Look, a single quote like this is never going to prove, to the satisfaction of the sceptical, a controversial thesis. But whole sections of the book are dedicated to arguing in favour of what Thiel calls the "determinate" viewpoint (that what matters is vision, planning and execution, and "secrets") and against the "indeterminate" viewpoint (it's all social context, luck, insurance, EMH). See for example this lecture in the series on which the book was based. It's possible Thiel goes too far in some instances, but the point he's making here, that people heavily underrate planning and heavily overrate chance is clearly true.

Why put the quote here, if it is so short it can only serve to reaffirm people's preexisting beliefs? I feel like rationality quotes should not be about echoing political claims, especially contentious ones. Instead, it should be about providing clearly sensible advice for people. Thiel's quote is not only debatable, but also clearly targeted at a political group - the Baby Boomers. So it seems to violate most of the supposed norms of this website to me.

I don't strongly disagree with the quote's claim so much as I just see no reason to believe it is true. You say the truth of the argument is obvious, but it's genuinely not obvious to me. I think you've bitten the mind projection fallacy here, it seems obvious to you because you have priors other people do not share.

Since you have challenged me to make an argument, I'll point out that people who are born in third world countries are all but guaranteed to remain in poverty for all their lives. Even if it were somehow possible to improve the planning capabilities of all people in the third world simultaneously, I don't think this situation would change. The reason for third-world poverty is not that people make bad plans, it's that they have few opportunities to plan to achieve. When societies' coordination mechanisms are broken, it's not individual planning that is important.

I agree planning is underrated in general, in countries like the US. But I don't think it's a major and ironic flaw of the Baby Boomers or anything like that. That sort of grandiose claim is way out of proportion to whatever evidence might exist on this question. All generations have problems with planning, irony is not important to truth-finding, other problems are much more significant.

You seem to want to claim that Thiel's words should just be interpreted metaphorically, that their overall idea is okay even if the specifics of what he said aren't, but that smacks loudly of rationalization to me. And even using your charitable standards, I still find myself finding that quote inadequate.

I understand Thiel gives people on this website money, but I hope that's not influencing anyone's opinion here. His ideas should get evaluated on the same basis as anyone else's. If not, disgusting.

If you have a substantive counterargument to make, I'd like to hear it. But your drive-by insults aren't helpful.

This is not how burden of proof works. Even brief quotes need to have a little oomph to them before we presume in their favor.

You're acting as though I'm being rude or mean. But I was not. I don't know how to persuade you of my innocence in this except to point out you've made unjustified assumptions. Characterizing my comment as an "insult" is unwarranted. What evidence is there that I'm being rude, except that I disagreed with your quote? You mention the length of my comment, but that's poor evidence for the idea I have a rude attitude. It's possible to make short but useful objections to ideas, and many other factors than niceness go into comment length.

I do think it's extremely rude of you to accuse me of rudeness without good cause. I feel like you're just being hurtful because you're on the defensive, like you're taking my criticism of the quote you provided personally in a way that you shouldn't be. But since you've chosen to interpret me as making personal insults, I have nothing to lose by actually doing so now. You are a fucking moron, holy shit.

Indefinite attitudes to the future explain what’s most dysfunctional in our world today. Process trumps substance: when people lack concrete plans to carry out, they use formal rules to assemble a portfolio of various options. This describes Americans today. In middle school, we’re encouraged to start hoarding “extracurricular activities.” In high school, ambitious students compete even harder to appear omnicompetent. By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse résumé to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready—for nothing in particular.

I also disagree with this quote. If the system were this bad, the nation would be in anarchy. Unemployment would be 100% if graduates were this useless. And the connection between planning and the usefulness or lack thereof of school is weak. School is important at the very least as a form of social signalling, so going to school is a pretty good plan even if Thiel's right to think it doesn't help students learn important things.

To be honest, comments like the one you just made are what I think are killing this website. You suck.

Rationality Quotes Thread June 2015

by Gondolinian 1 min read31st May 2015134 comments


Another month, another rationality quotes thread. The rules are:

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.
  • Provide sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the place where you read the quote, or its original source if available. Do not quote with only a name.