Simfish/InquilineKea's Thoughts


what’s “naturally” optimal vs. what’s “experientially” optimal
March 20, 2008, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Goal: (Basically this addresses the question “why do you choose action X rather than action Y when you haven’t given equal consideration to both of them?” action Y may be more optimal for you in the long run than action X, even if action X happens to be more locally optimal for you)

As it stands, most people are fairly more or less aware of their strategies optimal for a given goal. However, they frequently fail to distinguish between what’s naturally optimal for them as compared to what’s experientially optimal for them. There is quite a huge distinction between the two. Sometimes the differences between what’s naturally optimal and what’s experientially optimal aren’t that great – strategies are not inflexible and so people’s range of behavior is variable even within the context of each strategy. Nonetheless, strategies are often built on the result of “stable states” that come out of environmentally-influenced bifurcations.

Human nature and environmental constraints are not infinitely flexible and so there are usually strategies that are naturally optimal for realistic phenotypes and environments, even if they may not be optimal for extreme environments or completely different phenotypes.

For example, many people are overly socialized in such a way that they believe that they learn best from lectures as compared to self-study. What often happens, though, is that they don’t even pre-study before lectures. And what often comes out of pre-study is the realization that one can continue pre-studying and then one discovers that one’s lectures are actually useless beyond preparing for ad hoc exams. In this way, what’s “naturally” optimal for a lot of people isself-study, but what’s “experientially” optimal for them happens to be lecture-based learning – as they’ve been socialized to learning from lectures and so they realize their maximum benefit per unit of time [at any given time] by continuing to learn from lectures (as it takes time to develop experience through self-study). “Natural” optimality is only possible to measure if people have equal opportunity to be exposed to both styles of learning. Even then, one has to consider that the resources of one’s youth are different from the resources of one’s later ages. Self-study is a more sustainable learning style than lecture-based learning since you can self-study anything at any time.

Similarly, many people are socialized to type fastest on QWERTY keyboards rather than Dvorak ones. However, Dvorak keyboards are customized to ensure fast typing speeds, whereas Qwerty keyboards are not customized to ensure fast typing speeds. Yet it takes time to get used to type on Qwerty keyboards – a lot of time. And so what’s experientially optimal for most people is to continue typing on Qwerty keyboards even though it’s naturally optimal for them to type on Dvorak ones. One must also consider that in the time being, qwerty typing ability is more sustainable than Dvorak typing ability since one must use qwerty keyboards away from home.

In the same case, we’re socialized to do a lot of things that aren’t necessary (we’re socialized to do what’s “locally” optimal rather than what’s “naturally” optimal). Such as…

– Eating meat and refined grains (when there are plenty of vegetarian foods that taste great). You don’t need to be an animal rights activist to realize that meat is extremely inefficient resource-wise.

– Sleeping on beds mounted on bedframes. Like seriously, you can just put the mattress on the floor

– Communicating academic information by the spoken form rather than the written form. Yes personal information is oftentimes communicated better with body language. But body language is useless when it comes to academic content – especially content delivered for lectures. Written information is archivable, distributable, and retrievable in the future.

– Showering daily. While some people must shower daily (for the purpose of smelling “clean”), others can go for days without showering and still smell “clean”).

– Participating in price-habituated activities that replace price-sensitized one
(read Rachlin’s “Science of Self-Control” for explanation). In fact my theory is pretty much another version of his primrose path (although it’s on a more global level)

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