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Eliezer Yudkowsky on Wasted Motions

KnaveOfAllTrades Sep 14th, 2013 36 Never
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  1. https://www.facebook.com/yudkowsky/posts/10151706498254228
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  3. Eliezer Yudkowsky
  4. 1 July at 18:03 near Berkeley, CA, United States ยท
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  6.     The cognitive skill taught in Ch. 88 is the insight that I call 'wasted motion'. If you read Ch. 88 closely, a 'Tick' does not occur just because time passes. It occurs after each of Harry's thoughts (or actions) that predictably do not contribute to [resolving the issue successfully].
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  8.     For more general example, if you want to solve a problem, then after you've solved it, any emotional fretting you did about whether you could solve it will have been a wasted motion in retrospect - those thoughts will predictably not have contributed to reaching the goal in hindsight.
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  10.     "But if I'm genuinely not sure if I can solve a problem, the value of information about whether I can solve it is high, if the cost of trying and failing is non-negligible!" True, though this depends on the existence of branches where you don't solve the problem, which isn't very heroic epistemology. The value of information about the exact level of effort required is even higher, and if it leads you to put in the correct level of effort, that will not have been a wasted motion in retrospect - heroic epistemology certainly allows for possible worlds in which higher levels of effort were required.
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  12.     But regardless of this sort of obvious theoretical objection, *in practice* you would still be very well advised to fix in your mind the scenario where your goal has been achieved, and ask whether a thought will predictably not have contributed to getting there in retrospect. In a mind which has not practiced detecting wasted motions, there will be many, many wasted motions; so ignore the theoretical objections and just do it for a while.
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