying it out loud isn’t interesting. I don’t do scripted videos. I figure if I want to control what I say carefully like a script then I should just write an article.

I watched two episodes of The Profit a couple days ago. I’ve also seen some episodes years ago and I liked it. They were S3E13 and S2E9.

The show seems to be about how with all of the following:

  • rich
  • high social status
  • TV star
  • reasonable
  • good communicator
  • they came to you seeking your help
  • you just invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their business
  • you own 20-51% of their business
  • you have a contract saying you’re 100% in charge
  • they are being filmed

people still won’t listen to you. they will claim to agree then betray you. they lie to your face. they don’t do what they say they’ll do. they won’t admit that they disagree with stuff, and then will do something else on camera and quickly get caught.

Seeing Marcus try to help business owners reminds me so much of trying to help people at my forums.

One of the things I found kinda shocking is how chill Marcus is about things that strike me as line-crossing dealbreakers. He asserts himself but he also treats some really bad things as kinda just normal problems to work on.

So many small businesses are being very negatively impacted by being run by idiots, who are terrible at organization and planning, and who have tons of emotional and family problems that directly harm the business. (Not to imply that big biz is better, but it’s not on the show and does have differences. It’s better in some ways but worse in others.)

Marcus is big on establishing and then following clear processes for how the business works. He wants to repeat a working formula, which is written down, not wing it. People are very resistant to that, just like resist dealing with organization, process, methods, etc. here.

The people running businesses – with often over 10 people working for them – do not seem like people who should be the boss and should be telling a dozen other people what to do. It must be frustrating to work for them. (I know that bad bosses are a very common complaint and problem, with big biz too.)

Link should go to to 4:11:03 where the chess commentator says:

The engine tells you the what but it doesn’t tell you the why.

This is the same point made in The Fabric of Reality chapter 1 about the predictive oracle which tells you answers without explaining why. It’s a concrete example of what that kind of oracle is like.

The specific scenario they were dealing with for the last several minutes is:

  • There is a complex chess position.
  • They have an engine (chess software) running that tells them the evaluation of the current position on the board (who is winning and by how much).
  • They can move pieces around to find out the evaluation of other positions, but the engine does not tell them what moves it thinks are good. (Commonly chess engines do tell you moves, which is very useful, but for the broadcast they have it set up to only display the current evaluation).
  • After one move the evaluation of the position suddenly changed from a large black advantage to about equal.
  • But they didn’t know why.
  • The commentator was in the position of guessing moves to try to figure out how white can take advantage of something to equalize the game. The position was only equal with best play, but most moves retained black’s large advantage. Black had missed one specific thing, rather than the position becoming equal in general.
  • Guessing moves is hard when you don’t know what to look for. Black’s latest move, that was a mistake for some reason, had a conceptual weakness that the commentator saw right away. There’s a downside that white could maybe take advantage of. So he started trying to play moves that exploit that downside. However, none of them worked. In fact, the way for white to equalize was to focus on a different aspect of the situation. The chess engine told him “this move is bad” but that was misleading – it turned out it was bad not because of the direct consequences of it (while there was a risk there, the details worked out OK) but rather because of an indirect consequence. The problem with the move was actually that black had a different pre-existing weakness that it didn’t help with – it was too slow and gave white time to attack something else. That weakness had been OK in every past position due to various dynamic, short-term resources, but this particular move didn’t keep up the pressure properly to let black get away with his setup.
  • One of the general issues here is that some chess positions are stable and advantages change slowly instead of a big change in one move (unless there’s a major mistake like moving a piece where your opponent can capture it for free). This was a position that was unstable – single moves can lead to large swings in the evaluation without an obvious reason like white losing his queen. With perfect play, black had a winning advantage, but it was a position where it was pretty easy to screw up in a non-obvious way in just one move. Put another way, there’s a large gap between white’s best move and second best move, which means it’s a very forcing position with urgent stuff going on.

Should you choose/pick your battles wisely? It’s a common saying/advice. It means focus on a few important issues and let smaller stuff go unchallenged.

The right number of battles to pick is zero. Battles are bad. Individually, do easy/efficient/non-overreaching stuff that isn’t a battle. On a societal level, don’t battle with other people to change the world. Don’t focus so much effort and struggle on getting other people to do or think stuff.

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This is some actual decent semi-philosophical writing/thinking. It also helps explain some reasons that CF is hard to sell for much money.

Libertarian writer Justin Raimondo described similarities between Atlas Shrugged and Garet Garrett’s 1922 novel The Driver , which is about an idealized industrialist named Henry Galt, who is a transcontinental railway owner trying to improve the world and fighting against government and socialism.[29] Raimondo believed the earlier novel influenced Rand’s writing in ways she failed to acknowledge, although there was no "word-for-word plagiarism“ and The Driver was published four years before Rand emigrated to the United States.[30] Journalist Jeff Walker echoed Raimondo’s comparisons in his book The Ayn Rand Cult and listed The Driver as one of several unacknowledged precursors to Atlas Shrugged .[31]

I read The Driver. The book was pretty decent with a few nice parts (like when Galt is questioned by the government lawyer). While Rand could perhaps have gotten the name “Galt” there, I don’t see a plagiarism issue. The plot is quite different, the Galt character is significantly different than any of Rand’s heroes, and there’s no particularly special or original intellectual idea in the book. There are some loose, general similarities. Besides railroads, two other topics in the book are social status contests in high society and romances, both of which are also in Atlas Shrugged (I mention these because I kinda wonder if the accusers even noticed). Also, bringing up word for word plagiarism, at all, is an absurd smear when there’s nothing remotely in that ballpark. It’s just a book about a great businessman, named Galt, who’s into railroads and stock speculation. It has nothing that made Atlas Shrugged unique or great.

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It’s astonishing how many absurd smears there are about Rand that keep circulating, and (related) how stigmatized she is.

I think it causes a huge number of people to not even consider reading her books and judging her ideas for themself, even people who would be open to doing that in many other cases.

I once heard it said that the people circulating the smears are doing it because they have some implicit understanding that Rand is their most dangerous philosophical enemy, and that sounds plausible to me.