Goldilocks and the Three Optimisers

By dkl9, written 2023-229, revised 2023-229 (0 revisions)

Once upon a time, there was a little girl, Goldilocks, so named, we suppose, for her goldy locks — er, blonde hair.

A small (n = 3) nuclear family of anthropomorphic bears lived in a house in a forest. Goldilocks, travelling in the forest (unaccompanied, apparently?), entered this house when the family was away.

Upon a dinner table, she found three bowls of porridge.

Goldilocks tasted from a bowl identified as first, but stopped after a small bite, finding it to be too hot. "This porridge was optimised for caloric content at fixed price!" she observed, and moved on to a second bowl.

The second porridge was bland (more so than your average porridge) and induced brain-freeze, leading her to remark that "This porridge was optimised for preservation against microbes at fixed composition!" and convenience-sample from the third bowl.

Goldilocks ended up extending her convenience sample to the entire sampling frame (i.e. the bowl's contents), enjoying the final porridge. She supposed that "This porridge was optimised for taste at fixed nutrition."

She saw three armchairs, and decided to sit in one, during which she could advance her philosophy.

A first chair was far too large — it pressed against the ceiling — leading Goldilocks to ignore it, as she noted "That chair was optimised for capacity at fixed portability."

She skipped over the second chair — really more of a stool — upon noticing that "That chair was optimised for the user's mobility at fixed capacity."

The third chair looked appealing and reasonable, if perhaps suspiciously flimsy. She sat in it, enabling her to realise that she must have either misinterpreted these optimisation criteria, or underestimated the agents' intelligence/creativity. The true optima of all those goals are achieved by designs radically different from porridge or chairs. (It turns out she happened to be correct anyway. Remember, the house is run by bears, not the superintelligence Omega.)

After her shifting around in that chair, it collapsed. "That chair was optimised for material cost at fixed comfort!" Goldilocks realised.

By now, 'twas evening, so she looked for a bedroom — somehow completely unhesitant in her intent to sleep in a stranger's house — and found one containing three beds.

She briefly tried lying in the first bed, finding that "This bed was optimised for resilience against heat at fixed mass!" For it seemed to be made of ceramic, even the blankets. (How anyone actually accepted that as a place to sleep, Goldilocks never understood.)

Likewise, she tried the second bed, and got out of it upon experiencing how unhelpfully soft it was. "This bed was optimised for portability at fixed capacity!" she mused.

Goldilocks finally tried the third bed, happily falling asleep before announcing any interpretations.

Then the family of bears returned.

"Someone started eating my porridge," declared the father — likewise, the mother.

"Someone didn't just start eating my porridge, but ate all of it!" declared the child. "And my chair is broken!"

"Someone laid on my bed," declared the father — likewise, the mother.

"Someone laid on my bed, and is still there, asleep!" declared the child.

Goldilocks awoke to all this commotion, and panicked.

"Fool," spake the child bear, sounding now not like the one experiencing fear, but the one inducing it. "You should have acausally responded to the policy I'm well-known to execute against those who interfere with my goals."

(The child bear may be misunderstanding decision theory here. I'm here to tell the story, not advise its characters.)

Goldilocks tried to run away, but what happened to her instead perhaps best remains unsaid.