Paul Graham: "What You Can't Talk About." Notes


    The first time I met a subspecies of patent trolls.

    On September 1, I published a selection of all Paul Graham's articles and invited volunteers to translate the article “What You Can't Say” . 2 people responded and set to work. But in the meantime, someone came up with the idea to appropriate all this. And it started, at first they registered the .ru domain with the same name as Paul Graham, then the whole selection began to leak there. And they copy-paste without looking, which is sometimes very funny:

    We managed to translate the article by September 12, but did not post it, we decided to translate extensive notes that are not in the online version, but are in the book “Hackers and Artists”. In the meantime, the nimble seoshniki translated the article (although I indicated that we were working) and posted it on my blog, and then on Spark. I, in turn, asked them not to behave like that, because as Paul Graham said, "scoundrels lose." And so that the work of our volunteers is not wasted, laid out our translation on the Giktayms. Readers liked the article; there were 10,000 readings and several sensible comments. But then the seoshniki pressed on the Habr editor with the help of Google and they were forced to hide the publication (it seems they already opened it). Therefore, I will post a translation of the notes and a link to the web archive of our work.

    Here is what remains of the article:

    Many thanks for the help with the translation. Shchekotova Yana and Artem unknown.

    Web archive is here.


    [1] The Inquisition probably never intended to put its torture threats into practice. But this is only because Galileo made it clear that he would have done everything they asked for. If he refused, they would not have simply retreated. Shortly before this, the Inquisitors burned the philosopher Giordano Bruno when he did not compromise.

    [2] Many organizations kindly publish lists of prohibited topics within their offices. Unfortunately, these lists are usually incomplete, because there are such shocking things that no one even expects to hear them. And at the same time, there are so general that, in any case, it is impossible to literally keep track of their use. It is rare that a university's speech code would not literally forbid Shakespeare.

    [3] Kundel HL, CF Nodine, EA Krupinski. “Searching for lung nodules: Visual dwell indicates locations of false-positive and false-negative decisions.” Investigative Radiology, 1989, 24, 472-478.

    [4] The verb “diff” comes from computer jargon, but this is exactly the word reflecting the meaning that I wanted to convey. Derived from the name of the diff utility on Unix family operating systems, it returns a list of all the differences between the two files. In a broader sense, it means an indiscriminate and detailed comprehensive comparison of two versions of something.

    [5] It may seem that I am some kind of spiritual relativist. But this is far from the case. I believe that the concept of “categorical” is one of the shortcuts used in our time to suppress any conversations, and our attempts to be “non-categorical” will seem in the future one of our most amusing features.

    [6] This makes the world even more confusing for children, as what they see is contrary to what they are told. I could never understand why, for example, the Portuguese "explorers" began to make their way along the coast of Africa. In fact, they were looking for slaves.

    Bovill, Edward, The Golden Trade of the Moors, Oxford, 1963.

    [7] Children will soon learn these words from their friends, but they are not aware that they should not use them. Thus, for some time you have been in a situation like some kind of musical comedy, where parents use these words in their circle, but never pronounce them with their children, and children use them in the circle of their friends, but never use speeches with his parents.

    [8] A few years ago I worked at a startup whose logo was a painted red circle with a white letter “V” in the middle. After we worked with him, I remember that it occurred to me that the red circle is a rather powerful symbol. Red is probably the most basic color, and the circle is the main shape. Together they possessed such visual breakdown power! Why aren't many U.S. companies using the red circle as their logo? Ah, yes ... (link )

    [9] Fear is much stronger of these two forces. Sometimes, when I hear someone uttering the word “gyp”, I tell them, with a serious expression on their face, that this word cannot be used because it is considered degrading to the gypsies (English Gypsies). In fact, dictionaries disagree about the etymology of the word. But the reaction to this joke is almost always a slightly frightened agreement. There is still something in fashion, whether in clothing or in beliefs, that robs people of confidence. When they learn something new, they feel that it was something that they should already know about.

    a) I do not want to say that the opinions of scientists are unshakably correct. All I want to say is that their willingness to ponder extraordinary beliefs allows them to leap ahead. Otherwise, this is sometimes a drawback. Like other people of science, many scientists never directly earned a living, i.e. never received payment for the services provided. Most scientists live in an anomalous microcosm, where money is something that is sparingly issued by commissions instead of representing their work. And for them it seems natural that national economies follow the same scenario. As a result, many smart, in quotation marks, people followed the path of socialism in the middle of the 20th century.

    b) In this essay, this is one of the brightest examples of what we can not talk about. This violates the principle of banning university life. Among universities, the unspoken axiom is that all fields of science are intellectually equal. There is no doubt that this axiom helps to solve some issues more delicately. But when you think about what an amazing coincidence would be required for this to be true, and how convenient it would be for everyone to perceive it as truth, even if it is not so, how can this not be called into question? Especially when you come to any conclusions that you are forced to accept. For example, this would mean that there could be no ups and downs in a single area. If all the scientific fields were not so synchronized with each other (you really have to strain to learn this). And what to do with universities where there are faculties in culinary arts or sports management? If you accept this axiom, then how far does it extend? Do you really want to be in a position where you have to defend your ideas that differential geometry is not more complicated than cooking?

    [11] Apparently, within the industry, such thoughts would be seen as "denying." Another shortcut, just like a "surrender." Not to mention the question to be asked, are they true? In fact, a measure of healthy organization is probably the extent to which such denying thoughts are allowed. Where important work is carried out, the attitude usually seems more critical and sarcastic than “favorable” and “conducive”. People whom I know and who do important work think that everything is very bad for them, but at the same time everyone else is even worse.

    [12] Behar, Richard, “The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power,” Time, May 6, 1991.

    [13] Healy, Patrick, “Summers hits 'anti-Semitic' actions,” Boston Globe, September 20, 2002.

    [14] “Tinkerers' champion,” The Economist, June 20, 2002.

    [15] By this I mean that you would have to become a professional polemicist, and not that the opinion of Noam Chomsky = that which cannot be pronounced. If you even said something that should not be, you will shock both conservatives and liberals. Just as if you had gone to the past in a Victorian time machine in England, your beliefs would have shocked both the Whigs and Tories.

    [16] Traub, James, “Harvard Radical,” New York Times Magazine, August 24, 2003.

    [17] Miller, Arthur, The Crucible in History and Other Essays, Methuen, 2000.

    [18] Some communities avoid the word “erroneous” as too categorical, but instead use the more neutral-sounding euphemisms “dissenting” or “refuting”.

    Thanks to Sarah Harlin, Trevor Blackwell, Jessica Livingston, Robert Morris, Eric Raymond and Bob van der Zwaan for reading drafts of this essay, and thanks to Lisa Randall, Jackie McDonough, Ryan Stanley, and Joel Rainey for discussing heresies. Of course, that they do not bear any responsibility for the opinions expressed in it, and especially for opinions that are not expressed in it.

    Another 107+ articles by Paul Graham on Habré.
    (Who wants to help with the translation - get connected)

    If you are interested in getting into Y Combinator and you are close to Graham's ideas, write in a personal letter, I have a couple of ideas.

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