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Hello, and welcome to FI (opt1)

Date: 2020-09-18

context for this writing ~exercise/practice

Audience: me in August 2017, essentially.

Note: I’m not sure I can speak with the tone of authority I do in this, but I’m fairly confident it’s reasonable.

After reviewing in Tutoring Max 41: This is not a good post. Lots of issues. Leaving it here for the record, but, yeah.

Thinking about this now, it’s more like 2020-Max wrote this for 2020-Max, not for 2017-Max.

the (opt1) in the title indicates this is one of multiple ways to tackle the same issue; I intend to try other ways in future posts.

Please see Tutoring Max #41 0:30:00 onwards for discussion with ET about this post.

the post itself

Fallible Ideas (FI) is not like other forums. Other forums have much lower standards. They think things like: “It’s rude to criticise someone”, “You have to stay on topic”, or “It’s better to praise new members than criticise them”. Other forums encourage quantity over quality, and the appearance or feeling of good discussion over the actual quality of discussion.

But you knew that, right? At least a bit. You went looking for high quality philosophy; isn’t that why you’re here? Maybe, maybe not. You’re here now.

FI is a place where you can learn to think and have a better life. A place where you can learn how to better judge and understand ideas. A place where you can learn how to have high quality discussions. A place where your ideas will be challenged. A place where criticism is treated as a gift.

FI will never give you any of these things. However, it is a place you can find them, provided you know how to look. The most succinct way I can describe the right method to use is ‘Socratic’. Know that you know nothing, or something like that. How to be socratic is not something that many people are good at. You should not expect that you will be good at it to start with. It takes a mix of time, energy, focus, and reflection. In some ways the proportions of those things are up to you.

Most people who come to FI for some time end up leaving, often angry, upset, or offended. I found myself upset a few times in the ~18 months following my first post. I would struggle along, feeling like I was the victim of condescension, or the subject of pejoratives. The truth, though, was that I was inflicting those things on myself. I had been fooling myself for years–about the quality of my capabilities, of my thinking, of my ideas… I had been living a fantasy, and it has taken me 3 years just to realise that.

I think it’s important to mention, I am not attempting to dissuade you–I’m writing this to make your life easier, after all–but you need to know upfront that this will not be easy. You have been born into a world of poor thinkers–parents, friends, teachers, colleagues: high quality thinkers are exceptionally rare. It is exceedingly unlikely that you are an exception to this rule. It would only harm us if I were dishonest with you about these things. Especially now.

One of the reasons I’m writing this is so that you, an FI beginner, will have some material that I did not. I will tell you some things I would have liked to been told–and might have found had I the wherewithal to humbly look. I urge you to proceed with an open mind. By that I mean: please, reserve judgement until you have thoroughly thought through and discussed the foundational material. There are many things you can learn without talking about fantastical things like AGI or saving the world. In fact, it will be expected that you take seriously other things before having the sorts of discussions many people try to jump right into.

FI is a community that will expect you are fully capable of discussing topics you choose at incredibly high standards. If you do not master (or at least become proficient) in the basics, do not expect anyone to take you seriously in more advanced matters. If you overreachthat is, attempt to tackle problems beyond your potential(not what overreaching means, need to rework a lot here)–you will be confronted about this. This is what high standards mean, high standards do not mean things like fancy, impressive, or advanced. High standards means a low error rate and consistent, robust thinking; you must know your own boundaries and capabilities to reach your goals.

Despite the high standards, everyone is capable of becoming a productive member–and potentially very quickly. What does being a productive member mean? Primarily: making progress for yourself. You owe nothing to other posters, and they owe nothing to you. However, you do owe it to yourself to take the knowledge made available to you and use it to improve your thinking and your life.

FI is not a club, or a show and tell. It is a serious philosophy forum for serious people. You will be expected to take matters seriously, to take advice, suggestions, and criticism seriously. Responding with anger or offence will not demonstrate your seriousness; this is not twitter, or facebook, or reddit. This is Fallible Ideas; know that you are fallible, and expect to learn that harder and faster than anywhere else.

All that said, I’m glad you’re here.

FI is the living tradition of several David Deutsch related online communities: TCS (Taking Children Seriously), ARR (Autonomy Respecting Relationships), and the FoR (Fabric of Reality) and BoI (Beginning of Infinity). Although FI is the living tradition of these discussion groups, you won’t find DD here, only his legacy: primarily through his long-time mentee, and colleague, Elliot Temple.

As for introductory material, in lieu of follow-up posts of mine (and others, I hope), these things will help you on your way:

Reading those alone, in isolation, is not enough. To really understand things you need to discuss and write about them. How will you know if you’re doing well, or what problems you are yet to overcome?

Here are some sample resources from budding FI members to help you on your way:

When you run into difficulty or get stuck, the most important thing you can do is discuss it. Remember that.

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