Duet (iOS) Finesse

UPDATE: The physics are changed to be more finesse friendly in the 1.2.1 patch, so all tricks are possible again. And added tricks up to 384 finesse.

Want to get an amazing score in the hit iPhone and iPad game Duet by Kumobius? I can help. I love the game and have played a ton. I wasn't very good when I started, I've died thousands of times, but I'm now one of the best players (there's hope for everyone!). I am tied for first place in the prestigious Total Finesse category. That puts me ahead of 409,613 other players as I write this.

I'm also tied for first in Revolution and Quickening Finesse, and I have untied first place for Resilience Finesse. I also have every achievement except for completing 100 daily challenges, which only started around 40 days ago :)

Finesse is the number of touches you use to complete the levels. The fewer the better. When you replay any level, it counts the touches you use in the top left corner, so you can see how you're doing. If beat the level when the counter hits 0, without getting into red territory, then you have perfected the level and a small green triangle appears for that level on the level selection screen.

Perfecting every level is a good start. But how do you get a really world class score? The secret is some levels can be completed with a better than perfect score. But how do you find them? It's a lot of work, but I'm going to help you out. Here is a list of all my better than perfect levels and the number of touches possible to save. This took a lot of work to create, which you won't have to do. Use my list and you can save time by not carefully analyzing levels where the "perfect" score really is the best possible. (But analyzing the levels is fun, so it's up to you!)

Denial VI +2
Anger IV +1
Bargaining III +1
Bargaining IV +1 (was changed from 9 to 10 touches in 1.2.1 patch)
Bargaining V +1
Bargaining VI +1
Hope I +1 (Thanks AWPrince for finding this one)
Hope III +2
Hope IV +4 (Several people told me you can save a 4th touch on Hope IV. Thanks)
Hope V +1 (Thanks Adrian Ensan for telling me this one)
Acceptance IV +1
Acceptance VI +1
Acceptance VIII +1
Acceptance IX +1

If you get every level perfect and then match these scores for better than perfect results, you will achieve a total finesse score of 384, pass hundreds of thousands of other players and reach the very tip top of the leaderboard.

Note: please be aware that the level Bargaining IV is impossible to get perfect in Duet 1.2.0, the current version. The best you can do is one touch into the red. I personally used Duet 1.0.4 which I restored from Time Machine to get it perfect. Kumobius is aware of the issue, so hopefully we'll see a fix soon. I have researched the issue in detail, and found that the physics engine of Duet was changed so that you crash into blocks slightly earlier.

Secret Bonus Level: Did you know Duet has a secret level? It's called "Transcendence S", and it's like a cross between Transcendence and Quickening. It's hard, but tons of fun. To play Transcendence S, beat Transcendence III without dying. (If you die, you can exit out of the level and restart it.)

To further help your Duet leaderboard aspirations, I've also decided to share my scores and notes about the other finesse categories. This will help you understand what a good score on each level is, where you can improve, and the odds of getting really good level layouts on the randomized levels. All of the B-side levels are randomized except for Resilience III. The numbers in parentheses are the number of touches the level considers "perfect", and a +6 would mean I saved 6 touches better than "perfect".

revolution score: 18, first place
revolution 1 ( 7) +0 (cannot improve)
revolution 2 ( 7) +3 (cannot improve)
revolution 3 (13) +6 (+7 is perfect but requires estimated 1/359 odds layout)

The trick to Revolution is to do two spinners at a time with one touch. This requires both spinners to go the same direction. Think of direction as which thumb you press to spin around it. If both spinners use the same thumb, then they are the same direction, and you can do two of them with one spin. This is easiest when both spinners are in the middle. If one spinner is in the middle and one on the edge, it still works but the timing is more exact. If both spinners are on the edge, then it's impossible to do those two spinners together with one touch.

quickening score: 3, first place (bugged in Duet 1.2.0, only first 3 quickening levels count, hopefully will be fixed soon)
quickening 1 (7) +6 (cannot improve)
quickening 2 (7) +6 (cannot improve)
quickening 3 (7) +6 (cannot improve)
quickening 4 (7) +6 (cannot improve)
quickening 5 (7) +6 (cannot improve)
quickening 6 (7) +6 (cannot improve)
Note: Estimated 1/50 chance for 1 touch quickening layout
Edit: Adrian Ensan pointed out that you might be able to get a level with all middle blocks for some quickenings and get a 0 touch (+7) result.

I recommend playing through all the quickening levels in a row until you have the no death achievement, don't die very often, and get several one-touch levels completed. Doing it that way is fun and good practice. Then to finish things up at the end, you can play individual levels and reset the moment you're forced to use a second touch.

resilience score: 53, first place by 4 touches
resilience 1 (25) +13 (solid score but better is definitely possible)
resilience 2 (35) +18 (solid score but better is definitely possible)
resilience 3 (25) +1 (This non-random level was formerly "Acceptance VI" in older versions of Duet, and was the hardest A-side level which blocked many players from finishing the game. It contains the same bugged trick as bargaining IV, which I haven't done yet, so another touch saved is possible in Duet 1.0.4, and hopefully in the next version of Duet. The trick is a spin starting from vertical, going past a square and around an edge spinner.)

transcendence score: 17, 7th place
transcendence 1 (12) +11 (cannot improve)
transcendence 2 (25) +20 (solid score but better is definitely possible)
transcendence 3 (50) +39 (solid score but better is definitely possible)

Do you know somewhere to save finesse that I missed? Do you have a better score than me in anything Duet related? Got any good strategies? Post in the comments below.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (15)

Anti-Israel Bias at Hacker News

Paul Graham created the social news website Hacker News, associated it with his well-known Silicon Valley startup Y Combinator (which is hosting President Obama in May), and ran it until recently. It works similarly to reddit, so you would expect democratic content determined by its users. What most people don't know is how much behind-the-scenes moderators are controlling the stories. They were recently caught penalizing a story on SpaceX merely because a space launch didn't seem like a "major story" to them, and they routinely edit the titles of front page stories.

Covert moderator slant on a user-run news site is a problem. But I want to talk about something more serious. Graham is a political ideologue, and Hacker News is used to present a slanted perspective on Israel and Jewish issues, while claiming neutrality. When it comes to Israel, rather than enforce the site rules, a disturbing double standard is applied.

Israel is a free, democratic country, and a key U.S. ally. It made the desert bloom, turning a wasteland into a modern civilization. Israel is a humane, tolerant country and has Arab members of its government. It has a free press, productive industry, and contributes to scientific progress. Israel provides a home to millions of Jews, who were persecuted in most other countries around the globe. Now some anti-Semites hide under the guise of only being anti-Israel.

Israeli culture values life, while many of its enemies don't. Despite – or perhaps because of – these virtues, Israel has been under attack for pretty much its entire history. It has been violently attacked by Arab states and terrorists, and it has come under political attack from many Western countries which have a history of persecuting Jews. Israel has repeatedly faced existential threats, and survived. In this context, bias against Israel is particularly unwarranted, dangerous, sad and important.

Paul Graham

Let's begin with some background on Graham. His personal website has a revealing 2004 essay. Graham shows us his political leanings by comparing Winston Churchill's speeches to a German "purge". And in the full context of the essay, he is actually setting up Churchill's political opponents as brave Galileos, with Churchill as the Inquisition.
The word "defeatist" ... in Germany in 1917 ... was a weapon, used by Ludendorff in a purge ... At the start of World War II it was used extensively by Churchill and his supporters to silence their opponents. In 1940, any argument against Churchill's aggressive policy was "defeatist". Was it right or wrong? Ideally, no one got far enough to ask that. (emphasis added)
In 1940, Germany was waging an aggressive war in which it conquered a large chunk of Europe and then started bombing Britain. In this context, Graham thinks Churchill was too aggressive, while London was under attack. Now that you have a sense of what kind of political ideologue Graham is, and what sort of essay he wrote, let's examine what it says about Israel:
I admit it seems cowardly to keep quiet. When I read ... that pro-Israel groups are "compiling dossiers" on those who speak out against Israeli human rights abuses ... part of me wants to say, "All right, you bastards, bring it on." The problem is, there are so many things you can't say. If you said them all you'd have no time left for your real work. You'd have to turn into Noam Chomsky.
Graham is misquoting from this article. It reads:
No school has announced plans to divest from Israel, but leaders of the [academic divestment-from-Israel] campaign are seeking to ratchet up the pressure, and plan to plot strategy at the University of Michigan in mid-October.

Supporters of Israel in academia have been organizing as well. The Middle East Forum, a non-profit organization led by several scholars and writers, this week began compiling "dossiers" on professors who criticize Israel and offer "biased" views about the Middle East, Islam, and foreign policy issues.
Graham, in a rejection of scholarship, removed the quotes around "dossiers". Worse, he misrepresented the article and cited it out of context. The article was saying how anti-Israel academics have an organized campaign going on, and some supporters of Israel are organizing as well. Their defense of Israel includes gathering information about biased professors, which isn't sinister. The article isn't, as Graham would have us believe, saying something bad about "pro-Israel groups".

What does Graham think of defenders of Israel? They are "bastards" who he implies are trying to silence their opponents with underhanded tactics that his own source doesn't back up. And in the full context of his essay, Graham has compared professors who oppose divesting from Israel to the Inquisition.

Now you know who Graham is. But what hidden role do his political views play on Hacker News?

Banning Dissent

While running Hacker News, Graham enforced the rules in a selective manner and banned dissent. The most stunning example occurred when the anti-Israel article Propaganda war: trusting what we see? by Paul Reynolds was posted. Reynolds himself received hundreds of emails regarding his inflammatory political article. The article is inappropriate for Hacker News, which has the following policy:
The focus of Hacker News is going to be anything that good hackers would find interesting ... anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.

It may be easier to say what that doesn't include. It doesn't include most stories about politics ... Basically, if they'd cover it on TV news, it's off-topic.
Reynolds' political article is something that would be covered on TV news, not something to gratify intellectual curiosity. Recognizing that it was inappropriate for Hacker News, user qqq wrote, "No politics. No anti-semitism. Go away. Flagged." (Disclosure: qqq is Elliot Temple.) Graham replied, 'Following the sentence "no politics" with one equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is a bit hypocritical. It does show why stories that intersect with politics are dangerous though; the topic seems to bring out the most irrational in people.' After implying that qqq is irrational, later that day Paul Graham banned qqq from Hacker News without giving any further reason.

Graham was saying the article merely contains criticism of Israel, and was appropriate for Hacker News, even though it blatantly violated the site guidelines. This shows how Hacker News works: off-topic political articles are allowed when they have the right slant but (as we'll see below) are buried when they don't. The selective enforcement of rules creates a biased environment. Graham doesn't keep his political positions separate from Hacker News.

Anti-Israel or Anti-Semitic?

Does Reynolds' article contain anti-Semitism, as qqq said, or is it merely legitimate criticism of Israel as Graham claimed?

Reynolds calls Israeli public relations "propaganda". That is a strong term. You don't normally see it used when discussing the public relations of others countries like USA, France or Japan. When Israel is attacked in a way other countries aren't, that is a vicious double standard, not reasoned criticism. Now let's look over a condensed version of the article, quoting key parts:
Israel released video of an air attack on 28 December, which appeared to show rockets being loaded onto a lorry. The truck and those close to it were then destroyed by a missile.

a 55-year-old Gaza resident named Ahmed Sanur ... claimed that the truck was his and that he and members of his family and his workers were moving oxygen cylinders from his workshop.

Mr Sanur said that eight people, one of them his son, had been killed. He subsequently told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: "These were not Hamas, they were our children... They were not Grad missiles.".

The Israeli response was that the "materiel" was being taken from a site that had stored weapons.

But the incident shows how an apparently definitive piece of video can turn into something much more doubtful.

It is reminiscent of an event in the Nato war against Serbia over Kosovo in 1999. In that case, a video taken from the air seemed to show a military convoy which was then attacked.

On the ground however it was discovered that the "trucks" were in fact tractors towing cartloads of civilian refugees, many of whom were killed.

Whether Israel retains any propaganda initiative is not all certain. Pictures of dead and wounded children have undermined its claim to pinpoint accuracy...
Take note of the methods Reynolds uses.

Statements of the free, accountable and democratic Israeli government are held up against the claims of the unknown and unaccountable Ahmed Sanur. Is that a fair comparison? Should those be given equal credence? Would other governments have their statements treated as equally credible to the unsubstantiated story of a hostile foreigner? No, this is a double standard.

Notice how the unsubstantiated claim that Israel killed "children" is echoed later in the article. But has Reynolds determined that Israel killed the children in the unspecified pictures? Or has Reynolds analyzed whether Israeli military actions are justified due to necessary self-defense? No. He's taken events out of the context of ongoing terrorist actions against Israel in order to demonize Israel as child-killer.

Another tactic Reynolds uses is, rather than accusing Israel of murdering civilians, he reminisces about a different unsourced incident. Then he describes "cartloads of civilian refugees" being killed. How do you argue with someone who is just reminiscing? The point isn't to present critical arguments, it's to paint a picture which blows the incident out of proportion.

The thinker Natan Sharansky has published a 3D test for judging anti-Semitism. The three Ds are demonization, double standards, and delegitimization. It only takes one to qualify for anti-Semitism; Reynolds' article fits two. "[W]hen Israel's actions are blown out of all sensible proportion", that is demonization. "When criticism of Israel is applied selectively; when Israel is singled out", that is a double standard.

For more information about these issues, I recommend starting with The Israel Double Standard by Victor Davis Hanson. In it he argues: "The prejudice against Israel in diplomatic matters is as troubling as more crude bigotry against Jews."

So, Reynolds' argument meets criteria for anti-Semitism. But Graham sided with it, claiming it was merely legitimate "criticism of Israel". Despite it violating site guidelines, he kept it on the site. He even banned a user for dissenting. This demonstrates how Graham's anti-Israel views guide Hacker News moderation and create bias.

Continuing Legacy

Several weeks ago, Graham put Daniel Gackle in charge of Hacker News. Gackle is following in Graham's footsteps. He promptly buried a USA Today article reporting on anti-Semitism.

Gackle explained, "The story is (a) off-topic, (b) designed for outrage, (c) if it isn't propaganda, would require careful sourcing to show it—something that HN is the wrong place for." When an article has the wrong politics, it's promptly moderated as off-topic.

Two days later Gackle's integrity was tested. The political article, Did Israel steal bomb-grade uranium from the United States? from The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was posted. Gackle refused to take any action against it, even though it met the same criteria he'd said justified "killing" the USA Today article.

The Bulletin's article was (a) an off-topic political article. It was (b) designed for outrage, as you can see from the title accusing Israel of stealing. And, (c) it would require better sourcing. As I explain below, The Bulletin isn't a reputable source. Unfortunately, Gackle moderates with the same double standard as Graham, selectively burying articles with political views he doesn't like, while keeping articles he agrees with.

Gackle ignored a prompt email explaining the problem in time to act. During the six hours the article was on the front page, he wrote in detail about some minor downvoting issues, proving he was available to moderate. When pressed about the issue, he admitted two days later that he had made an intentional decision as head moderator. Gackle then told the user who raised the issue to stop sending emails. He expressed his unwillingness to consider facts or arguments which contradict him about Israel.

Gackle also emailed, "I see no double standard or even any particular connection between the two stories", ignoring the explanation he'd received. He added that the USA Today story "was a sensational article about an ongoing political battle" and "obviously off-topic". But an article accusing Israel of stealing is also sensational, political, and off-topic. So why doesn't Gackle see any double standard?

In defense of The Bulletin's article, Gackle simply called it "a fairly substantive historical piece". That was after he had already been informed that The Bulletin publishes extreme anti-Semitic revisionist history:
First, Israel cannot be said to face an existential threat when, in the many Arab-Israeli conflicts that have occurred since World War II, Israel has almost always been the aggressor.
This kind of historical lie goes far beyond mere criticism of Israel or a factual error. (Israel has not been the aggressor in its wars. For the real history, read this or any reputable source.) It's so far away from substantive historical analysis that it boggles the mind. But Gackle closed his eyes to his role in spreading this kind of anti-Semitic material. Like Graham before him, Gackle lets his political views guide his moderator actions, and applies a vicious double standard when it comes to Israel.

I call on Hacker News to make immediate changes. Instead of working behind the scenes to promote political biases, take responsibility for creating a fair and neutral forum. Or at least admit how the site works, instead of trying to mislead readers. Israel deserves better treatment.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (4)

Anti-Semitism at Hacker News

EDIT: I wrote a new more detailed article about this.

Paul Graham created the social news website Hacker News (HN), associated it with his company Y Combinator, and ran it until recently. Graham's website contains anti-Israel material. Graham also compares Winston Churchill's speeches to a German "purge". As head HN moderator, Graham banned the user qqq for referring to an inflammatory, off-topic anti-semitic article as "anti-semitism" and suggesting it shouldn't be on a non-political technology news site. The article stayed on HN; anti-semitism, Graham (username pg) believes, is merely legitimate "criticism of Israel".

The article, by Paul Reynolds, applies double standards to Israel, such as calling their public relations "propaganda", when the same public relations by the USA would not be called "propaganda". Reynolds also questions whatever Israel's accountable, democratic government says, while promoting the unsubstantiated claims of a random, unaccountable Palestinian. That is an evidential double standard. Double standards like this are not merely "criticism of Israel", they are anti-semitism.

Reynolds posted updates admitting it was an inflammatory political article that caused outrage. Reynolds acknowledged and commented on the accusation that he was siding with the anti-semitic terrorist organization Hamas. To his slight credit, Reynolds considered it par-for-the-course that his article – which took some similar positions to Hamas – could draw serious complaints, so he spoke to the issue. Graham, on the other hand, has more extreme views than Reynolds and won't admit there's any controversy. Graham banned a user for a criticism that even Reynolds would find understandable, thus trying to silence any defense of Israel on HN.

The new head moderator of HN, Daniel Gackle (username dang), is following in Graham's footsteps. He took moderator action against a recent USA Today article reporting on anti-semitism. Then he applied a double standard by refusing to take action against an anti-Israel article meeting the same criteria which he had said justified burying the other article.

Gackle ignored a prompt email explaining the problem in time to act. At the same time, he replied at great length to some minor comments about downvoting, proving he was available to moderate. When pressed about the issue, Gackle admitted two days later that he had made an intentional decision as HN's head moderator. Gackle told the user who raised the issue to stop sending emails; Gackle is unwilling to consider facts or arguments which contradict him about Israel.

How bad is it? Gackle's best defense was to claim the anti-Israel article was a "fairly substantive historical piece". But we are talking about a site which Gackle had already been informed publishes extreme anti-semitic revisionist history like this:
First, Israel cannot be said to face an existential threat when, in the many Arab-Israeli conflicts that have occurred since World War II, Israel has almost always been the aggressor.
Gackle closed his eyes to his role in spreading this kind of material. HN moderation has a clear bias. It's fair to call it anti-semitism.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (16)

Philosophy - Fill In The Blanks

My answers to some philosophical prompts (try answering the prompts yourself in the comments below!):

Initiative means... It's important because...

Living life. Doing things instead of doing an impersonation of a rock.

Personal, individual responsibility is... It's good because...

Living life. Doing things for yourself instead of doing an impersonation of a rock.

Taking responsibility for your life means recognizing that other people won't solve your problems for you, and taking initiative to solve them yourself.

Taking responsibility also means choosing to control your own life. (You cannot be responsible for things you do not control.) That requires initiative rather than passively letting things happen – you have to actually do stuff to have any control.

Living irresponsibly-passively means letting external stuff control you, like memes, people ("authorities" or not), or even the weather (e.g. a passive person outside could live in the sun and die in the snow, the weather chooses).

One thing a responsible person does is never evade. He deals with things. Evading is irresponsible because it leaves you with no control over the evaded issue.

Criticism is... It has the following benefits...

A criticism is an explanation of a flaw an idea has. Identifying and understanding flaws makes it a lot easier to fix them (to figure out how to change your ideas to no longer have those flaws).

Persuasion is... It is good because...

Persuasion is about suggesting an idea that someone prefers over some idea(s) they already had. It's straightforwardly good if someone changes ideas to ones that they judge to be better.

Persuasion does not require multiple people. It can be self-persuasion. Persuasion, including self- and external, is how rational learning works.

Fallibility is... It is important to understand because...

People commonly make mistakes, so it's important to use methods of doing things which can identify and correct mistakes that occur along the way, rather than relying on everything going perfectly.

Learning and knowledge...

Want something? Prefer anything? What you need is knowledge. (Learning is getting knowledge.)

Learn how to get what you want. Learn how to meet your preference or goal. If you know how, you'll succeed.

The only exception is if you want something impossible or immoral. In those cases, learning is still the best approach. You can learn that it's impossible or immoral (and why), learn what a better preference/goal/want would be (and why), and learn how to change your mind to have that better preference/goal/want instead with zero hesitation or regrets.

Have any doubts about this? Any questions? The answers are all learnable knowledge. You can learn whether your doubts or correct or not and what's best to do about them. You can learn answers to questions (or learn that a question has no answer, perhaps because it's self-contradictory or nonsense, in which case you can learn how to make better questions, what related questions you'd want answers to instead, etc)

All of this is pure awesome with no drawbacks. It's the right way to live.

Reason has to do with correcting errors. What I mean is...

Rationality is commonly confused with being right. Actually, it's about how one takes into account the possibility of being wrong. Rationality is ability to find and correct errors. It's about being able to make changes going forward.

Without rationality, it doesn't matter how great one is today; long term one is screwed without change, because all people are only at the beginning of infinity. There's still unlimited progress, change and greatness ahead. However great you are today, if you don't change, you will be passed. (That you might die before this issue has maximum effect is not exactly comforting.)

Authority is... It is bad because...

Authority is the enemy of all of the above, especially life.

Following authority means not living on your own initiative. Following authority means not taking responsibility for your life and controlling it, but rather letting the authority be the primary responsible party making choices and controlling outcomes. (One would still be responsible for the choice to follow authority, thus allowing for plenty of moral guilt, but not much else.)

Authority isn't rational. It doesn't control things by having the best most persuasive ideas that have been exposed to lots of criticism in order to figure out the best ideas. It's not about learning, it's not designed for each person to control his life using his judgment and knowledge.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)


one meaning of the word “rational” is “has authority, is Right". even “True”, sometimes. this is a bad meaning, but a standard English meaning nonetheless.

basically ppl are justificationists and use “rational” to mean what’s good in that epistemology. and the basic point of justificationism is: if an idea doesn’t have authority, why would anyone (rationally) accept it? the "rationally" excludes reasons like arbitrarily due to taste, or chosen by self-interested bias.

what’s good in their epistemology is authority and being Right and having the Truth.

for this approach to reason, an idea can be rational. saying an idea is rational is claiming it is True, or at least has Authority.

a better approach is to see reason as a process. the point is to think about ideas in a way that can make progress. that means that if a mistake is made, the process can find out and correct it. error correcting approaches are rational, and ones which prevent error correction are irrational.

so, the standard idea most people have is: knowledge = JTB (justified, true belief)

meaning you should Believe ideas which are True, but you only get credit if you believe them due to authority (justification), NOT for any other reason (b/c if they don’t have authority but turn out true, why'd you believe it? that wasn't a rational belief, you didn't know it was true, you just got lucky that it happened to be true)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Opposite of Authority

i've been trying to figure out a good word that means roughly no-authority, but approaches the issue in a positive way, saying what the concept *is* rather than isn't, and not mentioning any opposing view. i don't think there is such a word! :(((

the word "freedom" isn't specific and clear enough. same for "liberal", "liberty", "reason" or "rational".

the words "humility" and "modesty" are too negative and have mistakes mixed in. their synonyms are worse.

"decentralized" doesn't get the point across well, it's too much of a special case.

"non-justificationist" would not be understood, nor would "fallibilist".

The word "independence", like some of the others, is too connected with politics not philosophy. also, like some of the others, lots of people who are pro-authority would be in favor of it and not see the contradiction

"cooperation" is too specific (not covering all the meaning) and people won't understand the connection

"no-authority" or "anti-authority" are both defining it in terms of what it's not. i want a word which means the right concept, rather than just denying an opposing view

some other potentially useful words are, "self-rule" (which sounds way too much like being your own authority), "self-determination", "autonomous"

btw if you look up the antonyms of "authority", they are terrible. they are words like weakness, powerlessness, inferiority, and disadvantage. that is what people think lack of authority is like. it tells you something about how badly they want authority, and see authority as a major goal and all around desirable thing. http://thesaurus.com/browse/authority

it's really sad, and says something about our culture, that there's no anti-authority word that is on par with the word "authority" for clarity, being well known and understood, applying broadly, and other things one would want from a word which make it easy to use effectively. like you can use "authority" for both political and epistemological discussions and people won't blink, they won't find it at all odd, weird, confusing or objectionable, it's just natural. but with a word like "independence", that's primarily a political word, and people will hesitate if they see it in a philosophy context.

one place I'd like to use this word is a slogan. something kinda like:
initiative, responsibility, criticism, persuasion, humility
the other words there are decent enough but "humility" is bad

another reason i want a no-authority word is for epistemology discussion. i've identified rejection of authority as perhaps the most important theme of the good epistemology, more than fallibilism, criticism, rationalism, objectivity, or existence (Rand considered "Existentialism" before "Objectivism", but it was taken).

i think the top two epistemology concepts are no-authority and error-correction. both are implied by fallibility but no one knows that. (nor do they know much about the relationship between the "critical" in "critical rationalism" and error-correction).

they also both imply each other. the rejection of authority entails needing to worry about error (as opposed to trusting authority to be right). and correcting errors requires considering the merits of ideas, rather than their amount of authority.

another word that would be nice is error-correction as one word. but that's not so important because error-correction is a descriptive phrase that positively identifies the right thing to do, without mentioning any opposing view.

another word I'd like is a positive word for non-TCS-coercion. "common preference finding" doesn't work well, it's too specific and is jargon.

another word I'd like is a positive word for non-force. there's "peace" but that's for groups not an individual level. there's "cooperation" but using that word does not communicate to people "no force allowed". people will consider relationships involving some force to be "cooperative". there's "voluntary" and "consensual" but they don't really capture it.

post suggestions in the comments

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Philosophy Research Step-By-Step Guide

Want to do philosophy research? Want to get involved, contribute something and learn something? Here's how:


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Philosophy Puzzle

It is not fitting for humans to take on parochial labor roles. Rather than divide labor, we must abolish it: labor is for machines. When we have universal machines construct according to our mind and thought, then each man will be an island, and there shall be no more division of labor.

I wrote this argument with references to four people. Who are they?

I won't say if guesses are correct unless you get all four exactly, or you explain the reasoning for your guess.

Bonus points if you can figure out what the argument is saying, analyze whether it's a good argument, and explain why I consider this puzzle worthwhile.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Philosophy Discussion Group

Want to learn more philosophy? Got questions? Got Ideas? Want criticism? Want to read philosophy discussions? There is now a single best place online to go: The Fallible Ideas discussion group.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Review: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini


this book doesn't use critical thinking. it takes some evidence and tells a story to explain it and doesn't tell us how it knows that story is correct and not some other story. it doesn't consider and criticize rival explanations. it just gives selective attention, over and over, to favored explanations. why are those explanations favored? it never says.

each influence tactic it discusses it acknowledged as fallible. but there's no extensive discussion about when and why they fail. the author doesn't seek explanations about what differentiates the successes and failures, instead he simply accepts and ignores the failure rate. the "scientists" involved in the field try to argue that X causes Y by doing an experiment where X happens and Y results, with a control with no X and no Y. they don't consider the Z and W that also differed between the test group and the control. but they also don't consider what A, B or C could be added to stop it from working anymore, or what background factors D, E, and F are required to be present for the X/Y relationship to work.

generally, the book is concerned with selective positive claims and not with error, correcting error, or considering everything.

the book is also sometimes wrong, incompetent or dishonest about technical details. in one case it described a drop from 38% to 10% as impressive. but it was in circumstances where we would have expected a 2/3 drop anyway. a 2/3 drop already gets us down to 12.66% so the observed drop could easily be within the margin of error, but that isn't mentioned. there was also a straightforward reason for a greater than 2/3 drop. yet the 38% to 10% drop was simply presented as a large drop scientifically proving the point – it was treated as evidence of the author's particular story about why there would be a drop in this case.

another issue is the book doesn't try to apply what it claims we're learning. it will raise some point, e.g. that people are biased in a particular way in a particular kind of situation. then it won't go looking for what other situations that applies to. for example it talked about fraternity hazing and how people try to act consistent with their sunk costs, so if they already went through tough hazing then they try to like the group they joined. hazing is an easy target but why not consider whether the same principle can be used to criticize some less well known target? for example people with PhDs is a group with high costs to enter it, so should people with PhDs watch out for bias regarding how much they think their PhD was worth the price and how nice life in the PhD recipient group is? the book consistently doesn't go the extra mile to consider anything controversial, it keeps just discussing psychological factors to make points that are already popular.

the book has other flaws too.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Physics Is Fun

This was originally posted 2003-09-16. It's not there anymore and I've decided to repost it. This story is 100% pure fiction.

This is a sex story. If you don't like sex, don't read it. It's also a comedy, so if you don't like comedies don't read it. Also, if any of the characters resemble real people, that's purely a coincidence, so don't sue me.

If you do like it, you might also want to read my Worst Romance Story Ever.

Physics Is Fun

by curi

Once upon a time, Elliot danced around merrily in a grassy meadow in England. He was merry because England is such a merry place. But it was a hot day and Elliot soon tired. He sat under an apple tree where it was shady. He took his shirt off for use as a headrest against the rough bark. Sweat glistened on his cut chest, and he flexed his muscles, enjoying the freedom that came with the removal of his constricting shirt. Elliot was in a pleasant place, so he sat and mused on matters philosophical.

Suddenly, an apple fell from the tree, and landed but two feet from Elliot. It broke on the ground and juice splattered onto him. But it had more effect than just making Elliot sticky. It set him thinking about gravity!

A few minutes later, Elliot set off at a run. He absolutely had to tell David his insight. Moments later, he burst into David's living room. "I've got it!" he announced.

David was wearing a Tie-Dye shirt that said "Death To Sociobiologists" in red and purple letters. Obviously he wasn't expecting any other visitors that day. His shorts were short, white, plain. Totally boring. On the upside, he'd really let lose with some thong...sandals.

David's chiseled abs made bulges in his shirt, and his painted toenails added a glimmer of fashion. He had a strong chin with a dimple, like Sparticus. And his eyes were dreamy brown, the sort to lose yourself in.

"Got what, my dear boy?" asked David, looking up from his computer.

Elliot's eyes met David's. Time seemed to slow. Usually Elliot was careful to keep his eyes downcast to avoid this awkwardness, but in his haste he had forgotten himself. Mmmm. Elliot tried not to drool.

As Elliot gazed into David's eyes, David took in the sight before him. And with a bare chest, it was some sight! David saw the bit of sticky brown apple juice. And he saw Elliot's fit figure. He saw Elliot's cute belly button, and his sexy haircut. And he saw Elliot's eyes staring into his own. David tried to focus himself.

Eventually, Elliot came to himself and stammered out some words. "I did it! I united quantum physics and general relativity into a new theory of quantum gravity!"

David was shocked to his senses. This was an impressive feat that Elliot had accomplished. Not just impressive. Earth-shattering. One of the largest breakthroughs in physics history. Or at least it would be, if Elliot was right...

As Elliot waited for David to respond, he tried to avoid eye contact, so he kept his gaze downcast. The result was that he stared directly at David's crotch. He noticed the outline of David's cock on the thin shorts, and how the leg of the shorts rode up on one side revealing extra scrumptious leg.

"That's amazing!" David finally exclaimed. "But this is no place to talk. We better make ourselves comfortable in a nice, fluffy bed."

Elliot followed David warily, but David soon explained. "Distractions reduce the creativity available for the problem at hand," David began, "because they themselves require the use of some creativity. It is best to avoid them when one wants to focus. In a bed, one maximises his comfort, and therefore his creativity. It's really the best way to think."

It was a queen-sized bed, fit for a queen. It was covered with pink sheets and a matching pink comforter. Pink was, after all, David's favorite colour. The two men grabbed feather pillows (with pink pillowcases) and laid down luxuriously. "This bed is so soft," said Elliot.

"Soft like your skin," replied David. Elliot thought for a bit and replied, "I'm not sure. It's hard to tell if my skin or the bed is softer." Elliot rubbed the sheets and his body by turns, trying to decide.

As Elliot rubbed his bare chest and arms, David mused, "You know what this reminds me of? This one time in high-school we were doing a friction experiment, to see if stone or plastic wheeled cars would go down a wooden ramp faster. It turned out the plastic wheels had less friction because they were smoother. But I guess you're not plastic, stone or wood, and neither are the sheets, so this doesn't reveal the answer to your query."

"Well, I can't decide," said Elliot. "But speaking of friction experiments, I know another one. If a dick enters an ass abruptly, there is heavy friction thus damaging the ass. But if you use lubrication, it doesn't hurt at all. Also, if the dick is sufficiently small, like in the case of Dan, that would lower the level of friction."

"You're right," said David, "that's a good point. The reason the entering abruptly has more friction, is that there are two sorts of friction, static and dynamic. No matter what speed you go, you'll get dynamic friction. But, if you overcome all the static friction at once, it will be one painful burst. If you overcome it slowly, spread out over time, the average friction level will be lower."

"Wow, I never thought of that," exclaimed Elliot. "I'm sure that new knowledge will come in handy next time I seek an anal common preference."

"Well, we didn't come here to discuss friction," David pointed out. "You were going to tell me your new theory of quantum gravity. I can't wait to hear it, I'm so stimulated."

And so it came to pass that Elliot and David lounged on fluffy pink pillows, and talked of physics. As they reclined on the queen-sized bed, they only faced one sort of distraction, so their creativity was very well nurtured. As beds are a great place for physics, and also a great place for the other sort of distraction, one couldn't help but compliment David on his ideal setting selection.

Words flowed naturally from the intellectuals, like pre-cum from an aroused cock. But after some progress, words began to flow quickly, in spurts of brilliance, just as cum spurts from an oragasming cock. Then Elliot and David reached an epiphany of understanding, and glowed happily, like the afterglow of a man who had sex.

"I think I got the thrust of your theory," said David, "but I could use some hands on learning. Got any ideas to help?"

"Let me demonstrate my theory with a quick skit," Elliot answered. "Your ass is a well known quantum gateway, so let me just apply some gravity to my dick, and penetrate the gateway, thus combining quantumness and gravity into a unified whole."

"You're such a genius," David announced. "My skits are always so dull. I'm glad you invented a more exciting version that really draws the audience into the action. It's a nice breakthrough in educational technique"

"I'll educate your ass!" shouted Elliot.

"Not if I educate yours first!" shouted David. "I'm a master educator."

Elliot and David both tried to move behind each other at once. But the laws of physics intervened, and they collapsed on the bed, thwarted.

"Wait a tick! A thought strikes me," said David. "You know in The Fabric Of Reality where I talk about Cantgotu environments? Well, we're trying to get to a position that we can't go to. But I think I have a solution."

As David explained his idea, Elliot's eyes lit up with glee. "Oh, your intellect makes me so hot," said Elliot, "keep talking physics to me!"

"And so you see," continued David, "using your new theory of quantum gravity for some extra pull, and relying on the high density of our engorged cocks, I believe we can just manage to collapse into a Cantgotu environment."

It came as a surprise to no one that David had spoken truly. So soon enough Elliot and David were fucking each other's asses at the same time! It was a true testament to the power of new theories of physics.

Elliot's hard cock filled David up, and David moaned with pleasure. He never knew it could be this good. And in turn, David's cock filled Elliot up. He too never knew it could be this good. They pounded each other roughly.

It wasn't long before their breathing came faster, and their pleasure heightened. There's a reason we can't go to Cantgotu environments: they're so intense it's hard to take! Soon, Elliot and David shot buckets of jizz into each other's asses.

After their heart and ass pounding sex, they lay in bed in each other's arms, in a dreamy state of bliss.

"I'm glad you put your knowledge of friction to good use," whispered David, "my rectum thanks you for it."

"My pleasure," answered Elliot. "I'll be happy to apply physics knowledge with you anytime."

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

The Reach of Physics and Epistemology

This was originally written in a March 2012 email:

Having a bit of knowledge about physics is important to most fields.

For example: tennis, chess, hockey, baseball, architecture, chemistry, biology, cooking, cleaning, building computers, building chairs, and so on.

The amount of physics knowledge needed for basic competence in this fields is small: the large majority of people in our culture have enough already.

You don't see people trying to heat their food in the freezer.

You don't see people losing tennis tournaments because they were confused about physics.

You don't see people doing chemistry experiments using only water and expecting each portion of water to transmute into the right chemicals because they want it to.

So, people take for granted having some understanding of physics as background knowledge. That knowledge still matters and it's still correct to say physics has a lot of reach even if people take it for granted.

If you get this basic physics stuff wrong, you can be really screwed. All sorts of stuff can go horribly wrong. Getting it right does matter a lot.

In general you don't need to know the details of quantum physics. That has less reach. It's quite important for some stuff like building nanometer-scale computer chips. But you don't need to know any quantum physics to win a tennis tournament or cook dinner or even to build a skyscraper.

To do basic science you do need to know some physics, but often not quantum physics, and often not any physics that goes beyond the background knowledge your average scientist will have and get right. If they messed up the physics they need, it could easily invalidate all their experiments in their field and make all their conclusions wrong, but in practice this rarely comes up because they don't get it wrong.

There are people who get a lot of basic physics wrong. We call them superstitious or gullible or stuff like that. It matters. But they are a minority. And a lot of the people watching science TV shows or getting fooled by bending spoons or talking about "crystal energy" or "dreamcatchers" aren't actually getting physics wrong, they are making different kinds of mistakes like they think it helps provide meaning for their life and they intentionally don't think about whether the physics is right or not.

Epistemology is a lot like physics in this regard. A relatively small amount of epistemology knowledge is relevant and important to pretty much every human endeavor. It matters to tennis, chess, hockey, baseball, architecture, and all the rest, same as with physics.

And our culture has some good quality knowledge of epistemology which people take for granted and routinely use.

But, contrary to physics, most have large mistakes in their basic epistemology background knowledge. There are widespread mistakes in our culture. And they don't just affect some special minorities that stand out, they affect 99%.

The result? All sorts of stuff goes wrong, and people don't know why or sometimes don't even know something went wrong.

People do lose tennis tournaments due to bad epistemology. That's actually common. Top people in all types of competition face significant psychological issues. They have to keep the right kind of mindset and focus to play their best. And what happens is they get to the finals and make a mistake. Then they make 5 more mistakes. Then, some people will set it aside and continue to play their best. But other people will get frustrated and have the wrong attitude to mistakes and let it "rattle" them, and will "lose focus" and start playing worse and making more mistakes they wouldn't normally make if they were relaxed in a low pressure situation, or wouldn't make if they weren't frustrated with previous mistakes.

Sometimes these problems dealing with mistakes decide a match. Better attitudes to mistakes and learning, and better understanding of their mind and emotions -- better philosophical knowledge -- could have won the match.

Sometimes players come back the next year, get in a similar situation, but then get past it and win this time. They thought hard about it and improved their epistemological knowledge (and some other knowledge too). Without knowing the name of the field. Without having the benefit of a lot of already-known and useful stuff in the field. They have to re-invent some stuff, and pick some up in bits and pieces from advice from their coach and sports/competition-related books and so on.

Some people never get past these mental issues and never become champions. That's common too. It's hard to reinvent enough epistemology and pick it up from scattered places. More people fail at this than succeed.

Epistemology comes up, and sometimes goes wrong, in all sorts of more mundane situations too. People get frustrated while playing a video game and throw the controller at the TV and break it, or just feel bad. People get stuck playing a video game and don't improve. People fight with their friends when playing a team video game and blame each other for letting the team down. Bad epistemology (in the background knowledge of our culture that people take for granted) contributes to these problems and good epistemology could address them.

And epistemology comes up, and goes wrong, when scientists start talking philosophy and trying to draw philosophical conclusions from their work.

Just like there are some places where physics reaches more (e.g. building GPS devices) and more advanced physics is important, there are also places where epistemology reaches more and more advanced epistemology is important.

Without physics well beyond the background knowledge in our culture, you're going to have a lot of problems building a GPS device. The background knowledge isn't even close to good enough.

And without more advanced knowledge of epistemology, you're going to design schools wrong. Education is an area where epistemology very heavily reaches. The background knowledge about epistemology in our culture is faulty, but the error rate with some of the "more advanced" knowledge (like explicit versions of induction, empiricism, justificationism and other stuff you can read in philosophy books) is a lot worse.

It's a bit like using superstition to build a GPS device. It's so wrong that you make a compete and utter mess of things.

That is, by the way, why our schools are "failing". (They don't even know what succeeding would be and are judging be the wrong criteria. But our schools do happen to be bad according to better criteria too. FYI US schools are far better than all the asian countries though.)

So there are various areas where epistemology is extra relevant. You don't just need a bit, you need lots. Everything has to do with learning, but some stuff more than others.

Epistemology heavy topics include: education (including lots of parenting stuff), morality, stuff to do with organizing knowledge (like programming or organizing a library), stuff to do with brains, stuff to do with how people or animals or computers or anything think or learn or create knowledge, stuff to do with evolution, stuff to do with ideas or types of ideas (like the distinctions people draw between emotions vs theories vs values vs guesses, etc), qualia, stuff to do with fallibility, errors, mistakes, sources of error, good explanations, judging explanations, methods of interpreting observations, scientific methods (b/c the point of science is to create knowledge, so the methods for doing that are methods of creating knowledge, methods in epistemology).

When scientists try to do science to address questions about how people think and live, and how that compares with animals, and the consequences for morality, they are straying especially heavily into epistemology in multiple ways and going far beyond what cultural background knowledge can be expected to handle (sort of handle, but actually fail a fair amount). When their epistemology is grossly false, they make multiple large mistakes per substantial idea in these areas, and so all their conclusions are crap.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)