Marvin Minsky on Obsolescence - Dictionary of Arguments
Obsolescence/ideas/knowledge//Minsky: Some ideas acquire undue influence.
The Investment Principle: Our oldest ideas have unfair advantages over those that come later. The earlier we learn a skill, the more methods we can acquire for using it. Each new idea must then compete against the larger mass of skills the old ideas have accumulated. (Cf. Matthew principle).
This is why it's so much easier to do new things in older ways.
Obsolescence/Problem: The many superficial similarities will make it hard for you to tell which aspects of your old skills are unsuitable, and the easiest course is to keep applying your old technique, trying to patch each flaw until none show.
Solution: In the long run, you'd probably do better by starting fresh with a new technique — and then borrowing what you can from your older skills.
Evolution/Minsky: Evolution illustrates how processes can become enslaved by the investment principle. Why do so many animals contain their brains inside their heads — as with fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and bats? This arrangement was inherited long before our earliest aquatic ancestor first crawled upon the land three hundred million years ago. For many of those animals — woodpeckers, for example — another arrangement might serve at least as well.
But once the pattern of centralizing so many functions in the head was established, it carried with it great networks of dependencies involving many aspects of anatomy. Because of this, any mutation that changed any part of that arrangement would disrupt many other parts and lead to dreadful handicaps, at least in the short run of evolution. And because evolution is so inherently short-sighted, it would not help if, over longer spans of time, such changes could lead to advantages. ((s) Cf. >Evolution/Dennett, >Evolution/Gould.)_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
The Society of Mind New York 1985
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