the fat baker principle

by faint reminder1 min read19th Apr 20213 comments


World Optimization


"wait am I responsible for the pareto depth thing"  
"Yes." t. Jollybard  
essay theme:

The self is the landlord of the mind

Beliefs should pay rent in anticipated experience.  
Everyone knows this by now, we've already turned out the pockets of the laziest and most impoverished ideas,  
the freeloaders in this informational class struggle have been evicted long ago.  
If we're the land barons of our own minds, why stop at just a little power?  
Taking this idea further, preferences should pay rent just as much as beliefs.  
But what can a preference 'pay'?  

The Fat Baker Principle

There are different competing constructions for the 'fat baker'. Naturally, I prefer mine.  
One could go:"Never trust a thin baker."  
Another: "it's way easier to become good at something if you actually enjoy what you make"  
Finally: "how can you say you even like bread if you can't make a decent loafa?"  

To put it another way, preferences should pay rent in changed behavior.  
If you really like manga, maybe you should have internalized a model that can split out good manga from bad.  
If you really, really, really like manga, maybe you should have internalized a model that's most of the way to synthesizing new manga.


This is not only a virtue-deontology ethics  
("you should make things yourself if you like them enough to fling critique")  
but a rudimentary system of personality-level course correction against flights of fancy.  

If you find yourself liking something, do you find yourself wanting to curate examples of work, find other creatives, sketch out the bones of your own work?  
Do you find yourself "liking" parasocial relationships of engagement and consumption with content-creators, luminaries, or "communities" instead?  
If you can only like your likes at arms length, mediated through others and not your own hands, you might not like them as much as you think you do.


3 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 9:56 PM
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how can you say you even like bread if you can't make a decent loafa?

I've come across this idea before from the culture, and I agree that there's certainly some wisdom in it. But I'd caution that accepting it fully as it is could easily lead to a situation where we become frustrated comparing ourselves to the imagined ideal of people who are good at everything they find enjoyable. Moreover, although I read your intent as empowerment, this comes dangerously close to gatekeeping. Watch what happens if we try to generalize, changing the sentiment to, "how can you say you even like sci-fi if you can't write a decent story?"

I may be prevented from ever becoming competent at a task whose product I enjoy as a result of many factors that are (to various degrees) not within my power to control. Off the top of my head:

  • My previous skillsets may be inadequate to prepare me to learn this new skill. This may not be obvious in any way.
  • This particular skill may be sufficiently complex that it requires fairly intensive hands-on teaching to transmit effectively, and no teachers are available.
  • My current circumstances may prevent me from investing the time, or the material or cognitive resources required to learn a new skill.
  • My enjoyment of a product does not necessarily translate to an enjoyment of the process that creates it.
  • The opposite of that last is also possible, that I love the process but have no need at all for the product. Maybe this leads me to decide that I have better things to do with my time and money.
  • Many activities require a partner (or at least work much better in pairs or groups); sometimes partners are not to be had for whatever reason.
  • The bar of entry could be particularly high for my demographic.
  • I may have physical limitations that prevent me from developing the necessary skills.

You could respond that all these sound like excuses: I could discover and learn the prerequisites, look harder for teachers, and scrape together the cash; but that level of investment is predicated on the original idea that liking a thing means I should or must be good at doing the thing. I can see a lot of needless suffering arising from that idea.

I'd also argue that enjoyment doesn't necessarily breed discernment.

And after all that, who gets to decide if my bread is, in fact, "good"?

On the other hand, inability alone shouldn't prevent us from sampling the skills related to the things we like, or at least taking in more academic knowledge on closely related topics (if that is, indeed, our interest). Suppose I think that the processes and chemistry of breadmaking are absolutely fascinating, but for whatever reason I just can't turn out a "decent loafa" to save my life. That fact alone shouldn't necessarily stand in the way of my finding out what makes my favorite breads the way they are if I am so inclined! And maybe my occasional-but-consistently-failed attempts at breadmaking can add to my appreciation of the craft and my respect for those who do it well.

Everyone has fascinations and pleasures, but only a limited time alive to indulge in them.
If you know that you can expect to grow in potential, capability, power in almost any area of life if you set your attentions to it, you must be left with the problem of "what do I intend to make of myself?".
This is a very serious question with very serious implications😅

If you're a person who wanders, uncertain what project deserves the most attention and resources next, maybe you can use "gatekeeping" as a tool to sharpen your mind.
If you feel lost, alone, and tribeless, maybe "gatekeeping" is a silly or counterproductive diversion for you, and ought to be cast away unused.

A priori, it is impossible to decide what advice to give what person, no matter how perfectly generalizable any piece of advice might seem to be.  
If you ask yourself "if I like scifi so much, why haven't I written a decent story outline yet?", the most constructive and perhaps rational response may be "perhaps I should begin writing, today".
Questions that may lead to unpleasant or counterproductive answers in the minds of some might only bring delight and motivation to the minds of others.

In this spirit, I hope only to offer a motivational system to nascent could-be creators on the precipice of making their first contributions to a culture, who likely need different and perhaps sterner sounding self-criticism than other people in different stages of life development.

I hope only to offer a motivational system to nascent could-be creators on the precipice of making their first contributions to a culture...

But can we do that without making it into a question of identity? I expect you'll find it far more effective to simply advise that someone might look at what they enjoy consuming for the possibility of a new creative endeavor. The approach you suggested is likely to raise a lot of defensiveness.