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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on Guessing the Teacher's Password - Less Wrong

62 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 August 2007 03:40AM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 August 2007 04:41:27PM 1 point [-]

Okay, but there's one innocent interpretation even here. People learn language, and when we learn language we copy the verbal behavior of other people.

This is not innocent! Just because everyone does it, doesn't make it okay. You can't trust your instincts! Humanity stayed stuck in a thirty-thousand-year trap because of this - because we took everything confusing, and found we could imitate verbal behaviors about it just as well as we could imitate verbal behaviors about anything else.

Too many trick questions, and students will never learn the laws of thermodynamics, as they spend their brainpower trying to outwit the teacher.

Need they have such limited brainpower? Next time, use a special material with the insulator nearer the radiator.

You touch into a topic that is all too common in the first half, and that is the problem of definitions.

What do you mean by "first half"? But in any case, yes.

Richard Feynman has made a closely related point in the opening chapter of "Surely you're joking Mr.Feynman"

Good point. I changed "arglebargle" to "wakalixes" in the text.

Comment author: simplyeric 14 March 2010 04:04:31PM *  6 points [-]

"Okay, but there's one innocent interpretation even here. People learn language, and when we learn language we copy the verbal behavior of other people.

This is not innocent! Just because everyone does it, doesn't make it okay. You can't trust your instincts! ...."

We have to be careful about the notion of "can't trust your instincts." There is a fundamental process of language aquisition I think we'd be hard pressed to deny. This is similar to learning about thermodynamics. The first word we know is "mommy" (often, +/-). At this stage, and for a long time, we don't understand what it really means, this concept of "mother" (and many of us never will). How is that different than "conduction"? You have to start somewhere, and necessarily small.

On the other hand, the notion in teaching that you have succeeded if they know the passwords is insidious and lazy. The big password fetish nowadays is standardized tests: if the students test well, then you've succeeded in teaching them well. It's passwords with no follow-up, no synthesis.