December 31, 2017

(I updated my old essay TRIPLE EQUALS CONSIDERED OVERRATED === = :-( with this postscript - philosophical and epistemological minded folks might find this bit interesting, even if they don't know the Javascript bit that originally framed it)

Listening to a podcast with scientists pontificating, I realize I treat triple-equals usage similarly to how I treat the correct usage of "data are plural", and for similar reasons: a begrudging respect for people using a shibboleth correctly, set against a personal bias for the looser usage; with that split masking a philosophical difference in worldview.

My worldview is: people and things are more important in how they interact than in their internal makeup. Take "Data". It's technically a plural world from Latin, with "Datum" being the singular. But a "Datum" is useless to the point of meaninglessness on its own - ONLY through multiplicity does a datum go from being a one-off anecdote to a statistically meaningful bit of information. Casual use would treat "Data" as a kind of singular group noun - "what this data suggests" vs "what these data suggest", and since that group-making is the only useful way people interact with data, "this data", the street usage, makes much more sense.

(I'm not a big fan of the old tradition of presuming Latin rules need apply to English anyway- like how you should never split an infinitive ("to boldly go") since such a construction is impossible in Latin where the infinitive is a single word.)

With triple equals, I return to the basic idea that it means "reject the comparison if the things being compared aren't exactly the same type" - an internal analysis. Double equals says if two things have the same value when they interact, that's fine! We don't care about the history or composition of the things, just how they'll interact now. (A long history with Perl and other duck-type languages helps inform my view, I think.)

To wax philosophical, I've realized this difference in worldview- whether what's important is the history and internals of a thing (since that will be the surest guide to predicting long-term behavior, and/or give you a special revelation of how things "should be") or whether we should attend to how things are capable of interacting with the outside world - is profound and tough to bridge.

I'd recommend the book "Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking"... and then when I hear some punk like Scott Adams say that because analogies are always imperfect they can never be persuasive, and that it's where "reason is embarrassed to show its face"... balderdash. Finding parallels in how different systems are interacting makes up one of the most critical tools in understanding the world, no matter that there will ALWAYS be some difference in intrinsic makeup. (Of course, saying there are only surfaces or only essences is a false dichotomy; some analogies run deep, that two systems are interacting in parallel ways because of parallel functioning in their guts. And some analogies are just shallow and rhetorical and are of less value.)
.@BretWeinstein "Metaphorical Truth" sounds like Vonnegut's "Foma" - "the harmless untruths" that can "make you brave and kind and healthy and happy." Skeptical of your use of "truth" as a stand-in for "utility"
"December 31, 2017 is the only day where every adult was born in the 1900's and everyone else under 18 was born in the 2000's"