The Intellectual Social Game

GISTE wrote:

how does this concept of knowledge being contextual connect to parenting?

  • if a parent sees a problem with something his child is doing, it’s crucial for the parent to consider the child’s reasons for doing it. without incorporating the child’s reasons in the knowledge creation process, the parent is ignoring the context of the knowledge the child is acting on. doing so would reliably have the effect of the child either dismissing the parent's idea, or obeying it. instead, parent should ask child why he’s doing what he’s doing (to the extent the child wants such discussion), in order to help the child, and himself, evolve their initial ideas towards mutual understanding and agreement.

GISTE is playing the intellectual social game. that's why he uses words like "crucial", "incorporating", "reliably" and "evolve". and it's why he wrote a long paragraph with overly complex structure. (btw he made it a bullet point list but it's the only thing on the list. i didn't just omit the other bullet points from the quote.)

i call it a social game because people learn to play this game from other people, and it involves interacting with other people.

people learn social games by observing what others do and then try to approximate it themselves. this is how they learn other social games like smalltalk, being in an audience, or parenting.

the "game" terminology is used by Thomas Szasz and Jordan Peterson. i don't know who originated it.

they are games because there's a set of rules people are following. and if you play well, you get rewards (e.g. people like you, think you're smart, and want to play with you again).

the rules for social games are mostly unwritten. (some people are trying to change that, e.g. the Girls Chase book writes down a bunch of social dynamics and dating rules).

how do you learn a game with unwritten rules? you watch what other people do and copy it. (and maybe you make some mistakes and get punished and learn to be conservative.) that's how people learn social interaction.

this is why people don't do intellectual discussion in a precise, rigorous way. because they're just copying approximately what they say other people do, rather than understanding how to think, how discussion can facilitate learning, etc.

part of the intellectual discussion game is writing big words and fancy sentences. so people do that. even if you tell them not to. they are bad at learning from and following written rules. it's not how most people deal with life at all. (some people are good at following written rules in a specific area, e.g. programmers. but they're still usually normal people outside of their speciality.)

science works (or doesn't work...) mostly by people trying to copy the science game from other scientists, not by them learning the scientific method from a book and then following it.

the science game as practiced by most scientists living today is primarily a social game. it involves popularity, social status in the field, people with more authority and more control over money and hiring, people who get published in more or less prestigious journals, people with or without tenure, etc

and books don't tell you how to play the science social game and succeed in your interactions with other people. how do you get a reputation as a genius, get invited to the best parties, get paid well, get to decide who else is paid well (give out rewards to friends and allies), etc? you look at other people who are succeeding at these games and try to understand how it works.

you actually should read some books, btw, to do well at those games. but not books about science. stuff more like How To Win Friends and Influence People. most people don't read much, though i think reading books like that is more common with the most successful people.

people even use words as a social game. words have written rules (the dictionary). but people don't primarily learn how to use words from the dictionary. they hear and read other people using words, then they try to use those words in similar ways. they just guess the meanings from real world usage. it's very informal and error-prone.

people commonly correct others on mistaken word use when they are playing the social game badly. some word uses make you look like a child, fool, or ignoramus. people punish those with social rebukes.

but people rarely correct others just because their word usage is wrong according to the dictionary. (most people don't even know what the dictionary says, anyway, so they can't correct those mistakes.) so people end up misunderstanding many words and using them wrong.

this leads to problems when they try to discuss with someone like me who knows what words actually mean and uses the dictionary regularly. we're playing different games. i think my way is correct and has major advantages for truth seeking, so i don't want to switch games. and the other people don't know how to switch games. so it's hard to discuss.

people's use of words is very imprecise because it's based on loose guesses from what other people say. they don't know precisely what words mean. they just know enough to communicate with normal people without being rebuked.

people's arguments are imprecise because they use words imprecisely. and because their approach to arguing is to learn it as a social game. the whole social game approach involves lots of approximation and doing things that are sorta in the right ballpark and hoping no one says anything bad about it.

GISTE's approach to philosophy discussion works like that. (and it's the same for most other people). he knows what kinds of things people say in the intellectual discussion social game, and he strongly resists talking in a different way (e.g. more simple, clear, and childlike).

the quote above isn't even very bad, btw. people write way worse stuff all the time.

some of the professionals even study Kant in order to learn to make their writing harder to understand. then it filters down. non-philosopher intellectuals copy intellectual game playing behavior from academic philosophers. then some lesser intellectuals copy them and write material for more sophisticated lay people who pass it on to typical lay people who pass it on to idiots.

this is why it's so hard to find serious truth-seeking discussion. who does that? everyone just learns the intellectual social game instead!

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Sucking In Your Gut

A few days ago, my female friend mentioned that most females suck in their gut, a lot of the time, in order to look thinner. Women are actually relieved that they don't have to do this while pregnant and say: The best part of being pregnant? You don't have to suck in your gut!

I didn't know women were sucking in their guts all the time. She said she would have told me sooner, but it's so common that she assumed I already knew...

After investigating online, we discovered that many men do it too. Lots of people write on Reddit about how they are so used to sucking in their gut that they don't even notice or think about it anymore. And many women were told to suck in their gut by a mother or grandmother. Samples:

I wanted to go on a diet at 13 and my mom yelled, "No! Just suck in your gut".

I've never stopped since.

When I was 12 years old, my grandmother saw me one day standing with my belly hanging forward. I was not necessarily fat, or bulky, just in my "childhood innocence" I had enough courage to walk around without tensing my gut or holding my abs.

My granny got extremely upset at me, and with one sentence of:

"Young woman should never look fat. Suck that belly in."

People even believe it's disrespectful not to suck in your gut:

I was always taught to suck in my belly and stick out my chest when I'm outside especially when I'm talking to people. Shows that you care about how you look and thus means respect to the person.

Many women claim they don't wear makeup, as if that meant they weren't shallow. But those women often dye their hair, blow dry, get stylish haircuts regularly, wear red lip gloss, use scented soaps, wear uncomfortable shoes and fashionable dresses, check their appearance in the mirror before going outside, and suck in their guts.

Why are there more male programmers than female programmers? Some people blame sexism and biased hiring, denying the fact that, today, fewer women are skilled programmers. (Those same people also complain that fewer women are computer science majors, which is an indication it's not actually a hiring bias since there are fewer women trained to do programming). Other people blame genetics and say women are biologically less suited to the kinds of intelligence used in programming, math, science, economics, etc.

I disagree. I think most women spend more time sucking in their gut and adjusting their makeup than thinking about programming or math. There are fewer women qualified to be programmers, but it's not due to genetics, it's due to what they pay attention to during their lives.

Why do women focus on social issues like sucking in their gut? Most of all, because their mothers told them to. Secondarily, yes, people are mean if you don't look and act how society expects you to. (For example, people make fun of shoes with individual toes. And in the recent past, and still somewhat today, many women didn't wear glasses because they cared more about their appearance than being able to see.)

Women also spend lots of time trying to get along with people in social situations. They try to be friendly and appealing, and avoid conflict. This takes a lot of attention away from topics like programming, which are unrelated to thinking about people and social dynamics.

Men suck in their gut too and also put effort into their appearance and pleasing others in social situations. But not as much as women. That's a very old cultural difference between the genders. Men are more encouraged to take risks and more allowed to be outliers. Women are more encouraged to conform and fit in. (BTW, women do the majority of parenting and school teaching. It's not the patriarchy which is oppressing little girls.)

Some parents now try to avoid pushing a gender role on their child. But they make a mess of it. They don't know how. It isn't trivial! There are complicated intellectual issues here. In order to have much control over what effects you have on your child, you need a very sophisticated understanding of culture, tradition, communication, learning, authority, power imbalances, anti-rational memes, voluntary action, consent, and more. It takes lots of philosophical skill.

As one little example, parents may not realize that telling a little girl to "sit up straight" can encourage her to suck her gut in, and that they say that slightly more often to girls than to boys. Because, to their biased eyes, girls who aren't sucking in their gut look like they're slouching more than boys do. Because the girls are supposed to look thinner than that, so it stands out more when a girl doesn't sit in the socially-approved "proper" way.

So you have a choice to make. Would you rather spend your life sucking in your gut, and conforming in a million other ways? Or would you rather learn to think well?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (7)

Real World Price Negotiation

context: i have a parking space with my apartment i'm not using and they no longer include spaces with apartments and instead rent them for $100 extra. my building manager just put me in touch with a guy who needed a space.

his texts are in yellow:

Hi Elliot. My name is XXXX I live in XXXXX. MANAGER told me that you have an available parking space. I'm interested in renting it out. How much do you want per month for it?

i'm in green:

hi! yeah it’s space XXX and i’m in #XXXX. MANAGER mentioned $80/month, would that work for you?

I was paying $55 for my previous space. Can we get closer to there?

ok let’s meet at 70, alright? i heard the full price is 100 now.

Can we do $65? I can send the money to you today. I can PayPal or Venmo you.

i think 70 is fair since that’s $30 off, ok? my paypal is [email protected] or there’s a link:


great, thanks. enjoy the space.

my notes on the negotiation:

  • i was friendly and positive. i didn't communicate being an adversary. same with him.

  • i didn't let on that i know anything about negotiating and presented as potentially incompetent, which is fine. he was more direct about negotiating.

  • i knew going in that by saying 80 i might not get it and i'd be happy with 75 or 70. i intentionally used question marks b/c i didn't want to fuck things up if he didn't know he could negotiate.

  • after he said 55 i guessed we had mutual benefit from the entire range from 55 to 80 (and actually probably both higher and lower than that!)

  • he might be dishonest b/c my building manager told me he'd been paying 60 to rent a space previously (the guy he was renting a space from moved out). he mentioned that b/c he thought it was low and hadn't been updated for a long time. alternatively it could easily be the manager getting the number wrong rather than this guy lying. best not to mention it anyway.

  • i considered saying 75 instead of 70, especially in case he wanted to meet in the middle after the 70. like counter 60 and then ask to meet in middle. i decided to put some framing to discourage iterative negotiating and specifically rule out the meet in the middle reply. many ppl interpret iterative negotiating as unpleasant, cold, and mean. so i gave enough ground immediately to limit negotiation and not offend a potentially economically illiterate anti-capitalist person with penny pinching who might not actually want to negotiate beyond his initial comment.

  • i could have saved the $100 fact in case of pushback, but again chose to front load things rather than have more iteration

  • he was clever by treating his offer to pay today and with paypal as a forward progress concession or reason for saying 65. one needs an excuse to keep things friendly. the first time he had a good excuse for pushback of bringing up the previous rate, and the second time he used that.

  • when i pushed back on his 65 i was going to immediately accept 65 if he pushed back on 70 a second time. i hesitated before doing it, but decided that even if he still didn't want 70 it wouldn't ruin the deal. (and yeah realistically i could have gotten more since his alternative is to pay 100, but i didn't think it was worth trying to really minmax overall).

  • i used a non-reason reason which is a standard, good negotiating tactic but also hilarious and stupid. i had already mathematically told him i was giving him $30 off. but i just stated the discount as if it was a reason (possibly coming off dumb in the process) and it worked... also i called my offer fair which isn't an argument about what number is fair.

  • i have read about similar non-reason reasons like if you want to cut in line people will supposedly let you do it more if you say "because [anything]". although i haven't checked the study methodology, the actual reasoning and psychology makes sense to me. see e.g. it's kinda funny. mine was more of a reason than that crap (can i cut in line for the xerox b/c i have to make some copies? lol)

  • i decided pushing back to keep the 70 once was worthwhile since it's a recurring payment.

  • i didn't think trying to aggressively get a higher value (only an option earlier on) was worthwhile though.

  • on TV shows like Pawn Stars or Comic Book Men where you see people negotiate, the professional (e.g. store employee) often does a pretty limited amount of iterating and will hold firm (or slip just one more time a little ways) after doing a fair, serious offer early on. people will try to give small increments and they are often willing to not reciprocate repeatedly and just hold firm. this is mildly socially hostile and difficult, but they are good at it, and it's easier b/c of their position: they are making a business decision for a store that has to make a profit, and they have expert knowledge of the actual value of the item, and they also can present their offers as being according to standard store negotiation policies that treat all customers fairly – it's hard to accuse them of trying to take advantage of you individually (and they aren't that i've ever seen).

  • presenting as someone who might dislike negotiation, be irrational about money, care about social graces, etc, made it harder for him to aggressively push me for a lower rate.

negotiation is fun and interesting!

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Social Dynamics & Mailchimp Broke A Link

In my newsletter today (sign up!), I wrote:

I enjoyed reading a different perspective on social dynamics. It is broadly reasonable and reaches lots of my conclusions in different ways than the ones I'm more familiar with.

Unfortunately, Mailchimp (the big email sending service I'm using) modified the URL and broke it. And this link currently has more than double the clicks of the second most popular link. So hopefully some people will see this post and be able to view a working link (above). And here's a separate backup link.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

DJ Khaled is Awful

(Typed in real time while watching DJ Khaled's show at the Overwatch League Finals. Twitch video link, Khaled comes up 45min in.)

jfc watching DJ Khaled at overwatch finals

he comes on stage and starts telling DHV story about the celebs he hangs out with and how busy he is with other concerts

then starts doing really bland, basic audience interaction games

kinda like basic flirty touch games u play with a 19yo girl u wanna fuck (KEEP IT SIMPLE)

the audience is rather passive but he just pretends they are doing a lot

you see that kinda lying a lot. e.g. b4 that there was an OK play – nothing very special – being hyped up as an INSANE play at LENGTH

they just figure if they SAY things are great, ppl will believe it without checking

just keeping saying it and never break frame

anyway Khaled is so basic and transparent and no one would be impressed by anything he did so far if he was low status.

and i’m thinking why is he on stage, getting paid the big bucks? and the audience, will kinda passive about the interactions, i think mostly does like him and a lot of them did some halfhearted, belated participation (he just kept doing it for minutes)

answer: THEY ARE BLUE PILL. they would never think of his story as a DHV story, they just take it at … not face value, but the value assigned to it by the social rules they utterly obey but never speak of

earlier the overwatch league commissioner was on for a bit and he said some bullshit about how great the audience and fans are. then he said: [but i’m not just saying that to pander, it’s true]. and they fucking cheered him for doubling down on his lying so blatantly

saying forms of “i’m not just lying” is common. and ppl believe it or something, even tho it’s only said when one would normally be suspected of lying, and it has no substance and any scumbag liar can easily say it.

they rarely use the word “lying” tho. mentioning lying would make it seem like they were lying. he didn’t say “pandering” either. i forget what he actually said

they just say something that means “u might assume i’m lying but i’m not lying”

and somehow that is socially calibrated and impresses ppl. what a culture…

it expresses awareness that most of the OTHER ppl saying similar things are liars

and then both sides just pretend THIS interaction is a special snowflake exception

NAWALT. and not all announcers are like that, either? he’s not. he said so!

Khaled is spending more time promoting himself than anything else

and ppl r impressed. cuz he promoted himself. so they see him as high status.

the promotion is working on them. he’s doing it to their faces, as part of the show

omg he’s now saying “family first always” and “i represent families” and doing some of the most generic bullshit shout outs i’ve ever heard to families in general

i’m pro-family!

he’s worse than a fucking politician

he said he’s pro-God too

then he says he’s gonna be exciting and hype to intro starting some music again

his music doesn’t speak for itself. he spends a large portion of his stage time SAYING he’s exciting.

now he’s pro New York. the show is in new york. then himself again.

he has ppl’s hands ALREADY in the sky then says: if ur NYer, raise hands. (are the non NY-ers gonna LOWER their hands now?)

then says if ur a fan of him, raise hands

so everyone sees other ppl’s hands up and thinks they are fans

it’s such fucking blatant manipulation and everyone is a blind blue piller

a few are red pill, but say nothing. they’d be shouted down and hated. so it adds to the apparent popularity

the venue doesn’t allow for dissent, so you never see how many ppl ACTUALLY are fans

this isn’t even a fucking Khaled concert with his own fans, it’s overwatch fans and some of them cheer and he just pretends they are all his fans. strong frame but jeez it’s so obvious

the actual music parts are quite short. lots of DHV talking breaks.

the camera ppl find whatever sections of the crowd are most into it and put those on TV

but u can see in wider shots that plenty of ppl are not into it

they are noticeably reusing some of the most enthusiastic ppl in the crowd

they dim the lights most of the time to make it way harder to see ppl who aren’t doing anything

they have shin stuff everywhere that sparkles in the dim lights and gives an impression the whole audience is into it everywhere, when actually the ppl aren’t doing anything

they just handed out some glowing dot things or put them on the seats or something

that’s another manipulative, fake trick. concerts try to make it look like the fans are super into it but they will pass out glow sticks or stuff cuz it’s self-serving.

he doesn’t try very hard in his dancing and only dances occassionally.

now he says he’s anti “player hating”. he has such bland causes that everyone can agree with

he said SHAME ON THEM about player haters


what a scape goat lol

not an actual well-defined group. not a group anyone self-identifies as. it just means “ppl i don’t like”

and everyone is like “yeah, i also don’t like the ppl i don’t like”

and assumes he means the same ppl they mean

lol now he’s bragging about his record sales

interrupting the music to tell us how popular his new record is on itunes and in 35 countries

lol he ends bragging with “my records are #1 b/c of you” as if he’s praising the fans, not DHVing himself

and blue pillers eat it up and feel like they helped something important

like when Awesome Games Done Quick raises $1,000,000 and says “we couldn’t have done it without you, viewers” and viewers who donated $5 feel like they were part of a $1,000,000 project and they matter. hell, viewers who didn’t donate feel like they helped too cuz it needs viewers.

i’ve watched other concerts b4 and they were way better, with more music and more dancing. this is so boring.

i’d skip it if i wasn’t commenting

typing while it plays

he’s so repetitive. he just said again that his new record is out, and that you can go buy it at itunes

are these ppl too fucking stupid to know where to buy it? is he calling them retarded? why doesn’t anyone interpret it that way?

how much do u wanna bet half the audience would say they hate advertising?

probably more

fuck advertising, fuck commercialism, fuck big business … but DJ Khaled, bragging again about how he does (commercial) shows with JayZ and Beyonce … he’s cool and real?

he did like 5 advertisements, and some pandering that was worse than stereotypes of politicians, and that’s a music show? that ppl who say they hate politicians cheer for?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (6)

Analyzing How Culture Manipulates You by Pulling Your Puppet Strings

I watched the first few minutes of How to Train Your Dragon 2 and saved two interesting clips, the opening narration and a social interaction from a few seconds later. This post is only about these clips. Note that this movie is extremely popular. People paid over half a billion dollars to watch it in theaters, like they did for the first movie too. Six seasons of a TV spinoff have been created. A third movie is coming out soon (Feb 22, 2019). Take a look at the clips:

When you watched the clips, did you notice anything? Did you have any opinions? What was good? What was bad? Did you stop to think about them? If you think about it now, can you come up with much without rewatching?

I'm going to guide you through some analysis, instead of just handing you all the answers, so that you can learn more. I want you to think instead of just read what I say and nod your head. Do you want to think?

Write down your comments on the clips (don't watch the clips again, just use your memory). Don't write things you wouldn't normally say. Don't stop being yourself to do analysis. Don't write a bunch of dumb stuff just to have more written down. Don't write what you think I would say. Only write points you think matter: reasons stuff is good or bad that you care about and genuinely, in your own opinion, think is important. Only write things that make sense to you. Don't write down picky criticism you don't care about but you think might be what a pedantic philosopher is looking for. Write your actual beliefs. If you don't see anything wrong with the clips, don't write anything negative. Writing about what you liked is a good idea too.

Writing things down lets you see if your thinking changes at any stage in the process. Don't rely on your memory of what you thought of the clips at first. Put it in writing so you can compare later.

Now that you've written down your initial thoughts, go ahead and rewatch the clips as much as you want and check out these transcripts. After the transcripts are some things to look for and questions to consider, which you can look at immediately, or after considering it more yourself (it's your decision).

Clip 1 transcript

This is Berk. The best kept secret this side of, well, anywhere. Granted it may not look like much, but this wet heap of rock packs more than a few surprises. Life here is amazing, just not for the faint of heart. You see, where most folks enjoy hobbies like whittling or needlepoint, we Berkians prefer a little something we like to call dragon racing.

Clip 2 transcript

Astrid: What are you doing, Snotlout?! They're going to win now!

Snotlout: She's my princess! Whatever she wants, she gets!

Astrid: Ruffnut?! Didn't she try to bury you alive?!

Snotlout: Only for a few hours!

(Full movie transcript link.)

Things to look for

  • Cliches.
  • Statements which aren’t (literally) true.
  • Misleading information or lies.
  • Meanness, cruelty, and violence.
  • Manipulation.
  • Signals of high or low social status.
  • Claims or conclusions given without arguments, reasoning or evidence.
  • What does the narrator do to try to be persuasive or credible?
  • Are you being given unbiased or useful information?
  • Every time someone says something, who is he speaking to and what does he want his audience to think? Why does he say it?

Write down additional thoughts now that you've looked more closely. Keep the first and second batches of thoughts separate and clearly labelled.

When you're done, look at what you missed the first time that you can see now. I haven't told you anything about the clips yet. Did you miss much that you could have seen without learning anything new, just by looking closer yourself? Some people will have missed a lot that they could have caught if they gave more thought to what they were doing, but for other people it won't make much difference to look closer because they don't know anything to look for. It's good to know which situation you're in. Would it help much if you did things more thoughtfully using your existing ideas, or should you focus more on learning what kinds of thoughts you can have? Or maybe you think you have a ton of great answers and didn't miss much, and you can compare what you wrote to my commentary later in this post.

The Cultural Situation

I thought the first clip was bad enough to stop watching the movie and do critical analysis. It's full of the kind of manipulation which turns people into puppets and controls their lives. (This movie has only a minor role in making people into puppets; it primarily just pulls their strings. That's because the strings are attached by parents, family, friends, teachers and culture in general, mostly at a younger age. And there's so much stuff to influence people that any one movie doesn't make a big difference. The movie is one little piece of culture.)

If you're blind to this situation – that people are manipulated like puppets having their strings pulled, and that the movie clips are crammed full of that kind of manipulation – then you factually don't have much control over your life. You're not an effective, independent thinker. Our culture is dangerous and these clips are prime examples of huge, life-threatening dangers. If you see no danger, that means you are a victim, a puppet, a naive, gullible dupe. Note that disliking this particular movie (because of e.g. the genre or target viewer age) is no protection, and similar manipulations are everywhere in our culture.

These clips are typical, standard examples of evil and irrationality. They're good to analyze because they don't stand out. They're representative. They're not special.

You can't defend yourself if you can't see the danger. You need some idea of what your enemy is before you even start combatting it. No, Muslim terrorists aren't the biggest danger to civilization. It's not MS-13 gang members crossing the wall-less border either. Philosophical corruption and intellectual error are much more important. If people were better thinkers, and thought for themselves more instead of being manipulated by static memes and George Soros, then our current political problems would be pretty easy to solve.

The first clip has over 20 flaws. And the main issues are dishonesty and social manipulation, not just poor literary qualities (which it's also guilty of). There's no need to catch even half the flaws on your first viewing; I didn't. But you should catch some flaws on your first viewing and notice something's wrong. Then you ought to care enough to look more closely at what you're watching (or stop watching), and ought to be able to identify many flaws. Don't just swallow a movie like this uncritically. And don't think I couldn't do a similar analysis with some other popular movie that you like more than this one. And don't think that you know it's not very good, so it's not affecting you: you're not immune to things you spend time on uncritically or inadequately critically. (Like the people who read the New York Times and say they know it's left-biased, but it's not affecting them since they know that. Those people are consistently lied to in big ways, correct for 10% of the bias, and are duped.)

In order to live in today's irrational culture and not be a pawn of manipulators, you require the following skills:

  • Able to see something major is wrong on your first pass through clips like these.
  • Able to identify and explain many large flaws when you review them.
  • Remember, notice and care about those kinds of flaws during your daily life, not just when analyzing.
  • Able to connect these flaws to an understanding of how they control people's lives and use men as puppets.
  • Be able to handle subtler stuff. This movie is aimed at the masses and doesn't try to manipulate people who aren't easy targets. And it emphasizes things extra for the young audience. Lots of manipulation is way harder to spot.

And even those skills won't make it safe for you to have a conversation. You need more than that to safely have a conversation without being manipulated! Your puppet strings can be pulled during the conversation, before you get a chance to analyze it, even if you have an audio recording or chat log available later (and how often do you go back through the details of your chats?). Real time conversations pressure people to respond quickly without enough thought, while people are emotional and facing social pressure. And it's easier to treat a fictional movie as something separate from your life to analyze. It's hard to do that with your friends, family, or even someone you just met.

The point of the opening scene is the narrator is telling you what to think. The topic isn't very important (his mythical village, dragon racing), but the issue of thinking for yourself is important. And the narrator isn't doing it honestly, directly or clearly. Instead he's following certain cultural game rules for how to pull people's puppet strings.

You may think that if you didn't see what was going on, it just wasn't affecting you. I'm overanalyzing and you don't analyze it like that. If you missed what was going on, how could it control you when you were unaware of it? The answer for a person with that reaction is: you do understand what he's saying, just not in a clear, conscious way. The script is highly understandable to virtually everyone in our culture. People know what it means. They just don't realize how much it's telling them what to think, and using intellectual trickery, instead of giving them information that they can use to think for themselves. People interpret it as simple, straightforward information when it's not.

This stuff is in a popular movie because it works on so many people. And if you don't know exactly what's going on – if you couldn't be writing this blog post yourself – then you are in danger.

Poker players say that if you can’t see who the sucker is, you’re the sucker. If you can't see who is being taken advantage of, and how, then you aren't skilled enough to play poker with those players, and you are being taken advantage of without realizing it. That's how life is too. If you can't see who are the puppet masters, and who are the puppets/suckers, and what the manipulations are, then you're one of the puppets/suckers.

This movie isn't notable. These clips aren't special. This stuff is everywhere. The movie is evil, but it isn't more evil than other popular stuff. I'm using these clips as examples, but my goal is to point out things which apply broadly. A person who is blind to the flaws in these clips would also be blind to the flaws in most of our culture.

Clip 1 Analysis

You may have noticed the narration is formulaic and unoriginal. I want to begin by pointing out just how cliche it is. Cliches are in alternating italics and bold:

This is Berk. The best kept secret this side of, well, anywhere. Granted it may not look like much, but this wet heap of rock packs more than a few surprises. Life here is amazing, just not for the faint of heart. You see, where most folks enjoy hobbies like whittling or needlepoint, we Berkians prefer a little something we like to call dragon racing.

It's all standard, but 48% of it is actually recognizable cliches. There are six cliches in five sentences. That's an amazing density of cliches. Why? This is a big budget movie with talented script writers. This is intentional. It's not incompetence. They do it because people already know what cliches mean. They take an especially small amount of thought to understand because thinking about them was already done in the past. People like cliches because they're familiar and easy to deal with. Also things became cliches in the first place because they worked well in some way, e.g. did a good job of pulling people's strings.

Audiences like the cliches but aren't honest about what's going on. They aren't consciously aware of how cliche it is, and they don't recognize how much the movie is designed for them not to think. The cliches feel familiar and natural to people, in a good way. (Many adults would prefer something more subtle. But did you catch all six cliches in your analysis?) After the movie, many people would admit it had some cliches, but they wouldn't know how much, and they wouldn't be honest about how much they liked them. Another movie with fewer cliches wouldn't sell so many millions of tickets.

Cliches pull people's "they speak my language, we have stuff in common" string to create rapport and communicate being part of the same group. Pulling people's puppet strings manipulates them. Pulling a lot of strings, in the right ways, can get big results.

Note that your puppet strings are complex. When I talk about what strings are pulled, I'm approximating. Each thing actually pulls dozens of different strings, and pulls each with a different amount of strength. The strings aren't defined in English and no one knows every detail about them.

Textual Analysis

This is Berk.

This pulls people's "introduction" string. They don't think about whether the clip really is an introduction to Berk. It's not. It's not a tour. It doesn't give you an overview of Berk. It doesn't tell you about Berk. There are only 5 words to convey significant information out of 65 words (8%): "dragon racing", "wet", "rock" and "Berk".

But it's worse than that. "Wet" isn't really providing information. It doesn't say whether the water comes from rain, snow, fog, the ocean, or what – you have to learn that by looking at the visuals. The word "wet" is there to sound negative, as I'll discuss later, not to give you useful information about Berk.

The word "rock" is also there to sound bad, not to help you understand that Berk isn't a swamp (which you can see at a glance, anyway). And "rock" is misleading given all the grass and trees.

"Berk" doesn't tell you about Berk, it's just the name. Except, not even that. Watching the clip, I thought that Berk was the name of the town. It's not. Berk is the island and the town is "Hooligan Village". I learned that from the wiki. (All my information comes from the clips unless I specifically mention otherwise.)

“Dragon racing" is misleading. It's a sheep-catching competition involving riding dragons. The winner is determined by points, not by racing across a finish line first. Don't feel bad if you didn't catch that, I found that out from the wiki, not the clip.

The narration doesn't really introduce Berk. If you muted it and just watched the visuals, you wouldn't miss anything but a name that doesn't actually specify what it's naming. But people accept that they were introduced to Berk because the formulaic wording ("This is [name]") framed it as an introduction in ways they respond to (are manipulated by, have their strings pulled by). People are gullible and they don't actually think about it, they just believe what they're told (when told in the right way with standard puppet string pulling, and nothing they're told triggers doubts, e.g. by being offensive, taboo, unconventional, weird, etc.).

And the visuals aren't representative of Berk, either. The visuals let you see the town some and then focus on scared sheep. They aren't meant to give much information, they're meant to impress you with the landscape, let you see the setting is medieval, and then look at sheep (for reasons discussed later). Based on the initial visuals, you'd expect Hooligan Village to be a tiny town – there aren't many houses. But then there's a huge crowd cheering for the dragon races. Why? Because a larger and louder crowd raises the social status of the racers more. It presents them as more popular and signals that dragon racing itself is popular. This pulls your "like what other people like" or "popularity contest" string, which is a major string even in people who deny having it. For second-handed viewers to want to be dragon racers, or to like dragon racers, they need to see dragon racers gaining the approval of others. Most people don’t want to be involved with weird, niche hobbies, and they don't know how to judge things other than by looking at what others approve of.

The movie producers don't care about making a logically-consistent setting and getting factual details right, they just jump straight from pulling one string to pulling the next, and they do it in a way that's convenient at that moment. And that's what their audience wants – string pulling, not consistency. String pulling is what people find meaningful and enjoyable. People want symbols, cliches and other things they understand. If the movie didn't pull people's strings, they wouldn't know what to do. They're used to being passive and having their strings pulled, rather than taking the initiative to think about things for themselves.

The best kept secret this side of, well, anywhere.

This is dishonest. Berk isn't a secret. No one is keeping the secret. "Secret" is pulling a string to mean good. It's one of many ways the narrator says one thing while meaning another.

Even if it were a secret, it wouldn't be the best kept one. That's a lie, too. That’d be false even if it was claimed about a small region rather than about the entire universe.

If you say "Berk is good", people won't trust you. It pulls their "bragging" string, which is bad. So people brag in other ways that pull other strings. People seem to (unreasonably) assume that if you show you’re a normal person who fits in to society – by knowing you’re not supposed to openly brag, and knowing what to say instead – then you wouldn't lie to them. Except it's not really that logical and people don't really have reasons, that's just how their strings work. This makes people easy to manipulate.

"Well" pulls a string indicating the speaker is being honest. How? It indicates he's pausing to think about what's true instead of thoughtlessly reciting a script or boasting. (Can't a boaster stop to think about the best way to continue his boast? Logically, yes. Don't blame me for people's puppet strings not making sense.) But the narrator is not actually being thoughtful. Savvy people insert stuff like this, on purpose, when they aren't stopping to think, in order to manipulate others. (It's common in scripted acts by comedians.)

The "this side of [location]" cliche is poorly used. The script writers couldn't think of a location to name or didn't want to name one, but used that cliche anyway. But it doesn't matter because people interpret that cliche to mean "a lot". The point is to claim something is big or good in a large region. People don't pay much attention to what region is named.

So the text means, "It's good, a lot, and I'm saying this thoughtfully." And people understand that and hear it that way. Even if they don't do analysis, it still communicates that message to them. And it follows the communication rules of our culture so that it sounds good to people instead of setting off their "bragging" or "liar" triggers.

And the next sentence helps defend against accusations of bragging:

Granted it may not look like much, but this wet heap of rock packs more than a few surprises.

To try to sound honest, the narrator tells you the good and bad about Berk, not just the good. This pulls people's "people saying negative things are telling the truth, because no one would admit to anything bad if they didn't have to" string. Except the narrator is lying because the movie wants everyone to love Berk and isn't willing to say anything actually bad about it. Puppet masters give fake negatives in order to sound honest without the risk of a real negative turning someone away.

"Granted" sounds defensive, like the narrator knows you aren't impressed by Berk and he has to answer your accusations that Berk sucks. This tries to sound reasonable and like he's giving real information to address the issues. It's not. Berk looks like a lot. The opening of a high-budget movie is visuals of Berk. It's impressive and picturesque!

And saying Berk doesn't look like much is like saying the cover of a book isn't impressive, but the inside is. That isn't a real downside. A book doesn't need an impressive cover to be a great book. Everyone knows that. Actually, by invoking the "don't judge a book by its cover" string, the narrator is basically (unfairly) accusing you of irrationally judging Berk overly negatively based on appearances, and he's telling you to correct your judgment to be more positive. That's manipulation.

Saying Berk is "wet", a "heap", and "rock" is meant to sound bad, like he's admitting what isn't great about Berk. But those aren’t what people care about, they aren’t about social interaction. They're just in the background. It's like saying my city is good because it's amazing, but bad because it has concrete, and trying to make that sound like a two-sided analysis instead of a one-sided analysis. Also, lots of people like mountains, islands and oceans, which are the actual things being talked about with a biased, negative framing.

"Surprises" pulls people's "surprises are good, fun and exciting" string. It's another disguised brag. And it's nonsense. Surprises make it harder to plan your life well. Surprises mean not knowing what's going to happen, being ignorant, being caught off guard. Surprises were dangerous in the past, but now our civilization is advanced enough that we're less scared since we're able to deal with lots of problems ... but Berk has medieval technology so surprise often would mean death.

Surprises appeal to the kind of people who like dance parties, beer, drugs and casual sex, not reason, technology or freedom. Surprises aren't intellectual stimulation. They're for people who are bored at school or work and want something to disrupt the drudgery of their lives – and they want the disruption to come from the external world because they aren't going to take the initiative to change their own life. People with good lives don't want disruptions.

And I doubt Berk has a lot of surprises. I don't think Hiccup (the person doing the introduction to Berk) is giving much thought to what he's saying or whether it's true. I don't think he means what he's saying: he's not paying attention to the meaning of what he's talking about because his focus is on pulling people's strings so that they think Berk is good. Each time he chooses words, he thinks about what will pull a string (how to manipulate people), not about reality and how to make his words correspond to reality.

The script writers didn't want a whole sentence of fake negativity, so they went back to being positive at the end of the sentence. They couldn't wait for the next sentence to turn it around. What if someone worried the movie would be bad before hearing the next words?

Saying Berk has surprises reinforces the "don't judge a book by its cover" theme. It's saying a book with a boring cover can have surprises inside. It's saying anyone who isn't a bigot will recognize how amazing Berk is, right now, immediately, whether Berk looks amazing or not. Judging stuff by outward appearances is like racism, in the sense of judging human beings by skin color. This is manipulative pressure to pull people's strings.

Throughout, the narration doesn't give people room to think for themselves or form their own opinions. It's constantly pulling strings to tell them what to think. It doesn't give information about Berk for you to evaluate, it gives conclusions about Berk without any information to allow you to evaluate. If you had any information, you might use it to reach a different conclusion than the script writers want you to. They want you to be their puppet.

This is an example of pseudo-persuasion. It's not rational arguments. It's not giving you evidence for you to evaluate with your own judgment. But it's getting people to believe and accept stuff anyway, and not to feel irrational or gullible. The string pulling takes the place of reasoning. Our culture has a bunch of rules for how this works, the rules of pseudo-logic and social manipulation, which are an alternative to the rules of truth-seeking. They specify how much you can brag, when to equivocate or be humble, how to be charismatic, how to be perceived as honest, etc. The movie follows standard rules for what people want to hear, what they are gullible about, and they eat it up. That’s what they want – manipulation according to irrational social status game rules – instead of actual reasons and information for them to think through. Being told what to think is preferred to thinking. Having your strings pulled so that you know what conclusion to reach is preferred than judging for yourself. That's what our culture is like.

Also, by switching from negative to positive, I think some people feel like that's learning because they are following along and changing their mind (from negative to positive) while listening. So it feels like engagement and thinking to them. And they don't consider that the narrator knew his conclusion in advance, he's not actually figuring it out as he goes along. So when his tone changes back and forth, that's intentional, dishonest manipulation, not uncertainty about what he's going to say. When he sounded negative about Berk, temporarily, he was lying to pull your strings.

Life here is amazing, just not for the faint of heart.

This pulls people's "fair and balanced" string. People trust this because it's not fully positive. People think that something which is only good is too good to be true. But if you give pros and cons, then people think it's an objective, unbiased analysis. This is easy to take advantage of. (It also results in lots of negative reactions when I try to explain why my philosophy is thoroughly right, not just two-thirds right. People are hostile to the goal of actually getting things right.)

But the movie wants to be all upsides and no downsides – it wants the opener to energize and excite, not leave people concerned they won't like the bad things – so the downside here is done dishonestly, it's not a real downside. The pros and cons they give don't make a fair comparison.

Saying it's not for the faint of heart means it's not for everyone, there is something bad and limiting. That sounds like a downside of Berk. But that's actually bragging about how exciting it is. It means, "This is too exciting for people who hate fun." That fake downside – not being boring – is what pulls people’s puppet strings to balance out the bragging about how amazing Berk is.

Yes, that's ridiculous. Our culture is ridiculous. But this isn't a joke, it's real life. People are this bad at thinking. And there's something very evil which makes people irrational and gullible enough to be manipulated this way (a big piece of the evil is punishing children and other ways parents use authority instead of reason).

And life isn't amazing in Berk. That falsehood is being said to people who have far more amazing lives, but don't appreciate it. Skyscrapers, iPhones, cars and electric lights are amazing. We have hospitals and science. Living in Berk would mean dying young, never being clean, eating poorly, being tired all the time from doing far more manual labor, and many other things that modern civilization has dramatically improved.

You see, where most folks enjoy hobbies like whittling or needlepoint, we Berkians prefer a little something we like to call dragon racing.

"You see" is telling you what to see. The phrase signals to people that you're going to explain something now. But then instead of getting an explanation, we get propaganda. So using that introduction was maniuplative instead of accurate.

He's lying about what hobbies most folks prefer. His claim is false. Why? By comparing dragon racing to particularly boring hobbies, it looks extra exciting by comparison. Apparently dragon racing isn't exciting enough, so manipulation is required to hype it up extra.

It pulls people's "comparing things" string. People recognize comparisons as a good intellectual tool, so it makes the narration more credible. In general, people judge claims by how many credibility strings are pulled, not by the reasoning used in arguments (which they don't actually understand).

“We Berkians prefer" is dishonest. He's presenting something he believes everyone prefers. It's meant to have broad, popular appeal. It's not a preference peculiar to Berkians.

“We Berkians prefer" is speaking for a group as if everyone in the group is the same, like diversity and dissent have never entered the narrator's mind as things that exist. It's basically like racism to assume that everyone with one shared trait therefore has a lot in common. And people who aren't aware of dissent, and assume it doesn't exist, are going to be intolerant of dissent. And consider what you'd think if someone said, "We white people prefer" or "We men prefer"! (But you're allowed to do it with people from a particular city, and sometimes with minority groups, because our culture is inconsistent and these things aren't decided by logic.) This shows that the mainstream of our culture is lying about loving diversity and tolerance, and about being intolerant of racist attitudes – otherwise a movie like this wouldn't be so popular. (Also, the many articles from "liberal" activists who thought the movie was pretty good, or complain about the wrong things, indicate they are frauds.)

“Little" is a dishonest way to say "big". Yet it pulls people's "negativity is honest" string, even though everyone knows it means the opposite of what it said. And saying something negative shows confidence (I'm so great that people will see it even if I don't show myself only in the best possible light). And by calling it "little" and relying on the audience to figure out it's not little, it's big, he's tricking people into thinking they are using their own judgment instead of being told what to think. And, at the same time, he's implying it's so obviously big that he knows everyone will figure it out, he isn't concerned anyone would think it's little – so that's more implied bragging.

“We like to call" is a weird phrase. It's not true. They like to dragon race, not to call dragon racing "dragon racing". It's a cultural string for some reason that's hard to pinpoint. I think it's partly saying that it's so great that you can tell its great just from the name, even the name is impressive (contrary to the "don't judge a book by its cover" stuff from earlier).

Visuals and Audio

The voice tones and music communicate that what you're seeing is exciting and good. They emphasize the messages that are in the words. The visuals do this some too, e.g. the opening makes Berk look epic. If you didn't speak English, you could figure out a lot of the meaning just from looking at it and listening to how it sounded. (If this interests you, listen to some music in a foreign language, or watch a foreign film without subtitles, and see what you can understand. It's a way to see how much information is in voice tones, music, body language, visuals, and other non-words.)

Lots of the visuals are about sheep. Why? First, because people mostly only care about people (and these sheep are more like emotional people than like animals). Anything besides social interaction is boring. Even dragon racing needs an approving audience for viewers to care. Being good at an unpopular sport isn't impressive, it's lame. People don't want to see buildings much, even though that's where people live. They also don't want to see the insides of factories or lots of other interesting things. And when they visit nature, they're always bragging to other people about how beautiful it was and posting photos on Instagram – they're just doing what other people approve of and then seeking actual approval for having done it (like kids getting gold stars or high grades from their teacher – that whole school dynamic teaches kids to base their life on doing things to get approval and accepting the judgment of others instead of making their own judgments of what they did). So the movie needs to quickly get away from the landscape and get to some people or an adequate substitute, something that viewers care about. We already saw enough of the landscape for some Instagram photos, now it's time to move on.

What do the sheep do? They're scared of the dragons. Scared sheep is less of a negative thing than scared people, so that allows the movie to present dragons as impressively scary without the negative of scared human beings. Sheep matter less than people so they make a better victim.

And there's a social interaction between the sheep. Four sheep push one sheep into the open to get snatched. That's bullying. Literally this mainstream movie is teaching people to form groups and gang up on individuals or smaller groups and bully them. And the bullying can include physical force like shoving. The movie legitimizes and normalizes bullying, and shows kids how to do it. What about all the anti-bullying propaganda our culture also has? Lies and lip service. Bullying continues to be a problem because our culture likes and accepts it.

While on the subject: the second clip also shows bullying. Astrid hits Snotlout at the start. And it speaks of Ruffnut burying Snotlout alive, which is also bullying. The bullying in the second clip is more like domestic abuse than like a bully on a school playground. Snotlout is being abused by females he is romantically interested in. Most people in our culture do not seriously think a woman can domestically abuse a man, and are scornful of men who aren't strong enough to deal with attacks from women. This movie reinforces that evil, pro-violence attitude and the "men should be strong" and "women are weak" gender roles behind it. What about all the anti-gender-role propaganda, feminism, etc? Lies and lip service. Those activists have other agendas which have nothing to do with having men be treated better or domestically abused less, or freeing men from social pressures to be strong, masculine, etc. Many SJW women say it's fine to be a weak man, but most of them are romantically and sexually interested in strong men, and don't respect weak men.

Clip 2 Analysis

I'm going to go into less detail on this clip since I've already said a lot. I included it because of its attitude to romantic relationships, which are full of pulling each other's strings.

Astrid hits Snotlout at the start. That should be appalling violence but doesn't trigger the anti-violence reactions of most people in our culture. It's telling viewers that hitting people is a good way to express disapproval (as long as it's a female hitting a male, who is unreasonably assumed to be too strong to actually get hurt). Then there's the dialog:

Astrid: What are you doing, Snotlout?! They're going to win now!

Snotlout took an action contrary to winning. It doesn't really matter what it was. When people play games and have competitions, usually they care more about social interactions than winning. This is typical.

Snotlout: She's my princess! Whatever she wants, she gets!

“Princess" means romantic interest. Snotlout is dating her or wants to date her. His approach to courtship is to put Ruffnut on a pedestal and be subservient to her. This is blue pill, beta-male behavior. There is a massive propaganda campaign advocating this kind of attitude and rejecting masculinity, but there is no corresponding campaign to change women's sexual preferences (from strong men to weak men), so men who behave this way are unattractive to most women.

Giving people what they want, even though it’s inconvenient for you, shows weakness and desperation – you’re going out of your way to please them. Snotlout does this by giving Ruffnut a gift while sacrificing his own chances to win. As is typical, Ruffnut has been taking advantage of the ongoing power imbalance by mistreating Snotlout (trying to bury him alive). But he continues trying to suck up to her anyway because that’s what our culture currently tells men to do.

Sucking up to women is a very bad plan for Snotlout. He should make his own life good so that she chases after him, instead of him chasing her favor. He's acting like he has low social status, which means he does (people's perception of social status is social status). He acts like she's better than him (he has to do favors to try to be worthwhile to her), which isn't how to win over a woman, because women want to date and marry up not down. Men are more focused on career and changing the world; women are more focused on social interactions and social climbing, including by impressing people with their beauty and behavior. If you want a woman, you need to be able to help her with her life goals, not make it harder for her by looking like a loser. A lot of her proof of social status, beauty, desirability, attractiveness, etc., comes from how high quality of a mate she can attract. For Snotlout to succeed, he needs to be a man she could date to make other women jealous, not a man who would get her teased by her friends.

The social dynamics of dating are a big topic. I can't explain it all here, so I'll instead link you to a great book about it: How to Make Girls Chase by Chase Amante. It presents the law of least effort, which Snotlout is egregiously violating: whoever appears to be putting less effort in (trying less hard) is higher social status. (If you're high status, like a famous actor or a CEO, then more people will want to date you. For most people, who don't have such big accomplishments and are more average, their social status is mostly judged by their behavior, by how they act in social situations.)

Astrid: Ruffnut?! Didn't she try to bury you alive?!

Women being extremely mean to men is not funny and shouldn't be acceptable. Attempts at romantic courtship don't always work out and sometimes people's feelings are going to get hurt accidentally. But this is intentional, extreme cruelty. This movie is part of a widespread attempt to normalize this and generally give women all the power and make men into scared, helpless victims.

It may not be a coincidence that Astrid is putting down a rival young girl suitable for courtship (and she's not doing it in a way Snotlout likes, so it's hard to excuse it by saying she's being helpful). Girls commonly attack and sabotage each other, usually in more subtle ways than rival men compete with each other. I know from the wiki that Astrid is romantically interested in another character (Hiccup, who's also the narrator from the first clip). But women often compete unnecessarily. They want interest from extra males, that they can reject, in order to get attention, gifts, and appear desirable (and to have a backup plan if they get dumped). The wiki says Snotlout was romantically interested in Astrid in the past, and she may not want another girl to have him even though she is rejecting him. I mention these possibilities about Astrid being a passive-aggressive bitch because they're common, they're reasonable guesses from the clips, and they cause a lot of suffering in our society.

Astrid appears to be a hypocrite because she’s suggesting that Ruffnut shouldn’t mistreat Snotlout, and Snotlout shouldn’t pursue someone who mistreats him, but Astrid hit Snotlout earlier in this scene. That was mean and violent. Astrid implies Snotlout should avoid another woman who treats him abusively, which actually helps normalize her own abuse of Snotlout, because it suggests she understands the issue and knows what the correct boundaries are. When you suggest to someone that they shouldn’t accept violent, abusive treatment, and you violently abuse them, the message is that lots of violent abuse is acceptable and somehow doesn’t count, and only the more extreme varieties are objectionable (or, alternatively, the lesson they may take away is that whether abuse is objectionable depends on who has the power and social status to get away with it or object to it).

Snotlout: Only for a few hours!

Snotlout was glad to get any attention at all from a female (listen to his happy, almost condescending, voice tone, as he rejects Astrid's concern). This is teaching viewers the evil lesson that men should be grateful for the slightest bit of attention from a woman, even negative attention. That hurts women who learn to be cruel, and it hurts men who put up with the abuse. And it creates hostilities between the sexes.

Consider also the total rejection of reality. Being buried alive would kill you after a few minutes. A few hours isn't short and doesn't make it OK. I assume the characters are exaggerating or joking in some way (or else they're magical enough to survive such things), but whatever happened they're not talking about it using clear, fact-and-reality-oriented statements. People should try to communicate truthfully. It's hard enough to get things right if you try. The dialog is teaching a callous disregard for the truth and for what reality is like. The meaning is: ignore reality and focus only on social dynamics.


I don't expect you to understand everything I said. I can't fully explain everything in one article. If you think you understand it all, I think you're dishonest. You should have questions, confusions, parts you disagree with, parts you think you can improve, and parts you're curious to learn more about. Post some of these things in the comments below instead of making excuses to try to rationalize why you don't do that but you really do value learning. If you're busy, put it on your calendar and follow up later (this isn't time sensitive on a scale of days or even weeks, but it's bad to spend years being a puppet). If you won't do that, consider why not. If you put it on your calendar and you're busy when it comes up, move it to a later date. If you keep putting it off for months, the issue isn't temporarily being busy, it's e.g. that you're making excuses or you haven't prioritized setting up your life to include time for thinking. (Or do you have other reason-related activities that you think are better and more important? If you found something great, please share it, myself and many other people here would like more of that kinda stuff! Or are you scared of criticism of its value?)

Now look at what you wrote down at the beginning and see how it compares to what I've pointed out. How much did you miss? Then consider: adults are more experienced and knowledgeable about their culture than children. Material aimed at adults is more subtle and expects them to understand more with fewer hints. The string pulling is harder to see and more indirect.

That means that, in your life, your strings are being pulled all the time. Unless you have the skill to be far above the string pulling in these clips, which is literally kid's stuff, then you're getting manipulated many times per day. You need to be skilled enough that this kind of analysis is easy for you, or you don't have much of a chance in the adult world.

Rewatch the clips now and see if you can see them differently. Then try to apply this stuff to the next movie you watch, and the one after that, and the one after that. To learn and improve in a way that matters, you need to not only get better ideas, you also have to use them on a regular basis in your life. You need to learn things well enough that it's natural and intuitive for you. You need to practice to get to that point. Just understanding something once, while trying your best, isn't good enough. You need to be skilled enough to get it right while tired, distracted and rushed – and dealing with something with a bunch of differences from the examples you've thought about before.

If you want to be rational, it's something you have to put work into in order to achieve. It's not automatic. It's not the default. Our culture creates irrational people who dishonestly fool themselves into thinking they're rational. If you want to change, you'll have to do a lot. Go to and start studying the material and discussing it as you go along. Or share what your other, better plan is and listen to criticism and objections.

In the comments below, please post your analysis of the clips (both parts from the beginning), and your further thoughts after reading my analysis. You'll never cut your puppet strings by yourself without help, though you might be able to paint them rose colored and wear rose colored glasses so that you can no longer see them. Take action to change yourself by learning, so that you can stop being a puppet.

Update: Justin Mallone pointed out to me that calling Berk the "best kept secret" is a brag by the narrator, who is claiming to know well-kept secrets. Being privy to secrets is a status symbol, it shows you mingle with high quality people (not the masses – if the masses know something then it's not a secret) and have their trust.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (78)

Social "Intellectuals"

The primary qualification for being regarded as an intellectual is to develop a reputation and convince people to regard you as an intellectual.

Being widely regarded as “intellectual” is a social status. It is achieved through specific types of social climbing.

Social climbing and reason are enemies. They’re incompatible. Someone really good at reason would reject social climbing. So we should expect to find that most “intellectuals” are bad at reason. And, from extensive surveying, I think the evidence fits the prediction well.

Being regarded as an intellectual does have something to do with being smart or figuring out some good ideas, at least in some cases. It’s not purely a social game. The best thinkers sometimes gain some intellectual reputation, though often not the best or highest reputation. So e.g. the best living economist, George Reisman, is largely unheard of, but would be regarded by most people as being an intellectual (since he was a professor and wrote a 1000 page book on economics). There are many more examples of great thinkers without accurate reputations.

Some types of intellectual accomplishments are easier to judge than others, so they do a better job of leading to a reputation regardless of what else the person does. Generally scientific ideas (“hard” sciences only) are easier to judge than philosophical ideas. Hence most famous philosophers are awful, while a fair amount of famous scientists are actually good (particularly people who got famous for scientific work, not for writing popular books about science or doing a science podcast or something like that).

Reputations sometimes get more accurate centuries after someone dies. That removes some of the social factors from mattering, and it gives people in the field more time to sort out which ideas are actually good. In general, scientists are much better at science 300 years later, so they can do a decent job of judging the scientific achievements of the scientists from 300 years in the past. However, historians are often wrong. The news is often wrong about what happened yesterday, and historians have a much harder job that gets harder as things get older. False reputations can persist for centuries and the refuting information can be lost.

The good news is: making intellectual contributions has a lower barrier to entry than you may have thought. You don’t need a fancy reputation. Most of the people you think are above you are incompetent. You don’t need the same education or peers that they have in order to do good work.

But beware. You can easily make the same mistakes as them. You can focus on social climbing while pretending to yourself that you’re seeking truth. Avoiding that is more important, and harder to come by, than any credentials.

The bad news is: if you don’t think, you can’t safely expect other people to do it for you. It’s not a safe thing to count on others doing correctly. You should try to learn and reason, yourself, if you value your life, instead of leaving your fate in the hands of our society's “intellectual authorities”.

The world needs more people who are willing to try to learn and think. The main tools needed are honesty, curiosity, energy, avoiding bias, choosing truth over social perceptions, and some stuff like that, not to have an extensive education or to be born a “genius”. Those things are harder and rarer than most people think, but if you think you have them, do something with them. E.g. start discussing ideas in the comments below. Anyone can do it if they are willing to prioritize truth over social status.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (5)

Social Rules

Social rules are one of the most powerful enemies of reason.

They aren’t all bad. They have some useful purposes. But, regardless of the upsides, they have huge, irrational downsides.

The useful purposes are helping structure or organize how people interact. This gives people more of an idea of what to expect. People don’t realize what it’d be like dealing with a stranger with no customs to guide the interaction. That’s actually a really hard problem. Our social rules handle it pretty well.

When people are “anti-social”, it’s often only a small portion of social rules which they violate. For example, they say taboo words like “retard” or they say something bluntly (directly and honestly) which you’re supposed to tell “white lies” about or avoid saying anything about.

People who violate those rules still use many social customs such as greetings (“hi”), farewells (“bye”), or understanding and using the conversational dynamic of questions and answers.

The small portion of social rules which are commonly violated are not very important. The really important stuff is pretty uncontroversial. Particularly in intellectual conversations. In those conversations, people may be rude or insulting, but it’s basically nothing like trying to talk with a savage or barbarian who is ignorant of civilized modes of interaction.

Politeness helps reduce violence among semi-civilized people. But we’re so civilized today in America that we really expect people to be able to refrain from violence even if they are insulted. We think it’s barbaric to duel over honor.

Social communication rules limit what you say. This limiting makes it much harder to say certain ideas. Some of those ideas are true. Being able to speak freely lets you better focus on speaking the truth without worrying about other factors.

Some truths are very hard to say politely because, socially, you’re just not supposed to say them. For example, people lie all the time but you’re not supposed to point it out. Thinking people lied is common but saying so is considered an aggressive attack (regardless of whether it’s true). What if you want to point out lies so that people can learn to stop lying? What if the goal is improving in many ways including integrity? Then social rules make that hard.

Social rules cause people to take offense rather than rationally analyze what was said. Social rule following involves a way of evaluating statements as polite or rude, which people do before and often instead of evaluating whether the statement is true. This is contrary to truth-seeking. It causes people not to think about whether a criticism is true or not if they find it personally offensive.

There is an interesting issue about what to blame. Did the social rules teach people to get offended by “insults”? Or were they already offended by insults and the social rules just help avoid triggering that underlying flaw? Regardless, one can group it all together under the general heading “social dynamics” or “social rules related issues” and say there is a problem there.

Many problems occur because social rules are unwritten rules which people treat as an automatic, expected default. They won’t say what offends them or what rules they want to be treated by. Actually they often pretend they are willing to hear any criticism, but still expect social rules prohibiting some criticism to be followed.

If people said “I am fragile and get offended by things I perceive as insults. We need to somehow accommodate this flaw of mine in our discussions.” then they’d be easier to deal with. But people don’t honestly face the reality of their situation.

The main things that offend people are criticisms that imply they are bad in some way. This includes being incompetent at something where the social expectation (the general, default expectation of our society or culture) is that adults are competent at it. It also includes being dishonest, being bad at thinking, having immoral ideas, being dumb, not understanding something that people think only a dumb person wouldn’t understand, making dumb mistakes (dumb according to social perception, not objectively), and being irrational.

But people are irrational, dishonest, dumb or incompetent (because our culture’s expectations about skill are actually unrealistic and high in some ways (and low in other ways, they are not very accurate)). Those are crucially important issues for anyone trying to be a rational thinker. People need criticism of those issues. They need to get better at those things, not avoid discussing them. So social rules block intellectual progress.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (17)

Social Metaphysics

This is an open discussion topic for social metaphysics issues. Below is a conversation log which you can use as an optional conversation starter. It'll give you some leads on issues you might want to talk about.

This one is Think Club. They look similar.

I like this retired Fighter Pilot. Seems to value reason more than most ppl I've seen on this.

is there something you dislike about reading?

I like reading. Why did you say I dislike it?

why watch a debate like that over reading?

over reading what specifically? I like reading and watching debates both. Not one over the other. What I like about debates is watching how people come to hold certain opinions and how they engage in trying to convince the other, or defend their reasoning. Reading I do more if I want to really understand a concept better in more detail.


You could read more. It is a choice you're making. And there are written debates which are better organized, give more info in a clearer way, e.g. the FI archives.

Ty Justin. That reading list is what I am working on already plus some others. Starting with that list tho

Reading takes more effort

sometimes If I feel like relaxing I watch these debates

So the answer to the question "is there something you dislike about reading?" is "yes"

I like it until I am to tired. I don't want to be misleading by saying I dislike it. I really like it. I like playing soccer but eventually I get too tired to continue.

you're not being very logical

you're confusing dislike something about reading with disliking reading.

oh no. Where did I mess up?



Parts of reading that I might dislike

but not as a whole

hmm. I don't really see getting tired after a while as the same as disliking it

you see reading as harder (higher effort) which is a downside which is a problem sometimes

audio books and text to speech allow you to read by listening. would that solve the problem of making it more relaxing like listening to a video?

I have tried it, It helps but it still takes effort to think about the concepts being presented, and I do tire eventually too

tho I am getting a bit better at sticking with it longer

doesn't following a debate take effort? those verbal debates are harder to follow than most books, IMO, because they're poorly organized and inconclusive (lots of loose ends to remember like a list of points that weren't answered).

I do audiobooks the most. It can be combined with another activity. I like walking outdoors - that is easy to combine with audiobooks.

The negative with this combo is sometimes I get distracted and have to rewind some. I do not think audiobooks on new content are as good as actually reading the same thing, as I tend to miss more listening. On the plus side is I can work through the material faster.

the debates also lack editing. books are edited to take unclear or confusing parts and make them easier to understand.

with FI debates, you can easily reread context to check things to help you follow it. with YT debates that's hard.

Re debates I think most of the time people just talk by each-other and avoid addressing the harder questions.

What you're saying makes sense. books should be easier to understand due to editing. It still take more effort to me than to just sit back and enjoy a debate.

the standard reason for that is people watch debates socially. what they like about it is the social interaction, which is easier for them to follow than the intellectual stuff.

so possibly what I enjoy about them is not the ideas presented but how they are presented and their interactions with the other guy

Adam Friended's body language and voice tones tell a story, a narrative, all by themselves without even listening to any of the words.

Yes there's a lot of useful knowledge in just facial expression, body language and tone of voice

i didn't mean it's useful. i think it's an irrational way of bypassing which arguments are good to manipulate audiences.

voice tones are not arguments and can be done regardless of whether what you're claiming is true or false

it's not truth seeking

What about useful in the sense of learning to be more persuasive when talking to other people

by persuasive you mean manipulating them b/c they are persuaded by things other than truth?

Social persuasion is not rational persuasion

not as a replacement for having true arguements but as a supplement

so e.g. if you get a more fashionable haircut, ppl listen more? that's irrational and it's pandering to their bad ideas.

I think presenting yourself in a certain manner matters. Idk if it is manipulation, maybe in the sense that it might make the other person more receptive to what you have to say, and actually listen

What about big tits as a supplement to arguments

I think those signal something entirely different than what I had in mind

Might make ppl listen more tho

Honeslty they probably would listen less

looking smart and being smart are different things. if you try to look smart, you're playing into ppl's prejudices instead of focusing on truth.

what about looking and being smart. Though "looking smart" is also not what I have in mind.

what's the upside there?

Does the context not matter here? Say you're in advertising. Using more social would be beneficial, no? Was Jobs not good at the extra stuff making the releases more interesting for many people?

if ppl like non-arguments, they're wrong. if you want the practical result of more fans, it can work. if you want the truth, it's not helping.

advertising isn't truth seeking.

Let's say I am making argument P. I can state argument P while being nervous, and looking messy, and mumbling etc.. Or I can make statement P with a good projected voice, a good sense of style, and clearly and confidently. The truth of P matter but how you deliver it does matter too. Like in a Job interview

Matter for what

whether P or true or false is 100% separate from whether you looked messy when you said it.


advertising isn't truth seeking.
Ok. Missed it was only about truth seeking. My bad.

yes I am not arguing against that

so if ppl are focusing any attention on those things, it's bad, it's a distraction from the issues

it means less thought goes into what's true

yes they are getting distracted from P which is what matters.

so it's bad to encourage that kind of thing, or to like that kind of thing, if the truth is what you value.

if P is true regardless. Why is it not objectively better to present it properly and confidently?

who sounds confident or looks fashionable is a contest, a competition. the winners of that competition may have shitty ideas which then spread.

not if the idea is the same

in that scenario P is the statement that is true

the ppl who are best at sounding confident are not the ppl with the best ideas.

ok but that's a different argument

if you have a good idea and also participate in that contest, you may be outcompeted at social stuff by someone with a worse idea. happens all the time.

yes that can happen

competing at social stuff takes a ton of effort. it's a huge distraction. b/c that area is very competitive.

well I am not arguing for competing at social stuff. Just at learning proper presentation. Only as secondary as presenting a proper idea.

and if you play that game, audiences spend some of their time not thinking about your argument, so fewer of them understanding what you said.

secondary to*

what is proper and why is that proper?

that I don't know

being clear is proper vs mumbling

the way it actually works is there's no limit where you're good enough and you're done

looking at your shoes vs at the audience

that kind of thing

you can get to the 50th percentile or the 70th percentile at skill, or the 99th, and you can still climb higher socially

I suppose you could but that's not really what I am arguing for.

there's nowhere to draw the line

The line may be arbitrary but reality kind of imposes on you

there's no principle that says a certain skill at eye contact is important, but a higher skill at eye contact doesn't matter.

not reality. other people, and specifically the dumber ones, who you don't have to suck up to.

there's so much time in the day, and you spend it building your argument. Once it is built then you can improve at presentation,

time is a scarce resource


you could always put more time into truth seeking. any time on presentation is lost.

I suppose it depends on the context too

Augustine if you read FH u might have better understanding of FI view on social stuff

Wouldn't your argument then depend on everyone having read FH then Justin?

you're changing topics a lot

If I am presenting an idea and show up all disheveled, mumbled nervously through it, look at the shoes. Maybe the people who read FH are like right on. but somehow I doubt it

if your goal is truth seeking, what to do does not depend on how many audience members understand social dynamics rationally.

that still doesn't tell me why presenting true argument P poorly is preferable than presenting it well. I mean presenting it as stating it in front of someone else or others.

curi: there are some examples here within 30s. e.g. Adam says "valuable" in a voice tone, does a shrug and does a voice tone at the end of the section right b4 the other guy talks again. those are just some of the more blatant ones.

Adam spends more than 50% of his mental effort, during a discussion, on thinking about (mostly subconsciously) what would impress dumb viewers, how to manipulate them, how to pander, etc. This gets more effort than his argument quality.

This is typical.

The first thing people see is neither your personality nor your argument. A good first impression makes a difference. I agree that you should work on making argument P as strong as possible and that should be your focus. Then maybe you can put some effort in presentation. I still don't see the downside, but I do see the upsides. Could even be split 90% argument 10% presentation or move the dials there as needed.

Augustine would you disregard someone's argument on some point if they didn't make eye contact etc?

Depends on their argument


Taking 10% of your effort away from truth is a downside.

Making eye contact in the socially normal way (an example Aug has given several times) takes a huge amount of effort. This effort is not recognized because the learning time and costs are mostly in early childhood. However, some people don't learn it then, are called "autistic", and are persecuted quite cruelly and extensively. The way people learn it in childhood is by learning to care more about how others think of them than about reality. It's part of a process where they learn not to prioritize truth, that they will be punished for not fitting in and need to prioritize that instead.

But what if the truth of argument P is very important. Let's say if people adopted P the world would be a better place. Why would you not want more people to adopt P?

Knowing that many do not hold your view on presentation

and will judge based on that

People learn the "proper" way to do eye contact by learning to pay very close attention to the reactions they get from other people and then changing whenever they get negative reactions, and keep making changes until they get it right and get approval. This takes a huge amount of time and effort and the mentality is broadly incompatible with e.g. scientific thinking.

Aug you keep changing topics, we can't discuss everything at once.

I have to go but once again I'd like to continue later.



The things you're saying are everywhere but lots of ppl won't admit or say them in an intellectual context. They lie about how rational they are.

They're really bad though, but pretending not to think them just makes it harder to change.

One of the practical effects is ppl spend a lot of time engaging with lower quality material (in terms of ideas and truth seeking) b/c they want to watch ppl compete socially.

So they learn less.

ppl seek out material with e.g. facecam b/c they don't even know how to judge what's true, only how to judge social stuff.

I've been thinking a bit about our discussion.

It is possible that we may be talking about two different things so I'll try to restate my position.

I agree that truth seeking is important, and that in an ideal world (even then I am not so sure that would be ideal) people would not care about how a message is delivered. But that is not how the world works.

People care about how the message is delivered as much as the message itself. For example, Jordan Peterson sells out large auditoriums in hundreds of cities around the globe. A lot of what he says is quite good, some is okay, other is standard self help stuff that people already know. But he is able to reach a large audience because he is a good speaker.

Another example, Job interviews. Most people get hired based on a 1on1 interview. They already have seen your resume, what they are looking for is how you present yourself. Are you someone they would be okay working with or talking to their customers.

It may be different for you because your job is to write philosophy articles. So you do not need to have charm perhaps. Although, even with philosophy articles you do have to worry about your presentation. Your website has to be readable, easy to navigate. Your sentences need to be clear and follow grammar rules to eliminate confusion.

All in all I think context matters. And as I said yesterday, if statement P is true. I would prefer that statement P is presented in a clear, unambigious, confident manner.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (49)

Social Climbing Is Incompatible with the English Language

VSE on Discord, lying about the reasoning for relegation (he omitted the flaming he did) and misuing the term "simpler":

Doesn't it seem like it would have been simpler to ask a follow-up question instead of relegating me to a single channel?

i did ask a followup question. they're so bad at engaging with words. i said:

are you going to answer my simple, direct question or not?

this was both 1) a followup 2) a question

there's still something amazing to me about how much they retreat from English meanings of words

i think it's related to retreat from reality in genreal and social metaphysics. standard dictionary English has strong connections to reality.

but they operate in a social reality with social metaphysics, not in real reality. so they use words in a different way that is much less tied to reality, facts, logic, dictionaries, etc, and more tied to social rules and social meanings

i think their inability and/or unwillingness to read literally or to resolve any of these factual disputes is an indication of just how second-handed and social climbing they are. that's what the basic thing at issue is. how do you approach life, do you focus on facts/etc or on social dynamics?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)