Artificially Intelligent

Any mimicry distinguishable from the original is insufficiently advanced.

Plans Never Err

| 348 words

I once tried to make sous vide mashed potatoes, where potatoes are cooked without introducing water. When I went to cook the potatoes, the sous vide machine broke. I boiled the potatoes instead, but I still added the same amount of butter as the original recipe called for. Since boiling introduces water, the result was buttery goop.

When I planned to make mashed potatoes, I assumed the sous vide machine worked. When it didn’t, I replaced the broken step. I forgot that not introducing water was important. I didn’t know which properties of the original step were important to preserve. My false assumption had global consequences, so my local fix did not succeed.

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder:

No plan survives contact with the enemy.

All plans inevitably fail. That does not make planning a useless exercise. What makes a plan useless is if it has no contingency for failure. This must be fixed; a simple patch is including “make a new plan” as part of your plan. This is the minimum necessary work to have a plan at all. Any minimally adequate plan makes no errors.

All plans implicitly assume the world operates in a given way. As soon as your plan fails a single time, this invalidates one of the assumptions that went into your plan. Any failure, even a tiny one, means you believed something false about the world when the plan was originally created. If a plan fails anywhere, it’s useless everywhere.

If you were clever, you included contingencies. You can assume less by having conditionals: “Do A. If B happens, then do C; if D happens, do E; else, re-plan.”

If you were not clever, then you didn’t include contingencies. You only have expectations. As soon as those expectations are violated, you must re-plan.

If you were extremely not clever, you didn’t even have expectations. Your plan is just a list of actions. Unless you are good at modeling the world, you are already doomed.

Reality is your enemy. No plan survives. Learn to build from the wreckage.