My Faults My Own

One's ponens is another's tollens.

[Meta] Inferential Distances

The rambling, introspective, and at times (I felt) dramatic nature of my most recent post has brought something back to the forefront of my mind. While writing for such a disparate audience: family, friends-from-home, friends-from-school, students-from-HSYLC, future-people-I-haven't-met-yet, et ceterae, I really ought to be aware of the inferential distances I'm asking my readers to jump across.

That is to say, there are mental shortcuts (e.g. "reference class" or "model (of an actor)") and cached thoughts (e.g. "humans are bad at multiplying" or "I should love 7*10^9 people an unimaginable amount more than 1") that seem obvious to me but may not be so accessible nor apparent to my readers. To be completely honest, I suspect that, for most people, "Looking Backwards", "Errata, Food, Reductionism", and "Greetings, Polyphasic Sleep, and Chives" had large sections which were more-or-less opaque with jargon or (seemingly) blind assertions.

But most of what I write seems rather intuitive to me. Which is, of course, because basically everything I write is at most one inferential step away from anything else inside my head. Not so for the rest of my readers. I'm writing from a particular accumulated background: informational (e.g. the many authors -- academic or otherwise -- I've read over my lifetime), cultural (e.g. the parlance, logical abstractions, and norms I've become accustomed to using when talking with my close friends at Harvard or acquaintances in the Effective Altruism or LessWrong communities), and personal (logical leaps that make perfect sense to me, but are difficult to explain to others).

Together, these lead me to something like a a Bayesian-rationalist-reductionist, deity-agnostic, utilitarian amalgamation of ideas, assumptions, and reasoning practices that it are hard to explain from the ground up. And when I do try to explain things from first principles, I often make the same mistakes and jump too far or get too technical too fast, or fall into any one of several explaining-things failure modes that I'm prone to.

So I'm not going to try. Sorry guys. Hopefully, things that aren't very clear at first will become more so, as I write more and get better at explaining. And when I pull in a concept that has a decent explanation elsewhere on the web, I will try to link to it. But it's inevitable that sometimes, I just won't make sense. I mean, sometimes I won't make sense, but then other times it'll seem like I don't make sense because I've just assumed a lot of stuff away. And that's just how this'll go, because the alternative is to spend several months just introspecting on the basic patterns of my mind, and it's more fun to write posts about China. Maybe, over time, the inside of my head will become more clear (to both of us). Until then, we'll have to muddle through.

Comments

Comments