2016-12-08

Have You Tried Solving the Problem?

Originally published December 10, 2015

Follow-up to: Against Advice
Related to: The Monster, St. Rev's disability

Have you tried turning it off and on again?
Have you tried running it in WINE?
Have you done a Google search?
Are their wings clipped?
Have you considered getting a job?
Have you tried homeless shelters?
Have you taken an aspirin?
Do you exercise enough?
Just be yourself and have confidence.
Have you tried counting sheep?
Have you considered quitting? [any addiction]
Have you tried communicating with your partner?
Why don't you quit your job?
Have you tried uninstalling and reinstalling?
Have you gone to a doctor?
Have you tried antidepressants?
Have you tried stimulants?
Have you tried seeing a therapist?
Have you considered filing for divorce?
Have you tried self-modifying into being polyamorous?
Have you tried learning to program?
Have you tried Craigslist?
Have you tried looking at the best relationships you know?
Have you tried going into a coffee shop for 30 minutes every morning with a notebook brainstorming how to solve the problem?
Have you considered doing the obvious thing?
Have you tried solving the problem? Why haven't you tried solving the problem?
What's wrong with you? Don't you know good people don't have this problem?

These are mostly advice/posturing I have actually received or seen in the wild. They all have something in common, which is that you have to be a real moron not to think of the advice yourself. So mentioning them is implicitly an accusation that the person who has the problem is a moron who can't think of the obvious solution. Now, that's not to say these are necessarily bad advice. Even smart people are often morons; they often fail to think of the obvious. I have even personally benefited from some of them.

Weird Sun Twitter has an erstwhile meme, which became a deck of cards, of tweets about solutions to The Problem. What is The Problem? The advice-giver doesn't care. The advice-giver just wants to show off how much better they are than you. Here are some examples:

Instance Of Class:
Have you tried becoming a God?
Have you tried getting angry at it?

Mask Of Face:
Have you tried trying?
Have you tried shouting at it?
Have you tried distimming the gostak?
Have you tried throwing it down a well?
Have you tried pointing dramatically at the problem?
Have you tried being more?
Have you tried differentiating?
Have you tried becoming the problem?
Have you tried fixing things seemingly unrelated to the problem, but which need fixing, and seeing if the problem mysteriously vanishes?
Have you tried rotating the problem 90 degrees?
Have you tried making it so that the centre doesn't need to hold?
Have you tried conquering the map first?
Have you tried politely asking the problem to be less problematic?
Have you tried investigating the problem?
Have you tried becoming powerful enough to render the problem irrelevant?
Have you tried?
Have you tried applying a sufficient quantity of Instance Of Class Product to the problem?
Have you tried removing the time limit?
Have you tried making the problem someone else's responsibility?
Have you tried committing to cause a time paradox in all timelines where the problem is not solved?
Have you tried phoning a friend?
Have you tried the fish?
Have you tried enumerating all coherent possible solutions to the problem, and only doing things which will benefit you in all cases?
Have you tried emitting a strangled wail of horror and confusion?
Have you tried only solving most of the problem, and learning to endure the remainder? (This is dangerous. Partially solving a problem can reduce background awareness that it is not fully solved.)
Have you tried paying someone to deal with the problem for you?
Have you tried making the problem underestimate you?
Have you tried making extremely visible preparations for solving the problem, in the hopes that it will be intimidated and flee from you?
Have you tried never having had the problem in the first place?
Have you tried drawing a chalk circle around the problem?
Have you tried doing a wide enough variety of things to the problem that it just gives up in sheer exhaustion and/or confusion?
Have you tried walking away from the problem, solving many similar but smaller problems, and then returning with your newfound skills?
Have you tried making the background music play the track that usually plays in scenes where a protagonist solves a problem?
Have you tried removing all evidence that the problem exists?
Have you tried falling in love with the problem and realising that you no longer want to solve it?
Have you tried unfollowing the problem?
Have you tried hiring the problem to afflict your enemies?
Have you tried using That?
Have you tried confidently asserting that the problem is insoluble by mere mortals while in the company of competent showoffs?
Have you tried seeing what can be derived if you assume a priori that the problem is soluble?
Have you tried declaring the problem too trivial to bother dealing with?
Have you tried offering the problem the resources it would need to solve itself?
Have you tried becoming a witch?

Breaker Of Combo:
Have you tried being bad at things?

Gap Of Gods:
have you tried starting a meme about the problem and seeing if one of the instantiations of the meme solves it?
have you tried becoming more problematic than the problem?
have you tried thinking about a different, larger problem instead
have you tried solving the problem (at least as far as i'm concerned) by becoming a person whose problems i don't care about
have you tried it being too late to solve the problem
have you tried adopting an ontology in which the problem doesn't exist?
have you tried solving the platonic form of the problem and then waiting for the change to propagate to the world of base matter
have you tried attaining enlightenment and then still having the problem?
have you tried the solution having been inside you all along?
have you tried making the solution of the problem a necessary prerequisite to a thing that will necessarily happen?

Model Of Ensemble:
Have you tried improving your ability to classify the problem?
Have you tried letting the problem define everything about you and all that you do or don't do?
Have you tried inhabiting a narrative wherein the universe naturally solves the problem over time?
Have you tried becoming a crab?
Have you tried waiting for the problem to become a crab?
Have you tried grepping the codebase for the problem, looking for an explanatory comment?
Have you tried integrating over the problem? What about deriving with respect to the problem?
Have you tried running *toward* the problem while screaming?
Have you tried dismissing all the aspects of the problem that are illegible?


Word Of Language:
Have you tried the problem?
Have you tried pitting the problem against a bigger problem?
Have you tried proving that the problem is logically impossible to solve?
Have you tried praying for the courage to change the things you can
HAVE you tried anthropomorphizing the problem
Have you tried... oh, you have? That too? Jesus. Maybe you should give up.
Have you tried the solutions that are only available when no one is looking?
Have you tried shutting the fuck up about your god damn problems already
Have you tried coding up a universal problem solver? http://www.hutter1.net/ai/uaibook.htm

NB: DO NOT ACTUALLY DO THIS

have you tried delegating the problem to a better problem-solver than yourself?

Instant Of Time:
Have you tried erasing the words and writing them again?
Have you tried?
Have you tried killing
Have you tried making the problem into a brand?

Forge Of Truth:
Have you tried applying Instance of Class Product directly to the problem?
Have you tried making the probability that the problem occurs arbitrarily small?
Have you tried redefining a basic term to bar the problem?
Have you tried embedding the problem in a more abstract context?
Have you tried politicizing the terminology used in the problem?
Have you tried reducing the problem to a harder problem which no one expects you to solve?
Have you tried scoffing at the youthful idealism of those who believe the problem can be solved?
Have you tried renaming the problem a conjecture and moving on?
Have you tried to foist the problem on philosophers?
Have you tried writing bitter letters to the editor explaining that you have solved the problem but academy politics torpedoed your career?
Have you tried teasing out a burst of insight into the problem by fucking your mistress on prime-numbered days?
Have you tried a training montage and climactic final battle with the problem?
Have you tried tying the problem to a stone altar, extracting its heart, and tossing its body down the stairs?
Have you tried convincing yourself that you will wake up early in the morning and do the problem then?
Have you tried working the problem in unlimited margins?
Have you tried asserting that the solution to the problem is clear to the in-group?

Frame Of Stack:
Have you tried solving the problem by making a series of tweets about creative problem solving methods? Did it work?
Have you tried solving the problem by running away, joining a cult, subverting the cult, and utilizing them as minions?
Have you tried claiming it's too late to solve the problem, but really you just don't want to go through that awkward phone call
Have you tried realizing that the other person has thoughts and feelings too, and maybe solved the problem on their own
Have you tried noticing the problem?
Have you tried revealing your hand?
Have you tried signalling that you're the person?
Have you tried calling the person?
Have you tried expressing ideas you share with the person?
Have you tried following in the person's footsteps? Have you tried wearing the person's shoes?
Have you tried wearing a mask in the likeness of the person?
Have you tried signing in as the person?
Have you tried adding a time limit?
Have you tried narrowing it down to within an order of magnitude?
Have you tried doing things you previously committed to do?
"Have you tried setting up a narrative in which talking about the problem is an important means to its solution?"
Have you tried choosing a prior distribution in which the problem is a set of measure zero?

Allele Of Gene:
Have you tried having the problem?
(Have you tried throwing the problem "away"?)
Have you tried... oh, the problem's solved? Do you still want suggestions anyway?
Have you tried listening to the problem's problems? …Has the problem tried listening to its problems' problems?
Have you tried re-creating the problem in a different context? How different?
Have you tried the inevitability of repetition?
Have you tried restarting the problem to sound like a solution?
Have you tried the person's solution?
Have you tried solutions which have worked before?
Have you tried believing you have a dilution[sic] to the problem, then just doing whatever that would entail?
Have you tried claiming you discovered the problem?
Have you tried interpreting this question as good advice?
Really the problem is very simple, and we're all just thinking about it wrong. So we can all feel bad if we want.
Cats get stuck on the idea that problems are spatial, and literally coming at it from another angle will literally get around the problem.
Have you tried cultivating a way of speaking which doesn't specify the problem but does generalize the problem?
Have you tried declaring the problem a symptom and treating the underlying disease?
Have you tried making the description of the problem into an unspeakably powerful spell so people will not speak it?
Have you tried defining the problem so precisely that nobody will have time to read the definition?
Have you tried several partial solutions together?

Deity Of Religion:
Have you tried looking at the problem with deep concern until finally breaking the silence, uttering "It's probably the outgroup's fault"?
Have you tried burning the problem with fire?
Have you tried sending a fax to the problem?
Have you tried making the problem worse?
Have you tried writing a very long book about the problem?
Have you tried analyzing the trends and inferring that the problem is growing exponentially?
Have you tried praying about the problem until you develop learned helplessness?
Have you tried believing that the problem is natural, sustainable, and inevitable?
Have you tried assembling a panel of experts to talk about about the problem on cable television?
Have you tried redacting the problem from the public record?
Have you tried making it hard to differentiate between the problem and a solution?
Have you tried attempting to lose the problem while unadvisedly racing through a dangerous asteroid field?
Have you tried clearing your thought cache before trying to solve the problem?
Have you tried nonchalantly assuming that the Hegelian World Spirit will solve the problem?
Have you tried staring out the window on a lonely night, wishing you were working on a more interesting problem as the rain drizzles down?
Have you tried assigning a deadline to the problem? (cf. time limit)
Have you tried staying up late enough to catch a glimpse of the problem through the blinds?
Have you tried making claims about the problem's IQ?
Have you tried abolishing the concept of property so no one "has" any problems?
Have you tried talking a lot about how much you need a solution to the problem?
Have you tried telling others they are part of the problem and then trying to solve them?

Value Of Type:
have you tried dropping boxes of modafinil all over the place
have you tried forgiving the people who created the problem?

Disciple Of Order:
have you tried not having been born
Have you tried reading only the first few dozen paragraphs of hundreds of journal articles until you lose interest in the problem?

Proof Of Logic:
Try giving advice that's usually bad. By the fact that the person hasn't solved the problem yet, you can guess that the usual advice fails.
Have you tried becoming the person who asks others if they've tried becoming the problem?
Have you tried consuming instance of class product?
Have you tried giving advice to yourself, rather than other people?
Have you tried doing the right thing?
Have you tried putting what mental habits make you you on note cards, and swapping with a friend?
Have you tried avoiding the problem until you're on the border of forgetting it, so you can see it with fresh eyes?

Vessel Of Spirit:
hmm. have you tried solving the problem in a way that sounds clever
have you tried trying to solve the problem accidentally, but accidentally solving it on purpose
have you tried asking someone a question, and then when they tried asking you what the question is, asking them what the question is
have you tried subtweeting the problem
have you tried sarcastically solving the problem like "oh i guess i have to do x now, huh. you're making me do x" but then it works
have you tried solving the problem ironically
have you tried letting the problem solve you but then turning its strategy against it
have you tried thinking that the deadline is in the past and thinking "ahh i could have solved it" and then thinking "but wait i still can"
have you tried asking people what they've tried. have you tried lazy meta. have you tried argh here we go again
have you tried asking gorbachev to tear down the problem?
have you tried becoming the sort of person who can make a really stupid solution to the problem work anyway
have you tried becoming part of a network of problem solvers so that each problem can be solved by the person most suited to solve it
have you tried seizing upon a limited aspect of the problem and being very enthusiastic about saying that it's the whole problem

This resembles something I and others have done for a long time, which is to post deliberately bad, unfollowable, trivially true, and otherwise worse-than-worthless advice under the #lifehacks hashtag.

There is more to both of these practices than clever humor. We are hitting upon something fundamental about advice of this sort. However, it's been a very long time since I started writing this post, and I've forgotten what that was.

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