satisfaction of needs

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What if I’m wrong?

Sebastian Marshall asks, “What if I’m wrong?”:

What if you were really wrong? Like, not just the wrong course of action, but what if your whole idea of the setup and cause and effect and payoffs and long term consequences of your actions were flawed? What if you made a serious mistake somewhere in your evaluations, and you were going to get the opposite result of what you wanted? What if you got a horrific result?


What if your safe job is actually a trap?

What if your favorite food is making you fat and diabetic and killing you?

What if you’re slowly killing the person you’re trying to save? What if they’re slowly killing you?

What if getting your preferred politics turned your society and culture into an apocalyptic wasteland?

What if your favorite leisure activity is wrecking your mind, making you stupid, and holding you back from heights you can’t even imagine from where you’re at?

What if being “ultra-hardcore” at the gym is likely to cause injury and destroy your strength, flexibility, and health? What if resting more actually produced larger, safer gains?

The satisfaction of needs

Becoming less wrong is just one of your preferences and needs, as a human being you need to acknowledge and account for all your preferences and needs.

“What if I’m wrong?”

You have to draw the line where asking that question once more will make you never ask the question again. In other words, if you notice that you need to eat, drink or sleep then stop asking the question, because otherwise you won’t be able to ask it anymore. This also counts for pleasure and leisure, if you feel unhappy about not being able to play that new game then go play it until you feel satisfied. If you don’t do it, if you don’t play the game or watch that movie and continue to ask yourself if it is worth it, if it might be the wrong choice, then your unhappiness might turn into depression which in turn will make you reluctant or unable to ask that question anymore.

You can only do your best

What if I’m wrong about the above? I can only do my best.

Whatever intelligence is, it can’t be intelligent all the way down. It’s just dumb stuff at the bottom.
Andy Clark

We are fundamentally dependent on unintelligent processes and naive introspection. We do not plan when and how to think. We rely on an unconscious hierarchical decision procedure that decides to filter out most sensory data. Only what is deemed “important”, what is above a certain threshold, is forwarded far enough to reach conscious reflection. It would be stupid to allocate resources equally.

I, my brain and body, might be wrong to conclude that I need sleep. But I am not thinking about that possibility, not only because I’m a computationally bounded agent but also because thinking in and of itself is an activity that I might be wrong about, just like sleeping. All in all, everything taken into account, sleeping simply turned out to have the most weight right now.

But what if there are monsters under the bed? Then either I survive, learn from that incident and assign enough weight to the possibility of monsters hiding under my bed as to take it into account the next time, or I die and only those agents who “naturally” allocate enough resources to fighting monsters, before going to bed, will survive.

We can only do our best, which includes the allocation of resources to preemptive measures against black swan events.