20 Rules

I found this in the drafts folder so decided to publish as-is. A list of 20 rules to live by for the fledgling rationalist.

Well, they’re more like guidelines

1) Question everything – but question what you agree with more. What you don’t agree with has evidently been questioned enough.

2) Don’t hero worship. In reality they’re no better than you, and they’ll disappoint you on at least one thing eventually.

3) Hold your allies to a higher standard than your opponents. They don’t deserve the echo chamber.

4) Revise all of your values and commitments at least every six months. If you’re not embarrassed by your past self, you haven’t evolved as a person.

5) Know that smart people are a myth. There are two kinds of people: idiots, and idiots who are aware of it and so take steps to mitigate the impact of their idiocy. Some in the second category even succeed.

6) E-Prime is (quasi-intentional irony) your troubleshooting friend, but not a way of life. It can help you see where you’ve masked your opinion as a fact.

7) Not believing in God doesn’t automatically make you bright. Some of the dumbest people in the world are the most strident atheists.  Some of the smartest still pray, for whatever reason the reason.

8) Be aware of logic and reason as things. Don’t mistake them for “logic” and “reason” the buzzwords. The latter only get used to find like-minded individuals and silence the unlike-minded.

9) Learn to be confidently tentative. You can’t be absolutely sure of anything, but you can aim to be absolutely sure of something to an absolutely sure measure of error.

10) Those that try to cross a road by using a laser speedometer, a calculator, and deducing the optimal time to cross from base principles will wait there for hours for the perfect time… and will still probably get run over by a bike that they didn’t see.

11) Don’t laugh at religious ritual – you do silly thinks like turn-it-off-and-on-again, shake dead batteries, press the remote control buttons harder when it doesn’t work, blow on NES cartridges, and press-and-hold the “ON” button on your computer… all while having no idea why those things work or even if they do.

12) It’s the 21st century. Just Fucking Google It.

13) Learn to read at least one form of basic logical notation, even if you’re doing it to show off it means you’ll know more actual logic than most people who use the word “logic”.

14) Citing the dog Latin name for a fallacy doesn’t make it fallacious. Tell us why, and be precise. You don’t need to know its name if you can say why its wrong; while the name doesn’t help you if you can’t.

15) Shun your “in” group when you need to think. Read the stuff written by your “out” group instead.

16) Don’t use identities as a substitute for a personality or belief system. People will fill in the connotations themselves and you’ll spend more time explaining why you’re not like that.

17) Don’t use your subjective tastes as objective judgement. You hating a band has everything to do with you, and nothing to do with the band.

18) Know that you can revise for an IQ test, and that the only thing IQ measures is your ability to take IQ tests. The fact that libertarians score statistically higher on these tests says all you need to know.

19) Pedantry is the last resort of the intellectually insecure. If you can correct someone’s spelling, punctuation and grammar, it means it did its job perfectly fine in the first place.

20) Always do sober what you promise to do drunk – that’ll teach you to shut your mouth. Try to do drunk what you think you do sober, that’ll teach you what your instincts really are. Except drive, obviously.


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