# 8

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I.J. Good, from the opening of 1962's The Scientist Speculates (a collection of partly-baked ideas):

A partly-baked idea or PBI is either a speculation, a question of some novelty, a suggestion for a novel experiment, a stimulating analogy, or (rarely) a classification. It has a bakedness of p that is less than unity, or even negative. The bakedness of an idea should be judged by its potential value, the chance that it can be completely baked, its originality, interest, stimulation, conciseness, lucidity, and liveliness. It is often better to be stimulating and wrong than boring and right.

A very rough guide to the maximum length that a PBI should have is given by the formula

10^(9px/2) words

where x, the importance of the topic, is between 0 and 1. For example, the maximum length for a negatively-baked idea is less than one word. An idea can compensate in importance what it lacks in bakedness, and conversely. The formula is applicable to each sentence and to each paragraph, as well as to the whole of a contribution. For the non-specialist, the formula makes sense even when px = 1, but in this anthology px rarely exceeds 7/9.

A possible justification for the exponential or antilogarithmic form is that if an idea is developed to a certain length d, then the size of the expository tree increases roughly exponentially with d, if the multifurcation of the tree is the same at every level.

(Note that I changed the formatting a bit for readability.)

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Based on this excerpt, px of the PBI of PBI is no less than 0.52.

The front page of Time Cube has a px value of 3.245. I'm not sure about this metric.

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Well, if he succeeded in putting 4*10^14 words on the front page, he must be doing something right!

Oh, I see the error in my math now. Whoops. Guess it's a saner metric than I thought, though px = 0.87 seems to be overstating things quite a bit as well.

"The correct number of words for this idea is X" does not preclude that people might write more words about it by mistake. Metrics intended as guidelines for people of intelligence and good faith can easily break down when applied literally to cranks.

That only holds if he's following Good's guidelines (and argues that he doesn't).

[-][anonymous]10y 8

Technically, a negatively baked idea does deserve a single word if the topic is utterly insignificant and has 0 importance.

And I'm sure we can all work out what word that is.

[-][anonymous]10y 0

Whatever.

(Ok, this was supposed to be a silly example of an idea with importance 0. I posted it on a whim and then realized that it is no longer possible to delete comments.)

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Required px for a tweet is about .3.

I thought this would be a thread for people to post partly baked ideas. So, how about doing that?

[-][anonymous]10y 1

I have all sorts of ideas which share the property "I was consider posting this to an online forum, (in some cases, Less Wrong, in other cases not) but stopped because I thought it was insufficiently well thought out/formatted/finished to share and I did not have enough time to continue writing it up, so I saved it to Google Docs for later review."

However, I almost never actually go back and look at them, and by now, a significant number of them are probably pointless, out of date, or something I no longer believe. For instance, here is a brief summary of some of the first few (all at least 2 years old) by topic:

1: Lyrics to some kind of potential 2008 U.S. presidential campaign rap, which appears to have been primarily inspired by trying to use words that rhyme with "ain"

2: A "Bootstraps Chart" which describes various economic class levels and references how people might act at each level.

3: The beginning of a story about a woman being arrested for having super powers.

4: A comparison of deaths in 9/11 to deaths by traffic accidents.

Are any of these the kind of thing you might be looking for?

Edit: Apparently I also have something which I made in May 2010, where I started an attempt to describe the Scientific method to a religious person on the Something Awful Forums in "Cavemanese." That might be a good partly baked Less Wrong topic, since it seems more topical. (It's probably at least partially wrong, but it's way more topical than a 2008 Campaign rap.)

The book also contains another statement of Good's intelligence explosion idea, later than the original 1959 statement but earlier than the famous 1965 statement (p. 194):

[After bringing a computer to near-human-level intelligence...] We could then educate it and teach it its own construction and ask it to design a far more economical and larger machine. At this stage there would unquestionably be an explosive development in science, and it would be possible to let the machines tackle all the most difficult problems of science.

He then discusses which scientific problems they could solve, what advantages over humans they would have, etc.

He also says "my guess of when all this will come to pass is 1978, and the cost of \$10^(8.7 ± 1.0)."

The book (from 1962) also contains an early suggestion of molecular nanotechnology, from Marvin Minsky, called "Where is our microtechnology?"

Clearly it is possible to have complex machines the size of a flea; probably one can have them the size of bacterial cells. Consider the amount of effort that has been spent on miniaturisation of electronic components and circuits; the expenses must total thousands of millions. But all of this has been spent on special jobs. None of the immense effort has gone into developing general-purpose small fabrication equipment...

Imagine small machines fabricating small elements at kilocycle rates. (The speed of small mechanical devices is extremely high.) Again, one can hope to make thousands of elements per second. But the generality of the mechanical approach is much greater since there are many structures that do not lend themselves easily to laminar mask construction.

Is there any reason to believe that this formula is of any practical use?, when x and p appear to be fully intuitive measurements?

x seems relatively objective. I agree that determining the value of p seems like assuming the conclusion.