Good link. I like that Grognor mentions that obviousness is just a matter of perception and people's ideas about what's obvious will vary, so we shouldn't assume other people know "obvious" things. However, I think that it's really important for us to be aware that if you think something is obvious, you stop questioning, and you're then left with what is essentially a first impression - but I don't see Grognor mention that semantic stop sign like effect in the post, nor do I see anything about people using obviousness as a way to falsely support points.

Do you think Grognor would be interested in updating the article to include additional negative effects of obviousness? Then again putting too many points into an article makes articles confusing and less fun to read. Maybe I should write one. Do you know if anyone has written an article yet on obviousness as a meta semantic stop sign, or obviousness as a false supportive argument? If not, I'll do it.

Do you know if anyone has written an article yet on obviousness as a meta semantic stop sign, or obviousness as a false supportive argument? If not, I'll do it.

Not that I could recall.

1gwern7yNo; he's quit LW.

Bad Concepts Repository

by moridinamael 1 min read27th Jun 2013204 comments

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We recently established a successful Useful Concepts Repository.  It got me thinking about all the useless or actively harmful concepts I had carried around for in some cases most of my life before seeing them for what they were.  Then it occurred to me that I probably still have some poisonous concepts lurking in my mind, and I thought creating this thread might be one way to discover what they are.

I'll start us off with one simple example:  The Bohr model of the atom as it is taught in school is a dangerous thing to keep in your head for too long.  I graduated from high school believing that it was basically a correct physical representation of atoms.  (And I went to a *good* high school.)  Some may say that the Bohr model serves a useful role as a lie-to-children to bridge understanding to the true physics, but if so, why do so many adults still think atoms look like concentric circular orbits of electrons around a nucleus?  

There's one hallmark of truly bad concepts: they actively work against correct induction.  Thinking in terms of the Bohr model actively prevents you from understanding molecular bonding and, really, everything about how an atom can serve as a functional piece of a real thing like a protein or a diamond.

Bad concepts don't have to be scientific.  Religion is held to be a pretty harmful concept around here.  There are certain political theories which might qualify, except I expect that one man's harmful political concept is another man's core value system, so as usual we should probably stay away from politics.  But I welcome input as fuzzy as common folk advice you receive that turned out to be really costly.