Single Responsibility Principle for the Human Mind

Single Responsibility Principle for the Human Mind

This is about an engineering order for human minds, known elsewhere as the single responsibility principle.

Double purposes of the same module of a person’s mind lead to portions of their efforts canceling the other effort out.

Imagine you’re a startup CEO and you want to understand economic feasibility to make good decisions, but you also want to make investors believe that you are destined for success so you can get their money whether or not you are, so you want to put enthusiasm into your voice…
…so you’ve got to believe that your thing is a very very good idea…

When you are deciding to set the direction of product development, you might be more in contact with the “track-reality” purpose for your beliefs, and therefore optimize your beliefs for that, and optimize your belief-producers to produce beliefs that track reality.

When you are pitching to investors, you might be more in contact with the “project enthusiasm” goal, and therefore optimize your beliefs for that, and optimize your belief producers to produce beliefs that project enthusiasm.

In each case, you’ll be undoing the work you did before.

In a well-ordered mind, different “oh I made a mistake there, better adjust to avoid it again”s don’t just keep colliding and canceling each other out. But that is what happens if they are not feeding into a structure that has different spaces for the things that are needed to be different for each of the goals.

Self-deception for the purpose of other-deception is the loudest but not the only example of double purposes breaking things.

For example, there’s the thing where we have a set of concepts for a scheme of determining action that we want to socially obligate people to do at the cost of having to do it ourselves, which is also the only commonly-used way of talking about an actual component of our values.

Buckets errors cause a similar clashing-learning thing, too.

Maybe you can notice the feeling of clashing learning? Or just the state of having gone back and forth on an issue several times (how much you like someone, for instance) for what don’t seem like surprising reasons in retrospect.

The Slider Fallacy

Inspired by this thing John Beshir said about increasing collectivism:

Overall I kind of feel like this might be kind of cargo culting; looking at surface behaviours and aping them in hopes the collectivism planes will start landing with their cargo. A simplistic “collectivist vs individualist” slider and pushing it left by doing more “collectivist” things probably won’t work, I think. We should have some idea for how the particular things we were doing were going to be helpful, even if we should look into collectivist-associated ideas.

  • Here are some other “sliders”:
  • Writing emails fast vs writing them carefully.
  • Writing code cleanly vs quickly.
  • Taking correct ideas seriously vs resistance to takeover by misaligned memes.
  • Less false positives vs less false negatives in anything.
  • Perfectionism vs pragmatism.
  • Not wasting time vs not wasting money.

In each of these spaces, you have not one but many choices to adjust which combine to give you an amount of each of two values.

Not every choice is a tradeoff. Some are pareto wins. Not every pareto win is well-known. Some choices which are tradeoffs at different exchange rates can be paired off into pareto improvements.

Also: if the two things-to-value are A and B, and even if you are a real heavy A-fan, and your utility function is .9A + .1B, then the B-fans are a good place to look for tradeoffs of 1 of A for 20 of B.

So if you’re a B-fan and decide, “I’ve been favoring B too much, I need more A”, don’t throw away all the work you did to find that 1 of A for 20 of B tradeoff.

For example: if you decide that you are favoring organization too much and need to favor more having-free-time-by-not-maintaining-order-you-won’t-use, maybe don’t stop using a calendar. Even if all the productive disorganized people are not using calendars. Even if they all think that not using a calendar is a great idea, and think you are still a neat-freak for using one.

It’s often not like the dark side, where as soon as you set your feet on that path and say to yourself, “actually, self-denial and restraint are bad things”, put on some red-and-yellow contact lenses and black robes, you are as good at getting the new goals as you were at the old ones.

“Adjust my tradeoffs so I get less false positives and more false negatives” and similar moves are dangerous because they consider a cost to be a reward.