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Old 25 July 2008, 09:46 PM
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Icon202 Definition of insanity

Comment: Albert Einstein is usually credited with authorship of the maxim,
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different
results." But Ben Franklin and author Rita Mae Brown are also given
credit. Who really said/wrote it?
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  #2  
Old 01 December 2009, 05:00 PM
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Comment: What is the true origin of the quote (I paraphrase) "The
definition of insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and
expecting different results". It's commonly attributed to Ben Franklin,
ancient Chinese proverb, Albert Einstein, and Rita Mae Browne.
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Old 01 December 2009, 11:53 PM
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FWIW, I've always disliked that adage. It would equate the otherwise useful bit of advice, "Try, try again" to the realm of mental illness.

Someone go tell Robert Bruce and the spider.

Silas
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Old 03 December 2009, 03:11 AM
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I can't verify it, but a friend of mine who's a member of Alcoholics Anonymous has told me it originated with that group. AA uses the phrase to encourage alcoholics to change their ways.

Maybe AA didn't create the phrase, but they do use it often.

The phrase is illogical, but if it helps people to cope with their addiction, I guess it's OK.
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Old 03 December 2009, 03:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
FWIW, I've always disliked that adage. It would equate the otherwise useful bit of advice, "Try, try again" to the realm of mental illness.
I think that the "in the same way" bit is an important distinction. When you try again you don't do it in the same way, the first way didn't work. You figure out where you went wrong, and do it a slightly different way.
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Old 03 December 2009, 03:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
FWIW, I've always disliked that adage. It would equate the otherwise useful bit of advice, "Try, try again" to the realm of mental illness.

Someone go tell Robert Bruce and the spider.

Silas
Not really. Trying again doesnít predicate the procedure being the same unlike the first statement. You can try something again using a different technique in the hopes of a desired outcome. Doing the dame thing and expecting different results is directly contradictory. Doing the same thing repeatedly is intended to get the same results. If you expect different results you are either not going the same thing over and over or your expectations are based on illogical precedence.

You ďtry, try again, depends on reaching either the same result (simple repetition) or itís an attempt to rectify a failure in which you would not use the same process again (unless you were crazy). You try again because you failed. The result is not supposed to be different - itís supposed to be consistent. When you try again you have two outcomes - you repeat and get consistency, you donít repeat and get two different results. That flies in the face of ďdoing the same thing and expecting different results. That doesnít predicate failure. It assumes success.
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Old 03 December 2009, 04:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diddy View Post
Not really. Trying again doesnít predicate the procedure being the same unlike the first statement. You can try something again using a different technique in the hopes of a desired outcome. Doing the dame thing and expecting different results is directly contradictory. Doing the same thing repeatedly is intended to get the same results. If you expect different results you are either not going the same thing over and over or your expectations are based on illogical precedence.
There's two general types of situations in which doing the same thing over and over is quite rational: Practice and fishing.

With fishing, you are expecting the circumstances to change while your technique does not. There's a correct sequence of clicks to access a particular Web page, but if the Web page is temporarily inaccessible due to some glitch, all you have to do is try doing exactly the same thing later and you're very likely to get different results. We've all done this.

In the instance of practice, a person is probably approximating the correct motions as best as possible, so doing the same thing again and again is not unreasonable. Nobody tries to keep missing the goal in exactly the same spot.
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Old 03 December 2009, 06:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Billion View Post
There's two general types of situations in which doing the same thing over and over is quite rational: Practice and fishing.

With fishing, you are expecting the circumstances to change while your technique does not. There's a correct sequence of clicks to access a particular Web page. . .
Oh! I thought you meant fishing!

Silas (you get a line and I'll get a pole, and we'll go down to the crawdad hole)
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Old 03 December 2009, 07:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geminilee View Post
I think that the "in the same way" bit is an important distinction. When you try again you don't do it in the same way, the first way didn't work. You figure out where you went wrong, and do it a slightly different way.
At the same time, though, I feel like "Try, try again," needs to be tempered with "Learn when to stop trying." I could try all I wanted to become a WNBA athlete but I would be doomed to failure no matter how much training I did. I'm just not cut out for it.
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Old 03 December 2009, 08:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Billion View Post
Nobody tries to keep missing the goal in exactly the same spot.
Not unless you are insane!
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  #11  
Old 03 December 2009, 08:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Billion View Post
There's two general types of situations in which doing the same thing over and over is quite rational: Practice and fishing.
Or connecting to a busy server using a dial-up modem.

Dropbear
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  #12  
Old 03 December 2009, 08:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aimee Evilpixie View Post
At the same time, though, I feel like "Try, try again," needs to be tempered with "Learn when to stop trying." I could try all I wanted to become a WNBA athlete but I would be doomed to failure no matter how much training I did. I'm just not cut out for it.
Well, sure... It's like the comedy skit where the one-legged man is auditioning for the role of Tarzan. You and basketball, me and singing! I'll not only never sing an opera aria before the crowned heads of Europe, I even get thrown out of filk circles at sf cons!

Sometimes doing the same thing over and over is insane. Other times, it isn't. That's why I think it is a poor definition, as it fails in so many instances.

If you and I kept practicing, I'll bet you could get the basketball to go through the hoop in a free-throw maybe one time in six...and I might actually hit three consecutive notes on key!

Silas (do re ishkabibble)
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  #13  
Old 03 December 2009, 08:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Billion View Post
With fishing, you are expecting the circumstances to change while your technique does not. There's a correct sequence of clicks to access a particular Web page, but if the Web page is temporarily inaccessible due to some glitch, all you have to do is try doing exactly the same thing later and you're very likely to get different results. We've all done this.

That's far too simplified though since you are omitting several things happening. One of these things is the underlying connections. If the page is down, you are not completing the action in the same way as if it is up - the conditions are up. You just described a failure due to environment. If you control for these factors, when you do something using the exact same procedure (and you have controlled for external factors), you should get the same result. Obviously if there was some inverting factor that you are aware of, thats just a normal failure - it doesn't indicate any logical inconstancy.

If you do the exact same simple controllable thing 100 times exactly and expect something different to happen when normally it would be the same, you got problems. Lets just hope you are testing a failed system where you expect failure.
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Old 03 December 2009, 08:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
Sometimes doing the same thing over and over is insane. Other times, it isn't. That's why I think it is a poor definition, as it fails in so many instances.
You miss the part about "expecting different results."

Quote:
If you and I kept practicing, I'll bet you could get the basketball to go through the hoop in a free-throw maybe one time in six...and I might actually hit three consecutive notes on key!
I am a very good free throw shooter. I got that way through practice. There is a way I shoot the ball that I know will make it through the hoop almost every time. I learned that technique through trial and error, or, practice. When one way didn't work, I made adjustments until I found a way that made it work. I didn't keep shooting the ball in the same way and thought the ball would somehow magically go in. *That* is what would have met the definition of insanity.
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Old 03 December 2009, 08:49 PM
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Practicing can be "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different
results."

Basically, when I practice my pipes, I am building stamina and muscle memory from peritition. The results after I've played a peice 100 times are, hopefully, different from the first time I've tried it.

Generally, the breakdown is that the first few times I will fail - making mistakes that require me to stop and start over. The mistakes gradually become less frequent as I practice and eventually I can play without mistakes.

That just proves that all musicians are insane...
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Old 03 December 2009, 08:49 PM
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I think a better test of the merits of this quote would be to ask how many clinically insane people really do keep trying the same thing expecting different results. It's far from a defining feature of even just delusion. Some mentally ill people may have a compulsion to repetitive behavior, but that doesn't necessarily connect to expectations of different outcomes.

If anything, the quote is a better description of stupidity than insanity.
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Old 03 December 2009, 09:05 PM
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I remember the quote as an older brother tricking his younger sibling that it goes: "If at first you don't succeed fry, fry an egg."

I don't know if it's from Little House on the Prairie, or from a book, or what.
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  #18  
Old 03 December 2009, 09:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DemonWolf View Post
Practicing can be "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different
results."
If you are doing any sort of refinement though, you are not "doing the same thing over and over again". Your procedure gets different as you control for various things like lack of strength.

Quote:
Basically, when I practice my pipes, I am building stamina and muscle memory from peritition. The results after I've played a peice 100 times are, hopefully, different from the first time I've tried it.
That's because you are not making mistakes that you did in the first 100 steps. Your overall actions may look the same but the devil is in the details. Things changed from attempt 1 to attempt 10 (your stamina improves). We are talking about a flawed result from a consistent procedure. You are thinking of an evolution procedure

Quote:
Generally, the breakdown is that the first few times I will fail - making mistakes that require me to stop and start over. The mistakes gradually become less frequent as I practice and eventually I can play without mistakes.
If you made a mistake, and then did not repeat that mistake later, you are not "doing the same thing". Doing the same thing over again would require you to repeat the mistake and hope for things to magically change from noise to music. That's insanity.
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  #19  
Old 03 December 2009, 09:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Logoboros View Post
I think a better test of the merits of this quote would be to ask how many clinically insane people really do keep trying the same thing expecting different results. It's far from a defining feature of even just delusion. Some mentally ill people may have a compulsion to repetitive behavior, but that doesn't necessarily connect to expectations of different outcomes.

If anything, the quote is a better description of stupidity than insanity.

I call it a symptom. There is no practical reason to repeat something that you know is not going to work unless your thought process is fundamentally flawed. Remember, we are not talking about somebody who makes a mistake in their day to day stuff or wacky external variables that you can adapt to. The only other reason to do something so fundamentally stupid would be because it was a deliberate action. Unless your thought process was so impaired.

Stupidly can be fixed by learning - the kind of person we are talking about doesn't change their behaviors so easily.
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  #20  
Old 03 December 2009, 09:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DemonWolf View Post
{snip}

That just proves that all musicians are insane...
That's what's known as scientific proof, my friend. Gotta go, there's a drummer at the door.

- P
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