My Failed Situation/Action Belief System

by MrHen 10y2nd Feb 201036 comments

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Note: This is a description pieced together many, many years after my younger self subconsciously created it. This is part of my explanation of how I ended up me. I highly doubt all of this was as neatly defined as I present it to you here. Just know: The me in this post is me between the age of self-awareness and 17 years old. I am currently 25.

An action based belief system asks what to do when given a specific scenario. The input is Perceived Reality and the output is an Action. Most of my old belief system was built with such beliefs. A quick example: If the stop light is red, stop before the intersection.

These beliefs form a network of really complicated chains of conditionals:

  • If the stop light is red
  • And you are not stopped
  • Stop in the next available space before the intersection
They can keep getting bigger as I find more clauses to throw into the system:
  • If the stop light is red
  • And it is not useful to turn right at this intersection
  • And you are not stopped
  • Stop in the next available space before the intersection

Each node can be broken into more specific instructions if need be:

  • If the stop light is red
  • And it is not useful to turn right at this intersection
    • If turning right puts me on a path toward my destination
    • And there is a dedicated turn lane
    • Or no one is in the turn or go straight lane
    • Then turn right
    • Else continue
  • And you are not stopped
  • Stop in the next available space before the intersection
    • Yada
    • Yada
    • Yada

I did not sit down and decide that this was an optimal way to build a belief system. It just happened. My current best guess is that I spent most of my childhood trying to optimize my behavior to match my environment. And I did a fantastic job: I didn't get in trouble; didn't do drugs, smoke, drink, have sex, disobey my parents, or blaspheme God. My matrix put in a situation and an action came out.

The underlying motivation was a set of things I liked and things I didn't like. The belief system adapted over time to accommodate enough scenarios to provide me with a relatively stress free childhood. (I do not take all the credit for that; my parents are great.)

The next level of the system is the ability to abstract scenarios so I can apply the matrix to scenarios that I had never encountered. Intersections that were new would not break the system. I could traverse unfamiliar environments and learn how to act quickly. The more I learned, the quicker I learned. It was great!

The problem with this belief system is that it has nothing to do with reality. Essentially, this system is the universal extrapolation of guessing the teacher's password. If a problem was presented, I knew the answer. Because I could abstract these question/answer pairs, I knew all of the answers. "Reality" was a keyword that dropped into a particular area of the matrix. An action would appear with the right password and I would get my gold star.

That being said, this was a powerful system. It could simulate passwords to teachers I hadn't even met. I would allow myself to daydream about hypothetical teachers asking questions that I expected around the corner. Which implies that my predictor beliefs were driving the whole engine. The Action beliefs were telling me how to act but the Predictors were creating the actual situation/action matrix. Abstraction and extension of my experiences were reliant on my ability to see the future accurately. When I became surprised I would begin the simulations until I found something that worked within my given experiences.

This worked wonders during childhood but now I have an entire belief system made out of correctly anticipating what other people expected from me. Oops. The day I pondered reality the whole system came crashing down. But that is a story for another day.

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