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I want a word that's like "capable" but clearly means the things you have the knowledge or skill to do. I'm clearly not capable of running a hundred miles an hour or catching a bullet in my bare hand. I'm not capable of bench pressing 200lbs either; that's pretty likely in the range of what I could do if I worked out and trained at it for a few years, but right this second I'm not in that kind of shape. In some senses, I'm capable of logging into someone else's LessWrong account- my fingers are physically capable of typing their password- but I don't have the knowledge of what to type.

This comes up in places where a thing is obviously possible to achieve, and wouldn't require, say, the kinds of built up physical changes to my body that lifting 200lbs would require, but I still don't expect to be able to pull it off. If I had someone experienced, who did know how to do it, sitting at my shoulder giving me advice the whole way it would be obviously possible. 

Nevertheless, acting like I'm capable of flying an airplane or resolving a messy divorce or interpreting a blood test if I had to do it right now is going to result in some problems. I'd like to be able to say I'm not able to accomplish that without a bunch of disclaimers that yes, I could learn, or I could follow someone's close directions and manage it, but that's different.

"I can do X" seems to be short for "If I wanted to do X, I would do X." It's a hidden conditional. The ambiguity is the underspecified time. I can do X -- when? Right now? After a few months of training?

Q. "Can you hold the door?" A. "Sure."

That's straightforward.

Q. "Can you play the violin at my wedding next year?" A. "Sure."

Colloquial language would imply not only am I willing and able to do this, I already know how to play the violin. Sometimes, what I want to answer is that I don't know how to play the violin, I'm willing to learn, but you should know I currently don't know.

Which I can say, it just takes more words.

"Achievable goal" or "plausible outcome", maybe?

A bullet point from an unsorted list of complaints I have against the English language. (And I think most languages.)

  • "I think" is an annoying extra three syllables, and should be stuck on the front of almost everything I saw. "[I think] we have apples at home." "[I think] we take a left turn here." This adds a lot of extra clunk to talking properly with rationalists where I want to be careful and precise in my speech. Proposal: That the normal and unmodified sentence assumes the "I think" and you instead prefix "It is a fact" or something similar when you're making a stronger claim.
  • English is liberal and ambiguous with possessives. "My hat" is fine, "my spouse" I guess works but I'd rather not, "my country" seems wrong to me. I have all the decision making authority for the hat, I have next to none about the country. Proposal: that there are different words denoting "ownership of" and "associated with."
  • "Listened to" has an interesting ambiguity in English. Consider the sentence "I listen to the people" or "Me and George don't think you're listening to us." It can mean "heard the words of." I listened to a radio talk show on how to fix a car's broken fan belt. It can mean "done what those words said." I listened to my theatre director's coaching on where to stand during the show. Proposal: Two short phrases which mean one of those two things, and no short phrases that are ambiguous. 
  • "will" is supposedly supposed to be interpreted as a statement of fact, but colloquially isn't especially when it's a contraction. "I'll grab eggs from the store later tonight" is not normally read as a deep and abiding commitment to obtain eggs come hell or high water, but that's sort of what a literal reading of the sentence should mean? Proposal: That the contraction form of "will" indicate an intention or light commitment.

This problem is because most have stopped using the word "shall." 

Usage of ChatGPT/Dall-E I did not think about until I had the idea to try it- in the middle of a tabletop RPG session, pulling out my phone, describing the scene in a couple of quick sentences, and then showing the phone and the resulting picture to the players without breaking my pacing.

Anyway, the current results of music AI make me suspicious the next time I play a bard I might be able to come up with new songs mid session.

When I've tried to do rationality practice, (as distinct from skills practice) a lot of the time what I do is set up toy problems and try to solve them. Essentially this is like trying to learn to ice skate by strapping on skates, wandering onto the ice, and falling over a lot while figuring things out. I try and pay attention to how I'm solving the problem and deliberately try different things (randomly jumping around in thought space instead of just hill climbing) ideally to find things that work better than what I'd been doing. 

A number of my Meetups In A Box follow this pattern. Skill Acquisition is the most blatant, but Calibration Trivia, The Falling Drill, and Puzzle Cycles are doing the same thing. Here's a challenge that's trying to require a particular skill, keep trying and failing and trying and failing and in theory gradually you'll get better. 

One of the important missing pieces is more teaching of the skill. This came to mind when Raemon posted Tuning Your Cognitive Strategies and reminded me of his comment on Puzzle Cycles suggesting that (paraphrasing) he'd be interested in the combination. Going back to the ice skating example, I learned to ice skate in part by watching other people ice skate and with some people who were good at it showing me the motions slowly and then watching me do it and pointing out my mistakes. I haven't posted this variation because I'm not confident I know how to write it in a way that's better than "Read this article. Now do these puzzles. Anything clicking for you?"

Teaching how to think is harder than teaching how to move in some ways, particularly in that it's harder to watch and observe exactly what's going wrong. 

(Tangent: I'm tempted to suggest that a useful skill while learning is verbalizing what's going on in your head and saying it out loud, because that gives a hypothetical teacher a window to spot this kind of thing. Verbalizing what's going on in your head might or might not be useful apart from learning, but having ever taught cognitive subskills (math, card evaluation, programming) getting people to talk through the problem out loud and in detail is helpful for noticing what mistake they're actually making in a way that I could visually see if I was teaching martial arts.)

Teachers are also harder to scale than challenges. I could mail a copy of Zendo to every meetup. I can't mail a CFAR instructor to every meetup. (Yet, growth mindset.) I. . . can hypothetically mail a copy of Tuning Your Cognitive Strategies to every meetup, which tries to walk someone through the skill by written instruction. 

There's something I really want to exist between written instructions on the skills and challenges for the skills. I think instructions and challenges are together greater than the sum of their parts.