Quitting FI

Continuing the discussion from Limits of machine learning:

Topic Summary: Example and comments about people quitting FI.

Goal: Highlight a quote after enough time passed to evaluate it.

Why are you posting this in Unbounded? It’s meta criticism!

Do you want unbounded criticism? (A criticism is a reason that an idea decisively fails at a goal. Criticism can be about anything relevant to goal success, including methods, meta, context or tangents. If you think a line of discussion isn’t worth focusing attention on, that is a disagreement with the person who posted it, which can be discussed.) Yes.

He wrote this on July 25. After July 27, he stopped posting until a single post on Sept 3, and then he hasn’t posted since then. That backlog of questions on other topics didn’t materialize. It’s now Nov 18. I think we can now evaluate what S_Emiya said as substantially false. Profile - S_Emiya - Critical Falliblism

EDIT: We can also see that he last visited this website, while logged in, on Sept 8 Profile - S_Emiya - Critical Falliblism

Could he have reasonably believed that his message was substantially true at the time he wrote it? I don’t think so given his prior track record (IIRC it was sporadic and he had never done sustained engagement in FI discussions). But he could easily have been lying almost entirely to himself, not to others.

Other people have behaved similarly. They’re proclaimed how they love FI, will never leave, etc., sometimes both shortly after and before long breaks. The long breaks always seem to have a significant chance of being permanent. I have no idea if S_Emiya’s current break is permanent or not. That isn’t my point. Leaving for months is a meaningful action whether he comes back or not (and if he does come back, it will likely be briefly). FI is not really part of his life.

Similarly, Apricus quit for months. When he came back he actually said something about having been gone without being prompted to, so that was better. But then he left again before actually doing anything significant to learn FI. Similarly, Doubting Thomas is here on and off, but always leaves before actually doing anything significant to learn FI. One of the patterns I’ve observed is that suggesting people try to learn FI is one of the main drivers of them taking breaks. IIRC that’s what happened with deroj’s most recent break and I think it caused at least one Doubting Thomas break. One of the fairly common patterns, which seems particularly visible with Doubting Thomas, is that people want to bring up their own (bad, confused, unproductive) topics instead of engaging with FI ideas. Some people come here, not because of interest in FI, but because they want some smart people to reply about their own stuff.

Getting back to the people denying they will quit, saying how they’ll continue a discussion to a conclusion, saying they’ll actually participate continuously until they learn a bunch of philosophy, etc:

Do they do this because “flattery will get you everywhere”?

Do they see no downside to pandering to whoever they are currently speaking to? Are they just trying to keep their options open by saying positive things to everyone?

Do they know about problems and want to deal with them not only privately and secretly (denying any private problem solving is happening)?

Do they just want to say something to end the discussion (about what they do with their time, what their interests and motivations actually are, etc.) as fast as possible?

Do they just want to say something they think gives them the best chance of exploiting the generosity of ET and others to get short term help/answers?

Do they think short term excuses like studying for an exam are actually what’s going on? Or do they just believe that other people will believe such excuses? Or do they just believe that other people won’t challenge actually them on it, and that’s good enough?

Are they unable to speak reasonably about this because they’re lying to themselves about what kind of person they are, what they’re doing with their life, etc?

I know this is a sensitive issue. Posting about people quitting is the single most hated thing on ET’s blog. I’m unclear on why it’s so sensitive though. Why would people who don’t participate here care about their reputation here, and want to pretend they are involved when they aren’t? Suppose I joined a sports club for a few weeks, then left. A year later I’d expect people them to know I’d quit, and I wouldn’t try to pretend otherwise. I wouldn’t expect them to care about me personally, but they might well take an interest in player retention, track some metrics, attempt to interview some people who quit about what went wrong, etc. This is like how SAAS websites do customer retention, companies do employee retention, stores do customer retention, etc.

There isn’t any other place I know of where I could ask these questions. There’s not really anywhere for me to “leave” to lol

I think the part is actually true. I don’t know any comparable alternative discussion places, and I don’t think he does either. People (both from this community and from elsewhere) have been repeatedly asked if they know of any and have basically never linked or named any. (There are a few places that may appear similar, like LW or HBL, but which have dealbreaker flaws like banning some dissent. Most internet forums have moderation that basically prevents open, rational discussion. And I don’t recall anyone actually naming LW, HBL or similar and claiming it would work as an alternative.) But the lack of alternatives doesn’t stop people from leaving. If asked, they’ll sometimes claim to have high quality private discussions – commonly in voice with no recordings – rather than admit that they stopped attempting to have serious intellectual discussions or actually link to any discussions that could be criticized.

I don’t know how important the problem of people quitting really is. Maybe people should just be ignored. They’ll do whatever. Only talk about it if they bring it up.

That’s problematic though. Some people don’t bring it up because they don’t want to talk about it. But others don’t bring it up because they don’t know they can or should. It’s hard to tell the difference between ignorance or evasion.

Looking at it another way, maybe it’s important to basically assume everyone will quit soon unless they have a substantial track record to the contrary. But that means, basically, don’t be helpful to newbies. But then how will newbies get started if people ignore them until they, all on their own, write a bunch of stuff? One attempted answer is to write replies with immediate short term mutual benefit. That can work, but it’s hard when people ask bad questions or bring up dumb topics of their own. And those are common actions. New people usually do something dishonest. It’s much easier to get short term mutual benefit with honest, reasonable people. But being an honest, reasonable person is basically what one could achieve after learning philosophy. It’s very rare, and can’t be expected, at the beginning!

So I don’t know. I don’t expect good responses or feedback. I was just thinking out loud.

There’s plenty of mutual benefit in critically discussing basically any topic with anyone if you don’t have a huge amount of prior experience.

The problem is basically just that I got enough discussion experience and there’s a lack of other people willing to discuss much. There isn’t enough of a halo of other people, at various stages of learning, around me, to make a community work well. I basically can’t even get replies to my CF articles. If anyone cares whether I post them or not, they haven’t admitted it in response to any CF articles here recently (ever at this forum? I forget. OK I looked and found one Related, I even got ghosted on this).

One flawed policy is to give each person one chance. Be charitable once. Switch to meta issues, like concerns about whether they’ll flake and what they have to offer, after they’ve done one bad/problematic thing, but don’t open with that stuff.

Pros include:

  • Limits time/resource use on problem people.
  • Enables somewhat of a helpful atmosphere for nubs.
  • Has a chance to get a positive result if someone good showed up (but it’s unclearly if it’s necessary for someone actually particularly good – it seems more helpful to medium people).

Cons include:

  • People don’t understand what chance they’re getting, or why, and misuse it.
  • There are a lot of dumb, flakey people in the world. Talking to each of them once would be a lot of work.
  • Having one negative example doesn’t actually work well to pivot people to discussing meta problems. (Having three or five or 20+ doesn’t work well either. Justin did 18 for Kate which didn’t work, and everyone involved knew he could have listed more. People just don’t want to pivot.)

People are scared to express opinions that could be wrong. They are more interested in avoiding looking bad than trying to learn.

They are scared of certain discussions which deal with their dishonesty, but they are dishonest with themselves about what brings up those issues (what makes those issues relevant blockers of the conversation, so not talking about them is an immediate problem). They have counter-productive strategies to attempt to avoid things they don’t like, which include hiding and lying about what they don’t like or don’t want, and avoiding various good things that they incorrect associate with bad things.

They avoid big picture stuff, like what they are doing with their lives and what their values are. Replying about unimportant details, or tangents, feels safer to them. They try to stay away from anything important because important things are dangerous/scary.

Tangentially, a thing I find difficult about ignoring people is that writing connects with a (target) audience (whether it’s a specific niche or something very broad like some online articles are roughly targeted at most adults today who speak the language).

There’s no way to decide which potential misunderstandings or objections to address, or what knowledge to build on, besides thinking about some other people.

Writing for communication requires other people to communicate to.

I can and do write stuff aimed at myself – e.g. notes to myself – but it’s not what I publish. It’d not understandable enough to others. What I publish is meant to be reasonably understandable to other people alive today – to give them a fair chance at understanding it (in some articles, understanding is dependent on some publicly available background knowledge, which is different than being dependent on knowing my personal shorthands or references that I use with myself but couldn’t reasonably expect anyone else to follow).

Although my articles are not targeted at specific individuals, I do keep in mind the current state of the world, intellectual movements that exist, what people are like, common errors, etc. This is problematic because, basically, I think people are too unreasonable and dishonest to engage with philosophy productively, so I don’t have a fully consistent way to write articles. If I write for hypothetical smart, curious, honest 20-year-olds (for example), it implicitly concedes something problematic about what world I live in (about how much that exists).

The lack of feedback on articles is just one minor consequence of some underlying problems with the world and how it creates people who are not willing or capable to engage in rational discussion and learn new, different ideas.

That’s true. I haven’t been that active in the community at all.

You could assume that people will quit while still being helpful towards them. It would be hard to build a community otherwise. The people who are truly interested in the topics will stick around.

Different people have different amounts of free time. For example I might order my free time priorities as:

  1. salaried job (sometimes I have to use my free time on this)
  2. study for relevant work certifications
  3. spend time with kids
  4. spend time with wife
  5. spend time with friends
  6. read BoI, FoR, etc.
  7. Write a post about how alphazero uses the same process of evolution to create knowledge as human brains, biological evolution etc.

That’s just a sample but you might get the idea. It doesn’t imply that I’m lying to myself. Could you point out a specific statement I made that you think was a lie? If I am lying to myself I’d like to be aware of it.

Edit: corrected “statement you made” to “statement I made”

I agree. I don’t see why that should be a sensitive topic but it could depend on how it’s brought up.

Have you considered this from the perspective of the veteran/expert? What are their incentives, upsides and downsides? You’re suggesting doing something (helping newbies) without saying anything to address the downsides.

Well, if we live in a multiverse I think that means there will be universes where I end up quitting FI and universes where I don’t end up quitting. Your responses might determine which of those two kinds of universes you end up living in. In the universes where I don’t quit I might share the ideas of CF with family and friends, who share them further, etc. It might be beneficial for you to live in a universe where more people understand the ideas of CF.

Even in the universes where I quit there might be people who benefit from reading the discussion. Everyone can read the forums even if they don’t post.

I’m not very good at quantum physics so the above might make no sense haha

I understand it must be frustrating to write out responses to people who don’t end up replying. That would definitely get old quick.