You use math as an example, but that's highly focused on System 2 learning. That suggests that you have false assumptions about what CFAR is trying to teach.

There are many subjects where written instructions are much less valuable than instruction that includes direct practice: circling, karate, meditation, dancing, etc. Most of those analogies are fairly imperfect, and some have partially useful written instructions (in the case of meditation, the written version might have lagged in-person instruction by many centuries). Circling is the example that I'd consider most apt, but it won't mean much to people who haven't taken a good circling workshop.

A different analogy, which more emphasizes the costs of false assumptions: people often imagine that economics teaches something like how to run a good business or how to predict the stock market, because there isn't any slot in their worldview for what a good economics course actually teaches. There are plenty of mediocre executive summaries of economics, which fail to convey to most people that economics requires a pervasive worldview shift (integrating utilitarianism, empiricism about preferences, and some counterintuitive empirical patterns).

The CFAR handbook is more like the syllabus for an economics course than it is like an economics textbook, and a syllabus is useless (possibly harmful) for teaching economics to people who have bad assumptions about what kind of questions economics answers. (This analogy is imperfect because economics textbooks have been written, unlike a CFAR textbook.)

Maybe CFAR is making a mistake, but it appears that the people who seem most confident about that usually seem to be confused about what it is that CFAR is trying to teach.

Reading the sequences, or reading about the reversal test, are unlikely to have much relevance to what CFAR teaches. Just be careful not to imagine that they're good examples of what CFAR is about.

Open Thread July 2019

by ryan_b 1 min read3rd Jul 201992 comments


If it’s worth saying, but not worth its own post, you can put it here.

Also, if you are new to LessWrong and want to introduce yourself, this is the place to do it. Personal stories, anecdotes, or just general comments on how you found us and what you hope to get from the site and community are welcome. If you want to explore the community more, I recommend reading the Library, checking recent Curated posts, and seeing if there are any meetups in your area.

The Open Thread sequence is here.