“Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.” – Henry David Thoreau
Like most people, my personal goals change from time to time. I’m interested in something for a while, until I’m not. I regularly go through paradigm shifts which radically change my worldview. I internalize new beliefs and let go of old ones. There are very few ideas which I feel deserve to be rendered invariant, to be defined as constants, rather than variables, of my identity.
The main reason for this reluctance is ideological debt. When we internalize a new idea, we nudge our future selves into being more accepting of ideas which are compatible with it, and less accepting of ideas which are not. Innate drives for coherence make it much easier to extend an existing belief system, rather than discard it and start from scratch. It’s satisfying, reassuring, comforting to hold a self-compatible worldview, yet it increases the friction of obtaining a new one. Therefore, with each new idea we internalize, we incur some ideological debt, we buy into a belief system a bit more, and implicitly make it harder for ourselves to change our mind later on.
I don’t (currently) think there’s anything inherently wrong with having a particular worldview, though. The only downside is that it makes it more difficult for you to get to know other worldviews in which you’re less invested. There might be worldviews out there which are better, and you can’t learn about them if you’ve sworn allegiance to your own. In order to find the best one, you have to explore the space of ideologies a bit more. “Better” and “best” are extremely tricky to talk about, as each worldview has its own set of values against which things are evaluated. Pragmatism values things that are useful, while rationalism values things that are in touch with reality. Hedonism values things that are pleasant, while traditionalism values things that are timeless.
We’re faced with a local search problem which can be formalized as follows:
- The state space is the space of all possible ideologies.
- The current state is our current ideology.
- The value of each state is determined subjectively when being in that state.
- The objective is to reach the highest-valued state, or die optimizing.
- The actions are slight incremental steps towards nearby states.
- We have a lifetime to conduct the foraging process (according to most ideologies).
This minimal meta-ideology is one of those ideas which I chose to commit to indefinitely. I aim to keep this line of reasoning in the back of my mind throughout my lifetime, while evolving most of my belief system beyond it. It’s the exception which proves the rule, it’s change as the only constant, the stable orbit in the space of lies. That said, I recognize that there are worldviews out there which I might find inaccessible due to those meta-principles of mine being in contradiction with them. I accept this amount of ideological debt as integral to the best strategy I can come up with for finding good solutions to the search problem, and I’m (unsurprisingly) content with it.