Viliam

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Arguments against constructivism (in education)?

Unfortunately, the Wikipedia article doesn't help me understand how exactly this works. The list of methods -- "tutorials, participatory laboratory classes, discussion, recitation, seminars, workshops, observation, active learning, practica, or internships" -- seems to contain pretty much everything.

Trying to reverse-engineer from the sections on effectiveness and criticism:

  • students are divided into groups based on their skill level, so all students in the same group have similar skill level;
  • different groups are taught at different speed;
  • the groups are small;
  • the teaching "follows a script";
  • there is a lot of repetition.

That... kinda sounds to me like traditional teaching, only with smaller groups and students divided by skill level, which seems like an obvious improvement (just don't tell anyone who has "inclusion" as an applause light). The best results are for students with learning disabilities, where the obvious part is that of course it helps if they can proceed at their own speed, but the non-obvious part is that they seem to follow the same script (only slower) and it works great.

It also seems like a lot of secret sauce is in how exactly the scripts are prepared. It sounds plausible that having the best teachers prepare the script, and the others follow it, could be an improvement over each teacher trying their own methods. (The obvious next question is whether a teacher who merely follows a script couldn't be replaced with a computer.)

most existing teachers hate teaching that way

Well, it is like mental Taylorism, so I would probably hate such job, too. The only fun part in this system is designing the scripts. Perhaps schools using this system should hire much less qualified teachers. I mean, following the script should not require university education, should it? Also it feels like a "heads I win, tails you lose" proposition for the teacher: if students learn well, praise goes to the system, if students fail, blame goes to the teacher (the Wikipedia article says the teachers are evaluated based on measurable student learning).

None of this is meant as an argument against the system, if it delivers good results (some studies say yes; at least one says no). But the system would require hiring a different kind of person as a teacher (someone who doesn't mind just following the script), and a different kind of education for such teachers (why teach them all the things they will not be allowed to use anyway).

I wonder how, if at all, constructivism could be made to work with it

Based on the description in Wikipedia, it is not clear how much the specific scripts help create mental models. Perhaps they already do. A constructivist would probably disagree with giving a ready-made model, but it is also an improvement over memorizing passwords.

Matthew Barnett's Shortform

I have a hope that with more practice, this gets better.

Not just practice, but also noticing what other people do differently. For example, I often write long texts, which some people say is already a mistake. But even a long text can be made more legible if it contains  section headers and pictures. Both of them break the visual monotonicity of the text wall. This is why section headers are useful even if they are literally: "1", "2", "3". In some sense, pictures are even better, because too many headers create another layer of monotonicity, which a few unique pictures do not. Which again suggests that having 1 photo, 1 graph, and 1 diagram is better than having 3 photos. I would say, write the text first, then think about which parts can be made clearer by adding a picture.

There is some advice on writing, by Stephen King, or by Scott Alexander.

If you post a garbage, let it be. Write more articles, and perhaps at the end of a year (or a decade) make a list "my best posts" which will not include the garbage.

BTW, whatever you do, you will get some negative response. Your posts on LW are upvoted, so I assume they are not too bad.

Also, writing can be imbalanced. Even for people who only write great texts, some of them are more great and some of them are less great than the others. But if they deleted the worst one, guess what, now some other articles is the worst one... and if you continue this way, you will stop with one or zero articles.

Biotech to make humans afraid of AI

Probably not, but generally supporting antivaxers might achieve this as a side effect.

Actually, maybe we could make a drug that makes people afraid of drugs... for example, design a drug that is extremely useful, but also extremely painful... so the governments will force it on people, and most of them will decide "I am not taking a medicine ever again".

MikkW's Shortform

I see you tabooed "taboo".

Indeed, this is the right approach to LW lingo... only, sometimes it expands the words into long descriptions.

Willa's Shortform

This is very uncharitable. For many people, living forever is simply not a realistic option. Heck, many rationalists give it a chance around 10%, and that already involves a lot of belief in progress, which many people don't have.

Also, people are not automatically strategic. For example, religious people believe that sin can bring them eternity in hell, and they still keep sinning.

Willa's Shortform

For the religious ones, perhaps a good frame would be "young for 1000 years", so that they can still enjoy the afterlife. More time to do the earthly stuff, and the afterlife is supposed to be infinite anyway.

Population... the best case would be something like "people are young forever, but they can only have kids during the first few decades". Anyway, with exponential growth we would run out of resources even without immortality. And if there is ever a law against exponential growth, like "only 2 kids per a pair of adults", then immortality would mean a linearly growing population, which should be doable somehow. But yeah, this is difficult to explain, and requires some faith in either space travel or linear increases in food production.

Can someone help me understand the arrow of time?
Answer by ViliamJun 16, 202110

When you learned that apples are composed of atoms, did you also conclude that apples are just an illusion, so there is no point in eating them?

I guess the answer here is that apples are still real on a macroscopic level, and everything you learned about them remains true. On a microscopic level, there are just configurations of particles. These particles, in some configurations, create what we perceive as an apple.

To understand the composition of the apple, you have to divide it into smaller parts. Those smaller parts are not apples.

Now apply the same reasoning to time.

For all the usual purposes, time is real. If you want to understand "how the time was built", you have to find the underlying mechanism, and whatever that mechanism might be, it is not time. (Because, generally, the explanation for X is not X. Otherwise we would call it circular logic.)

For example, we could model time (ignoring quantum physics) as a set of "possible moments", which are connected by arrows according to the laws of physics. In this model, the "flow of time" would kinda mean moving your finger along the arrows, starting from an arbitrary point, and watching how the situation evolves... except that from your perspective, nothing really evolves, all those possible moments are frozen, it's just the movement of your finger that points at different moments.

The obvious question in this model is: given that the laws of physics are reversible on small scale, why do these moments "contain information" about their past, but not about their future? We could just as easily move the finger in the opposite direction.

One problem with this model is that it ignores quantum physics. If you add it to the model, you have multiple arrows going from one moment into the future. Moving your finger along the arrows means you need to choose randomly (the Copenhagen interpretation) or you need many fingers (the Many Worlds interpretation). This seems to give some answer: the past is unambiguous, the future is not.

Only, this is still not a correct model of quantum physics. In quantum physics we don't really have one state evolving into a collection of states, but rather a collection of states (with a complex amplitude each) evolving into a different collection of states (with a complex amplitude each). So in the metaphor of the finger moving between the moments, each "moment" would actually refer to something quite complex. And it would get even more complicated if we tried to add relativity to this model (what is a "moment" if there is no absolute time frame?).

Also, this model still feels wrong to me. If we imagine the set of all "possible moments" (possible configurations of particles in the universe), and then select anthropically for those where humans exist... then our universe still seems much more regular than a random selection of these moments. (People like to talk about Boltzmann brains, but I haven't heard a good explanation why a Boltzmann brain remembering an orderly past should be more likely than a Boltzmann brain remembering a chaotic past; it should actually be the other way round, isn't it?) Which means I am still fundamentally wrong about something... not sure what exactly.

Anyway, my point is that instead of calling time an "illusion", it would be proper to talk about time being composed of something that is not-time. (I don't know what that something might be, and I have no idea whether anyone does, but the simple models I have heard about are all wrong.) The fact that time is composed of something doesn't make it less real, just like apple being composed of atoms isn't less of an apple.

The psychological arrow seems to be mostly about memory (we remember the past, not the future), which is about information (human memory is just another information storage medium), which I guess is related to quantum entanglement and possibly some other things (such as our universe containing lots of useful energy). But this is not specifically about humans; the iron also rusts only in one direction of time.

Viliam's Shortform

I would like to see a page like TalkOrigins, but about IQ. So that any time someone confused but generally trying to argue in good faith posts something like "but wasn't the idea of intelligence disproved scientifically?" or "intelligence is a real thing, but IQ is not" or "IQ is just an ability to solve IQ tests" or "but Taleb's article/tweet has completely demolished the IQ pseudoscience" or one of the many other versions... I could just post this link. Because I am tired of trying to explain, and the memes are going to stay here for a foreseeable future.

Willa's Shortform

On average, as you grow older, your health gets worse. I suspect that many people make an interpolation of this process, and their idea of a 1000 years old person is kind of a zombie in a wheelchair screaming in pain. Arguably, a fate worse than death. (And if you are religious, or unable to talk, then choosing death is not even an option here.) So perhaps it would be better to talk about "more decades of youth" rather than extension of life-as-we-know-it.

Another possible fear is of waking up in a bad future. (Which again may be worse than death, and suicide may not be an option.) I have no idea what are the actual probabilities here.

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