↑ comment by Crux ·
2013-09-18T22:53:21.582Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Do you honestly think that talking on a forum about philosophy, interpretations of quantum mechanics, and psychology is comparable to reading through, say, Apostol and doing all the exercises?
That's not a valid comparison. That would be like asking whether practicing your tennis serve on a regular basis would be comparable to joining a basketball team that meets 3x/week for 2 hours. Depends entirely on your goals and level of motivation. Just as someone may pick one or the other depending on what they value, someone may be better served spending time on LW than using that textbook, or vice versa.
And for that matter OP was discussing systematic reading, not active participation in discussions.
Well then we should probably suggest he change his plan from "systematically read the Sequences" to "do that and then participate on the forum". The former would be like showing up to class but never doing the homework. Whatever his wording, his point still stands. Rather than quibble about this, why not just get back to the point, which is whether Less Wrong is more useful than college?
Furthermore, in college you have people (TAs, not professors. Turns out office hours are where the learning is supposed to happen.) who are actually paid to look over your work and figure out exactly where you've gotten confused and then explain it to you in a way you'll understand.
Plenty of people will do this for free on Physics Forums, Less Wrong, or anywhere else. But again, it depends on the subject. If you want to learn math as it's usually taught, then yeah, college is probably a great place to be. But epistemology or philosophy? Less Wrong is clearly a better option.
Here you have a bunch of (reasonably smart, yes) people who come for interesting discussion because they're bored, and who may or may not feel like helping you understand where you've gone wrong.
Gone wrong on what? If math, then yeah, go to college! But if you want to refine your epistemological grounding or something like that, spend plenty of time on here, even act provocative if need be, and you'll get more criticism than you could ever ask for. How is this even in contention?
Participating in a forum is not bad as writing practice, I'll admit, but a lot of three-paragraph posts don't take nearly as much work (and I think don't do nearly as much good) as a few five-page papers.
Depends what mood you're in. This post I'm writing right now isn't very high quality writing, because it doesn't need to be, or because I don't have time to polish it up, or because this topic isn't important enough for that. But I've written plenty of posts on here that were crafted to be good writing, and it was better practice than anything you could have in college. In those instances, I was trying to convince a highly academic, potentially hostile audience (people on here). In college you're just trying to impress a professor, who may or may not be totally exhausted by the time he gets to your paper, and may or may not care at all. Read 2,000 pages of useless writing, and see if you still have the capacity to care about correcting the work in a thoughtful way, especially since you have no real incentive to reveal the holes in the reasoning like you would in an intense discussion with peers.
Simply put, the hoop you're jumping through with papers is to impress a professor who doesn't care about your ideas, wheres the test when you're posting on LW is to get the people on here to think you're being insightful. The best you can get from a professor is usually just that they think you're an intelligent student. The best you can get on here is for people to think you're really adding to their understanding. The former is susceptible of easy-to-fake signaling games and useless bullshit writing. The second is real communication.
Papers aren't real communication. They're just a signaling game. Forum posts are actual discussion.
Replies from: kalium
↑ comment by kalium ·
2013-09-20T01:05:25.690Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I do not claim that colleges have more to offer than writing practice (with highly variable bullshit tolerance---if you talk to people who've taken the classes you're looking at, you can probably find some humanities professors who do have high standards, but I suppose this criterion takes us far away from the "typical" course) on every subject. If the OP has a specific interest in philosophical questions of the kind LW pays a lot of attention to and college courses do not, then he will get more value even from reading the sequences without discussing them than he will from a college philosophy course. His request for comparisons to very different subjects like chemistry, though, suggested to me that he just wants to learn interesting things and practice "how to think."
It is my opinion that taking a few math classes will do a lot more to teach rigorous thought than would typical LW participation, and that the exercises in a freshman text like Apostol are a better kind of exercise than forum participation. I should probably have stuck to that rather than trying to defend the humanities.
Replies from: Crux
↑ comment by Crux ·
2013-09-20T01:35:42.706Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I see what you're saying. I mean I guess the best answer might be that doing both would be best. I mean, Less Wrong came about in a culture where most people go to college. It seems expected that Less Wrong would fill in the gaps from a typical college education, and correct widespread problems in thinking, rather than being a wholesale replacement for a good college education.