Monday, September 30, 2013

Let's start from the beginning.

Helpful hint: This essay is a portal to other essays. When you click on the essays, you'll notice that those essays also have links to other essays. While those essays can be helpful, it might be best for you to not read those since they are already linked here in this portal essay -- it really depends on the situation, e.g. what you are most interested in at the moment. So you might find that its easier to read the essays in the order listed here so that you can understand the context of those essays in relation to the overall picture.

Helpful hint 2: Lots of these essays introduce new words. I've listed them with definitions at the bottom of this essay, with links to further reading.

What's the most important thing in life?

Being happy. Which raises the question: What does it take to be happy? Well, its different for everybody, but there are some universal ideas that apply to everyone. To learn about that, read this essay -- it explains how people can think they are doing things that are supposed to "make them happy", but it doesn't work.

Ok so that solves a nasty systemic problem, a barrier to happiness. But it doesn't *cause* happiness. So what's next? How does a person achieve happiness?

At this point I think its important to explain what we mean by happiness. First, consider a poor happy person and a rich sad person. The poor guy has little in the way of luxury, yet is happy. The rich guy has few of his (material) wants go unsatisfied, yet is sad. The difference is that the poor guy is progressing, and the rich guy is not. And making progress means having control. It means that you are continuously improving. That each day you are better than your past self. You are the best you've ever been! What's sad about that? Nothing. So progress is the key to happiness. So, no matter how little or much wealth you have, if you are not progressing in life, then you feel unhappy.

Which raises the question: How does one make progress?

[EDIT 8/14/2013: now i think this is wrong. if someone believes that the most important thing in life is happiness, and lets say he also strongly dislikes criticism, liking it to attack/violence/war/involuntary-action, then he won't be able to make progress very well because he'll evade criticism like the plague. Criticism is crucial for making progress -- progress is learning and criticism is part of the learning process. So dislike of criticism is a barrier to happiness. So criticism takes the place of happiness as the most important thing in life. ~~~ The ability to criticize is the invention that the universe (i.e. evolution) created. Its something humans can do that no other animal can do. Its the universe's greatest invention! Why should the beings that wield its power not use it for their own benefit?! That sounds pretty awful to waste such a valuable resource -- the ability to create any knowledge -- the ability to solve any problem. People that avoid criticism like its the plague limit themselves a lot because they don't spend much effort thinking about their mistakes enough to fix them. So they don't make progress. And they feel stuck and without hope of solving their problems. Which is why they turn to religion and other types of mysticism that says suffering like this is a fact of life and just be happy anyway -- which of course doesn't work because they are intentionally ignoring reality. And they are doing it because they have an anti-rational meme that makes them feel bad when they hear criticism.]

How does one make progress?

Making progress means fixing mistakes. Which requires noticing mistakes, and thinking about them with enough depth to fix them. Now there are some common systemic problems that can get in the way here. We call them anti-rational memes.

Memes are ideas that replicate from person-to-person, generation-to-generation. Anti-rational memes are the kind that prevent themselves from being criticized by their hosts. An example is the idea of shame. Shame is taught to children by their parents and society. It teaches them to feel bad if they do something that parents or society don't approve of. And people with the shame meme feel bad when their mistakes are pointed out by other people, and sometimes even by themselves. Its a conditioned response. And it prevents those people from thinking about their mistakes because it encourages *not* thinking about them, since that (temporarily) removes the bad feeling of shame.

So what's the solution? Well, to learn what anti-rational memes are, and how to rid yourself of them, start with these essays and short blog posts (most of these are by Elliot Temple):

So that explains how to rid oneself of his anti-rational memes. But how can a person improve his skill at that? Also, while ridding oneself one-by-one of his anti-rational memes is a good way to remove one's barriers from making progress, how can one improve his skill at making progress in general?

How does one improve his skill at making progress?

Making progress means fixing mistakes, which means creating knowledge. The "fix" is knowledge about how to prevent oneself from committing a certain kind of mistake. So improving one's knowledge creating skill means improving his ability to make progress. The field of epistemology is what we know about how to create knowledge. So learning the right epistemology can help someone make progress. And learning it better, means getting even better at progressing.

The right epistemology, or rather, the best epistemology to date, is Critical Rationalism, aka Popperism. Its main rival, shared by 99.999%+ of the world population, is Justificationism.

Here are some essays that explain the epistemology from different angles:

How does this apply to parenting and relationships?

Here are essays that explain the morality of parenting and relationships:

How does this apply to how society should be organized?

I've read the essays. So am I done then?

Ok, so now you've introduced yourself to this new epistemology and morality. Do you think you will apply this approach well in all parts of your life? No, because it takes a lot more than just reading a few essays to learn the ideas enough to be able to apply them in real life.

Realize that you made mistakes in your understanding of the material. And in order to flush out those mistakes, you should test your understanding of the material. And a good test is to explain the material in your own words on the Fallible Ideas email list for the other posters to criticize.

Also, since these ideas are fallible, you can improve on the ideas. So once you're pretty sure you understand the ideas, you can explain what you think is wrong with them -- things that maybe nobody has thought of before. To know more about how to participate, read this essay and reply to it with questions/ideas.

~~~ Definitions ~~~




Anti-rational meme

Humans are fallible. Mistakes are common. We cannot avoid making any mistakes and should instead emphasize using methods that can deal with mistakes well -- methods which deal with mistakes well are rational; methods which do not are irrational because they entrench mistakes long term. 
Rationality refers to methods. Rational methods are those that deal with mistakes well. Irrational methods are those that don't and so they entrench mistakes long term.






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