Dec 1, 2022Liked by Erik Torenberg

The trouble with ideas that are "truer than true" is that they are literally false, and that the knowledge of their literal falsity robs them of their power. "Heaven is real and I can earn a spot there" is a powerful belief to motivate positive behavior; "Belief in heaven is useful" isn't. Nobody martyrs themselves to demonstrate the usefulness of an idea.

This is what Nietzsche was alluding to when he wrote, "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us?".

There's no cure for understanding; I almost wish there was. I used to go to church to hear the words of God, however imperfectly rendered. When I go to church now, I just see a guy wearing felt.

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I never really bought that idea.

Yes, there are Chesterton fences.

What is the opposite of a Chesterton fence?

A fence that's there for no reason, but everyone assumes there is a reason so they don't do anything about it.

I guess some people need to hear that there are Chesterton fences.

Other people need to hear that there are anti-Chesterton fences.

What's more important or impactful?

It seems to me anti-Chesterton fences.

Yes, I'm mentally biased and by my work in tech.

How do we adjudicate?


Never made sense to me.

There are so many extremely stupid ideas that have been around for 1000s of years, some are not around anymore (e.g. "it's OK to enslave or torture people that are not in your tribe" is one of the oldest ideas in humanity), some still are (Iet's speculate which ones those are).

Yes, the best way to adjudicate what's a Chesterton Fence and an anti-Chesterton Fence is reason + experimentation / permissionless innovation.

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There are too many ways to dice this problem, but here are two examples.

Curtis Yarvin: aesthetics (as political ambition) are more lindy than truth and empathy. It is bad to assume "free market of ideas" and the Lindy effect as perfectly functional or perfectly honest. Adversaries are often more honest about the victors than themselves. https://graymirror.substack.com/p/2b-negative-causes-are-frivolous https://archive.fo/kcUtW

"Judah" of Be Wrong and Roger’s Bacon of Secretorum: Memetic selection mechanism follows predictable patterns of aesthetics and philosophies. "Language and shibboleths are mind controlling parasites" is a semi-devious but acceptable analogy. https://www.secretorum.life/p/ideas-are-alive-and-you-are-dead https://bewrong.substack.com/p/what-do-ideas-want

Speculation: every wordy poem makes the neurotic theater kid look good, while only the nerd can see through the dishonest fluff. (verbal tilt and comical idealism) "Would you rather be right or make money" but with attention/vanity instead of money/greed. (attention economy as the new golden calf) https://archive.fo/XNqJ6 https://archive.ph/ShoCh https://goddisk.substack.com/p/video-games-moloch-and-the-death

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Fantastic article, thank you for writing it. It’s a shame Brett used the term “liberal” in the last quote, as it doesn’t translate well outside of the US.

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In my head, there's this key distinction between intelligence and wisdom that has been lost the last however many decades as we (the west) have essentially thrown spirituality out with the religious bathwater. The future we need is a blending of western and eastern knowledge, approached with humility and empathy, in search for wisdom and truth. The arc of history seems to bend toward good winning out over evil, time after time. Love always find a way. The truth always finds a way. Because (as Jordan Peterson has mentioned) pain/suffering is inescapable for us humans on earth...and the only antidotes are truth and love. Why? Well, I have my ideas...

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Dec 2, 2022·edited Dec 2, 2022

> It turns out that our modern scientific methods are actually quite bad at producing truths that endure. After all, we seem to have a massive replication crisis in the social sciences. Nearly half of biomedical research doesn’t replicate.

I don't think this follows. You can't say science is bad at this without knowing the base rate. It's like saying Ted Williams was bad at baseball because he only hit the ball 34.4% of the time.

How often do traditions create enduring truths or fail to replicate? How often do traditions fail to replicate?

I live in Vietnam where there are a staggering number of traditions that are different from the West. Don't eat bananas when you are sick. Don't eat shellfish after you get a cut. Don't eat beef when you have a fever. If the first person you see after leaving your house in the morning is a pregnant woman, go back in your house of bad luck will follow you all day. Don't take a bath or shower for one month after giving birth because your body is too weak to handle it. Taking a shower when you are drunk can kill you instantly.

How many of those replicate?

Science could be bad by some objective measure but still 10x better than the actual alternatives.

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Along these lines is James C. Scott's _Seeing Like a State_. To quote the Amazon review:

One of the most important common factors that Scott found in these schemes is what he refers to as a high modernist ideology. In simplest terms, it is an extremely firm belief that progress can and will make the world a better place. But "scientific" theories about the betterment of life often fail to take into account "the indispensable role of practical knowledge, informal processes, and improvisation in the face of unpredictability" that Scott views as essential to an effective society.

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I wonder if this could be relevant to the latest blockchain news. Tech has taken an adversarial view of orthodoxies especially in finance and is now suddenly learning why regulations (whether internal or external) were imposed.

Fantastic article.

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