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HopeFox comments on High Challenge - Less Wrong

22 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 December 2008 12:51AM

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Comment author: HopeFox 30 April 2011 03:46:11PM *  6 points [-]

Do we even need the destination? When you consider "fun" as something that comes from a process, from the journey of approaching a goal, then wouldn't it make sense to disentangle the journey and the goal? We shouldn't need the destination in order to make the journey worthwhile. I mean, if the goal were actually important, then surely we'd just get our AI buddies to implement the goal, while I was off doing fun journey stuff.

For a more concrete example:

I like baking fruitcakes. (Something I don't do nearly often enough these days.) Mixing the raw ingredients is fun, and licking the bowl clean afterwards is always good times.

I also like eating fruitcake. Fruitcake is tasty.

Now, one of the things that induces me to bake a fruitcake rather than, say, play Baldur's Gate II is that, afterwards, there will be fruitcake. However, there have been times when other people (usually my mother) have been baking a fruitcake, and I have enthusiastically joined in the process, even though I know that she's better at it than I am, and even if I don't participate, there will still be fruitcake at the end of the day. So clearly I place some value on the process independently of the result.

I suspect, in fact, that actually getting the fruitcake at the end of the baking process is unnecessary to my enjoyment of the process. Maybe I'd be just as happy if we swapped the cake to another family for a cheesecake they'd just made. Maybe the need to be "rewarded" for participating in a process that was rewarding in itself, is just a cognitive bias that I can overcome. After all, if I really wanted a fruitcake, I could buy one, or just let my mother do the baking. The more I look at this, the more the fruitcake itself seems like fake justification for the baking process.

Now consider this situation in a world where optimal fruitcakes are constructed by nanomachines on demand. I should still be able to enjoy baking, even though the final product of the process is of trivial value. If I can separate the process from the goal - if, in fact, I can stop thinking of the baking process as a "journey" and instead just call it a goal in itself - a 4D goal - then I think that would be a substantial step towards being able to find fun in a post-work, post-scarcity world.

Damnit, now I want fruitcake.

Comment author: taryneast 02 June 2011 10:47:19AM *  5 points [-]

I totally agree... there are heaps of processes that I enjoy far more than the actual end-result.

Crochet is my example.

I'm quite happy to continue crocheting something pretty (it has to be pretty - I don't enjoy crocheting abominations) for a long time and never "owning a crocheted thing" at the end.

Before I hit upon the solution, I spent a long time starting projects - some of which I finished, but lots I didn't... because I didn't care about finishing - just about doing. Of course, couple this with an aversion to destroying something I've already made (which might have solved the problem by turning it into a sisyphean task). and I got a lot of "why don't you ever finish anything?" from my mother.

The question usually comes as "why don't you ever finish anything, don't you want the [crocheted thing] you set out to create?" - and the honest answer is "no".... but if you say that - they ask "well why did you start making it in the first place?"

Most people don't seem to understand enjoying the process - at least not on a gut level...

I actually solved this particular dilemma by giving away my crocheted things to my grandma - who likes owning crocheted doilies et al. Works for embroidery projects too.

Unfortunately, I still tend to get lack of understanding from other people: "but why don't you ever make something for yourself?" I find it very hard to explain to goal-oriented people why I don't like crochet... I like crocheting.

I would definitely consider myself to be more process-oriented than goal-oriented. I like doing stuff... I like crocheting, not the goal of having crocheted something in particular. Especially, I like learning - not the feat of "having learned something".

So for me - it's very difficult to go to those "attain your goals" seminars etc - because I don't have set goals. I can't point at something and say I want to have achieved precisely that thing, because for me, the thing itself doesn't matter.

It can be frustrating, because I certainly do want to improve over time. I crochet better and more complicated things, I study more challenging topics that build on past learning that I enjoyed. but I can't necessarily quantify that I want to "learn X".

Because there is no X... or at least no specific X.

and then people tell me I'm drifting and that I'll "never accomplish anything"... but accomplishing specific things for me isn't the point. I enjoy the act, not necessarily the achievement.

Of course, over time, I do accomplish things - because if you continue to, say, crochet over a long period of time, eventually you will have piled up a very large back catalogue of doilies... and the same goes for learning of whatever other process you enjoy. Which I can then, of course, show to my mother...

who then invariably says "but why don't you finish the ones that are still in your cupboard?"