Saturday, August 31, 2013

Crit of article on bad leadership

See the full article here.

[bracketed text is from the article. non-bracketed text is my replies.]

> Being a leader is perhaps the hardest challenge any of us will ever face.

?!?!  the first sentence, wow!  So he's saying basically that thinking
for oneself (first-handed thinking), is way harder than just adopting
what other people think (second-handed thinking). I disagree.

> 1. Not Giving Self-Confidence its Due.
> Self-confidence is the lifeblood of success. When people have it, they’re bold. They try new things, offer ideas, exude positive energy, and cooperate with their colleagues instead of surreptitiously attempting to bring them down.

if you have a non-zero-sum worldview, then you don't want to cheat
others -- because you believe that win/win situations are always

but if you have a zero-sum worldview, and if you don't mind stepping
all over people's preferences, then you do want to cheat others --
because you believe that win/win situations are NOT always possible,
and so you believe that the other guy must lose in order for you to

> When they lack self-confidence, it’s just the opposite. People cower. They plod. And they spread negativity with every word and gesture.

No. Some people with low self-confidence don't spread negativity.

> But all too often leaders ignore (or neglect) this very basic fact of the human condition. Why is anyone’s guess. Perhaps they just don’t understand that it is part of their job to instill self-confidence in their people. It may even be said that it’s their first job. You cannot unleash the creative power of individuals who doubt themselves.

I agree that leaders should want other people he's working with to act
like leaders. so ya a CEO wants his staff to be confident in their
work, in their ability to help the customer solve his problems. Staff
should be confident that their supervisor, and all the other people in
his company are going to be in unison when helping the customer.

> Fortunately, some people seem to be born with self-confidence.

that's wrong. at birth people don't seem confident. they are crying.
what seems confident about that?

> Others gain it from life and work experience and come to a company fully loaded.

No. All people that gain it do so by thinking for themselves (i.e.
first-handedly) -- not "from life and work experience".

> Regardless, leaders can never stop pouring self-confidence into their teams. The ways to do so are myriad. Make sure goals are challenging – but achievable. Give effusive positive feedback. Remind your direct reports of what they do right.

sounds pretty good as long as you're clearly explaining what it is
that is right. and what should also be discussed a lot, and this is
more important, is the flaws, so that they can be fixed. talking about
the good parts while ignoring the flawed parts is bad because it
prevents the flaws from being fixed.

> We’re not saying that leaders should blindly extol and exalt. People know when they’re being gamed. But good leaders work relentlessly to find ways to instill self-confidence in those around them. They know it’s the gift that never stops giving.

I agree that self-confidence is important. But I think the focus is
wrong here. The focus should be on quality criticism. If someone
appreciates quality criticism, then he's already self-confident.

"I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to
the thoughtless approval of the masses."  Johannes Kepler 1571-1630

> 2. Muzzling Voice.
> Perhaps the most frustrating way that leaders underperform is by over-talking. That is, they act like know-it-alls. They can tell you how the world works, what corporate is thinking, how it will backfire if you try this or that, and why you can’t possibly change the product one iota. Sometimes such blowhards get their swagger from a few positive experiences, but usually they’re just victims of their own destructive personalities.

So they are infallibilist. Those leaders are ignoring their staff's
criticism. And they aren't criticizing their staffs suggestions -- and
instead the leaders are just ignoring the suggestions, calling the
suggestions wrong without explaining any reasons for why they are
wrong. This is arrogance. Infallibilist thinking causes arrogance.

Its also stubbornness. And it means that flaws are being noticed (by
company staff) but are being ignored by the leader (of that company).

> Ultimately, the company ends up being a victim too, because know-it-alls aren’t just insufferable, they’re dangerous. They don’t listen, and that deafness makes it very hard for new ideas to get debated, expanded upon, or improved. No single person, no matter how smart, can take a business to its apex. For that, you need every voice to be heard.

ya that's what i just said

> 3. Acting Phony.
> Can you spot a phony? Of course you can – and so can your people. Indeed, if there is one widespread human capability, it is sniffing out someone who is putting on airs, pretending to be who they’re not, or just keeping their real self hidden. Yet too many leaders spend way too much time creating personas that put a wall between them and their employees. What a waste.

oh this is what the last article was talking about when the author
said that CEOs are merging their public lives with their private
lives. Merging means not having inconsistencies between the CEOs real
personality and his public persona. So that last article was saying to
be real instead of being fake. I agree.

> 4. Lacking the Guts to Differentiate.
> But leaders who don’t differentiate do the most damage when it comes to people. Unwilling to deliver candid, rigorous performance reviews, they give every employee the same kind of bland, mushy, “nice job” sign-off.

Fake positive reinforcement? Ya that's bad.

Honest feedback ftw.

> 5. Fixation on Results at the Expense of Values.
> Everyone knows that leaders deliver. Oratory and inspiration without results equal…well, a whole lot of nothing. But leaders are committing a real dereliction of duties if all they care about are the numbers. They also have to care about how those numbers came to be. Were the right behaviors practiced? Was the company’s culture of integrity honored? Were people taken care of properly? Was the law obeyed, in both letter and spirit?

Those things matter because they *do* affect "the numbers" in the long run.

> Values are a funny thing in business. Companies love to talk about them. They love to hang them up on plaques in the lobby and boast about them to potential hires and customers. But they’re meaningless if leaders don’t live and breathe them. Sometimes that can take courage. It can mean letting go of a top performer who’s a brute to his colleagues, or not promoting a star who doesn’t share her best ideas with the team. That’s hard.

No its not hard. If its a better decision, why would it be the hard
decision to make?

> 6. Skipping the Fun Part
> What is it about celebrating that makes managers so nervous? Maybe throwing a party doesn’t seem professional, or it makes people worry that they won’t look serious to the powers that be, or that, if things get too happy in the office, people will stop working their tails off.

lol is that what CEOs are afraid of? that's ridiculous. good work
doesn't need to be "working their tails off".

> Whatever the reason, too many leaders don’t celebrate enough. To be clear here, we do not define celebrating as conducting one of those stilted little company-orchestrated events that everyone hates, in which the whole team is marched out to a local restaurant for an evening of forced merriment when they’d rather be home. We’re talking about sending a team to Disney World with their families, or giving each team member tickets to a show or a movie, or handing each member of the team a new iPod.

or doing bolling night for whoever wants to come.

or doing a cookout at the bosses house (works for small companies).

> Work is too much a part of life not to recognize the moments of achievement. Grab as many as you can. Make a big deal out of them.

Yes notice every achievement, no matter how small.

> That’s part of a leader’s job too – the fun part.

everybody should do all of the things mentioned in this article. its
not just for leaders. or in other words, the world would be better if
all of us acted like leaders (i.e. if all of us thought for ourselves
-- first-handed thinking).

let us all act like leaders and followers, simultaneously, all the
time. if you have a better idea than mine, then i'll follow you -- so
I've adopted your idea. if i have a better idea than yours, then you
should follow me -- so you've adopted my idea.


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Changing your mind

An author said about CEOs changing their philosophy...
Why Most Business are Anti-Social in a Social Media Era?
"Solis proposes a modest, non-revolutionary approach.  “Having the
executives change their philosophy is too hard a task,” he argues. Rather, he
recommends that social-media strategists step up and own the task of better
connecting their activities to the bottom-line business outcomes that the CEO is
beholden to."
Right there he said that changing one's philosophy is revolution. I disagree.

Revolution implies changing one's actions without first changing one's philosophy. And evolution implies changing one's actions *only after* first changing one's philosophy.

One should change his mind before changing his actions. Otherwise he is coercing himself.


What is coercion?  How to avoid coercion?


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Friday, August 30, 2013

Crit of article on learning at work

> A big theme in my life has been how much I had to unlearn to come to the decision to homeschool my kids.

interesting perspective. what i thought about was how much philosophy
i need to learn.

> I had to unlearn all my assumptions about parenting (it turns out that kids don't need teachers, they need love).

oh crap. No, they don't need teachers, and they don't need love. What
they need is responsibility. a clear example to illustrate this is
where a parent loves his child, but doesn't think/act responsibly.
what's the problem here? well its not about not enough love. its about
not enough responsibility. which really means, not enough thinking.
love without thinking/responsibility is worthless.

> I unlearned my assumptions about self-management (well-roundedness is an outdated goal).

lol. No. Well-roundedness is another way of saying that someone is a
generalist as opposed to just being a specialist. having generalist
knowledge is way better than not having generalist knowledge. for
example, generalist knowledge helps one learn specialist knowledge.

> And I had to change my assumptions about how much respect each child deserves (freedom to choose what we learn is a fundamental right).

Ah. So how much then? I bet its not enough.

> Now that I've been homeschooling for a while, I understand that the reason it's traumatic for most young adults to enter the workforce is because they have to unlearn so many things from school in order to survive in adult life.

Right. But more importantly, what was learned isn't from school as
much as it is from your own upbringing by your own parents.

> No matter what age you are, the faster you start your unlearning the faster you can shed the weights that hold you back from moving forward in today's knowledge-based workforce. Here are five things most people need to unlearn.
> 1. Accommodating forced learning
> Gen Y's latest thing is binge learning, where you become so interested in what you're doing that you don't want to stop until you've learned it all.

Learning it all is impossible. I wonder why she would say this
falsehood. Maybe she thinks perfection is possible. Or maybe she just

> But the only way that you can binge learn is to know how to find course materials on your own and choose the sequence of those materials that works best for you. This means you can't rely on someone else's syllabus and you can't rely on somebody laying out the steps for you.


> In the workplace, to create our own value, we must create our own learning path. You have to unlearn the habit of waiting to be told what comes next in your education if you want to take control of your adult life.

Right. Take responsibility for your own learning. No one else can (at
least not effectively).

> 2. Studying for the grade you can get on the test
> Adult life doesn't give letter grades. Sometimes adult life gives promotions or if you're good at sales you might win a trip to Hawaii for your family, but in general, the reward of adult life is being able to find a path that's good for you and put yourself on it. There's no letter grade for that because the only person who can judge whether it's a good path or not is you.

Ya grades are stupid.

> The act of making decisions independent of letter grades is completely opposite to everything that school stands for, because if you're doing work that is separate from earning an A, then you're completely uncontrollable in the classroom as you start losing the need to even show up to the classroom.

lol. btw people like Einstein and Newton got bad grades in school
(like in math). Do you know why? Because the stuff they were learning
in school was wrong. Their ideas were better. So they got failing
grades because they didn't regurgitate what their teachers wanted them
to regurgitate.

> So school teaches you that you should study what's on the test. Work is the opposite. What matters will never be on the test.

Right. Btw, in physics class in college, what we did during class and
homework was not like what's on the test. The test was there to test
our understanding of the principles, not to test our ability to shove
numbers into a formula with a calculator. so we had problems on the
test that were nothing like the problems during class or homework. I
remember non-physics (engineering ones) students complaining about
that -- basically blaming the professor for not telling them exactly how to
do the problems on the test. So bad.


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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Crit of business article on altruism and other stuff

This is my criticism on the following article:

11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader

[single bracket is text from the article. no bracket is me.]

> 1. Listening
> "When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen." - Ernest Hemingway
> Listening is the foundation of any good relationship. Great leaders listen to what their customers and prospects want and need, and they listen to the challenges those customers face. They listen to colleagues and are open to new ideas. They listen to shareholders, investors, and competitors. Here's why the best CEO's listen more.

So they are open to ideas from other people. that's good.

> 2. Storytelling
> "Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today." -Robert McAfee Brown
> After listening, leaders need to tell great stories in order to sell their products, but more important, in order to sell their ideas. Storytelling is what captivates people and drives them to take action. Whether you're telling a story to one prospect over lunch, a boardroom full of people, or thousands of people through an online video - storytelling wins customers.

So the author is saying that marketing is about storytelling. I don't think that's right. Content marketing is about content, and the content isn't stories. The content is explanations of problems and solutions.

And I think that content marketing (in some industries) is more important than other types of marketing. Maybe Pepsi doesn't need content marketing, but a management consulting firm, or even a marketing firm, needs content marketing to persuade prospective buyers.

> 3. Authenticity
> "I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I've become. If I had, I'd have done it a lot earlier." -Oprah Winfrey
> Great leaders are who they say they are, and they have integrity beyond compare.

Yes. Because without integrity, good/smart people will notice and dislike people without integrity. someone with integrity won't follow someone without integrity.

> Vulnerability and humility are hallmarks of the authentic leader and create a positive, attractive energy.

um, i'm not sure what to say about that.

i think the best people are humble in that they aren't arrogant -- by arrogant I mean thinking you're right even in the face of devastating crit, or thinking you're right even when you didn't check your idea for accuracy.

but, most people think arrogance is something different. they think it means thinking you're right even in the face of other people disagreeing, like lets say 99% of the rest of the human population.

and so a Popperian is humble, but others think he's arrogant.

about the vulnerability, well i guess by telling the truth, one is more vulnerable than compared to hiding the truth, depending on whatever the truth happens to be. so ya a good leader will tell the truth even if it looks bad on him in the eyes of other people (and maybe the good leader disagrees that its bad) (and maybe the good leader is not concerned that people will react badly to knowing the truth).

> Customers, employees, and media all want to help an authentic person to succeed. There used to be a divide between one’s public self and private self, but the social internet has blurred that line. Tomorrow's leaders are transparent about who they are online, merging their personal and professional lives together.

i like transparency. i'm not sure i like merging public self with private self though. also not sure what he means by "merging".

> 4. Transparency
> "As a small businessperson, you have no greater leverage than the truth." -John Whittier
> There is nowhere to hide anymore, and businesspeople who attempt to keep secrets will eventually be exposed. Openness and honesty lead to happier staff and customers and colleagues. More important, transparency makes it a lot easier to sleep at night - unworried about what you said to whom, a happier leader is a more productive one.

lol i never understood why people were so willing to lie when its soooo much harder than just telling the truth! how do they keep track of the lies!?

> 5. Team Playing
> "Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds." -SEAL Team Saying
> No matter how small your organization, you interact with others every day. Letting others shine, encouraging innovative ideas, practicing humility, and following other rules for working in teams will help you become a more likeable leader. You’ll need a culture of success within your organization, one that includes out-of-the-box thinking.

um 'team playing' and 'out-of-the-box thinking' are not the same thing. this point seems confused.

Team playing is good because many people collaborating on a problem is better than just one person doing it. "Two heads are better than one."

> 6. Responsiveness
> "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." -Charles Swindoll
> The best leaders are responsive to their customers, staff, investors, and prospects. Every stakeholder today is a potential viral sparkplug, for better or for worse, and the winning leader is one who recognizes this and insists upon a culture of responsiveness. Whether the communication is email, voice mail, a note or a tweet, responding shows you care and gives your customers and colleagues a say, allowing them to make a positive impact on the organization.

Yes. Do care about solving problems.

> 7. Adaptability
> "When you're finished changing, you're finished." -Ben Franklin
> There has never been a faster-changing marketplace than the one we live in today. Leaders must be flexible in managing changing opportunities and challenges and nimble enough to pivot at the right moment. Stubbornness is no longer desirable to most organizations. Instead, humility and the willingness to adapt mark a great leader.

wtf!? stubbornness was desirable? when/why?

> 8. Passion
> "The only way to do great work is to love the work you do." -Steve Jobs
> Those who love what they do don’t have to work a day in their lives. People who are able to bring passion to their business have a remarkable advantage, as that passion is contagious to customers and colleagues alike. Finding and increasing your passion will absolutely affect your bottom line.


> 9. Surprise and Delight
> "A true leader always keeps an element of surprise up his sleeve, which others cannot grasp but which keeps his public excited and breathless." -Charles de Gaulle
> Most people like surprises in their day-to-day lives. Likeable leaders underpromise and overdeliver, assuring that customers and staff are surprised in a positive way. There are a plethora of ways to surprise without spending extra money - a smile, We all like to be delighted — surprise and delight create incredible word-of-mouth marketing opportunities.

that's weird. promises in business are basically the contracts between businesses (or between an employer and employee). and in contracts we describe the bare minimum that must be met in order for the contract to stay alive. so of course you're always going to overdeliver on the promise, so the point is superfluous i think.

and about the delight part, he's suggesting that smiles are the delightful part. why do people think smiling needs to be taught? i mean if something was funny, i'd smile/laugh. it it wasn't funny, i wouldn't. so it seems like the author is advocating fake smiling or something.

> 10. Simplicity
> "Less isn't more; just enough is more." -Milton Glaser
> The world is more complex than ever before, and yet what customers often respond to best is simplicity — in design, form, and function. Taking complex projects, challenges, and ideas and distilling them to their simplest components allows customers, staff, and other stakeholders to better understand and buy into your vision. We humans all crave simplicity, and so today's leader must be focused and deliver simplicity.

right. unnecessary complexity is bad. it decreases clarity.

> 11. Gratefulness
> "I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." -Gilbert Chesterton
> Likeable leaders are ever grateful for the people who contribute to their opportunities and success. Being appreciative and saying thank you to mentors, customers, colleagues, and other stakeholders keeps leaders humble, appreciated, and well received. It also makes you feel great! Donor's Choose studied the value of a hand-written thank-you note, and actually found donors were 38% more likely to give a 2nd time if they got a hand-written note!

Saying 'thank you' is dumb. I instead say real things. if somebody i'm dealing with did something great, i'd explain the thing and explain how great it is. that's not a 'thank you' yet it clearly communicates that i appreciate the thing.

if i only said 'thank you' it might not be clear to him what it is that i liked. maybe he ends up thinking that i thanked him for a part of the thing that i actually didn't like. so saying 'thank you' without saying the real stuff is misleading.

> The Golden Rule: Above all else, treat others as you’d like to be treated

That's bad. Other people's preferences are different than mine, so treating them according to my preferences is bad because it means ignoring their preferences and acting against their will.

> By showing others the same courtesy you expect from them, you will gain more respect from coworkers, customers, and business partners. Holding others in high regard demonstrates your company’s likeability and motivates others to work with you. This seems so simple, as do so many of these principles — and yet many people, too concerned with making money or getting by, fail to truly adopt these key concepts.

holding others in high regard should be done because some specific other people have knowledge that i don't have. so by collaborating with them, i can cover more of my own blind spots. so its objectively better for me to highly value other people's knowledge (specific people that is).


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Sunday, August 25, 2013

How to solve physics problems

How to think about physics

Before talking about how to solve physics problems, I'd like to talk a little about how to think about Physics.

Physics theories (and their principles and equations) are models of reality. And models are necessarily approximations of realty. That means that they are not 100% accurate -- they are not exactly reality -- at least we haven't found a theory of physics that 100% accurately describes all physical reality. So that raises the question: If our physics theories are only approximations, then why do they work?

Physics theories work because in them we describe constraints where the theories works very well within those constraints, but works very badly for situations outside of those constraints. For example, Newton's laws of motion apply very well to situations where the objects are moving very slow compared to the speed of light, although Newton didn't know that at the time. It was only until 400 years later that Einstein noticed that Newton's laws only work within the constraint of objects moving slow compared to the speed of light.

Further, Einstein explained -- in his book _Relativity: The Special and the General Theory_ -- that Newton's equations of motion are derivations of Einstein's equations. Meaning that if you take Einstein's equations and you constrain the object to much slower than the speed of light, then you get Newton's equations -- it involves doing some limit calculus and algebraic manipulation.

Another source for learning how to understand Physics is the book _The Beginning of Infinity_, by David Deutsch.

Reasoning from first principles

To solve a physic problem (or any kind of problem), one should do it by reasoning from first principles. He should ask the question: What principles matter to this problem? For example, if you have a problem about momentum, then one of the principles to consider is Conservation of Momentum.

In an interview with Kevin Rose, Musk said the following:
I think it's important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy…The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy… 
We are doing this because it’s like something else that was done..or it is like what other people are doing…slight iterations on a theme… 
“First principles” is a physics way of looking at the world…what that really means is that you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there…that takes a lot more mental energy… 
Someone could –and people do — say battery packs are really expensive and that’s just the way they will always be because that’s the way they have been in the past…
They would say it’s going to cost, historically it cost $600 KW/hour.  It’s not going to be much better that in the future…
So first principles..we say what are the material constituents of the batteries.  What is the spot market value of the material constituents?  It has carbon, nickel, aluminum, and some polymers for separation, and a steel can..break that down on a material basis, if we bought that on a London Metal Exchange, what would each of these things cost.  oh geez…It’s $80 KW/hour.  Clearly, you need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell, and you can have batteries that are much cheaper than anyone realizes.

A system of solving physics problems

Use the following system loosely. Switch between steps 1 2 and 3 anytime you want, but don't go to step 4 until you pass the scope test -- you should not use principles outside their scope -- and the variable-equation test -- you should NOT have more variables than equations. Then do the two double-checking steps at the end, and if your solution fails either test, then go back through all the steps to look for your error.

Note on #1: Make sure that each object has a different variable. So if you have 2 velocities, then make one of them Vi and the other Vf, or V1 and V2 -- it depends on the context of the specific problem you're trying to solve. This requires your creativity.

Note on #4: One major task is to break up the problem into as many parts as is needed. See examples below.

Vectors -- vectors are used to represent physical quantities that have both magnitude and direction, such as force -- in contrast to scalar quantities, which have no direction. [Learn vector math from the Khan Academy.]
Principles -- things like Newton's Second Law of Motion which says that: The acceleration of a body is directly proportional to, and in the same direction as, the net force acting on the body, and inversely proportional to its mass. Thus, F = ma, where F is the net force acting on the object, m is the mass of the object and a is the acceleration of the object.
Equations -- things like F = ma
Physics-speak -- this is the language of physics
Unknown variable -- this is the variable that the question is asking about
Ballpark figure -- this is the figure you ballparked before using the calculator.


Find the magnitude and direction of the resultant velocity vector for a fish swimming at 3.0 m/s relative to the water across a river facing east that moves at 4.0 m/s. [Hint: The fish-swimming vector (s) and the river-current vector (c) are perpendicular to each other.]

See more examples here.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lying and responsibility

There's two kinds of things people do. One is called a lie, and the other one most people want to say is not a lie.

(1) Intentionally twisting the truth. Everybody calls this a lie.

(2) Making a false statement while intentionally keeping yourself ignorant of the truth. Some people want to avoid calling this a lie.

What's the point of calling it anything other than a lie? Its so that people can evade responsibility -- he stayed ignorant because of his 'psychology' which caused him to want to stay ignorant -- which means that his *want* is not his responsibility. And that's bullshit. People are responsible for their wants/desires/preferences/ideas.


Why do people want to evade responsibility? Because it makes them feel better. But really? Its counter-productive. If you deny responsibility for your problems then they will go unsolved and cause you more harm than compared to solving your problems


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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How do children learn how to act?

people learn how to act when they are interacting with people, and while watching people interact with each other, and other times when they are thinking about those interactions.

you might ask, 'well then doesn't that mean that siblings will all act the same?' no because no two people have the exact same ideas about how to act.

everybody is in their own unique situation, not shared by anyone else on the planet, now or ever. when they interact with people, and when they watch other people interact, they interpret the meaning of the interactions -- and when we interpret we are using our ideas to do it, and since no two person's ideas are identical, no two people will interpret everything the same way.


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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why should people collaborate on solving problems?

Question: Why should people collaborate on solving problems?


Every organization has people and processes. Each person is responsible for performing his set of processes.

Some of the processes should have the purpose of refining other processes. For example, a manufacturing company will have industrial processes that are being refined by analytical processes – like analysts using software tools.

And those analysts have people that apply HR methodologies. And within the various tasks under the HR umbrella, HR managers apply various methodologies to those tasks.

And those software tools have people that apply methodologies on how they develop software applications. And within the various tasks involved in software development, software guys apply various methodologies to those tasks.

And those methodologies that people use are guided by their philosophies.

And a person's philosophy contains universal processes that apply to *all* processes, including itself, since it is itself a process.

And what is that process? We make guesses and iteratively refine them with criticism. It's how all knowledge is created -- by evolution.

And what's the better way to create quality criticism? Doing it by oneself or doing it with other people? Its doing it with other people because we're able to cover each others' blind spots. Since we all have different gaps in our knowledge, that means our gaps cross over each other, and so by sharing and comparing our knowledge with each other, each one of us is able to cover more of his own blind spots. And that's better for knowledge creation. It means solving more of one's own problems. And it means that for everybody who's actively participating in doing it.


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Traditions vs New Ideas

From Karl Popper's _Conjectures and Refutations_, chapter 7, "Kant's Critique and Cosmology":

“Enlightenment is the emancipation of man from a state of self-imposed tutelage... of incapacity to use his own intelligence without external guidance. Such a state of tutelage I call 'self-imposed' if it is due, not to lack of intelligence, but to lack of courage or determination to use one's own intelligence without the help of a leader. Sapere aude! Dare to use your own intelligence! This is the battle-cry of the Enlightenment.”

Do you know what the external guidance is? Its traditions.

Traditions are good for two reasons: (1) Traditions are already criticized a lot -- lots of people refined them over many years, centuries, or millenia. ~~~ (2) You might not have much time to solve your problem before it causes you some harm. So looking for existing knowledge that is already criticized a lot is better than acting on new ideas that you won't have much time to criticize/examine. So by using traditions we can quickly come up with solutions to problems without having to resort to acting on wild guesses that have received little thought.

Traditions are good first guesses at solving your problems. Your new ideas are rivals to those traditions. If a new idea of yours refutes the tradition, then you will commit it to action. And if your new idea tests well in real life, then it replaces the old tradition -- and so your new idea is now a tradition.

Traditions are iteratively refined with criticism. People are the ones that create the new ideas that do the refining.

Traditions are also refuted. People are the ones that create the new ideas that do the refuting.

Actually, each iteration is a refutation.


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Goals.. the destination and the journey

one should caution against thinking too much about goals and too little about the immediate next steps towards those goals. each step requires actively flushing out flaws and fixing them.

when a person solves a problem, he reveals new problems in the process. so he goes from problem to problem to problem, as he’s solving each one of them step-by-step.. piecemeal.. evolution.

a consequence of this is that as a person goes from problem to problem to problem in his effort to reach a goal, he may find out that his goal was bad, and so he changes his mind about that goal and adjusts his path accordingly -- new problems to think about now since he has a new goal. and this is common. and the opposite result is much much much less common. so its bad to treat one’s goals as promises, or static things that would be bad to change. actually its good to change because that means no longer being wrong, which is a great thing, and the opposite thing (not changing with reality) is bad.


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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Altruism and Relativism

Say somebody is a moral relativist and altruist.

- Helping people makes me feel good. [This means altruism.]

- We all have a little Hitler in us, so lets not judge each other. [This means relativism.]

Do you see the contradiction? Consider this...

Ideas replicate from person to person, generation to generation. Good ideas live on while bad ideas die out. So over time, we as a whole population get better because on average our ideas have fewer flaws as we improve them. Now consider what it takes for bad ideas to go extinct. People must change their minds. That's the only way. If people don't change their minds, then those bad ideas continue on, being replicated to other people -- like from parents and society to children who are very impressionable at birth.

Now lets consider what things improve the rate of people changing their minds. Our best explanations to date say that a tradition of criticism is the most important thing affecting the rate of people changing their minds. Consider the ancient greeks, and the Enlightenment, and all the cultures that have adopted the Enlightenment traditions, like respect for reason, and science, and disrespect for mysticism. Their progress was due to the tradition of criticism.

The unifying tradition underlying all three of these things I listed is the tradition of criticism. The tradition of reason involves being open to criticism, and using it to improve one's ideas -- to learn from each other by helping each other by pointing out each other's flaws and explaining them. The tradition of science is the same thing except that they focus only on scientific theories that in principle can be ruled out (aka criticized) by physical evidence. And mysticism is everything else that goes on that is void of a critical phase of knowledge creation where theories are put to the test of other people's criticism (and their own criticism).

So, if one refrains from giving criticism, and tells people to not give him criticism, then he is preventing himself from improving, and preventing other people from improving (from your good ideas that are better than his flawed ideas). And not giving criticism means not judging people.

So your method of not wanting to judge people means that you don't want to help people. Yet you think that its good to help people. So if you think that helping people is good, then why don't you want to help people?


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