A Concrete Multi-Step Variant of Double Crux I Have Used Successfully

bydeluks9171y15th Mar 20184 comments


=== Intro

Raymond Arnold has written about the failure of many discussions to result in clear progress recognizable by both sides. In general, the ideas around double crux are useful but the technique can be under-specified (especially for people who have not been to CFAR). Additionally, progress can be difficult to achieve until participants have a good understanding of the other person’s relevant mental models.

=== Step by Step Instructions

1- Both people independently write down their positions and which arguments and pieces of evidence they find the most convincing. Split this into claims/cruxes. Each claim should have a bullet point list of reasoning. If possible, give an estimate of how convinced you are by this claim. These claims should be sufficiently connected with your overall model, such that if you felt the claim was actually false you would update your views a substantial amount. Admittedly lists of claims is not a great model of how people think, but it’s helpful to try to make your views ‘cruxy’.

2 - Both people exchange write ups.

3 - After reading the other person’s write up, the participants agree on a list of ~5 topics to discuss in more detail. You want to choose topics which can be fruitfully discussed in ten to twenty minutes. This can be done via a short email exchange or via discord/irc/etc.

4 - The two people discuss the above list of topics for 1-2 hours. The main goals are to understand the confusing parts of your opponent’s argument and resolve contentious points. However, once it becomes clear a contentious point is hard to resolve, move on for now. You only have 1-2 hours; don’t waste them arguing what ‘true’ means, find fertile ground. This needs to be done in person or via real time chat; email will not work.

5 - Try to find explicit points of agreement. Find a list of non-trivial points that both people can explicitly endorse. For example myself and Jacob ‘putanumonit’ Falkovich double cruxed about which people would benefit from a CFAR workshop. In the end we agreed the following list of factors were predictive:

-- You find the CFAR teachers (and to a lesser degree alumni) impressive and would like to be more like them in some important ways

-- You would have a good culture fit among CFAR attendees

-- You find rationality techniques relatively cool even if you have trouble doing them consistently

-- Some sense that you might benefit from an attitude that 'problems are solvable'

The fourth factor relies on the first three since these make it much more likely CFAR will successfully convince you of the benefits of this mindset

6 - Make a list of hard to resolve cruxes/disagreements that came up in step 4. For each crux, discuss what plausible evidence would cause you to update, even if the update would not be huge.

=== Conditions for the Technique To Work:

1 - You need to respect each other intellectually and trust the other person to ‘actually change their mind’ .

2 - Both people need to feel safe to express their actual reasons and beliefs.

3 - Both people need to have thought about the issue in some depth. If one or both participants are new to the topic than a different technique is likely to be more productive.

4 - It’s good if both people feel somewhat surprised the other person doesn’t already agree with them (at least in outline). A more extreme level of surprise might suggest too much inferential distance.

5 - It’s important to find fruitful territory to explore with your partner, but it’s easy to get stuck on a prickly crux for 2 hours and make no progress.