More thoughts on problem solving

Elliot Temple asked some questions about my postmodernism blog post:

 “You keep doing this until you find some guesses with no known problems.”

what if that takes 500 years?

Under some circumstances you might be willing to wait 500 years to solve a problem. For example, if there is a star 250 light years away and you want to send a probe there to gather some data and send it back to you, then you would have to wait 500 years to get the results.

That sort of problem doesn’t come up in the lives of most people at present for various reasons. If you’ve been working on a problem for a longer time than you expected without solving it, then you may be doing something wrong in your strategy for solving it. The way to deal with this is to ask for criticism of what you’re doing and why. Sometimes another person will see a problem with what you’re doing that you don’t see. You could also ask for criticism before starting so you don’t waste time on something when somebody else knows it won’t work.

what if there’s a disagreement (in your own mind or with another person, doesn’t matter) about whether an answer to a criticism works?

If somebody disagrees with the answer, that’s a criticism of the answer. The critic has some objection you haven’t addressed. You should come up with a new variant of the idea that meets any objection the critic explains, or find a better idea that isn’t a close variant. If the critic doesn’t explain his objection in a way you understand that is a criticism of the objection. You can have an open invitation for the critic to continue trying to explain his objection as long as he is interested in doing so, but you needn’t change your position.

About conjecturesandrefutations
My name is Alan Forrester. I am interested in science and philosophy: especially David Deutsch, Ayn Rand, Karl Popper and William Godwin.

4 Responses to More thoughts on problem solving

  1. > The way to deal with this is to ask for criticism of what you’re doing and why.

    But what if you talk with ppl and they say dumb things and it’s taking hours and you want an answer within another 20 minutes and the discussion is a mess and no clear answers seem to be coming out of it? like every idea has some complaints about it, or there’s multiple ideas that you don’t know how to pick between.

    > If somebody disagrees with the answer, that’s a criticism of the answer. The critic has some objection you haven’t addressed. You should come up with a new variant of the idea that meets any objection the critic explains, or find a better idea that isn’t a close variant.

    so like Objectivism is refuted b/c at least one person in the world doesn’t like it? some people’s objections to Objectivism are things it doesn’t even say! sounds like it’d take way too long to get everyone on Earth to agree to Oism, so then it’s refuted until then?

    • > But what if you talk with ppl and they say dumb things and it’s taking hours and you want an answer within another 20 minutes and the discussion is a mess and no clear answers seem to be coming out of it? like every idea has some complaints about it, or there’s multiple ideas that you don’t know how to pick between.

      If you only have 20 minutes you’re not going to get very far, so you should have low expectations. As such, you could just pick something by any criterion you like and discuss that.

      >> If somebody disagrees with the answer, that’s a criticism of the answer. The critic has some objection you haven’t addressed. You should come up with a new variant of the idea that meets any objection the critic explains, or find a better idea that isn’t a close variant.
      >
      > so like Objectivism is refuted b/c at least one person in the world doesn’t like it?

      As long as one person in the world doesn’t like objectivism there is something objectivism doesn’t explain to that person’s satisfaction. So for the purpose of getting that person to improve, objectivism is inadequate. I’d guess some variant would refute his objections.

      > some people’s objections to Objectivism are things it doesn’t even say!

      That’s a criticism of their objections.

      > sounds like it’d take way too long to get everyone on Earth to agree to Oism, so then it’s refuted until then?

      That’s a problem with current explanations of objectivism. Future variants might not have that problem.

  2. > That’s a criticism of their objections.

    which nevertheless doesn’t convince lots of ppl.

    > If you only have 20 minutes you’re not going to get very far, so you should have low expectations. As such, you could just pick something by any criterion you like and discuss that.

    tons of things can be done well in under 20min

    • >>> But what if you talk with ppl and they say dumb things and it’s taking hours and you want an answer within another 20 minutes and the discussion is a mess and no clear answers seem to be coming out of it? like every idea has some complaints about it, or there’s multiple ideas that you don’t know how to pick between
      >>
      >> If you only have 20 minutes you’re not going to get very far, so you should have low expectations. As such, you could just pick something by any criterion you like and discuss that.
      >
      > tons of things can be done well in under 20min

      In a context in which you made no progress after hours of discussion and you have only 20 minutes left, your current ideas don’t see adequate to persuading that person.

      >> That’s a criticism of their objections.
      >
      > which nevertheless doesn’t convince lots of ppl.

      That criticism is not complete because while it is correct it doesn’t include all the knowledge necessary to explain to people why their objections are wrong.

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