Why do kids misbehave--and why do we misbehave, too?
Haha, it’s a trick question. Kids don’t misbehave. And neither do we adults.
They can’t. We can’t. Kids and adults can only do what’s most rewarding.
What’s wrong with doing what’s most rewarding?
We do what our systems let us do
If we’re trying to do fucked up things, it’s because our reward systems are fucked up. If we do it in a fucked up way, it’s because our operating systems are fucked up.
Are we misbehaving?
Is a computer misbehaving if it’s programmed wrong?
Yeah, I know. You’re not a computer. Neither am I. I’ll grant that we develop some agency as we grow to adulthood.
But consider how we develop.
We’re initially programmed and conditioned by biology. Can’t argue with that, can you? And biology has fitted us out with a ton of cognitive errors and biases. We know that.
We’re later educated and conditioned by our parents and the rest of society. That goes on for years before there’s much room for personal agency.
Assuming a healthy environment, we’re taught mostly good stuff. But our parents and the environment are not perfect, and their teaching methods are not perfect. So some of what we learn is wrong—either because they taught us wrong or they tried to teach us right, but we got it wrong.
Eventually, we modify our own code.
Life presents us with problems that we haven’t been taught to solve — no fault to our parents, or society. Our environment can’t teach us everything. We have to use the tools that we have to generate new knowledge and add to our own code. We might discover errors in what we’ve been taught and have to correct the errors.
We use new knowledge to modify our own code.
How do we generate that new knowledge?
We can only use the tools we have. We guess at solutions. We use the knowledge (or misunderstandings) we’ve been given and try to figure out theories from the raw data of experience. We might seek out teachers and try to learn what they might teach us.
With our flawed biology and our imperfect prior knowledge, some of what we guess will be wrong, and some of what we conclude will be wrong. Sometimes we’ll choose bad teachers who will introduce new errors.
We do the best we can.
But we’ll still have cognitive errors and data errors, including errors in our reward systems
How do we fix the errors that remain?
We can’t fix errors unless:
We’ve learned how to detect errors
We acquired a toolbox filled with ways to analyze and fix errors
We find that detecting them, finding them, and fixing them is rewarding
We do what’s rewarding, no matter what
Whether we fix your cognitive errors or not, we’ll still do what’s most rewarding.
If we don’t fix our errors, then what’s most rewarding may be fucked up.
Following my own rewards
Right now. I’m writing this because it’s the most rewarding thing that I can do at this moment. That’s the way my reward system happens to be wired.
I might stop writing before I post this.
And I’ve done that, lots of times, because my reward system was fucked up.
But I’ve been hard at work detecting and fixing errors in my reward system—and MyOS
I will only stop writing if this is no longer rewarding enough for me to continue—or if something else becomes more rewarding.
Otherwise, I have no choice. I’m going to finish this and post it.
And if I don’t, I know what to do. I’m going to find and fix the cognitive errors that stand in the way of posting it.
And I will do that because finding and fixing those errors is also rewarding.
Edit: see! I did.
Click here to subscribe to 70 Years Old. WTF! by Email