Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Better world proposals as admissible heuristics

In CS, and graph searching in particular, the concept of an admissible heuristic is one that never overestimates the true cost of something. (Typically achieving some goal.) Different heuristics may give different estimates, but admissible ones never overestimate.

The goal of utopia is a perfect world, or at least a perfect-as-possible world. Dystopian fiction contains great fictional examples of how some would-be utopias aren't actually all that great. But I contend that a lot of those dystopias are still actually better than the present world, overall, and that reaching the perfect world may require such stepping stones. I worry that dystopias can represent local optima and thus be worse in the sense of cutting off the possibility for improvement, but I'm not sure that's possible on a global scale for all time.

Thus it's important to remember that proposals to make this world better, or ideas and visions of what possible future worlds might be like -- say an ill-defined World Without Suffering -- aren't proposing the ultimate perfect utopia, but merely improvements. And if they are better overall, and don't try to pretend to be perfect and final, then we can consider them admissible... To take the previous example, perhaps a certain amount of suffering is needed for human existence to have meaning. However the world is currently full of much suffering that I think we would be better off without, and once we are without, then perhaps we can reason on a further improvement to introduce the right amount back in, which would be another overall improvement on the path to perfection and thus admissible too.

Anyway, this is just a random thought I had while in a sleep deprived state. Belief level: unlikely.

Posted on 2016-01-21 by Jach

Tags: thought


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