Chad Perrin: SOB

18 July 2009

10 questions, and the secret of success

Filed under: Cognition,Geek,Profession — apotheon @ 11:18
  1. Do any programmers do the “sagging pants” thing?

  2. Did any of Obama’s clove-smoking supporters notice he signed a bill into law that would effectively outlaw clove cigarettes?

  3. Is coming in second out of two better or worse than coming in third out of four?

  4. Is it really possible to be “too tired to sleep”?

  5. Does the human mind adapt well enough that the Technological Singularity will never happen because such a Singularity assumes things are happening too fast for us to keep up?

  6. Is there any reason I shouldn’t use an R6RS implementation while going through SICP 2nd Ed, instead of R5RS?

  7. Is it more important for me to get a ThinkPad X-series tablet laptop or a motorcycle?

  8. Is going to the movies and watching fictional TV series a complete waste of time that should be phased out of life?

  9. Is there a good way to convince someone, quickly and sustainably, of a contradiction in his or her thinking?

  10. Is there any point at all in trying to subvert the dominant paradigm?


I’ve come to the conclusion that, when figuring out whether one is capable of being financially successful in a stable, sustainable manner, one must have any three of the following traits:

  • smart

  • skilled

  • the ethical sensibilities of a shark (e.g., be a salesman at heart)

  • a Bachelor’s degree or better

  • the devil’s luck

  • kick-ass connections

8 Comments

    1. Sometimes it works.
    2. Only if you can appeal to an assumption that they hold even more firmly.
    3. Fiction often embodies truth, but much of what passes for fiction these days is drivel.
    4. That depends on what is important to you, and you alone.
    5. I have no idea.
    6. We may already be there.
    7. I’ve never been there, but I guess it is possible.
    8. Are the two contests equivalent? What is the value in the outcome of either?
    9. Probably not.
    10. Not in my experience. Programmers with sagging pants probably have dangling pointers.

    Comment by Chip Camden — 19 July 2009 @ 12:23

  1. Argh — I numbered by responses in descending order, and WordPress renumbered them in ascending order. So please mentally apply (1..10).to_a.map! {|n| 11-n }

    Comment by Chip Camden — 19 July 2009 @ 12:26

  2. Your numbers were turned into an XHTML ordered list, which (thanks to the W3C) can only be numbered in increasing order, starting at 1.

    Only if you can appeal to an assumption that they hold even more firmly.

    Okay, so . . . what is a good way to convince someone, quickly and sustainably, of a contradiction in his or her thinking, assuming he or she holds another assumption more firmly? Clearly it would involve setting up a strictly dichotomous choice between the firmer assumption and the notion we’re trying to undermine, but that doesn’t address stuff like how we find appropriate, more firmly entrenched assumptions, and how they should be presented to have the desired effect.

    In practice, I find that it’s usually almost impossible to achieve these steps along the way to disabuse people of mutually contradictory notions.

    That depends on what is important to you, and you alone.

    Hah — the easy answer. Of course, I didn’t provide anywhere near all the appropriate context for the question, so that’s probably the best answer I can expect.

    We may already be there.

    That sounds like “Yes, the human mind adapts well enough that there’ll never really be a Singularity, since we’ll never reach a breaking point.”

    Are the two contests equivalent? What is the value in the outcome of either?

    The question was inspired by the fact that a friend of mine came in second out of two in a particular class of figure skating competition.

    Probably not.

    That seems likely.

    Comment by apotheon — 19 July 2009 @ 12:41

  3. Second out of two lacks significant data — it’s almost best, and it’s also worst. A larger sampling is required.

    I think that we as a species accept only what we can process. Sometimes it seems like we take on more, but really we’re just a bit more close to our limit than makes us comfortable.

    Often it isn’t possible to draw the requisite dichotomy, and even if you do they’ll often wiggle out of it via some spiteful piece of sophistry. But occasionally — very rarely, really — you can turn on a light bulb for someone who was almost ready to find out that truth on their own.

    Comment by Chip Camden — 19 July 2009 @ 12:50

  4. Often it isn’t possible to draw the requisite dichotomy, and even if you do they’ll often wiggle out of it via some spiteful piece of sophistry. But occasionally — very rarely, really — you can turn on a light bulb for someone who was almost ready to find out that truth on their own.

    That has been my experience. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of it.

    Most of the time, when I see the lightbulb start to glow, I don’t get much beyond that. There just isn’t a lot of opportunity to follow up, and see how things work out afterward. For some reason, it’s a lot more difficult to have a reasonable discussion, face-to-face, with someone I know in person, than it is to have a reasonable discussion with someone I’ve never met, a faceless stranger on the Internet. It seems like the less one has to directly confront a person, the more likely it is that one will have the opportunity to present a compelling argument.

    As a result of that, seeing the lightbulb go on seems to happen most often with people I’ll never see again, or at least won’t see again in a context that allows me to follow up on how well the ephinay “took”.

    Probably about 50% of the time with in-person friends, though, when I see the lightbulb start glowing, I get it juiced up enough so it’s shining brightly — then, for some reason, it goes black and the person just doesn’t want to discuss it. The refusal to discuss it is obvious: the person knows there’s no reasonable explanation for the change in direction, and doesn’t want to have to confront his or her logical inconsistencies. It’s the dramatic, apparently instantaneous backsliding that mystifies me.

    A friend of mine finally came to the conclusion that no, voting for Obama won’t actually fix anything. It happened when I pointed out that he did a 180 degree turn-around on his promise to oppose any FISA renewal legislation that granted civil legal immunity to telcos for participating in illegal wiretapping by federal agencies. My friend’s ire and dismay at this turn of events was palpable, and he then basically said he rated Obama no better than McCain or Bush, and wouldn’t vote for either Obama or McCain.

    Then . . . he voted for Obama. Now, politics is this uncomfortable zone of no discussion with him. He won’t bring it up, and frankly, I don’t know that there’s any point in me bringing it up. I have mentioned some stuff related to politics a couple of times, and he basically just shuts down the conversation, acknowledging that the government sucks, that Obama’s doing bad things totally unworthy of the votes he got, but absolutely refusing to engage the conversation. It feels like, in the process of getting someone to abandon the inherent contradiction of voting for a “lesser evil” temporarily, I’ve somehow managed to armor him against every coming to such a change of heart permanently. It’s like the very act of trying to get people to think about what they’re doing is counterproductive — except that, given the mainstream pressures that surround people, one can’t really be counterproductive since leaving others to their own devices is prone to exactly the same results in the long run.

    I’m basically at the point of giving up on ever trying to open anyone’s eyes to anything. It’s futile. Nothing changes. Nobody wants to think.

    Comment by apotheon — 19 July 2009 @ 01:59

  5. The problem, I think, is that people don’t want to face internal inconsistencies that they think they can do nothing about — or they don’t want to do anything about them. Most people think and act emotionally, and only use reason as a justification in retrospect. Removing that crutch doesn’t change their mind, it just makes them unable to talk about it.

    Comment by Chip Camden — 19 July 2009 @ 02:14

  6. I never responded to your six factors of success. For me, #5 has been foremost. But I think we must define that in terms of having a bit of instinct to jump on the right opportunities, but balancing that with an ability to stick with something until you become the authority on it.

    Comment by Chip Camden — 19 July 2009 @ 02:28

  7. Removing that crutch doesn’t change their mind, it just makes them unable to talk about it.

    That’s both brilliantly insightful and crushingly discouraging.

    For me, #5 has been foremost.

    Luck has been a primary factor in every bit of notable financial success I’ve had. That is, of course, because at best I only really qualify for two of the other criteria for success, generally speaking, so without luck I’m screwed.

    an ability to stick with something until you become the authority on it.

    That is, in some respects, a combination of the smarts and skills criteria — though there are other factors involved.

    Comment by apotheon — 19 July 2009 @ 03:28

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