Epistemology, Scheduling, Bias and Iteration [CF Article]

In general, with two smart and knowledgeable people, it takes a bunch of quick back-and-forth to get to something new. You say something I’ve heard before. I say my standard response. I don’t know what you will say back to it (there are perhaps three standard options) so I can’t skip steps even though it will turn out that I’ve heard your view before. You’ve heard my first idea before too, but you couldn’t predict it because there are a few other things you’re also familiar with that I might have said. So we should quickly go through stuff we’re both already familiar with until we get to the first thing where someone has to stop and think and say “That’s new to me; I hadn’t already thought about that before.” But most discussions end before that.

This is how chess games between good players work. Say you’re going to be white (so you move first). You prepare their first move before the game. For your second move, you have to guess what your opponent will respond, because he has multiple choices, so you prepare multiple options. You can prepare over 10 moves for some specific lines (a “line” means the moves both sides play, in order).

When the game happens, both sides move quickly at the start until the opponent surprises them or they reach the end of their preparation.

Some moves are medium-size surprises. It’s not what you prepared the most for, but it’s a normal move that you know what to do about. You didn’t prepare for it last night before the game, but you have prepared for it in the past. So you stop and remember/decide what to do about it. This takes longer than replying to a more expected move, but shorter than replying to something brand new.

Some chess games get past move 10 with neither player stopping to think. Others have an early surprise.

Sometimes, one player makes 15 moves without stopping to think, but the other person spends 5 minutes per move starting on move 5. One guy has everything prepared and memorized, while the other guy is working out the moves at the board, but keeps coming up with the moves the other guy already prepared for.

When you know your opponent is playing prepared moves, you have to be really careful, because he checked those moves with a computer program that is significantly better at chess than you or he is. If something looks suspicious, then it’s possible that he mis-remembered his preparation, but it’s also possible that he knows a bunch of computer moves to make it work. Trying to take advantage of something that was prepared with computer aid may fall into a trap.

A summary

Epistemology is about how to learn. Error correction is important to learning and people should take steps to increase the amount of time they spend on error correction.

People should leave 1/3 of their schedule empty. this will leave time for things to go wrong, so you’ll have time to fix what went wrong. if you finish something early you can do something that doesn’t require scheduling like reading or completing one of the back log of tasks you didn’t finish cuz your schedule was too full.

people should also think about their reasons for not doing something. people say they’re too busy to answer some question or solve some problem without explaining how they chose to prioritise other stuff. if a person gives a reason for not answering he can reconsider that reason and other people can criticise it. there are lots of policies people could pick, like answering questions at random from critics, or answering questions picked by friends who will have some ideas in common and some differences.

a person should also be willing to do multiple rounds of questions and answers: iteration. there are policies you can explain your position in a public setting so people can prepare criticisms of it. you can do some quick back and forth with a person who already knows your position well until you get to something somebody disagrees with or finds unclear. public intellectuals should also be willing to take detailed questions, but those are usually discarded during q and a periods as requiring too much time.

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