Sunday, September 27, 2020

Ad Hoc Reasoning


We have created many ad hoc mechanisms to solve a problem or achieve some end. This is necessary to avoid the combinatorial explosion that would result if we allowed each agent in society (or even each person) to reason about every possible solution, whether the agents knew it or not. If we simply made all human knowledge available for every individual's deliberation, then no decision could ever be made at speed and with low computational complexity. We therefore allow people (and computers) to specialise their reasoning processes based on a set of goals they are trying to fulfil.

We can describe these mechanisms in terms of two kinds of considerations: (1) epistemic and pragmatic reasoning, and (2) normative reasoning. The former is concerned with the efficiency of decision-making processes; the latter is about identifying what actions are morally acceptable.

Consider epistemic reasoning. It can be useful to think of this as a kind of 'source code' for the knowledge required to carry out some task or achieve some goal.

Consider pragmatic reasoning. This can be understood as a series of 'commands' that guide our behaviour towards achieving some goal.

Consider normative reasoning. This deals with moral and ethical behaviour towards other agents, and the consequences of our actions.

The first two kinds of reasoning are often referred to as 'micro-level' and 'macro-level', respectively. The former refers to the processes that guide my behaviour on a day-to-day basis; whereas the latter denotes those which govern society as a whole.

Sometimes an ad-hoc solution is necessary. But it's important to understand what that means. A "solution" implies a problem and implies premeditation (i.e., having previously perceived the problem). An ad hoc solution is not a solution in any meaningful sense, but rather simply something which works at the time for whatever reason (most likely because it was good enough). The danger of this approach is obvious: if you use an ad hoc strategy long enough then eventually there will be no way left to improve upon your initial strategy.

The problem with ad hoc strategies is that you can't get good at something if you don't have a strategy. You need to develop skills and mastery, which requires practice of some sort. I suppose an analogy would be martial arts: if you're not learning to punch effectively then eventually someone will punch back just hard enough to break your arm.

The first thing to understand about human beings is that they do not know what they are. They think they are these physical bodies walking around, yet this has been proven false time and time again by science. The mind controls the body, not the other way around, so it makes sense to ask how it all works.

Here's a place in which one can draw an analogy between humans and computers: Computers run programs. These programs are sets of instructions for how computers should act if certain inputs come in from outside sources like keyboards or networks or even their random number generators (which we call "inputs"). So if you want to describe what a computer does, you might say something like "the program runs as long as inputs keep coming." When no more input comes in, then the program stops running; hence many people believe that when brain cells die out due to old age there is nothing left but dead matter. But here we see why this view cannot be correct: Humans create new outputs every day without any external stimuli except sunlight and food; so clearly humans must have some kind of internal software that keeps running when no outside input comes in! This suggests that our minds work more like self-writing books than self-playing games—at least at all times after birth—and since writing requires higher intelligence than playing games this further supports my thesis.

Now, to understand the mind—which is what "human" really means—we must first define life. Life can be defined as an entity that has output; that is, something in which new things happen over time. This definition implies evolution and adaptation; for if an entity stays static over time then it cannot have output! To take a real-world example: A tree would not grow any new leaves or branches unless some interaction between its environment caused this change in the same way a computer program only outputs new information when various inputs come into it from outside sources like networks or keyboards or random number generators (which we call "inputs"). So human beings are alive because they constantly produce novel internal information and behavior through their minds even though no external stimuli act upon them except sunlight and food. They are self-writing books rather than self-playing games.

Now that we know what life is, the next question to ask is: What kind of physical system can support life? The answer comes from biology: Life requires a host cell. Mother Nature herself has shown us this by making all living things require a physical body in order to function and reproduce.

So human beings are like cells inside an organism called society; they perform various tasks for it just as cells do their work for the whole-organism-that-is-the-body.

This leads us to the next question: What is society? According to Merriam-Webster, a society is "a group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political or other purposes." While this definition may seem circular (what does it mean to be associated?), we can draw an analogy between societies and corporations. Corporations have many functions: They build things like factories and houses; they design products that help people do work more efficiently; they give people jobs so these workers can buy food from farms; etc. Society has similar functions—it protects citizens against harm by punishing criminals with jail terms or death sentences; it builds infrastructure like roads and bridges which makes life easier on average for everyone in the country (though some are inconvenienced by traffic jams); it provides social services like medical care or welfare when citizens cannot afford them on their own due to unemployment or old age etc.; etc.

So human beings are cells inside an organism called society just as cells are part of a body.

That being said, the next question to ask is: What kind of physical system can support society? The answer comes from physics: Society requires a host planet. In our Universe there are only so many planets that have an environment where life could evolve; and in these few places, life has indeed emerged. So just as cells require a body for them to function—which is why we don't see any free-floating single cells in space today—human beings also require a world around them on which to live and work if they wish to survive.

Now that we know what society is, the next question to ask is: What kind of physical system can support societies? The answer comes from physics again: Societies require a host star. In our galaxy alone there are billions of stars; but only some have planets around them—and in these few places life has indeed emerged on at least one planet (Earth) which then gave birth to human beings. So just as cells require a body for them to function—which is why we don't see any free-floating single companies in space today—human beings also require a world around them on which to live and work if they wish to survive.

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