The map-territory relation is a useful pedagogical tool that I shall be employing regularly. It illustrates the distinction between a model or abstraction and the thing in itself. A map is a model of a territory and the amount of detail is necessarily compressed. When the two diverge, when my map shows a bridge or path that does not exist, territory supersedes map. Territory is invariant; I cannot manipulate the territory by altering my map.
What does it mean to be a rationalist?
Epistemic rationality is the process of forming and updating beliefs that systematically improves the correspondence between your map and the territory. This correspondence is usually referred to as truth or accuracy.
I will get into specifics regarding the process of belief formation and updating in a later post. What is currently necessary to understand is that the goal of the rationalist is to obtain beliefs that correspond to reality as closely as possible.
Why should you care about that?
Instrumental rationality is the process of actually achieving your values.
Try and imagine the many different places you could be a year from now. The smallest decision you make at this instant will influence the opportunities available to you an hour from now, which can themselves influence later opportunities, Ad infinitum. The space of possible future-selves is practically infinite.
Now imagine where you would like to be a year from now. The number of future selves that you would be happy with given your current set of values, your utility scale, relative to the number of possible future selves is infinitesimally small.
It is our unfortunate condition that we must reach out and pluck the future that we desire from a massive space of possibilities. The odds of success vary based on the strategy employed. Closing our eyes and grasping a future at random, the probability of achieving our desired goal is close to 0%.
Fortunately for us there is a regularity to the system. We can extrapolate probable results of each choice, focusing on those results most likely to converge on our desired outcome. This has the effect of constraining the space of future-selves to a smaller, weighted sample with a much higher desired/undesired ratio.
The extent to which we can accurately predict the results of our choices determines our probability of success. An increased degree of accuracy will increase the probability of success at a greater than linear rate.
To see how this is so, imagine you are walking down a path.
You must start at the bottom and want to reach the destination that is circled in red. The correct sequence of moves is L R L L. If you make a mistake at any point in the sequence you will not reach your destination.
Lets assume that your prediction accuracy is 50%. The odds of you reaching your destination are 1/16 ((1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2)) or 6.25%.
Now lets assume that your accuracy is 60%. The odds of you reaching your destination are 162/1250 ((3/5)*(3/5)*(3/5)*(3/5)) or 12.96%
Finally, lets assume that your accuracy is 70%. The odds of you reaching your destination are 2401/10000 ((7/10)*(7/10)*(7/10)*(7/10)) or 24.01%
The following results continue the pattern:
80% accuracy = 40%
90% accuracy = 65%
95% accuracy = 81%
This is how Epistemic Rationality works to enhance our Instrumental Rationality. The more accurate our map of the territory, the greater our ability to navigate the territory.
4 hours ago