Re: PSYCHOLOGY: Healing Pathological Belief System Addiction

Hal Finney (
Fri, 17 Jan 1997 21:48:17 -0800

From: "Lee Daniel Crocker" <>
> Let us instead engineer ourselves more robustly to accept inputs
> without malfunctioning, so that we can make use of a wider diversity
> of inputs--experiences and communications--to work from. And let
> us design the /protocol/ clear, expandable, and powerful enough to
> accommodate our needs. Let's work on the language, and on our
> understanding and reasoning, and on our ability to express ideas
> in the language, rather than piling on burdens beyond the language
> that we must accumulate like a stack of manual errata and release
> notes (sorry if I'm getting too deep into the metaphor).
> In short, let us stive to make ourselves more adaptable, tolerant,
> and less fragile to experiences and ideas instead of putting limits
> on the ideas we can express.

This analogy to computer protocols is interesting, but it reminds me of
the maxim commonly employed by engineers who must interface to these
protocols: be permissive in what you accept and careful in what you send.
For example, from the S/MIME interoperability profiles guide,

"Throughout this paper, there are separate requirements and
recommendations made for the handling of incoming messages versus the
creation of outgoing messages. In general, the often quoted,
proverbial strategy is to 'be liberal in what you receive and
conservative in what you send'. Most of the requirements are placed
on the handling of incoming messages while the recommendations are
mostly on the creation of outgoing messages. To rewrite the proverb
somewhat, 'you are required to be liberal in what you receive and it
is recommended that you be conservative in what you send.'"

This is standard engineering practice in designing for maximum inter-
operability. (And even with this, interoperability is a chancy thing
and is seldom achieved without actual interoperation testing.)

Applying this advice to personal relations, it would be consistent with
the first part of your advice about making your acceptance of input
more robust. But rather than seeing this as "instead of" being careful
about what you say, it suggests that the two strategies are complementary.