virus: Reverberating hope.

Tony Hindle (
Wed, 2 Apr 1997 02:43:57 +0100

I remember Hofstadter's example of a phenomenon he called
reverberating doubt:
You are one of 100 people picked to partake in this experiment.
(imagine the 100 are sampled from this list) You have to decide wehther
or not to push a button. If you push you get 1000 pounds guaranteed. If
you dont push then either
a) if non of the 100 push you get 10 000
b) if there is one or more buttons pushed you get nothing.

you have one hour to think of your response. The whole
thing is anonymous so knobody will ever know who pressed if anyone.
The hour starts now. your decision is only final after the whole hour.

Now imagine the same experiment except only 10 participants of
your choice from this list (no comunications allowed beforehand
obviously). This time max reward is 1000 000. a press of the button
guarantees only survival and situation b) from above means death for the
non pushers!.

Anyway the first thought experiment illustrates the concept of
reverberating doubt, leading to a reversal of an initial obvious
"rational choice". (the second is just fun to contemplate, who would you
pick? pancritical rationalists? objectivists? level 3ers God fearing
christians? (ok so you'd have to go outside the list?). Or perhaps
people who had no hands?)

I think the opposite is reverberating hope and I think it is
what I have been trying to talk about elsewhere. You start by not
believing you can do something that you really want (and that is within
"human atainment"). One obvious decision to make is to accept defeat
before you try. If however you committ some perceptual error that caused
you to believe it is possible to achieve this goal (eg you heard a
potential mate say you are fantastic whereas in reality it was you are a
cunt) you then make an initial atempt which reinforces your belief and
so on until the goal is achieved. In fact isnt getting pissed for a
little "dutch courage" doing exactly this? Also knowing as we do that
certain memes can infect us by (for example) repetition, it follows that
we have ways of deliberately programing ourselves with enough belief to
get the ball rolling.
Yes I am almost convinced a bit of self deception can be a good
thing. I just dont quite know how to maintain it as yet.
My main point here is that I think the mechanisms of
reverberating doubt/hope can be used to move along the function of
[beliefs achieved] vs [beliefs held]. Thus achieving a local maximum (as
Dave McF has persuaded me must exist.)

Tony Hindle.