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Layman's Compasses


   The next tool we’ll look at in the Light Troll tool box is the “Layman’s compasses”. We used a navigation compass as an analogy for the moral compass earlier, this time we are thinking of a “pair of compasses” from geometry class. Just as compasses can be use to choose a point, and ascribe an appropriate circle around it, the Layman’s compasses can be used for when a point has been missed, and it might be necessary to talk in circles around the point until it is finally well defined enough for the topic at hand. Like the Socratic Hammer, this is a tool that the Light Troll will use just as much to refine their own understanding of a given topic, as they will use it to make sure they’ve been understood when talking to others. 

   This brings us back to the idea of “Jargonism” that I alluded to before. Jargon is “language that lets you describe different phenomena and tangibly interact with the leading Theories in your head” that I referred to while we were discussing the scientific method. Now with an eloquent description like that, “jargon” might even sound like a good thing...

   ... it’s NOT.

   ... we are all fools here, and as far as we need to refer to the idea at all, Jargon is a Bad Idea... If you are a Graduate student, or a Phd talking about “quantum quantum quantum”, then you aren’t getting advice for how to advance your field from a book named “Foolosophy”... and if you ARE a Grad student or Phd talking about “quantum quantum quantum” with your coworkers everyday and you ARE looking for advice from a fool, then you don’t need me to tell you how bad your situation is, but I’ll STILL bet Jargonism is the source of the trouble with your coworkers or colleagues.

“If I cannot explain it simply, then I do not understand it well enough” -Einstein.

   ... However we can see why Jargon IS useful demonstrated in it’s own name. It is a lot easier for me to type “Jargon” than it is for me to type “language that lets you describe different phenomena and tangibly interact with the leading Theories in your head” each time. But then again at the same time, this whole section has been a demonstration of both the need for, AND THE USE OF the Layman’s compasses as I’ve been talking in circles ABOUT Jargonism. 

The main takeaway here is that it is good to know what the Jargon means, but even if you don’t, ANY single piece of jargon can be replaced by a longer sentence of smaller words that might take longer to read, but will be far more understandable... and unless you are already talking to other experts at the top of YOUR field, it’s best to “break it down Barney style” as they said in boot camp, or in other words “KISS: Keep It Stupid Simple”. This is where I corrupt the quote from Steven Pinker’s lecture on Linguistics in it’s own spirit “[It’s better to be clear and wrong, than NOT clear, and STILL wrong]”... Basically, you can toss around sentences with double digit polysyllabics all you like, but you can fool too many people too much of the time, and while they’ll be impressed, ALL they will know is how smart you are, and hopefully you can keep atop of that pedestal you’ve built for yourself... On the other hand, if you keep it simple, perhaps even oversimplifying, then people will at least know what you mean, they can investigate the claims themselves, and when they find the deeper nuances to a given subject you’ve glossed over, they’ll probably understand and forgive you for trying to fit the broad strokes into a nutshell for them. And that brings us back to a pretty foundational point about the character of Light Trolls, it’s far better to to come on as a fool who might turn out to have something to offer, than to come on a someone who has something to offer, who turns out to be just a fool.

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