Rigorizing plumbers

by Collin Lysford

One of the most important ideas uniting us is the rigorizing pipeline. Patterns in the world are noticed as anecdotes, folk wisdom records ways of interacting with those patterns, systematization allows the exact scale of the pattern to be recorded, and then formal methods can exploit those patterns for, hopefully, the good of humanity. The universe in all it’s complexity feeds in to the source, operational knowledge comes out the end.

What’s interesting about the rigorizing pipeline is that you need different maintenance tools for different parts. Throwing away senseless outliers can make sense near the end, but outliers you don’t understand are much of the content coming in. The plumbing is different, and the tools you need to have on hand are different. But this isn’t a paean to anti-rationalist woo: the pipe has a direction for a reason. You’re trying to take immense undifferentiated pattern and parcel out a part you can understand so it flows through. But if the pipe is blocked near the start there’s no use trying to open it with the wrenches you use for the end, even though that’s where you’re trying to get the water to go.

TIS is a gathering point for plumbers who are working near the source of the pipe but understand what’s meant to come out on the end. This is not a reaction against formal methods, but an acknowledgement that they’re often applied prematurely to pipe segments that are much further upstream than the well-defined patches of science many plumbers envy. Instead of a cargo cult belief that the tools of the scientists at the very end of the pipe are the ideals we should always emulate (the scientific method”), we want to examine phenomena that require more qualitative, anecdote-based analysis. Never mind if it looks a bit like woo; we’ll know the difference.

The tools you use on the end of the pipe are undoubtedly the most delicate and highest leverage. This doesn’t mean they’re the best tools, though: if you’re working out a clog near the start you need something broader and less precise. Those are the tools we’re seeking to build here.