An optimization process is any kind of process that systematically comes up with solutions that are better than the solution used before. More technically, this kind of process moves the world into a specific and unexpected set of states by searching through a large search space, hitting small and low probability targets. When this process is gradually guided by some agent into some specific state, through searching specific targets, we can say it prefers that state.

The best way to exemplify an optimization process is through a simple example: Eliezer Yudkowsky suggests natural selection is such a process. Through an implicit preference – better replicators – natural selection searches all the genetic landscape space and hit small targets: efficient mutations.

Consider the human being. We are a highly complex object with a low probability to have been created by chance - natural selection, however, over millions of years, built up the infrastructure needed to build such a functioning body. This body, as well as other organisms, had the chance (was selected) to develop because it is in itself a rather efficient replicator suitable for the environment where it came up....

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