On this page, I want to define, as far as possible, my philosophy or view on life in some (core) concepts. This probably is incomplete and something that will change over time (see changelog below). Yet still, I think it’s good to get a better grip on these concepts to be better able to express why I’m thinking what (and taking actions based on this).
Lastly, I know that in most actions during our lives we don’t think this way. We don’t reason from first principles or weigh actions based on expected utility. We make decisions based on gut feelings, heuristics, experience.
Still, with time I think that we/I may be able to make more decisions based on these concepts. And many decisions are those that have an influence on a longer time horizon (e.g. not eating meat).
One final reason for making this page is the following from Karl Popper (video): “State your theses clearly so they can be refuted.” Said as a critique on philosophers that hide behind definitions, difficult language, and theory (not reality).
How to Think
This is a theory on how knowledge grows. Knowledge is tentative solutions to problems (so no definitive ‘truth’). It grows through correcting errors.
This is contrasted with reasoning by induction (general principles from specific observations).
This is mostly based on ‘Conjectures and Refutations‘ by Karl Popper. He would call it fallibilism (we can’t know what is true, but our theories can get closer). And the books by David Deutsch and subsequent analysis by Brett Hall.
This means that knowledge grows by making conjectures (that we creatively make up) and then test them (refutations). The one with the least amount of holes is our current best understanding of the world (e.g. the theory of relativity).
Knowledge (thus) grows cumulatively. It builds on the earlier theories, and improves them. This is gradual (not revolutionary).
Also see this twitter thread explaining it (better).
Always test knowledge. Ask why. Dogma or arguments from authority don’t count.
And even be sceptical of your own experiences. Your memory is bad (link?) and our brains are made to recognise danger on the Savanna, not to be rational. I.e. if you see a ghost, it was there in your brain, but Casper was not floating there.
Update your beliefs based on conditional probability. This is especially useful (and counter intuitive) when thinking about test outcomes and (false) positives/negatives. (UPDATE THIS TO BE BETTER XD)
See this amazing intro sequence.
Our Maps are Only Approximations
- universe is flat, maps have levels
Nothing Surprising Ever Happened
Yes, I have the ability to do what I desire. But no, I don’t have the ability to choose what I desire.
This doesn’t take away my responsibility (at the human level).
The Status Quo is bad
How we’ve been doing things is probably not the optimal way. We should be more eager to change/update based on new information.
There is something to be said for conservatism (e.g. in complex systems), but more probably we should reason from first principles and do what comes out on top.
- tbd, Musk
How to Care
We should reduce suffering (negative utilitarianism). Which is much more urgent/easier/uncontroversial than maximising happiness.
This can be done on the cheap. Some interventions are much more effective than others. So give money to those interventions.
See my much longer page on Effective Altruism here.
Compassion > Empathy
We can put ourselves in the shoes of someone else (empathy). We care, and should care, about the people around us. But empathy is a spotlight.
We should care not based on geography, skin colour, or cuteness. We should care without these qualifiers, we should be compassionate (feel for others, not feel with others).
Note: See ‘Against Empathy‘ by Paul Bloom for more, and the Wikipedia definition of compassion (I think) is more in line with how I understand empathy (feeling with).
Life is Getting Better
We Shouldn’t Eat Animals
- Part of EA maybe
- Ethical (argument why sentient)
- Link to longer post
- We can’t do it right
How the Universe Works
- Dawkins en Dennett
There is No Universal Time
We Live in an Always Splitting Multiverse
- End of RAIZ
How the World Works
- We all don’t know what is going on
- no conspiracy/cabal
- not like evolution (we look forward) but close to it
The Near Future
- Gene editing
- Ageing done
- AI (timelines), which may kill us all
- Killing animals is bad
- Mars and beyond (asteroid mining, Deutsch matter in space)
- We Learn facts, not thinking (jobs will change (more)?)
- Automation will take many jobs (uncertain how much will come back, and you need schooling for that)
How Humans Work
- We do things because others do them (so be skeptical of that)
This page was made in late August 2020 for the first time. I will update the change log when I significantly update a concept, or add a new concept.