Amir Bolous

I do public introspection on my website ( and Twitter (!

Wiki Contributions


Why is teaching hard?

The other day in an interview, when I was trying to explain Poseidon (a web framework that I wrote from scratch,, I found it difficult at exactly "what level of detail" I should communicate.

The challenge is that, the student has a different map of the territory than the teacher. And as we know reality is incredible detailed. Frames are made out of the details you know.

So when you explain something, the challenge becomes,

  1. How best do I determine what level of detail to communicate at?
  2. How do I proactively explain things to slowly move the level of detail closer to the source of truth (i.e. more detailed)?

This really shows why doing something yourself or building something from scratch is SO POWERFUL. Because you develop an intimate relationship with all of the nuances.

This reminds me of how I was taught chemistry in high school. At the beginning we were given an oversimplified model and were told that "when you get to junior year, you'll see why this was wrong."

Come junior year, we were shown the "actually correct model" and then proceeded to understand why the old, simpler model was wrong.

The challenge is that, had we not first learned the simpler model, it would have been an order of magnitude more challenging to grasp the more complicated model.

This is why abstractions are important and communicating at the CORRECT LEVEL OF DETAIL is very important. Too detailed, and the student won't grasp the material. Too simple, and the student will miss important details.

Interesting perspective, I can definitely see the value in that, I actually came across a "midwit" meme with that similar theme. What's the tool you've built that you're most proud of? What's the tool you're built that you use the most often to this day?

Whoops, thanks for the shout, updated!

Talking in this context = saying they are doing/working on things as opposed to everything you just said

This is a great point. I think my takeaway isn't to seek out rejection, especially if that's at an expensive cost of your mental health. It's to not let your fear of rejection stop you in cases where there is an asymmetric upside.

I agree with your definition that it's the result of a random event outside your control (up to an extent) but why are you thinking about this in terms of the negation? Why does doing X or Y reduce the likelihood of being unlucky as opposed to increase the likelihood of being lucky? And if so, why and how are these mutually exclusive?

That's a good point but it's hard to think about in practice. How do we define the opposite of luck? Is it being unlucky - as in bad things happen more regularly to you than others? That's probably not a definition we would care about too much. Is the opposite of luck the absence of luck? What does that mean?

The problem with all of this is that in hindsight, no one can say why things turned out the way they did. Sometimes luck and optionality are on your side (your interview was in a good mood when they were interviewing you, or the traffic light malfunctioned and it saved your car crashing into the truck etc. etc.) and sometimes they're not. The only thing we can really do is IMO a. be humble about this i.e. recognize the importance of luck b. put ourselves in positions where this is more likely to happen than otherwise (by working hard etc.)

Yep I definitely see that, thanks for sharing!

I think the reason situations of problem 2 arise is because of misaligned incentives. When you care more about pleasing some other party, the best action is not necessarily the one that does the most good, but the one that best pleases the other person.

The cost incurred from doing so is then payed by either you (i.e. I pay the price in choosing a restaurant I hate) or society (in the factory example, the water is poisoned because of your choice)

Super awesome that your parenting style actually gives your children agency! Not that I'm a parent, but not belittling or not respecting that children can make informed, rational decisions is something we as a society do all the time and we need to strive to do better:)

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