Why I Hate Riddles

January 1, 2012 at 18:40 | Posted in Everything | 25 Comments

It’s probably not known at all in this community, but I (AKH) happen to hate riddles.

Explaining why I hate riddles requires the introduction of a couple of concepts – divergent thinking and concrete thinking.

Concrete thinking is the kind of thinking our society (more specifically, most parts of schools and businesses) generally values. It solves problems with one answer, and is the kind of thinking involved in math, the sciences and anything else that chases after objectively right/logically correct answers.

Divergent thinking is the kind of thinking involved in creativity: it is the way of thinking that produces different outcomes/possibilities from a starting point, and it doesn’t judge them against a logical specification to determine whether the answer is “right” or not. There is no right or wrong in divergent thinking, but there are thoughts people like and dislike.

Unfortunately, divergent thinking is heavily undervalued by the adults of our society – pre-school age children generally have what we consider a genius level of divergent thinking, and they lose this as they age and attend school (where, of course, concrete thinking is valued and divergent thinking is discouraged). The likely effects of this are worse than just diminishing creativity, but that’s something for another time.

Returning to the point of this short post, the reason I hate riddles is that they’re usually a horrible mess of these two types of thinking – they are a divergent thinking challenge presented, by stupid people, as a concrete thinking challenge, a puzzle with many valid answers but only one accepted one, merely a test of how closely your thoughts match the authors. Not all riddles are like this (or perhaps, presented like this), but the overwhelming majority are.

-AKH

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  1. “The likely effects of this are worse than just diminishing creativity, but that’s something for another time.”

    How about now?

    -information becomes a mechanism of efficiency, i.e., it is valued only for its practical implication

    -every thought is accepted as concrete and unchangeable: everything is seen as black or white

    It is impossible to see when you are blinded. But even worse is when what you see isn’t completely real, i.e., what you see are mere shadows.

    I’m going to post something about Plato’s cave (referenced above) one of these days.

    And I also hate riddles. Oftentimes the answers are worked backwards to make a complicated mess, in order to tout the riddle’s author’s arrogance. And the worst part is, usually, when you figure out the riddle, you have learned nothing significant about the object in question. Just that the answer exists.

  2. “And I also hate riddles. Oftentimes the answers are worked backwards to make a complicated mess, in order to tout the riddle’s author’s arrogance.”

    THIS

    And okay :3 like you said – it makes everything black or white. It causes people, upon finding someone holds an opinion they confidently disagree with (or worse, upon finding someone has a trait they view as inferior), to disregard all of that person’s opinions. It creates an “us vs. them” society – where entire groups are disregarded in similar fashions. And this leads to a society that fights with itself instead of progressing, and one where a person’s value is based on reputation, not ability …

    It is perhaps responsible in some way for almost all of the problems the western world has.

    War? YOU BET THIS HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT.

    Biased news stations in the US, and the state of politics all over? OH YEAH.

    The employment system, judging on credentials instead of raw ability, with sometimes disastrous results? YEP.

    Most arguments and fights between people in informal situations? MHM.

    Unwarranted self-importance?

    ALL CAPS STATEMENT EXPRESSING AGREEMENT.

    While there are many more specific examples, they’d all fall under the blankets I put up there.

    Concrete thinking promotes aggression – it doesn’t teach that ideas are merely different and of different value to different people. Instead, it teaches that one idea is the best and every other idea is trash, giving people more confidence in their own ideas and a resentment of others’ ideas. I am in fact using concrete thinking’s aggression as I say this, but the difference between me and most people is that I welcome other people’s viewpoints and I don’t have to attack them to remain confident in my own.

    Concrete thinking is certainly necessary, both types of thinking are if we are to continue to be an evolutionarily successful species and make advancements. Unfortunately, our society only tends to teach the values of concrete thinking, and this is the result of that.

    Ending concrete thinking would also not end all of our problems, of course – the emotion of anger still remains in us and maybe, if humanity ever evolves again, always will, but if our society embraced perspectives that thought divergently, it would be a much nicer place for us to live in.

  3. Can’t add much more to that. Concrete thinking creates a very closed world of thought that pretty much sees a dichotomy in everything: in politics, right vs. left; in monetary status, rich vs. poor; in religion, good vs. evil; and so on and so on. Instead of viewing each as mutually beneficial (i.e., one could not exist without the other) OR viewing them as never being purely one sided (always being in some amount mixed), they miss the mark and say that one side is right and the other is wrong, absolutely.

  4. “How many birthdays does the average person have?”

    I like the ones like this, where its a simple ‘pay attention’ riddle instead of a mindfuck or something stupid. XD

  5. It is also part of the source of a lot of unhappiness in our world. It causes people to overestimate the positive impact that things they do or receive will have on their lives, because they overvalue the action or thing.

    I get the feeling I wasn’t the only young person constantly running around creating things, achieving things in the hope that they would take away my unhappiness forever, but instead just digging myself deeper. It seems people weren’t built to handle long-term projects – we have the tendency to burn out much quicker than it takes to finish projects that last more than a short while (think up to a month, but usually a lot less), and forcing ourselves to the finish after this only gives us an emotional reward of relief.

    This is because our emotions don’t last long-term. We burn out on projects because our motivation fades away, and we stop caring about the things we thought would make us happy forever (this even extends to winning huge sums of money) because the emotions we had associated with them also fade away.

    Thankfully, this cloud has a silver lining – it also applies to negative things, too. As this somewhat long but very valuable video explains, people who win the lottery and people who become paraplegic both have the same levels of happiness one year on: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html.

    It may mean we’re doomed to quite a neutral life, but hey, so is everyone else (ignore what they say, I’ve pretended to be extremely happy before too, and I was in denial), so it evens out.

    People would really just need to watch that video to happily begin ignoring their mind when it tells them certain things will make them happy forever, but if we didn’t shove concrete thinking down childrens’ throats and push out all of their divergent thinking, fewer people would get those thoughts in the first place.

    And Affle, the answer to that riddle would of course be approximately 0.97 (can you guess why? ;3 it’s no trick question).

  6. Axle: 1, the date of birth for each person occurs only once.

    “It seems people weren’t built to handle long-term projects – we have the tendency to burn out much quicker than it takes to finish projects that last more than a short while (think up to a month, but usually a lot less), and forcing ourselves to the finish after this only gives us an emotional reward of relief.
    This is because our emotions don’t last long-term. We burn out on projects because our motivation fades away, and we stop caring about the things we thought would make us happy forever (this even extends to winning huge sums of money) because the emotions we had associated with them also fade away.”

    I know I’m not the average person, AKH, but I’ve been working on my life-project for two years now, and I’m nowhere close to burning out. The goals I have extend beyond my organism so I’m drawing on the emotional powers of not only myself but other people, including the superstructure of the social world. If you mean by long-term projects things that earn us money or pass a grade for us, then of course, those are uninspired and unemotional ventures that were always doomed to fail. Those are surrogate activities taking the place of genuine fulfillment (such as Kaczynski’s real activities of forest living). The motivation of the true project that has the ultimate meaning is life itself, to continue living. Only in a world where life is devalued and not the center of activity can activity be worthless and as it has been described.

  7. Of course, there are exceptions, and I have no doubt you won’t burn out on that project, but a few things: your life-project, which most people do not have, is of course, as you seemed to state, more important to you than anything (or almost anything) else. It giving meaning or purpose to your life, being at the centre of your life and lasting for as long as it has (I assume you’d get a “why stop now when I’m so far in?” kind of feeling if you felt you were burning out now) all make the chances of you burning out less and less likely. And in my quite vast experience, two things that really increase your chances of burning out are:

    1) the project taking longer than you expected, and you still working on it long after you thought you would be done, still nowhere near finishing – this of course doesn’t apply to you, as your project neither has a near nor particularly strict deadline.

    2) constantly working on your project. It perhaps amplifies how you’re not making as much progress as you like when you work on a project near-constantly for weeks and you don’t get nearly as much done as you were expecting. As I can see from your comments, posts and emails, you are doing things other than your life project (though I imagine you are working on it a lot), so you don’t suffer from this either, though for the effects of this to really be something big, people may need #1 to be in effect too.

    But perhaps I just suffer greatly from the bias people have that leads us to underestimate how long it will take to do something – a requirement for both of these.

    And ALWAYS REMEMBER ENOX, NOT EVERY PERSON IS BORN YET (hahaha, it could be interpreted as a proverb).

  8. Yay an AKH post like the old ones 🙂

    Completely agree, I like how you’ve used something trivial like riddles to express an underlying problem in our society. People seem to think that getting good grades is a measure of your intelligence, whereas this is often not true. Getting good grades at school is simply memorising a chunk of text and spitting it out on the exam, for must subjects anyway. In the subjects where this is not recquired, teachers simply teach that 2×2 is four without any form of explanation as to why it happens that way. I’ve done hundreds of problems involving cosine operations SIMPLY by pressing buttons on a calculator, without really having the faintest idea about what the hell is going on. A friend of mine knows pretty much the whole syllabus for pretty much every subject. He rarely gets below an A grade and is praised by pretty much every teacher as being a smart kid. (Of course, those with lower grades are classified as less intelligent. Whenever I ask him anything that is closely related to what we are doing in class but which we don’t have to learn, I receive no answer, or a wrong one. This person also has no kind of common sense whatsoever. Indeed, when encountered with harder questions in an exam (those that require you to think and interpret the question, and/or what you have learned) this guy (and many others) will promptly complain that they have not been taught about that and that they are unable to do them. Still, these type of questions only appear once or twice on the questions paper, so this individual can afford to get them wrong and waltz out of the exam room knowing that he will get an A. This system of education produces SHEEP unable to cope with real life problems efficiantly later on. It’s even worse in the Spanish education system, I’m lucky enough to attend a British school. AKH, please tell me that A Level is taught differently than GCSE 😦

  9. I don’t know ;< A Levels probably are taught the same, but I took BTEC instead. Which right now is along a similar memorisation path, and you get good grades by doing what's required for a pass, not committing plagiarism (though for some reason learning from research then not stating where you learnt something in a bibliography comes under this, not that you'd get caught for it), adding unnecessary bullshit (test log(s), often required for a pass in fact) and then going out of your way to add in even MORE unnecessary bullshit (evaluations, made up work/time plans unless you're not a normal person and can't keep track of things in your head, and something showing "convergent/lateral/creative thinking" – which wouldn't be bad if what was taught was suited to it). At least you don't have to do all of those for every assignment, and sometimes there is a higher level criteria (only Merit though, the levels are Pass/Merit/Distinction) awarded for using technical language accurately – thus showing understanding.

    And ooh, are you in a British school but still in Spain? I think I remember that.

    Also, have you seen the incompetence of people in workplaces, maybe even your teachers? It can really be quite shocking, I think our education systems have been producing sheep for a while now, which explains why a lot of jobs are badly done (think products that break, poorly written instructions, software with big teams working on them and long lists of needed improvements that just don’t get made, etc.). I think a lot of jobs are also done badly because of all the bloating that has happened to the process of getting work done – BTEC is supposed to be practically-oriented and yet, as I said above, I waste time writing test logs (I assume we write them because that’s what happens in the industry – what would be better is notes of important things, however) and references/bibliography sections (as a side note, I’ve noticed that these actually deter me from doing well in the work – if there’s something I want to know more about to put in my work, I have to make a bibliography entry for it, and writing down webpage titles, authors and last changed dates, along with having to copy/paste the URL and write the date of access, is fucking tedious – so I’m sometimes tempted to just not research if it’s not necessary).

    You don’t gain success in business nor respect from many people by doing things well, instead you gain these things by convincing others you do things well. Also note, if you can do things well, utilise this rare ability for your own good and DO NOT do it all the time – if you do, you’ll just get given more work and worse treatment (either out of jealousy or because people know they can exploit you) – I’m sure everyone is familiar with how group work goes (majority does nothing, the competent few does everything). My plan (for once I leave education, which is soon) right now is to just relax and stay at the level of common filth except for in any personal projects and the rare occasions it will benefit me not to, but I’m neither up for bullshitting nor hungry for money (and a harder job for the first few promotions). I hope my ego doesn’t get the better of me and I don’t start doing a better job than others because their incompetence annoys me.

  10. “This system of education produces SHEEP unable to cope with real life problems efficiantly later on.”


    If you’re talking about the European system…the American system is just as bad (If not worse). We’re taught to skip logical thought in favor of “knowing” or “perceiving” facts. I learned useless information in chemistry, which I will never use again (the proper notations of chemicals? worthless), so I decided to make a bad grade instead of memorizing worthless “facts.” Such “facts” are produced in all classes, I have not yet attended one where these were not dominant. The most impressive person now, the most educated, is the one that knows the most trivial facts, instead of the one who can actually think independently.


    AKH, I have no idea what you are saying in regards to the riddle. THIS IS WHY I HATE RIDDLES.


    “You don’t gain success in business nor respect from many people by doing things well, instead you gain these things by convincing others you do things well.”


    LOVING THIS CYNICISM. If you are too competent you are taken advantage of, yet you want to because incompetence badly annoys you. Sounds like me.


    And yeah, I didn’t think those project predictions applied to me, I just wanted to give the readers an example of a creative project that has a fuel that never runs out (sacred fire!).

  11. Heh, my answer was ~0.97 (it would probably be ~0.99 though) because I counted people who haven’t been born yet but exist in the womb. They have 0 birthdays instead of 1.

    “LOVING THIS CYNICISM. If you are too competent you are taken advantage of, yet you want to because incompetence badly annoys you. Sounds like me.”

    :3 other people being incompetent doesn’t annoy me as much now (I’m used to it) but I don’t like being perceived as someone significantly less competent or knowledgeable than I am. When you act normal, you’re at risk of being considered *gasp* BELOW AVERAGE by some, which would of course be a huge insult, ha ha.

    Also that pokemon move (was there another meaning implied by sacred fire that I didn’t get? Ha ha).

  12. …THAT IS WHY I HATE RIDDLES. BECAUSE THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE.


    I was not referring to Ho-Oh, but now that you mention it, playing pokemon so much has probably inclined me to use such language often (I literally learned a lot of my vocabulary from the game that I still use, I may write something about that sometime). I meant the sacred fire of the alchemists. I’ve always taken it to mean soul, or heart, or in my case (since I believe all of that is pure magical nonsense), the material (or actual) mind.

  13. “…THAT IS WHY I HATE RIDDLES. BECAUSE THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE.”

    Indeed it does, but the whole riddle revolved around escaping the trick in the question’s language rather than genuinely answering a well-phrased question, so my answer isn’t of great value, it just reflects the thought process I went through (that I may never have gone through if the question didn’t bring my mental guard up).

    (And if this were brought up to the riddle creator, it could go one of three ways: “Yes”, an abortion debate or “Average means mode/median, not mean”).

    “I meant the sacred fire of the alchemists. I’ve always taken it to mean soul, or heart, or in my case (since I believe all of that is pure magical nonsense), the material (or actual) mind.”

    Oh, cool :3

    And I’m not sure if pokemon affects the language I use anymore, but those games sure are educational (as games that aren’t marketed as educational – which tends to also involve being no fun to play and sometimes patronising – go).

  14. Most of the old pokemon’s names are made up out of really weird words or roots, so that’s where I probably got my sense of what a word means even if I have no idea what it means (I never was taught roots in elementary school).

  15. Technically, AKH, unborn children aren’t persons. ABORTION DEBATE GO!

  16. Roots? I doubt I was ever taught those either. And yes, the pokemon games are good for implying word definitions (as are a lot of things, in fact, but most things don’t touch on as much vocabulary as the range of pokemon moves does).

    “Technically, AKH, unborn children aren’t persons. ABORTION DEBATE GO!”

    Well, I think they are according to the definition of a person, but I don’t think this necessarily means they need to have rights. In regards to ABORTION DEBATE GO, I’m pro-choice up until the point where the child becomes conscious (or perhaps just able to feel pain), and if the mother’s life is in real danger at any point. In regards to rape, the WHORE WHO WAS TOTALLY ASKING FOR IT girl has plenty of time to abort the kid anyway, and I don’t consider rape a valid excuse once the baby has been left cooking for too long.

  17. Well, if they are a person, by definition (legal?), they have rights…so, are they really persons? If an object has a potential to be a person then it isn’t a person, so like you said, until the baby is conscious it is not a person.


    Yes, when the baby is well-done, it shouldn’t be aborted. We should only kill them off if they are still bloody and gross (rare, who would abort a rare baby!).


    All joking aside, I’d probably not abort a child if I had one, but those are within my scope and not within someone else’s experience, so I can’t say that the law should protect what is not a person, but rather, the guardian of the object that has the potential to become a person should protect that object UNTIL it achieves person-hood.

  18. “Well, if they are a person, by definition (legal?), they have rights…so, are they really persons?”

    Not by the legal definition, because the law also makes it okay to kill them up until a certain point.

    “If an object has a potential to be a person then it isn’t a person”

    Indeed, this is why an average man’s ejaculation of just over a billion sperm, each with the potential to be half of a person, is not considered to be the equivalent of killing half the population of China (HIROSHIMA ON STEROIDS FROM THE COMFORT OF WHEREVER YOU CAN SNEAK A FAP).

    “so like you said, until the baby is conscious it is not a person.”

    I’d say a fertilised egg onwards still counts as a person (by my definition of what a person is, and something I would want a legal definition to mirror but without meaning anything else such as the requirement of rights), but that we shouldn’t confer rights to it until a certain point (don’t people not have rights or have few rights until they’re born anyway? Not that I approve of this).

    “Yes, when the baby is well-done, it shouldn’t be aborted. We should only kill them off if they are still bloody and gross (rare, who would abort a rare baby!).”

    EW YES KILL THE UGLY THINGS AND PROTECT THE CUTE ONES. Also, doctors should collect aborted babies and have a TV show where they shoot them out of cannons into walls or down hills.

    “All joking aside, I’d probably not abort a child if I had one”

    Joking? What joking? And whether or not I’d want to abort an accidentally or regrettably conceived child would depend on who I conceived it with and their opinions along with my/our financial situation, though assuming I liked the girl I conceived it with (and not factoring in her opinion, which would have a big effect) and I/we/she was earning a comfortable wage I’d probably be against abortion.

    “the guardian of the object that has the potential to become a person should protect that object UNTIL it achieves person-hood.”

    I agree with you (definitions aside, of course), but I think the unborn child should have two guardians (its parents) when possible (because obviously, sometimes fathers are unknown or absent) and abortion should require the consent of both of them if the pregnancy is normal, rather than it being solely the mother’s choice as it currently is. However, I also accept that in a lot of cases (two guys both believing they are the father, or the girl hiding the pregnancy and pretending that the father is unknown or uninterested) it would be difficult to police.

  19. Joking in the sense that I was comparing babies to STEAKS! (i.e., well-done and rare)


    Yeah two guardians is a nice concept…especially when it is a half-and-half ordeal. What happens if the “house is divided”? Flip a coin, heads baby lives, tails baby dies? Ha-ha.

  20. “Joking in the sense that I was comparing babies to STEAKS! (i.e., well-done and rare)”

    A ha, I know, I was making a joke so it looked like I was being serious when I wanted doctors to make a TV show where they splatted aborted babies into walls and shot them down cliffs.

    “Yeah two guardians is a nice concept…especially when it is a half-and-half ordeal. What happens if the “house is divided”? Flip a coin, heads baby lives, tails baby dies? Ha-ha.”

    My idea is that if the house is divided, baby lives. And of course, as abortion is a medical procedure performed on the mother, it would be unethical to allow a father to force a mother to have it done (though laws on medical procedures would allow the mother to refuse anyway).

    Also, another equality law idea: in the event of a break-up it should be possible for fathers parents without custody of their children to opt out of paying child support, but in doing so also forfeit any rights to visitation, etc. EXCEPT FOR in the case that the parent without custody didn’t want the child to be aborted, and there was a legal document showing this (think something like a “pre-birth” instead of a pre-nup, which expecting parents would be encouraged to get just like scans).

    YES I’M SUPPORTING DADDIES RUNNING AWAY AND ABANDONING THEIR CHILDREN IN SOME CASES. If the noncustodial (thanks, memory and Google!) parent doesn’t want anything to do with their child they’ll be no good for it anyway and a family should not be encouraged, and if the law were set up like this then men could not be trapped in to paying child support for children they didn’t want. In the event that the (biological) father is not correctly known or around until after the baby is born, he can obtain visitation rights (and any other things that noncustodial parents get, if there are any) by committing to also paying child support for however long would be legally required under the current system. And of course, should it be proven after child support and etc. are set up that a man believed to be the biological father of a child is not, he can (but doesn’t HAVE TO) opt out of all responsibilities (though sacrificing rights in the process) at any time.

    Going further, I also think it should be okay for the custodial parent to opt out of providing visitation rights (and etc.?) but by sacrificing child support in the process. They should not be given a “you are being paid child support so you have to deal with the other parent and allow visits” deal.

    AND LET’S NOT EVEN GET STARTED ON ALIMONY. That, of course, should be abolished. Generally after a break-up both people can live independently of the other as they did before the relationship, but if the poorer partner can’t, it’s (in my view) almost never the richer one’s fault, and the cases people may think it is either come under another crime or, in my opinion, “the risks were obvious, it is the poorer partner’s fault”. If in a rare case someone is, for example, with an overbearing partner trying to stop them from attending work or education, I think it’s their responsibility to leave the relationship or do what they want regardless of what the other thinks, not the state’s responsibility to create a legal climate with the potential to be heavily abused, and if (for another example) one person enters a relationship in which they are being financially supported, and they choose not to work because they don’t have to, it’s their own fault (and therefore in my eyes the problem is their own responsibility) if the relationship falls apart and, with less experience on their CV than they could have had by their age, they cannot find a job.

  21. “Going further, I also think it should be okay for the custodial parent to opt out of providing visitation rights (and etc.?) but by sacrificing child support in the process.”

    When I first skimmed your response, I read that as “Going further, I also think it should be okay for the custodial parent to opt out of providing visitation rights (and etc.?) by sacrificing their children in a repository.” Me = :B

  22. LOL

    Even worse version: sacrificing children in a suppository. Grind them up and shove them up people’s asses, but make sure you keep the baby guts, those are delicious.

  23. …Hope it helps the digestive tract along. Maybe it will get approved by the FDA?

  24. As long as we decide to give half the profits to them.

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