[GiveGetWin Summer Camp wraps up today! It's been amazing. Recaps coming soon. Big thanks to everyone who made it happen, particularly all the great people at UChicago and the Chicago Innovation Exchange, especially Tom Ancona and Ashley Clement, and a great thanks to all our mentors -- Ben Rubin, Chiara Cokieng, Eden Full, Greg Nance, Jason Shen, Judd Weiss, Kai Zau, Laura Coe, Miguel Hernandez, Shashin Choksky, Stepan Parunashvili, Taylor Pearson, Ted Gonder, Zach Obront, and Zachary Cohn. And finally, to all our very talented attendees and the companies and experts that participated by taking part in GiveGetWin.]
On Empirical Truth and Affective Truth
"We've always been at war with Eastasia."
Being able to be cloaked in the mantle of "truth," unfortunately, is extremely profitable to all manner of people.
In the broader rationalist community, there's a concern with actual genuine truth via empiricism -- observation, analysis, hypotheses, testing, falsifiability, the scientific method, and so on.
We can all laugh when the North Korean government makes a declaration along the lines of "Kim Jong-un is the third greatest leader of all time, only surpassed by his Great and Illustrious ancestors, Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-il" -- but what's not funny is that the ability to have this statement more-or-less accepted by 25 million people is quite literally a matter of life or death for the DPRK's leadership.
If we wanted to test whether Jong-un is a Great Leader, we'd probably ask for parameters. How many scientific advancements have happened under his leadership? How was the quality of life improved? Should we measure by GDP? Solving social ills? Lower disease rates, better access to medicine, reduced rates of starvation? Perhaps a more subjective measure, like the fairness and consistency of North Korean courts, perhaps as judged by inquiring and weighing the opinions of experienced and well-respected jurists across the world?
But this exercise is worthless -- even laughable -- because the North Korean government is not resting its claims on our kind of truth, empirical truth.
It seems to me, unfortunately, that humans don't naturally differentiate between the truth of Newton's Second Law of Motion "1 N = 1 kg⋅m/s2" and the truth of statements like "X Country is the greatest country in the world."
But I contend that it would be a severe mistake to fight against how the vast majority of how people think and process: the concept of "truth" has historically never been limited to empirical truth.
Furthermore, this piece started off with a statement that most people worldwide would feel to be false despite beingasserted to be true and believed by a few people; that makes the job easier.
But consider instead, "Shakespeare is truth" or "I've been living a lie."
What are these?
These statements might, indeed, be true -- for some definition of true.
Indeed, to me personally, Shakespeare is truth. Xenophon is truth. I would assert that.
Though it's a different kind of truth than Newton or Maxwell.
We could call the "truth" of someone's life, art, and aesthetics "affective truth" to differentiate it from empirical truth.
"This place feel right to me" -- true! Affectively true.
If we wanted to have this enter into common parlance, we might use the words "empirically true" and "spiritually true."
When Kim Jong-un's press secretary puts out a piece about the Dear Great Leader, they're making claims of spiritual truth.
Indeed, for many definitions of religions, the North Korean government is trying to run a religion. A religion that almost all of us would call false -- affectively false, in that it feels wrong. It isn't true. It isn't a good way to live. We can feel that, intuitively. North Korea is a lie -- in terms of the claims they make about life and living.
North Korean's mythos is, certainly, also built on a house of empirical falseness, lies, empirical untruths.
But to try to argue empiricism with someone's spirituality[*] is, generally speaking, a wasted exercise.
We often see hyper-rational people refuting objectively false statements that politicians make -- for all the good it does them!
Politicians are often making appeals to affective truth, rather than attempting to give their best estimations and judgments of empirical truth.
I think -- I suspect -- at least, I hope -- that if we narrowly scope the definition of "empirical truth" to narrow standards of involving observation, testing, and resting as much as possible on mathematics and hard science, and only making highly parameterized statements when dealing with more subjective issues -- in this case, I think we'll be allowed to have "empirical truth" stand as it is.
Hopefully it can be technical and boring enough that we can avoid it becoming a political or religious battleground.
That's not to say there won't be heated disagreements by experts in a field about what the empirical is -- such is normal and productive -- but ideally we can stop much of the wasted energy that comes from when a rationalist is making an argument about empirical truth, the other party is making an argument about affective truth, and both sides are getting frustrated.
Hi old friends,
Very exciting: we're doing a training at UChicago's Chicago Innovation Exchange. Two weeks of intense skill building.
The details and an application link are here:
It's free to attend if you're selected. Apply right away if you're interested.
Hello old friend, if you've been missing the blog here, then you'll be pleased to know that Roguelike is out today on Amazon Kindle.
100% new. It's The Inner Game of Tennis or What I Talk About When I Talk About Running -- learning about the nature of the universe through a very specific lens -- and it happens to be from the genre of the hardest video games on the planet.
I think you'll enjoy it -- reviews and feedback are always incredibly appreciated. Regards from Istanbul,
Thanks for all the good memories on the Second Annual GiveGetWin Tour -- we wrapped last night in Miami. What a fantastic city for a last Tour date, it's so beautiful here... we're going to get hit the beach as a team before everyone goes their separate ways.
And now, I'm pleased to announce that...
The third annual GiveGetWin Tour will kick off in October in Monterrey, Mexico and then head to Mexico City, and be USA-based after that.
Huge thanks and respect to Kai Zau and Chiara Cokieng for their great work, and thanks to all our hosts, speakers, collaborators, and administrators this year. We'll get more photos and thank-you pages up in the next couple weeks.
Carlos Miceli is joining next year's Tour as Audience Director, and we're going to be starting the planning cycle in early May. If you'd like your university/club/organization to have us next year, please send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org -- I'm taking a one-week vacation and I'll be getting back to my email in a week, but definitely jump into the process early if you'd like us to come by.
1. Shared Working Space When Traveling
We've used Regus shared working spaces very well on the GiveGetWin Tour, and they've been terrific to us. In particular, the Manhattan Regus at 411 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10003 was terrific; Jacqueline there is great.
You can get 15 free visits to the Regus Business Lounge if you have a United Airlines frequent flyer number at this link.
It's really useful. The most useful Regus locations for me have been in Shibuya in Tokyo (only place I found to get great WiFi and power outlets in that area), in China World in Beijing (the most beautiful location I've been... astounding), and the Lafayette Street Regus I mentioned above. If you're working with a small team and traveling, it's a godsend.
2. Amtrak USA Rail Pass
Last year on the GiveGetWin Tour, we covered over 6,500 miles by road.
Let me tell you this: America and Canada are beautiful countries and beautiful to drive through... but driving that much takes a serious mental toll on you.
Last year, our best two events were at NYU Stern (our ninth event) and UChicago (our fourteenth event). Our event at CU Boulder a few days ago, I think, was our third best of all-time -- and it was our second of the year.
I give credit to three factors --
1. Amazing hosts, audience, venue, and speakers. Of course.
I made a startling discovery recently: all that video-game playing from age 8 to age 26 seems to have resulted in some permanent gains.
A few years ago, I basically swore games off. But similar to how meditation makes a person more resilient against all of life's absurdities, and how team sports instils a sense of how to cooperate and compete, it seems like the people that sought to master complex games from our generation are now able to take and build on them. The people who were mastery-oriented in playing a myriad of games seem to grasp a whole set of concepts faster and easier that are directly applicable to success today.
I had a phone call a few hours ago with one of the volunteers helping to make the GiveGetWin Tour 2015 a big success. He's already helped line up two of the dates between the coastal cities as we transit across America and I wanted to go beyond talking about Tour logistics and also make time to help him reach his goals.
His questions were a set of questions I get often: if I want to be able to work on interesting projects, with interesting people, and lots of freedom, how do I do it? How did you do it?
I could have, and eventually will, run him through the mechanics of getting to know people, how they come to trust you, how deals get struck and work gets done.
I contend thusly:
"General Orders for Sentries" is one of the finest written processes of all-time.
You can read the orders here, if you like, for the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces --
On the surface, it's a pretty simple thing, being a sentry. "Watch this area. Tell us if anything odd happens."
The Patterns That Emerge From History
There's often quick and immediate lessons in studying a narrow part of history relevant to your field. If you're the portfolio manager of a mutual fund, you should of course know the recent history of the various asset classes. If you're a Naval Admiral, you should of course know at least the history of naval warfare down cold. If you're a hostage negotiator, you should study a variety of hostage negotiation situations and how they played out.
This is all pretty obvious stuff. And indeed, most high-level practitioners study the recent history of their field at the very least.
It takes a bit more effort to explain why you should study the history of your country and how it emerged... but it doesn't take that much energy. Understanding the American Civil War, for Americans, has some obvious value. It still effects the modern day.
This still not a very hard sell. Most people learn something about how their country came to be where it is.