12-16-07 - 2

There's this weird nonlinear thing about understanding. If you don't think about something too much, you can do it alright. Or if you really deeply understand something, you do alright. But in between, if you sort of understand something but not really, you can get totally confused and do completely the wrong thing. I saw it all the time in physics (and of course went through it myself). There were the engineer types in classes who would just learn the equations and how to use them to do problems and they were quite successful. The people who were trying to really understand it on a deep level but not getting it would develop all sorts of confused and wrong ideas - especially in a field like quantum mechanics that's quite deep and hard to get, you'd get people thinking confused things like "quantum mechanics can't be a whole solution because it postulates an external observer that can collapse the waveform via measurement" (of course with deeper understanding you would understand the observer is a quantum system and the "collapse" is just via loss of entanglement through ensemble decorrelation).

I seem to go through this spectrum almost daily with one thing or another. I've figured out certain rules to just follow to get the right answer, and that works fine. But then I forget why I'm doing that way and start questioning and thinking too much, and then I start doing really retarded things. After spending quite a bit of time I come back to really understand it and see why those rules were right. It would be better just to follow the rules and not think so much.

One area where you see this immensely is poker. Poker is such a good field to study human behavior because poker itself gives you very indirect feedback about your actions. Because of the randomness it's really hard to tell when what you're doing is right (compare to say, stabbing yourself with a knife, which gives you very immediate feedback that you did something wrong). Because of the lack of feedback people will do what is natural to their brain and not correct their mistakes. Anyway, you see people who just read a book and follow the directions, and they can actually do quite well. Some of the worst people are actually those who sort of understand the game and kind of get the logic and start thinking things out for themselves. These people do absolutely retarded things because they've developed strategies like slowplaying their big hands to balance their range and deceive their opponent.

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old rants