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Solving Problems

To solve a problem, or to accomplish anything at all, there are only three fundamental obstacles.

1) It may be impossible.

2) You may lack knowledge of how to do it.

3) You may not want to do it.

The first is about the laws of physics, the second the laws of epistemology, and the third the laws of morality. Because people are universal knowledge creators -- they can create any knowledge that can be created -- (2) can only be a temporary obstacle.

(1) can prevent us doing things, but it need not ever make us unhappy. Human problems are soluble within the laws of physics. Suppose we had the ideal world that was physically possible -- utopia. It would be ridiculous to be unhappy about that (especially given that in our present, imperfect society there is already a lot of good). So we can reach a point within the laws of physics which we can be happy with.

(3) can also prevent us doing things, but it can never make us unhappy. If we'd be happy about doing something then it allows it.

(2), despite being the temporary obstacle, is more problematic. We can create knowledge without limit, but there are no guarantees about when we'll learn a given thing. We might have a problem and not learn the knowledge that would solve it for hundreds of years. So to be happy (now) we need a life strategy that can cope with not having lots of knowledge. We can expect to have some knowledge, and some ignorance, and we can't guarantee having any specific piece of knowledge (or acquiring it in under a trillion years).

Fortunately we can get by with an arbitrarily large amount of ignorance. If we get stuck on a particular problem that we can't figure out then we can always replace it with a new one. And if we get stuck again then we can replace it again. We can do this without limit until we find a problem we know how to solve, now.

I may post the method later.

Elliot Temple on September 10, 2008

Comments (9)

I hope so

You say "I may post the method later."

Reminds me of Fermat's remark, "I have a truly marvellous proof of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain."

Anonymous at 11:42 AM on September 10, 2008 | #1492
Don't worry, if I get hit by a bus David Deutsch still knows it. I started writing a post on the method a while ago but I didn't finish it.

Anonymous at 11:44 AM on September 10, 2008 | #1493

Death

"So we can reach a point within the laws of physics which we can be happy with."

I don't want to die, but it is possible that the laws of physics don't allow for immortality. If so, how would I be able to solve this problem? Would I have to make myself want to die? Would it be ridiculous not to?

Anonymous at 5:42 AM on September 11, 2008 | #1495
Many people today think death is unavoidable and have come to terms with that. It is possible to do so.

- Elliot

Anonymous at 8:40 AM on September 11, 2008 | #1496
You wrote:

"(3) can also prevent us doing things, but it can never make us unhappy. If we'd be happy about doing something then it allows it."

I don't understand this one. For instance, what is writer's block, but a situation where a person wants to write but unhappiness doesn't allow it?

Anonymous at 5:10 AM on September 12, 2008 | #1498
David Deutsch knows the method. Where did he write it?

Life forces you to make decisions. If you don't solve certain problems in time, you get hurt.

Anonymous at 5:13 AM on September 12, 2008 | #1499
In what rational ways do people come to terms with death?

Anonymous at 5:14 AM on September 12, 2008 | #1500
Writer's block would be solved by knowledge of which words to write next.

- Elliot

Elliot Temple at 7:55 AM on September 12, 2008 | #1503
"Writer's block would be solved by knowledge of which words to write next."

But the problem is they can't create that knowledge. They need to re-learn or remember the thought process needed to create that kind of knowledge. Not just know what words to come next

Anonymous at 4:47 PM on September 16, 2008 | #1506

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)