virus: Advice, and lies

Reed Konsler (
Mon, 7 Apr 1997 11:01:40 +0100

>From: Mark Hornberger <>
>Date: Sat, 05 Apr 1997 18:14:37 -0600
>At 09:31 PM 4/4/97 -0500, Reed wrote:
>>This revelation strikes me as particularly true, today:
>>1) The most useful piece of advice you can ever give anyone is:
>> "Don't listen to me, I'm trying to manipulate you to my advantage."
>Ah, but most useful to whom? And if I'm trying to tell you that your house
>is on fire, and you refuse to listen out of a belief that I'm just trying
>to get mine... well, I hope your insurance was current. Of course, if I
>was an insurance salesman... but then I would have had to warn you before
>the fact, but if I already knew it was going up in flames, I wouldn't want
>to insure you anyway... but don't listen to me; I'm trying to manipulate
>you to my advantage. I'm just unclear on what my advantage would be. Care
>to clarify?

Hmm. Perhaps I was speaking specifically of the relationship between teacher
and student, or master and apprentice...situations with which I am familiar.
But you bring up an excellent point, there is a continious tension between the
enfranchized and the disenfranchized in any situation. If you have power you
can imagine giving it to everyone (for instance, teaching them how to think
critically) and creating a new, and more complex baseline of further
devolpment...bootstrapping up another non-zero sum "level".

But do you trust the bastards? Should they trust you? The basis of honest
communication is being blunt about honest motives on everyone's part...
at the same time you have to be tactful. I was floating a basis statement...
that the first thing you need to learn is to be suspicious.

And you have built upon it by indicating that sometimes you really do
need to trust the "master"...or at least act as if you do, in order to
receive vital information. I agree.

But you must vet each meme, always, against your internal standard.

>>2) The most deceitful lie is:
>> "Do as I say, not as I do."

>But what if I'm one of those rare birds that also does what I say?

As a great teacher once said: "Let he among us who is without sin
cast the first stone."

>#2 isn't framed as a statement of fact anyway, but a command,
>ergo it can't be a lie, anyway. And how is one lie inherently more
>deceitful than the next? By definition, a lie is a lie, no?

Hmm. I agree with your anaylsis. The problem with aphorism and
pithy quotes is that they are often hard to interpret. This is the
message I was trying to comunicate:

Learn form people by observing their behavior. We are designed to
do this as children but as soon as we learn language we discover a
vastly more efficient realm of learning. Each of us, for a long
time, must rely on our teachers to feed us information...and if we
are lucky they are interested in our well-being and are somewhat
reflective. But it seems, more often than not, as if people ignore their
own perceptions...they believe what they hear, and read, before
what they see and think. Perhaps, as Tad has been suggesting, this
might in a concievable world (perhaps the planet TeTa?) be
acceptable. In this world, however, it is dangerous.

I know a smoker who tells his childern not to smoke, but will
not, himself, quit. Think of how the combination of his advice
and behavior creates an ambivalent message. In what way is this
related to the liar's paradox? Is his advice "good", "true" or
"right"? Your answer depends more on your standards of
evaluation than the system, but that doesn't mean the situation
is "completely relative" or that "reality doesn't exist"

"Oh, what a tangled wed we weave,
when first we practice to decieve!"
-Sir Walter Scott, *Marmion*, 1808.


Reed Konsler