On Prediction, Control, and Trading

(Epistemic status:  Mostly endorsed – does have the qualia of feeling like hitting the insight button without strictly suggesting a course of action)

Have you ever felt disappointed or fearful when someone finishes your sentences?  How about when someone makes it clear they expected a certain behavior from you?  Have you felt good or accomplished when you have done something (ideally positive) that surprised someone?  I don’t think these are universal qualia – but I think for those that do get these things, there is an implicit paradigm at play.  Prediction feels bad because it is a vector of control.

On the flip side, if the above questions didn’t resonate – if the idea of someone having those experiences is kind of weird, you might be running a different paradigm – a paradigm in which prediction feels good because it increases ability to reliably trade decision theoretically, and general be an agent people can cooperate with.

Both these paradigms hold true to some extent.  The more predictable you are, the easier it is to constrain your action space – this is part of why predictability is a valued trait in corporations.  The more predictable you are, the easier it is to interact with you and make positive sum trades – this is part of why predictability is a valued trait in communities.

Overall, I think that there is a tradeoff between consistency and agency, but that some consistency is important for coordination.  Being highly predictable likely ends up being a prison of habits and a series of easy levers for people to control one with.  Being unpredictable makes it difficult to make credible commitments with other people.

Discussion Questions:  Do you model predictability as control or cooperation?  Have you made tradeoffs between coordination and agency as corrections for previous experiences?  Are there complex strategies this model suggests to you?

2 thoughts on “On Prediction, Control, and Trading

  1. Honestly, this feels like it’s functioning a layer to low. I hate being predictable, but I think it’s not because being predictable makes you easy to control, it’s because it already implies your action-space is small, that you only exist on a few vectors. And seems wrong to me. I want to be complex and full of data, and capable of doing many things, and predictability is a failure on that front.

    That said, I also believe strongly in predictability as a virtue for cooperation, so I do still have this internal conflict.

    (Also, I feel a little proud when people care enough to predict my personal idiosyncrasies, so that’s also a factor here?)


    1. I would agree – I feel like this post is a step below what it needs to be to convey the insight I’m trying to convey. That said, I think that predictability doesn’t strictly imply a small action space, I do think it also implies strength on the predictor’s part.


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