The Litany of Gendlin

This post was written in Russian mainly because there is no translation of the Litany of Gendlin available for the Russian-speaking crowd. For my English-speaking visitors I highly recommend reading this article by Eliezer Yudkowsky: “Avoiding Your Belief’s Real Weak Points”. You can read it after or instead of my little post here.

Striving for rationality, we must check our beliefs against reality all the time, rejecting and shifting them according to the evidence.

This is absolutely unnatural. The natural reaction of a normal person is the opposite: to protect our beliefs with all we have, rejecting and altering the evidence to fit our beliefs.

The fear is what drives us. The fear of appearing as stupid, light-headed, unreliable person. The fear of acknowledging to ourselves that a large part of our life went down the drain because of some wrong beliefs about the world. The fear of uncertainty, of having no firm ground to stand. Just the raw fear without any reason — the kind of fear fostered by most cults and ideologies in their followers.

Don’t ever forget that your beliefs are only as valuable as they correspond to the reality. If your beliefs don’t match the evidence — throw them away without any fear or regret. These beliefs were garbage anyway.

The Litany of Gendlin really helps sometimes:

What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away.
And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.

Eugene Gendlin

How to disable the new Chrome bookmark dialog

The latest Google Chrome update (42.0) wasn’t particularly pleasant for me. Trying to bookmark a site, instead of the usual interface I got this abomination:
screen-1
Let’s make it go away!

USSR Food Supply

This is a very short version of the essay; full text is available in Russian.

There is an article I’ve read recently that reminded me a conversation I had a while ago with a good acquaintance of mine. He is some 30 years older than me. We talked about the Soviet period and his view of that time was very positive. We couldn’t fail to mention the problem of food availability. This is probably not a hot topic for anyone outside of Russia and ex-USSR, but it is still widely discussed here for some reason.

My thoughts on this (available at length in Russian) are not, probably, worth translating as I think the topic wouldn’t be very interesting for the international audience (feel free to tell me otherwise in the comments). But the main point is that the USSR was experiencing major problems in feeding its citizens for most of its existence and, specifically, in the 60s and 70s, despite that these are often held by USSR proponents as the most successful years of the Soviet reign. This point is supported both by the available statistics (even official Soviet one!) and the anecdotal evidence.

Another point is that most of the positive accounts of the Soviet period are either due to the Rosy retrospection effect, or the result of being in the privileged position in the USSR. There was a fairly large proportion of the USSR population that was privileged over the majority (at least in regard to food availability): inhabitants of Moscow, Saint Petersburg (then Leningrad), closed cities and southern autonomous republics (esp. North Caucasian), the military, KGB servicemen, diplomats and high-ranking scientists etc. I’d estimate that at least 30% of people had these privileges and that explains a relatively high level of denialism of bad living conditions in the USSR.

The acquaintance of mine I mentioned turned out to be a son of KGB officer, by the way. And the article I read is a two-part LiveJournal post (in Russian): Part One, Part Two. The author have spent over three years collecting information from all available sources about the availability of meat to Soviet people.

SSC Gives a Graduation Speech

So with this spirit of questioning assumptions in mind, I want to ask you a question. Today many of you will be completing your education. Sure, some of you are going on to graduate or professional training, but it is clearly the end of an era. Seventeen years, from kindergarten to the present, and I want to ask you:

Is education worth it?

With the author’s permission, I’ve made a Russian translation of “SSC Gives a Graduation Speech” essay by Scott Alexander (Slate Star Codex blog).

If you can read the original article in English, I highly recommend it.

Chrome doesn’t show videos on YouTube [Solution]

TL;DR: If your Google Chrome browser fails to load YouTube videos or loads only some of them, try installing HTTPS Everywhere extension. Worked for me.

The whole thrilling (not really) story for those who just love reading.

Harry Potter

This is a very short version of the review; full text is available in Russian.

A popular Russian blogger and writer Leo Kaganov wrote a hilarious review (in Russian) of the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Due to a large number of cultural references, that review will probably make sense to you only if you’re Russian, or at the very least is very familiar with the Russian culture.

Unsurprisingly, many butts were hurt and many words were wasted. Among these, I found one of the most accurate and short descriptions of the Harry Potter series (translated from Russian):

Three mostly unknown short stories by Stanisław Lem about the nature of mind, artificial intelligence and alternative life forms

When I was a child, I read a few short stories that impressed me a lot. In time, my memory lost the titles and the authors, keeping only vague outlines of the plots and the impression they gave me.

And now I’ve found them again, with the help of Google and a few fiction-loving LiveJournal friends. The author of all three happened to be Stanisław Lem — in my opinion, one of the brightest writers of the XX century.

Limfater’s Formula. While researching a certain kind of tropical ants, a scientist finds out a fact: they seem to get smarter as the weather gets warmer, up to the level of protein denaturation when the ants die. He decides to use this knowledge to make a protein-based artificial intelligence to push its abilities beyond the limits set by the nature of living creatures.

137 Seconds. The newspaper’s editor finds out a strange effect using a new teletype to get the news from the distant reporter. If you break the connection, the teletype continues to provide accurate data for some time. Even if the reporter didn’t send that data in the first place.

The Truth. An attempt to tame high-temperature plasma fails catastrophically, killing a number of scientists. One of the survivors thinks that there’s something much more serious than a mere mistake in the experiment design.

One of my LJ friends also suggested another great short story with a plot somehow similar to „137 Seconds” — Etaoin Shrdlu by Fredric Brown. I agree that it’s a great story, not as good as Lem’s, though.

I don’t know if these short stories are available for purchase. I’m not even sure if they were translated to English at all (I’ve read them in Russian). If someone finds them somewhere to buy or download — please let me know in the comments.

Updates