Cult of Error

post by bayesyatina · 2023-04-30T23:33:45.098Z · LW · GW · 2 comments



Normal World

Errors are considered garbage here. That doesn't mean they don't exist here. It is just that it is customary to hide them, especially in a public space. Showing them is considered embarrassing to both the demonstrator and the audience.

People who make mistakes are considered fools. People who admit them are considered wimps. People who acknowledge at least the possibility of them are considered cowards, preparing the way for an ignominious retreat. 

Yes, people inevitably have to go through mistakes when they are young, but that stage is simply considered childish inferiority. Adult people try to limit their lives so much that nothing unusual that can generate a mistake happens to them. It does not always work, but they skillfully conceal all errors, especially from children. 

Fortunately, they learn to hide mistakes in special educational institutions. They teach to pretend that everything is clear, even if it is not. They teach you how to cunningly disguise if you make a mistake. Most of all, the ability to do a task the first time is valued, and "grades" are given for this. These are such indicators that a person is not wrong (or cleverly disguised). Here, a person who is initially good at everything, and who subsequently copes just as well, is considered capable of learning. A person, on the other hand, who did not succeed at anything, and then began to succeed at something, is not considered capable of learning.

This is where ancient knowledge is valued. After all, the more doubts they arouse, the more opportunity they have to show their persistence and perseverance. The only regret is that with each generation the ancient knowledge weakens because of errors in transmission. That is why it is considered most important to preserve it in its original form without making any changes.

All this leads to the fact that predictions in this world do not come true. But no one admits this, and it is not commonly remembered. Here, for example, Philip Tetlock (who lives in another world) asked 284 experts in politics and economics (from this world) to give their predictions in their subject areas. 82,000 predictions. The result was worse than if they had given equal probabilities for all event outcomes... 

Optimization Islands

Don't be afraid of not knowing, be afraid of not learning. The motto of the islands.
But there is another strange world. The cult of error rules there. Merchants and alchemists make up the bulk of the population. There mistakes are not hidden, they are considered useful. They are flaunted at special exhibitions, they are written about them in books.

And all because they learned how to extract a valuable resource under the mysterious name of experience. It's very clever. You can get very little experience by looking at someone else's mistake. You get a little more by making your own. But you can't gain experience endlessly by doing the same thing. It is given only once for each mistake. Moreover, if another mistake is similar to the previous one - it will not give you experience. That is why ritual confession of the same mistakes is not considered a reason for pride. 

On the islands of optimization they believe that learning is impossible without mistakes, because if a person does not make them, then he either has already learned everything or is dead. But about the first variant one famous alchemist has aptly said: "Of course, everybody has only one life, and when you make all the mistakes you should make and begin to understand what you should not do, then it comes to an end. 

When one is inexperienced, one makes many mistakes and learns quickly. Here this deserves respect and even a little white envy (because people who have passed this way will never be able to learn so easily). The more a beginner repeats actions, the fewer mistakes he makes, and the learning stops. But if he continues to look for unknown others' mistakes and especially rare fields to make his own, one day he will possess a collection of bumps and bruises worthy of pride. Even a special word was invented for such collectors - experts. 

By the way, on the islands there are competitions in admitting one's mistakes on speed and difficulty (just like in rock climbing). In the first discipline, athletes try as quickly as possible to see when their beliefs disagree with reality and admit it. In the second discipline, they compete on the scale of long-standing mistakes that are the hardest to admit or false beliefs that are the hardest to abandon.

Ancient knowledge is considered commonplace there. Even if knowledge was once fuller than it is now (though the islands don't believe this), modern knowledge is bound to catch up with it. After all, they are growing, and the ancient knowledge remains in the same volume. And no matter how slowly the knowledge is developing today, the moment will definitely come when it will reach the level of the ancients. However, judging by the fact that the predictions on the islands come true much more often today than in the ancient times, that moment has long passed. Another alchemist on this subject once said: "Alchemy is any discipline in which the fool of this generation can exceed the threshold reached by the genius of the previous generation."

P.s. The text is a translation using a neural network. Unfortunately, I do not have the right level of English. I will be glad to have some corrections and comments.


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comment by tay · 2023-05-01T23:06:10.572Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

a collection of "rakes" worthy of pride

In the spirit of the postscriptum: I do not think "rakes" work in English the intended way (the word just denotes the literal rakes). Maybe "a collection of bumps and bruises worthy of pride"?

Replies from: bayesyatina
comment by bayesyatina · 2023-06-26T03:31:40.027Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you, I did so