Monday, July 29, 2013


Buying a smartphone for the first time has some obvious effects.  You can talk while away from home, send texts, and have a mobile GPS.  These things are all predictable.  There are other things that are not so predictable though like the fact that owning a smartphone has kindled an interest in music for me.  Since I can now listen to music wherever I go I end up listening a lot more; this in turn means I listen to a much greater variety of music and now find a need for organization and categorization that never existed before.  I am methodically going through my collection but it is quite a long process since I have ~500 hours of music sitting on my drive at the moment and I feel like I need to listen to everything to sort it properly.

These sorts of unpredictable ripples characterize nearly everything we do.  We can predict much of the simpler repercussions of our actions but nobody would have predicted my renewed interest in the obscure bands I have randomly collected based on me owning a mobile phone.  This is a really good example of why science fiction authors haven't a hope in hell of building reasonable models of future societies with extremely advanced technology - we can't even predict what a single new technology will do in a few years time, much less model ten thousand technologies over centuries.  I often laugh when people try to make predictions about what will happen on earth in a few decades, particularly since even if you boil down predictions to a simple number (say, GDP) of a single nation over a short timespan people can't agree on what will happen.

I think a lot of people find this unnerving.  There is so much that we don't know but which people pretend to understand and that uncertainty can be frightening.  I don't find it so though... rather I find it exciting that small changes have completely unpredictable effects.  When it comes to games I have never found that I am the best at perfect analysis but rather that I excel at making rapid decisions with extremely incomplete data.  That extends to all parts of my life, I think.  I enjoy coasting on the surface of a sea of data picking out important points here and there to draw conclusions from.  I know that my conclusions will not be provable, nor certain, and will often be wrong.  But they will be right more often than not and I find it more enjoyable to maximize my chances than search for certainty most times.  I think this is why I love poker so much - by the time you know for sure the game is already over.  Make the best guess you can and run with it!

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