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taelor comments on Lost Purposes - Less Wrong

68 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 November 2007 09:01AM

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Comment author: taelor 06 November 2011 11:17:12AM 7 points [-]

Why would any individual lose track of their purposes in a swordfight?  If someone else had taught them to fight, if they had not generated the entire art from within themselves, they might not understand the reason for parrying at one moment, or springing at another moment; they might not realize when the rules had exceptions, fail to see the times when the usual method won't cut through.

On August 26, 1346, a smaller contingent of English soldiers met a numerically superior French force outside of the Norman village of Crecy. The outnumbered English focused primarily on defense, using mainly dismounted spear- and longbowmen, whereas the French employed a highly mobile, offensive strategy utilizing mainly armored horsemen; the result was a decisive victory for the English, and a complete rout for the French. 10 years later, English and French forces would meet again at Poitiers; the French still had the numerical advantage, but their strategies were reversed: thistime, the French fielded dismount archers, while English charged in on horseback. The English still won, and even managed to capture the French king, forcing him to sign over a sizable chunk of his kingdom as ransom. What the French commanders failed to understand was that Cracy was a flat plain, where attacking the enemy was easy as looking around till you saw him, and then attacking in that direction, but where strong defensive positions where at a premium; thus the side that was best at defense would win. All thefrench saw was that the English won at Crecy, and so they tried to copy the english's winning tactics, without ever understanding why those tactics would be inappropriate to the hillier, more rugged territory around Poitiers.