Theoretical question. I have a character in a fanfic I'm writing with an 'infinite will' superpower they can turn on and off. Besides the obvious problems with forgetting to eat/sleep etc, what realistic downsides should overuse of this power have?

Showing 3 of 4 replies (Click to show all)

Do you actually mean "infinite will" or "infinite ability to focus"?

Will -- that is, the ability of the rational mind / ego / neocortex to override anything coming from lower levels -- doesn't lead people to forget to eat or sleep. Focus does.

4gwern7yExtrapolate from stories about Adderall: infinite willpower for doing the wrong thing. The character winds up spending a year perfecting building toothpick castles eg.
2Risto_Saarelma7yMy quick ideas are something like going from vacillating between exploration and exploitation strategies into pursuing pure exploitation and missing out on exploration paths, and generally ending up in failure modes of Hofstadterian sphexishness, where you doggedly keep at the same behavior when it obviously isn't working right in the circumstances. Though you could also use the power to pursue deliberate exploration and thinking things through, so it's not quite that simple. Still, now there's the meta-problem of whether the thing you're trying to think through is the best thing to be thinking about. For a historical analogue, would this end up with you staying up for weeks cranking out the best machine code with 1950s computers while people without the superpower decide that cranking out machine code for weeks at an end is horrible and go ahead to invent Lisp and Fortran? If you resolve to do something that's too difficult, like proving whether P != NP, will you ever stop? How will you figure out the correct level to figure out things, so that you neither end up arranging pebbles instead of inventing a compiler nor end up trying to solve all of philosophy and never get anywhere because it's too hard for you? How do you end up deciding to turn the power off anyway once you've turned it on? I guess there could be a natural control there, like you eventually falling unconscious from lack of sleep and waking up with the power turned off. What if there isn't?

More "Stupid" Questions

by NancyLebovitz 1 min read31st Jul 2013498 comments


This is a thread where people can ask questions that they would ordinarily feel embarrassed for not knowing the answer to. The previous "stupid" questions thread went to over 800 comments in two and a half weeks, so I think it's time for a new one.