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(Draft/Partial) Helping the Best People or the Masses; One Meaning for FI

Date: 2020-09-18

Note: this is currently a draft and incomplete post.

I’ve been thinking about FI beginners / new participants on and off for a while. There are a few issues FI has that prevents it growing. I think there’s a reasonable case to be made that the bottleneck is people of Elliot’s calibre.

I had some thoughts regarding Elliot’s podcast Helping the Best People or the Masses (from late 2017). In it he’s responding to an FI post I made at the time. He argues we should help the best people. I agree.

I think it’s reasonable ppl who value FI should help and support Elliot (he’s the only “mission-critical” person in FI currently). Those people can donate money or maybe provide labour if there is relevant work to do. Most importantly they can learn, and help others learn via discussion. They can improve their own lives.

But who should Elliot help?

I think ET’s conclusion answers this question. ET should help the best people. What does that mean, though? Has anyone else even earned the privilege of contending that they’re a better philosopher? I don’t know of anyone with that kind of track record. However, being the best at something doesn’t invalidate the conclusion.

Why did DD help Elliot? Why did DD mentor him? It wasn’t because ET was better than DD – that happened later. There must have been some other reason, perhaps that ET was “the best”, whatever that means in this case. I think that sounds reasonable so far.

(Not finished, but less confident about where to go from here)


(Note: I feel like I haven’t earned the privilege of making some of these comments, but sketching it out anyway)

  • DD saw potential in ET
    • win-win
    • ‘potential’ is not a good word
  • I think ET should consider, if/when such a person/situation arises, to mentor them similarly
    • the goal should be to elevate one person (or maybe two, IDK) to close to his level.
    • then some quid-pro-quo kicks in, the deal is essentially a ‘pay if forward’ type thing
    • now we have two great people
      • supply is presumably an issue
  • while this is happening FI ppl who aren’t that capable (yet?) help each-other
    • it’s important that most of the FI work that can be done by someone other than ET is done by someone else
      • that’s helping the best ppl too by removing load/demand for attention/scarcity of half decent discussion/feedback
        • this happens a bit now, but enough?
    • also important that cargo-cult type stuff doesn’t happen; progress needs to be genuine, ppl need to disagree and seek out those challenges
      • ideally resolving them on their own (then those two people get better w/o significant attention or demand for attention)
  • (todo)

Podcast & Transcript

Published on on 2017-10-06


I’ve touched up the automated transcript a bit. It follows:

Alright, so Max wrote this email called “BoI isn’t working, but neither is Elliot working alone”. And I think it’s cool that he wrote the email, other people should try to actually talk about this stuff more that would be good. It’s a good discussion topic that’s worth trying to think about. It’s about like how to change the world and spread philosophy ideas and persuade people of critical rationalism and stuff like that.

So max says, He presumes we all agree that spreading good ideas is very important to avoid the end of civilization. And one way is spreading out by car, boi, etc. Well, I don’t think that he should presume that we agree, like most people don’t act like they agree with that. What exactly makes it look like they agree, like, you can probably get some people let’s say they think that’s important. Like, that’s probably not that hard. But like getting people actually do something about it. Now, that sounds hard. Like most people, most people cared about this, but it wouldn’t be that hard to spread, because they’d be trying to learn it themselves.

You know, the reason that it’s hard to spread as most people don’t want to learn it. So like, they just don’t care that much about good ideas. They say they care about ideas, but they don’t act like, you know, how willing are they to debate? How many people want to debate me like, Oh, yeah, I care about the truth. But then, are they willing to talk to me? Are they willing to actually answer questions and address criticisms? Or do they just want to, like, ignore a bunch of criticisms? And, like, avoid the work of trying to actually think about things? How many books they actually want to read? How much effort have they put into things like learning how to read books faster, or setting up their life and their schedule on shut so they have time read, unlike actually learn ideas, how many of them actually bother to like, put an audio book on while they’re working out? Like they could listen to books at the gym? But do they do that? Do they want to, maybe they just don’t like books, they could listen to books while they’re commuting to work, but they don’t, right? Like what’s going on there. Apparently, they’re just not that a new ideas.

So [Max] asks, If it’s better to improve like a few people’s ideas a lot, or a lot of people’s ideas a little bit. So the answer the few people’s ideas a lot, because people who know a lot are like powerful, and they can do important productive things. And then people who only know a little bit like, don’t really matter that much like they’re okay, they can fulfill your Amazon delivery or something, you know, they can, they can be productive in like, little ways, like, earn their paycheck or something. But, you know, it’s not a big deal.

Like, if you can help the very best people, then they can get even better. And then that’s like, the most important thing in the world is like, really, really good people. Like, what kind of comparison between, like David Deutsch and you know, 100 of his fans, or even 1000 of his random fans, like, do you want to help create another David Deutsch, or you want to, like, create one book that helps 1000 fans got slightly better, it’s better to help the content creators, it’s better to help the people who actually have ideas that are correct, rather than help people whose lives are a mess anyways, and who are just going to, like, promote and dumb ideas because they don’t know what they’re talking about.

[What] are the best ideas in the world? What are the best ideas anyone knows? that’s an important thing. And the way you improve that as you got like a small number of people that are actually know enough to work on improving human knowledge. If you just take a bunch of people who are like, not even close to contribute anything to human knowledge. And then you got them all like, a tiny bit better. Like, what difference does that make? What’s going to happen now? you’re not going to get like new important ideas from that. In rare cases, you might get lucky. But a lot of important ideas are connected to other ideas, you have to, like, know a bunch of shit before you can contribute. You have to like kind of get to the cutting edge before you can build on it. It’s not like that, like 100% of the time. But that’s that’s kind of how it often works. Like first to catch up to what people already know. And then you move past that if you’re like, nowhere near what’s already known, then the vast majority of the show you come up with is just gonna be like reinventing things are getting things wrong.

So Max says it’s important to have both skill some people up to be experts, as well as skill most people up to the amateurs, at least in the near future, far future is a different matter. But like what is an amateur? What is an expert? Like, does an expert mean someone like me, someone like David? Like it’s hard to scale up even one person like that. We haven’t really figured out how to do that. So figuring that would be good. Does an expert means someone who like couldn’t possibly debate me, does that count as an expert, someone who’s just completely outclassed? I mean, skilling people up to that level, like, I guess that’d be something, but like, you know, that it’s hard for them to contribute, if they’re just outclassed by current human knowledge.

And then, like the amateurs like what they’re going to do, what’s an amateur, like, just someone who’s wrong about everything, or, you know, not quite wrong about everything? Is that it like, what, what does that for what’s, what’s the positive aspect is that like, people who are sort of fans who have things they don’t understand, do we need, like a bunch of people on our side who don’t know what they’re talking about, like, why solo like, give us money, or like, so we can get, like, lots of views on our YouTube videos. So if like our YouTube videos, I’ll have like a million views. Because we have a bunch of stupid fans who don’t actually understand it, and aren’t actually interested in getting involved in learning it for real, they just sort of, you know, sit there and hit the like button and pretend they understand it.

And like, first, you can’t even get people like that unless you like, Don’t challenge them too much. So you have to like ruin your content, or you’re not going to have that kind of fan base. Like, if you if you make this sort of demanding critical content that I make, that doesn’t just let people sit back and nod and like, feel good about themselves, so they don’t know know anything, then with my kind of content, you’re not going to get like a big audience, unless you have like a bunch of people that are actually diesel, because it’s intentionally not sucking up to bad people, and making them feel good about themselves. You know, it’s intentionally trying to communicate that I have standards, and that this is like, what the standard is of what you should know, or how hard you should think, or what sort of effort you should put into things as you’re not doing that, then you’re just sort of not trying and life and wasting your life. And when you say things like that, then you don’t get as many just like random followers tagging along for no real reason. Which is like what amateurs are right?

Like, what would normally be considered an amateur level just like doesn’t exist on FI, because people like that never stick around, because they don’t like it. Because if I says people like that are ruining their lives, they’re bad people, their immoral, they should change, people either listen to that, and change or they don’t like it and they leave. You can’t just like, get rid of that. And like, start trying to appeal to shitty people having shitty lives that would like defeat the whole message. And the purpose of saying that having a rational life is actually different.

I think you got enough trickle down effects just from misunderstandings. You don’t need to do them on purpose. You don’t have to, like dumb down material, just like make your best material. And then if you can explain it to some people, some of them are going to misunderstand parts of it, then they’re going to make content that’s like, not as good. And then some of their fans will make content that’s not as good. And you’ll get like, eventually, some people will be making sure that has like little pieces of your content. And then people can get it in like little bite sized chunks that are less threatening, or something, you don’t have to, like, do that on purpose, best to try to, like manipulate people, like there’s already enough degradation, just from like misunderstandings and people fucking up. You don’t have to do it on purpose.

Max keeps talking about ‘we’ like it matters that we move as fast as we reasonably can. And we can’t do all the work via one end. And so we should think about working from the other side, too. So first of all, that’s not very specific, like doing what from the other side? Like, what’s an actual proposal? And why will it not suck? Like, is there is there an actual idea here? Or is it just a like call to brainstorm ideas to do this, like vague aspiration of somehow getting lots of amateur fans that aren’t really well defined? And there’s no actual conceptual model of like, what type of people they would be in what their opinion of fit would be in, like, what the point would be like, it’s not really planned out, it’s not specific. But anyways, this whole like, we thing; who is we? like, is a max and me maybe Justin, anyone who will listen, I don’t know. I mean, I’ve sort of told max what I think like he should read books.

You know, I think if you have, if you haven’t read DD and ran, then you’re not really in a position to think about things like you’re just missing the most important parts of human knowledge. So like, catch up, and then try to actually learn things and then figure out what to do. And like, you also got to learn about like, what’s already been tried, why, why things don’t work, what kinds of things could or couldn’t work, like, there’s already a lot of knowledge about this stuff. There have already been a lot of trials to talk with people to create content, etc.

Max is like talking about like, Oh, yeah, let’s all get together and, like, persuade the world or something. But like can he persuade, like, one person? can even persuade himself, let alone someone else? There’s no unified group here. There’s like, different people with their own ideas in their own lives. And that’s what you should expect, like it’s, you know, an individualist philosophy. We’re not a collective, we don’t want to be a collective. And it’s important not to think too much and collective terms, and not to put too much stock and collaborations and like to just do things yourself that you want to do. And there’s some scope for like multiple people doing good things, and having some level of coordination. But like, there’s something weird about trying to plan like, what the group will do before you’ve actually done anything.

If people want to contribute, they need to learn more, basically, I’ve been saying this for years, and people don’t want to do it. Um, Max’s email is not focused on that not How can he learn more, that’s, that’s not really even about that’s not focused on like, anyone learning a lot more, it’s focused on like, mass popularity, kind of, for some reason. Then Max has this idea, something like, we’ve got existing people who have like big audiences, and we’ll get them to convert their audiences to FI stuff. But like, can you even convert like one person? Could you take one member of their audience and convert them, let alone convert the content creator himself.

Like, there’s a big problem there. Max wants to grow the number of experts and also the number of people who could become experts, like, what does a person who could become an expert like everyone to Universal knowledge creator. So in some sense, that’s everyone, I mean, I think you mean something more specific. But like, it’s not really clear what that meant, what it is that it’s not, it’s not defined.

Like, none of this addresses the problem that plenty of people have seen FI for it to like get started. Like, the problem is, they don’t like it, they don’t want it. None of this addresses that people don’t want to hear it. They don’t like the message. They don’t want to know these things. They don’t want to learn that it’s not just that they don’t like thinking that much, or debating or criticism is that there are ideas in FI that contradicts the values they already have. that they disagree with it. They don’t like it. They don’t want it. They think like, FI ideas are immoral and gross and stuff. So like, that’s why it’s not spreading very well, it’s cause people hear about it. And then the more they understand, the less they like, basically, that’s most people.

I think, Max is assuming something like if we can change a bunch of people’s opinions, then well, learn stuff afterwards, at least a little bit in some random amounts? And like, we just have to get more favorable opinions and get the word out. And then people like it or something, oh, no, it’s not very specific. But something kind of like that.

And even if you could get like thousands of people saying, like, positive things about FI, or about BoI or whatever, that’s not like, actually useful, like, just because they said some positive things about it doesn’t mean they’re going to actually want to start like learning and studying and being serious. Like, virtually everyone is just extremely consistent about going into evasion mode and burying their head in the sand if you start asking them tough questions. They don’t want to, like see the issue through to a conclusion and have some of their prejudices questioned and they’re like, not very self aware, and they don’t want to introspect and change. They’re happier when they when they hear it as like, oh, some other people are dumb, some other people are wrong, and when they’re like, feeling superior, because like, they know something about FI, and other people don’t. But like when the criticism turns on them and it’s like, “Hey, what about you? What are you doing? Where are your good essays? whereas you’re good content. What have you studied? What books have you read? Have you discussed them? What have you done to error correct your understanding of those books?” When you start getting into that people, they don’t want to talk about it anymore. They’re busy, the excuses start.

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