Science & Philosophy
This is one of my most ambitious projects, as it aims to capture everything I learn through books, film, education, life experience, contemplation, etc. into a single place, and to present it as a concise nugget of interestingness.
Eventually the goal is to then link those pieces of wisdom together into something like a Wisdom Genome so we can see relationships between them, etc.
So when I learn something from To Kill a Mockingbird, or Thinking Fast and Slow, or How the Mind Works—what specifically did I learn? This resource aims to capture that, and will be one of the flagship resources on the site.
Cancer is an aging problem. Evolution doesn’t like people staying around injecting too much error into their own cells, so cancer evolved to ensure that after a certain point you’ll simply die of it.
When you approach a problem, start from scratch instead of starting with the limitations of existing solutions. Example: figure out how to better convert battery energy into car torque, not how to improve on previous attempts to do so.
Graham’s Disagreement Hierarchy has the following quality tiers for arguments, from best to worst: refuting the central point, refutation, counter-argument, contradiction, responding to tone, ad hominem, name-calling.
The moralistic fallacy is the leap from ought to is, meaning the feeling that things are the way they should be, which they’re usually not.
The Golden Circle of effective thought leadership is three concentric circles. The innermost is Why? The next one out is How? And the outer one is What? Great companies start with Why? and move outward. Mediocre companies start with What and never quite make it inward. Companies that start with Why resonate with people, and get them to believe in their vision. This makes it so they’ll buy anything from the company. Companies that start with What blend in with everyone else, and don’t ever stand out. The concept applies to people as well. Good leaders of people have a vision and a core set of beliefs, and they lead by pursuing those beliefs through the How? and What? Weak leaders just tell you What and How, and don’t provide any insight into Why.
Experiencing Self vs. Remembering Self is how part of you experiences things, and another records and recalls memories about those experiences. This affects happiness and experiences because the end of experiences are what get recorded and considered by the remembering self.
System 1 and System 2 are two primary ways to form thoughts: System 1 is fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious. System 2 is slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious. Kahneman uses these different modes of thought to describe many things about how humans behave.
The Anchoring Effect talks about our tendency to be influenced by irrelevant numbers that we’re exposed to, e.g. judges giving shoplifters more time if they rolled dice that came up with a high number.
Prospect Theory is a behavioral economic theory that describes the way people choose between probabilistic alternatives that involve risk, where the probabilities of outcomes are known. The theory states that people make decisions based on the potential value of losses and gains rather than the final outcome, and that people evaluate these losses and gains using certain heuristics.
O-Ring Theory is the idea that when you have a series of steps being performed, you dramatically reduce the quality of the product by introducing B anc C players in the stream, whether they are people or processes. So if you have 5 A players, and one C player, you end up with C or B quality. And the more A players you have the higher the quality goes, but the more low-quality players you have the worse the quality gets. It’s like you’d imagine, except far more dramatic.
Staying Naive About Possibilities: To the beginner there are infinite possibilities; to the expert there are few. You want to figure out a way to get the expertise without losing the optimism of being a novice.
The Naturalistic Fallacy is the tendency to believe that what is found in nature is good, or right, or just, or to be imitated as some sort of example. When in fact, nature is quite cruel and vicious and not necessarily something to emulate.
The Theory of Constraints is a management paradigm that views any manageable system as being limited in achieving more of its goals by a very small number of constraints. There is always at least one constraint, and TOC uses a focusing process to identify the constraint and restructure the rest of the organization around it.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect is where many people with lower skill display much higher confidence than those with high skill. Other symptoms include: Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill, incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others, and incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy. Happily, if they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.
You Already Have Everything: Imagine that you already own everything nice there is to have in the world. Other people are simply storing these things for you—at no cost to you. If you want a new TV, you can have one brought to you at any time. If you want a nice watch, it’s just the same. All things are simultaneously yours as well as not yours, since when you die you will leave with none of them anyway. Don’t obsess over having things that you simultaneously already have and can never have.
What’s Fun For You, But Work For Others: Figure out you do naturally that others consider to be extremely hard work, and that might be your calling in life, or at the very least a good way to make money.
The Pareto Principle, also known as the Law of the Vital Few, it states that roughly 80% of the effects come from roughly 20% of the causes.
The Pseudo-certainty Effect: People’s tendency to perceive an outcome as certain while in fact it is uncertain. It is observed in multi-stage decisions in which evaluation of outcomes in previous decision stage is discarded when making an option in subsequent stages. [ L ]
Postel’s Law (The Robustness Principle): Be conservative in what you do, and liberal in what you accept from others. Usually applied to the creation of standards that require a balance between stability and interoperability. [ L ]
Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. [ L ]
Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. [ L ]
Types of Logical Fallacy:
Formal fallacies are errors in an argument’s form. All formal fallacies are non-sequiters (does not follow)
- Anecdotal fallacies use personal experience or isolated examples instead of evidence or reason
- Appeal to probability takes something as true because it would probably or might be the case
- Argument from fallacy assumes that if someone makes a bad argument for something then the conclusion must be false
- Base rate fallacy is making a probability judgment based on conditional probabilities without taking into account the effect of prior probabilities
- Conjunction fallacy assumes that an outcome simultaneously satisfying multiple conditions is more probably than one that satisfies only one
- Masked man fallacy is the substitution of identical designators in a true statement that can lead to a false one
- Unwarranted assumption fallacy is committed when the conclusion of an argument is based on the premis that is false or unwarranted. This could be due to vaguely written premises, or ones that are true but not in the given context.
Informal fallacies are fallacious due to content rather than form
- Argument from ignorance is assuming a claim is true because has not been, or cannot be, disproven
- Argument from personal incredulity: I cannot imagine how this would be true, therefore it’s false
- Argument ad hominem is an argument that attacks your opponent instead of her ideas
- Argument to moderation is assuming the compromise between two positions is always correct
- Argument from silence is is where the conclusion is based on the absence of evidence rather than the existence of it
- Begging the question is providing the conclusion as part of the premises
- Confirmation bias is where you accept information that goes with your beliefs
- Continuum fallacy is rejecting a claim for being imprecise
- Equivocation is the misleading use of a term that has multiple meanings
- Ecological fallacy is making inferences about an individual based on statistics for her group
- Etymological fallacy assumes that the origin of a word remains the way it’s used today
- Fallacy of the single cause is where there could be multiple causes but the arguer is acting as if there must be only one
- Furtive fallacy is where outcomes are assumed to have been caused by the malfeasance of decision makers
- Gambler’s fallacy is where someone thinks the outcomes of many independent events can affect the outcome of another independent event
- Hedging is using words with ambitious meanings and then changing the meaning later
- Historian’s fallacy is assuming that people of the past looked at the data with the same perspective we now have
- Inflation of conflict is where someone points out that experts disagree, so there must not be any experts
- If-by-whiskey is a double-speak argument where you make both sides happy because they hear what they want to hear
- Moralistic fallacy is where you infer factual conclusions based on values, or going from ought to is
- Naturalistic fallacy is where infer values from facts, or doing from is to ought.
- Nirvana fallacy is where solutions are rejected because they’re not perfect
- No true Scotsman is where a generalization is made true only when a counterexample is ruled out in a weak way
- Cheery picking is choosing examples that support a position from a dataset that has plenty that don’t
- Thought-terminating cliche is where someone uses folk wisdom as if it’s an argument
Red herring fallacies
- Poisoning the well is a type of ad hominem attack where adverse information is presented in order to discredit the opponent
- Appeal to authority
- Appeal to accomplishment
- Appeal to consequences: this can’t be true because think of how people would react if it were
- Appeal to emotion (flattery, fear, pity, ridicule, spite, wishful thinking)
- Appeal to equality is assuming things are equal, therefore…
- Appeal to motive attacks the motive of the opponent
- Appeal to poverty
- Appeal to nature
- Appeal to novelty is where the argument is claimed to be valid because it’s new
- Appeal to tradition
- Appeal to wealth
- Reductio at Hitlerum is comparing an opponent to Hitler or Nazism to make it hated
- Broken window fallacy disregards the hidden costs of performing a given act, such as breaking windows to give window people jobs
Post Hoc: occurring after the event
Ad Hoc: done for just one instance or purpose
A Priori: what you can claim before gathering evidence or experience
A Posteriori: what you can only claim after gathering evidence or experience
Occam’s Razor: aka “The Law of Parsimony”, or “The Law of Succinctness”. Occam’s Razor is an interesting one, as there is the newer, accepted, and technically incorrect meaning, and then there is the real one. First the modern, common, and wrong one: This one reduces to the idea that all things being equal, the simpler of two explanations for something is probably correct. A common interpretation of this is “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”, from the Latin, “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem”. There are many similar or related versions of this, e.g. “Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler.” (Einstein), and “The simplest answer is usually the correct answer.”
This is, however, incorrect. Occam’s razor is not concerned with the simplicity or complexity of a good explanation as such, it only demands that the explanation is free of elements that have nothing to do with the phenomenon (and the explanation). Here’s a quote by Occam himself that shows the true meaning: “The source of many errors in philosophy is the claim that a distinct signified thing always corresponds to a distinct word in such a way that there are as many distinct entities being signified as there are distinct names or words doing the signifying.” (Summula Philosophiae Naturalis III, chap. 7, see also Summa Totus Logicae Bk I, C.51).
We are apt to suppose that a word like “paternity” signifies some “distinct entity”, because we suppose that each distinct word signifies a distinct entity. This leads to all sorts of absurdities, such as “a column is to the right by to-the-rightness”, “God is creating by creation, is good by goodness, is just by justice, is powerful by power”, “an accident inheres by inherence”, “a subject is subjected by subjection”, “a suitable thing is suitable by suitability”, “a chimera is nothing by nothingness”, “a blind thing is blind by blindness”, ” a body is mobile by mobility”. We should say instead that a man is a father because he has a son. (Summa C.51). [Wikipedia]
It’s easier to improve something by 10X than 10%: It’s often extremely difficult to improve any given design or solution by 10% when compared to building a solution that is 10X better because when doing the former you are accepting as given the set of constraints that the previous creator(s) faced.
Reciprocal Altruism: Being altruistic because its most beneficial in the longterm for you as well. Basically, people give to those who give back (from biology).
Midas World: work and leisure are switched in the future, and the poor are the ones required to buy and consume while the rich can lead simple lives.
Cognitive dissonance: the uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The “ideas” or “cognitions” in question may include attitudes and beliefs, and also the awareness of one’s behavior.
The Nice Guy Paradox: Where women only like kindness from men who aren’t being kind out of necessity.
Near / Far Thinking: Near and far are two modes (or a spectrum of modes) in which we can think about things. We choose which mode to think about something in based on its distance from us, or on the level of detail we need. This property of human mind is studied in construal level theory.
NEAR: All of these bring each other more to mind: here, now, me, us; trend-deviating likely real local events; concrete, context-dependent, unstructured, detailed, goal-irrelevant incidental features; feasible safe acts; secondary local concerns; socially close folks with unstable traits.
FAR: Conversely, all these bring each other more to mind: there, then, them; trend-following unlikely hypothetical global events; abstract, schematic, context-freer, core, coarse, goal-related features; desirable risk-taking acts, central global symbolic concerns, confident predictions, polarized evaluations, socially distant people with stable traits.
Hanlon’z Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by carelessness.”