Choosing a Problem

Actions have consequences. Intentions do not have any. By action, here, I mean anything which is expressed and comes out from your body. I divide this into 3 things, words, body language(which includes most important facial expression) and deeds.

This world is very complex and often people just want to believe that they’re virtuous. Their intentions resemble those of Gods. The only issue is their actions are those of demons.

Recognizing what the primary effects of our primary work on the world are is an important thing which every person must do. Every person has great principles. But is your primary work consistent with those principles? What I’ve found is in 90% of the cases, it isn’t.

This issue arises as one has to first think about the possible consequences which are too many. One has to filter improbable ones and find events in real life with connection to the ones possible and which would eliminate alternate theories and form a general estimate (called ‘belief state’ in Artificial Intelligence) of the probabilities. It isn’t precise and mathematical as in AI but it more or less gives you an estimate of what “your effect” on the world is. All these things are difficult to do instead of simply choosing external incentives for solving a particular problem. Whenever a thing is made difficult compared to another easy thing, people are gonna move towards the easier thing and those things are gonna be more probable. To make good things easy and bad things difficult is our job.

Feynman along with other scientists designed a solution for controlled nuclear fission at Los Alamos. They fell in love with solving the problem possibly for stopping the World War II. The consequences were Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 1 blast might’ve been adequate for demonstration of power for deterrence. Alternatively, things could’ve gotten out of hand and there might’ve been 20 blasts which fortunately didn’t happen. But, as being people capable of solving a problem, it was their responsibility to recognize whether they were placing the technology in the right hands.

Some technologies destroy the world just by their mere invention as one cannot put the genie back into the bottle. In my view, invention of plastics and all the subsequent efforts to make it’s manufacturing cheap is one of them. Divorcing invention from it’s use or misuse is a huge problem as short term effects are valued more than the important long term effects which are also difficult to measure.

I just ask all the problem solvers out there these questions.

  1. What are your principles? Please define them well.
  2. Once the solution you design is out there, can you predict how the world will be? Please think complete in terms of the whole world and every discipline. It is far from obvious and this requires quite some analysis!
  3. Is the world with your solution better off when compared to world before your solution with respect to your principles?

Sagar Acharya [11th December 2021]