June 13, 2020

Crystalizing Patterns Is Probably Useful Overall

Source: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/03/15/can-it-be-wrong-to-crystallize-patterns/

And when you encounter it again, it’s much easier to dismiss in a single mental motion. A lot of the problem with debate is time and number-of-mental-steps: the amount of time and energy normal people give to debating things isn’t enough to get past the preliminary outer defenses of bad ideas, and in the rare cases it is, by the time the last defenses have been breached the first ones have already started regenerating. Turning long series of steps into a single convenient package decreases the amount of stuff you need to keep in your mental workspace.

Crystallizing the pattern ley lines” wouldn’t be super useful if you don’t believe ley lines exist. From one perspective, the crystallization is still nice, because you have an extra concept to toss around and you can do things you couldn’t do before like debate the existence of ley lines (and settle on the negative position). From another perspective, the existence of the pattern makes it too tempting to start believing in ley lines or at least thinking they’re important. So in theory crystallizing the concept ley lines” is an unalloyed positive (minus the five minutes it takes you to read the definition), but in practice it’s a bad idea.

So provisionally I’m not sure there’s such a thing as crystallizing a pattern and being wrong to do so. You can crystallize patterns in such a way that it ends out misleading people who were already at risk of being misled — like the ley lines” and international Jewry” examples — and in practice this is a HUGE HUGE problem. But it seems to me that if you’re good enough at sorting through connotations to handle it that crystallization is usually a good idea


Notes