Options

Today: Several riffs on options and “multivocality”.

Tomorrow: A little bit on “totalitarianism” and my recent readings.

 

I. Options

I’ve painted a worldview that’s very messy, but not so messy that it demands inaction and trembling. I do think that engineering drastic moves is dangerous when you can’t see very far. (I also believe that we can’t see very far.) Still, there are things worth doing and strategies worth pursuing. Some local actions are apparently better or worse. Some strategies involve discovering and holding many options. Other strategies are explicitly about culling bad options.

Playing: Exploring, opening options. Creative.

Gaming: Culling options. Actualizing a small set of options. Destructive.

Humans are not particularly excellent information processors, and so if presented with many options we automatically initiate behaviors to cull many of them and then apply some more deliberative thinking to deal with the limited set we have left. Again, the world is messy: any given situation has too many options to deal with pre-processing. Naturally, many of the options we cull will be bad options, and many will actually be good options that we have arbitrarily failed to consider for lack of good pattern recognition. On the whole, these culling strategies (heuristics, culture, folk knowledge, institutions) were at least wily enough to have survived. Some strategy sets have survived by sheer dumb luck or by their incidental relationship to actually-fit strategies (call them “Cargo Cult” strategies). Some successful strategies, to improve their reproductive fitness even further, have attached themselves to dumb (but memorable) stories. Nuance doesn’t preserve well. Some strategies were once fit but are no longer adaptive due to changes in the environment. We should not always presume to know which strategies are Cargo Cult strategies. Collisions between behaviors and reality are the most important test, much more important than abstract appeals to our fancy.

Option culling is usually more important to humans than finding new options- humans are very fragile, and many options are real’ bad. But, discounting restrictions of time and energy and information, a perfect and rational agent likes options and ought to want to have as many as possible.

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