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Thinking is an act of imposing one’s will onto truth, not passive prediction

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses Nietzsche's observation that thoughts come to us unbidden, rather than being under our conscious control. It explores the implications of this for models of rational thinking and planning, and proposes an alternative "intent-centered" view of how the mind works. The key points are:

🙋 Q&A

[01] Nietzsche's Observation on Thoughts

1. What was Nietzsche's observation about thoughts?

  • Nietzsche observed that thoughts come to us when "it" (the thought) wants to, not when "I" (the person) wants it to. Thoughts are not under our conscious control.

2. How does this observation challenge the ideal of the "rational man"?

  • The rational man is seen as exercising control over the world through reason and planning. Nietzsche's observation highlights the uncontrolled nature of our own thoughts, challenging this ideal.

3. What are the implications of Nietzsche's observation for models of rational thinking and planning?

  • It introduces a gap or problem for model-based AI and planning approaches, which assume thoughts/actions can be directed and controlled. If thoughts come unbidden, how does the mind know which thoughts to have when making plans?

[02] Limitations of Model-Based Reinforcement Learning (MBRL)

1. What are the key limitations of MBRL highlighted in the article?

  • MBRL assumes actions can be planned and executed immediately, but humans can make "free-floating" plans they don't intend to act on right away. MBRL also assumes a finite set of starting points for planning, when thoughts could start from an infinite number of possibilities.

2. How does the article propose to address these limitations?

  • The article suggests an "inverted" or "intent-centered" approach, where the desired goal elicits related thoughts/intents that could achieve that goal, rather than building a predictive model first.

[03] The Intent-Centered View of Thinking

1. What is the key idea behind the "intent-centered" view of thinking proposed in the article?

  • Rather than building a predictive model of the world, the mind selectively learns and recalls "intents" - thoughts/experiences that would directly achieve desired goals, working backwards from the goal.

2. How does this intent-centered view differ from the standard "forward" model of planning?

  • The standard model assumes initial thoughts occur randomly, then uses a predictive model to plan. The intent-centered view proposes that desired goals elicit relevant intents/thoughts as starting points for planning.

3. What are the benefits of the intent-centered approach compared to the standard model?

  • It can generate useful thoughts/plans independently of the immediate situation, and does not require building a complete predictive model of the world, which is seen as impossible.

[04] The Role of Causality and Control in Thinking

1. How does the article characterize the role of causality in the intent-centered view?

  • The mind assumes causality between thoughts/experiences in order to remember useful "intents" that can achieve desired outcomes. It updates these causal assumptions based on whether the intents prove effective in controlling the world.

2. What is the ultimate goal driving this intent-centered thinking process?

  • The goal is control - to shape the world and one's experiences to meet one's needs and desires. Thinking is fundamentally about imagining and willing the world to be as one wants it.
Shared by Daniel Chen ·
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